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Opinion Roundup: All eyes on the high court

Posted September 29

Early Monday, news broke that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case from Wisconsin that deals with political gerrymandering regarding how the state has drawn its electoral districts.

Friday, Sept. 29, 2017 -- A roundup of opinion, commentary and analysis on the upcoming U.S. Supreme Court term, the N.C. House's extensive meeting on GenX, the critical issues facing higher education in our state and more.

POLITICS & POLICY
DAVID G. SAVAGE: Kennedy holds key votes as Supreme Court tackles gerrymandering, religious liberty (LA Times analysis) -- The Supreme Court opens its term next week focused on whether to shield conservative Christians from gay rights laws and whether to rein in the partisan gerrymandering that Republicans have used in recent years to tighten their grip on power in Congress and state legislatures.

ERIK WEMPLE: N.Y. Times story on Russian election hacking peeves N.C. officials (Washington Post column) -- In an email, Patrick Gannon, public information officer for the N.C. State Board of Elections writes, “The story gave the overall impression that Durham County’s electronic poll books had been hacked and that elections officials didn’t do anything about it and even turned down federal assistance. … We have no problem with fact-finding or a critical public. However, one of our main and ongoing concerns in the age of social media is that voters unnecessarily lose faith in the security and integrity of elections because of false or misleading reports that spread quickly via the Internet.”

NICHOLAS FANDOS & SCOTT SHANE: Senator Berates Twitter Over ‘Inadequate’ Inquiry Into Russian Meddling (New York Times analysis) – Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 election sharply criticized Twitter for failing to aggressively investigate the Russian misuse of its platform after the company said it had largely limited its own inquiry to accounts linked to fraudulent profiles already identified by Facebook. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Republican chairman, would not answer questions about the briefing on Thursday, and his spokeswoman declined to comment.

MIKE ALLEN: Air Force Academy superintendent: "Grab your phones" (Axios analysis) -- If you're starting to forget what a leader sounds like, we have a refreshing reminder -- Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria, superintendent of the Air Force Academy, "stood all of his 4,000 cadets at attention ... to deliver a message on racial slurs found written on message boards at the academy's preparatory school At the culmination of his five-minute lecture on "the power of diversity" of race and gender, the general barked: "Reach for your phones. I'm serious: Reach for your phones. ... Grab your phones. I want you to videotape this — so that you have it, so that you can use it, so that we all have the moral courage together."

TRAVIS FAIN: Senate limit on $100M regulations hits hurdle in House (WRAL-TV analysis) -- House leaders gave a Senate push to outlaw expensive state regulations the side-eye Thursday, questioning whether legislation likely to be before the General Assembly next week is the right path to a noble goal.

REBECCA MARTINEZ: 1.2M N.C. Drivers Lost Licenses For Failure To Show Up To Court Or Pay Fees (WUNC-FM analysis) -- A report from the Legal Aid Justice Center says almost 1.2 million North Carolinians currently have their driver’s licenses suspended or revoked because they either failed to appear in court or failed to pay court fees. Of those, about 436,000 were for failure to pay, according to the NC Division of Motor Vehicles. Linking driving privileges with court debts keeps people in poverty, according to the N.C. Justice Center’s Daniel Bowes.

THOMAS KAPLAN: With Tax Cuts on the Table, Once-Mighty Deficit Hawks Hardly Chirp (New York Times analysis) -- A new tax cut is emerging to rival those of the Bush years, and the deficit hawks have hardly peeped. “It’s a great talking point when you have an administration that’s Democrat-led,” said Representative Mark Walker, Republican of North Carolina and the chairman of the Republican Study Committee, a group of about 150 conservative House members. “It’s a little different now that Republicans have both houses and the administration.”

BRIAN MURPHY: N.C. rep’s comments go nationwide — again. This time, he says, critics got it wrong (McClatchy Washington Bureau) -- For the second time this week, Rep. Mark Walker has found himself in a controversy over comments he made. Walker, R-N.C., was quoted in The New York Times about Republicans’ silence on the debt after unveiling their tax plan.

