GENERAL ASSEMBLY NEWS
Cooper, NAACP both lose their lawsuits against NC legislators over constitutional amendments
N&O // Will Doran // September 4, 2018
Summary: North Carolina voters this November will likely be able to vote on all six constitutional amendments that Republican legislators want them to approve. That’s because on Tuesday the N.C. Supreme Court handed losses to two lawsuits challenging the amendments. The court ruled against Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper in his lawsuit over two potential amendments that would take power away from the governor’s office, and give that power to the legislature, late on Tuesday afternoon. Earlier in the day the court had also declined to hear an appeal from the North Carolina NAACP, which had sued over two different amendments that would create a new voter ID law and lower the state’s maximum possible income tax rate.
GOV. COOPER NEWS
N.C. to appeal FEMA decision
McDowell News // Staff Reports // September 5, 2018
North Carolina will appeal a decision by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the White House not to grant a major disaster declaration for the May floods and mudslides in western North Carolina, according to reports from Gov. Roy Cooper’s office. The Governor’s Office and North Carolina Emergency Management learned last week that the federal government had denied the state’s request for a federal disaster declaration. The state is seeking the declaration to pave the way for FEMA assistance for people and communities affected by the storms. “Five people died as a result of these storms, and many others suffered damage to their homes and businesses. Many roads, bridges and driveways were washed out,” said Cooper. “People in western North Carolina need help recovering and we will keep doing everything we can to get it to them, including appealing this disappointing decision by FEMA.”
More disaster relief money for Hurricane Matthew victims is coming to North Carolina
N&O // Will Doran // September 4, 2018
Summary: Money for families who lost their homes in Hurricane Matthew has finally started trickling into North Carolina, nearly two years after the storm devastated much of the eastern part of the state with intense flooding. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration announced Tuesday that 22 families received a combined $286,000 on Tuesday, which is the first of millions of dollars that the federal government’s Housing and Urban Development has set aside for North Carolina’s disaster relief efforts in the area. “Recovery is picking up steam with more repairs getting underway and more families getting money back for home repairs,” said Mike Sprayberry, the state’s Emergency Management director. “We know help can never come fast enough to those in need and we are pushing to get hammers swinging on more recovery projects across eastern North Carolina.”
Gov. Cooper introduces new program to help vets during Kinston visit
ABC 12 // Daisha Jones, Katie Caviness // September 4, 2018
Summary: Governor Roy Cooper delivered remarks and a special announcement in Kinston Tuesday morning. Gov. Cooper spoke about the N.C. Defense Industry Diversification Initiative (NC DIDI). According to the NC DIDI, the goal of the program is to understand, support and respond to the needs of North Carolina’s defense businesses at the state level. It's a specific focus of NC DIDI is to prepare veterans for life after serving in the armed forces. While speaking at the North Carolina Global Transpark, Gov. Cooper announced that the United States Department of Defense awarded an additional $3 million to help North Carolina with this effort. Cooper said there are 720,000 veterans in our state and each year, 21,000 exit the military and enter the work force. The plan is to better prepare those veterans and also help our economy.
Cooper hails State defense economic program
Jacksonville Daily News // Eddie Fitzgerald // September 4, 2018
Summary: N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper visited Lenoir County Tuesday, bringing a gift for a new state initiative that is helping the defense business industry and rural economic development. Organizers of the North Carolina Defense Industry Diversification Initiative, or NC DIDI, a pilot program started a year ago met at the Global TransPark Tuesday to hear about the progress of the program and learned from Cooper the state has awarded an additional $3 million for the NCDIDI. Larry Hall, cabinet secretary for the North Carolina Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, said NC DIDI was a response from the state to understand and support the needs of North Carolina’s defense businesses. It seeks to ensure that the defense supply chain remains robust, so that it is able to quickly absorb sudden high demands from Department of Defense agencies, he said.
