Wednesday News: Wrecking ball swings again

IN ELECTION YEAR, LEGISLATORS LOOK TO CUT INCOME TAXES (Raleigh News & Observer) -- State legislators could consider election-year income tax cuts that could save families up to $115 per year.

N.C. LAWMAKERS BEGIN TALKS ON INCOME TAX CUT (WRAL-TV) -- Leaders of the legislative committee responsible for recommending changes to North Carolina tax laws say they are likely to ask fellow lawmakers to consider an income tax cut this year.

N.C. TAKES MAP DELAY REQUEST TO U.S. SUPREME COURT (AP) — The federal court that struck down two majority black congressional districts in North Carolina refused Tuesday to delay its order demanding that new boundaries be drawn in barely a week's time.

N.C. REDISTRICTING CASE HEADS TO US SUPREME COURT (WRAL-TV) -- A federal court in Greensboro has refused to put a ruling on hold that would require North Carolina to redraw much of its Congressional map before holding elections in those districts. The state has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

HOW 2 REDRAWN DISTRICTS COULD AFFECT MOST NC VOTERS (WRAL-TV) -- With a federal court's ruling that two of North Carolina's congressional districts are unconstitutional, big questions remain about the status of the state's primary elections March 15.

‘POLITICAL PORNOGRAPHY’ NC DISTRICT AT ISSUE AGAIN (Charlotte Observer) -- Even Rodney Dangerfield got more respect than North Carolina’s 12th Congressional District.

CHANGING PRIMARY TO COMPLY WITH COURT RULING COULD BE COSTLY (Carolina Public Press) -- North Carolina elections officials hope an order to redraw congressional districts will be stayed; many counties can’t afford a separate primary for U.S. House.

MOTION DENIED: STATE MUST REDRAW DISTRICTS BY FEB. 19 (Public News Service) -- North Carolina is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to grant an emergency stay of a federal appeals court order for the state to redraw Congressional Districts 1 and 12 by Feb. 19, in advance of the March 15 primary.

REDISTRICTING CASE COULD DELAY N.C.'S PRIMARY (Roll Call) -- By moving up all its primaries from May to March 15, North Carolina thought it would be playing a more pivotal role in this year’s presidential election. But a recent federal court ruling invalidating two of the state’s congressional districts threatens to delay this year’s earlier-than-normal primary and upend elections in which early voting is already under way.

TWO COMPELLING WINS THAT LEAVE THE RACE UNSETTLED (Wall Street Journal) -- What is striking about the results now in from Iowa and New Hampshire is how little those two states—the ones that often launch new front-runners and bring leaders crashing down to earth—have actually settled,

N.C. DEMOCRAT, REPUBLICAN FAR APART ON VIEW OF NATION’S STATUS (High Point University Poll) – Is the nation headed in the right direction – well that depends – on if it’s a North Carolina Democrat or Republican that answers the question. The High Point University Poll found that among likely voters 54 percent of the Democrats say they the country is going in the right direction while 10 percent of the Republican agree.

SENATE GOP CHALLENGERS BLAST BURR FOR DECLINING DEBATE (Winston-Salem Journal) -- At least two Republican candidates for U.S. Senate said they would participate in a debate — regardless of whether two-term incumbent Richard Burr participates. Meanwhile, Davie County Republican Party leaders are prepared to help put together a debate.

DEM. RIVAL BRINGS 'CHICKENS' OUTSIDE COOPER'S OFFICE (AP) -- A Democratic candidate for North Carolina governor accusing primary rival Attorney General Roy Cooper of failing to debate him has taken that criticism up a notch outside Cooper's office.

CLUB FOR GROWTH GOES ON AIR AHEAD OF N.C. OHIO PRIMARIES (Roll Call) – Grover Norquist’s conservative Club for Growth’s political action committee will begin running new ads Tuesday aiming to help candidates in the North Carolina and Ohio Republican primaries.

CAMPAIGNING FOR THE BOND ISSUE (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Connect N.C. Committee field director Jessica Proctor talks about why the bond issue is important.

TEST RESULTS SHOW LITTLE EVIDENCE OF DRUG USE BY NC WELFARE RECIPIENTS (WRAL-TV) -- The initial results of a drug testing program for some public assistance applicants are finding little evidence of widespread drug use among the poor in North Carolina.

DRUG TESTING OF N.C. WELFARE APPLICANTS, RECIPIENTS UNDER WAY (AP) — Drug testing of North Carolina welfare recipients and applicants is finally happening at social service offices.

NC begins drug tests for welfare applicants (Raleigh News & Observer) -- State officials presented early results Tuesday of a new law that requires drug tests for welfare applicants. Of several thousand people who were screened, 89 people took the test and 21 of them tested positive.

