Daily dose

Political chaos in wake of N.C. coal ash bill debacle (The Examiner) -- The inability of North Carolina General Assembly members to compromise on coal ash legislation reverberated throughout the state Friday and Saturday. February's spill of up to 39,000 tons of toxic coal ash into the Dan River near Eden made national headlines. It also left state leaders scrambling to introduce a bill to address Duke Energy's ash ponds throughout the state. Conference committee negotiations between the House and Senate broke down Thursday over a provision introduced by the House. One source indicates that the provision would have excluded the ash ponds from being categorized as "low-risk" if they contacted groundwater, while another source stated that the provision would exclude ponds near surface waters. (Update: a blog written by a former senior employee at the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources indicates that the dispute stemmed from a disagreement over preventing the capping in place of low risk ponds below the water table.) The Senate passed an adjournment resolution early Friday morning to possibly reconsider the bill in a November session. However, the House passed adjournment resolutions which would allow discussion of coal ash and other topics this month when possible gubernatorial vetoes are considered. Given that the Senate and House will not meet until Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, it remains uncertain when coal ash and other legislative issues will again be discussed.

Is coal ash still a problem? (Greensboro News & Record) -- Six months after the spill, Dan River Basin Association members found a waterway teaming with life — and coal ash just inches from the river's bottom.

Coal ash remains just out of sight along Dan River (Winston-Salem Journal) -- About a half mile downstream from where the Dan River spill occurred on another Sunday six months ago, Brian Williams steered his canoe over to what looked like a garden-variety sandbar.

Coal Ash Legislation Hits the Wall (Smith Environment Blog) -- Senate Bill 729 (Coal Ash Management Act of 2014) hit a wall this week when the conference committee trying to resolve differences between House and Senate versions of the bill failed to reach agreement and the Senate adjourned for a two-week recess. (The House adjourns today following a final budget vote.) The General Assembly returns on August 14, although the Senate’s adjournment resolution suggests the coal ash bill may not be eligible for consideration then. It may be November before the General Assembly takes up coal ash legislation again. House and Senate versions of the bill differed in several ways (such as appointments to the Coal Ash Management Commission), but negotiations apparently blew up over a new issue. House negotiators became concerned that the bill’s provisions on closure of coal ash impoundments could allow coal ash in close proximity to groundwater to be “capped in place” and remain a source of ongoing groundwater contamination. “Closure” means final cleanup and restoration of the impoundment site under environmental standards. “Capping in place” refers to a closure method that allows the coal ash to be dewatered and then covered by a layer of low-permeability soil (such as clay) to reduce infiltration of rainwater. Another layer of soil on top of the clay cap provides a base for vegetation to stabilize the site and prevent erosion.

Legislature Will Hold Coal Ash Bill Until November (N.C. Health News) -- The General Assembly will wait until November to try to pass a bill that addresses coal ash, a toxic byproduct of coal-fired electricity that has contaminated subsurface water across the state.

Aiken seeks debate with Ellmers (Fayetteville Observer) -- Clay Aiken wants a debate. The entertainer-turned-candidate is challenging U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers for her District 2 seat.

N.C. GOP Exec. Committee Endorses Mark Martin For Chief Justice (N.C. Political News) -- The state Republican executive committee Saturday endorsed senior Associate Supreme Court justice Mark Martin for election as Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court. Martin was initially appointed by GOP Governor Jim Martin (no relation) to a Superior Court judgeship and was subsequently elected to the NC Court of Appeals and NC Supreme Court. The vote in the Executive Committee was Mark Martin 125, Ola Lewis 11, abstain 13.

High Court: Justices get another shot at gerrymandering (Washington Post) -- Florida judge takes a stand, sets stage for two cases going before the Supreme Court in the fall.

Obamacare loses its campaign punch for GOP (LA Times) -- Six months ago, a House Republican campaign official listed the top three issues that would propel the party's candidates to victory in the midterm election: "Obamacare, Obamacare, Obamacare." It was a strategy that worked well in 2010, when GOP electoral gains were fueled primarily by a high-profile campaign to repeal the newly passed Affordable Care Act. But now, months removed from the political storm that resulted from the botched rollout of the law and as more Americans begin receiving healthcare under the program, many Republicans have a more nuanced view of its importance. House Republicans are broadening their once-singular focus on the healthcare law and headed into an extended summer break without delivering on their promise to advance an alternative.