Cooper ignores legislative clouds, sees silver lining in rebuilding Princeville
WRAL // Laura Leslie // September 4, 2018
Summary: Almost two years after Hurricane Matthew inundated much of eastern North Carolina, some communities are still struggling to recover. In Princeville, the nation's oldest town settled by freed blacks, the Town Hall sits empty, abandoned homes have gaping windows, and the senior center is perched on a 15-foot-high foundation without any visible way to get inside. The water inside Dail Transmission was 3 feet deep and included fish, but the auto shop reopened after a lot of hard work and some help from relief funds. Owner Tommy Bolton told Gov. Roy Cooper on Tuesday that business has been slow to come back.
Supreme Court: 2 amendments fought by Cooper to be on ballot
AP // Gary D. Robertson // September 4, 2018
Summary: North Carolina’s highest court has decided two proposed amendments to the state constitution addressing judicial vacancies and the state elections board will be on ballots this fall. The state Supreme Court on Tuesday affirmed a lower court decision denying a request by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper to block the questions for those amendments from appearing on ballots. Cooper had argued the questions remained flawed even after the Republican-controlled legislature altered them in response to an earlier court ruling. The decision means there will be six referendum questions on the November ballot. Cooper and Democratic allies have criticized the proposals because they would swing control over filling bench vacancies from the governor to the legislature and give General Assembly leaders direct say over who would serve on the elections board.
NCDP NEWS & MENTIONS
Organizations to host ‘Hometown Debate’ on state constitutional amendments
Salisbury Post // Staff // September 5, 2018
Summary: The North Carolina Institute of Political Leadership and Rowan County Chamber of Commerce will host a “Hometown Debate” at the Meroney Theatre on Sept. 25. The Hometown Debate series, which began in 2016, will include four nights of debate in late September and early October addressing four of the six proposed amendments to the state Constitution that will be on the ballot in November. “The goal of these events is to encourage and enhance education dialogue at a local level — equipping voters with information they can use to make more informed business, policy and electoral decisions,” said institute board Chairman Nelle Hotchkiss. The debate in Salisbury will focus on a proposed amendment that would change how judiciary vacancies are filled. The Meroney Theatre will open at 6:30 p.m., followed by the debate at 7 p.m.
Courts rule ballots can include 6 constitutional amendments, 13 unconstitutional congressional districts
Is Trump’s DOJ Making North Carolina His New Front in the Voting Wars? Subpoenas Sent to Get Voting Records Throughout State
Election Law Blog // Rick Hasen // Septermber 4, 2018
Summary: A few weeks back, the DOJ brought charges in North Carolina against 19 people the government said were non-citizens voting in the election. The NYT reported: The Justice Department said the violations were uncovered by a newly created federal task force on document and benefit fraud in North Carolina’s Eastern Judicial District, led by the Homeland Security Department’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement division and the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service. But now something bigger is up, according to Democratic lawyer Marc Elias.
Progressive Pulse // Melissa Boughton // September 4, 2018
Summary: The North Carolina November election ballots will go on — with six proposed constitutional amendments and a congressional map that was ruled unconstitutionally gerrymandered by a federal three-judge panel. The state Supreme Court dissolved a stay it had issued enjoining the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement from preparing and printing ballots. It also declined to intervene in two cases over four of the proposed constitutional amendments — one brought by Gov. Roy Cooper and another brought by the North Carolina NAACP. Cooper challenged proposals that were rewritten after a lower court ruled the original ballot questions unconstitutionally misleading. That same court that initially ruled in his favor denied his request for relief Friday on the rewritten amendments. Cooper appealed to the Supreme Court, which upheld the lower court’s denial and sent the case as a whole back down to be litigated on the merits.
Courts: Congressional races, amendment language all a go
N.C. electoral map to be used in midterms despite being ruled unconstitutional
WRAL // Travis Fain // September 4, 2018
Summary: North Carolina's congressional races will be held this November under the current maps, and all six proposed amendments to the state constitution will be on the ballot as well. Rulings to that effect from state and federal courts came down late Tuesday afternoon, finalizing the November ballot after weeks of back and forth over multiple lawsuits.
