Daily dose

GERRY COHEN: Celebrated as the Legislature’s ‘Consummate Professional' (WUNC-FM) -- One of the most respected and beloved figures at the General Assembly is about to retire. Gerry Cohen will soon finish his current job as the special counsel for the state legislature, where he was first hired as a staff attorney back in 1977. Later, he became head of the bill drafting division, where his encyclopedic memory and reputation for fairness made him a favorite among Democrats and Republicans alike. … "We have a non-partisan central staff, which is the model in like 40-plus states, where central staff works for both parties and both houses," said Cohen. "That was a really good experience, I liked doing that. Some states have separate House and Senate staffs, some states have separate Democratic and Republican staffs."

Prolonged legislative session takes toll on Tillis’ U.S. Senate campaign (AP) — Instead of being able to focus full-time on unseating Democrat Kay Hagan, Thom Tillis is spending a key stretch of his U.S. Senate campaign managing North Carolina's protracted legislative session.

Koch family ‘maxes out’ for Thom Tillis campaign (Raleigh News & Observer) -- A day after a Democratic-aligned group accused Republican Thom Tillis of being “like family” to the Koch brothers, a report shows the family recently gave his campaign the maximum in direct donations. Charles Koch, his wife, son and daughter-in-law each gave Tillis the maximum $2,600 contribution, according to his campaign finance report made public Wednesday. Tillis, the House speaker, reported the combined $10,400 in donations on June 26 and 27. Earlier this year, he reported a $5,000 donation from the Koch Industries PAC. Koch and his brother, David, the billionaire conservative donors reviled by Democrats, also are boosting Tillis’ campaign through various outside groups they support. Tillis is one of a select group of candidates getting showered with millions in Koch family money this campaign season.

Control of Senate May Hinge on Georgia Race (New York Times) -- After David Perdue’s victory in the Republican primary, he will face off against the Democrat Michelle Nunn in what many in both parties see as a race crucial to gaining a majority in the Senate. The contest, which will be one of the most closely watched races of 2014 and one of few where Democrats have hopes of taking a Republican-held seat, could determine control of the Senate. It will play out in a Republican-leaning state where Democrats, citing shifting demographics and an influx of minority voters, believe they can make inroads. “Republicans just can’t afford to lose it,” said Merle Black, a political scientist at Emory University in Atlanta, “and Democrats really need to win it.” … Democrats are trying — with help from Mr. Perdue’s primary challengers, who have supplied ammunition. On Wednesday, after Mr. Perdue secured his runoff victory over Representative Jack Kingston, an 11-term congressman, the Georgia Democratic Party released Internet video clips from a blistering Republican primary debate. In it, Mr. Kingston ridiculed Mr. Perdue for living in a “gated community,” while Representative Phil Gingrey, a former challenger, went after him for his management of Pillowtex, a North Carolina company that closed, leading to layoffs of 4,000 workers, after Mr. Perdue briefly served as its chief executive. “You once again hit the gold mine, and the poor employees got the shaft,” Mr. Gingrey said in the debate.

Politicians point fingers about coal ash policy (Huntersville Herald) -- A Greenpeace and Charlotte Environmental Action message to N.C. Speaker of the House and Congressional candidate Thom Tills fell on deaf ears in the form of a locked door. A handful of activists showed up at Tillis’ Cornelius campaign office July 17 in an attempt to present staff with a large fake check, made out to Thom Tillis for $10 billion and “signed” by Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good. The action calls into question what the groups feel is a weakening of a coal ash cleanup bill under Tillis’ House leadership to put it more in favor of the energy powerhouse. The amount, $10 billion, is Duke Energy’s estimation of what it would cost to clean up all of its sites if the bill required it.

