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News

Environment Top Story

Proposed loosening of coal ash rules draws overwhelming opposition at EPA hearing

Clutching a toy panda bear for comfort, 8-year-old Alivia Hopkins had traveled from Illinois to stand atop this chair in the Washington Ballroom of the Doubletree Hilton Hotel in Arlington, Va.

A Daisy Scout, Hopkins wore badges on her sash, tassels on her knee socks and a bow in her hair. Before a panel of three Environmental Protection Agency officials, she peered over the podium and delivered a speech, imploring them not to weaken federal coal ash rules.

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Education Top Story

School takeover group’s payment to ex-lawmaker raises ethics questions

An ex-North Carolina lawmaker received financial benefits for his work with a nonprofit that stands to win a state contract with the public school takeover program he helped create, documents obtained by Policy Watch show. A state disclosure form shows Rob Bryan, a former Charlotte legislator...

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Policy Watch Investigates Top Story

National pretrial expert: Reform is coming to the broken cash bail system

When Cherise Fanno Burdeen talks about the U.S. justice system, she’s speaking from more than 20 years of experience. After getting her Master’s degree in Criminal Justice at Indiana University, she worked with the Department of Justice’s National Institute of Justice, did post-9/11 work with the Department of Homeland Security and field work with the Safer Foundation in Chicago.

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Education Top Story

Following lead of other states, NC teachers plan big march and rally for legislature’s May return

“I could choose to do anything else with $50.” But Anca Stefan, a high school English teacher in a Durham public school, says she’ll fork over the $50 next month to take a “personal day” and join hundreds of her local colleagues to promote school funding increases at the N.C. General Assembly.

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Environment Top Story

NC State scientists: GenX will be in Cape Fear River, tap water for years to come; health effects need more study

The Cape Fear River is damaged, contaminated by decades of human malfeasance, negligence and ignorance.

For those reasons, NC State University scientists told a crowd of 75 New Hanover County residents last night, it will be years before their tap water is completely free of GenX and other fluorinated compounds.

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Defending Democracy Law and the Courts Top Story

Snail mail responses from legislative operations chief Paul Coble appear to violate state public records law

Legislative Services Officer Paul Coble appears to be violating the state public records law and is forcing taxpayers to foot the bill for communications with reporters that could be free. There aren’t any formal policies at the Legislative Services Office (which Coble oversees and that is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the General Assembly) to address communications with reporters or compliance with public records laws, but Coble has informally decided to use the U.S. Postal Service for all of them.

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Education Top Story

Monday numbers: A tale of three Halifax Counties

This morning, the state Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the pivotal case of Silver, et al. v. Halifax County Board of Commissioners. At issue is plaintiffs' claim that the maintenance of three, racially segregated school districts in relatively small Halifax County has propped up a system of inequality that favors one predominantly white school district over two predominantly Black school districts.

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Environment

DEQ, Duke agree on (small) penalty for illegal leaks from coal ash basins

Duke Energy has been fined $156,000 for 21 illegal seeps from coal ash basins at its Allen, Marshall and Cliffside/Rogers plants, according to a Special Order of Consent unanimously approved by the Environmental Management Commission today.

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Policy Watch Investigates Top Story

Experts: We already know how to reform the state’s flawed cash bail system

In a 2016 report, the North Carolina Commission on the Administration of Law and Justice called for pretrial justice reform – reform that would move the state away from a de facto system of requiring all criminal defendants to post a cash bail in order be released from jail prior to their day in court.

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Defending Democracy Law and the Courts Top Story

Pioneering women celebrate progress in the judiciary, make the case for more at Supreme Court ceremony

There have only been seven women to serve on the state Supreme Court in its 199-year history. In comparison, 92 men have served during that time.

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Education Top Story

Controversial former charter principal’s involvement raises more concerns about takeover of Robeson County school

When a politically-connected nonprofit takes over work in a languishing Robeson County elementary this year, they’ll do so amid questions about their experience and capacity for reaching at-risk children. But the concerns may go even deeper, a Policy Watch review has found.

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Law and the Courts Top Story

Modern families unprotected by outdated NC laws

Giselle Meléndez had five miscarriages, went through three In Vitro Fertilization cycles and had to wait five years before finally becoming a mother.

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Environment Top Story

You can’t photograph a smell: Lawyers, witnesses debate hog farm stench at Smithfield nuisance trial

There were no scratch ’n’ sniff cards. No fetid fragrance strips like those frequently found in fashion magazines. No pictures of the stench, since it’s impossible to photograph a smell.

Yet in federal court this week, plaintiffs’ attorneys began their task of convincing a jury that the rancid odor of feces and urine emanating from an industrialized swine farm is not merely annoying. Rather, for the 10 plaintiffs who live within a mile of the farm in Bladen County, these intrusions meet the legal definition of a nuisance: an “excessive or unreasonable” impediment to the enjoyment of their private property.

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Policy Watch Investigates Top Story

Veteran NC judges: State’s bail system is a “scam,” “immoral,” and in need of “massive change”

Gregory Weeks had a distinguished career as as judge for Fourth Division of the Superior Court of North Carolina and Senior Resident Superior Court Judge for the 12th Judicial District.

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Education Top Story

Big questions regarding capacity, connections plague Innovative School District contractor

State Board of Education expected to approve controversial group for Robeson school takeover this week

When North Carolina’s top school board meets this week, it will consider the fate of an ethically knotty contract for the takeover of a struggling Robeson County elementary school.

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Defending Democracy Law and the Courts Top Story

Five questions with the co-leaders of the North Carolina Green Party

The North Carolina General Assembly passed a law last year making it easier for third parties to get on the ballot, and the Green Party has achieved official status. The Electoral Freedom Act of 2017 is probably best known for its elimination of judicial election primaries this year, but the bill also eased ballot restrictions for third parties.

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