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Friday, August 22, 2014 - 8:43am

Hagan says coal ash bill doesn't go far enough (Asheville Citizen-Times) -- U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan says North Carolina’s new coal ash regulations don’t go far enough in cleaning up Duke Energy’s toxic waste ponds. Her opponent, state Republican House Speaker Thom Tillis, said the legislation would make the state a leader in dealing with the byproduct of burning coal for electricity. He said it would “help safeguard our water for future generations.” Hagan, a Democrat from Greensboro, said the state should require ash from every pond be placed in a “leak-proof area,” something the new law does not do.

Sierra Club: Coal ash bill falls short (Salisbury Post) -- N.C. Sierra Club response to final passage of S 729, Coal Ash Management Act: The legislature (Wednesday) gave final approval to the Coal Ash Management Act of 2014, a complex measure that for the first time regulates coal ash like other wastes but also undermines a court ruling that would have required immediate cleanup of coal ash. … Unfortunately, final changes to the conference report intended to protect against ongoing groundwater pollution at 10 sites do not go far enough to address a major issue that must be resolved to protect N.C. residents and communities.

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Thursday, August 21, 2014 - 9:35am

Environmentalists slam new coal ash bill (Asheville Citizen-Times) -- Critics of compromise coal ash legislation agreed to by North Carolina House and Senate conferees faulted the measure Wednesday for allowing the toxic material to remain in place at most of Duke Energy’s leaking dumps. The legislation requires the removal of ash within five years from the utility’s Asheville plant and three other facilities, but would let the material be capped in place at 10 other plants if they are deemed “low risk” by a new commission.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014 - 10:47am

Seeking help from the courts:

Last Thursday, in a Beaufort County Superior Court case that took place in Wilson, Judge Milton Fitch, Jr. granted the town’s request for a temporary restraining order, keeping Vidant Health and Pantego Creek, LLC, who objected to the ruling, from removing equipment from the building, shutting off the building’s utility service or demolishing the building, said Town Attorney John Tate.

“The town was concerned that equipment was going out of the building and they were preparing for demolition,” Tate said. “On Wednesday, a crane showed up at the hospital and that looked quite ominous to us so we filed for a temporary restraining order that will simply keep the hospital intact while we work out a solution.”

This conflict should force us to re-evaluate the way we approach the nexus of health care and the private sector. When your "business" has a major impact on the lives and health of a large percentage of the community, a P&L statement should not be sufficient evidence to plunge that community into a life-threatening crisis. This problem is screaming for a statutory solution, but I shudder to think what the GOP-controlled NCGA would come up with. They'd probably authorize Vidant to demolish Town Hall.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014 - 9:03am

The N.C. Dept. of Commerce’s Division of Labor & Economic Analysis released the July monthly state employment figures Monday and the word is “up” -- as in higher than June’s. North Carolina’s 6.5 percent unemployment rate is higher than last month’s and still is higher than the national unemployment rate. That’s all stuff that can be found in typical accounts. Here are three facts about employment in North Carolina you won’t find in the usual coverage.

The only major sector experiencing a decrease in jobs over the last month as well as the last year – government. But you don’t need to tell that to folks at the public schools – particularly teacher assistants. Seasonally adjusted figures reveal a drop of 4,900 government jobs – from 710,100 a year ago to 705,200 for July 2014. When looking at stats that ARE NOT seasonally adjusted, the number of government employees in the last month, dropped from 684,300 in June to 608,800 – a 75,500 drop.

Workers are vanishing. While North Carolina’s population continues to grow, workers are disappearing from the labor force. A year ago, North Carolina’s workforce was 4,692,338. In July 2014 that number was 4,674,116. That means 18,222 people who once had jobs, or were looking for work, vanished. Imagine if the entire population of Clayton, Hendersonville, Morrisville, or Boone, just disappeared. One day they were here: contributing to the economy, playing, going to school, raising crops, and then a year later, poof and gone.

Manufacturing workers are taking home less pay. The average weekly hours for manufacturing production workers decreased 1 hour and six minutes in July compared to June – a drop to 43.8 hours. So, while average hourly wages increased a whopping 11 cents, to $16.79 an hour, those workers actually took home $13.65 LESS a week to an average $716.93.

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Monday, August 18, 2014 - 8:05am

Gerry Cohen, recently retired after more than 30 years as a bill drafter for the N.C. General Assembly, will be live on WUNC 91.5 Monday noon-1 pm (rebroadcast at 8 pm) as Frank Stasio's guest on "The State of Things."

