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Law and the Courts Top Story

Senate committee rehashes 2020 battles over election rules – here’s what happened and what they were debating

Republicans on the Senate Redistricting and Elections Committee questioned the legitimacy of rule changes enacted last year by the State Board of Elections in a contentious two-hour hearing Tuesday with the board's executive director Karen Brinson Bell. Sen. Paul Newton, a Cabarrus County Republican co-chairing the committee, described the board's settlement with voting rights groups, which resulted in a modified process of voting, as "secretly negotiated" and motivated by partisan advantage.

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News Policy Watch Investigates Top Story

Bill seeks to prevent transgender women from competing on women’s athletic teams

A new bill introduced this week in the N.C. House would ban transgender women from competing on women’s athletic teams at public schools and universities, superseding policies that have existed in major sports organizations for at least a decade.

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COVID-19 Education News Top Story

Decision to reopen schools forces resignation of popular Durham teacher who’d been teaching from overseas

Supporters' pleas for school district to allow Jordan High chorus teacher to continue virtual instruction prove unsuccessful     Late last year, Corrine Huber gambled big when she decided to accompany her husband to Denmark for his work.  At the time, it seemed like a safe bet for the Durham Public Schools’ chorus teacher. The Board of Education had implemented remote learning for the rest of the school year.

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News Top Story

Durham’s McDougald Terrace disaster, one year later

A year ago, hundreds of families were evacuated from a Durham public housing community just as the pandemic hit. The crisis caused some lasting impacts. Freezing rain was coming down, and firefighters were going door to door telling residents of McDougald Terrace that they needed to pack some belongings and go to the office immediately. Carbon monoxide was leaking into the public housing complex in Durham, and they needed to get out.

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COVID-19 News Top Story

Hunger soars in NC in the wake of the pandemic

Nonprofits, food banks expand, but still struggle to serve all the people who can't afford groceries  A crew of workers recently parceled flour, bags of broccoli, bottled water, bread, and other essentials into boxes, as vehicles lined up in the parking lot of a Durham apartment complex.

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News Top Story

Monday numbers: A sobering look at the hate crimes that have targeted Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders

Spat upon, assaulted, harassed: The pandemic helps spawn an epidemic of hatred and violence During the first nine months of pandemic, when former President Donald Trump chose to inaccurately call the coronavirus the "China virus," he fomented, if not tacitly sanctioned animosity and discrimination toward people of Asian descent.

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News Policy Watch Investigates Top Story

PW special report – The battle for Alamance: A look at the past and present of one of North Carolina’s most divided counties

Part one: A troubled history of racism, violence and repression On a cold and drizzly February night in 1870 a mob of Klansmen came for Wyatt Outlaw, the first Black town commissioner of Graham. Wearing robes and hoods, and armed with torches, swords and pistols, some 20 men broke down the door of his home on Main Street.

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Education Top Story

Legislation to make autism services more accessible on the fast track at the General Assembly

Bipartisan Senate and House bills would follow lead of other states in licensing behavior analysts It’s difficult to imagine that a child being diagnosed with autism could bring relief to parents, but that’s what happened to Kyle Robinson and his wife, Bonnie.

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Higher Ed Top Story

Democrat Joel Ford, straddling the political fence between right and left, elected to conservative UNC Board of Governors

Former State Sen. Joel Ford was elected to the UNC Board of Governors Wednesday, becoming the conservative-dominated board’s only Democrat. The N.C. Senate chose Ford to replace Darrell Allison, who stepped down from the board to become the new chancellor of Fayetteville State University.

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Environment Top Story

Natural gas gets a pass in new bill to further curb local government authority

A bill before the legislature would give preferential treatment to the natural gas industry, which has embarked on a nationwide push to force local governments to keep using the fossil fuel. House Bill 220 would prohibit cities and counties in North Carolina from adopting ordinances to limit the expansion of (or connections to) natural gas service. The measure's primary sponsors are Reps. Dean Arp, John Szoka, Charles Miller and Jason Saine, all Republicans.

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COVID-19 Law and the Courts News Top Story

NC courts expand in-person proceedings, but online options may not be going anywhere

As with many other public and private institutions, the North Carolina court system is slowly but surely reopening to more in-person proceedings as COVID-19 infection and death rates continue to trend downward. It could, however, be a very long time before things return to "normal." Indeed, if recently introduced legislation and the assessments of some experts end up holding sway, online proceedings could become a permanent part of state judicial proceedings.

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News Top Story

Monday numbers: A closer look at the case for reparations for Black Americans

Last week Policy Watch spoke with Dr. William Darity, professor of Public Policy at Duke University, about his book, From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century. Co-authored with A. Kirsten Mullen, the book examines the issues and makes the case for financial reparations to Black Americans, who have been historically been systematically denied financial, social and political equality in America.

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COVID-19 News Top Story

More than 100,000 N.C. children could be lifted out of poverty by federal stimulus bill

Expanded child tax credit is called a "game changer" The economic stimulus bill President Joe Biden signed Thursday includes provisions that will move millions of children out of poverty and will begin making direct payments to families by the middle of this year.

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News Policy Watch Investigates Top Story

COVID infections and deaths shine a light of NC’s lax workplace safety oversight

When COVID-19 hit North Carolina in 2020, complaints about the safety of workers flooded the state agency charged with their protection. Yet, state Department of Labor officials didn’t have enforceable standards to widely issue citations and conduct inspections and then-Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry determined that no new standards for COVID were needed.

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Environment News Top Story

Federal lawsuits reveal corporate intrigue behind controversial Lumberton wood pellet plant

Active Energy left Utah to build a wood pellet plant in Lumberton. Court documents describe a Jenga tower of "alter egos" allegedly designed to shield the firm from responsibility. Philip Scalzo and Daniel McCarthy were living large, pulling down $12,000 to $15,000 a month, plus expenses and benefits as top-tier workers for Active Energy Group.

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COVID-19 News Top Story

Congress clears giant $1.9T emergency relief package for Biden’s signature

Nearly $9 billion in direct aid headed for North Carolina WASHINGTON — A sweeping $1.9 trillion coronavirus stimulus package is headed to President Joe Biden’s desk after the U.S. House passed the latest pandemic relief measure Wednesday on a party-line vote.

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