Daily dose

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Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022 -- A round up of opinion, commentary and analysis.

For questions about the status of the round up of opinion, commentary and analysis please contact seffron@capitolbroadcasting.com


ROY COOPER: NC hospitals should step up instead of holding up Medicaid expansion (N.C. McClatchy column) -- North Carolina needs our hospital leaders to step up now and do what’s right for their patients and the health of our state. A negotiated deal by hospitals with the legislature in the next few weeks means we can expand Medicaid, save lives and draw down that desperately needed federal money. Our hospitals have stepped up before when we needed them, and it’s time for them to step up now. Immediately and urgently. It’s time for our hospitals and the legislature to get this done for all of us. North Carolina is one of the last states without Medicaid expansion and the journey to this moment has been a long one. Now is the time. Let’s stop losing dollars and lives.

GOP to meet Aug. 18 to pick Steinburg replacement (Elizabeth City Daily Advance) -- Residents of the 1st Senate District could be without representation in Raleigh for almost a month following the resignation of state Sen. Bob Steinburg.

After legislative changes, what's next for the hemp industry in NC (WFAE-FM) -- What's next for North Carolina’s hemp industry after legislation was signed to keep its production legal and what it may mean for the potential legalization of medical marijuana.

DAVID RIVKIN & JASON SNEAD: Moore v. Harper and Marc Elias’s Curious Idea of ‘Democracy’ (Wall Street Journal column) -- Democratic lawyers seek to hijack elections via state judges. The Supreme Court has a chance to stop them.

Federal lawsuit alleges history of sex discrimination in Cabarrus Republican Party (Charlotte Observer) -- Plans to consider ousting a female member of the executive board of the Cabarrus County Republican Party will move forward Tuesday despite a lawsuit alleging sex discrimination, according to court records and emails. The lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina alleges “pervasive” discrimination by the county party and its leadership going back at least three years. It names nine current and former county GOP leaders, including chairman Addul Rahman El Ali and Kevin Crutchfield, an executive committee member and the Republican nominee for state House District 83 in Cabarrus and Rowan counties.

Election workers reported more than 1,000 'hostile' contacts in past year (CNN) -- A task force launched by the Justice Department last year to investigate threats against election workers looked at more than 1,000 contacts "reported as hostile or harassing" and said about 11% of those "met the threshold for a federal criminal investigation." The findings were presented at a briefing on Monday with US Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite and a bipartisan group of about 750 election officials and workers from across the country as they prepare for the midterm elections. The Election Threats Task Force, which was created last year to address an increasing number of election workers' concerns over ongoing threats against them, also found that in instances where a source of reported contact was identified, "in 50% of the matters, the source contacted the victim on multiple occasions."

Readout of Election Threats Task Force Briefing with Election Officials and Workers (U.S. Justice Dept. news release) -- Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. convened a virtual discussion today with a bipartisan group of approximately 750 election officials and workers to provide an update on the work of the Justice Department’s Election Threats Task Force. Assistant Attorney General Polite thanked the election community for continuing to prioritize this national public safety issue, for engaging directly with the task force over the past year, and stressed the importance that those lines of communication stay open ahead of election season. He also reminded the election community of the individual points of contact they have in every FBI field office in the country. Following Assistant Attorney General Polite’s remarks, the task force shared intelligence, data, and analysis stemming from their first year of work.

Toward a Resilient Electoral Process: Retaining Poll Workers, Fighting Misinformation (NCSL News Release) -- Misinformation. Disinformation. Malinformation. Obstruction. For state elections directors, this is the new normal. Four of them shared some of their strategies for navigating today’s rocky elections terrain at a session at the NCSL Legislative Summit on Monday. “We often immediately think of the ‘security’ of our system, but our electoral process also needs to be resilient, responsive and have a sound foundation to ensure the legitimacy of the process,” says Tammy Patrick, senior elections advisor at the Democracy Fund. That starts with recruiting and retaining well-trained, well-versed election workers, Patrick says. “We’ve experienced in the last year and continue to see a mass exodus of our election officials, our poll workers, and even secretaries of state,” she says, noting that anywhere from one-quarter to one-half of elections officials have left their jobs. “With that, there’s a loss of institutional knowledge.”