Poll: Brown has edge with voters (Greenville Daily Reflector) -- A poll commissioned by the challenger in the House District 9 race shows that while some voters surveyed disapprove of the incumbent, most would still vote for him.

Dems tap candidate for House District 25 (Rocky Mount Telegram) -- Most people in the their 90s aren’t running for political office. That’s one of the things that makes 92-year-old Nash County resident Charles Johnson unique.

Judge’s ruling to dismiss ‘Moral Monday’ cases could have sweeping effect (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Judge Joyce Hamilton’s ruling to dismiss five ‘Moral Monday’ cases from July 15 left protesters buoyed with optimism about other cases also being dismissed.

Groups say NC GOP has gutted pollution programs (AP) — When Republicans took control of the North Carolina legislature four years ago, they promised to do away with environmental regulations they claimed hurt economic growth.

NC action promotes S.C. economic growth as tax holiday draws bigger crowds (Charlotte Observer) -- Merchants in York County said the three-day South Carolina sales tax holiday that wrapped up Sunday brought in more business than last year – largely because North Carolina discontinued its own tax-free weekend.

NC Shoppers Take Millions and Cross the Border for SC Tax-Free Weekend (TWCN-TV) -- Shoppers are heading across the border to save a few dollars during South Carolina's tax-free weekend. North Carolina did away with its sales tax holiday last year after lawmakers said it cost the state about $13 million.

Hospitals, Adult Care Homes Big Losers in Budget (N.C. Health News) -- As the North Carolina Senate approves the state budget for the upcoming year, some members of the health care community are smarting

Budget eliminates 4 special superior court judges, creates 2 business law judges (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Republican lawmakers who have been unhappy with the state’s system of traveling, statewide special superior court judges won a partial victory in the new budget by eliminating or redefining one-third of the positions. There are currently 15 of the judges, three of whom handle only business cases. Four of the other 12 judges will not be replaced once they retire or resign or leave for some other reason. The positions of the first two judges scheduled for retirement will be converted to handle only business court matters. The terms of four judges are set to end on April 29, 2015; Oct. 20, 2015; and Dec. 31, 2017.

Medical examiners get $1M extra in state budget (AP) — North Carolina lawmakers have agreed to spend an additional $1 million on the state's medical examiner system.

State laws deny public access to information on farm operations (Winston-Salem Journal) -- Kathy Kellam would like to know which chicken farms are dealing with viruses near her home in Surry County. But she’s not allowed to find out. Last year, the General Assembly approved a confidentiality clause that keeps her – the general public – from finding out. The N.C. Farm Act of 2013 – or Senate Bill 638 – put a cloak over documents collected by the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services that might reveal the identity of farmers dealing with animal viruses.

Should Colleges Be Broadband Hubs for Their Communities? (Government Executive) -- The University of Texas is implementing a tiered-price web-access structure, while four North Carolina universities are joining their cities in building an accessible regional network.

NC Central police chief Bellamy charged with DWI (AP) — The police chief at North Carolina Central University has been charged with driving while impaired.

Onslow County schools consider banning spanking (AP) — Onslow County schools are considering banning the spanking of students.

School Supplies: Healthy Lunches for NC Kids (Public News Service) -- – The start of the school year is just weeks away and, while there's no shortage of the latest backpacks and school-supply displays at the big-box stores, nutrition experts are reminding parents of the importance of what's in their child's lunchbox as well.

Former Wrightsville Beach PD investigator indicted on embezzlement (Lumina News) -- The North Carolina Attorney General’s office said a former Wrightsville Beach police officer has been indicted on charges of embezzlement by a New Hanover County Grand Jury. Lt. Hovie Pope Jr. was served an Order for Arrest by a grand jury on a True Bill of Indictment for Embezzlement. Pope turned himself in at the New Hanover County Courthouse earlier this week on charges of embezzling $31,680 and was given an unsecured bond of $10,000. The funds were embezzled from the North Carolina Internal Affairs Investigators Association during the time Pope was an active member of that organization. Pope served as the association’s president from 2002-2003, and its treasurer. The North Carolina Internal Affairs Investigators Association still lists Pope as one of its honorary members.

Feds to ask Fayetteville residents about police (AP) — Representatives of the U.S. Justice Department are returning to Fayetteville to interview residents about how the police department can improve operations and community relations.

