COVID-19

  • On Tuesday Governor Cooper issued an executive order prohibiting the sale of alcohol at restaurants after 11 PM. Bars are still closed in the state under a previous executive order, and Cooper cited the desire to “prevent restaurants from turning into bars after hours” as the primary rationale for the new order. The order does not apply to grocery stores or other stores that sell alcohol for off-premises consumption.


Voting Rights

  • On Monday a group of plaintiffs filed a lawsuit claiming that the state’s options for voting by mail discriminate against blind and visually impaired voters. The lawsuit alleges that having only a paper ballot for mail-in voting means that unless they want to risk their health to vote in person, blind voters will be forced to tell someone else their voting preferences and to trust that person to actually fill out their ballot. Plaintiffs in the suit include North Carolina voters, both Democratic and Republican; Disability Rights North Carolina; the North Carolina Council of the Blind; and the alumni association of the Governor Morehead School, a school in Raleigh for visually impaired children.

Education Policy

  • On Monday seven North Carolina parents, with the support of the N.C. Association of Educators (NCAE) and the National Education Association (NEA), filed a lawsuit in Wake County Superior Court challenging the state’s private school voucher program. The plaintiffs argue that many private schools that benefit from the Opportunity Scholarship program discriminate on the basis of religion and sexual orientation, and that the use of public funds for these schools -- with little oversight -- violates anti-discrimination provisions in the NC Constitution. The program, which was created by the General Assembly in 2013, has long faced criticism that it draws needed resources away from underfunded public schools.

  • On Wednesday the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees voted to remove the names of three white supremacists from campus buildings. Charles B. Aycock, Julian S. Carr, and Josephus Daniels were all leaders in the implementation and promotion of white supremacist policies at the turn of the twentieth century. While no new names for the buildings have yet been announced, the removal of the names from the buildings was already underway Wednesday afternoon.


Economic and Housing Policy

  • The NC Utilities Commission extended prohibitions on cutting off electricity, gas, and water service through August and mandated that utilities provide customers a 12-month payment plan option. The order only applies to publicly traded utilities, however, exempting the many municipally owned and cooperative utilities operating in the state. Governor Cooper intends to announce a plan soon to aid those struggling to pay for basic utilities.


Criminal Justice

  • On Friday Judge Greg Horne of the Forsyth County Superior Court ordered the release of some of the video footage of the infliction of fatal injuries on John Neville by staff in Forsyth County Jail last December. In July, six jail workers were charged with causing the injuries that led to Neville’s death. Horne’s order came in response to a petition from a coalition of 11 news outlets, with the judge deciding in favor of a compelling public interest to release the footage. Neville’s family had requested after his death that the videos not be released, but they now support the release of the videos to press outlets.




Education Policy

  • Citing the need to support ongoing campus salary and operational costs, the UNC Board of Governors affirmed that tuition and fees at all UNC campuses will not be decreased, prorated, or refunded if the COVID-19 crisis forces universities to move to online instruction. A few Board members disagreed with the decision, asserting that the online experience is inferior and operational costs should not be passed on to students or families. In another split vote, the Board also agreed to waive the requirement of SAT and ACT test scores for admission to UNC schools, although students may voluntarily submit scores and schools can choose to consider them.

  • A proposed change to chancellor searches at UNC System schools would give more control to the UNC System President at the expense of the local boards of trustees. The change would allow the UNC System President to add up to two finalists to those presented to her/him by an individual school’s Board of Trustees, and – as is now the case - to choose a final candidate to present to the UNC Board of Governors. Incoming UNC System President Peter Hans, who proposed the change, said it would help identify the strongest final candidates, but some UNC Board of Governors members and trustees expressed concerns that a school’s trustees would have little power to object to a candidate. The proposed change passed a vote unanimously in the Committee on Personnel and Tenure and will come before the full Board of Governors this week.


Environmental Policy

  • In a setback for Wake Stone Corporation, the NC Department of Environmental Quality has returned the company’s application to mine a tract of leased land in Raleigh next to Umstead State Park. NC DEQ said the application, which proposes to create a 40-story deep pit in order to extract, crush, and sell minerals for road building, lacks essential environmental impact information. In addition to the NC DEQ questions, many private opponents have claimed the RDU Airport Authority, which is leasing the land to Wake Stone, does not have a legal right to do so.



COVID-19

  • On Tuesday Governor Cooper announced that North Carolina would remain in Phase Two of reopening until at least August 7. His decision was prompted by worsening or stagnating benchmarks indicating the state of the COVID-19 epidemic in North Carolina.

  • On Thursday NC Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley issued an emergency order requiring the wearing of face masks in all court facilities. The order spells out some exceptions for health and other reasons. Beasley also included a directive requiring senior resident superior court judges to develop plans for resuming jury trials in their districts.

  • On Tuesday the NC Supreme Court issued a stay of a preliminary injunction that a Guilford County Superior Court judge had issued the previous week allowing for bowling alleys to reopen. The stay means that bowling alleys will not be allowed to reopen for now, granting the request of Governor Cooper’s attorneys.


Voting Rights

  • The State Board of Elections issued an emergency order detailing plans for the November elections given the COVID-19 pandemic. The order mandates mask-wearing by election officials, the provision of masks for voters who need them, longer early voting hours on two October weekends, and at least one early voting site per 20,000 voters, which would mean that some counties will need to open more early voting sites than they had originally planned. Democracy North Carolina, a lead plaintiff in a suit against the State Board of Elections that demands strong measures to guarantee a fair and safe election during the pandemic, issued a statement describing the order as “fall[ing] far short of what is necessary.”


Education Policy

  • On Tuesday Governor Cooper announced his fall plan for the North Carolina Public School system. The plan corresponds most closely to the Plan B option Cooper had described earlier in the year as one of three possible paths forward. Plan B has a “moderate social distancing” requirement for in-person activities that will result in most students’ attending school remotely at least part of the time. Cooper gave individual school districts the option to offer online-only instruction, and he cautioned that all NC schools could shift to remote instruction if there is a significant increase in COVID-19 cases. The plan also requires daily temperature checks and mask-wearing for in-person activity, and the state is planning to provide 5 reusable face masks to every student, teacher, and school staff member.

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