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Law and the Courts

House subcommittee advances another “austerity” budget for Justice and Public Safety

The House unveiled pieces of its budget Thursday morning at various appropriation committee meetings, and lawmakers wasted no time reading it and getting through the amendment process.

The Justice and Public Safety (JPS) budget provides funding for four agencies: Department of Public Safety, Department of Justice, Indigent Defense Services and the Administrative Office of the Courts.

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Education Top Story

Republicans advance education budget over strong Democratic objections

A key House committee signed off on the chamber’s public school budget report Thursday, despite Democrats’ complaints that they had only just received the details of that multi-billion dollar spending plan that morning.

“We’re looking at a $17.5 billion budget that we’ve seen for the first time today and we’re going to vote on it in three hours,” said Rep. Henry “Mickey” Michaux, a veteran House Democrat from Durham, Thursday morning. “No, hell no.”

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Environment Top Story

Former House Speaker tried to strong-arm DEQ over chemicals in Jordan Lake

Harold Brubaker, the former Republican House Speaker turned powerful lobbyist, tried to ram through a scientifically dubious cleanup project for Jordan Lake and allegedly used hurricane relief funding as leverage, according to emails obtained by NCPW under the Open Records law.

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Policy Watch Investigates Top Story

Industry-backed cellphone tower bill advances despite consumer concerns

A bill to limit local regulation of small cell towers is moving to a full House vote, despite concerns over health effects and local control of tower sites.

House Bill 310, backed by the communications industry, is a first step to the creation of 5G wireless networks throughout North Carolina. But such networks would rely on millions of small cell towers rather than fewer large ones. The bill would allow companies to install them in public right of way areas.

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Law and the Courts Top Story

Assessing the Supreme Court’s gerrymandering decision

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that the North Carolina GOP drew unconstitutionally racially gerrymandered congressional districts, but what does it mean and where do lawmakers go from here?

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Environment

The $1 million mystery: The Senate budget gives a low-risk hazardous waste site a major windfall — at the expense of hundreds of critical projects

Off a stub of Pine Grove Road behind the West End fire station in Havelock, an old sand mine turned wayward recycling facility has become an environmental and civic albatross. The 34-acre former Phoenix Recycling site contains an assortment of wood, metal, plastic and cardboard — plus construction and demolition detritus that has been illegally dumped there since the company closed and declared bankruptcy in 2000.

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News

House members push to clean up Senate’s budget ‘mess’

As the N.C. House puts together its budget this week, the same thought is on the minds of representatives from both parties.

“It looks like we’re going to have to clean up the Senate’s mess again,” said Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Guilford). “The way it usually works now is that the Senate budget is the low bar, the House budget is more reasonable and we’ll end up somewhere in the middle.”

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Education Top Story

Veteran House Democrats question the substance and process behind Senate budget proposal

Wednesday was the 63rd anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education ruling, the milestone U.S. Supreme Court case that ordered an end to racial segregation in American public schools.

That fact hasn’t escaped Rep. Henry Michaux’s attention as the veteran Democrat—the longest-serving member in the state House and a civil rights hero in Durham—shreds a $22.9 billion spending plan approved by the Senate shortly after 3 a.m. last Friday.

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Law and the Courts Top Story

The lowdown on NC’s “Raise the Age” legislation

A Q&A with key players ahead of today’s House vote

House lawmakers are expected to vote today on House Bill 280, a bill that would raise the age of juvenile prosecution from 16 and 17 years old to 18 years old.

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News

The Senate budget proposal: A guide to the big picture and the details

The North Carolina Senate is expected to give final approval to its proposed 2017-19 state budget some time very late tonight or early tomorrow. While many details contained in the 361 page bill and the 499 page spending report that accompanies it will not come to light for many days, NC Policy Watch reporters and policy analysts at the NC Budget and Tax Center have been doing their utmost to quickly digest and summarize the proposal.

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Education Top Story

Despite GOP claims, education advocates say Senate budget fails to repair damage to public schools

The N.C. Senate’s $22.9 billion budget plan may be rolling swiftly through the chamber this week. But public education advocates—given just hours to review the massive budget document after it was posted online early Wednesday—say the Senate’s GOP leadership is shortchanging teachers and students with their latest spending package.

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Law and the Courts Top Story

Next “Raise the Age” battle will be making sure some felonies remain in law

As legislation to raise the juvenile age of prosecution gains steam, advocates are preparing for their next big hurdle in getting a law on the books.

North Carolina is currently the only state in the nation that prosecutes 16- and 17-year-olds as adults. House Bill 280 would raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction for those teens charged with misdemeanors and low-level, nonviolent felonies.

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Education Top Story

General Assembly must still provide $293 million in teacher money to settle class-size debate

On April 27th, the General Assembly passed, and the Governor signed, House Bill 13, bringing a temporary reprieve to North Carolina’s great class-size debate. The bill delayed the unfunded class-size requirements by one year, preserving elementary school students’ access to “enhancement courses” such as art, music, technology, and physical education for the 2017-18 school year.

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Environment Top Story

Gov. Cooper vetoes hog nuisance bill; new court documents show fecal bacteria from hogs on homes

Gov. Roy Cooper has vetoed House Bill 467, which would sharply curb the rights of private property owners to sue hog farmers in so-called nuisance lawsuits.The bill had passed the House 68-47, and the Senate 74-42.

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Policy Watch Investigates Top Story

Republican-controlled legislature looks to flex political muscle at the local level once again

With crossover behind them, the final negotiations over new laws have begun in the General Assembly.

Among the bills advancing is Senate Bill 285, which would break the Asheville City Council - now elected at-large by the entire city - into six districts with only the mayor elected at-large.

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Law and the Courts Top Story

Up in the air: Bill that would reshape specialty courts leaves uncertain fate for current programs

In a perfect world, every county from Murphy to Manteo would have a state-funded specialty court to address and treat substance abuse and mental health, reduce recidivism and encourage accountability.

In reality, North Carolina stopped funding specialty courts six years ago, and the Administrative Office of the Courts wants to change the law in such a way that could put the future of locally-funded current programs and its clients in jeopardy.

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