It's Not Your Imagination: Political Moderates Are On The Decline (WUNC-FM) -- Last week voters in North Carolina chose Baptist minister Mark Walker over Phil Berger Jr. in the 6th District Republican primary runoff. Walker was arguably the more conservative of the two candidates. A new study in the Journal of Politics finds that political moderates are less likely to run for Congress. The study looked at state legislatures around the country. "State legislative office has traditionally been viewed as the pipeline to Congressional office," says Danielle Thomsen, author of the study and a post doctoral student at Duke. "More than half the members of Congress have state legislature backgrounds."

SHORT SESSION DAY 72; Overtime 24, $1.2 million
Vitriol, asperity and acrimony (National Law Review) -- Unease on Jones Street has shifted just a tad for the worse. … The lack of legislative progress the last three weeks is becoming its own thing. This morning we learned via the twitter feed of one state senator that the Governor spent some time with the Senate Republican Caucus this morning discussing budget sticking points, and there may be positive developments. Later, in committee, that tweeting senator was invited out for some "hallway hang time" with a member of leadership. (A caucus meeting is private and closed to the public so it's mysterious. A caucus member tweeting about a caucus meeting makes it not). Later the Majority Leader told reporters that the Governor and the caucus had "good dialogue" but did not reach agreement. … For the third time in two weeks (word is that) someone in Senate Leadership will do what he can to keep Thom Tillis from being elected to the US Senate. The longer this legislature is not wrapping things up, not finalizing and budget and not passing some of the bills that are important to Speaker Tillis and the House, the harder … it will be for him to unseat incumbent U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan in November.

State Lawmakers Plod Along Without Budget In Sight (WUNC-FM) -- Senate lawmakers considered a number of items today, while many House lawmakers took the time to pay homage to the late Republican Rep. Jim Fulghum. There's still no official word on whether budget writers might be close to an agreement on a spending plan for this fiscal year. So in the meantime, lawmakers are publicly pursuing other measures. In the morning, a Senate Rules Committee approved a bill that would restore Fayetteville's red-light cameras, but the committee shelved another that would have allowed license-plate scanners on highways.

Wrangling Over Teacher Pay Prolongs 'Short' Legislative Session (Voter Update Magazine) -- When one party runs everything, the disagreements are more focused on personalities and turf battles, rather than ideology.

State budget battle leaves teacher assistants in limbo (WRAL-TV) -- The jobs of teacher assistants are in limbo as legislators hash out an updated state budget.

Rural-urban divide rears its head in sales tax debate (WRAL-TV) -- Senators from small counties say a sales tax bill "levels the playing field" with larger, urban counties. Lawmakers from urban areas say the bill will hurt their ability to recruit new jobs.

NC Senate Tentatively Approves Bill That Would Cap Sales Tax At 7.5%, Limit Wake County (WUNC-FM) North Carolina's sales tax would be capped at 7.25 percent in most of the state under a plan tentatively approved by the Senate on Wednesday afternoon. The proposal would make it easier for most counties to raise sales taxes to the limit. It would also pull back the ability some counties currently have to implement raises above that limit. The purpose is to even out sales taxes and create fairness between populous and not-so populous areas, bill supporters say. Sen. Jerry Tillman (R-Randolph), says many people in rural places don't spend their money there.

NC Senate gives initial approval to sales-tax cap (Charlotte Observer) -- The N.C. Senate gave tentative approval Wednesday to a 2.5 percent cap on local sales taxes that would deny Mecklenburg County a fall referendum on increasing teacher pay.

NC Senate gives initial OK to sales-tax changes (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Legislation that would alter how counties in North Carolina can raise sales taxes received initial approval from the state Senate on Wednesday following a debate that has reopened the old fault lines between urban and rural North Carolina.

Common Core: Is It 'Developmentally Inappropriate'? (WUNC-FM) -- Since the beginning of this year, many legislators and critics have dubbed Common Core ‘developmentally inappropriate.’ They argue that the new Math and English standards should be repealed because they are not suitable for some students. "I know there is some age and grade inappropriateness,” said Republican Senator Jerry Tillman at a legislative meeting earlier this year. “I’ve talked with teachers.” Lawmakers, in particular, rarely elaborate on how exactly they're inappropriate, only to say that the standards are confusing and frustrating to teachers, students and parents.