The Hill // Meagan Keller //Septermber 4, 2018
Summary: A court on Tuesday said there was not enough time to redraw a North Carolina redistricting map that had been ruled unconstitutional last month, meaning the map will still be used in the 2018 midterm elections. “Having carefully reviewed the parties' briefing and supporting materials, we conclude that there is insufficient time for this Court to approve a new districting plan and for the State to conduct an election using that plan prior to the seating of the new Congress in January 2019,” the court ruling said, according to CNN. “And we further find that imposing a new schedule for North Carolina's congressional elections would, at this late juncture, unduly interfere with the State's electoral machinery and likely confuse voters and depress turnout,” it added.
MEG WIEHE: Capping North Carolina's top income tax rate isn't good for our communities
The simple solution to proposed constitutional amendments: Nix all six
Progressive Pulse // Rob Schofield // September 5, 2018
Summary: Now that we know what this fall’s ballot will look like — i.e. cluttered with a passel of unnumbered, confusing and ill-conceived amendments to the North Carolina constitution — there is a simple path for caring and thinking people: vote “no” on all six. Yes, it’s true that the General Assembly effected a hurried last-minute rewrite of two of the amendments that would seize power from the governor in an effort to make them somewhat less blatant and outrageous. But there is still no disguising what these proposals are about or how destructive they will be.
GOP CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS COULD COST US APPLE
Politics NC // Alexander H. Jones // September 4, 2018
Summary: Every North Carolinian should read this article in US News and World Report. Our chance at landing the state’s greatest economic opportunity in decades is darkening. Apple doesn’t want to operate in a bigoted state, yet the NCGA seems bent on rebranding us all in their own regressive image. We’ve seen this story repeatedly since Republicans took control of state government. Due to incompetence or other failures, this legislature has cost us high-profile economic investments. Mercedes and Paypal both nixed the state, and now our anticipated victory in the race for Apple may be slipping away. Revanchist legislators like Sen. Ralph Hise quite literally don’t care. As they see it, urban prosperity is an injustice against their constituents. But rural areas will suffer if our economic engines lose steam.
WRAL // CBC Opinion // September 4, 2018
Summary: Earlier this year, teachers across the country staged walkouts or full-on strikes to protest low wages and lack of investment in education. North Carolina public school teachers and their allies participated too, calling for better pay and more overall school spending to improve our children’s education. Right now, the Tar Heel state is not investing as much in public school education as it should, or even as it did before the 2007-2009 economic recession. School funding is down 7.9 percent per student since then, after adjusting for inflation. And despite some recent salary increases, average teacher pay has fallen 5 percent since 2010, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. If we truly care about making sure our young people are prepared to lead their best lives and asuring our state continues to be a desirable place to live, we should be investing more, not less, in our children.
Ethics officials must take a close look at Superintendent Mark Johnson’s iPad purchase
Billy Richardson: Pork industry can be a better neighbor
Fayetteville Observer // Billy Richardson // September 1, 2018
Summary: Farmers and agriculture are the backbone of our state and every time I see a billboard proclaiming “Thank a Farmer Three Times a Day!,” I wholeheartedly agree. Our farmers are the reason each of us has food to eat and clothes to wear. More specific, hog farmers in our state work day and night, with little time off, to put food on all of our tables. And they do so the best way they know how with the limited resources they have. But we have serious issues with hog lagoons in eastern North Carolina that our General Assembly continues to willfully ignore.