State officials scramble to respond as election skepticism goes hyper-local (CNN) -- For several hours on a recent Thursday afternoon, a former college professor and his wife unspooled a string of alleged election "vulnerabilities" for officials in a rural New Mexico county to consider: "Digital manipulation" of the voter rolls. Voting machines that were not properly certified. "Ink anomalies" on ballots. "Conspiracy to violate the election code imputes liability to you," David Clements told the three members of the Otero County Commission, before adding, "Unless you do something about it." Four days later, they did -- refusing to certify the June 7 primary results and setting off a high-profile confrontation between the all-Republican commission and New Mexico's Democratic Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver before two commissioners relented in the face of a state Supreme Court order. The showdown offers an illustration of how election skepticism has gone hyper-local in the 20 months since the 2020 presidential election and former President Donald Trump's first efforts to promote the false claim that widespread fraud contributed to his defeat.

NC Green Party gets state recognition. Will its candidates be on the November ballot? (WRAL-TV) -- The North Carolina State Board of Elections voted to recognize the Green Party. A federal court will soon consider whether the party can be on the November ballot.

NC elections board certifies Green Party, reverses past vote (AP) -- The North Carolina State Board of Elections unanimously voted Monday to recognize the Green Party as a new political party, reversing its previous decision to reject the party’s petition while the board investigated the signature sheets for fraud.

NC Elections Board certifies Green Party; Democrats to sue (WUNC-FM) -- After initially denying the Green Party's official recognition, the state elections board has now reversed its decision.

State Board of Elections certifies Green Party; Nov. ballot access now up to courts (N.C. McClatchy) -- The North Carolina State Board of Elections voted unanimously to certify The Green Party as an official party. “Some have suggested that we should make this decision quickly rather than ensure that it was done correctly,” Board Chairperson Damon Circosta, who initially voted against certification in June, said. “A hasty decision would have been a disservice to the voters of this state and the law. We spent the time and the effort to get it right.”

Kansas Voters Weigh Proposed Amendment on Abortion (Wall Street Journal) -- Kansas voters go to the polls Tuesday to consider a proposed state constitutional amendment that would end protections for abortion, the first referendum on the issue since the Supreme Court eliminated abortion rights at the federal level. If the amendment passes during the Kansas primary, it will allow the state’s legislature to ban or impose tighter restrictions on the procedure. The referendum, planned for months, comes after the Supreme Court’s June 24 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization said the U.S. Constitution doesn’t protect the right to an abortion. The decision, which upheld abortion restrictions in Mississippi, overruled the 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade that recognized abortion as a constitutional right. Since the decision, about a dozen states have implemented new curbs on abortion and more are expected, while other states are moving to add new protections for the procedure. In some states such as Kansas, the future of abortion remains uncertain, and both sides are looking to Tuesday’s primary for clues about voter attitudes on the issue after Dobbs.

GENE NICHOL: The Supreme Court is misreading the intent of our Founding Fathers (N.C. McClatchy column) -- We’ve been inundated, of late, with discussions of the original intentions of the Constitution’s framers. Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito claim to have elevated “originalism” to constitutional interpretation’s highest art. To me, their efforts are thin, historically hollow, and almost always hypocritically inconsistent. Even worse, they lionize the brutal inequities of American “tradition.” But they’ve also made me recall the intentions of the most important framer on this front — Rep. John Bingham, principal author of the 14th Amendment.

Senate candidate Beasley to stump in region Wednesday (Elizabeth City Daily Advance) -- Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Cheri Beasley is scheduled to make several stops in the Albemarle on Wednesday as part of her "Standing Up for North Carolina" tour.

