POLICIES & POLITICS
Despite Mercedes loss, GOP legislators slow to heed McCrory’s call on incentives (WRAL-TV) -- A day before Mercedes-Benz USA passed on North Carolina sites and opted to move its headquarters to Atlanta, Gov. Pat McCrory urged legislators to act quickly when they return to Raleigh in the coming weeks to shore up the state's job incentive programs. But state lawmakers don't appear to be in a hurry.
The Klan of the 1960s has parallels to today's tea party (Weekly Independent) -- The story told by Klansville U.S.A., a new television documentary produced for the "American Experience" series on PBS, isn't from the 19th century, when the KKK was created by defeated Confederate soldiers. Nor is it from the early 20th century, when the KKK arose again to enforce segregation. Rather, this is the KKK of the 1960s that came from the grave and took shape, especially in North Carolina, in opposition to the civil rights movement. And while Klansville stops with the '60s, it isn't hard to hear the Klan's echoes today in the tea party politics that greeted the nation's first African-American president.
Texas Abortion Clinic Rules Tested in Appeals Court (New York Times) -- The rules could force more than half the remaining abortion providers in Texas to close. The panel hearing the case Wednesday, picked by lottery, included Jennifer W. Elrod and Catharina Haynes, appointees of President George W. Bush who previously voted to uphold parts of the Texas abortion law, and Edward C. Prado, who was also appointed by Mr. Bush. To the surprise of many in the courtroom, the two conservative female judges aggressively challenged the Texas solicitor general, Jonathan F. Mitchell, asking whether many of the new building requirements made medical sense and whether it might be dangerous to force women to drive hundreds of miles home after an abortion. … Beyond the case argued Wednesday, which provides a stark test of the undue burden standard, several other abortion cases are in the judicial pipeline, including some with directly clashing decisions from federal appeals courts. Last month, the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in Richmond, Va., struck down a North Carolina law that required women to undergo ultrasounds as the doctor described the fetus — whether the patients wanted to hear it or not — and offered scientifically disputed advice on the safety of abortions.
WAR ON N.C. UNEMPLOYED: State To Require Job Seekers Verify More Job Searches To Get Benefits (WUNC-FM) – Gov. Pat McCrory’s Commerce Department is behind a major jump in the number of weekly job searches claimants must have to collect benefits. Dale Folwell is Assistant Commerce Secretary for Employment Security and he supports increasing weekly documented job searches from two to five. “So we think this will increase the velocity of people getting off the unemployment rolls and looking for work," said Folwell. Folwell says the current system was confusing for some people. He says his office decided to cut the confusion and add searches at the same time.
Mayors lobby for tax credits (Winston-Salem Journal) -- A group of 26 North Carolina mayors, including those from the Triad’s four largest cities, have started a petition drive to prod state Republican legislative leaders into restoring two popular historic preservation tax credits. Legislators did not include an extension in the state budget for 2014-15, allowing the tax credits to expire Dec. 31.
CoastLine: Legislative Look-Ahead with Reps. Davis and Hamilton (WHQR-FM) -- North Carolina lawmakers head back to Raleigh Jan. 14. Gov. Pat McCrory is already naming economic incentives as his number one priority this session -- just as Mercedes-Benz announces plans to locate in Atlanta thanks to millions of dollars in incentives from Georgia. State Reps. Ted Davis and Susi Hamilton of New Hanover County shine a light on this year’s agenda. Will film incentives get another look? How will the new House leadership change the political dynamic? And will Medicaid expansion have any legs?
NC legislator going unaffiliated, wants to caucus with GOP (AP) — A state House member from the Outer Banks announced Wednesday he's switching his voter registration from Democrat to unaffiliated and likely will caucus with the Republican majority beginning with the new legislative session later this month.
Obscure Democratic lawmaker switching party affiliation (Raleigh News & Observer) -- In an unusual move announced Wednesday, state Rep. Paul Tine of Kitty Hawk is changing his party affiliation from Democrat to unaffiliated in hopes of getting more done for his district in the upcoming legislation session, which begins next week.
