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Environmental Policy

  • On Wednesday the NC Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) approved a controversial air permit for a proposed biogas processing facility designed to convert swine waste from nineteen hog farms to energy. The facility, however, will not begin processing biogas until the participating hog farms receive required permits from the Department of Water Resources. The Southern Environmental Law Center issued a statement opposing the DEQ’s approval of the permit.

LGBTQ Rights/Criminal Justice

  • On December 31 the NC Court of Appeals struck down a state law that excludes people in same-sex relationships from obtaining certain protective orders against abusive domestic partners. The court ruled 2-1 that the law limiting 50B protective orders -- domestic violence protective orders that include provisions to strip the offender of access to firearms, among other provisions -- to opposite-sex couples violated the equal protection and due process rights of the plaintiff, a Wake County woman who had sought a 50B protective order against a former female partner. Prior to this ruling, North Carolina was the only state in the country that did not allow domestic violence protective orders for same-sex partners.

Election Update

Paul Newby wins NC chief justice race as incumbent Cheri Beasley concedes (The News & Observer)

  • “A hand-recount of votes in North Carolina’s election was not enough for state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley to overcome her colleague’s lead in the race to retain her seat." On Saturday, Justice Beasley conceded the race to her Republican challenger, North Carolina Supreme Court Judge Paul Newby.

  • “With his win, Republicans have swept all of North Carolina’s statewide judicial races in the 2020 elections. Victories by Republicans Newby, Phil Berger Jr. and Tamara Barringer leave Democrats with a narrow 4-3 majority on the seven-member North Carolina Supreme Court.”


Modified stay-at-home order issued to address record coronavirus spread (Carolina Public Press)

  • “The spread of the coronavirus across the state and record hospitalizations prompted Gov. Roy Cooper to issue a modified stay-at-home order effective Friday that requires businesses to close from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. except those that sell food, gas or pharmaceuticals.”

Backed by science, advocates legally challenge Labor Secretary Cherie Berry over COVID-19 (NC Policy Watch)

  • “After the state Department of Labor in November rejected a petition to mandate emergency workplace rules, several North Carolina advocacy groups are asking the Wake County Superior “Court for a judicial review of the denial.”

Education Policy

Faculty members revolt over UNC plans to triple number of students living on campus next semester (NC Policy Watch)

  • More than 150 UNC-Chapel Hill faculty members published an open letter to the university administration urging abandoning Spring semester plans to increase the number of in-person classes and triple the number of students living on campus next semester.

Economic and Housing Policy

$30 million freed up for rural broadband in NC(WRAL)

  • Governor Cooper and Republican legislators reached an agreement and released $30 million in funding to boost access to broadband services in rural areas throughout NC. The monies had been held back due to squabbles regarding the state’s disposition of the federal Cares Act funds, but the agreement allows for a work-around to avoid spending the monies by the end of 2020.

Environmental Policy

Who pays for Duke Energy's coal ash cleanup? NC Supreme Court weighs in - sort of(WRAL)

  • In a majority decision the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled that the North Carolina Utilities Commission must reconsider electricity rates and potentially shift some of the cost of coal ash pollution cleanup from consumers to Duke Energy and its shareholders.

Criminal Justice

Special master to make NC prisons comply with court orders during pandemic (Carolina Public Press)

  • On Friday, North Carolina Superior Court Judge Vincent Rozier Jr. appointed a “special master” to oversee parts of the North Carolina prison system’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Judge Rozier, who has been overseeing a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of conditions in state prisons, cited the state’s “ongoing failure to make modifications to a key program that would allow the state to decrease its prison population” as a reason for appointing the special master.

100 Proposals Coming on NC Racial Equity, from Marijuana to Policing in Schools (The News and Observer)

  • Although not yet public, the final report from Governor Cooper’s Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice is expected to include over 100 different recommendations on how to address racial inequalities in North Carolina’s criminal justice system.

Election Update

  • A statewide machine recount of all ballots cast in the election for Chief Justice of the NC Supreme Court was completed last week and showed Republican Justice Paul Newby with a lead of just 401 votes (out of nearly 5.4 million votes cast) over Democratic Chief Justice Cheri Beasley. Following the completion of this statewide recount, Chief Justice Beasley formally requested a 3% statewide hand-to-eye recount, which will begin this week. Once this partial hand-to-eye recount is completed, the State Board of Elections will review the results to determine whether a full statewide hand-to-eye recount is in order.

Voting Rights

Health Care Policy

  • On Wednesday advocacy groups that had sued the UNC Health Care System and Nash Hospitals, Inc., for systematic discrimination against blind patients announced that a settlement had been reached with one of the two defendants. Plaintiffs had sued two years ago, alleging that blind patients did not receive written communications in a format that would be accessible to them. Nash Hospitals, Inc., agreed to pay $150,000 in damages and attorneys’ fees; the suit will continue against UNC Health Care System.

  • On Friday Governor Cooper convened a new bipartisan council to address North Carolina’s high rate of uninsured people. The North Carolina Council for Health Care Coverage, which includes NC Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen along with legislators from both parties, businesspeople, and doctors, will study other states’ health care coverage expansion policies and produce a guide to increase coverage in North Carolina.

Women’s Rights and LGBTQ Rights

Criminal Justice

  • On Tuesday key provisions of the Second Chance Act went into effect, allowing many North Carolinians with criminal records to have those records expunged. Nonviolent misdemeanor convictions from seven or more years ago are eligible for expunction, as well as dismissed charges or “not guilty” findings for those charged with a crime. Dismissed charges or “not guilty” findings not petitioned for expunction by those charged will be automatically expunged a year after the law took effect (December 1, 2021).

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