BlueNC's blog

Saturday News: Juggling judges

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WAKE AND MECKLENBURG WILL GET NEW JUDICIAL DISTRICT MAPS: Wake County District Court judges would be elected from six newly drawn districts, instead of countywide, under a plan introduced Friday at the statehouse. The county would also add two District Court judges, for a total of 21, as part of less ambitious plans to redraw judicial districts around the state than what Republican lawmakers have debated since last year. Without consensus on a statewide plan, or on proposals to appoint judges instead, legislators are pursuing less controversial changes in a number of counties. Wake County's changes are attached to Senate Bill 757, which would also redraw judicial districts in Mecklenburg County, often the prime example lawmakers give when talking up the need for change. The districts there have unbalanced populations and are likely unconstitutional, experts have said.
https://www.wral.com/wake-would-get-new-judges-districts-from-revamp-bill/17597502/

Friday News: NC can't afford Trumpism

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NC PORK AND TOBACCO FARMERS CAUGHT UP IN TRUMP'S TRADE WARS: North Carolina pork producers and tobacco farmers could feel a big hit from the back-and-forth trade threats being issued by the United States and trading partners across the globe, including Mexico, Canada, China and the European Union. The Trump administration announced this week that it would implement tariffs on aluminum and steel products from Mexico, Canada and the EU on Friday. Also this week, Trump renewed his threat to place tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese products. Those nations announced retaliatory measures Thursday, including threats to levy tariffs on tobacco and pork products. The state's pork producers export 25 percent of their product, said Andy Curliss, CEO of the North Carolina Pork Council. Mexico and Canada account for half of those exports. Curliss said in an email that it's hard to know the impact of the trade sparring at this moment.
http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article212285639.html

Thursday News: Petty tyrants

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DALLAS WOODHOUSE BULLIES SEN. DON DAVIS INTO VOTING FOR BUDGET: The vote, the first of two the Senate will take on the budget, was 36-14. Sen. Don Davis, D-Pitt, was the lone Democrat to cross the aisle to vote for a plan crafted by Republicans in a process that allowed no amendments once leadership signed off on budget changes drafted almost entirely behind closed doors. Davis occupies what may be the only competitive Senate district held by a Democrat, making this a tougher vote for him than most. North Carolina Republican Party Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse called Davis out by name ahead of the vote, and Republicans were already plotting campaign commercials on social media during the debate, ticking off the state employee and teacher raises Democrats would be voting against.
https://www.wral.com/nc-senate-backs-budget-36-14/17592715/

Wednesday News: Twisted priorities

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NC GOP BUDGET FUNDS ANTI-ABORTION CLINICS AND CHRISTIAN HUNTING CLUBS: The new state budget unveiled by Republican legislators Monday night will send hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to religious groups, including more than $1 million to pro-life pregnancy clinics. Other grants include a quarter of a million dollars for an outdoors group that combines Bible studies with hunting trips, as well as $100,000 to build a YMCA in an influential legislator's district, $35,000 for a prison ministry group, and more. The budget was written in secret by a handful of lawmakers and, now that it's public, GOP leaders have said it will not be open to any changes from other lawmakers of either party. It's the first time in modern North Carolina history that the budget has been closed to input from the public and amendments from lawmakers.
http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article212097339.html

Tuesday News: Derailed

GOP'S STEALTH BUDGET JEOPARDIZES CHAPEL HILL/DURHAM LIGHT RAIL PROJECT: New state budget language holds back more than $200 million in funding for the planned Chapel Hill-to-Durham passenger rail project until federal money is promised, a potential road block for the $2.4 billion plan. The new language may set up a chicken-or-the-egg situation: The General Assembly now says no state money without federal guarantees, but federal funding requires a 50 percent match, and the state money has been been counted on. "We are assessing next steps, but the amended budget certainly appears to be detrimental to the light-rail project," GoTriangle General Manager Jeff Mann said in a statement late Monday, after the state budget became public. The new budget language released Monday night as part of the state's new $23.9 billion budget singles out light rail projects, requiring a written agreement establishing that all non-state money needed for construction "has been secured."
https://www.wral.com/budget-language-a-potential-blow-for-chapel-hill-to-durham-rail-project/17587955/