Senate spoilers: 6 states to watch for third-party candidates (THE HILL) -- Spoiler alert: As both Democrats Republicans calculate their odds of a Senate majority, several third party candidates are complicating their math. Popular dissatisfaction with both parties — and bitter campaigns that are driving up candidates’ negatives on both sides — have helped boost third-party candidates in a number of states into the high single digits. Here are six races where third-party candidates could have a real impact on the election. NORTH CAROLINA: The Tar Heel State is similar to last year’s Virginia race — tons of negative advertising and two unpopular candidates, opening the door for a protest vote. Enter Libertarian Party nominee and pizza delivery man Sean Haugh, who despite almost no money has been pulling between 8 and 12 percent in most public and private polls. North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis (R) may be able to pull some of those votes back from Haugh if he can unite a GOP base still somewhat split after the May primary. But Haugh is currently providing a home for some unhappy Republicans and right-leaning independents, making it harder for Tillis to catch up to Hagan, who’s had a lead in most recent polling. “In North Carolina [Haugh] could matter,” admitted one national Republican. “There are a lot of folks that haven't come around, they're still harboring ill will from the Republican primary and maybe haven't come around to Tillis yet. That doesn't mean that they un-persuadable though.”

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Sunday, August 17, 2014 - 8:45am


The sour, critical commentaries that are populating the editorial pages this weekend aren’t the only things causing some heartburn around the McCrory camp. In the coming days and weeks there are even bigger concerns looming.. Here are five questions that Gov. Pat McCrory, his brain trust, top DENR officials and his legal/communications team might be, are, or should be, pondering:

News reporters don’t wake up on sunny late spring morning and say to themselves: “We think we’ll toddle on down to the Ethics Commission and check out Ol’ Pat’s latest financial disclosure statement.” Someone, somewhere, made sure the news reporters knew what to look for and where.

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Saturday, August 16, 2014 - 10:38am

PHIL BERGER, MILK CARTON MAN? -- A new television advertising blitz Republican backers of Gov. Pat McCrory and House Speaker Thom Tillis is aimed at boosting the lagging images of two of the three top leaders in North Carolina. For the immediate future, it is particularly critical for Tillis who is in a very tight battle with incumbent U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, for her seat. The effort to inflate the images of Tillis and McCrory, both Mecklenburg County Republicans, isn’t an easy task. First, they’ve been unable to bring the contentious legislative session, marked by infighting among the GOP leaders at a time when they promised in their campaigns and at the opening of the session church choir-like harmony. The General Assembly appears to be headed to a finish, shuffling out of Raleigh with more a whimper than a bang. Attempts to complete work are marked by failure on addressing the Duke Energy coal ash spill disaster and no action on the promised fix to Medicaid.

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Friday, August 15, 2014 - 10:35am


McCrory: 'We Haven't Broken Any Rules' (WUNC-FM) – Gov. Pat McCrory is responding to charges that he misstated when he sold his stock in Duke Energy. McCrory worked for the company for almost 30 years. Speaking to reporters after an education conference held by the North Carolina Chamber, the Governor faced a series of questions about when he sold the Duke stock that was part of his 401k. "We haven’t broken any rules or ethics violations or anything," McCrory said. "And I was very transparent that I did own it. I was 29 years, and I’m proud of that experience and I had a 401k retirement account, like many of you may have had, or still have.”

As ethics scandal erupts, Carolina Rising launches $1.5M NC pro-McCrory ad blitz (AP) — A group promoting policies implemented by North Carolina Republicans is running a television ad before most public schools open to praise Gov. Pat McCrory and House Speaker Thom Tillis – GOP candidate for the U.S. Senate -- for education legislation.

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Thursday, August 14, 2014 - 9:01am

LAWYER’S ROLE? McCrory ‘misstated’ Duke holdings, sold stock after coal-ash spill (Raleigh News & Observer) -- The governor’s previous disclosures had not revealed that he owned Duke stock at the end of 2013. McCrory’s lawyer, Bob Stephens, says the content of the form was his mistake.

Conflict of interest statements for NC officials now online (WRAL-TV) -- A new website launched quietly last month by the State Ethics Commission allows users to look up state officials' potential conflicts of interest.

NC education budget change worries some districts (AP) — The General Assembly removed a requirement in North Carolina law that said the recipe to build the two-year state budget begins with projected public school enrollment among its first ingredients.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014 - 9:26am

Racial Profiling Trial For Alamance County Sheriff Set To Begin (WUNC-FM) -- A federal case against the Alamance county sheriff accused of illegally targeting Latino drivers is going to trial today. The U.S. Justice Department has accused Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson of illegally targeting Latino drivers as well as arresting and detaining people without probable cause.

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