The Morning Roundup: Senator Walks Back on HBCU Provision, Coal Ash Bill Headed to McCrory | News

The Morning Roundup: Senator Walks Back on HBCU Provision, Coal Ash Bill Headed to McCrory


Sen. Tom Apodaca
  • Sen. Tom Apodaca
1. Apodaca to pull HBCU tuition provision from controversial bill.

Since no one believes Senator Tom Apodaca, Phil Berger's right-hand man, does anything out of the goodness of his heart, people got suspicious—and angry— about a provision in Senate Bill 873 that would cap tuition at five state universities at $500 per semester for in-state students, including three historically black colleges.

So Apodaca's pulling the three HBCUs—Elizabeth City State, Winston-Salem State and Fayetteville State— from that provision in the bill, though Western Carolina and UNC-Pembroke will remain. The state planned to reimburse the schools  up to $70 million a year to cover lost tuition revenues. 

From WRAL:

HBCU backers say they worry that taxpayer support might not be there during hard economic times, and they rallied against the tuition cut Wednesday afternoon on Halifax Mall behind the Legislative Building, saying the proposal threatens the viability of the schools.

"The historically black colleges and universities of North Carolina are risk of becoming extinct. We are in jeopardy," North Carolina Central University student Raven Cheatham said, calling the provision "a direct attack on our education, culture and future."

"All these alumni and all these HBCU students, we know. We know that that's what they're trying to do," said Delanie Vandergrift, a student at North Carolina A&T State University.

Others said a cut-rate tuition stigmatizes the schools as providing a lower-quality education.

"You get what you pay for," said Darnell Johnson, an Elizabeth City State alumnus. "If you're charging me $3,500 and charging someone else $500, you think it comes with that sort of inequality."

"There is distrust in the way the bill was rolled out," said Sen. Erica Smith-Ingram, D-Northampton. "I think it is a magnanimous gesture for leadership and the sponsors who want to do something."
"I've never tried to help people in my life and be treated so poorly...trying to help people, but they don't want to be helped. I can't do any more,” said Sen. Tom Apodaca told Time Warner Cable news. 

Another provision in the bill which ensures that tuition stays the same for all four years of college will remain. Apodaca said he's never had so much trouble giving away $70 million, but that's just what happens when you spend fourteen years in the Senate on the wrong side of everything. 

2. The coal ash bill is headed to Governor McCrory, who's expected to veto it.

The coal ash bill passed the House and Senate with bi-partisan support on Tuesday, and is headed to Gov. McCrory, who has made clear he's not a fan.

Among other provisions in the bill, Duke Energy will be required to provide new, permanent drinking water sources to hundreds of households located within a half mile of its coal ash ponds. And if any wells are found to be contaminated with coal ash further away, Duke will have to provide drinking water to those households too.

The bill also reconstitutes the Coal Ash Management Commission, a seven-member body that would be appointed mainly by the governor. McCrory objects to this because he already successfully sued the General Assembly over the commission violating his executive power. 

Environmentalists are split over the bill because, on the one hand, it forces Duke Energy to provide clean water to households near coal ash sites but on the other, it doesn't set a clear path for the utility to actually clean up its coal ash. 

Here's an excerpt from a long and good piece from North Carolina Health News, which you should read.

The new bill, if it becomes law, sets a timeline for Duke’s committing to liberating people living near coal ash dumps from using bottled water for drinking, cleaning, and bathing at their homes.

The legislation does not immediately resolve a key question about the scale of cleanup to be required of the impoundments, most of which are unlined pits that can potentially leach toxins into the ground. State law says eight out of Duke Energy’s 33 coal ash impoundments must be dug up. Whether excavation will required of the remaining 25 remains uncertain.

By October, Duke must submit a binding agreement to the state agreeing to provide well owners with new water supplies. By September 2017, Duke will need to submit specific plans for either hooking properties to municipal water supplies or providing full-home filtration systems.

The legislation also reopens a period for public comment on state Department of Environmental Quality assessments of risk posed by individual coal ash waste impoundments. DEQ would be obliged to accept feedback until Aug 1. By Sept. 1, DEQ must submit risk classifications to the newly formed coal ash commission for impoundments on the 10 sites not classified as high risk.

This procedure is not at all what DEQ had planned. In mid-May, the agency ranked 25 impoundments at 10 locations as posing an intermediate risk. That would require Duke Energy dig up all these coal ash sites, in addition to four others already designated as high risk by the 2014 Coal Ash Management Act .

DEQ wanted legislators to accept those rankings as tentative, however, and give the agency another 18 months to modify them if Duke Energy provided alternative drinking water sources to neighbors and made required repairs to dams on some sites.

Duke Energy opposed DEQ’s intermediate rankings and has said it is safe to leave all coal ash where it is and cap it, rather than dig it up. A statement issued by Duke Energy Tuesday reiterated the company’s support of McGrady’s bill.

Utility officials see value in a commission that considers costs to energy customers when ruling on cleanup requirements, two company representatives have said. And company officials support the new legislation’s emphasis on encouraging recycling of coal ash.

“We are open to considering a variety of reuse options for coal ash, including use in concrete and other construction materials, and as structural fill material,” Duke Energy spokesman Jeff Brooks said. “The key is time. If we can have the time to properly develop and implement reuse strategies, we can productively use ash that would otherwise end up in a long-term storage site.”
3. Members of McCrory's communications staff do not want to testify in public records lawsuit.

We and a bunch of other media outlets and nonprofits are suing the McCrory administration for not providing public records as promptly as possible per state law, and, just like they don't want to provide public records, McCrory communications officials don't want to provide testimony either. 

The North Carolina appeals court on Wednesday allowed them to delay even more, by not ruling on McCrory attorneys' request to dodge depositions scheduled for today. 

From WRAL:
After earlier rulings allowing the case to proceed, Superior Court Judge John Craig this week denied a motion by McCrory's attorneys to delay the depositions of four top public information officers at the Governor's Office and other state agencies. That included the sworn testimony of McCrory Communications Director Josh Ellis, scheduled for Thursday morning.

But shortly after Craig's ruling Wednesday, administration attorneys moved quickly to delay the depositions again, this time with the Court of Appeals. Until the appeals court rules on that motion, state staffers won't have to show up for deposition.

"Judge Craig, the special Superior Court Judge assigned to this case by the Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, has now said on at least three separate occasions that the depositions of four public information officers for the state should move forward," Mike Tadych, an attorney representing the coalition, said in a statement. "It's clear that the defendants don't want them to testify, however, it’s not clear why."
4. McCrory continues to say wrong things about HB 2 and the groups involved in trying to get rid of it. 

McCrory thinks the pro-LGBT Human Rights Campaign is some kind of shadowy, dark money group that's more powerful than the NRA, but nah
Speaker: Gov. Pat McCrory

Statement: Says the Human Rights Campaign is secretly funded.

Ruling: An easy search of public data shows the largest donors to the LGBT-rights group’s PAC and super PAC. When it comes to the group’s overall budget, we know the names of 47 corporations who are major contributors, though not how much they gave. We rate this claim Mostly False.
Come on, Governor. 

5. Early voting is going on now and George Holding is feeling the heat.

Here's an ad where Holding goes after Greg Brannon, who will no doubt pick off more voters from Holding than from incumbent Renee Ellmers. Fun fact: the wacky Cary obstetrician has a huge tax debt.

"Sometimes politics just gets silly," the ad states. We couldn't agree more. 

For the record, we endorsed Ellmers

That's a wrap, folks. If the clouds, or HB 2, are making you blue, just remember that Thursday is little Friday.

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