N.C. MEDICAID $181M UNDER BUDGET AT YEAR MIDPOINT (AP) — North Carolina's Medicaid finances are continuing to run under budget thanks to essentially flat enrollment growth and less-than-anticipated medical expenses and use of services. The Division of Medical Assistance told a General Assembly oversight committee Tuesday state spending on Medicaid was $181 million below the nearly $2 billion set aside for the first six months of the fiscal year ending Dec. 31. Through November, the amount was $139 million.

VOTER’S GUIDE TO THE HEALTH LAW (N.C. Health News) -- Here is a brief guide to some things the Obamacare health law has — and has not — accomplished since it was signed by President Barack Obama in 2010.

LAWMAKERS WANT MENTAL HEALTH AGENCIES TO SPEND THEIR MONEY (N.C. Health News) -- After cutting funding to the North Carolina’s mental health managed care organizations in the state budget, lawmakers push for more spending of cash reserves on patient care.

COMPANY PUTS TECH SKILLS ON DISPLAY (Rocky Mount Telegram) -- A tour of Babington Technology on Tuesday during a visit to Rocky Mount gave Lt. Gov. Dan Forest a glimpse into the specialized labor force in Eastern North Carolina.

JOHNSTON SCHOOLS CHIEF RIPS NORTH CAROLINA’S NEW PENSION LAW (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Superintendent Ed Croom on Tuesday criticized a new state law that will force Johnston County to pay more than $500,000 for his rising pension benefits, an increase that came after the school board allowed him to convert his benefits to salary.

PASTOR'S WIDOW: DAUGHTERS MUST LIVE WITHOUT 'SENSE OF FEAR' (AP) -- The widow of a pastor slain with eight others at a historic South Carolina church says shielding her young daughters will be a priority during an upcoming murder trial expected to reopen emotional wounds.

12 FORMER DEPUTIES, CORRECTIONS OFFICERS CONVICTED ON DRUG CONSPIRACY CHARGES (WRAL-TV) -- Fourteen individuals, including eight former Northampton law enforcement officers and four correctional officers, were convicted Tuesday for their role in a large-scale drug trafficking organization.

OWNERS OF OUTER BANKS VETERINARY HOSPITAL FACE DRUG CHARGES (AP) — Law enforcement in Dare County says the owners of an Outer Banks veterinary hospital are facing drug trafficking charges.

SPRAYBERRY, MCCRORY TALKING TO FEDERAL EMERGENCY COUNCIL (AP) – Mike Sprayberry, North Carolina’s top disaster and emergency first-responder and Gov. Pat McCrory are meeting with emergency management leaders nationwide to talk about how North Carolina prepares for the worst.

WATER, SAND FORCE SHUTDOWN OF HIGHWAY 12 ON OCRACOKE (AP) — Water and sand from ocean overwash have forced officials to close N.C. Highway 12 on Ocracoke Island.

ELECTROLUX GIVES UP TAX BREAKS FOR NORTH AMERICAN HQ (AP) — Appliance-maker Electrolux is backtracking from plans announced two years ago to expand its North American headquarters in Charlotte and add more than 800 jobs.

IN RALEIGH, PAUL SMITH COULD WORK ACROSS THE POLITICAL AISLE (Salisbury Post) – Paul Smith ran as a Republican for the N.C. Senate in 1980 and won. After a hiccup and a 1982 re-election bid loss, Smith captured the first of six more Senate terms in 1984, becoming one of the more influential Republicans in the General Assembly and wrangling fellow GOP senators as minority whip during Gov. Jim Martin’s eight years in office. Smith died last Thursday in the N.C. State Veterans Home at the age of 88.

NASHVILLE LAUNCHES FIRST-OF-ITS-KIND-PROGRAM IN N.C. (Wilson Times) -- The Nashville Police Department launched a new program Tuesday designed to save lives by providing hope and resources to those addicted to prescription drugs and heroin.


WHAT'S OUR TRUE 'CUE? EASTERN N.C. FACES INVASION OF OTHER STYLES (Wilmington Star-News) -- Loyalty used to be an easy thing. At least as far as barbecue goes, that is.

NASCAR ALLOWS FRANCHISE SYSTEM TO GIVE TEAM OWNERS VALUE (AP) — NASCAR announced a dramatic overhaul to its business model Tuesday, shifting to a franchise-like system that is intended to provide actual value and financial stability to team owners after decades of heavy reliance on sponsors.

EVENTS TO MARK ANNIVERSARY OF DEATHS OF 3 MUSLIM STUDENTS (AP) -- A Muslim advocacy group is urging people to participate in three events honoring three college students who were shot to death in Chapel Hill last year.


WILSON ACADEMY OF APPLIED TECHNOLOGY: PREPARING STUDENT FOR FUTURE OF WORK (EdNC) -- Nearly three years ago, Wilson County Schools embarked on a journey to design a new program to engage students while addressing a pressing need in the local workforce.

