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Opinion Roundup: Following the local money

Posted August 7

State budget

Monday, Aug. 7, 2017 -- A roundup of opinion, commentary and analysis on the most recent trail of N.C. campaign cash, a new book that tells a lot about our nation's polarized politics, a renewed environmental lobbying push to tighten coal ash rules and more.

POLITICS & POLICY
TRAVIS FAIN: Six months, six things: A look at N.C. campaign fundraising (WRAL-TV analysis) -- State records show $16.5 million donated or changing hands between political campaigns during the first half of this year.

Defending democracy (Winston-Salem Journal) -- A Duke University history professor has made waves with a recent publication that deserves, if not a thorough reading, at least some serious acquaintance by everyone interested in politics — and in understanding how we wound up where we are today, with so much polarization, so much mistrust of government and other American institutions and with democracy itself seemingly under threat at times.

BERNARD GROFMAN & GERMAN FEIERHERD: The U.S. could be free of gerrymandering. Here’s how other countries do redistricting. (Washington Post column) -- Before the Supreme Court weighs in, let’s look at how other countries redistrict. Are there lessons for Americans in these varying experiences and procedures?

TRAVIS FAIN & LAURA LESLIE: Public outcry on plan for new voting maps: Drop the political partisanship (WRAL-TV analysis) -- Lawmakers drawing new election maps under a court order heard a steady drumbeat Friday from a public hearing on the process that will guide these new lines: Drop the partisanship and deliver maps untethered from political goals.

GENE SMITH: How to ignore our way out of a problem (Fayetteville Observer column) -- Race and political parties aside, if my district had been unlawfully gerrymandered for any reason I’d be hopping mad. I don’t want any voter in my district sandbagged. Fair elections are good enough for me, even if my slate loses. Having the U.S. Supreme Court uphold a circuit court’s finding that your district was gerrymandered “with almost surgical precision” must be even more galling to those who believe that legislatures shouldn’t pick favorites.

Don’t fiddle with how we choose U.S. senators (Wilmington Star-News) -- Nothing is so powerful, Victor Hugo wrote, than an idea whose time has come. That’s especially the case when the idea is a stinker. And so we have a push to quit electing U.S. senators and have them chosen by state legislatures, the way they originally were when the Constitution was adopted. That changed in 1913 with the ratification of the 17th Amendment.

DAN BALZ: Democratic Party’s future could be written in upcoming gubernatorial races (Washington Post analysis) -- Republicans hold a record 34 of the 50 governorships, largely thanks to gains in the midterm elections of 2010 and 2014. But if it happened for the GOP, Democrats ask, why can’t it happen for them in next year’s midterms?

CELIA RIVENBARK: White House home of authors in training (Wilmington Star-News column) -- If you ask me, the real winners so far in this wackadoodle Trump administration are the ones who have been nudged out of their appointed jobs or outright fired. Why do I say that? Because, to paraphrase a little known one-time TV talk show host, “YOU get a book deal! YOU get a book deal! YOU get a book deal!”

JUDGES: Let voters have a say in all our District Court races (Charlotte Observer column) -- From Chief District Court Judge Regan Miller and District Court Judges Rickye McKoy-Mitchell, Lou Trosch, Becky Tin, Donnie Hoover, Christy Mann, Paige McThenia, Kimberly Best, Elizabeth Trosch, Karen Eady-Williams, Donald Cureton, Jena Culler, Ty Hands, Gary Henderson, Alicia Brooks, Aretha Blake, Tracy Hewett & Retired Emergency Judge Jane Harper. Bill would mean that Mecklenburg voters won’t elect judges who may preside in their cases.

Political opponents aim for legal center (Greensboro News & Record) -- Should a law center associated with the University of North Carolina participate in legal actions?

BOB HALL: Will Gov. Cooper help consumers or play cash and carry politics? (Rocky Mount Telegram column) -- Just before the N.C. General Assembly adjourned on June 30, the consumer loan industry won a prize piece of legislation from state legislators who have benefited handsomely from the industry’s campaign donations that total over $500,000 in the past four years.

Is workforce training our big weakness? (Fayetteville Observer) -- Fayetteville’s ongoing municipal conversation generally includes laments about our inability to attract big employers who pay solid, middle-class wages. This generally leads to further discussion about the workforce that’s available here and whether we have enough workers who can handle the kinds of jobs that 21st century manufacturing requires.

STEPHANIE CARSON: Workers Putting Heat on Employers After Working in Hot Temps (Public News Service column) -- Hot summer temperatures are weighing heavily on people who make a living outdoors throughout the state.

BRYCE PATES & TIM MAREMA: SNAP Plays Outsized Role in the Economy of Rural Grocery Stores (N.C. Health News analysis) -- Rural residents often earn less than their urban counterparts, which accounts, in part, for the high rate of rural residents receiving SNAP benefits.

Sunday hunting bans a poor policy from bad theology (Wilson Times) -- Neckties, pantsuits and lapel pins have replaced the flowing robes and tassels, but modern-day Pharisees are as comfortable in Raleigh as their predecessors ever were in Solomon’s temple.

ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT
CATHERINE CLABBY: Push for EPA to Revise Coal Ash Rules (N.C. Health News analysis) -- Environmentalists seeking aggressive coal ash cleanup in North Carolina are watching requests for rule revisions in Washington, D.C.

KEVIN MAURER & ADAM WAGNER: Reinforcements for NC’s beleaguered environmental regulators? (Wilmington Star-News analysis) -- Since 2011, the N.C. Dept. of Environmental Quality has squarely been in the crosshairs of lawmakers who have tightened constraints on environmental rule-making as they slash agency staff. In the wake of the contamination of the Cape Fear River with GenX, Gov. Roy Cooper has moved to roll back the most recent cuts to DEQ staff and loosen some of the constraints that lawmakers have put on the rulemaking process.

JANET PIPPIN: Governor speaks at Coastal Federation celebration (Jacksonville Daily News analysis) -- Gov. Roy Cooper joined the North Coastal Federation in celebrating its work and recognizing the people and organizations who have shown exemplary dedication to environmental stewardship. “This coast is part of who I am and you would not be here if you didn’t feel the same way,” Cooper said in closing remarks at the federation’s 35th anniversary Soundside Soiree held in Morehead City.

EDUCATION
EMMA BROWN: How can America fix its worst public schools? States don’t seem to know. (Washington Post analysis) -- After a 2015 law renewed local control over public education, most states have established only vague plans, with no detailed prescriptions for intervention to improve persistently failing schools.

MATTHEW HERR: Blowing the lid off North Carolina’s “IEP cap” (EdNC column) -- Apparently, North Carolina has decided that only 12.75 percent of its students are allowed to have disabilities.

Researchers: Vouchers Not Enough For Some To Attend Private Schools (WUNC-FM analysis) -- The North Carolina Opportunity Scholarship program supplies funds to help up to 6,000 low income students attend private schools. The state-run program is slated to expand in coming years. Education researchers from North Carolina State University recently evaluated the scholarship to see how it's working for parents and schools who participate.

KAY McSPADDEN: Why young people might not become teachers (Charlotte Observer column) -- If we don’t change how we treat teachers, young people will stop entering the profession.

An important win for education equality in N.C. (Wilmington Star-News) -- A legal battle over North Carolina’s unequal schools, one that’s dragged on for two decades, seems to be heading toward a sensible conclusion. That’s good news for our children and good news for democracy, too.

HEALTH
ROSE HOBAN: Most Mental Health Management Organizations to See Additional Trim (N.C. Health News analysis) -- Lawmakers were alerted there was a miscalculation in how they tabulated cuts made in June's state budget. As a result, most agencies saw their cuts increase.

Welcome whispers of bipartisanship (Rocky Mount Telegram) -- In the aftermath of the U.S. Senate’s failure to pass a Republican health care bill, a few faint voices of bipartisanship emanated last week from the corners of that chamber.

SAABIRA CHAUDHURI: Big Tobacco’s Next Big Thing? Tobacco (Wall Street Journal analysis) -- Cigarette makers are working on their next act, as cigarette sales decline around the world and once-breakneck growth from the first wave of e-cigarettes fades.

AND MORE
MARK JURKOWITZ: OBX lights are back on, assessing the impact (Capitol Broadcasting column) -- While there are no hard numbers yet on revenue lost when Hatteras and Ocracoke became tourist ghost towns at the peak of visitor season, Dare County Commission Chairman Bob Woodard solemnly noted: "It could not have happened at a worse time."

VALERIE BAUERLEIN: After a Dark Week, Power is Back at Two Islands in North Carolina (Wall Street Journal column) -- Power has been restored at Hatteras and Ocracoke islands in North Carolina’s Outer Banks after a weeklong blackout caused by a construction accident.

MAGGIE ASTOR: Outer Banks Businesses Tally Their Losses After Power Is Restored (New York Times analysis) -- A week-long power failure on Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands in North Carolina cost businesses millions of dollars, officials estimated.

JEFF HAMPTON: Ocracoke nearly back to normal on first day back from outage (Norfolk Virginian-Pilot analysis) -- Not quite as many golf carts puttering around and not quite as many people strolling the road on front of shops.

YVONNE GALE: More integrity and accountability, not less freedom (Fayetteville Observer column) -- Gene Smith wrote a thought-provoking editorial on Saturday concerning the consequences of limiting the freedom of the press. He was alarmed that someone had asserted that there was “too much of this freedom of the press stuff.” In no way should the media’s freedom be limited, but may I arrogantly assert that I think that I speak for many Americans who believe that the media is in need of more integrity and accountability.

ABDUL RASHEED: Fulfilling Bill Friday’s legacy more important than ever (Winston-Salem Journal column) -- North Carolinians treasure their reputation as leaders in “The New South.” And we have every right to do so. Now as voters, pundits, politicians and others are decrying the state of civic and political discourse in our state and across the nation, we are leaders once again as we seek solutions.

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