Lawmakers again seek jobless panel changes McCrory opposes (AP) — Some North Carolina lawmakers are trying again to make changes to a state board that hears unemployment appeals, even though Gov. Pat McCrory vetoed legislation containing a similar proposal last year.
GOP govs want work rules with Medicaid proposals (Politico) - The governors of North Carolina and Utah left a meeting with President Barack Obama Tuesday sounding hopeful that they’ll be able to expand Medicaid on their terms. Work requirements have long been on the wish list of Republican governors seeking to expand Medicaid. But CMS has refused to budge, recently rejecting Utah Gov. Gary Herbert’s request during preliminary negotiations. Pressing the issue again with Obama, “We did not get assurances, but I felt we got a pretty good response,” North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory said after meeting with the president as a member of the National Governors Association executive committee.
Pender Co. leaders add 'In God We Trust' to chamber wall (WRAL-TV) -- The Pender County Board of Commissioners unanimously voted Monday on a measure that would add the U.S. motto - "In God We Trust" - above the county seal in the board's meeting hall.
Cozza Looks to Raise Ports' Profiles This Year (Wilmington Business Journal) -- After about eight months as CEO, Paul Cozza is plotting the course for the N.C. State Ports Authority just as the organization prepares to celebrate its 70th anniversary this year. To mark that milestone, Cozza is eager for the ports to further develop and showcase their competitive strengths as well as move ahead with wood pellet storage projects at both state ports and a cold storage facility at the Port of Wilmington.
Sam Ervin IV publicly installed as NC associate justice (AP) — Another member of North Carolina's Ervin family has joined the state Supreme Court.
Mental care ordered for NC man ahead of terror support trial (AP) — A federal judge on Wednesday ordered psychiatric treatment for a North Carolina man so that he might be competent to stand trial on a charge that he sought to join an al-Qaida-linked militant group in Syria.
Secret History of Women in the Senate (Politico) -- Kay Hagan just wanted to swim. It was late 2008, and the Democrat was newly arrived on Capitol Hill as North Carolina’s junior senator-elect. But Hagan was told that the Senate pool was males-only. Why? Because some of the male senators liked to swim naked. It took an intervention by Senator Chuck Schumer, head of the Rules Committee, to put a stop to the practice, but even then “it was a fight,” remembers pollster Celinda Lake, who heard about the incident when the pool revolt was the talk among Washington women. … In the entire history of the United States Senate, a mere 44 women have served. Ever. Those few who have were elected to a club they were never meant to join, and their history in the chamber is marked by sexism both spectacular and small. For decades in the 20th century after women first joined, many male senators were hardly more than corrupt frat boys with floor privileges, reeking of alcohol and making little secret of their sexual dalliances with constituents, employees and any other hapless subordinate female they could grab. But perhaps more striking is what I found after interviewing dozens of women senators, former senators and their aides over the past several months: Even today, the women of the Senate are confronted with a kind of floating, often subtle, but corrosive sexism, a sense of not belonging that is both pervasive and so counter to the narrative of real, if stubbornly slow, progress that many are reluctant to acknowledge this persistent secret.
Vass firm forfeits $1.1M for immigrant worker scheme (WRAL-TV) -- A Moore County company will forfeit more than $1.1 million for illegally funneling immigrant workers to U.S. companies, according to federal court documents.
Food Lion founder: Banks shouldn't forgive loans for NASCAR Hall of Fame (Charlotte Observer) -- A co-founder of the Food Lion grocery store chain, who said he is a “substantial” owner of Bank of America stock, said the bank’s decision to write off millions of dollars in debt for the NASCAR Hall of Fame was wrong and will hurt shareholders.
Terry Sanford, Bill Friday And A Generation Of Change (Duke U. News) - Out of the ashes of a Great Depression and the powerful stimulus of a World War, a new generation of N.C. leaders emerged to challenge the status quo. Former Duke President Terry Sanford, Bill Friday, Bill Aycock and many others from North Carolina’s “Greatest Generation” led a time of dramatic change. The documentary, "A Generation of Change" takes their stories from their youth in the 1920s to the climactic election of 1972, and the birth of the modern two-party state in N.C. The film is on WUNC-TV this month, the first showing at 10 p.m. tonight.