TEACHER HIT BY PRIVATE BUS AT SCHOOL, KILLED (AP) — Police say a second-grade teacher in Goldsboro has died after he was struck in his school's parking lot by a bus from a day care center.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FUNDING TEACHING ASSISTANTS (EdNC column) -- For a number of years, the North Carolina General Assembly’s leadership has been reducing funding to school districts for teacher assistants. Their rationale is that the research shows little or no impact on student achievement of having a teacher assistant in the classroom with the licensed teacher. There are a number of problems with this rationale.

COOK ELEMENTARY GETS NEW PRINCIPAL, NEW STAFF TO TURN AROUND FAILING SCHOOL (Winston-Salem Journal) -- After years as the lowest-performing elementary school in the state, Cook Elementary School is getting rebooted. Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools officials announced a plan Tuesday to radically change operations at Cook over the next six months, promising to transform the failing school into a innovative model for urban turnaround.

EDGECOMBE OFFICIALS SHOWCASE GLOBAL EDUCATION TO STATE BOARD (Rocky Mount Telegram) -- Representatives from Edgecombe County Public Schools presented a report on global education last week before the N.C. State Board of Education in Raleigh.


REGULATOR FINES DUKE ENERGY NEARLY $7M FOR COAL ASH SPILL (AP) — The country's largest electric company is being fined $6.6 million for environmental pollution related to a big spill of liquefied coal ash in 2014, North Carolina environmental regulators said Tuesday.

N.C. FINES DUKE ENERGY $6.8M FOR DAN RIVER COAL-ASH SPILL (Charlotte Business Journal) -- State regulators have imposed a $6.8 million fine on Duke Energy over the coal ash spill on the Dan River. In taking the action, the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality bagged an almost two-year-old agreement to decide the penalty jointly with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

TWO YEARS LATER, NC FINES DUKE FOR COAL ASH SPILL (WRAL-TV) — State environmental regulators have fined Duke Energy more than $6.6 million for a coal ash spill that fouled 70 miles of the Dan River two years ago last week.

DEQ FINES DUKE FOR DAN RIVER SPILL (WUNC-FM) -- The state Department of Environmental Quality has issued a $6.6 million fine against Duke Energy for violations associated with the Dan River Coal Ash spill two years ago.

NC FINES DUKE ENERGY $6.6 MILLION FOR DAN RIVER SPILL (Charlotte Observer) -- North Carolina’s environmental agency has finally fined Duke Energy $6.6 million for its February 2014 spill of coal ash into the Dan River. The fine accounts only for violations Duke pleaded guilty to in federal court last May, the Department of Environmental Quality said. The agency said it could add fines for other spill-related violations.

DUKE ENERGY GETS PALTRY FINE FOR MASSIVE COAL-ASH SPILL (Grist column) -- How does Duke have so much power? It could be friends in high places: North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) worked for Duke Energy for 28 years, and the company gave $3 million to his super PAC in 2014. In addition to the latest $6.6 million fine, the DEQ said Tuesday that it reserves the right to levy additional fines for violations associated with the spill. We won’t hold our breath.

EPA SAYS ITS INVESTIGATION OF DUKE ENERGY'S DAN RIVER SPILL CONTINUES (Charlotte Business Journal) -- The Environmental Protection Agency says it has no “specific concerns” with N.C. regulators taking unilateral action against Duke Energy for the Dan River spill. But the agency “is continuing its separate investigation.”

WAITING FOR ANSWERS ON COAL ASH IN BELMONT (Charlotte Observer) – Suspicion of the Allen Power Plant and its owner Duke Energy is as deeply rooted on this peninsula of Lake Wiley as the 19 million tons of coal ash stashed in Belmont. Neither may go away soon.


CITING HEALTH CONCERNS, SOME CUSTOMERS SAY NO TO SMART METERS (Raleigh New & Observer) -- Duke Energy’s plan to roll out two-way smart meters to 3.2 million customers in North Carolina in the coming years is generating static from a vociferous minority of customers who say they are highly sensitive to radio frequencies and want nothing to do with the program. Charlotte-based Duke is planning to propose an opt-out fee in June for these customers who complain of headaches, ear-ringing, dizziness and nausea from exposure to wireless frequencies. But they might have to pay a steep price for the privilege, based on a similar request Duke has filed in Ohio.

OPEN HOUSE WEDNESDAY ON DUKE ENERGY PROJECT (Carteret County News-Times) -- — Duke Energy Progress is seeking public input for a $32 million 10-mile, 230-kilovolt (kV) transmission line and two new substations. A community open house is scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 10, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the J. Fort Benjamin Park Recreation Center.

