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Opinion Roundup: U.S. Supreme Court takes on gerrymandering, Cooper boosts education spending, Burr and Tillis seek to protect N.C. solar industry

Posted February 6, 2018 8:33 a.m. EST
Updated February 6, 2018 8:37 a.m. EST

Gerrymandering  (Tom Brenner/The New York Times)

Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018 -- A roundup of opinion, commentary and analysis: the U.S.Supreme Court rejects gerrymandering effort, Cooper boosts education spending, Burr and Tillis seek to protect N.C. solar industry, Stein says workers need to keep tips and a landmark hotel in Elizabeth City is threatened.


GERRYMANDERING & COURTS
​Judge acts to prevent chaos and confusion (Greensboro News & Record) -- Two leading Republican state legislators, Rep. David Lewis and Sen. Ralph Hise, accused U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles of “injecting chaos and confusion into North Carolina elections” last week.

​ADAM LPITAK: Justices Won’t Block Pennsylvania Gerrymandering Decision (New York Times analysis) -- The U.S. Supreme Court refused to stop Pennsylvania’s highest court from requiring lawmakers there to redraw the state’s congressional map, which the state court had found to be marred by partisan gerrymandering. The order, which gave no reasons, came from Justice Samuel Alito, who acted without referring the case to the full court. The Supreme Court has been busy lately addressing cases on partisan gerrymandering, in which the party in power draws voting districts to give its candidates lopsided advantages. It is considering two such cases, from Wisconsin and Maryland, and has intervened in a third one, from North Carolina.

​ROBERT BARNES: Supreme Court refuses to block Pa. ruling invalidating congressional map (Washington Post analysis) -- The decision means 2018 elections in the state will probably be held with districts far more favorable to Democrats.

​RICHARD WOLF: Court fights could erase some of GOPs' edge in Congress, legislatures (USA TODAY analysis) -- The political battle for control of Congress and state legislatures in November and beyond has Democrats and Republicans decrying election maps as unconstitutional while simultaneously fighting over who will draw them in the future.

​IAN MILLHISER: Penn. Republican launches effort to impeach state supreme court to save GOP gerrymander (ThinkProgress column) -- In a direct attack on the rule of law, Pennsylvania state Rep. Cris Dush (R) sent a memo to his colleagues Monday evening asking them to cosponsor articles of impeachment against five of the state’s seven supreme court justices. The justices’ crime? Striking down the state’s gerrymandered congressional maps, which allowed Republicans to win 13 of the state’s 18 congressional seats even in election years when Democrats won a majority of the statewide popular vote.

POLICY & POLITICS
​​AMES ALEXANDER: Mother of slain prison officer blames state, asks why 4 more had to die (Charlotte Observer analysis) -- The mother of a slain NC prison sergeant denounces the state for failing to take steps that might have prevented the deaths of four more prison employees.

​GINGER LIVINGSTON: Commissioners forced to award ambulance contract to western N.C. company, not local one (Greenville Daily Reflector analysis) -- Pitt County commissioners said they have to follow state rules and purchase remounted ambulances from a company located about 275 miles away instead of a Falkland-based company.

​TAFT WIREBACK: State transportation officials explore medical drones (Greensboro News & Record analysis) -- The state Division of Aviation wants to test the use of unmanned aircraft for medical deliveries in North Carolina as part of a new federal initiative. The division recently submitted a proposal to the Federal Aviation Administration that would explore using drones to deliver medical supplies ranging from blood transfusions to test results and medications.

​​Highway chief wants new debt type to keep up project pace (AP news analysis) -- North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper's transportation chief wants the legislature to permit a new category of debt to help the state keep spending hundreds of millions of dollars more annually on pending projects on its construction blueprint.

​​Bonner Bridge replacement requires 3-month channel closure (AP news analysis) -- North Carolina transportation officials say construction on the replacement for the Bonner Bridge will require closing the navigation channel in Oregon Inlet.

​THOMAS KAPLAN: House Pushes Another Stopgap Bill as Government Shutdown Looms (New York Times analysis) -- Inclusion of the military funding is expected to secure the votes of reluctant Republicans in the House, including members of the conservative Freedom Caucus, allowing party leaders to push the measure through their chamber even if the vast majority of Democrats oppose it. “It’s a good play call,” said N.C. Republican Rep. Mark Meadows, chairman of the Freedom Caucus, who just last week had suggested his caucus was not likely to support another temporary spending measure.

​Attorneys general in several states oppose federal tips plan (AP news analysis) -- Attorneys general in over a dozen states, including North Carolina, oppose a federal Department of Labor proposal to let employers control the tips of some hourly employees.

EDUCATION
​LAURA LESLIE: Cooper says business must use clout to push for education spending over tax cuts WRAL-TV analysis) -- Gov. Roy Cooper wants North Carolina business leaders to speak up for public education funding by telling the legislature to block additional income tax cuts set to take effect next year.

