NC Weekly Policy Update for 8/3/20


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.


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