UPCOMING EVENT: Health Care Can’t Wait: Join us for vigils across North Carolina – North Carolina Justice Center

PACs-- Political Action Committees (like us!)-- can't legally coordinate with individual political campaigns, but they can endorse candidates and run ads on a candidate's behalf. What they don't have to do, unlike political campaigns, is disclose their donors.

So that means super PACs, those with much deeper pockets and much richer donors than regular PACs (like us), can spend any amount of money they wish to for their chosen candidate, with no accountability. And Sen. Dan Bishop, the Republican candidate for the NC-09 election a few months from now, may have been counting on that. A 10-minute video appeared on Dan Bishop's official Youtube account showing him smiling and talking with people: pretty stock footage inviting these super PACs to use it for their own ads. Though this tactic has been used in the past and isn't illegal, it's risky; the other side could also use the footage for negative ads. Given that Bishop was the architect of HB2, that's a little negative press I think the people of North Carolina need to see.

Satana DeBerry, the new district attorney of Durham County, has developed a new program that eliminates cash bond for people accused of crimes such as low-level drug offenses and lesser felony charges except for those that involve harm to another person. Instead of putting up bond to get out of jail, these people would get out on a written promise to appear in court. If the court determines that bond is required, they must have a hearing on whether the person can afford it or not. “The policy notes state law already says judges should consider whether a person will return to court, potential destruction of evidence, danger to the community and witnesses.” Reconsidering the effectiveness of cash bond was one of DeBerry's primary platform objectives, and it has already borne fruit: “In March the average monthly jail population fell to 393 [from 498] and then 366 in April, according to information provided by Deberry. Those months mark the first time the population has been below 400 since at least 2004.” Sweet.

gif via giphy

The State Board of Elections voted to certify the results of the NC-03 primary: there will be a runoff on July 9thbetween the State Rep Greg Murphy(22.5 percent of the vote) and Joan Perry (15.4 percent).

Unrelated but not really unrelated (because it's in the same article for some reason), Karen Brinson Bell, the new NC Board of Elections executive director, will make about $30,000 more than her predecessor. The position, according to BoE attorney Josh Lawson (who resigned shortly after officials announced Bell's appointment), was “misclassified after a state government-wide review that changed various job classifications last year”, causing the director to be "horribly underpaid."

Governor Cooper signed an executive order last week mandating paid parental leave for state employees. Unfortunately this policy doesn't apply to allstate employees-- just the ones who work in agencies that report to the governor-- or even to any other employers, but it's an important first step. Right now, North Carolina resembles the country at large: it does not require employers to grant their employees paid parental leave, which means many employees have to use all of their accrued sick and vacation time, or go without pay. HB987,a bill that would have changed that, is so far stalled in committee. Hopefully some enterprising Democrat can revive parts of it this session.

Last week I noted that press access to the Legislative Building has been restricted due a combination of actively shutting out the press from areas of the building and some obsolete rules nobody at the NCGA seems to want to fix. This week we learn that the room they booted the press out of has become a retreat for lawmakers, who can talk and lounge away from the eyes and ears of constituents and press, behind a locked door only accessed by security badge or key, neither of which press will have. Wonder how they think that'll help them serve the best interests of the public, when they can't hear what the public has to say over how fancy their new lounge is.

Realtime footage of legislators in their new lounge. (kidding. gif via giphy)

The Durham-Orange Light Rail project is no more, but that doesn't mean it's done spending money. Taxpayers will pay another (estimated) $23 million between now and the time the project is closed down in 2020. Most of this money will go to paying for work done in the early parts of 2019, just before the project ended. The rest will pay for consultants and a few lawsuits still being argued.

In marginally better news, Thom Tillis' sure hold on the Republican nomination for his seat in 2020 isn't so sure after all. A Republican civil war may be brewing between Tillis and his challenger, Garland Tucker, over who is more loyal to Trump. While the thought of watching the Republicans fight among themselves over who can suck up to Trump the best is amusing, that's not a strategy to win the election. We must find and present a strong Democratic challenger.

A provision in the annual regulatory reform bill—SB553-- would repeal the 9-year-old ban on throwing electronics in landfills. The ban was put in place to prompt recycling of electronics, thereby protecting the environment and people fromtoxic materials that would leak into the soil from these devices if they were left and destroyed at landfills. Supporters of the provision to lift the ban say that recycling has become too expensive. “The recycling market is cyclical,” says Sen. Andy Wells. Maybe this is just me, but recycling and protecting our environment and everyone in it shouldn't be something we leave up to the whims of capitalism. Contact your Senators and urge them to keep the ban in place.

And now some genuinely good news: Asheville and Durham are leading the charge in getting their untested rape kits to labs for analysis. The backlog of untested kits in North Carolina is more than in any other state, according to Attorney General Josh Stein, but we are making progress.

Good news and less-than-good news for the state of homelessness in North Carolina: the number of homeless may be rising in certain areas, but the general number of homeless is decreasing across the state.

If you're hungry for more NC news, check in with Neighbors On Call's policy update here.

And now, the best news I've heard all week: NC Democrats in Congress are signaling that they're getting tired of Trump's bull**** and moving closer and closer to calling for impeachment.

Let's tell them exactly how ready we are for the House to act! Contact these Representatives often and urge them to call for impeachment.

Contact Rep. G. K. Butterfield (1st District)

Contact Rep. David Price (4th District)

Contact Rep. Alma Adams (12th District)

Tags: ICYMI, NCGA, State Board of Elections, voter issue: environment, elections, press freedom

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