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Wednesday News: Shutdown madness

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VANCE COUNTY SCHOOLS CUT BACK ON SCHOOL LUNCHES WITHOUT FEDERAL ASSISTANCE: The federal government’s budget stalemate over border security is causing lunches to shrink at one eastern North Carolina school district. Vance County Schools officials announced on Facebook late Tuesday that lunch menus “have been revised to a minimum level to conserve food and funding” starting Jan. 21. The county is about 50 miles northeast of Durham, along the Virginia state line. Fresh produce, bottled juices and water, and even ice cream are among the items being nixed. “The Vance County Schools Nutrition Program for students is self-supporting with federal funds providing meals,” says the post. “We hope that normal lunch menus can be resumed as soon as possible once the shutdown has ended.”
https://www.newsobserver.com/news/nation-world/national/article224611465.html

Tuesday News: The stink of desperation

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HARRIS IS ALL-OF-A-SUDDEN CONCERNED ABOUT VOTERS' RIGHTS: The campaign of Republican Mark Harris is moving forward with an effort to force the State Board of Elections to certify the result of the 2018 9th Congressional District race by court action, despite ongoing investigations into absentee ballot irregularities in several southeastern North Carolina counties. Harris filed a legal brief Monday in support of his request for a writ of mandamus, a court order that forces a public agency to exercise one of its responsibilities. He's asking a Wake County Superior Court judge to command state elections officials to immediately certify the election results and release any investigative materials into election irregularities. "By leaving the Ninth District race undecided, the Bipartisan Board has struck a blow to representative democracy," the brief filed on Harris' behalf reads. "It effectively has disfranchised the more than 778,000 people living in the Ninth District by bureaucratic fiat, denying them representation in the 116th Congress."
https://www.wral.com/in-court-documents-harris-argues-state-board-should-certify-9th-district-result...

Monday News: Equality means protection, too

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AG STEIN FILES BRIEF IN SUPPORT OF SAME-SEX RESTRAINING ORDERS: North Carolina is the only state in the U.S. that doesn't issue domestic violence restraining orders for victims in same-sex dating relationships. A lawsuit now before the state Court of Appeals could change that, and Attorney General Josh Stein filed a brief on behalf of the state this week, calling on the court to declare this portion of North Carolina's law unconstitutional. In North Carolina, a domestic violence protective order is known as "50B order," and for people who are not married or related, an order can be obtained only against a person "of the opposite sex." A lower court cited that section of the law in denying a protective order to a person who faced threats of physical violence following a breakup this year. The plaintiff in the case is a Wake County woman who was threatened by a woman she was dating. The American Civil Liberties Union is representing her in the case. The group and Stein are asking for that section of the law to be struck down.
https://www.wral.com/ag-stein-pushing-for-same-sex-domestic-violence-protections/18118215/

Sunday News: From the Editorial pages

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LEGISLATORS, ABANDON PARTISAN BULLYING AND FOCUS ON STATE'S URGENT NEEDS: The dark and stormy hyper-partisan atmosphere, fueled by the only veto-proof majority since the governor was granted the power 22 years ago, has dissipated as a new legislature gathers for the first time. We hope now that a gubernatorial veto carries some clout, legislators will think and act more cooperatively and less ideologically as they craft legislation. To get important things accomplished, legislators will need to consider and address the interests and needs of ALL North Carolinians – not just narrow and favored special interests or powerful partisan patrons. It is an opportunity for REAL leadership to emerge. Skill in building consensus will hold greater currency than the muscle to intimidate and steamroll. How will GOP leaders Sen. Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore handle themselves?
https://www.wral.com/editorial-legislators-abandon-partisan-bullying-and-focus-on-state-s-urgent-nee...

Saturday News: Milking the taxpayers

DOLLAR LOSES ELECTION, GAINS SIX-FIGURE INCOME WORKING FOR MOORE: Former state Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake, has joined House Speaker Tim Moore's staff as a senior policy adviser. The former chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Dollar will make $117,495 a year, an upgrade from the roughly $14,000 a year state legislators make in addition to per diems and expense reimbursements. Dollar has been heavily involved in a number of complex issues at the statehouse, including budget negotiations and the state's ongoing Medicaid reform efforts. He is a political and media consultant by trade. Dollar lost his seat by 884 votes last November to Democrat Julie von Haefen, the former president of the Wake County PTA. Von Haefen took her seat, representing parts of Cary, Apex and southern Wake County this month, and the legislature began its new session Wednesday.
https://www.wral.com/former-rep-dollar-joins-speaker-s-staff/18117778/