Man who stormed Capitol with gun gets longest prison term (AP) -- A Texas man convicted of storming the U.S. Capitol with a holstered handgun, helmet and body armor was sentenced Monday to more than seven years in prison, the longest sentence imposed so far among hundreds of Capitol riot cases. Prosecutors said Guy Reffitt told fellow members of the Texas Three Percenters militia group that he planned to drag House Speaker Nancy Pelosi out of the Capitol building by her ankles, “with her head hitting every step on the way down,” according to a court filing. Reffitt's prison sentence — seven years and three months — is two years more than the previous longest prison sentence for a Capitol riot defendant. But it's less than half the length of the 15-year prison term requested by a federal prosecutor, who called Reffitt a domestic terrorist and said he wanted to physically remove and replace members of Congress. Reffitt was the first person to go on trial for the Jan. 6, 2021, attack, in which supporters of then-President Donald Trump halted the joint session of Congress for certifying Joe Biden’s 2020 electoral victory.

First Capitol Rioter to Face Trial Gets 7 Years, Longest Sentence So Far (New York Times) -- Guy Wesley Reffitt was convicted on five counts, including obstructing Congress’s certification of the 2020 presidential election and carrying a firearm.

Jan. 6 rioter who carried gun to US Capitol and threatened Nancy Pelosi gets more than 7 years in prison (CNN) — A federal judge on Monday sentenced Guy Reffitt, who brought a gun to the US Capitol during the January 6, 2021, riot and threatened House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to more than seven years in prison, the longest insurrection-related sentence to date. Reffitt, a recruiter for a right-wing militia known as the Three Percenters, was the first Capitol rioter to go to trial rather than take a plea agreement.

First Jan. 6 defendant convicted at trial receives longest sentence of 7 years (Washington Post) -- Guy Reffitt was a recruiter for the Texas Three Percenters who was found guilty of coming armed to the riot, threatening his children and leading a mob that broke in to the U.S. Capitol

Memo shows Wis. GOP lawyer privately opposed decertifying Biden’s 2020 win (Washington Post) -- Former state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman had publicly called on state lawmakers to take a "hard look" at revoking the state’s electoral votes.

New high-tech safety tool coming to NC schools (WRAL-TV) -- The newly-signed state budget allocates $4.4 million to put panic alarms in North Carolina middle and high schools, but as of now, not elementary schools. Hoke County system already implemented a panic button program -- how does it work? … "We certainly always want to make sure that we can do everything to keep our students and our staff safe," says Hoke County Schools Assistant Superintendent Dr. Dawn Ramseur. "We do have a plan. We practice that plan. We're ready to implement that plan. We hope we never have to." Hoke County Schools first started using the panic button in 2018 and tailored it to their needs.

Biden: Killing of Al-Qaeda leader is long-sought 'justice' (AP) -- President Joe Biden announced Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Kabul, an operation he said delivered justice and hopefully “one more measure of closure” to families of the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. The president said in an evening address from the White House that U.S. intelligence officials tracked al-Zawahri to a home in downtown Kabul where he was hiding out with his family. The president approved the operation last week and it was carried out Sunday Al-Zawahri and the better-known Osama bin Laden plotted the 9/11 attacks that brought many ordinary Americans their first knowledge of Al-Qaeda. Bin Laden was killed in Pakistan on May 2, 2011, in operation carried out by U.S. Navy SEALs after a nearly decade-long hunt.

U.S. Drone Strike Kills Qaeda Leader in Kabul (New York Times) -- Ayman al-Zawahri was a key plotter in the Sept. 11 attacks. American intelligence agencies finally found him hiding out in the Afghan capital. The strike was a victory for President Biden. But it also raised immediate questions about al-Zawahri’s presence in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

The U.S. has killed top al-Qaida leader and key 9/11 plotter, Ayman al-Zawahiri (NPR) -- President Joe Biden said a strike carried out by the U.S. has killed Ayman al-Zawahiri, a top Al-Qaida leader and key plotter in the 9/11 attacks.

U.S. kills al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in drone strike in Kabul (Washington Post) -- “Justice has been delivered,” President Biden said in remarks about the U.S. mission that killed one of the world’s most-wanted terrorists, who, along with Osama bin Laden, oversaw the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Al Qaeda Leader Killed by U.S. Drone Strike in Afghanistan (Wall Street Journal) -- Ayman al Zawahiri was a founding member of the jihadist movement and one of the key strategists behind the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The strike took place Sunday in a residential area in central Kabul.