SUSAN LADD: Mark Walker's remarks reflect Hugh Hefner's American legacy of objectifying women (Greensboro News & Record column) -- It’s wearisome for me to write this, and I’m sure some of you will find it wearisome to read. I was prepared to let U.S. Rep. Mark Walker’s “eye candy” remark go unchallenged. Then I read Hugh Hefner’s obituary. Hefner, the millionaire founder and publisher of Playboy magazine, died this week at age 91. Hefner was on the forefront of the sexual revolution, shattering stodgy, Puritanical views of sexuality with his glossy centerfolds and sexual advice for men.

Whose free speech? (Greensboro News & Record) -- We wonder what Jeff Sessions would say if a college football team or band followed the lead of NFL players and took knees during the national anthem.

ALEXENDRIA BORDAS: Speech by Activist Who Took Down Confederate Flag Canceled (Asheville Citizen-Times analysis) -- An appearance by the activist who climbed a flagpole and took down a Confederate flag outside the South Carolina Statehouse has been canceled because of school policy.

MIKE WALDEN: N.C. economy retreated slightly in August (WRAL-TV/TechWire column) -- The North Carolina State University Index of leading economic indicators for the state retreated slightly in August from its reading in July.

Surviving incentives (Winston-Salem Journal) -- Forsyth County’s incentives for companies that bring jobs to our community have largely paid off. But we need to stay alert to shifting economic tides and make sure that we’re getting the most bang for our buck.

Celebrate freedom to read; check out some banned books (Wilson Times) -- Libraries are here for all of us. They promote no agenda beyond literacy, freedom of expression and freedom to read, and that’s a message folks of all backgrounds, all faiths and all political stripes can get behind.

To my fellow clergy: I know it’s hard, but do more (Charlotte Observer) -- Rabbi Judy Schindler charges Charlotte churches with doing more for social justice.

ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT
LAURA LESLIE: House lawmakers meet on GenX (WRAL-TV analysis) -- State House lawmakers tasked with investigating river quality and regulation in North Carolina got a sobering introduction Thursday to the scope of the challenge.

RUSTY JACOBS: N.C. Legislators Mull What To Do About Chemicals In Rivers (WUNC-FM analysis) -- A special house committee met Thursday in Raleigh to discuss the discharge of unregulated chemicals into the Cape Fear River - but the committee heard more questions than answers about potential health effects.

ADAM WAGNER: N.C. Reps learn there’s much to discover about GenX (Wilmington Star-News analysis) -- Ten members of the N.C. House of Representatives tasked with addressing the state’s river quality spent much of Thursday learning exactly how much they do not know. Tasked with finding solutions to statewide questions about water quality, the committee – appointed by House Speaker Tim Moore -- spent much of the lengthy session discussing the intricacies of GenX and insisting water safety is not political.

CATHERINE CLABBY: Keeping Local Water Supplies Safe (N.C. Health News) -- Lessons big and small flow at North Carolina Waterworks Operators Association’s school for water utility workers this week.

LORI WYNN: Coastal Barrier Resources Act Focus of Study (Coastal Review analysis) -- A team of researchers from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill will study the effect the Coastal Barrier Resources Act has had on development along the coasts of North Carolina, Texas, Florida, Alabama and Delaware.

EDUCATION
Higher education isn’t ready for our future (Fayetteville Observer) -- Margaret Spellings is right: Public education is too expensive. Paying for it is a tough burden for all but the wealthiest families. For people of average means, tuition, fees and other costs are a crushing burden, often leaving both student and parents with debt that will last for decades. College loan debt in the U.S. is second only to mortgage debt.

AND MORE
JOHN ANDERSON: ‘Abundant Acreage Available’: Living and Dying off the Land (Wall Street Journal film review) -- After their father dies, two siblings must decide what to do with his 50-acre tobacco farm in North Carolina.

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