Senate panel OKs some traffic cameras, nixes others (WRAL-TV) -- A Senate committee voted Wednesday to bring back Fayetteville's red-light cameras, but another bill to allow license-scanning cameras on state highways is apparently dead.

Fayetteville's red light camera billl clears Senate Committee, heads to floor (Fayetteville Observer) -- Fayetteville's red light camera legislation passed the Senate Rules Committee by a voice vote Wednesday morning and is expected to be heard on the Senate floor today.

N.C. Senate gives tentative OK to bill including crowdfunding (WRAL-TV) -- The state Senate on Wednesday afternoon gave tentative approval to a bill that includes crowdfunding legislation. One more vote is needed before the bill can go to the House, Economic development legislation also moved forward as part of the bill.

Fulghum remembered for intellect, passion and desire to fix what was broken (Raleigh News & Observer) -- About 500 people, including many members of the North Carolina General Assembly, attended the memorial service Wednesday for Rep. Jim Fulghum at Edenton Street United Methodist Church, where Fulghum had been an active member for almost 40 years.

NCAE President Developed Leadership Skills In Winston-Salem (Winston-Salem Journal) -- Rodney Ellis’ best night of sleep in months came after he was released from the short stint he spent in jail with other activists practicing civil disobedience in the halls of the legislative building in Raleigh. It was last July and Ellis, president of the North Carolina Association of Educators, had been taking heat for not joining the Moral Monday protests. Ellis had been quietly working behind the scenes with lawmakers to ensure the state’s budget would protect public education. While the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP and other activist groups were organizing rallies that drew thousands to protest the Republican’s legislative agenda each Monday, Ellis said he tried to keep the NCAE out of it. He said he hoped that working with leaders inside the legislature instead of railing against them outside would produce better results.

NCSU trustee charged with bringing gun to DC building (AP) — U.S. Capitol Police say a South Carolina man has been arrested after officers found a gun in his bag when he tried to enter the Cannon Building. Officer Shennell Antrobus, a Capitol Police spokesman, said in an email that 59-year-old Ronald William Prestage of Camden tried to enter the building, which houses congressional offices, about 9:20 a.m. Wednesday. During a routine search of Prestage's bag at the Rotunda entrance, an officer found a loaded 9mm handgun. Prestage was charged with carrying a pistol without a license. Prestage is president of Prestage Farms, a North Carolina-based pork and poultry producer, and a member of the N.C. State University Board of Trustees.

NCSU trustee arrested with gun at Washington congressional office (Raleigh News & Observer) -- A trustee for NC State University was arrested Wednesday in Washington on a gun charge. Ronald William Prestage, 59, is accused of trying to take a loaded 9 mm Ruger handgun into a congressional office.

Ronald Prestage arrested (Pork Magazine) -- U.S. Capitol police arrested Ronald William Prestage on Wednesday for having a gun in his bag when he entered the Cannon House Building in Washington, D.C., according toWLTX19, a Washington, D.C. news station. The article noted, “Officers say they recovered the 9 mm handgun from him as he tried to enter the building Wednesday morning, which is one of the structures containing the offices of members of the U.S. House of Representatives.”

Banking official claims deputy commissioner tried to purge employees (Raleigh News & Observer) -- A longtime supervisor at the NC Commissioner of Banks office says a deputy commissioner is retaliating against him because he resisted her attempts to drive a ‘substantial’ number of employees out of their jobs.

Houston School District Back In NC, Looking For More Teachers (WUNC-FM) -- The Houston Independent School District is looking to recruit more teachers from North Carolina. Recruiters first visited in May, where they made 12 on-the-spot offers and later hired about 8 more teachers, according to Shaleah Reed, a spokesperson from HISD. The district is offering $49,100 as a starting salary. North Carolina’s starting salary is among the lowest in the nation at $30,800.