NC-08: REFLECTIONS OF 2006
Politics NC // Thomas Mills // September 4, 2018
Summary: In their rush to take back Congress, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee overlooked one North Carolina race. In NC-08, a school teacher named Larry Kissell from Montgomery County was taking on incumbent Republican Robin Hayes, an heir to the Canon textile fortune. Hayes had a stout war chest and eight years of incumbency. Kissell struggled to raise money but was otherwise a good fit for the rural district. When the votes were counted, Kissell lost to Hayes by 329 votes out of more than 120,000 cast, the closest race in the nation. Hayes had outspent Kissell by more 3 to 1. DCCC Chair Rahm Emmanuel privately called it his biggest mistake of the cycle. Two years later, Kissell won the seat with broad support. This year, Frank McNeill is running a similar campaign against incumbent Republican Richard Hudson. Hudson is flush with special interest cash while McNeill is building a substantial grassroots organization linking the local candidates and leaders. McNeill is of the district, having been raised in Moore County and served extensively in local government and civic organizations. Hudson is of Washington, a former Congressional Chief of Staff who only moved to the district when it was gerrymandered to unseat Kissell.
NC Policy Watch // Rob Schofield // September 5, 2018
Summary: If you missed it last week and care at all about the subject of ethics in government, please take a few minutes to read Policy Watch reporter Billy Ball’s investigative report on the recent $6 million iPad purchase that state Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson completed earlier this summer. As Ball reports in damning detail, both the purchase itself and a two-day meeting that took place last fall between Johnson, a small group of state officials and Apple Computer representatives, raise significant questions of propriety and legality.
NC increasing focus on school mental health education
CBS 17 // Holden Kurwicki // September 4, 2018
Summary: Is the state of North Carolina doing enough to protect your child's mental health at school? Virginia and New York recently passed laws requiring mental health awareness to be taught in classrooms. That has some questioning if North Carolina is coming up short in one critical areas of education. "Our students come to us, and they have lots of challenges," said WCPSS Superintendent Cathy Moore. "Lots of needs that extend beyond reading, writing, and arithmetic." It doesn't matter where your child goes to school studies show that 1 in 5 students in North Carolina struggle with their mental health. "They're not going to be able to learn if we're not addressing those issues," said Durham Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Pascal Mubenga.
Court: Schools may be due hog giant's environmental payments
Star Tribune // Emery P. Daelsio // September 4, 2018
Summary: A North Carolina appeals court on Tuesday set the stage for a court battle to decide whether the world's largest pork producer will keep paying for environmental projects as it promised 18 years ago or if its millions should go to public schools instead. A divided state Court of Appeals resurrected a lawsuit challenging Smithfield Foods's 2000 agreement to pay up to $2 million a year for 25 years. Until now, successive state attorneys general Mike Easley, Roy Cooper and Josh Stein have largely decided who got the money. Smithfield agreed in the 2000 deal to phase out open-air hog waste pits in the country's No. 2 pork-producing state within five years. But the cesspools are still being used on hundreds of industrial-scale farms raising Smithfield's hogs. The company, now owned by a Chinese parent, maintains that no other waste-handling method is economically feasible in North Carolina despite years of research into finding alternatives.
Toxic site at NCSU has cost school $1.3M. New map has details on it, other toxic sites.
N&O // Craig Jarvis // September 4, 2018
Summary: Secluded behind tall grasses and a vine-covered chain-link fence, across the street from an outer parking lot at PNC Arena, sits an acre and a half of what was once one of the most hazardous waste dumps in the country. Throughout the 1970s, N.C. State University discarded irradiated sheep, rats and other animal carcasses and a toxic soup of chemicals there, earning it a spot on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s national priority Superfund list in 1986. It posed a significant health threat if not cleaned up. NCSU agreed in the late 1990s to clean it up by treating and covering the soil and extracting and treating groundwater, at a cost of $1.3 million to date.
