In this issue:
This story is part of a continuing multimedia series on NCORR’s mismanagement of its Hurricane Matthew disaster relief homeowner program
Displaced homeowners also finding their belongings damaged in mobile storage units; state paid for them but says it’s not responsible
The NC Office of Recovery and Resiliency, also known as ReBuild NC, could not produce records to Policy Watch of how much money it has spent in the last five years on motels and storage units for people displaced by Hurricane Matthew, according to a spokesperson’s email.
However, based on figures for just six families, the amount likely runs into the millions of dollars.
After the historic storm devastated eastern North Carolina in October 2016, the state received $236 million in federal disaster relief money to rebuild or renovate single-family homes that sustained major or severe damage. ReBuild NC pays for motels and storage units for low-income homeowners while they are displaced. This is called Temporary Relocation Assistance.[Read more…]
The NC Board of Elections, in a 3-2 party line vote, rejected state Republicans’ request for signature verification on absentee ballots.
Republicans wanted local elections officials to be able to compare voters’ signatures on their registration cards against signatures on requests for absentee ballots and on the returned ballots.
Instead, the board’s Democratic majority approved a declaratory ruling stating the opposite. They decided county elections officials don’t have the legal authority to verify signatures to determine if voters should receive mail-in ballots and if votes should be counted.
Stella Anderson, a Democratic member of the board, said allowing signature matching puts a new legal requirement on voters. “We cannot do that,” she said.
She suggested proponents of signature matching ask the legislature to change the law.
Tommy Tucker, a Republican board member and former state senator, said he would do just that. “I will make it my sole purpose in life” to codify signature verification in state statutes, he said. He argued that elections officials should be allowed to verify ballot signatures that are illegible. [Read more...]
After six years on the UNC Board of Governors, Leo Daughtry is moving to the North Carolina State Board of Transportation.
It wasn’t a move he sought, Daughtry told Policy Watch last week. But House leaders offered him a spot on the transportation board and he believed it was time to leave the Board of Governors. He will be replaced by Lee Barnes, CEO of the Family Fare chain of stores, who was chosen by lawmakers to finish Daughtry’s term, which runs to 2025.
The change, part of a political appointments bill passed at the end of the legislative session, was probably inevitable after Daughtry said publicly something a number of board members privately say they also believe: The plan to move the UNC System offices to downtown Raleigh is expensive, ill-considered and motivated primarily by politics. [Read more…]
Governor Roy Cooper signed the state budget Monday, a $27.9 billion spending plan that includes a 4.2% average pay raise for educators and 3.5% increase for most state employees.
While the budget did not include a key priority for his administration – Medicaid expansion – the governor said legislative leaders are moving forward with that goal.
“Today, I signed the state budget (HB 103) that includes critical investments in education, economic development, transportation and the state workforce. This budget does not include Medicaid Expansion, but the leadership in both the House and Senate now support it and both chambers have passed it. Negotiations are occurring now and we are closer than ever to agreement on Medicaid Expansion, therefore a veto of this budget would be counterproductive.” [Read more…]
North Carolina has a new budget for the state fiscal year that began July 1. At the very end of the 10-day period allotted to him by the state constitution, Gov. Roy Cooper affixed his signature to a 193-page bill drafted mostly behind closed doors by Republican legislative leaders that amends the two-year budget enacted last year.
Cooper’s decision to sign the measure was, one gathers, an act he viewed as an exercise in political pragmatism. While he clearly grasps that the bill has numerous deep flaws, Cooper could also do the math and understood that the prospects for sustaining a veto were tiny given that several Democratic lawmakers had found a variety of reasons (like locally targeted pork spending and simple fatigue) to join the “aye” votes.
His statement of yesterday afternoon also strongly indicated that other factors — most notably, the ongoing negotiations over Medicaid expansion that he still hopes to push across the finish line — played a significant role in the final outcome as well.
At this point, though, whatever the politics behind the situation, there should be no mistaking the fact that the budget now in effect comes up woefully short in several important ways. [Read more…]
Update: The Durham Planning Commission voted 11-0 to send an unfavorable recommendation to City Council, which has the final say.
A Cary-based developer is proposing to build up to 666 houses and townhomes on land in Durham and near Falls Lake, a major drinking water supply for the City of Raleigh.
The 280 acres along Kemp Road and Southview Road off Highway 98 is also home to rare plants, wetlands, wildlife corridors and Lick Creek, which flows into Falls Lake. The lake then flows into the Neuse River, which travels through eastern North Carolina to New Bern, the Albemarle-Pamlico Sound and eventually to the Atlantic Ocean.[Read more…]
WASHINGTON — Democrats and Republicans on the U.S. Senate panel that oversees health care sharply disagreed Wednesday over how Congress should respond to confusion among doctors about compliance with state abortion bans. State abortion restrictions, some of which were written long ago and don’t account for complicated medical situations, don’t make it clear when a health care provider can end a pregnancy to save the life of a patient, witnesses told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
The sparring among senators came in reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on June 24 that ended the constitutional right to an abortion and allowed each state to set its own laws. The debate reflected the chaos and confusion that’s ensued as states pursue a patchwork of laws. [Read more…]
Century-old trees in NC are on the hit list; could be clear-cut before protections take effect
Plans for commercial logging of old-growth forests on federal lands have moved forward this year, despite an executive order signed on Earth Day by President Joe Biden, according to a report from environmental groups published Tuesday.
The old-growth woodlands are particularly useful in fighting climate change by absorbing carbon, a goal for the Biden administration.
The Climate Forests coalition, a group of dozens of environmental organizations including Environment America, the National Resources Defense Council, Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club, prepared the report highlighting 10 logging projects in older forests that have reached some level of federal approval.
The projects collectively threaten about 240,000 acres of older forests, the report says. [Read more…]
Why the weapon of choice for so many mass murderers is not what a lot of its defenders would have us believe
Last month, after the horrific mass shootings at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, Monday Numbers took a look at the AR-15 style semi-automatic assault rifles favored by mass shooters in America.
Sadly, the July 4 mass shooting at an Independence Day parade in Highland Park, Illinois, has brought these weapons back into the headlines. Police allege 21-year-old Robert Crimo III used a legally obtained and registered Smith & Wesson M&P 15 — built on the AR-15 platform design — and three 30-round magazines in the shooting that killed seven people and wounded 46 others.
Before the tally of dead and wounded in this latest tragedy had even been finalized, a barrage of Internet memes, hot-take social media posts and pro-gun essays had again begun to circulate defending the AR-15 as not significantly different from guns like the Ruger Mini 14 and M1A. People who don’t know about guns are afraid of the “scary looking” AR-15 because of their own ignorance, the argument goes, not because the rifle is significantly different or otherwise worthy of singling out for regulation.[Read more…]