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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."

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.

Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


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.

Saturday News: GOP attack on the poor, chapter 47


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.

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.

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.

Wednesday News: Autocracy


REPUBLICANS EXCLUDE DEMOCRATS FROM SECRETIVE BUDGET AMENDMENT PROCESS: Democrats are upset that Republican legislators are mostly excluding them from state budget talks, as it's unlikely any proposed changes will be adopted once the budget is revealed. Republican leaders plan to gut an old bill and amend it as a "conference report" to include their budget plans, meaning state lawmakers will have no method for amending the legislation. Republicans hold a supermajority in the House and Senate, so it's unclear whether Democratic proposals would be adopted. Democratic Rep. Darren Jackson, the House minority leader, said the Republicans plan amounts to a "secretive process that will prevent input and consideration" from all legislators.

Tuesday News: Fighting injustice

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13 ARRESTED AS POOR PEOPLE'S CAMPAIGN RETURNS TO NC GENERAL ASSEMBLY: Thirteen protesters were arrested Monday afternoon outside the offices of top legislative leaders. The North Carolina Poor People's Campaign, part of a national movement and in some ways a continuation of the "Moral Monday" movement in North Carolina, held a chanting, singing sit-in outside the the office suites of Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore. This was week two of a planned six-week campaign in the state. Last week, protesters closed Jones Street outside the statehouse, and nearly 50 were cited. Today most, if not all, of those arrested wore yellow armbands, signaling their willingness to be arrested. Others dispersed as police ordered, then stood aside and cheered those led out in plastic zip-ties, again much like the Moral Monday protests.

Monday News: Tainted money, tainted water


GENX MANUFACTURER SWEETENS THE CAMPAIGN KITTY FOR BERGER & MOORE: The $5,200 contribution came from the Manufacturers Alliance PAC, which gave the same amount to Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger in December. These represent the PAC's biggest donations in years, and Berger and Moore are the top leaders in the General Assembly. Chemours' head state government affairs executive, Jeff Fritz, who is based in Indiana, gave the PAC $500 on April 3. It appears to be his first donation to the PAC and the first time he's donated to an entity that plays in North Carolina state politics. The next day, the PAC made its contribution to Moore's campaign fund. Fritz said Friday the donation was a personal one and that he didn't ask the PAC to turn around and give to Moore.

Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


LEGISLATORS CAN DECLARE COOPER'S BUDGET 'DOA', BUT IT RESPECTS NC'S NEEDS: North Carolina’s legislative leaders pronounced Gov. Roy Cooper’s budget D-O-A. It would have been a bit more appropriate, even polite, if the diagnosis came AFTER he’d proposed it. Before the budget is relegated to the recycling bin, state Senate leader Phil Berger, House Speaker Tim Moore and their lieutenants should enlighten themselves and give the budget a look. They might even consider joining Cooper to show some R-E-S-P-E-C-T for the many North Carolinians and issues they’ve neglected for the last seven years while lavishing the state’s corporations with excessive tax breaks. Legislators would go a long way toward appropriately honoring North Carolina’s education, health, public safety, rural communities, growing businesses and working families, by adopting the priorities that Cooper laid out last week.


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