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Opinion Roundup: The finer details of the 2017 legislative session

Posted July 3

NC Legislative Building

Monday, July 3, 2017 -- A roundup of opinion, commentary and analysis on the General Assembly's 2017 work, the status of Congress' health care overhaul efforts, the N.C. gerrymandering issues that lie ahead and more.

MATTHEW BURNS: Legislative session filled with hits, misses (WRAL-TV analysis) -- State lawmakers left Raleigh early Friday after a 93-day legislative session in which they fulfilled their constitutional obligation to pass a budget for the coming year and accomplished several other goals on the Republican majority's agenda.


GARY ROBERTSON: Legislative session over, but rancor to linger on return (Associated Press analysis) -- Republicans in the North Carolina General Assembly and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper spent most of this year's legislative work session trading partisan blows.


General Assembly Adjourns (WUNC-FM analysis) -- State lawmakers are heading home until August. After reaching a state budget deal, lawmakers passed a flurry of bills this week and departed early this morning. House speaker Tim Moore told reporters the legislature will be "in and out for the rest of the year," which is uncommon, but not unprecedented.


RICHARD CARVER: Status quo for behavioral health managed-care organizations after reforms fail to pass (Winston-Salem analysis) -- There was a lot of huffing and puffing about reining in behavioral health management care organizations during the long legislative session. But as the legislature entered adjournment early Friday, the status quo held solid even after a scathing state audit on the business practices of Cardinal Innovations Healthcare Solutions, the largest of the seven remaining MCOs.


ALEX GRANADOS: Budget, bills and the future of public education (EdNC analysis) -- Alex Granados talks with Rep. Graig Meyer, D-Orange, about the recently passed budget, how education fared in the just-ended long session of the General Assembly, and the future of public education policy in North Carolina.


Our modest gains are not enough (Winston-Salem Journal) -- This year’s Kids Count data book produced by the Casey Foundation — we anticipate its arrival every year — finds North Carolina once again making modest gains in the health of our children. But it also reveals again the need to do even better.


LEAH ASMELASH: Music and Barbecue To Fete Kids at the NCGA (N.C. Health News analysis) -- Lawmakers joined with foster kids and child welfare advocates to celebrate passage of a landmark bill.


KRISTINA PETERSON & MICHELLE HACKMAN: Health Bill Faces Resistance Among GOP Governors (Wall Street Journal analysis) -- Republican senators, back home on recess this week, are hearing from some influential critics of their health-law push: GOP governors, many of whom are urging them to resist the legislation.


Longterm care shows inequity in Senate plan (Greenville Daily Reflector) -- Much of what’s wrong with the American health care system, and the latest bill meant to fix it, would hit North Carolinians smack in the face if they ever had to go to a nursing home.


Democrats’ protests futile till gerrymandering ends (Wilmington Star-News) -- North Carolina’s new budget was approved last week, but it was signed off on last November, when voters again gave Republicans veto-proof majorities in the General Assembly. If anyone was surprised by the spending plan and tax cuts for corporations, they either are uninformed or fooling themselves. We take issue with many parts of the budget (notably cuts that reek of political payback), and are pleased with some parts -- we are making progress on improving teacher pay. We favored Gov. Roy Cooper’s plan, but don’t believe the budget that passed is going to sink North Carolina into the Dark Ages.


Rigging the system is not a conservative ideal (Asheville Citizen-Times) -- Once upon a time, North Carolina Republicans thought they could win hearts and minds based on their own core values. They preached small government and cutting waste and a moderate agenda that would allow people to live as freely as possible. So how did we get here? When did the General Assembly set its sights so fully on distorting the electoral system in North Carolina? We shudder at the prospect, especially since this troubling tactic has become so effective.


Take politics out of our judicial system (Fayetteville Observer) -- Sometimes a bad idea becomes a gift that keeps on giving. So it is with the General Assembly’s attempt to politicize key institutions and its penchant for extreme political gerrymandering of North Carolina. The gerrymandering has already been slapped down in the courts for its racial biases and it’s even made this state a poster child for a national movement to make redistricting less political.


LOUISE RADNOFSKY: Trump Joins Fray Over Request for States’ Voter Data (Wall Street Journal analysis) -- President Donald Trump weighed in on a controversy over resistance from states to turn over voter records, tweeting Saturday: “What are they trying to hide?”


Trump’s Voting Commission to Get Limited State Data (Associated Press analysis) -- Some of the nation’s most populous states are refusing to comply, but even some conservative states say they can provide only partial responses based on what is legally allowed under their laws. NORTH CAROLINA: Partial. Personal information deemed confidential under state law, such as birth dates and Social Security numbers, won’t be provided.


IBRAM X. KENDI: Civil Rights Act was a victory against racism. But racists also won. (Washington Post column) -- On the very day the 1964 act took effect, Duke Power’s Dan River plant in North Carolina started requiring IQ tests and high school diplomas. These new requirements produced the same outcome as the company’s old segregationist policies: whites receiving the bulk of its high paying jobs. In 1971, the Supreme Court prohibited Duke’s new “practices that are fair in form, but discriminatory in operation” because they cannot be “shown to be related to job performance.”


Governor should veto Wade’s bill (Greensboro News & Record) -- In the dead of night, the General Assembly voted to send Guilford County down the path into darkness.


Wade’s win on public notices is democracy’s loss (Wilson Times) -- A senator’s skullduggery could leave a half-million North Carolinians in the dark and pave the way for government secrecy to spread throughout the state.


CELIA RIVENBARK: ‘Help Wanted’ at the White House (Wilmington Star-News column) -- Now that Melania Trump has finally moved into the White House, we learn from the Associated Press she is looking to fill key staff positions that have been vacant since Inauguration Day. Fortunately, one of the most important jobs -- chief usher -- was filled by a Trump hotel employee just after she arrived.


