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Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


TIME TO SHUT DOWN NC'S ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PARTNERSHIP: Amid the recent discussion over the effectiveness of the state’s economic development efforts, a new report this week exposed a less than flattering assessment of the private Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina. The creation of the five-year-old partnership was a top priority of former Gov. Pat McCrory and the leadership of the General Assembly – who’d contended the state’s economic development efforts would be far better in private hands – and save taxpayer money with the use of private funding. It turned out to be meddling in a place that didn’t need it. As the partnership’s contract expires in October, it has little to show that it has met the effectiveness promised with its establishment. In fact, there’s little evidence of any improvement on what it replaced. There’s no way to tell just who is in charge.

Saturday News: Mapmakers on trial


NC PARTISAN GERRYMANDERING CASE WILL BE HEARD THIS SUMMER: A trial is set for this summer in the lawsuit Democrats and election reform advocates filed alleging North Carolina legislative districts violate the state constitution because of excessive partisan bias favoring Republicans. A state three-judge panel filed an order Friday directing a July 15 trial start in Wake County court. The plaintiffs allege partisan gerrymandering taints maps largely drawn by Republican legislators in 2017, even though a federal court altered them and Democrats won 16 additional seats in 2018. Republicans have said the plaintiffs are way off base and looking for a favorable state appeals court to rule their way.

Friday News: Bring back the cap


PUBLIC SCHOOL ADVOCATES CALL FOR A HALT TO NEW CHARTER SCHOOLS: Public Schools First NC says the state should reset charter school growth instead of adding new schools or expanding existing ones. The group is asking people to sign an online petition that calls on state legislators to put a new cap on while a comprehensive review is done of charter student performance, fiscal management and the impact of charter-related policies on students, public schooling, and taxpayers. “We can look at having a cap,” Natalie Beyer, a member of the board of Public Schools First and a school board member in Durham, said Thursday. “If there’s going to be charter schools, there can be a very limited number of high-quality schools as originally intended.” But calls for a new cap are drawing opposition from charter school supporters who accuse their opponents of being scared of competition.

Thursday News: A long time coming


LEGISLATIVE DEMOCRATS PUSH FOR MEDICAID EXPANSION: House and Senate Democrats called Wednesday for a quick move toward Medicaid expansion in North Carolina, making their opening play on one of the biggest-ticket items to be debated during the new legislation session. Their plan would simply expand Medicaid, providing taxpayer-funded health insurance to hundreds of thousands of people in North Carolina, most of them the working poor. The Democratic plan is stripped free of work requirements and increased co-pays that are part of a competing plan with limited Republican support, known as Carolina Cares. Democrats said they can expand the program to as many as 500,000 people without a hit to the state budget. The federal government would cover 90 percent of new costs, and the other 10 percent would come from hospitals around the state, which have agreed to a new assessment commonly called a "bed tax" to raise the money.

Wednesday News: Delayed justice


AG STEIN PUSHES LEGISLATION TO FUND TESTING OF RAPE KITS: A bill backed by Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein and key Republican lawmakers would provide funding to test thousands of rape kits that have been sitting in law enforcement evidence rooms across North Carolina for years and establish protocols to ensure such backlogs don't recur in the future. An audit by the State Crime Lab determined a year ago that more than 15,000 rape kits statewide had never been tested. Stein said Tuesday that existing funds from his department and state and federal grants are whittling that number down by a few thousand, and the proposed Survivor Act would put $6 million in state funding over the next two years toward sending the rest to outside labs for testing. "Untested sexual assault kits ... represent one of the biggest threats to public safety we face in this state," Stein said at a news conference. "Each one of these kits represents a personal tragedy, and each of those victims deserves justice."

Tuesday News: Ticking time-bombs


4 STUDENTS IN SCOTLAND COUNTY SCHOOL WERE PLANNING COLUMBINE-STYLE ATTACK: Law enforcement and school officials in Scotland County are investigating after receiving reports that some students were discussing a Columbine-style attack, WMBF reported. Scotland County Sheriff’s Lt. Inv. Jessica Sadonikov said last week employee a Carver Middle School employee alerted the school resource officer about suspicious posts on Instagram. Officials determined that three or four students, between the ages of 12 and 13, were discussing a Columbine-style attack in a manner that made investigators think they were serious, Sadonikov said. She added that specific teachers and several students were targeted, and one of the alleged posters specifically mentioned Columbine when questioned.

Monday News: Party business

ERICA SMITH SETS HER SIGHTS ON THOM TILLIS IN 2020: State Sen. Erica Smith, from Northampton County in the northeast, announced her 2020 bid to unseat Tillis on Saturday through social media and at a Democratic Party gathering in Charlotte. Smith is a math instructor and ordained minister first elected to the legislature in 2014. Mecklenburg County Commissioner Trevor Fuller also announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination last week. Primaries are in March 2020. Smith's announcement came as 500 members of the Democrats' executive committee met. There current party Chair Wayne Goodwin was re-elected for another two-year term. He was the only candidate. Former state Rep. Bobbie Richardson was elected first vice-chair, defeating current first vice-chair Aisha Dew and another candidate.

Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


SCHOOL CHOICE DOESN'T HAPPEN IN A VACUUM: Since the cap on charter schools was lifted by North Carolina’s state legislature in 2012, the number of charter schools in the state has nearly doubled. This year we have 185 charter schools in operation, serving more than 100,000 students across the state (overseen by a staff of 8 people). Next year we’ll have 200. The rapidly expanding charter schools siphon money away from traditional public schools and reduce what services those public schools can offer to students who remain, according to a recent Duke University study. As students leave for charters, they take their share of funding with them--but the school district they leave is still responsible for the fixed costs of services such as transportation, building maintenance and administration that those funds had supported. Districts are then forced to cut spending in other areas in order to make up the difference. In Durham, where 18 percent of K-12 students attend charter schools, the fiscal burden on traditional public schools is estimated at $500-700 per student. As the number of charters increases, so will that price tag.

Saturday News: And then there were six


REPUBLICAN CHIEF JUSTICE MARK MARTIN RETIRING, COOPER TO PICK REPLACEMENT: The chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court announced his plans Friday to retire next month, paving the way for a 6-1 Democratic majority on the state’s highest court. Mark Martin is the longest-serving justice now on the court, having first been elected in 1999. According to a press release from the North Carolina Judicial Branch, he is leaving to become the dean of the law school at Regent University, a Christian school in Virginia. Martin has been the chief justice since 2014. He is one of two Republican judges remaining on the court. But with his departure, his vacant seat will be filled by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper. Cooper does not have to pick a Republican to fill out the rest of Martin’s term, which ends in 2022.

Friday News: Grifters gonna grift

MOORE AIDE GILLESPIE DREW SALARY FOR 8 MONTHS AFTER RETIRING: Last April, state lawmakers, legislative staff and lobbyists used Facebook and Twitter to wish Mitch Gillespie, a senior policy adviser for House Speaker Tim Moore, a happy retirement. But after Gillespie, 59, of McDowell County, left the legislature in April, he continued to receive his paycheck. All told, he collected $81,700 in pay, state records show, and then he reported he was owed another $12,400 in unused leave. Those records show his last day as an employee was Dec. 31, 2018. Today, Moore’s staff and the legislature’s human resources director are offering little explanation as to how an employee who worked full-time for about five years could accrue enough leave time to receive $94,100 after he stopped working. Lawmakers do not receive paid vacations and cannot accrue leave.


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