On Tuesday, a bipartisan panel of three North Carolina Superior Court judges ruled unanimously that legislative and congressional maps drawn by Republicans as part of the decennial redistricting process can be used in elections for at least the next decade. Plaintiffs in the case had argued that the maps were drawn to guarantee Republican gains and to dilute the voting power of racial minorities. The justices found no evidence of racial discrimination. They did agree that the maps were drawn with partisan intent to favor Republicans but asserted that the inherently political nature of the redistricting process means partisanship is not barred under the North Carolina Constitution and the courts are therefore barred from interfering with the process: “Despite our disdain for having to deal with issues that potentially lead to results incompatible with democratic principles and subject our state to ridicule, the Court must remind itself that these maps are the result of a democratic process,” the judges wrote. Two of the plaintiffs, The Southern Coalition for Social Justice and Common Cause, immediately appealed the case. The state Supreme Court will hold a virtual hearing on Feb. 2.
A copy of the 260-page Superior Court’s ruling can be found here. In particular, the justices’ reasoning can be found on pages 222-257.
Gov. Cooper issued a directive that will allow state employees to use paid leave to help relieve COVID-related public school staffing shortages. Under the policy, effective from Jan. 12 to Feb. 15, a state employee may use up to 24 hours of paid community service leave to serve as a substitute teacher, bus driver or cafeteria worker and can also keep any compensation earned for this work.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency has agreed to consider whether the NC Department of Environmental Quality violated federal civil rights law by granting waste treatment permits to several industrial hog farms in Duplin and Sampson counties. The Southern Environmental Law Center filed the complaint with the federal EPA, alleging that the NC DEQ failed to protect surrounding communities from air and water pollution when it granted permits to the private companies to install systems that convert hog waste products into biogas for renewable energy. The EPA will now determine if the complaint has merit.