PETA, state split ‘Possum Drop’ rulings (Raleigh News & Observer) -- An administrative law judge on Friday cleared litigation pending in the Office of Administrative Hearings over the Brasstown New Year’s Eve "Possum Drop," as the case is now being heard in superior court.

Wolfe to serve as president-elect of state ABC association (Port City Daily) -- New Hanover County Commissioner Tom Wolfe has been elected to serve as president-elect of the North Carolina Association of ABC Boards.

Texas Trial to Test Higher Standard for State's Abortion Clinics (Wall Street Journal) -- In a federal trial set to begin in Austin, Texas, on Monday, abortion-rights supporters are seeking to strike down a new provision of a state law that will require abortion clinics to qualify as "ambulatory surgical centers" starting next month, saying it will force even more of the state's facilities to close.

Cookout promotes Historically Black Colleges and Universities (Greenville Daily Reflector) -- A push to leave a mark on the world and a sense of family are what Ernis Lee found at Elizabeth City State University.

What they read on summer vacation (Greensboro News & Record) -- Summer reading choices give a glimpse into the academic life at local colleges.

Military trade show starts Tuesday at Fayetteville Tech (Fayetteville Observer) -- An annual trade show that draws hundreds of defense contractors to Fayetteville begins Tuesday, Aug. 5. The 13th annual N.C. Defense and Economic Development Trade Show on the campus of Fayetteville Technical Community College is expected to attract at least 800 companies, according to Scott Dorney. The show is hosted by U.S. Sens. Kay Hagan and Richard Burr. It is the largest gathering of military contractors in the state. Dorney, executive director of the N.C. Military Business Center, said that number would be larger than last year. He said he also expects vendors to be more optimistic. Last year, the show was "marred by uncertainty" caused by defense cuts and sequestration, Dorney said. This year, while "not totally rosy," contractors are on much better footing, he said. The free trade show, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Horace Sisk complex at 2201 Hull Road, will include more than 100 exhibitors and several demonstrations by Fort Bragg soldiers.

A collection of Civil War artifacts to go on the auction block in Angier (Fayetteville Observer) -- When Jimmy Johnson, a veteran of the auction business, gets this excited, it pays to take a peek. And when his near-gleeful attention is caused by one of the largest private collections of Civil War memorabilia to be auctioned in years, it draws more than casual interest. The collection, which came to Johnson Properties from the estate of a longtime Kentucky collector, features more than 650 Civil War-era items. The Aug. 19 auction is expected to draw widespread interest.

CarLotz raises capital for expansion in 4 states (AP) — CarLotz plans to open new stores in Virginia and expand into North Carolina, Maryland and Georgia.

N.C. company finds success solving precise problems (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Ken Hoffer held up a photo of the first machine shop he set up 45 years ago in his New Jersey garage. He had just won an Internal Revenue Service contract to make flow meters that measure a brewery’s production. The IRS figured that if it knew how much beer the brewery made, it could make sure it wasn’t underpaying its taxes.

Groups say NC GOP has gutted pollution programs (AP) — When Republicans took control of the North Carolina legislature four years ago, they promised to do away with environmental regulations they claimed hurt economic growth.

Unifi gets green relationship with Detroit Lions (Winston-Salem Journal) -- Unifi Inc. is kicking off Wednesday a high-profile marketing effort behind its Repreve recycled fiber brand through a sustainability partnership with the NFL’s Detroit Lions.

KYOCERA Solar Modules Tapped by Sierra Nevada to Power New Brewery in Mills River (Solar Daily) -- Nearly everyone enjoys a good beer now and again. A delicious beer sustainably brewed with renewable energy that pours down from the sun might make that happy hour indulgence even more enjoyable.

Panel begins work to update sea-level rise report (New Bern Sun Journal) -- A state-appointed science panel has begun work on an update to a controversial sea-level rise report, members of the panel said last week at a meeting of the Coastal Resources Commission.

CRC considers altering timeframe for dredging projects (New Bern Sun Journal) -- Coastal regulators may consider altering the existing windows for dredging and nourishment projects as part of a comprehensive management plan for the state’s 12 developed inlets, according to an informational presentation given last week to the Coastal Resources Commission.

More Room for Memories at Hammocks Beach (Coastal Review) -- Find out what makes the state park our naturalist Sam Bland's favorite place and why he's glad it's getting bigger

Group Earns Oil Income Despite Pledge on Drilling (New York Times) -- The Nature Conservancy is earning money from an oil well on land it controls in Texas, despite pledging a decade ago not to permit new oil and gas drilling on land supposedly set aside for conservation.