Republican congressmen demand NC attorney general protect crisis pregnancy center (N.C. McClatchy) -- “If abortions aren’t safe, neither are you.” Vandals spray-painted those words in red with an anarchist symbol on Mountain Area Pregnancy Services in Asheville two months ago. On Friday, Rep. Ted Budd and Sen. Thom Tillis, both North Carolina Republicans, called on Attorney General Josh Stein to do something about it. In a letter to the attorney general, released by the lawmakers Friday, Budd and Tillis said that crisis pregnancy centers exist to give women support and resources during pregnancy, including critical counseling services, parenting classes and vital supplies like diapers and formula. According to the organization’s website, Mountain Area Pregnancy Services in a “Christ-centered outreach ministry” that partners with churches in western North Carolina to offer counseling and education to people impacted by “at-risk pregnancies.”

Education, history central to plan to repurpose downtown Market House (Fayetteville CityView) -- The historic, but controversial, Market House in downtown Fayetteville would be used for education and history exhibits and programs under a repurposing plan approved unanimously by the City Council on Monday evening.

NCGOP reports bomb threat, says Hillsborough Street building now safe (TV) — North Carolina Republican officials briefly evacuated the building of their party headquarters in Raleigh on Monday in response to a threatening voicemail. The office alerted law enforcement after listening to the message about 9 or 10 a.m, said NCGOP Chairman Michael Whatley.

Sampson County Sheriff's Office employees sue, claim hours were deleted from timesheets (WRAL-TV) -- Dozens of Sampson County Sheriff's Office employees are suing the county, alleging they were not paid properly for the hours they worked, according to a lawsuit filed earlier this year.

NC Court of Appeals to reveal more about how judges ruled (AP) -- North Carolina’s intermediate-level appeals court will now make public more details about how its three-judge panels settled certain questions brought before them.

ReBuild NC spent $10.6 million to house Hurricane Matthew survivors who have languished in motels — some for years (N.C. Policy Watch) -- ReBuild NC has spent $10.64 million on motels, moving and storage unit expenses in three years for displaced Hurricane Matthew survivors, as construction and administrative delays have kept people from returning to their homes. The figures were included in Temporary Relocation Assistance (TRA) data provided by ReBuild NC, also known as the NC Office of Recovery and Resiliency. The data also include expenses for apartment leases and stipends for friends and family of Hurricane Matthew survivors who privately house them.

New NC controller opposes $785M transfer in Leandro case (TV) -- North Carolina’s new controller isn’t changing course from the last one on the Leandro eduction-funding case. Nels Roseland — appointed by Gov. Roy Cooper to replace retiring Controller Linda Combs — says he still opposes an order requiring him to transfer hundreds of millions of dollars toward three education agencies. It’s an order Cooper supports.

NC educators meet to address school violence, other issues (AP) -- Educators from across North Carolina are gathering for four days of training on how to support young children and adolescents facing an outbreak of violence and other problems.

NC Gov. Cooper files brief supporting UNC admissions policies in US Supreme Court case (N.C. McClatchy) -- North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper and three of his predecessors – Jim Hunt, Mike Easley and Bev Perdue -- have submitted an amicus brief supporting UNC-Chapel Hill in its affirmative action admissions case being heard by the United States Supreme Court. The case, which stems from a 2014 lawsuit against UNC, challenges how colleges and universities should consider race in the admissions process, if at all. The anti-affirmative action group Students for Fair Admissions alleges UNC discriminated against white and Asian American applicants by using race when evaluating undergraduate student applications. The group, which is made up of thousands of rejected applicants, prospective students and parents, filed a similar lawsuit against Harvard that will also be heard by the court.

Making the Case for Affirmative Action (Insider Higher Ed) -- Support for Harvard and UNC’s position floods the Supreme Court. Arguments focus on the Constitution, the impact on Asian Americans and saving lives.