LaRoque gets new trial date (Policy Watch) -- Former state Rep. Stephen LaRoque will wait until February for a jury trial on charges of stealing $300,000 from two federally-funded economic development groups he ran. LaRoque, a Kinston Republican, was scheduled for an October trial in a federal criminal courtroom in Greenville. The trial was pushed back to Feb. 2 because of delays in getting transcripts from a previous trial, according to an order filed in federal court this week. A jury had convicted LaRoque in June 2013 of a dozen charges related to the theft, but U.S. Senior District Court Judge Malcolm Howard set aside those verdicts and ordered a new trial after finding out a juror in the case did home Internet research, a violation of court rules.

NC joins mortgage-relief crackdown (Charlotte Observer) -- NC Attorney General Roy Cooper said Wednesday he is suing a California mortgage-relief company for collecting illegal upfront payments, joining a nationwide sweep against such businesses by regulators and other states.

Court rulings bring N.C. health insurance issue to boil (Greensboro News & Record) -- The fear of the fallout if millions lose insurance likely will spur solution, a Duke professor said.

McCrory refuses to answer LGBT employment questions (QNOTES) -- Gov. Pat McCrory’s press officials have declined repeatedly to elaborate on the governor’s views on LGBT employment protections for more than three weeks since his approval of a state equal employment opportunity executive order. qnotes repeatedly reached out to the governor’s press office and Deputy Communications Director Ryan Tronovitch for answers to two specific questions: Did McCrory make a conscious choice to exclude protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and does McCrory feel LGBT workers are not deserving of the same protections as other employees and should not be judged on merits alone? … On June 30, McCrory signed his own employment executive order protecting state workers on the basis of “race, religion, color, national origin, sex, age, disability and genetic information.” The measure specifically excluded sexual orientation and gender identity. Tronovitch and McCrory later attempted claiming the new rules “mirror” federal language — a comment that was as false three weeks ago as it is today. “It does mirror federal regulation. It does mirror state law. And it does mirror the previous governors who have signed similar orders, including Gov. Perdue, Gov. Easley and Gov. Martin before me,” McCrory told Raleigh news station WRAL on July 1. Though McCrory and his staff have ignored qnotes — the state’s only community news publication for LGBT North Carolinians — they did respond to WRAL, which asked him why he left out LGBT workers. “It’s my job to follow state law, and I will add that, as governor, I will not put up with any kind of discrimination,” McCrory responded. “We deal with employees based upon their work performance and their work performance only. That’s the type of policies I’ve exhibited as governor, and I will continue to exhibit those policies.” North Carolina’s neighbor to the north, Virginia, does protect its LGBT state employees.

Reproductive rights advocates to deliver broken cookies to Governor’s Mansion (Carolina Mercury) -- Pro-choice activists plan to deliver broken cookies to the Governor’s Mansion Thursday morning at 11 a.m. to mark the one-year anniversary of Governor Pat McCrory breaking his 2012 campaign promise not to enact further restrictions on abortion access.

McCrory Joins GOP Govs Calling for Obama Action on Border Crossings (Voter Update Magazine) -- North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory joined five of his fellow Republican governors in sending a letter to President Barack Obama on Tuesday, urging him to address the influx of unaccompanied children across the Southwestern U.S. border.

McCrory signs GOP letter urging Obama to develop border plan (Winston-Salem Journal) -- Failure to return unaccompanied children entering the United States without authorization will lead to more illegal immigration, Gov. Pat McCrory and five other Republican governors wrote to President Barack Obama this week as they urged him to increase efforts to deal with the situation. In a five-paragraph letter dated July 22, the governors said they are “concerned that there will be significant numbers who will end up using the public schools, social services and health systems largely funded by the states.” More important than the possible impact, the governors said, they are “concerned that the failure to return the unaccompanied children will send a message that will encourage a much larger movement towards our southern border.”

Border crisis puts state, local leaders in a bind (Washington Post) -- Around the country, the challenge of housing tens of thousands of unaccompanied Central American migrant children is forcing an emotional, uncomfortable and politically treacherous conversation on policymakers at every level.

