The week’s top stories on NC Policy Watch

Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Image

1. Memo to Biden critics: We’d all love to see the plan

The attacks on the president are relentless, but the political right offers no plausible policy alternatives

Since Joe Biden assumed the presidency 21 months ago, the United States has, by any fair estimate, enjoyed a remarkable recovery in an array of vitally important areas.

During the week in which Biden took office in January 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calculated that 21,554 Americans died from COVID-19. Last week, the number was 2,566.

In January 2021, the U.S. had largely abandoned any national commitment to tackling the existential global environmental crisis brought on by climate change. Today, it is once again taking steps to reassert global leadership.

[Read more…]

**BONUS COMMENTARY: America is amusing itself to death and hack politicians are taking advantage

Base map: Colonial Pipeline filings with DEQ

2. Colonial Pipeline contamination spreading in Huntersville; MVP Southgate natural gas project on ice, and more

A plume of polluted groundwater is spreading in Mecklenburg County, where Colonial Pipeline is responsible for the largest gasoline spill in the U.S. since the early 1990s.

On Aug. 14, 2020, two teenage boys found gasoline bubbling from the ground at the Oehler Nature Preserve, in Huntersville. The company now estimates 2 million gallons leaked from a section of pipeline that had broken roughly a month before. The groundwater contains very high levels of benzene, a known carcinogen, and other toxic contaminants related to petroleum products: toluene, xylene, naphthalene and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAH.

Since the accident, Colonial has been pumping contaminated groundwater from the site and hauling it away for disposal. But groundwater being groundwater – it likes to move according to gravity, especially when it mingles with gasoline – the plume is expanding.

[Read more…]

Photo: Getty Images

3. National government associations and legal scholars want U.S. Supreme Court to reject NC Republicans’ theory on elections

If NC lawmakers prevail, states face the prospect of being forced to run different elections under different voting rules

National associations representing cities, counties and mayors are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to reject North Carolina Republicans’ claim that legislatures should be the sole state authority setting rules for federal elections.

In a friend of the court brief filed Wednesday in the case Moore vs. Harper, the local government associations said a decision in favor of North Carolina legislators would create a complicated two-tiered system of elections in some states, muck-up ballot counting, and undermine confidence in elections.

[Read more]

Image AdobeStock

4. North Carolina Republican leaders embrace Christian nationalism

Conservative pastors, political allies aim to tear down any wall between church and state

When Pastor Ken Graves took the podium at Calvary Chapel Lake Norman in Statesville last month, he cut an imposing figure.

Dressed in jeans and heavy boots, the sleeves of his work shirt rolled up to reveal the large tattoos on his massive forearms, he wore a leather holster on his belt. With Western movie gunfighter flourish, he pulled from it a Bible. The book is a great weapon, he told the crowd, a sword which must be unsheathed.

“The people have always had a tendency, even spiritual people, to have their sort of favorite thing that God does,” Graves said. “There were those, no doubt, who were all about the miracles that Christ was performing, the wonders of God that were happening right before their eyes.”

[Read more…]

**BONUS READ: Demographic shifts, historical revisionism fueling Christian nationalist push among conservatives

Photo: Duke Univ. livestream

5. Supreme Court candidates tout nonpartisanship as deeply partisan election looms

The four candidates running for two open seats on the North Carolina Supreme Court all gave different versions of the same message at a forum Wednesday night: Despite running as Republicans or Democrats in the election concluding on Nov. 8, it is important that a sitting Supreme Court justice not be thought of as a politician in a robe.

“I’m a person, not a partisan,” said Lucy Inman, a judge on the state’s Court of Appeals and the Democratic candidate for the seat left vacant by Justice Robin Hudson’s retirement.

“I think there’s a lot of politics that are at the court,” said Richard Dietz, also a judge on the court of Appeals and Inman’s Republican opponent. “There’s also a lot that the public sees and believes that the court is being political, and we need to fix that.”

Inman and Dietz were joined by Republican Trey Allen and his opponent, incumbent Democrat Sam J Ervin, IV. The four candidates participated in a “nonpartisan candidates forum” hosted by Duke University School of Law and moderated by Professor Marin K. Levy.

[Read more…]

Image: Adobe Stock

6. A GOP showdown over the debt limit could grip Congress and the nation next year

WASHINGTON — Republicans are eyeing the debt limit and government funding deadlines as a way to force Democrats to the negotiating table for spending cuts, should the GOP regain control of Congress following the midterm elections.

Republicans unhappy about government spending could move to shut down the government, a tactic unsuccessful for the GOP in past battles over Obamacare and the Trump border wall. Their potential refusal to adjust the debt limit could bring the nation to the verge of a damaging default, economic experts say.

[Read more…]

Photo: Klaus Vedfelt, Getty Images

7. Many NC school districts face funding shortages in serving students with special needs

Student exoduses to homeschools and private schools, combined with impacts of low salaries and inflation are leaving local school systems in a bind

The public school system in Chatham County in an “OK spot” financially to meet the needs of the more than 1,200 children it serves in its exceptional children program, says Amanda Moran, assistant superintendent for academic services and instructional support.

Those students in the exceptional children program make up roughly 13.5% of the district’s nearly 9,000 students. North Carolina caps funding for exceptional children programs at 13% of a district’s enrollment. So, with state funding and a generous Chatham County supplement to cover the difference, the school district can comfortably cover the cost of special education services for its children, Moran said.

[Read more…]

Photo by Gino Gutierrez

8. Millions of workers are dealing with long COVID. Advocates call for expanding social safety net.

Emily Withnall caught COVID-19 from her teenager in July 2020. In the more than two years since, the 40-year-old has suffered from debilitating fatigue, spinal pain and heart palpitations. In addition to her primary care doctor, she regularly sees a cardiologist and says her acupuncturist and craniosacral therapy help relieve her pain and the trouble she has focusing.

Although her condition is improving, Withnall said she still isn’t back to her pre-COVID-19 health and she’s had to ask her employer, New Mexico Highlands University, for accommodations, which include time off to go to her various medical appointments and the ability to work remotely. When she does commute, it takes her an hour to get to the office.

[Read more…]

9. Weekly Radio Interviews and daily Radio Commentaries:

Click here for the latest radio interviews and commentaries with Policy Watch Director Rob Schofield.



10. Weekly Editorial Cartoon:

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The week’s top stories on NC Policy Watch