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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.


  • 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.


  • Democratic state legislators successfully sustained Governor Cooper’s vetoes of bills aimed at limiting his authority during the COVID-19 crisis. Most of the vetoes pertained to bills aiming to overturn his limitations on reopening certain businesses. In addition, Republicans were not able to override the governor’s veto of a bill that would have required him to get concurrence from the North Carolina Council of State before declaring any future state of emergency.

  • Governor Cooper signed SB 232, extending the suspension of the state anti-mask law indefinitely. The law was written decades ago to target the Ku Klux Klan. While it will still be illegal to wear a mask to conceal your identity, and people will still need to remove a mask if asked by an officer of the law, people will be allowed to wear face coverings for health reasons, such as in an effort to lower coronavirus transmission rates.

  • The NC Department of Health and Human Services issued a standing order that will allow anyone to get tested for COVID-19 without having a referral from a doctor. The order applies to all clinics conducting the test and will remain in effect until the public health emergency ends.

Voting Rights

  • On Friday the NC chapter of the ACLU filed a suit against the NC State Board of Elections and the State Legislature seeking to make voting by mail safer in light of the pandemic. The suit seeks to eliminate the current requirement to have someone else witness and sign the mail-in ballot in order for it to be counted. North Carolina is one of only twelve states with similar witness requirements. Last month legislation passed that reduced the witness requirement from two people to one for the 2020 election.

  • Republicans filed a motion in the NC Court of Appeals asking that the court’s injunction against the current voter ID law be lifted, allowing the law to take effect in the 2020 election. They argue that a provision included in the recently passed Bipartisan Election Act of 2020 allowing public assistance photo IDs as acceptable voter IDs satisfies the court’s demands. Although HB 1169, which passed with bipartisan support, makes it easier to vote by mail and provides for public health supplies at polling places, a number of Democratic lawmakers predicted Republicans would use the additional amendment to support a request to lift the injunction. Rep. Marcia Morey (D-Durham) says she is unaware of any public assistance IDs that have photos.

Economic and Housing Policy

  • The legislature adjourned without voting on a bill to limit the power of debt settlement companies. Advocates for HB 1067, including a top Marine Corps leader at Camp Lejeune and the NC State Employees Credit Union, say the bill will protect citizens from the unscrupulous practices of these companies. The bill, which easily passed in the House, failed to get Senate support after industry lobbyists declined to support the bill without amendment.

Education Policy

  • The North Carolina Legislature adjourned until September 2 without making changes to a state law mandating in-person school instruction for at least the first week of the public school year, which begins August 17. It is not clear if Governor Cooper can use an executive order to override the rule and allow schools to use online instruction during that week. The NC School Boards Association has asked for clarification about the governor’s power in this situation, and the governor has indicated that he will address school reopening plans this week.

Gun Violence Prevention

  • In a vote on July 8, NC House lawmakers failed to override Governor Cooper’s veto of gun bill HB 652. The bill, named the 2nd Amendment Protection Act, includes provisions allowing concealed permit holders to bring handguns to nonpublic schools outside of school operating hours when that property also serves as a place of worship. Current state law allows permit holders to carry concealed guns in church, but does not allow weapons to be carried on school grounds.

Criminal Justice

  • Wake County Superior Court Judge Vinston Rozier Jr. found that North Carolina officials have not complied with his month-old court order to improve COVID-19 response in prisons. Judge Rozier had ruled last month that conditions in state prisons were likely unconstitutional in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Judge Rozier expressed deep concern that the state has failed to comply with these directions, and he instructed the state to provide more information. He indicated he would “appoint a court liaison to monitor the accuracy of information submitted to the court, to be paid for by the state.”

  • On Monday, Governor Cooper vetoed SB 168, saying the bill could have the unintended consequence of limiting public access to death investigation records held by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner: “While I believe neither the Department of Health and Human Services, which proposed it, nor the General Assembly, which unanimously passed it, had any ill intent, the concerns that have since been raised make it clear this provision should not become law.” The bill was referred back to the Senate Committee on Rules and Operations.

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