NC sterilization agency reports 780 claims filed (AP) — Nearly 800 people thought to be victims of North Carolina's sterilization program have submitted forms to claim compensation from the state.

New Funding Formula Sinks Road Projects (Coastal Review) -- The Mid-Currituck Bridge is one of many proposed road projects in Eastern N.C. that get short- changed in a new highway funding formula.

NC inmate dies after fight with another inmate (AP) — An inmate at Neuse Correctional Institution has died three weeks after he was involved in a fight with another inmate.

Lottery winner from Horse Shoe is lucky twice (AP) — Where else but the town of Horse Shoe would a person get lucky twice in the N.C. Education Lottery?

N.C. beats S.C. for Sealed Air headquarters (Triangle Business Journal) -- New Jersey-based Sealed Air had also been considering a location in Greenville, South Carolina, for its headquarters – where the company already has at least two of its division leaders based – before choosing instead to consolidate and move to Charlotte.

Snap, crackle and pop for Bubble Wrap HQ (Charlotte Business Journal) -- A Bubble Wrap bonanza, quips about France, mentions of Krispy Kreme and a group-singing of "Happy Birthday" highlighted a euphoric corporate welcome to Charlotte's newest Fortune 500.

Fortune 500 firm Sealed Air moving HQ to Charlotte (AP) — Fortune 500 packaging company Sealed Air Corp. will consolidate management operations from several states and relocate its New Jersey headquarters to the Charlotte area, where it plans to employ nearly 1,300 jobs in three years.

McCrory Announces More Than 1,200 Jobs Coming to Charlotte (TWCN-TV) -- On Wednesday, Gov. Pat McCrory announced that a New Jersey based company would be relocating to Charlotte and bring more than 1,200 jobs with it.

Elmwood Park-based Sealed Air's move will cost N.J. 200 jobs (North Jersey News) -- After 54 years in North Jersey, Elmwood Park-based Sealed Air Corp. — the maker of Bubble Wrap — said on Wednesday that it is moving its corporate headquarters and 200 jobs to Charlotte, N.C., where it will receive up to $36 million in tax breaks from the state. It was the latest in a string of corporate departures from North Jersey, as states compete for jobs in a tight employment market. … A spokeswoman for the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, the agency that offers tax incentives to promote job growth and retention, said the company did not approach the state before deciding to move out. “We are disappointed to hear that Sealed Air has decided to relocate their operations to North Carolina,” said the spokeswoman, Erin Gold. “However, as they never came to us to discuss incentives, we had no opportunity to compete for [the headquarters] to stay. We are happy to see that manufacturing is staying.”

Sealed Air Corp. moving headquarters to Charlotte, bringing nearly 1,300 jobs (Charlotte Observer) -- Sealed Air Corp., a Fortune 500 company known for making Bubble Wrap, announced Wednesday that it will move its headquarters to Charlotte, bringing 1,262 jobs.

McCrory visit focused on jobs (Lumina News) – Gov. Pat McCrory toured two major industry facilities in Wilmington Thursday, July 17: Screen Gems Studios and Corning Incorporated. McCrory’s visit to the Wilmington Corning plant coincided with the regional meeting of the North Carolina Business Committee for Education, which is a nonprofit nonpartisan organization within the governor’s office that is comprised of the state’s corporate leaders. With the meeting taking place at Corning, a fiber optics, glass and ceramics corporation, the focus of the education discussion was on teaching science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM. McCrory said his vision for changing teacher pay in the state includes offering different salaries to teachers in the subject areas with the highest financial returns. “There is no doubt that the state that has the labor and talent for STEM is going to be the one that has the most sustainable economy in the future,” he said. “In our middle schools and high schools we have to convince the guidance counselors to say there are several different career paths for students to be successful. We are now emphasizing two different paths in high school. … One is the technical career path and the other is the four-year college career path.”

