Weekend Reads: Revisiting the Leandro lawsuit, redistricting, and finding environmental justice

1. N.C. Supreme Court agrees to reconsider Leandro School funding lawsuit
Nearly 30 years after the court’s initial decision, the case will be returned to the state’s highest court

The word Leandro appears above an empty classroom
Image: Adobe Stock

Written by Greg Childress

The state Supreme Court granted discretionary review to a long-running school finance case in North Carolina to address whether the lower court lacked “subject matter jurisdiction” when it ordered the state to spend an additional $677 million on a comprehensive school improvement plan.

In a concurring opinion, Justice Phil Berger Jr. said the court had an obligation to address “crucial issues” of subject matter jurisdiction in the case. The legal term refers to whether a particular court has the authority to hear a specific claim before it. (Read more…)

2. Governor Roy Cooper released federal funds to expand innovative breakfast programs

Gov. Roy Cooper A "excellent" For a little boy in the classroom
Gov. Roy Cooper (left) announces an initiative to expand the school breakfast program at Glenn Elementary School in Durham on Oct. 24, 2023. Photo: Courtesy of the Governor’s Office.

Written by Greg Childress

Gov. Roy Cooper visited Durham on Tuesday to announce plans to release $1.4 million in federal funding to help school districts and charter schools expand breakfast programs.

Cooper made the announcement during a tour of Glenn Elementary School where he served breakfast to students in the classroom.

“A hungry child cannot learn, and many children cannot or do not want to eat when they have to wake up early,” Cooper said. “Innovative efforts to provide breakfast to children in the classroom have been shown to encourage them to eat, which improves their educational success.” (Read more…)

3. DEQ sampling drinking water wells near landfills in Sampson County for PFAS
NC DHHS receives $1 million from the Biden administration to remediate 175 contaminated wells annually in the county

Aerial photo of semi trucks dumping trash at a landfill in Sampson County.
GFL, which owns the Sampson County Landfill, accepts trash from 44 counties in North Carolina. It is the largest waste dump in the state. (Photo: Cape Fear River Watch)

Written by Lisa Sorge

A DEQ spokesperson confirmed that the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality is sampling private wells near the Sampson County landfill to assess possible PFAS contamination in drinking water.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration announced it would give $1 million to the state Department of Health to address contamination of private wells throughout Sampson County. Residents whose wells contain toxic PFAS or other contaminants can receive free water treatment to reduce or eliminate contaminant levels.

Nationally, landfills are a known source of PFAS. (Read more…)

4. Governor Cooper issues environmental justice order, says it will ‘last beyond this administration’
Hundreds of communities across North Carolina bear the burden of multiple pollution sources

Governor Roy Cooper signs a document on a desk outside the Governor's Mansion
On October 24, Governor Roy Cooper signed Executive Order 292, supporting the pursuit of environmental justice in North Carolina. (Photo: Lisa Sorge)

Written by Lisa Sorge

Every year, 6,000 people living next to the Port of Wilmington, in New Hanover County, are assaulted by hundreds of tons of air pollution: from concrete plants spewing their very fine dust, and from fumigation facilities that legally emit neurotoxins like methyl bromide. Phosphene, ships, trains and trailers emit plumes of diesel fumes.

Census data shows that these 6,000 people — 41% of whom are nonwhite, 58% of whom are low-income — also suffer from PFAS in the Cape Fear River, hazardous waste sites that have leaked toxins into the groundwater, and a longstanding toxic legacy. Refineries. (Read more…)

5. Legal experts say court’s ‘life begins at conception’ ruling could profoundly impact North Carolina families

Stock image of a judge's gavel on his desk, the law book and the scales of justice.
Photo: Getty Images

Written by Kellan Lyons

Imagine putting a mother in prison because the authorities decided that, during her pregnancy, she should have exercised more, drank less coffee, and taken more prenatal vitamins.

