WFAE

When it comes to drawing districts for congressional elections, House Speaker Tim Moore says North Carolina Republicans nailed it.

“Frankly, it's a model other states could follow,” says Moore. 

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein is opposing Duke Energy's request to charge ratepayers for the costs of cleaning up its coal ash dumps around the state.  

A panel of federal judges has denied a request from Republican lawmakers to delay redrawing all of North Carolina's 13 congressional districts.

People who live near Duke Energy's North Carolina coal ash dumps on Thursday marked 1,000 days of living on bottled water, amid fears that their wells are contaminated. They're calling on lawmakers to adopt stronger groundwater standards to prevent contamination of private wells. And they want Duke to dig up and secure coal ash statewide - not just at a few sites as now required.

A federal court's decision to strike down North Carolina's map of congressional districts has cast uncertainty over this year’s elections.

color:#0A0A0A">Federal judges ruled Tuesday that the boundaries drawn by Republican legislators constitute an illegal partisan gerrymander.  The judges gave lawmakers about two weeks to come up with a new map.


 

The federal judges relied heavily on the findings of Duke University mathematics and statistics professor, Dr. Jonathan Mattingly.  He used computer programming and an algorithm to create thousands of simulated congressional districting plans for North Carolina. 

The headline of Tuesday's federal ruling is an eye-catching one: All 13 North Carolina congressional districts are illegal partisan gerrymanders. The deadline was equally eye-catching. The judges gave lawmakers just two weeks to redraw the whole map.

So did all this catch the eyes of lawmakers in Raleigh?

Not visibly. But that doesn’t mean things aren’t happening behind the scene.  

In what may be a landmark decision, a federal panel of judges has ruled all of North Carolina's congressional districts are illegal partisan gerrymanders.

They've banned the map from being used in this year's election and ordered the General Assembly to draw new districts by 5pm on January 24th.

Lawmakers are expected to appeal the ruling.

This year's congressional election has just been thrown into chaos.

Late Tuesday, a panel of federal judges ruled unanimously that all of North Carolina's election districts for the U.S. House of Representatives are illegal partisan gerrymanders. All 13 districts must now be redrawn just weeks before the campaign season officially kicks off with candidate filings.

Duke Energy has agreed to pay an $84,000 fine and will speed up coal ash cleanups at three coal-fired power plants in western North Carolina. The proposed agreement with state environmental regulators deals with pollutants seeping from coal ash ponds near the Marshall plant on Lake Norman, the Allen plant in Gaston County and the Rogers plant in Rutherford County.

Governor Roy Cooper was in Charlotte Friday to make his pitch to lawmakers to give schools more money to implement smaller class sizes. He visited with second graders at Cotswold Elementary School. Legislators mandated that elementary schools get kindergarten through third grade classes below 18 students by next school year. While Cooper thinks the idea could improve learning, he said the current plan puts schools in a tough situation because no extra money has been dedicated.

On Thursday, about three dozen people marched silently through uptown Charlotte. Their mission was to protest a controversial judicial redistricting plan proposed by Republican lawmakers.

The filing period for North Carolina’s legislative seats begins in just six weeks. But election district boundaries are still up in the air. A federal court hearing in Greensboro this week may shed some light on whether judges consider efforts to redraw 28 districts to pass constitutional muster. 

Preliminary numbers show 8.8 million people bought health insurance plans through the federal exchange this year nationwide. That’s 96 percent of last year’s sign-ups, despite a lot of changes to the Affordable Care Act and a shorter window to enroll. Sign-ups in the Carolinas were also close to that of last year.  

Panthers owner Jerry Richardson took himself out of the team’s front office Monday, and turned over day-to-day operations to fellow executive Tina Becker. That came a day after he announced he's selling the team, and amid an NFL investigation of misconduct allegations against him. The news has led to lots of speculation about the fate of both the owner and the team, including what the Panthers might sell for, and potential buyers.

Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson is selling the team. Richardson, the team's only owner in its 23 seasons, made the announcement following Sunday's 31-24 win over the Packers - and on the same day that Sports Illustrated reported that at least four ex-employees received “significant monetary settlements,” stemming from inappropriate comments and behavior by Richardson.

For the last three years, an advisory panel based at UNC Charlotte has helped guide Duke Energy as the company figures out what to do with coal ash. And, during that time, Duke has also contracted with the university to do scientific research on specific coal ash sites.   

Providing research and advice of this nature requires a degree of collaboration. But, when companies turn to universities for hired expertise, challenges and questions about the relationship can arise. Can such collaboration become too cozy?

This is the last week to sign up for health insurance through the exchange. More than 209,000 people in North Carolina have enrolled as of the first week in December, according to the federal count. 

After Democrat Roy Cooper defeated Republican Governor Pat McCrory a year ago, state environmental secretary Donald van der Vaart gave up his office. After all, he was a McCrory appointee. But he didn't leave the agency. Instead he demoted himself and the department's No. 2 official, John Evans, to staff positions. The two men have since spoken out on policy issues, sometimes at odds with state policy. Now the Department of Environmental Quality has put the van der Vaart and Evans on paid  "investigatory leave."  WFAE's David Boraks joins "All Things Considered" host Mark Rumsey to talk about the situation.

When accusations surfaced that Alabama U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore initiated a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old, Raleigh lawyer Catherine Lawson responded with the hash tag #MeAt14. She tweeted a photo of herself at that age with the words: "Can’t consent at 14. Not in Alabama. Not anywhere."

It caught on and thousands used the hash tag to tweet pictures of themselves as a way to emphasize that children that age can’t consent to sex. Lawson spoke with WFAE’s Sarah Delia.

 

Five North Carolina prison workers have died at the hands of inmates this year. In October, inmates killed two prison workers outright and fatally injured two others at the Pasquotank Correctional Institution in Elizabeth City. An officer was killed in April at Bertie Correctional Institution in the eastern part of the state. The Charlotte Observer's Ames Alexander and Gavin Off have reported on how a staffing shortage may have contributed to those deaths and is making the jobs of many prison officers more dangerous.

For several years, Duke Energy has faced criticisms about its handling of coal ash, including concerns about contamination of groundwater around coal ash storage ponds at power plant sites in the Carolinas. Now, the company is facing scrutiny over the way it engaged with experts hired to study its handling of coal ash ponds. 

An outside expert appointed by a federal court to help draw some North Carolina legislative districts that judges worry remained unconstitutional has suggested changes.

 

North Carolina's two U.S. senators have joined a growing group of Republican colleagues in Congress calling on Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore to withdraw from the race.

Charlotte's City Council will get five new members - all under the age of 40 - when the new council is sworn in on Dec. 4. That represents a generational shift in city government, says WFAE's Tom Bullock.

The city of Charlotte has made history electing its first African American female mayor. In a landslide victory, Democratic candidate Vi Lyles defeated Republican Kenny Smith. 

Duke Energy has removed about 13 million tons of coal ash at five plants in North Carolina as it complies with federal and state cleanup requirements. But ten times that amount remains in the ground across the state, and not all that will be removed.

Starting today, the North Carolina Medicaid program will pay for medicines to treat hepatitis C for patients no matter how sick they are. In the past, the state wouldn’t pay for the expensive drugs unless the patient had stage two liver damage.  

What if a dam holding back coal ash burst at one of Duke Energy's coal plants in the Carolinas or Midwest? Newly released maps from Duke show many properties would be inundated, including some homes and docks. The maps are now public, after environmentalists threatened to sue. 

On a country road south of Monroe in Union County, near a golf course and soybean fields, is a new kind of farm - a solar farm.  This spring, Duke Energy began generating electricity from 684,000 solar panels here, the largest solar farm in the Charlotte region and one of the largest in the state.

There's a new twist in the ongoing case of North Carolina's 28 racially gerrymandered state legislative districts.

A panel of federal judges has issued an order raising serious doubts about the state's recent redistricting efforts and they hired an outsider to potentially redraw certain districts.

Pages