Monday News: Turning hope into despair

PRIVATE NC DRUG REHAB CLINICS ACCUSED OF FORCED UNPAID LABOR OF PATIENTS: Attorney General Josh Stein and other state officials are investigating a drug and alcohol rehab center that faces allegations of forced labor, abuse, fraud and more. The North Carolina company operates clinics near Asheville and Raleigh. The investigation comes on the heels of an article about the rehab company that was published by Reveal, a nonprofit news website run by the Center for Investigative Reporting. According to that report, a company called Recovery Connections Community put its patients to work for free in adult care homes, charging the homes for their labor but not paying the patients for their work. Some of the patients told Reveal they worked 16-hour days for no pay and also received little to no training before going to work in those sensitive medical environments.
http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/article211970559.html

Sunday News: From the Editorial pages

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STEIN RIGHT TO GO AFTER DRUG FIRMS AS MAJOR PART OF OPIOID ABUSE PLAGUE: In 2016 health care prescribers in the state wrote an opioid prescription for nearly every man, woman and child. There were 705 million opioid pills prescribed in North Carolina –705 per person -- in 2016. This crisis is no accident. Its origins are with pharmaceutical manufacturers. “The majority of persons with opioid addiction started with prescribed painkillers,” wrote Rebecca Haffajee and Michelle Mello in the New England Journal of Medicine. North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein last week filed a lawsuit against drug maker Purdue Pharma over its opioid marketing practices. Five other states have filed similar lawsuits against Purdue. The latest legal action comes after a lawsuit Stein filed late last year against Insys Therapeutics over an alleged scheme that included kickbacks, deception and fraud in marketing Subsys – a spray form of synthetic fentanyl.
https://www.wral.com/editorial-stein-is-right-to-go-after-drug-firms-as-a-major-part-of-the-opioid-a...

Saturday News: GOP attack on the poor, chapter 47

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NC LAWMAKERS CHANNEL TRUMP WITH MEDICAID WORK REQUIREMENTS: The matter is one of several policy items that House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger are hashing out as they wrangle over the $24 billion budget. The change appears to be a Senate priority without support from key budget writers in the House. "We're talking about it," Berger, R-Rockingham, confirmed Wednesday evening as he emerged from budget talks for a dinner break. The potential Medicaid requirements would affect about 60,000 people, according to state Rep. Donny Lambeth
, R-Forsyth, a House budget chairman as well as a chairman on the House Health and Health Care Reform committees. The change would require approval from the federal government, but the Trump administration has indicated it's open to similar changes.
https://www.wral.com/medicaid-work-requirements-a-sticking-point-in-budget-talks/17575822/

Friday News: Teacher Cops?

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GOP BILL AIMS TO TRAIN TEACHERS AS LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS: A trio of Republican legislators want to set aside $9 million for the "School Security Act of 2018," which would offer a 5 percent salary boost to up to 3,000 teachers who complete the state's training programs and become school resource officers. A school resource officer is a certified law enforcement officer who is permanently assigned to provide coverage to a school or a set of schools. If the teacher qualifies and successfully completes training to become a "teacher resource officer," he or she "shall have the same powers as municipal and county police officers to make arrests for both felonies and misdemeanors and to charge for infractions." Schools could determine whether their teacher-resource officers would carry firearms. And a teacher's identity as a school resource officer would be confidential under state law, meaning the public wouldn't know which teachers doubled as officers.
http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article211862369.html

Thursday News: The new Jim Crow

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NC'S AFRICAN-AMERICAN STUDENTS ARE ARRESTED OR SUSPENDED AT ALARMING RATE: In North Carolina, black students are nearly six times more likely to be arrested at school and school activities than white students, according to recently released federal data analyzed by WRAL News. That disparity is among the worst in the country. Law enforcement arrested more than 600 North Carolina students on public school grounds, during off-campus school activities or on school transportation during the 2015-16 school year, according to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Education. In North Carolina, 9.2 out of every 10,000 black students were arrested, compared to 1.6 white students. Only three other states – West Virginia, Iowa and Rhode Island – had a higher disparity between the arrest rates of black and white students. About 147 out of every 1,000 black students were suspended from North Carolina schools in 2015-16. That's compared to about 44 white students out of every 1,000.
https://www.wral.com/nc-s-alarming-disparity-of-black-student-arrests-among-worst-in-country/17515727/

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