OPPONENTS LAUD NEW DELAY IN SEISMIC TESTING (Outer Banks Sentinel) -- Another delay in authorizing seismic surveys off the N.C. coast by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is being welcomed by opponents, who are hopeful the slowdown in the permitting process and the additional opportunity for public comment may lead to a permanent moratorium on the procedure.

CRITICS: SHORELINE PERMITS NEED REFORM (Coastal Review) -- In most cases, permits for bulkheads are pretty easy to come by in North Carolina. Federal and state regulators approve most with little review. Permits for living shorelines projects, however, can take months because regulators review each individually. Proponents of living shorelines have complained for years that this imbalance creates a disincentive for property owners to use a more natural form of erosion control that research is showing is better for the environment than bulkheads.

WATER GROUP TO TEST HIGH POINT SEWAGE FOR DIOXANE (Greensboro News & Record) -- The regional water authority plans water-quality tests to see how much 1,4 dioxane the Randleman Regional Reservoir gets in High Point sewage.

UNIT AT BRUNSWICK NUCLEAR PLANT REMAINS IN SHUTDOWN (WECT-TV) -- A spokesperson for the Brunswick Nuclear Plant says a unit at the facility remains in shutdown mode, while officials work through "detailed process/procedures to fully understand this event and make the needed repairs to return the unit to service."

DUKE PLANTS SET FOR COLD (Energy Blog) -- Duke Energy plans to have all of its nuclear reactors in operation to meet demand triggered by this week’s cold weather.That includes Brunswick Nuclear Plant Unit 1 which was shut down early Sunday afternoon after fire and explosion triggered an alert.

SUPREME COURT FREEZES OBAMA PLAN TO LIMIT CARBON EMISSIONS (Washington Post) -- The decision puts on hold an ambitious program to tackle climate change while it is challenged in the courts.

COURT PUTS HOLD ON CARBON RULE (Wall Street Journal) -- The Supreme Court Tuesday in a divided order blocked a key Obama administration environmental rule to limit carbon emissions from power plants, siding with states and industry groups that wanted the regulation delayed while they challenge its legality.

SUPREME COURT DEALS BLOW TO OBAMA’S EFFORTS TO REGULATE COAL EMISSIONS (New York Times) -- The justices’ willingness to issue a stay while the case proceeds was a hint that the emissions program could face a skeptical reception.


GOP OVERREACH WILL BE TO BLAME FOR ANY DISRUPTION OF ELECTIONS (Raleigh News & Observer) – N.C. Republicans complain that a federal order to redraw district maps will disrupt the election, but they should have thought of that when they gerrymandered the districts.

RULING FUELS DEBATE FOR REDISTRICTING PANEL (Rocky Mount Telegram) -- A federal judicial panel’s decision to toss out North Carolina’s congressional district map should hardly come as a surprise to anyone.

MORALITY, CLARITY, TRUTH: THE WORLD THROUGH WILLIAM BARBER'S EYES (Raleigh News & Observer column) -- William Barber’s book, “The Third Revolution,” provides a compelling account of the cultural, spiritual and intellectual experiences that have shaped him. It is to Barber’s great credit that even though he “learned firsthand to fear white anger and the violence of white mobs,” he was able to transcend these experiences and see the quest for freedom in wider terms.

DG MARTIN: DISCARDING UNELECTABLE CANDIDATES, BUT NOT THEIR FANS (Winston-Salem Journal column) -- When a party’s presidential candidate is out of the mainstream, many of that party’s candidates in North Carolina and other states lose races they would otherwise have won.

WHERE WOLF IS LEADING PA. (Philadelphia Inquirer column) -- Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and North Carolina legislators have positioned the Tar Heel State to blow Pennsylvania away in the competition for new business, investment, and residents by significantly reducing and flattening personal and corporate income tax rates. North Carolina, Florida, Texas, and other economically successful states are cutting taxes, enacting regulatory reforms, giving workers the freedom to decide whether to join a union, and giving parents more options for providing a better education for their children. Compared with where Gov. Tom Wolf wants to take Pennsylvania, these successful states are moving in the opposite direction.

DUKE ENERGY GETS PALTRY FINE FOR MASSIVE COAL-ASH SPILL (Grist column) -- How does Duke have so much power? It could be friends in high places: North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) worked for Duke Energy for 28 years, and the company gave $3 million to his super PAC in 2014. In addition to the latest $6.6 million fine, the DEQ said Tuesday that it reserves the right to levy additional fines for violations associated with the spill. We won’t hold our breath.

FIXING INJUSTICES (Greensboro News & Record) -- A record 149 exonerations were recorded in the United States last year, including five in North Carolina, the University of Michigan Law School reported last week.

STATE PARK USE RISING FAST; LET'S VOTE FOR ITS FUNDING (Fayetteville Observer) -- Nature Deficit Disorder, that crankiness that arises when we spend too much time indoors, has an easy fix and North Carolina residents know it.