Meadows’ vote veers from GOP establishment, to what effect? (Carolina Public Press) -- More than two-dozen Republicans threatened to unseat House Speaker John Boehner from his congressional post Tuesday, and U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows played his part.
GOP’s Walter Jones wants public to know how much it pays to send lawmakers overseas (Washington Post) -- Rep. Walter Jones wants disclosure of how much the Defense Department spends to fly members of Congress around the world.
Thom Tillis on Obama, D.C. and media critics (Charlotte Business Journal) -- This week, the 114th Congress reported to work in Washington. Among the freshmen on Capitol Hill: Thom Tillis, the former state House speaker in North Carolina, a Republican who knocked off incumbent Kay Hagan in November. Tillis, 54, helped his party take a majority in the U.S. Senate, ousting Harry Reid of Nevada as majority leader along the way. The GOP took control by piling up a net gain of nine seats. Though public-opinion polls showed Tillis trailing Hagan, a Greensboro Democrat, for much of the 2014 campaign, he eventually moved past her, winning the job of junior senator by a margin of 1.6 points. Combined spending for the race exceeded $100 million, making it the most expensive campaign of the year. Richard Burr, also a Republican, is the state's senior senator.
Tillis acronyms his first name, launches PAC (Raleigh News & Observer) -- In launching a political action committee to raise funds, Thom Tillis has made his first name an acronym: Together Holding Our Majority. The Federal Elections Commission this week posted the filing that creates THOMPAC. The entity is a leadership PAC – the type formed by members of Congress – which raises money for the lawmaker’s non-campaign expenses and provides a vehicle to contribute to their colleagues’ campaigns.
Fayetteville vet wins $1 million lottery; plans to buy house, rescue dog (Fayetteville Observer) -- An Army veteran from Fayetteville plans to use the money from his $1 million lottery prize to help others, rescue a dog and buy a house.
Forward NC spokesman moves to national super PAC (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Ben Ray, who was with the Forward N.C. organization that helped U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan’s re-election campaign, is moving to the national super PAC American Bridge. Ray, who was previously director of rapid response for the N.C. Democratic Party and spokesman for the Indiana Democratic Party, becomes spokesman for American Bridge. He replaces Gwen Rocco, who was in that role until this week. The president of American Bridge is Brad Woodhouse, the longtime political player from Raleigh.
Elizabeth Warren: The new, much-better John Edwards (Washington Post) -- Warren’s populist personal story.
Veteran legislative staffer Gerry Cohen becomes a lobbyist (Raleigh News & Observer) Gerry Cohen, former special counsel to the NC General Assembly and longtime legislative staffer, has become a lobbyist with Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP in its Raleigh office.
Former NC Court of Appeals Judge Donald L. Smith dies (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Donald Lee Smith, a retired North Carolina appellate court and Wake County Republican Superior Court judge who had a hand in several landmark cases, died Sunday in Raleigh after an illness. He was 75.
Prof. Philip E. Converse, Expert on How Voters Decide, Dies at 86 (New York Times) -- Professor Converse, in “The American Voter,” concluded with three co-authors in 1960 that most voters were remarkably uninformed and based their preferences largely on party affiliation.
Blue Cross allowing more comparison of NC medical costs (AP) — North Carolina's largest health insurer is opening its databanks to let consumers compare the costs of elective procedures and drive down rising medical prices.
Blue Cross releases claims data one week after state does, a first for transparency (Triad Business Journal) -- This Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina release comes just one week after the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services released its own reimbursement data, and the timing of the two is not coincidental.
Blue Cross unveils online cost calculator (Raleigh News & Observer) -- The state’s largest health insurer has unveiled an online cost tool Wednesday that exposes wide disparities in billing patterns among North Carolina’s doctors and hospitals.
