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Legislature creates school funding task force, but appears unwilling and unable to seriously examine NC’s school funding needs

Last week, the General Assembly announced which legislators will serve on the Joint Legislative Task Force on Education Finance Reform. The Task Force, created via the 2017 budget bill, is charged with developing recommendations to radically overhaul North Carolina’s school finance system. A serious review of North Carolina’s school finance system could substantially benefit the state. School funding matters, particularly for students in low-income families. Unfortunately, early indications suggest that the Task Force is uninterested in reforms that would actually improve educational delivery in the state.

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Fitzsimon File Top Story

New health care bill is a now familiar old pernicious plot

The latest effort in Washington to repeal and not actually replace the Affordable Care Act has a different name, the Cassidy-Graham plan, but it should look familiar.

It is essentially a proposal like the ones that came before it this year to make massive cuts in Medicaid, end subsidies that make it possible for low-income families to afford coverage and give insurance companies the ability to both charge people with pre-existing conditions more and offer sketchy policies that don’t cover essential benefits.

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Top Story Weekly Briefing

Civitas Institute still linking to anti-Semitic website

Conservative group “reviewing” bigoted attacks; funding from major NC corporations implicated Nearly a week after this column reported that the Raleigh-based Civitas Institute has been promoting a bigoted and frequently anti-Semitic website, the conservative group has issued only a brief and incomplete comment on the matter and is still linking visitors to the controversial site from its Carolina Plott Hound web platform.

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Environment Top Story

Oil and gas commission goes rogue, schedules illegal meeting to challenge fracking moratoriums

This story has been updated with comments from Jim Womack, who did not respond earlier to questions.

With energy companies anxious to start drilling, the two-year fracking moratoriums in Lee and Chatham County are expected to be challenged at a meeting of the state's Oil and Gas Commission this week. However, the legality of that meeting, scheduled for Wednesday in Sanford, is in question, as is the authority of the commission's purported chairman, Jim Womack.

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Fitzsimon File Top Story

Monday numbers

5---number of days since Senators Bill Cassidy and Lindsey Graham unveiled a new proposal to repeal and allegedly replace the Affordable Care Act that would dramatically cut federal funding for health care over the next ten years (Louisiana Advocate, September 15, 2017)

12---number of days until the September 30 deadline to pass ACA repeal and replace legislation on a simple-majority vote under the Senate procedure known as reconciliation (Ibid)

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Environment Top Story

In supporting the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a struggling nonprofit confronts a conflict of interest

For the 18 months, Gary Brown has been traveling through northeastern North Carolina like an itinerant preacher, singing the praises of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

“Atlantic’s decision to place its operations center in Northampton County is impressive and certainly welcomed,” he told the Roanoke-Chowan Herald in March 2016. “The project is critically important in serving the energy needs of residents, business and industry in the state and region, present and future. We appreciate the opportunity to be a part of that, and the trust they have placed in us.”

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Law and the Courts Top Story

Board of Education gets more time before possible transfer of power to Superintendent Mark Johnson

It will be at least another month before state Superintendent Mark Johnson can take over at the helm of the Department of Public Instruction, which leaves the Board of Education in charge of the state’s 1.5 million students and $10 billion budget.

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Progressive Voices Top Story

“DREAM” come true: DACA student from NC wins national college scholarship

When a Navy recruiter visited his high school, Carlos was among those students eager to sign up. In communities of North Carolina’s Outer Banks, there’s a long tradition of sending young men into the Navy and Coast Guard. “I thought if I could serve the country in the military, it could help to pay for my college education,” he said recently. “But they told me that since your Social Security card and your driver’s license allow you only to work and drive, we can’t take you.”

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Events Top Story

NC Policy Watch presents a special Crucial Conversation luncheon: Prof. Bryant Simon discusses his new book, “The Hamlet Fire: A Tragic Story of Cheap Food, Cheap Government and Cheap Lives”

For those too young or too new to North Carolina to remember, the horrific 1991 chicken plant fire at imperial Foods in Hamlet, North Carolina killed 25 workers and injured another 55. Workers were unable to escape the blaze because the plant’s owner, Emmett J. Roe, kept the doors padlocked and the windows boarded because he thought his low-wage workers might steal chicken.

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Education Top Story

Charter takeovers met with skepticism as director begins pitching model

Eric Hall, in the midst of a rainy drive to rural Robeson County to pitch North Carolina’s ambitious but controversial plan for a charter takeover of several low-performing schools, wants to set one thing straight.

“It’s not a takeover,” he says of the so-called Innovative School District (ISD) that he leads. “It’s about making conditions better locally.”

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Top Story Weekly Briefing

North Carolina conservatives must disavow allies’ bigoted hate speech

Website with ties to Civitas Institute promotes anti-Semitic attack on Attorney General Stein

There are a lot of deeply troubling and even shocking aspects to the ongoing rise in “white nationalism” and religious bigotry that plagues the American political landscape these days. First and foremost, of course, is the active participation of the president of the United States in the process. That the highest office in our land is being used in such a perverted way to aid and abet such a noxious cause remains a stunning and unacceptable reality that should sicken all people of good will on a daily basis.

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Environment Top Story

Web of local money, political connections behind legislature’s decision to bypass DEQ in GenX clean-up

The fire is elusive, but the smoke is thick.

An analysis of professional and political relationships among major players in the GenX crisis shows the connections that led to a controversial state appropriation in House Bill 56, and a contract between the Cape Fear utility and a public relations firm.

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Law and the Courts Top Story

More with less: With $3 million in the balance, initial AG cuts take effect

Changes from a $7 million budget cut to the North Carolina Department of Justice went into effect Sept. 1 and as expected, people are making do with less.

“The work is still getting done,” said Laura Brewer, spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s Office, adding that employees are committed to doing the work and serving the public.

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Policy Watch Investigates Top Story

Author of new book on tragic 1991 Hamlet chicken plant fire: Little of substance has changed

Twenty six years ago, one of the worst industrial accidents in U.S. history rocked the tiny town of Hamlet, North Carolina.

Twenty five workers died and 55 were injured when a grease fire broke out at the Imperial Food Products plant, which made cheap chicken tenders for chain restaurants like Long John Silvers. The victims, mostly black and female, struggled to get out of the building but found the doors locked from the outside. The plant’s owner, Emmett J. Roe, kept the doors padlocked and the windows boarded because he thought his low-wage workers might steal chicken.

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Fitzsimon File Top Story

Monday numbers

165---number of public schools that received a grade of A or A+ng on the A-F grading system for the 2016-2017 school year (2016–17 Performance and Growth of North Carolina Public Schools, N.C. Department of Public Instruction, September 7, 2017)

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Original Commentary Setting the Record Straight Top Story

Friday hurricane and climate change numbers

With apologies to the Fitzsimon File (which, happily, returns next week…)

2.0---Degrees Fahrenheit that global temperatures have risen since the 19th Century (National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s “Global Climate Change” website)

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