Opinion Roundup: Tim Moore’s private land deal, DMV closes Asheville office, flu death toll and more

House Speaker Tim Moore

Friday, Jan. 11, 2019 — A round up of opinion, commentary and analysis on: Friendship Trays fills a niche in Charlotte’s support system, Speaker’s aide buzzed DEQ staffers about boss’ chicken plant deal, giving HB2 an early sunset, gerrymandering lawsuits linger as next redistricting nears, how the government shutdown is affecting thousands in NC and more.

REAL ELECTION FRAUD?
MILES PARKS: ‘Whatever It Took’: Republican Mark Harris’ Path To The Election That Won’t End (NPR reports) — Today, Mark Harris is at the center of an election that just won’t end in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District. The outcome remains up in the air pending an investigation into allegations of election fraud by an operative hired by the Harris campaign. It’s the only remaining uncalled election of the 2018 midterms, but it’s just the latest bump in a half decade of setbacks as Harris has had his eyes set on joining Congress.

JOE BRUNO: Man who signed affidavit in 9th District investigation arrested on drug, weapons charges (WSOC-TV reports) –Chris Eason, a man who swore he gave his incomplete ballot to the central figure in an ongoing investigation of 9th Congressional District election was arrested earlier this month on marijuana charges. He is the brother of Ginger Eason. Ginger Eason told media outlets that McCrae Dowless hired her to collect absentee ballots.

GENERAL ASSEMBLY 2019
TRAVIS FAIN: Speaker’s aide buzzed DEQ staffers about boss’ chicken plant deal (WRAL reports) — A senior aide to House Speaker Tim Moore reached out to at least two state Department of Environmental Quality staffers about department actions that impacted a private land deal the speaker was involved with in 2016. Moore, R-Cleveland, denied knowledge of the conversations, saying that if now former senior policy adviser Mitch Gillespie intervened, he didn’t know about it.

LAUREN HORSCH: Bell Perspective (The Insider reports) — While the House Republican Caucus hasn’t set its agenda for the upcoming session starting on Jan. 30, the caucus is working to build rapport with its new members and work across the aisle. The caucus is holding a retreat at the end of the month to "lay out all the issues that we not only dealt with before we came in this session, but any new issues," House Majority Leader John Bell, R-Wayne, said. Once the retreat is over, he’ll be able to unveil the caucus’ priorities.

Senate Committee Appointments (The Insider reports) — Senate Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, today announced the following appointments to Senate standing committees for the 2019-2020 biennium:

Let’s give HB2 an early sunset (Fayetteville Observer) — It is the gift that keeps on giving. Unfortunately, it’s not a gift many of us want, because it’s a mix of job losses, public relations disasters and a host of other unintended consequences. It’s House Bill 2, the legislation our General Assembly passed amid raging controversy nearly two years ago. At its core was a provision requiring people who use public restrooms to use the facility that corresponds with the gender listed on their birth certificate.

POLICY & POLITICS
EMMA DUMAIN & BRIAN MURPHY Graham meets with White House on controversial judicial picks, including Thomas Farr (McClatchy DC reports) — New Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham met for the first time this year with White House officials on Thursday to discuss the fate of judicial nominees that languished in the previous Congress. That list included Thomas Farr. A candidate for a North Carolina federal district court judgeship, Farr’s chances of being confirmed last year ended because of concerns about his involvement in efforts to suppress African American turnout in North Carolina elections.

DAVID LIEB: Gerrymandering lawsuits linger as next redistricting nears (AP reports) — As the 2019 state legislative sessions get underway, a busy year of legal battles also is beginning over lingering allegations that hundreds of electoral districts across the country were illegally drawn to the disadvantage of particular voters or political parties.

WILL DORAN: Gay people can’t get restraining orders against their partners in NC. But that may change (Charlotte Observer reports) — Here’s one area where NC stands alone: It’s the only state in the country that won’t let people in same-sex dating relationships get a domestic violence protective order. Now, N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein is taking the rare step of calling the law unconstitutional in an effort to get it overturned in court.

A 63-year injustice (Fayetteville Observer) — Gov. Roy Cooper visited Pembroke earlier this week to speak at the inauguration ceremony for Lumbee tribal leaders. In his opening remarks, the governor said what many others have said before him: “It is high time that Congress and the federal government give full recognition to the Lumbee tribe. We know this would mean more important resources here.”

JIM MORRILL & MICHAEL GORDON: How the government shutdown is affecting thousands in NC (Charlotte Observer reports) — Sharda Lloyd is one of more than 6,300 North Carolinians who work for airport security, federal courts, national parks and other federal agencies who won’t be paid this week, according to the office of U.S. Rep. Alma Adams of Charlotte.

N.C. DMV closes Asheville office for probe, audit (AP reports) — The N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles has closed a license plate office in Asheville to investigate "possible violations of state law" and audit the office.