Using race in college admissions protected by First Amendment, groups say (Washington Post) -- Forcing colleges to ignore race in admissions would infringe on their academic freedom and discriminate against applicants who discuss life experiences related to their racial or ethnic backgrounds, a coalition of higher education groups told the Supreme Court on Monday. The groups, in a legal brief, were seeking to highlight what they view as a First Amendment problem if the court decides to prohibit the consideration of race in admissions when it rules on two affirmative action cases pending in its next term. The cases center on policies at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill that allow admissions officers to consider race as one factor among many in the holistic review of an application. Many competitive colleges and universities nationwide use this race-conscious approach, seeking to boost enrollment of underrepresented groups such as Black or Latino students. But public universities in California, Florida and several other states are not allowed to consider race.

New Paper Finds College Vaccine Mandates Saved Lives (Inside Higher Ed) -- A new working paper that aims to calculate the effects of COVID-19 vaccine mandates at colleges estimates that they reduced death rates in fall 2021, saving 7,319 lives. The working paper, released by the National Bureau of Economic Research, found that vaccine mandates at colleges reduced deaths from coronavirus by an estimated 5 percent. Researchers from Miami University in Ohio, Michigan State University, Tulane University and Cornell University co-authored the paper that looked at how vaccine mandates mitigated death rates.

University of North Carolina releases fall 2022 COVID protocols (WRAL-TV) -- University of North Carolina releases fall 2022 COVID protocols

Young NC students are now ahead of the nation in reading proficiency after pandemic (N.C. McClatchy) -- North Carolina lawmakers received some encouraging news Monday that the state’s youngest students are recovering from pandemic learning loss. State Superintendent Catherine Truitt presented preliminary data showing that reading proficiency rates for kindergarten and first-grade students rose sharply over the course of last school year and are now above the national average.

Getting students back on track from COVID learning loss will take 3 to 4 years, state officials say (WRAL-TV) -- Leaders said new teaching strategies are already working, per early test results.

N.C. Rural Center to administer $201M in funding for small businesses (The Robesonian) -- The U.S. Department of the Treasury has announced the approval of North Carolina’s application for up to $201.9 million in funding under the State Small Business Credit Initiative, SSBCI. President Biden’s American Rescue Plan reauthorized and expanded SSBCI, which was originally established in 2010. The new SSBCI is to provide $10 billion to states, the District of Columbia, territories, and Tribal governments to increase access to capital and promote entrepreneurship, especially in traditionally underserved communities as they emerge from the pandemic. Deputy Secretary Wally Adeyemo announced the approval of North Carolina’s plan alongside North Carolina Secretary of Commerce Machelle Baker Sanders at the North Carolina Rural Center. The North Carolina Rural Center administers funding for small businesses from local and federal sources, including from the SSBCI program. As part of the announcement, Deputy Secretary Adeyemo and Secretary Sanders participated in a roundtable discussion with small businesses and financial institutions that participated in the first round of SSBCI.

NC does not participate in tax-free weekend. What happened to the state’s sales tax holiday (Charlotte Observer) -- Back-to-school season can be an expensive time for families needing to stock up on school supplies, clothes and more for their kids. To help lessen the burden and promote shopping, some states waive their sales tax on certain school-related items for brief periods in late summer. North Carolina did have a tax-free weekend for many years, but the program was halted in 2013 by a Republican-controlled N.C. General Assembly. Still, other states in the region have continued the promotion, with dates set ahead of the start of the school year in many districts.

HALF TRUE: Are Democrats to blame for rising beer prices? (PolitiFact/WRAL-TV) -- In a recent tweet, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, a Republican seeking a third term in November 2022, included this statement: "Thanks to failed Dem policies, beer is 9.1% more expensive." PolitiFact checks his claim.

NCBiotech Awards $3.3 Million in Grants, Loans in Latest Quarter (News Release) -- The North Carolina Biotechnology Center awarded 32 grants and loans totaling $3,304,543 to universities, bioscience companies and nonprofit organizations in the fourth quarter of its fiscal year.

Homes Aren’t Affordable in North Carolina. And It’s Getting Worse. (Cardinal & Pine) -- The housing boom may be slowing, but there's a huge gap between what potential homeowners make and what they need to make to afford a mortgage.