Tobacco companies criticize federal judge (AP) — Tobacco companies on Wednesday accused a federal judge of forcing them to inaccurately describe themselves as unscrupulous villains who continue to deceive the public.
Historic site hosts discussions about Wolfe's short stories (AP) — The Thomas Wolfe Memorial State Historic Site in Asheville is hosting a monthly book club meeting that will focus on short stories by the author.
Dentist creates candy that won't ruin teeth (AP) — While Sindhura Citineni worked as a dentist in a rural North Carolina town, many children came to her office with teeth decay.
N.C. American Planning Association accepting applications for Great Places in N.C. initiative (Fayetteville Observer) -- The North Carolina chapter of the American Planning Association is taking applications for its annual award
SCHOOLS & UNIVERSITIES
Problems with Principal Salary Structure in N.C. (Education NC) -- When Katie McMillan became principal of Centennial Campus Magnet Middle School in Raleigh in 2014, she didn’t realize she was locking herself into one pay level for half a decade. According to the principal salary schedule, it will be 2019 before she gets her next pay bump from the state, and she worries that long waits for raises could affect the quality of leadership in public schools. “I think that this is a highly complex job and if you don’t have good principals you’re not going to have a working environment for teachers,” she said. This is just one issue facing principals in a time when education has become one of the hottest political topics in the state. Some principals and officials are also concerned about principal retention, and unintended consequences from last session’s teacher raise that could result in some teachers making more than their administrators.
UNC faculty absent in listing of top education scholars (EDUCATION WEEK) -- The 2015 RHSU Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings. Simply being included among the 200 ranked scholars is an honor, given the tens of thousands who might be included. The list of qualifying scholars includes a qualitative component, though the actual scores are composed entirely of quantitative metrics. The rankings include the top 150 finishers from last year's rankings, along with 50 "at-large" nominees chosen by a selection committee of 31 automatic qualifiers. There 200 scholars on the list representing 50 universities. No one from a UNC institution made the list Top institutions with scholars represented: Stanford, 22; Harvard, 18; Columbia 14; and some others – University of Virginia, 10 and Duke University, 3.
NC school board to set new scale for high school grades (AP) — North Carolina high school students may have more leeway to earn better grades starting with the next academic year which begins in August.
Grading scale vote could change all classes, not just freshmen (Fayetteville Observer) -- The State Board of Education will vote today on whether to apply a 10-point grading scale to all public high school students next fall,
NC High School Students To Be Graded On 10-Point Scale (WUNC-FM) -- All North Carolina high school students will be graded on a 10-poing scale starting next school year.
NC families helped move high schools to new 10-point grading scale (Raleigh News & Observer) -- North Carolina parents and students should take a bow for both the state adopting the 10-point grading scale and for today’s expected decision to implement it this fall for all high school students. The State Board of Education had planned to just discuss Thursday whether to change its prior decision to only implement the 10-point grading scale with this fall’s freshmen class. But Deputy State Schools Superintendent Rebecca Garland said that approving the change on Thursday to cover all high school students would allow school officials to immediately start communicating the change with families. “It would cut down my email traffic,” State Board of Education Chairman Bill Cobey quipped at Wednesday’s meeting, drawing laughter from the room.
NC education board grills applicants for virtual charter schools (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Leaders of the nonprofit charter school boards said they could quickly end relationships with management companies if things go bad.
Early college earns high marks (Richmond Daily Journal) -- Several months after being recognized as one of the top 300 high schools in the nation, Richmond Early College High School has received another honor. The school, which opened in 2007, was recently ranked as the 73rd-best high school in the state by Niche, a company founded by students of Carnegie Mellon University and originally known as CollegeProwler.com. “We are absolutely thrilled REaCH was recognized in the publication,” Dr. Cindy Goodman, superintendent of Richmond County Schools, said in a statement.
English proficiency students fluctuate with economy (Wilmington Star-News) -- In the New Hanover and Brunswick counties , the number of LEP students dropped in years coinciding with the Great Recession.