“Would the mother’s behavior be monitored in this way because this is a living being now, at the moment of conception?” Susan Reynolds, dean and professor emeritus at Wake Forest University School of Law, said:

Reynolds was referring to language from an opinion published last week by North Carolina Court of Appeals Judge Hunter Murphy, a decision that ended a mother’s parental rights regarding conduct during her pregnancy because “life begins at conception.” (Read more…)

6. Redistricting Conclusion: North Carolina precinct voting ended in favor of the Republican Party

General Assembly of the Communist Party (Photo: Clayton Henkel)
General Assembly of the Communist Party (Photo: Clayton Henkel)

Written by Lynn Bonner

Lawmakers took final votes Wednesday on new congressional districts, state House of Representatives and state Senate, which greatly benefits Republican candidates.

The congressional plan creates 10 strong Republican districts, three strong Democratic districts, and one district trending Republican. First-term Democratic U.S. Rep. Don Davis lives in that district.

The court-ordered, one-time congressional districts have elected seven Democrats and seven Republicans. (Read more…)

7. The recent GOP gerrymandering in North Carolina is emblematic of a broader decline in American politics (comment)

Senator Ralph Hice chairs the Legislative Committee meeting
Senate Redistricting Committee Co-Chairman Ralph Hice presides over the recent public hearing (Photo: NCGA videostream)

Written by Rob Scofield

One of the most troubling developments in American politics and policy in recent decades involves the normalization of actions and ideas that were widely viewed as outrageous and/or inconsistent with the nation’s core democratic values.

Of course, Donald Trump is the perfect example of this phenomenon. When a candidate ascends to the presidency after making a public statement: “I can stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I won’t lose any voters, OK? It’s unbelievable.” It clearly reflects an important and troubling shift in the body politic. (Read more…)

8. Mark Walker leaves the governor’s race for a new GOP-appointed congressional district
The congressional seat is currently held by Democrat Cathy Manning

Mark Walker talks to a woman who has his back turned in the North Carolina General Assembly
Former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker speaks to abortion opponents in the Legislative Building on May 16, 2023. (Photo: Lynn Bonner)

Written by Joe Killian

Former Congressman Mark Walker announced he will leave the race for governor on Wednesday and will instead seek a return to the U.S. House via the state’s 6th Congressional District seat under newly redrawn maps more favorable to Republicans.

U.S. Rep. Cathy Manning, a Greensboro Democrat, has held the seat since 2021, when the district was redrawn and Walker chose not to run again. Walker made a bid for the Republican nomination for the Senate seat vacated by Richard Burr, but came in third place in the primary. Senator Ted Budd eventually won that seat. (read more …)

9. US Representative Jeff Jackson announced his candidacy for the position of Attorney General of North Carolina

Official photo of Representative Jeff Jackson
Rep. Jeff Jackson (NC-14) – Image: House.gov

Written by Joe Killian

U.S. Rep. Jeff Jackson announced in a statement Thursday morning that he will run for North Carolina Attorney General.

The announcement comes after the GOP majority in the North Carolina General Assembly approved new congressional maps, shifting Jackson from the 14th Congressional District, which he won last year by 58 percent, to a newly drawn district that leans Republican by 15 points.

“It’s blatant political corruption by a small group of politicians,” Jackson said of the redistricting, saying his new district would be “absolutely unwinnable under any circumstances” for the Democrat. (Read more…)

10. The next step for a new speaker of the US House of Representatives: a three-week deadline to avoid a government shutdown

Mike Johnson delivers his remarks with his Republican colleagues on the East Front steps of the House of Representatives
Newly elected U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-Los Angeles. He delivers his remarks with fellow Republicans on the steps of the East Front of the House of Representatives at the U.S. Capitol on October 25, 2023 in Washington, D.C. (Chip Somodevila/Getty Images)

Written by Jennifer Schott

WASHINGTON — Newly elected U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson has three weeks to broker a deal with Democrats to avoid a partial government shutdown when a short-term spending bill expires on Nov. 17.

The Louisiana Republican, who has leapt from relative obscurity to one of the four leaders of Congress, has already spoken with his Senate counterparts and met with President Joe Biden, though it is unclear how he will handle the transition from lawmaker to America’s top leader. (Read more…)

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