Perhaps you noticed the snow (cool!) and ice (boo!) covering the street in front of your house, especially if you live in Durham. At 7:21 this morning, the Durham County Sheriff’s Office emailed: “The Durham County Sheriff’s Office has responded to at least eight weather-related accidents since Sunday evening. The number of wrecks increases as drivers get on the road this morning. Deputies have assisted at least two stranded motorists in Durham County.”
In other words, get back in your PJs, stay at home, and watch cartoons or whatever. (Unless you’re me, in which case you’ll be headed into the office as soon as you finish this blog post. Rain, snow, sleet, or hail, the INDY’s production cycle doesn’t wait.)
Anyway, on to the news:
1. Perhaps you’ve heard that Antonin Scalia is dead. This is a tragedy for the justice’s many friends and admirers—including the Notorious RBG herself—and it edges the country’s already-chaotic politics toward full-blown crisis, but in the short term, Scalia’s involuntarily retirement is undeniably good news for the environment (President Obama’s Clean Power Plan is likely to stand) and public-sector unions (which were facing a devastating blow), among other with controversies before the court.
Before the body was cold, Republicans in the Senate and on the presidential campaign trail flat-out declared that Barack Obama, the duly elected president of the United States until January 20, 2017, should not be allowed to nominate Scalia’s replacement, even though the Constitution requires him to do so, because they say so.
In other words:
As a friend put it: “Apparently, the GOP thinks that Black Presidents only get 3/5ths a term.” — Ken Wissoker (@kwissoker) February 13, 2016
North Carolina Senator Richard Burr, who is facing reelection this year, jumped on the obstructionist bandwagon, in a tweet that was no doubt promptly bookmarked by Deborah Ross’s team:
Buckle up, everyone. It’s going to be a hell of a year.
2. To reiterate. Lots of ice and assorted nastiness out there, stay home.
The misery began later than expected on area highways Monday morning, but by 5 a.m., wrecks abounded in Wake County and some police characterized Interstate 495 in Raleigh as “a total mess” where ice made even walking tough for officers out of their cruisers.
Police also were dealing with accidents on Interstate 440 near Wade Avenue and had closed the ramp from inbound Wade Avenue to I-440 eastbound.
There were no major injuries reported, however.
In Chatham County, officials closed schools for students as road conditions deteriorated. In Johnston County, where most schools had the day off anyway, staff and early- and middle-college students were told to stay home
Wake, Durham and Orange schools had decided Sunday to call off Monday classes, as had Chapel Hill-Carrboro.
Johnston County schools remained on a two-hour delay.
Raleigh-Durham International Airport showed several canceled or delayed flights, largely to airports in the Northeast.
3. Wake municipalities aren’t entirely on board with new school projects.
School projects in Wake County are running into tough questioning from municipalities – a level of scrutiny that’s causing delays in some projects and hard negotiations over others.
In the past two months, the opening of a traditional public school in Raleigh and a charter school in Knightdale were each delayed for a year after local officials raised concerns about how the projects would affect traffic. Talks over another school project in Garner came down to the wire when town officials threatened to withhold a permit for the construction work.
School officials say they need to get projects approved to keep up with growth and to provide educational options for families. But municipal officials say they have to balance the school concerns with community concerns.
Wake needs more schools—that much is indisputable. But where to put them is becoming an increasingly tricky question to navigate.
4. The N.C. Supreme Court will hear the teacher-tenure appeal today.
North Carolina teachers will get a show of support on Monday from police organizations and retired state workers as their fight to keep tenure goes to the state’s highest court.
The N.C. Supreme Court is set to hear arguments on Monday in a legal dispute over public-school teacher pay and policy reforms from 2013 that led to protest marches and rallies in the state capital.
At issue is whether a plan to phase out tenure adopted in 2013 amounted to an illegal taking of contract and property rights.
Last year, an appeals court ruled that tenure was a “fundamental part of the bargain” between teachers and the state, so the state couldn’t strip it away under the guise of reform.
“State law enforcement officers accepted employment with the understanding that although they would not get rich, they could earn basic job security provided by the State Personnel Act,” J. Michael McGuinness, an attorney from Elizabethtown, wrote for the law enforcement organization. “Under established law, once the State uses the promise of valuable employment protections to recruit employees and allows those protections to vest, it may not unilaterally strip employees of their rights.”
If the state lawmakers persuade the N.C. Supreme Court “to change course,” McGuinness added, “these officers will have built their lives and careers around a false promise.”
Lawmakers are hoping for a friendlier audience with the state’s high court.
5. The General Assembly will hold its first hearing on the court-ordered redistricting today. (INDY scribe Jane Porter will be there, so watch this space for updates.)
The North Carolina General Assembly is planning to hold a series of public hearings to discuss the Congressional redistricting case. State lawmakers are preparing to hold a special session to redraw congressional districts if the Supreme Court doesn’t issue a stay.
In a release, the General Assembly said the “State of North Carolina maintains that its Congressional maps are constitutional and remains confident the U.S. Supreme Court will ultimately issue a stay.” State lawmakers announced they will hold a series of public hearings Monday to discuss the Congressional redistricting case.
Last week, three federal judges ruled that North Carolina must re-draw the 1st and 12th Congressional districts. The judges ruled state lawmakers used race as a predominant factor in drawing the lines.
That’s it for this morning’s Roundup. I’m headed into the office now. Wish me luck.