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The week’s Top Stories on NC Policy Watch

1. History made: Cooper appoints NC’s first Black woman as Chief Justice

Cheri Beasley made history this week when Gov. Roy Cooper announced that she would become the state’s first Black woman to be chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court.

Beasley stood between the Governor and her husband, Curtis, as she spoke about the significance of her appointment, particularly during Black History Month.

“This court this year is coming right at 200 years, and this is certainly not the North Carolina of 200 years ago,” she said. “And so I’m excited about the fact that North Carolina has moved forward, that we do have a diverse court, and it’s so important that people feel good and have a confidence in the work that we do, and so I’m excited about continuing to do that work.”

The other thing that comes to mind when thinking about her leadership as a Black woman is “the little girls along the way who ought to have a sense of promise and hope for their futures,” Beasley said. [Read more…]

Bonus read: One-on-one: Future Chief Justice Beasley talks about ‘a life full of highlights’

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2. Bipartisan lawmakers: The time for redistricting reform is now

Litigation and uncertainty about which political party will have the most power in the future may finally propel North Carolina lawmakers to pass redistricting reform.

A bipartisan group of legislators gathered Wednesday morning to announce House Bill 69, which would create an independent redistricting commission to draw election maps with transparency and public input. It would bring an end to partisan gerrymandering in North Carolina.

“At this point in time, you have neighborhoods being separated, homeowner’s associations being separated, students at the same university voting in separate districts – that can’t happen,” said Rep. Robert Reives II (D-Chatham, Durham). “That’s the type of thing that makes people feel government’s broken. We’ve got a chance with this step, with this bill, to move that narrative forward, to change people’s opinions.” [Read more…]

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3. Public schools supporters feel snubbed by Superintendent Mark Johnson’s invitation only event

Suzanne Miller has a general admission ticket to State Superintendent Mark Johnson’s big dinner event on Feb. 19, but she still can’t go.
Miller, an organizer for N.C. Families for Testing Reform, received an email Wednesday explaining that attendance is by invitation only.
So, the ticket Miller scored last month on eventbrite.com won’t get her through the doors of the Raleigh Convention Center where Johnson promises to make a “major announcement” about the state’s education system.
“If it’s a public announcement about public education, why is it being made behind closed doors?” Miller asked.

Miller said the eventbrite.com page didn’t mention that an invitation would be needed when she signed up to attend the event.[Read more…]

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4. Senator Phil Berger is just plain wrong

There’s an old maxim in American politics, usually attributed to former U.S. Senator and Nixon administration cabinet secretary Daniel Patrick Moynihan, that “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not to their own facts.” Would that Moynihan were still alive today so that he could direct a reminder of this simple truth toward North Carolina Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger.

Berger, as you are no doubt aware, has embraced the role of a kind of 21st Century “Senator ‘No'” who tries to place himself squarely in the way of societal progress on issue after issue. Recently, in an apparent effort to further cement this moniker, Berger (or, presumably, his staff – and maybe even a junior intern judging by the quality of the claims) took to Twitter to rehash several tired and long discredited claims about the increasingly popular and bipartisan idea of expanding Medicaid in North Carolina.

According to Senator Berger, “Obamacare Medicaid expansion” is “wrong for North Carolina” for six reasons: [Read more…]

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5. EPA cites Chemours with multiple notices of violation; company allegedly failed to provide key documents

The EPA announced Thursday it has issued a Notice of Violation to Chemours for failing to comply, on multiple occasions, with federal law at the company’s plant in Fayetteville. According to EPA documents — some of them heavily redacted — obtained earlier today by Policy Watch, Chemours in Fayetteville failed to provide many key documents related to the import, processing, recycling/reclamation, and health and safety effects of GenX and other chemicals.

The EPA did not mention a financial penalty in the documents.

Chemours spokesperson Lisa Randall issued a statement about the EPA action, saying the company is aware of it and is “in the process of reviewing it to better understand the agency’s concerns. Once we fully understand the details of the notice, we will work with the agency on any additional steps that may be needed. It’s important to understand that the notice pertains to inspections done in 2017. We’ve already taken signifcant action to address PFAS emissions between 2017 and today.” [Read more…]

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6. In the Netherlands, Chemours washes its hands of GenX waste, fails to monitor for it

Chemours in Dordrecht, the Netherlands (Photo: Chemours website)

The Chemours plant in Dordrecht shipped waste containing GenX compounds for processing, but failed to both sample for them and to keep proper records on the type and origin of the waste, according to a Dutch Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate report issued in July 2018. The waste haulers are unaware they’re carrying GenX compounds, which potentially contaminate the shipping containers.

The inspectorate’s investigation showed that “little or no attention is given to [GenX] substances in waste throughout the entire chain,” and that the substances “re consequently emitted into the environment at various places in the chain. An overview of where and to what extent emissions into the environment occur cannot be provided at this time based on the information currently available.” [Read more…]

Bonus read: Critics pounce on the lack of urgency in EPA’s “Action Plan” on PFAS
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7. Trump may be on the ropes, but ICE is building its own wall

Surely, it would be folly to suggest that ICE’s hardened reputation as a home-wrecker was earned by the Trump administration alone.

Our bloviator-in-chief may be fond of the anti-immigrant dog-whistle, and his quixotic obsession with a doomed border wall may yet again drive his party to a moral and political implosion come shutdown time on Friday, but ICE romped through the Obama years too.

The federal agency – tasked with enforcing the country’s immigration laws – helped to initiate 400,000 or so deportations under the Obama administration in 2012, still a high-water mark for an organization that, despite its most oblique assurances of priorities, often detains undocumented immigrants without a criminal background. [Read more…]

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8. Bill filed to defy Supreme Court ruling, oppose same-sex marriage in N.C.

Three Republican lawmakers filed a bill in the N.C. House late Wednesday that would declare same-sex marriage illegal in defiance of the United States Supreme Court.

House Bill 65 – the Marriage Amendment Reaffirmation Act – would declare null and void 2015’s landmark Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court decision. That decision effectively legalized same-sex marriage and invalidated state constitutional amendments banning it, including North Carolina’s. [Read more...]

9. Editorial Cartoon:

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