Cary company joins solar aircraft project (Raleigh News & Observer) -- ABB, the Swiss global electric engineering firm with North American headquarters in Cary, recently announced that it will work with world-renowned Solar Impulse on energy projects.

Stronger Bertha unlikely to make landfall in US (AP) — A strengthened Tropical Storm Bertha swirled northward across open sea early Monday after brushing the Turks & Caicos Islands and southeastern Bahamas, while forecasters predicted the storm likely won't make landfall as it passes along the U.S. East Coast.

Two State Poets Laureate Tell All (in Prose) (New York Times column) -- As one of the 45 official poets laureate, I feel compelled to say something about Gov. Pat McCrory’s recent choice of Valerie Macon, a self-published author and state employee, as North Carolina’s poet laureate, and her abrupt resignation. It is important that the poet laureate position not be politicized and that a system be in place for the appointment. Ignoring the North Carolina Arts Council, as the governor did, is offensive, especially in a state known for its outstanding literary community. Lots of people “dabble” in poetry, and that’s great, but it’s not the same as becoming a literary artist. Poetry is an art form that requires enormous effort and craft. Anyone considered for poet laureate should have achieved some level of literary accomplishment and have a record of working in the community and/or organizing literary events. It is an honor and a privilege for me to serve as South Carolina’s poet laureate. In South Carolina, home of the oldest poetry society in the United States, poetry is flourishing, and as your article reports, it’s a national trend.

North Carolina's legislative session won't end (Fayetteville Observer) -- It was a legislative version of a "Terminator" movie, with members of the General Assembly warning us, "I'll be back." After a "short session" that mocked its own name, lawmakers decided to come back into session twice more this year. They'll slip into Raleigh later this month, in case they need to override vetoes by Gov. Pat McCrory. After the November elections, they'll return for more serious work: finding accord on issues they couldn't settle before adjourning last week. At the head of the list are coal ash and Medicaid reform. The first is urgent. The second should wait until next year.

Our moral call to a clean energy future in NC (Raleigh News & Observer column) -- When we get careless, as happened almost exactly six months ago when tens of thousands of tons of toxic coal ash waste and millions of gallons of contaminated water were spilled into the Dan River, it indicates we have allowed our stewardship of God’s earth to get dangerously out of balance.

Washington warned us about parties (Charlotte Observer) -- In 2010, Florida voters approved amendments to their state’s constitution aimed at eliminating gerrymandering. The amendments provide that no state legislative and congressional district shall be drawn with the intent “to favor or disfavor a political party or incumbent.” The courts, thrown into the political thicket, responded promptly. In 2012 the Florida Supreme Court threw out the legislature’s plan for state Senate districts and ordered a new one. And a few days ago a state court judge ruled that two of Florida’s 27 congressional districts violated the no-favoritism standard. Some critics, especially those who benefit from gerrymandering, deride such requirements as naive efforts to take the politics out of politics. We disagree. We see it as a way to ensure that elections reflect the will of the voters, not the dominant political party’s skill in map-making. When the law favors party interests over the public's interest, it erodes faith in the integrity of government.

N.C. laws overdue for an overhaul (Wilson Times) -- When pilfering pine needles can carry a higher penalty than driving away in a stolen car, it’s not hard to see that some of North Carolina’s criminal laws are out of whack.

UNC board should lift cap on financial aid (Raleigh News & Observer) -- The UNC Board of Governors has approved a cap on the percentage of tuition revenue that can be dedicated to financial aid for students in need at some campuses. But it could drive out those students who need financial aid to stay in school.

Legal product, criminal acts: Why tobacco companies deserve punitive damages (Raleigh News & Observer column) -- What has gotten lost in public discussion of a jury finding R.J. Reynolds guilty of negligence and awarding $23.6 billion in punitive damages is the criminal behavior of the tobacco industry.

US children hurt when parents buy into the youth ‘athlete’ paradigm (Raleigh News & Observer column) -- Our very young kids play sports harder, and for more hours, than ever before. As a collective, we, the parents, have bought into a new and lucrative paradigm. Our kids no longer play sports; they are youth “athletes.”

Sterilization compensation (Greenville Daily Reflector) -- A state bureaucracy making big decisions about vulnerable North Carolinians without letting them, or the public at large, know much about its work.


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