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Opinion Roundup: Rushed judicial maps bill exposes pitfalls of NCGA secrecy

Posted June 29

Rep. Justin Burr, R-Stanly

Thursday, June 29, 2017 -- A roundup of opinion, commentary and analysis on the hurried N.C. judicial redistricting bill, the local push for a national constitutional convention, the controversy over state leaders' refusal to provide HB2 emails and more.

SCOTT SEXTON: Little bills, in a big rush, can tip checks and balances (Winston-Salem Journal column) -- The trouble was — and is — that the judicial/prosecutorial district maps were drawn in secret, hustled out literally in the dark of night and rushed into a committee hearing without input from stakeholders. That would be trial lawyers, prosecutors, judges. And good government watchdog organizations such as Voters for Clean Elections, the League of Women Voters, Common Cause North Carolina, etc.


JESS CLARK: NC GOP Lawmakers Push For Rewrite Of The U.S. Constitution (WUNC-FM analysis) -- A bill is moving through the North Carolina legislature that could push the country a step closer towards rewriting its founding document. A committee of state House lawmakers approved a bill Wednesday that would make North Carolina the 13th state to call for a constitutional convention in order to add a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Under Article V of the Constitution, the country needs 34 state applications before Congress must call for the convention.


RICK ROTHACKER: NC GOP leaders refuse to provide HB2-related emails, citing legislative privilege (Charlotte Observer analysis) -- Since June 2016, the Charlotte Observer has been seeking House Bill 2-related emails from the office of North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate Pro Tem Phil Berger, but both Republican lawmakers have refused to provide any documents. Because the request asks for emails...


LINDSAY WAGNER: Employee of N.C.’s largest voucher school pleads guilty to embezzling nearly $400,000 in state funds over 8 years (Fletcher Foundation analysis) -- Heath Vandevender is a coach, teacher and the employee tasked with managing the payroll operations of the state’s largest private school recipient of state-funded vouchers—Trinity Christian School located in Fayetteville. In a Wake County courthouse this week, Vandevender pleaded guilty to embezzling nearly $400,000 in employee state tax withholdings over an eight year period while serving in his capacity at Trinity Christian.


ALEX GRANADOS: Impact of alternative teacher prep in Texas, N.C. (EdNC analysis) -- A bill to open up the educator preparation system in North Carolina to organizations other than universities could bring big changes to the way the state trains teachers. The vast majority of teachers in North Carolina classrooms are trained at universities. And while Senate Bill 599 has some hurdles left to clear, if it becomes law, it would allow private, for-profit programs to assume some of the teacher training responsibility in the state.


ROSE HOBAN: Disability Advocates See Existential Threat from Senate Health Bill (N.C. Health News analysis) -- Moms with “medically fragile” kids say they’re frightened about the health care bill being considered in the U.S. Senate.


JOHN DOWNEY: Fate of solar compromise bill likely to rest in legislative conference (Charlotte Business Journal column) -- With N.C. Senate Republicans poised to overwhelmingly approve a solar reform bill now opposed by its original supporters, the best hope for salvaging the hard-won compromise appears to lie in a House-Senate conference. Rep. John Szoka (R-Cumberland), one of the principal sponsors of the bill, says he and colleagues in the House and Senate are already working on some agreement that could be adopted in a conference committee to restore the long-negotiated balance of the initial bill.


LAURA LESLIE: Four-year wind energy moratorium blows through NC Senate (WRAL-TV TechWire analysis) -- The N.C. Senate on Wednesday approved a bill that would stop all wind energy projects in the state for four years, despite an impassioned plea from the senator whose district will pay a steep price for the moratorium.


FRANK TAYLOR: CBO not keeping count of calls for public hearings, contrary to social media hoax (Carolina Public Press analysis) -- The Congressional Budget Office has been flooded with calls from across the nation from people who want to be part of CBO’s count of those calling for public hearings on the U.S. Senate’s health reform bill. But the CBO isn’t keeping count of those calls, contrary to an Internet hoax that has spread widely on social media this week, CBO spokeswoman Deborah Kilroe told Carolina Public Press on Wednesday.


CRAIG BARTHWAITE & NICHOLAS BAGLEY: THE GOP’S UNCERTAIN STRATEGY (New York Times column) -- A decline in trust has already caused health insurers to rethink their relationships with their increasingly erratic federal partner. They’re demanding higher premiums to account for the greater risk. Blue Cross Blue Shield in North Carolina, for example, has said that its planned rate increase of 23 percent next year would be only 9 percent if it had more certainty from the federal government.


MICHAEL GORDON, JIM MORRILL & ELY PORTILLO: Local judge says he didn’t leave the Republican Party - the party left him (Charlotte Observer analysis) -- Longtime Republican Judge Lou Trosch of Charlotte says he is now a Democrat. He blames GOP legislative “assaults” on the judiciary.


Honoring a fallen soldier (Winston-Salem Journal) -- As we approach the Fourth of July holiday weekend, take a moment to remember U.S. Army Sgt. Dillon Christopher Baldridge, one of three U.S. soldiers killed in Afghanistan on June 10. A North Carolina son, he was buried in Ashe County, where his mother lives,


BETH HOPPING: What’s for lunch? Understanding school food (EdNC column) -- If I asked you to describe your own school lunch experiences in three words, would those words be mostly positive? Perhaps not. Many of us have school food memories that have stuck with us because they were rather unpleasant. Unfortunately, we tend to continue projecting those experiences from many years ago onto our expectations of what school food is today. School food is complicated, and most of us have opinions about it. But one thing is clear: most of us who do not work directly in school food do not really understand how it works.


JENNIFER ALLEN: Stewards Aim to Protect Beach-Nesting Birds (Coastal Review column) -- The Emerald Isle Waterbird Stewards Program, under the supervision of the Wildlife Resources Commission, is working to protect beach-nesting least terns and Wilson’s plovers, both of special concern in North Carolina.


KIRK ROSS: Asheville faces array of options in redistricting bill (Carolina Public Press analysis) -- A bill requiring that the Asheville City Council be elected from six geographical districts moved closer to final passage this week after more than a year of legislative efforts to change the city’s system of representation. Senate Bill 285, introduced early in the session by Sen. Chuck Edwards, R-Henderson, passed the House on second reading Tuesday afternoon in a 67-49 vote and is scheduled for a final vote Thursday. After that, the Senate would have to sign off on House changes before the bill would become law. Since it is a local bill, it is not subject to a veto by the governor.


Q&A: David Sedaris of Raleigh wants you to read his diary (New York Times interview) -- Your new book, ‘‘Theft by Finding,’’ is a compendium of your diary entries from 1977 to 2002. I take the title to mean that you ‘‘find’’ things of value that other people have discarded: their observations about themselves, their thoughts, their dialogue?

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