The Pulse

Weekend reads: What’s owed NC’s school children, making school boards partisan, and families harmed by fentanyl have their say

By: - March 12, 2023 8:30 am

Sen. Michael Lazzara (L) and Sen. Danny Britt (R) advocate for stiffer penalties for fentanyl distribution.

In this issue:

1. The Medicaid expansion celebrations are premature

North Carolina has witnessed a spate of glowing and upbeat news reports and commentaries in recent days after Republican legislative leaders announced last week that they had reached an agreement to expand the state’s Medicaid program.

Multiple local and national outlets described the state as, after more than a decade of delay, now on the glidepath to providing access to healthcare for 600,000-plus uninsured people of modest income.[Read more…]

2. ’11 North Carolinians every day’: Senators move to increase punishments as fentanyl overdoses rise.

State Sen. Michael Lazzara has seen more than his share of families crushed by the scourge of fentanyl in his home district of Onslow County.

“In 2021, we lost 11 North Carolinians each and every day from drug overdose,” Lazzara said Tuesday, urging his colleagues to fast-track stiffer penalties against dealers who traffic heroin or fentanyl.

Lazzara was joined by families who had lost loved ones to the opioid epidemic, including Leslie Maynor Locklear of Robeson County.

“To me growing up in Pembroke was like growing up in Mayberry. It was the all-American life where people watched out for each other’s kids, worshiped in church together,” Locklear told lawmakers.[Read more…]

3. Siler City cited another $28K for water quality violations; public can comment on special order

Siler City’s wastewater treatment plant continued to violate the Clean Water Act last year, bringing total fines to more than $267,000 for chronic water quality issues since 2016, state records show.

The latest fine of $28,000 was assessed by the NC Department of Environmental Quality for violations incurred last July. At that time, average monthly levels of total nitrogen, which includes nitrites and ammonia, in the plant’s discharge exceeded legal limits by 206%. That discharge enters Loves Creek, a tributary of the Rocky River. [Read more…]

4. New Leandro judge sets hearing to determine what’s owed state’s school children


The judge overseeing the long running Leandro school funding lawsuit has given attorneys in the case until March 15 to file briefs on proposed funding amounts before deciding next steps in the case.

Superior Court Judge James Ammons of Cumberland County was appointed to the nearly three-decades old case by Chief Justice Paul Newby in December. A hearing has been scheduled for March 17 to discuss how much money must be transferred to pay for year three of a comprehensive school improvement plan.[Read more…]

5. After the GOP proposes ‘commonsense gun reform,’ Dems float their own ideas

The bills are broadly aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of people deemed a risk to themselves or others.

After he found out his fiancée had been shot and killed while walking her dog, a grief-stricken Rob Steele took his gun out of his safe. He unloaded the magazine, put the ammunition back in the metal box, then handed his firearm to a doctor.

“I red-flagged myself because I was smart enough to know I was not going to be OK,” Steele said. “I have not asked for it back, and I have no intention of doing so anytime soon.”

Steele, whose fiancée was among the five people killed in a mass shooting last October in Raleigh’s Hedingham neighborhood, appeared alongside Democratic lawmakers Tuesday to discuss a slate of gun-reform bills in an attempt to prevent mass shootings and suicides.[Read more…]

6. Cooper stresses support for education in State of the State speech

Education as a key to expanding the state’s skilled workforce and maintaining its economic competitiveness was a central theme in Gov. Roy Cooper’s State of the State speech Monday night, a speech that included references to priorities in his next budget.

He encouraged investment in the “education pipeline” that begins in early childhood.

“A great workforce requires real investment from cradle to career,” he said. [Read more…]

Bonus read: NC Medicaid expansion wins approval from Senate committee
7. Durham school board resolution pushes back against GOP education culture war agenda


The Durham County Board of Education on Thursday unanimously approved a resolution urging the General Assembly to vote ‘No’ when a controversial bill to restrict what educators can teacher about American history comes before lawmakers.

Filed by Republicans last month, House Bill 187 would prevent educators from promoting Critical Race Theory (CRT) and what many conservatives pejoratively describe as wokeness. The bill contains many of the elements in a bill filed by Republicans in 2021 that Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed.[Read more…]

8. New book, panel at Duke University explore the politics of the Marvel film phenomenon

Like so many things, for good or ill, it started on Twitter.

A host of political scientists from across the country had just seen 2019’s Avengers: Endgame and were discussing it online.

Then, much of the world was doing the same.

Upon release, the film — a climactic point in the phenomenally successful Marvel Cinematic Universe of interconnected superhero films — had a worldwide opening that brought in more than $1 billion. It would go on to become the then-highest grossing film of all time, making nearly $2.8 billion worldwide.

But this group of scholars wasn’t quibbling over potential holes in the film’s complex time-travel plot or sparring over whether The Hulk could single-handedly defeat Thanos. [Read more…]

9. Lawmakers are making more school boards partisan, and getting more Republicans elected

[This report was first published by the UNC Media Hub.]

One local bill at a time, state lawmakers have nearly tripled the number of partisan school boards across the state over the last decade — often over the objections of school board members themselves.

It’s a move some board members say is turning their school system from a hyperlocal, traditionally apolitical governing board into a contentious microcosm of national political debates. [Read more…]

10. Weekly Radio Interviews and Daily Audio Commentaries:

11. Weekly Editorial Cartoon:

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

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.