Tim White: Time to kick government out of the booze business (Fayetteville Observer column) -- Remind me again, please: Why is it that North Carolina needs to regulate when a restaurant can serve a drink? Why is it that the state needs to regulate the sale of alcohol more than it regulates the sale of guns or gasoline?


KEVIN WESTMORELAND: Brunch Bill would add to Asheville’s economy (Asheville Citizen-Times column) -- As members of the hospitality industry, we strive to ensure that the needs of all our guests are met. Taking care of guests is what we do, and we make every effort to maintain a high level of service to our patrons.


KEN FINE & ERICA HELLERSTEIN: Hogwashed, Part 1: Poor, Mostly African-Americans in Eastern N.C. Say Big Pork Is Making Their Lives Miserable (IndyWeek analysis) -- This story examines claims by lower-income African-American residents of eastern North Carolina that neighboring hog farms have polluted their properties and efforts by lawmakers to shield pork producers from litigation. The second looks at the environmental impacts hog farming has had over the last two decades, particularly on waterways such as the Neuse River. The final piece discusses ways to make the hog industry more sustainable, both for the environment and the state's rural population, and the political and financial reasons those steps have not been taken.


ALLISON BALLARD: GenX Unknowns Frustrate Folks at Forum (Coastal Review analysis) -- Wilmington-area residents who attended the recent forum on GenX contamination in the public water supply wanted to know about safety, but answers may be years away.


JOHN DOWNEY: N.C. advocate says Duke Energy contractor seeks to undercut review of coal-ash costs (Charlotte Business Journal analysis) -- The Public Staff of the N.C. Utilities commission accuses contractor Charah Inc. of trying to impede its investigation of Duke Energy Progress' $377 million spending on coal-ash issues.


An ill wind could kill an excellent energy bill (Fayetteville Observer) -- It didn’t work for Don Quixote and it won’t work, in the long run, for Harry Brown either. But there’s the powerful state senator from Jacksonville again, tilting at windmills. What is there about wind energy that turns Brown irrational? It’s an appropriate phrase, though. Since Cervantes’ novel was first published in 1604, tilting at windmills has been adopted into the English language as a phrase meaning attacking imaginary enemies.


JON HAWLEY: Senate again pushes wind halt (Elizabeth City Daily Advance analysis) -- The state Senate again has passed a moratorium on wind energy in North Carolina, and it's again causing blow-back in the House.


DAVID MAYFIELD: As sea levels rise, NOAA scientists work toward seasonal tidal flooding forecasts (Norfolk Virginian Pilot analysis) -- A team led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is aiming to roll out season-by-season flood predictions for cities like Norfolk in about three years.


SETH BORENSTEIN: Climate change up close: Southern, poor counties to suffer (Los Angeles Times analysis) -- Poor and southern U.S. counties will get hit hardest by global warming, according to a first-of-its-kind detailed projection of potential climate change effects at the local level. The study, published Thursday in the journal Science, calculates probable economic harms and benefits.


Reason in hurricane season (Winston-Salem Journal) -- We are a coastal state. It’s a comforting status here in the Piedmont, especially this time of year, when we dream of our time by the sea and tell ourselves we’re really not that far from the ocean, just a few hours’ drive. We’re in the best of both worlds, we might tell ourselves, free to enjoy the beach but buttressed from its hurricane dangers.


BILL HAND: Band of birders (New Bern Sun Journal analysis) -- Every year flocks of volunteers and biologists wander the North Carolina coast, snatching up baby birds and snapping bands on their legs. Banding birds is a vital tool for biologists, wildlife agencies and the Audubon Society to track bird migration, dispersal, life-spans and reproductive success.


In NC, ‘no’ doesn’t always mean ‘no’ − but it should (Fayetteville Observer) -- The man who rushed to pass House Bill 2 and a host of other draconian measures says it’s not a good idea to promptly fix an injustice against this state’s women that’s been the law for 38 years. And so a bill that would right a terrible wrong will sit on a committee shelf for — well, we don’t know how long. It may be dead.


Drug-treatment court is welcome (Winston-Salem Journal) -- A new drug-treatment court for adults approved by the Winston-Salem City Council will be a wise investment in our people.


BRENT SKORUP & KORY SWANSON: North Carolina better off without public broadband (Fayetteville Observer column) -- The General Assembly is considering legislation that could lead to more government involvement in internet provision. Some of the ideas in this legislation might have merit. But a look at the history of government involvement in municipal broadband should provide some pause.


At last, a plan for I-95 (Fayetteville Observer) -- We’re not sure what has brought Fayetteville such a reversal of highway fortune, but we’re grateful for it. The latest piece of good news is that the state Department of Transportation says it will expand two segments of Interstate 95 in our region to eight lanes. That includes a stretch from Lumberton to Fayetteville and another from Dunn to Interstate 40. The improvements are slated to begin in 2026 and will cost about half a billion dollars.


JEFF HAMPTON: Artifacts show Lost Colony settlers moved to Hatteras Island, lived with natives, historian says (Norfolk Virginian-Pilot analysis) -- Digs not far from the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse have uncovered thousands of American Indian relics with English items mixed in.


RODGER MULLEN: Leclercq replaces Michael Adams as The Fayetteville Observer’s executive editor (Fayetteville Observer column) -- Matt Leclercq has been named The Fayetteville Observer’s executive editor. He replaces Michael Adams, who served for 25 years as an editor at the newspaper. Publisher Bob Gruber made the announcement to the Observer staff last week. Leclercq begins his new duties today.

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