CHARLES DUNCAN: NC county fought for public prayer, and lost. Now it has to pay the ACLU $285k (Durham-Herald Sun reports) — A federal judge found the way the Rowan County Commission prayed before public meetings unconstitutional. An appeals court eventually agreed and the Supreme Court last summer declined to hear the case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, federal court records show. Now the county will have to pay the ACLU’s legal bills for the five-year legal fight: $285,000.

DEON ROBERTS: How did NC lure Honeywell to Charlotte? It was all about the money, records show (Charlotte Observer reports) — Changing N.C. law to vastly expand corporate relocation incentives was a critical move for Honeywell before the manufacturing tech giant would commit to moving to Charlotte, newly released documents from the state show.

TIM FUNK: Why hasn’t Charlotte Catholic diocese released list of priests accused of sex abuse? (Charlotte Observer reports) — Dozens of Catholic dioceses and religious orders across the country have, in recent months, released lists of priests who have been credibly accused of child sex abuse over the years. In NC, the 54-county Raleigh diocese published its list in October. But the Charlotte diocese, which includes the rest of the state, hasn’t yet.

MINDY HAMLIN: North Carolina’s airports pack big economic impact (WRAL-TV/TechWire reports) — North Carolina airports are big business for the state. According to a new report from the N.C. Department of Transportation’s Division of Airports, the state’s public airports contribute more than $52 billion to the economy and support 307,000 jobs.

EDUCATION
LIZ SCHLEMMER: Statewide "Read to Achieve" Intervention Still Shows Few Gains (WUNC-FM reports) — North Carolina’s Read to Achieve program, enacted by the General Assembly in 2012, is continuing to get lackluster results. The program is a statewide intervention for third grade students who are not proficient in reading. Struggling students are placed in summer reading camps, receive other specialized instruction, and could be held back if they do not pass an alternative test.

NC won’t take over low-performing school. District has 2 years to turn things around. (Durham Herald-Sun reports) — The State Board of Education reversed its decision to take over Carver Heights Elementary in Goldsboro. Wayne County Public Schools has two years to improve the school’s performance or else the Innovative School District will take it over.

FERREL GUILLORY: In quest for bright ideas, don’t stint on fundamentals (EdNC column) — Today’s society promotes and rewards innovation, creativity, entrepreneurship, discovery, reinvention; and, especially in education, reform. In politics and public life, the quest is often for the next bright idea, the program or project that promises a solution to a confounding problem — and a measure of credit to an elected official. As the great debate over education proceeds through 2019, NC will face the challenge of blending new ideas and enduring fundamentals.

HEALTH
YEN DUONG: Friendship Trays fills a niche in Charlotte’s support system (NC Health News reports) — Charlotte’s main Meals on Wheels program, Friendship Trays, brings nutritious meals to people who cannot prepare their own and serves as part of a social support network.

Death toll from flu in NC climbs to 16 (AP reports) — The N.C. Division of Public Health said Thursday four of the six flu victims were ages 65 and older, with the other two in the 50-to-64 age group. Of the total, 12 flu victims were 65 and older.

ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT
MARK HIBBS: Spate of Fed, State Bills Would Block Drilling (Coastal Review Online reports) — As the Trump administration continues its push to open more U.S. coastal waters to offshore drilling, House Democrats introduced this week a barrage of bills that together would block new drilling for oil and natural gas on nearly all of the outer continental shelf.

ANTIONETTE KERR: Task Force Seeks Input on NC’s Climate Plan (Public News Service reports) — With a charge to take immediate action from the governor, the NC Climate Change Interagency Council wants the state’s plans to fight climate change to be a household discussion.

TAFT WIREBACK: Residents, environmentalists push for coal ash landfill (Greensboro News & Record reports) — Advocates for entombing Belews Creek Steam Station’s submerged coal ash in a lined landfill turned out in force Thursday at a meeting about the fate of the Stokes County power plant’s ash basin. The meeting hosted by the state Department of Environmental Quality at Walnut Cove Elementary School drew a crowd of about 150 to talk with regulators about how the Duke Energy plant’s basin should be closed.

BRYAN MIMS: No longer able to command top dollar for recyclables, some communities cut back collections (WRAL-TV reports) — The marketplace is overflowing with recyclable stuff, thanks in large part to China, meaning prices have hit the floor. One solid waste director said that while the recycling market is expected to rebound, it will never be what it was five years ago.

ADAM WAGNER: What do Wilmington’s state reps think about the GenX order? (Wilmington Star-News reports) — A pair of second-term representatives from New Hanover County are emblematic of the split in opinion over the order, which calls on Chemours to pay a $12 million fine, take actions to clean up GenX contamination around its Fayetteville Works plant, and prevent additional chemicals from reaching the environment.

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