NC Civil Rights
ACLU Report Card: Civil Rights, Liberties Under Fire in NC
Public News Service // Stephanie Carson // September 4, 2018
Summary: While thousands of Americans enjoyed a day off from work Monday for Labor Day, it's the work done by North Carolina’s General Assembly in the last legislative sessions that has civil rights activists concerned. Specifically, the ACLU of North Carolina gives the Tar Heel State low marks for pushing forward legislation that included limits to voting access, LGBTQ equality, privacy rights and more. "The ACLU of North Carolina has found that the North Carolina General Assembly continues to attack the civil rights and civil liberties of all North Carolinians, from privacy and voting access to LGBT equality and immigrant rights,” points out Sarah Gillooly, director of political strategy and advocacy for the ACLU of North Carolina. “All of our rights are under attack in the General Assembly."
Jeff Bezos donates $10 million to veteran-focused Super PAC in first political venture
WAPO // Rachel Siegel, John Wagner // September 5, 2018
Summary: Amazon founder and CEO Jeffrey P. Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie, are making their first major political contribution with a $10 million gift to a super PAC focused on electing veterans to public office. The super PAC, With Honor, works with candidates across political parties. Unlike other mega-donors who have poured tens of millions of dollars into Republican or Democratic campaigns, the Bezoses chose a group whose 2018 mission includes reversing "the trend of veteran decline in Congress." Earlier this year, Forbes ranked Bezos -- who owns The Washington Post -- the richest man in the world with a net worth of more than $150 billion.
Poor Peoples Campaign
William Barber & Liz Theoharis
Politico // Katelyn Fossett // September 4, 2018
Summary: The Reverend Doctors William Barber and Liz Theoharis named their new movement after Martin Luther King Jr.’s Poor People’s Campaign, but while King focused on demonstrations in Washington, Barber and Theoharis want to transform the Democratic Party in states and cities—especially in the South, where gerrymandering and voter suppression have long hurt the party. Perhaps most radically, they are doing it in the name of religious morality, long considered GOP terrain. “We need not just a Democratic agenda but a moral agenda,” says Barber. “If we do that, we can turn the Southern strategy upside down.”
UNC library board says Silent Sam doesn’t belong in Wilson or any of its libraries
N&O // Jane Stancill // September 4, 2018
Summary: As UNC-Chapel Hill leaders begin the process of scouting an alternative location for the toppled Silent Sam Confederate statue, an obvious question has emerged: who will take it? Already, the Administrative Board of the Library has written to UNC Chancellor Carol Folt and Provost Robert Blouin, pointing out problems with the idea of placing the 8-foot-tall Confederate statue in Wilson Library, or in any university library. Rumors had circulated that Wilson, which houses special collections and other artifacts of North Carolina and Southern history, could be a possible site for the controversial statue. The administrative board, made up of elected faculty and appointed library staff, wrote that Silent Sam would have a detrimental effect on the library’s inclusive environment and could carry a fire risk to the priceless artifacts and papers housed within the building.
Right-wing news editor accuses UNC lecturer of assault at Silent Sam protest
N&O // Tammy Grubb, Mark Schultz // September 4, 2018
Summary: An editor for a national right-wing news site says UNC-Chapel Hill lecturer Dwayne Dixon should be fired after allegedly assaulting him at the Aug. 20 Silent Sam protest. “He should not be teaching, and he should not be earning taxpayer dollars,” said Patrick Howley, editor-in-chief for the Big League Politics news site, citing Dixon’s involvement in recent demonstrations. Howley, a former reporter for the Breitbart News Network, spoke with reporters last week after court hearings in Orange County for Silent Sam protesters. Howley said then he would be pressing charges against Dixon. On Tuesday night, UNC Police released an arrest report accusing Dixon of simple assault. Simple assault means no weapons were used and an incident did not cause serious injury.
Our view: No easy answer to gerrymandering
Winston Salem Journal // Editorial Board // September 1, 2018
Summary: The latest bombshell from the courts landed about dinner time on Monday, when a three-judge panel from U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina reinforced its opinion from earlier this year that North Carolina’s congressional districts had been gerrymandered to favor Republicans. This development is good in the long term because it means that maps may be drawn to give every voter equal access to decision makers, rather than insulating at least 10 of the state’s 13 representatives in districts their party dominates with a stranglehold.