Battle continues for healthcare in Belhaven: Community rallies on two fronts (Washington Daily News) -- A new group formed in opposition of Vidant Health’s July 1 closing of Vidant Pungo Hospital held an emotional press conference Tuesday

How surrounding states stack up in the firearms industry (Triangle Business Journal) -- A list of how North Carolina's surrounding states rank in economic impact generated by the firearms industry.

Greensboro officials question $45 an hour contract with activist (Greensboro News & Record) -- Some City Council members say the hiring of activist Ben Holder was not thought through.

Willie Nelson, Farm Aid coming to N.C. (AP) -- Willie Nelson and the annual Farm Aid concert and food festival are coming to North Carolina.

Biotech Center doubles size of startup loans due to lack of private investment funding (WRAL-TV) -- Despite cuts in its own state funding, the North Carolina Biotechnology Center is doubling the size of loans it makes to early-stage life science companies. Why? Lack of private-sector capital, says Peter Ginsberg, the Center's vice president for business and technology development.

Change of plans: NC Zoo will keep gorillas and add three more (Raleigh News & Observer) -- An influx of funding will keep two young primates and their mothers at the NC Zoo, and bring three newcomers in the spring. Just two months ago, North Carolina's zoo was ready to send its youngest gorillas, Bomassa and Apollo, and their mothers away, along with an unrelated female.

Duke Energy, NCEMPA deal imminent? (Wilson Times) -- The potential sale of N.C. Eastern Municipal Power Agency electric generation assets to Duke Energy Progress could be announced soon.

Pennsylvania firm seeks mineral rights for gas exploration in Triangle (Durham Herald-Sun) -- In early June, Gov. Pat McCrory signed a bill that opened North Carolina to hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking. Now, a Pennsylvania-based company is attempting to buy mineral rights from landowners in Durham and Chapel Hill for oil and natural gas exploration and development. Celeste Burns, director of conservation for the Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association, said the association has received interest letters from Crimson Holdings Corporation seeking to buy several parcels of land.

The money behind Big Oil's win on Atlantic drilling (Facing South) -- In a controversial move, the Obama administration last week gave final approval for the oil and gas industry to begin conducting seismic testing to map potential offshore reserves along the Atlantic Coast from Delaware to Florida. The decision comes as the administration is drawing up a new five-year plan for selling offshore drilling leases beginning in late 2017. The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management said its plan to move forward with the oil and gas studies "adopts the strongest practicable safeguards to eliminate or reduce to eliminate or reduce impacts to human, marine and coastal environments." … The American Petroleum Institute, the oil and gas industry's leading lobby group, issued a statement saying it "welcomed" the Interior Department's decision to issue permits for seismic testing in the Atlantic. But it criticized some of the measures the administration is imposing to protect wildlife, saying that operators "already take great care to protect wildlife." … Some environmental advocates connected the decision to move forward anyway with the financial clout of the oil and gas industry. Claire Douglass, campaign director for Oceana, told the FuelFix blog that "our government appears to be folding to the pressure of Big Oil and its big money."

Durham cafe has mission to meet all dietary needs (AP) — The owner of The Refectory Café started on Duke University's campus with a mission to change the model for quick-service food and to be the school's first "green café." Now that the business is located entirely off-campus at a single location on Durham-Chapel Hill Boulevard, she is working to continue that mission. "The public votes with their feet," owner Laura Hall said in an email. "They found us on and off campus." Hall said she wants to create a place that could "feed every diet there is." The restaurant has vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free menus, and is launching a new plant-based menu called "mi nu me." The menu includes smoothies, teas, a range of salads, as well as plant-based Indian dal, chili, soups and tofu tacos.

Ducks Unlimited reaches 100,000-acre conservation landmark in N.C. (Triangle Business Journal) -- Hunting and fishing in North Carolina generates $2.3 billion a year, and with the help of Ducks Unlimited's conservation efforts, that industry can continue to thrive.

