Weekend reads: Big changes for voting rights, Blue Cross Blue Shield, sports betting and the UNC Board of Governors

By: - June 4, 2023 9:09 am

State seal outside the NC General Assembly. (Photo by Clayton Henkel)

In this issue:

1.  Senate gives final approval to Blue Cross NC bill the insurance commissioner says is bad for policyholders

Republican Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey

By Lynn Bonner

The state Senate on Tuesday approved a bill allowing nonprofit Blue Cross NC to act more like a for-profit insurance company over the objections of the state Insurance Commissioner and despite an 11th-hour appeal from the state Treasurer to slow the action.

Blue Cross Blue Shield NC, the state’s dominant health insurer, will be able to set up a holding company for its assets. The holding company would be able to buy businesses without oversight from state regulators. [Read more…]

2. James Lyons, Durham’s solid waste director, fired after NC Newsline investigation

Lyons was introduced as Durham’s new director of the Solid Waste Management Department earlier this month. (Photo:

By Lisa Sorg

James Lyons, who started as Durham’s solid waste director just three weeks ago, has been fired, effectively immediately, after an NC Newsline investigation into his work history. In an email sent at 6:56 p.m. Tuesday, City Manager Wanda Page announced Lyons’s termination. As NC Newsline reported earlier Tuesday, the City paid a national search firm [Read more…]

3. NC Senate Republicans propose sweeping voting changes including new rules for mail-in ballots

the entrance to a voting precinct
Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

By Lynn Bonner

Senate Republicans want new restrictions on voting that would require signature verification and two-factor authentication of mail-in ballots.  In addition to these new requirements, Senate Bill 747 also folds in restrictions that Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper has vetoed in the past. One provision in the bill eliminates the three-day grace period for mail-in ballots. Mail-in [Read more…]

Bonus read: NC elections board preps for voter ID, braces for more, potentially expensive, requirements

4. State education leaders say school voucher expansion won’t prompt public school exodus

Photo: Getty Images

By Greg Childress

An expansion of the state’s school voucher program to include all families regardless of income isn’t likely to cause an exodus of  students from traditional public schools, NC Department of Public Instruction officials said Wednesday. That statement is based on what research shows has happened in other states that allow wealthy families access to school [Read more…]

Bonus read: Eight new school quality indicators could be added to state’s A-F grading system

5. Newsline special report: A community inundated with industrial waste

The Mountaire chicken slaughter plant disposes of its wastewater by spraying it on farm fields. The contamination can seep into the groundwater. (Photo: Lisa Sorg)

By Lisa Sorg

Fifty-nine thousand tons of carbon dioxide. Fifteen tons of hazardous air pollutants. Another seven tons of ultra-fine particulate matter that can burrow deep into the lungs, invade the bloodstream and cause babies to be born too early and too small.

Thirteen unlined dumps, their decades-old contents seeping into the groundwater. Fourteen hazardous waste sites, leaving behind a cancer-causing soup of solvents and pesticides, oils and dyes. Millions of gallons of urine and feces excreted daily by 300,000 hogs, plus an untold number of chickens and turkeys. [Read more…]

Additional segments in this series:

6. Some NC House members warm to medical marijuana, but the bill’s outlook remains hazy (with video)

Bill sponsor credits cannabis with helping save his life while fighting colon cancer

By Clayton Henkel

North Carolina’s medical marijuana bill has been largely dormant since passing the state Senate in early March. But members of the state House showed signs Tuesday that they were becoming more comfortable with the Compassionate Care Act. The bipartisan bill would allow doctors to authorize cannabis in treating more than a dozen debilitating medical condition [Read more…]

7. NC Senate gives final approval to mobile sports wagering bill

Smart phones make it easy to place wagers in online casinos and sporting events. Photo: Getty Images

By Clayton Henkel

Legislation that would allow North Carolinians to place bets on professional and college sports as well as horse racing won final approval (37-11) in the state Senate Thursday.

The measure drew both bipartisan support and opposition.

Sen. Jim Burgin joined Democrats to speak against the bill. He dismissed the argument that the state was losing out on revenue from sports gambling that was happening in other states or off the books. [Read more…]

7. Changing prison medical release law could make 1,000+ people eligible

Inmates in many prisons must pay for basic necessities and prices on those items have been rising. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

By Kelan Lyons

Senate Republican leaders included a provision deep within their budget that would broaden North Carolina’s medical release law that offers sick, elderly and dying incarcerated people a path out of prison so they can spend the end of their lives outside the confines of a cell. Data shared with NC Newsline by Ben Finholt, director [Read more…]

Bonus reads:

8. Change could be coming to the UNC Board of Governors. Will it matter?

a photo of a UNC Board of Governors meeting
The UNC Board of Governors meets in Raleigh. (Photo: Joe Killian)

By Joe Killian

The UNC Board of Governors would change under a bill revised this week in the state House — as would the process for appointing members. But will adding members to the UNC System’s governing board — and the process by which they are appointed — make a substantive difference? The new version of Senate Bill [Read more…]

9. More than 100 organizations call on Target, other businesses to stand up to anti-LGBTQ threats

Photo: Ted Eytan, Getty Images

By Joe Killian

A coalition of more than 100 organizations — several from North Carolina — are calling on the major retail chain Target and the business community at-large to stand up to extremist threats going into LGBTQ Pride month. As Newsline reported, Target reluctantly decided last week to pull some Pride Month merchandise from its shelves as [Read more…]

Bonus read: Monday numbers: Coming of age LGBTQ in the South

10. Once again, Biden makes the best of an impossible situation  (Commentary)

President Joe Biden
The author says President Joe Biden did the right thing in striking a debt ceiling deal with House Republicans. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

By Rob Schofield

In a perfect world – or even a really good one – there’s no doubt that the debt ceiling agreement President Biden struck with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy over the weekend would be a frustration and a disappointment. The agreement will inflict all manner of painful cuts to core public structures and services that are [Read more…]

11. Weekly Editorial Cartoon from John Cole:


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Clayton Henkel
Clayton Henkel

Communications Coordinator Clayton Henkel manages the NC Newsline website and daily newsletter, while also producing daily audio commentaries and the weekly News and Views radio program/podcast.