​LIZ SCHLEMMER: Cooper Calls For More Pre-K And Public School Investment (WUNC-FM analysis) – Gov. Roy Cooper is urging business leaders to pressure the General Assembly to make funding for education a higher priority.

​JASON PARKER: Students who ignore post-h.s. education, training take economic hit (WRAL-TV/TechWire) -- As thought leaders from around North Carolina gather in Raleigh for the Emerging Issues forum on Monday and Tuesday, a new study highlights concerns expressed at the forum about education and children’s futures under the theme “kidonomics.” The report by RTI International found that 28 percent of students enrolled in ninth grade in 2009 had not yet enrolled in a trade school or college by February 2016—six-and-a-half years later.

​LIZ SCHLEMMER: 5 Questions About North Carolina's New Education Savings Account (WUNC-FM analysis) -- The Education Savings Account is a new state program that allows families of qualified children with disabilities to apply for a taxpayer-funded account to pay for educational expenses while attending a private school.

​KERI BROWN: NC Schools in limbo between textbook shortages and promises of a digital future (EdNC analysis) – Fifth grade teacher Van Newkirk, like many other educators, has to piece together his learning materials to meet students’ needs. All this as funding for textbooks plunged during the recession. In 2009, textbook funding per student was around $67. The following year, it was under $2. The money has increased over time but is still not at pre-recession levels. The latest information available shows that for the 2016-2017 school year, textbook funding per student was around $41.

​LIZ BELL: Political, nonprofit, and business leaders discuss early childhood development at IEI forum (EdNC analysis) – Heather Bain works with middle and high school students. She showed up to learn from early childhood education leaders at North Carolina State University’s Institute for Emerging Issues two-day “kidoNomiCs” forum. This comprehensive look at education — across institutions and ages — was echoed by political, business, and education advocates and researchers

​MANDY MITCHELL: NC State mulls next moves for campus physical design (WRAL-TV analysis) -- With a lot of land undeveloped, N.C. State administrators are wondering what they can and should do to improve campus physical grounds.

​VALERIE STRAUSS: Why education matters to your health, literally (Washington Post column) -- Look at the data. In fact, a new study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill suggests that.

​AMANDA LAMB: Teen vaping use grows along with parental concern about the trend (WRAL-TV analysis) -- While the number of teens smoking cigarettes has significantly declined, vaping appears to be growing in popularity, a trend that has raised concern among many parents.

​At UNC, medical school teaches future physicians how to properly prescribe opioids (Daily Tar Heel analysis) -- As an unprecedented epidemic of opioid use and overprescription is rippling throughout the United States, UNC's Department of Pharmacology in the School of Medicine is tasked with training future physicians proper prescription practices.

ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT
​STEPHANIE CARSON: Duke Researchers Find Radioactive Contamination in Fracking Wastewater (Public News Service analysis) -- North Carolina legalized fracking as a method of drilling for natural gas in 2014. While no permits have been issued, there is growing concern about the impact the practice will have on the health of the state's residents if and when fracking's wastewater is released. A team of scientists at Duke University has found highly-elevated levels of radioactive deposits in the mud where three Pennsylvania treatment plants release wastewater.

​ADAM WAGNER: Solar tariffs could cost N.C. hundreds of jobs (Wilmington Star-News analysis) -- A Trump Administration decision to impose tariffs on imported solar panels could slow the growth of the solar industry, including in North Carolina, according to industry officials. Republican Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis have vocally opposed the imposition of a tariff, citing the industry’s growing importance to the state.

​No to drilling (Winston-Salem Journal) -- The drilling for oil and natural gas off North Carolina’s coast that the Interior Department wants is too risky for our fine shore. Good for Attorney General Josh Stein for helping to lead the charge to stop this wrongheaded and potentially disastrous policy.

​KIRK ROSS: Cooper Warns Zinke of Lawsuit Over Drilling (Coastal Review analysis) -- After Gov. Roy Cooper’s meeting with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke Saturday in Raleigh, he and other opponents of offshore drilling and seismic exploration remained determined to fight the Trump

… AND MORE
​JOE MAGNO: Nanotechnology is becoming ever-bigger business in N.C. (WRAL-TV/TechWire column) -- At last count North Carolina has well over 100 nanotechnology focused companies including Cree, Qorvo, Phononics, Liquidia, and hundreds of others that leverage nano in their products. So … you could say that nano is a big industry in our State

​D.G. MARTIN: Renewing the search for North Carolina home cooking (Winston-Salem Journal column) -- This week my editors are letting me take a break from politics and books to write about my favorite topic, roadside eateries.

​JEFF HAMPTON: Once grand, now aging Southern Hotel in Elizabeth City will have to wait for restoration (Virginian-Pilot column) -- The four-story brick building was once one of the largest hotels in North Carolina.

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