NC GOP lawmakers meeting privately on public education (AP) — Republican lawmakers at the North Carolina General Assembly are meeting privately this week to discuss education policy that might arise during the legislative session starting this month.
DPI removes special status from Koch curriculum for American history course (Raleigh News & Observer) -- The state Department of Public Instruction has pulled back its recommendation that the preferred curriculum for a required American history course be one produced by an institute backed by the conservative and politically active Koch family.
Survey: STEM school supported (Greenville Daily Reflector) -- Pitt County Schools Assistant Superintendent of Educational Programs and Services Cheryl Olmsted A Pitt County Schools survey indicated overwhelming support for a potential science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) magnet middle school.
RJR Tobacco’s philanthropy stretches across city’s history, landscape (Winston-Salem Journal) -- R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. has taken a familiar path for dispensing with a closed large facility, choosing to donate much of its Whitaker Park complex to a local redevelopment group that includes Wake Forest University.
WCU earns national recognition for community engagement efforts (Carolina Public Press) -- The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching has recognized Western Carolina University’s emphasis on community engagement
Board to seek $41M to replace 2 schools (Winston-Salem Journal) -- The Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools Board of Education plans to request more than $40 million from the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners to replace two schools that district officials say are in disrepair.
UNC No. 1, NCSU No. 9 in online MBA rankings (WRAL-TV) -- UNC-Chapel Hill's online Masters in Business Administration program ties for first place and North Carolina State places ninth in new rankings just out from US News & World Report.
Changing a Culture Inside and Out of School (Governing) -- Fixing a failing school may require a complete change in culture. That’s not an easy thing to achieve, but Memphis is trying.
Duke Energy's coal ash plan raises worry in Lee County (Fayetteville Observer) -- In November, Duke Energy announced plans to store coal ash in open-pit clay mines in Lee County near Sanford on 118 acres used by the former brick-making plant. Coal ash is the waste material left after coal is burned, and it can contain numerous toxic materials such as lead, arsenic, mercury and selenium. The proposed storage site would be near Colon and Post Office roads. Abandoned clay pits, now filled with water, pock the earth in these parts. Duke intends to dispose of 8 million tons of coal ash in Colon alone. Residents, county officials and environmental groups are concerned about the plan and have expressed opposition. Last month, the Lee County Board of Commissioners retained a Raleigh law firm that specializes in environmental cases to advise the county on how to address the issue. "We've prayed about it," said 86-year-old Nora McNeill, who has lived in the area her entire life. "We just have to pray for the best."
State sues TVA over coal ash at Gallatin plant (AP) — The state agency charged with protecting the environment is suing the Tennessee Valley Authority over its coal-burning power plant in Gallatin.
Strength in numbers (Sanford Herald editorial) -- In the battle against coal ash, residents in Lee and Chatham counties are finding their collective voice in opposing Duke Energy’s plans to dump a combined 20 million tons of coal ash between the two counties.
ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT
Strata Solar Farms expands base in Lenoir, Greene counties (Kinston Free Press) -- Power operation is 'good tenant,' land owner says
Utility Commission Ruling to Continue Growth of N.C. Solar Industry (Energy Exchange) -- North Carolina’s ranking of #3 in the country for solar energy investment is receiving national attention and prompting some states in the Southeast to ask, "What is North Carolina's secret?" The answer: clean energy policies that give solar companies the business certainty they need to make investments. The North Carolina Utilities Commission did just that in an important ruling last week that keeps standard solar electricity purchase agreements in place. These contracts between utilities and solar developers typically last 15 years and cover solar projects up to five megawatts. They can make all the difference in whether a solar project is built and in a solar developer’s ability to grow and hire new workers.
Chapel Hill Transit Could Start Charging Passengers (TWCN-TV) -- A consulting firm released a report saying the Chapel Hill Transit needs about $80 million to hire more staffers, get more buses, and get more funding.
Wintry weather around US brings fatalities, school closings (AP) -- Dangerously cold air has sent temperatures plummeting into the single digits around the U.S., with wind chills driving them even lower. Throw in the snow some areas are getting and you've got a bone chilling mix that may also be super messy.