New Paper Finds College Vaccine Mandates Saved Lives (Inside Higher Ed) -- A new working paper that aims to calculate the effects of COVID-19 vaccine mandates at colleges estimates that they reduced death rates in fall 2021, saving 7,319 lives. The working paper, released by the National Bureau of Economic Research, found that vaccine mandates at colleges reduced deaths from coronavirus by an estimated 5 percent. Researchers from Miami University in Ohio, Michigan State University, Tulane University and Cornell University co-authored the paper that looked at how vaccine mandates mitigated death rates.

University of North Carolina releases fall 2022 COVID protocols (WRAL-TV) -- University of North Carolina releases fall 2022 COVID protocols

Cumberland board takes steps to address water contamination (Fayetteville CityView) -- Cumberland County Manager Amy Cannon on Monday asked the county Board of Commissioners to consider creating two new water and sewer districts to combat contamination of private wells due to GenX

AG Stein, Treasurer Folwell address new Buncombe-Asheville HCA lawsuit (Asheville Citizen-Times) -- North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein and state Treasurer Dale Folwell are keeping an eye on new Western North Carolina lawsuits against the biggest hospital system in the nation, HCA Healthcare, and are considering further involvement. Folwell in December 2021 and Stein in March 2022 each submitted amicus briefs favoring the plaintiffs — Stein as AG and Folwell as an individual — in the first big lawsuit filed against HCA and Mission by six Asheville-area residents in August 2021.

Charlotte promotes transportation safety for bicyclists and pedestrians (N.C. Health News) -- As pedestrian deaths increase, educational group BikeWalkNC seeks to prevent bicyclist and pedestrian fatalities by engaging in a statewide effort to educate motorists in counties with the worst statistics.

State pilots non-medical intervention program to improve healthcare for Medicaid enrollees (Wilmington Port City Daily) -- According to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, 80 percent of health outcomes are determined by social and environmental factors.

Ongoing research project looks at human toll of flooding (Coastal Review) -- The Dynamics of Extreme Events, People and Places project is a collaboration of social and environmental scientists and engineers working to understand how flooding disasters disrupt people’s lives in coastal North Carolina and how communities respond and rebuild.

Are EVs are better for your budget? Yes (WRAL-TV) -- Electric vehicles are better for the environment, but are they better for your budget? The short answer is yes.

Why former WRAL anchor David Crabtree joined the Great Resignation (Triangle Business Journal) -- By his own admission, former WRAL news anchor David Crabtree isn't good at retiring. Crabtree, who left WRAL at the end of May after nearly three decades with the top rated local station, is now interim CEO of PBS North Carolina. He says he’s in the new role for the long haul. “Retirement isn’t really a word I know how to define right now,” Crabtree said. About five years ago, Crabtree announced his intention to retire from WRAL at the end of 2018. But the final farewell kept getting postponed. This time, his “retirement” includes a very active day job. In an interview, Crabtree talked about what led him to became part of the so-called “Great Resignation," and he described his new mission at PBS.

Calling All Bakers (and Chefs): Enter the Ocracoke Fig Festival Bake-Off! (Ocracoke Observer) -- This year, the Fig Festival (Aug. 4-6)welcomes a special guest: restaurateur and 2022 James Beard Foundation “Best Chef in the Southeast” award-winner Chef Ricky Moore of Saltbox Seafood Joint in Durham, NC! Chef Ricky will judge the Fish ‘n’ Figs category and join Ocracoke residents in judging the Traditional, Innovative, and Kids entries. Fig cakes go on display at 11 a.m. and judging begins at 11:30 a.m.; winners are announced as soon as the judges make their choices. The audience is welcome to join in the Fig-For-All (the eating of the entries) after the Bake-Off is over.

Festivals celebrating figs and more: What’s happening in N.C. (Norfolk Virginian-Pilot) -- Discover food and drink events North Carolina this week.

Wilson Times launches new website (Wilson Times) -- A new version of The Wilson Times’ website that allows visitors to read a limited selection of stories before logging in or subscribing is now live at WilsonTimes.com. Parent company Restoration NewsMedia partnered with Clifton Springs, New York-based vendor Our Hometown to redesign the websites for all five of its local newspapers.