Even though the Department of Justice is suing the state for violating the Civil Rights Act, the White House has announced that it will not defund North Carolina while the lawsuits are in progress.
North Carolina won’t lose billions in federal education money while the Department of Justice and state leaders spar over House Bill 2 in court, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Thursday.
The department sent state leaders a letter last week saying that HB2 violates the Civil Rights Act and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 – a finding that could jeopardize billions in federal education funding. Those laws ban employment discrimination and discrimination in education based on sex.
On Monday, Gov. Pat McCrory and legislative leaders filed lawsuits contesting the order. And Attorney General Loretta Lynch filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction to put House Bill 2 on hold until the matter is resolved in court.
“The administration will not take action to withhold funding while this enforcement process is playing out in the courts,” Earnest said Thursday during his daily press briefing.
And noncompliant districts—ahem, NC—could lose funding.
A letter signed by officials at the Justice and Education departments, to be sent Friday morning, tells the schools they should ensure that all students, including transgender students, can attend school in an environment free from discrimination based on sex, according to the letter obtained by McClatchy.
“A school may not require transgender students to use facilities inconsistent with their gender identity or to use individual-user facilities when other students are not required to do so,” it says.
The letter does not mandate any actions. It is considered guidance, though schools that do not abide could face a loss of federal aid, according to federal officials.
“We must ensure that our young people know that whoever they are or wherever they come from, they have the opportunity to get a great education in an environment free from discrimination, harassment and violence,” Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. said in a statement.
And here’s Pat saying we need to rewrite the Civil Rights Act to make sure he can discriminate against transgender people.
Art Pope, a North Carolina businessman and major financial backer of Republican candidates, said Thursday he won’t support Donald Trump for president.
“I am not supporting liberal Hillary Clinton or socialist Bernie Sanders or populist Donald Trump for president,” Pope told the Observer. “Because all three of those look at big government as the solution to society’s problems.” […]
Pope said he’s not sure who he’ll vote for.
“We’ve got six months until the election and at this point I don’t know how I’m going to vote,” he said.
House lawmakers want to remove a cap on light rail funding that has harmed plans for a Durham-Chapel Hill light rail project.
The $500,000 cap enacted last year would be dropped under the House transportation budget that received initial approval from a subcommittee Thursday. The budget plan would also eliminate ferry tolls and launch a study of trucker parking options along highways – a response to truckers getting ticketed for parking and sleeping next to exit ramps when truck stops are full.
The light rail cap was a surprise provision added to last year’s budget. It prompted concerns from urban legislators in both parties and canceled the state’s commitment to provide $138 million for the planned $1.5 billion Durham-Orange light-rail line.
[The state budget] was supposed to land on Gov. Pat McCrory's desk by July 1, but House and Senate Republicans couldn't reach an agreement. They spent 11 additional weeks arguing about it, passing three stopgap spending measures to accommodate the delay. Finally, a bill was produced. It was quickly passed by the Legislature and signed by McCrory.
Inside that 429-page budget bill, though, was a tiny provision that capped state spending on light-rail projects at a paltry $500,000. This meant that the DOT could no longer contribute the $138 million it had promised to the Durham-Orange County line. It also destabilized the request to the federal government; the feds like to know a project has its other funding secured before delivering the big money.
The provision had never been brought up for any kind of public debate, and not a single House or Senate Republican claimed credit for inserting it into the budget. It just appeared at the last minute, out of nowhere, and became law.
None of the local legislators representing the districts through which the light-rail project would pass were notified about the $500,000 cap during the backroom negotiations that produced the budget. But four separate Democratic lawmakers told the INDY last week that they believe they know who slipped the cap into the bill.
"My understanding is that [Speaker Tim Moore's] chief of staff is the one responsible," says Graig Meyer, D-Hillsborough.
Here’s the thing: as much as the Triangle needs mass transit, there’s a good argument to be made that light rail isn’t it. On the other hand, the local governments have all coughed up their share, and if the state wanted to bail, what the legislature did last year was entirely the wrong way to go about it.
The Environmental Management Commission and DEQ typically work together to produce a joint report, according to former DEQ employees and environmental advocates. DEQ staff typically compiles data and reports and submits it to the EMC for review. However, rather than endorse the reports approved by the EMC on Thursday, DEQ says it will send its own versions to the General Assembly. […]
The EMC on Thursday decided to send SolarBee and buffer reports that DEQ staff published and then retracted in March. Those reports, which are favored by groups like the Sierra Club and N.C. Conservation Network, offer a more critical take on SolarBees and a more favorable take on buffers than the reports DEQ plans to send to legislators.
The EMC reports also offer more detailed explanations of the subjects, said EMC member Julie Wilsey. Advocacy groups applauded the EMC’s vote Thursday morning.
“The EMC has it right; as much as DEQ leadership may try to muddy the waters, the data shows that in-lake treatment of pollution cannot substitute for control at the source, and riparian buffers provide vital protections for the waters we drink, fish, and swim in,” said Grady McCallie, policy director at the N.C. Conservation Network.
DEQ, meanwhile, plans to send what it’s calling the “final” versions of the SolarBee and buffer reports that it posted in March, retracted and then revised. Stephanie Hawco, a DEQ spokeswoman, said her department’s reports are more consistent with what the legislature requested.
Tom Reeder, assistant secretary for the environment, reiterated that stance in a letter to the Durham Herald-Sun, which DEQ also posted to its website Thursday.
“Contrary to accusations by the media and left-wing special interest groups, the draft report that was posted prematurely was edited to contain only information requested by the General Assembly,” Reeder wrote.
And here you have a leader of the state’s environmental watchdog agency criticizing “left-wing special interest groups” who want to protect a vital source of drinking water. I feel safer already.