Cold weather prompts school delays, energy conservation plea (AP) — The coldest air of the winter is prompting some North Carolina school system to delay the start of classes and leading an energy provider to ask its customers to reduce their electricity use.
Duke Energy asks Carolinas' customers to reduce energy use (AP) — Duke Energy is asking its customers in North Carolina and South Carolina to reduce electricity usage during the next 24 hours to help avoid potentially high energy demand caused by the extreme cold.
Tips to cut energy bills with cold winter approaching (WNCT-TV) -- As the temperature dips and homeowners crank up the heat, utility companies in the East are offering free "energy audits" to help cut potentially high bills. The audit, offered by utility companies including ElectriCities and Duke Energy Progress, allows customers to schedule an appointment with an expert who comes out to a home to assess potential energy cost savings.
County Asks State Attorney General to Investigate High Gas Prices (Southern Pines Pilot) -- The Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday night to ask the N.C. attorney general's office to investigate why gas prices in Moore County are significantly higher than surrounding counties.
Battles Over Energy Policy In North Carolina (WUNC-FM) -- Two North Carolina energy companies are helping to build a natural gas pipeline that would bring the energy boom to our state. But those plans are meeting resistance from some landowners who don’t want a new pipeline running underneath their property. Many are trying to block it from the outset by barring surveyors from inspecting their land. Meanwhile, the group that oversees natural gas exploration in North Carolina is the subject of multiple lawsuits. The legislature appoints most of those board members. But environmental groups and Gov. Pat McCrory say that’s unconstitutional, because the commission is an extension of the executive branch.
How to Catch Comet Lovejoy (Coastal Review) -- It's a once in a lifetime opportunity to see this green-glowing comet, visible tonight and for the next few days. Your next chance to catch the comet will be in 8,000 years.
Plan for Offshore Wind Farm in Nantucket Sound Hits a Snag (New York Times) -- The two largest utilities in Massachusetts, which had agreed to buy three-fourths of the wind farm’s power, said they were canceling their contracts because Cape Wind had failed to meet a Dec. 31 deadline.
Mass. Utilities Back out of Wind Energy Plan (Wall Street Journal) -- The two largest electric utilities in Massachusetts have backed out of a plan to buy most of the power that was slated to be generated by the proposed Cape Wind turbine project.
For States That Don’t File Carbon-Cutting Plans, E.P.A. Will Impose ‘Model Rule’ (New York Times) -- Republicans and the coal industry were quick to criticize the move, which is meant to pre-empt states that refuse to submit plans of their own.
On second thought, Medicaid expansion may fly (Fayetteville Observer) -- Gov. Pat McCrory was in Washington this week, meeting with the president and other administration officials. Medicaid expansion was at the top of his agenda. That's a welcome development.
Legislature owes it to taxpayers to keep pensions reasonable (Wilmington Star-News) -- A pension fix funded by state taxpayers allowed some retired public officials to skirt the federal limit on pension payments.
Low gas prices offer an opportunity (Rocky Mount Telegram) -- As the N.C. General Assembly prepares to go work next week, legislators might want to consider a rare opportunity they have before them – surprisingly low gasoline prices and a huge plateful of needed road repairs across the state.
Ohio shows pathway to reform redistricting in NC (Raleigh News & Observer column) -- It was considered a minor miracle last month when both chambers of the Ohio General Assembly reached broad bipartisan consensus on reforming how election districts will be redrawn after the 2020 census.
After Wainstein report, UNC-CH ax falls slowly (Raleigh News & Observer column) -- As soon as Kenneth Wainstein released his report about academic misconduct at UNC-Chapel Hill in October, it was clear Jan Boxill was in trouble. Sure enough, Chancellor Carol Folt last week acknowledged that the university began proceedings to dismiss Boxill the same day
Fuel-tax reform (Greenville Daily Reflector) -- As fuel prices are decreasing at a record rate, North Carolina’s gas tax actually climbed a penny on Jan. 1.