Horseshoe Crabs: Our Coast's Living Fossils (Coastal Review) -- Conch fishermen, little shorebirds called red knots and flu vaccinations all share something in common. That's right. Horseshoe crabs.

Researchers study rip currents at Carolina Beach (Wilmington Star-News) -- Fourteen buoys bobbed through the water off Carolina Beach Wednesday morning

N.C. Groups Remind Lawmakers of Water's "Trickle Down" Economics (Public News Service) -- Thousands of North Carolinians are joining forces to remind the federal government and their elected officials about the basic principles of gravity. More specifically, they want the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reinstate Clean Water Act rules that protect headwater

Duke Energy creates app for investors (Triangle Business Journal) -- Investors can access company information with new app for mobile devices.

States Against E.P.A. Rule on Carbon Pollution Would Gain, Study Finds (New York Times) -- A new study found that Texas and Oklahoma would be among the biggest economic winners under a regulation proposed by President Obama to fight climate change.

McCrory kicking back on Medicaid (Wilson Times) -- In his first year as governor, Pat McCrory often said he was stepping on toes of both Democrats and Republicans. Few Republican toes seemed to be bruised.

N.C's children face a troubling future (Raleigh News & Observer) -- The Annie E. Casey Foundation is in the business of looking out for the interests of children, particularly poor children, and uses periodic data to report on the “state of the child” in all states. The KIDS COUNT Data Book does not have good news for kids in North Carolina in areas that measure what the foundation calls “child well-being.” Overall, using 16 measures from health to education to poverty, the report puts North Carolina 34th nationally in child well-being. These findings, released this week and reported by WRAL, should disturb all North Carolinians. The report should bother the state’s leaders, Gov. Pat McCrory and those who run the General Assembly. And it must prompt some fact-finding and soul-searching.

Privately shaping schools (Greenville Daily Reflector) -- The North Carolina Public School Forum met in Greenville on Tuesday to discuss with public officials and candidates for public office pressing issues regarding public education.

Instead of bullying children fleeing violence, put blame where it belongs (Wilmington Star-News) -- As a nation, this is not our finest moment.

Senate debate shows resentment of cities (Greensboro News & Record) -- Watch the video of today's state Senate debate on a bill that restricts counties' ability to add local sales taxes for education and transportation. … It shows not only yet another effort by the Senate to exert control over local governments and local voters. It's an attack on cities.

Coal ash river cleanup ended too soon? (Burlington Times-News) -- The state Tuesday lifted its public health advisory regarding recreational use along the environmentally damaged Dan River in Rockingham County. It seemed a logical course. Just last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other regulators in two states said it’s OK for Duke Energy to halt its efforts to remove remaining coal ash from its disastrous Feb. 2 spill that dumped thousands of tons into the waterway near Eden. So everything is hunky-dory, apparently. The biggest threats from the toxic chemicals, including poisonous substances like arsenic, are all gone. Not so fast.

It's time to fix North Carolina's bridges (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Gov. Pat McCrory and the General Assembly are going to have to find a way to do more about the problem of substandard bridges.

BCBS of NC is politicizing care of autistic children (Raleigh News & Observer column) -- It's time for BCBS to stop stonewalling on autism coverage, stop trying to pass the buck and find some sort of reasonable middle ground. SB 493 is a reaction to unfairly restrictive BCBS policies.

An important step toward LGBT equality (Raleigh News & Observer column) -- As I told President Obama in an email this week, his decision to issue an executive order to bar discrimination against LGBT workers like me among federal contractors is an important step in the struggle for full workplace equality.

Yes, Republicans can expand Medicaid, too (Fayetteville Observer) -- Last month, hundreds of representatives from North Carolina hospitals and other health-care institutions brought a united message to Raleigh:

Medical board right to act on prescription painkillers (Charlotte Observer column) -- The National Safety Council commends the North Carolina Medical Board, which announced in June new clinical policy for the treatment of pain. This important action will improve the practice of medicine in North Carolina and will save the lives of many North Carolinians.