1. Payroll system switch shortchanges hundreds of teachers, leads to finger-pointing by state and local officials
State lawmakers aware of the erroneous deductions in March
Bobbie Cavnar, a Gaston County Schools high school English teacher, was shocked last month when his paystub showed $1,600 worth of unexplained deductions.
Fortunately for the 2016-17 North Carolina Teacher of the Year, his spouse works, and the couple could transfer money from savings to cover monthly bills.
Dipping into savings to pay bills isn’t something the Cavnars like to do, but both felt lucky to have extra money available to cover the errant deductions.
“We didn’t have to default on anything but there are plenty of teachers who could not weather a month without pay or a $1,500 deduction,” Cavnar said. “We’ve heard stories from teachers who’ve had to help each other out by buying things like grocery gift cards and things like that to kind of weather through.”
At least one Gaston County teacher quit her job because of payroll issues.[Read more...]
2. Information can’t keep up with misinformation about NC voting machines
Commissioners’ meetings in Surry County are a showcase of election conspiracy theories where distrust of the machines that count ballots plays a starring role
This story is part of a project called Democracy Day, in which newsrooms across the country are shining a light on threats to democracy.
The northwestern North Carolina county on the Virginia border is probably best known as the home of Mount Airy, the birthplace of Andy Griffith and the inspiration for Mayberry in his eponymous television show from the 1960s. This year, Surry County has been a stop on the circuit for prominent election deniers who falsely maintain that votes were engineered to have President Joe Biden win in 2020.
The county devoted nearly an entire May meeting to election deniers that featured David Clements, a former assistant professor at New Mexico State University who travels the country preaching about fraud. Clements, who lost his university job last year because he refused to wear a mask in class, urged Surry to hand-count ballots.
At the meeting’s end, Surry board Chairman Bill Goins told the crowd that commissioners were reviewing residents’ recommendations, but concerns about fraud should go to the local and state boards of elections. Someone in the crowd yelled “Pontius Pilate.” [Read more...]
3. Hurricane survivors testify before legislative oversight committee, unveiling the truth about ReBuild NC’s bungled disaster relief program
They arrived with folded papers pulled from their pockets. Some came carrying folders that brimmed with documents neatly arranged in binder clips. Others arrived empty-handed, but hoped to leave with answers.
With scores more watching in person and online, survivors of hurricanes Matthew and Florence spoke before a state government oversight committee Wednesday about the injustices they have endured – a direct result of the bungled disaster relief program run by the NC Office of Recovery and Resiliency, also known as ReBuild NC.
Although they brought prepared statements, the survivors eventually veered off script. Years of anger and confusion, frustration and sorrow could not be contained to a single 8 1/2-by-11 sheet of paper.
“I beg each of you to think about what you allowed to go on,” Lavonne Merritt, who lives in Wendell, said. Her father applied for a new house in 2019, but died of cancer before he could return home. As his heir, Merritt is now in the disaster relief program. Construction on the house hasn’t even started. [Read more...]
4. NC legislative hearing should feature tough questions about state’s troubled hurricane response
That’s how long it will have been, come next month, since Hurricane Matthew raked and inundated eastern North Carolina with high winds and catastrophic rainfall.
The storm arrived on Oct. 8, 2016, and left within a day, but the trail of destruction that resulted was huge. Twelve to eighteen inches of rain fell over a brief period that came on the heels of another 6 to 10 inches of rain deposited by Tropical Storm Hermine.
Twenty-eight people were killed, tens of thousands of structures were damaged or destroyed, flooding was “catastrophic” – in many places, for weeks afterward. Several of the state’s poorest counties fared the worst. [Read more...]
5. Voting rights groups seek to rally public opinion on potentially momentous NC gerrymandering case
Republican lawmakers have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to end state court oversight of federal elections and pro-democracy advocates are pushing back
It’s a pending U.S. Supreme Court case about the control of elections, a subject most people don’t think about every day. But Moore vs. Harper has become a rallying cry for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, Common Cause NC and other voting rights groups as they try to engage grassroots activists in a constitutional debate that has the attention of legal scholars, elected officials, and state supreme court justices throughout the nation.
The case originating in North Carolina has the potential to give the General Assembly and legislatures around the country more control over how federal elections are run and how congressional districts are drawn. Legislators want to prevent state courts from having any say over laws they pass regarding federal elections.[Read more...]
6. UNC-Chapel Hill faculty members pass resolution as tensions continue over free speech
Faculty members at UNC Chapel Hill have often spoken their minds – but in some cases, they have done so at their own peril.
Political appointees on the UNC Board of Governors have targeted academic centers whose work they oppose. They have allegedly meddled in faculty hiring decisions for political reasons. And they have exacted reprisals against faculty members who speak publicly on political controversies of the day.
Last week UNC-Chapel Hill’s Faculty Council passed a resolution affirming the right of faculty members to speak freely and the university’s duty to protect their speech.
“[Faculty members] should be encouraged to provide thought leadership, to be public scholars when their work gives them meaningful insight,” said Mimi Chapman during the meeting. “This is what faculty at a great research university does. They weigh in. They share their knowledge and experience. We shouldn’t be intimidated into hiding our light under the proverbial bushel.” [Read more...]
7. Dispatches from court: A family apart
This is the first in an ongoing series about goings-on in county courthouses across the state. As a recent North Carolina transplant and the newest member of the Policy Watch team, I am getting to know my new home and beat by traveling to courtrooms to observe routine, everyday hearings and sharing what I learn with readers. Each dispatch will be from a different county. Have a suggestion? Email me at [email protected].
I’ve covered the criminal legal system in four states. Each time I have found the best way to understand issues facing the justice system is to observe the hearings on the daily dockets. For these stories, I’ll be on the ground and in the weeds; the recaps will not necessarily be about policy problems or systemic issues with the justice system. Rather, what is written will be deemed newsworthy because it is a routine occurrence that might surprise those who haven’t been through the system themselves.
Cases were moving slowly through Courtroom 2A on Monday morning. Several of those whose names were written on a criminal docket pinned to the wall in the lobby grumbled that they had to get a move on. They didn’t want to spend their whole day at the Chatham County Courthouse.
The room got quiet when District Court Judge Samantha Cabe called Garima Sinha’s name. [Read more...]
8. U.S. Senate delays same-sex marriage vote until after midterm elections
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate won’t vote on legislation to secure marriage equality for millions of Americans until after the midterm elections, bipartisan negotiators announced Thursday.
The move follows weeks of behind-the-scenes discussions among five U.S. senators from both political parties who have been drafting an amendment to the House-passed legislation that they hoped would secure more GOP votes. The amendment would clarify religious liberty protections, though those protections already are in place. [Read more…]
9. Weekly Radio Interviews and Daily Audio Commentaries:
Click here for the latest radio interviews and commentaries with Policy Watch Director Rob Schofield.