Friday News: Wrong time, wrong place

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ROWAN COUNTY FORCED TO PAY ACLU LEGAL BILLS OVER GOVERNMENT PRAYER: A federal judge found the way the Rowan County Commission prayed before public meetings unconstitutional. An appeals court eventually agreed and the Supreme Court last summer declined to hear the case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, federal court records show. Now the county will have to pay the ACLU’s legal bills for the five-year legal fight: $285,000. On Monday, County Commission members voted to pay the bill, the Salisbury Post reports. The lawsuit dates back to 2013 when three Rowan County residents sued the county commission over the public prayer at the beginning of each meeting, according to court filings. The commission chair or members give a prayer at the beginning of each meeting, the lawsuit says, and over six years 97 percent of prayers were Christian. An appeals court sided with the residents, represented by the ACLU, in 2017.
https://www.newsobserver.com/news/state/north-carolina/article224219600.html

Thursday News: Suppressing the press

REPORTERS FORCED INTO THE BASEMENT OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY: For 56 years, ever since the Legislative Building opened, media organizations have had workspace across the hall from where news conferences are held and downstairs from the House and Senate chambers. But that's about to change, and legislative leaders don't want to talk about why. Legislative Services Officer Paul Coble has decided to move the press to a smaller space in the basement in the farthest corner of the building. "[It's] as distant from the action as you could possibly be, which will make it harder for reporters to keep tabs on what's going on in the building," said Colin Campbell, editor of NC Insider, a state government news service. "We'll be farther from the floor when there's a meeting called with very little notice, and there'll be a reduction in space, which will mean fewer reporters have dedicated space." Asked about the move Wednesday, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said it's up to Coble.
https://www.wral.com/media-getting-squeezed-at-legislative-building/18113846/

Wednesday News: Public money, private profits

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TIM MOORE AIDE PRESSURED DEQ OVER GRANT FOR POLLUTION CLEANUP: In March 2016, a top aide to House Speaker Tim Moore asked a state Department of Environmental Quality official about two underground storage tanks removed from a former chicken processing plant in Siler City that was up for sale. One of those tanks had leaked gas. “Mitch Gillespie is asking about the status of the Siler City UST (underground storage tank) issue,” Caroline Daly, DEQ’s legislative liaison, wrote in the March 2, 2016, email to the section chief who oversees underground tank regulations. “Do you know what this is about and can give me an update to share?” That triggered several emails within the department. Within hours, DEQ officials reported back that the site had the green light for entry into a state program that subsidizes the cleanup costs for underground tanks. Daly then relayed the decision to Gillespie so he could pass it along to the property owners, who ultimately received $22,000 from the state. Among them: his boss, Speaker Moore.
https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article223925075.html

Tuesday News: Stolen valor

AG JOSH STEIN SUPPORTS CHALLENGE OF COLUMBUS COUNTY SHERIFF: Republican Jody Greene unseated then-Columbus County Sheriff and Democrat Lewis Hatcher by just 34 votes this fall. Several protests of those results are pending with the state Board of Elections. Under state law and the North Carolina Constitution, an election shall not be certified while such petitions are pending. Nonetheless, Columbus County officials swore in Jody Greene as sheriff last month. A state elections board spokesman said Greene should not have been sworn in and that Hatcher should still be Columbus County sheriff. A petition against his victory includes charges that absentee ballots were mishandled by L. McRae Dowless. Dowless is the campaign operative at the heart of the investigation into alleged election fraud in North Carolina's 9th congressional district. The North Carolina Attorney General's office authorized Hatcher's attorney to file a superior court complaint on behalf of the state.
http://www.wunc.org/post/constitutional-crisis-could-be-brewing-columbus-county

Monday News: Crooked Creek blues

SPARKS WILL FLY AT WAKE COMMISSIONERS MEETING OVER SALE OF PARKLAND: This proposal will likely be supported by board Chairwoman Jessica Holmes and Commissioner James West. They, along with Ford, were the three votes against purchasing the property last summer. Commissioners Matt Calabria and Sig Hutchinson, long-time supporters of the proposed park, will likely oppose selling it. Ford has called selling the property a correction to “an unprecedented and controversial action.” Calabria and Hutchinson have said buying the property $45,000 below market value was an excellent deal to help bring a park into an area where there are no county parks currently. That leaves both factions trying to win over new commissioners Vickie Adamson and Susan Evans. It’s just their second meeting as commissioners, and neither has said how she’ll vote. But last year’s contentious primary might give people an idea.
https://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/article223923295.html

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