Various things and stuff, Episode 4

Back to school?, breaking news, and ask me stuff

Happy Friday! The Muddening (see below) continues in North Carolina, but at least we’re not in Texas (thoughts and prayers to those still suffering).

School dance

A bipartisan group of lawmakers sent Gov. Roy Cooper, by veto-proof majority, a bill requiring all N.C. school districts to offer some in-person instruction. The bill relied on guidelines from the CDC and the ABC Cooperative. The cooperative is a team of UNC and Duke scholars who’ve reviewed COVID-19 risks and trade-offs and concluded the benefits of returning kids to classes far outweighed the likelihood of COVID spread. 

Cooper said, “Meh.” He keeps moving the goalposts on what he considers worth his signature. 

Cooper said he wanted to get kids back in schools by the end of the term. The N.C. Association of Educators teacher union pushed back, saying it wasn’t safe for teachers to return. Cooper then moved teachers and school staff ahead of other at-risk groups for COVID-19 vaccinations — a process that’ll take time. (Some districts have returned in-person, at least part-time.)

Senate Bill 37, the school reopening bill, was tweaked, giving school districts the ability to make accommodations for teachers who have a greater risk of COVID exposure or who may have health concerns making them more vulnerable to contracting the virus.

Cooper said, “Meh.” He has until Feb. 28 to sign the bill, veto it, or let it become law without his signature. If he decides to play Four Corners with the bill — which would reopen classrooms 15 days after it became law — it’ll be mid-March before everyone returns. That’ll leave six to eight weeks of class time before students take their end-of-course tests

If he vetoes it, and strongarms Democrats into voting lockstep with him, kids will have even less time to wrap up their coursework, reconnect with friends (and teachers), and prepare for the next phase of their lives.

The governor is using students as fodder to protect the agenda of a teacher union that represents only about a third of those in the classroom.

First “Breaking News” story

I’m unsure how many scoops I’ll get, or how many of them I’ll run with quickly. But I appreciate the heads-up I got from Auditor Beth Wood’s office about her report on the state’s failure to monitor ineligible Medicaid providers. I was asking a question about a story for next week, and Liza Weidle, the auditor’s PIO, called to tell me the Medicaid audit would be out a few minutes later. Thanks again!

I’m also kinda juiced (#humblebrag) that I seem to have been the first media type in the state to publish a story about it, beating the N&O by a couple of hours, and others by more than that. It was a basic nuts-and-bolts brief, but I got the tip, and my Spidey Sense told me other outlets either would ignore it or do a deeper dive later.

I enjoy reporting about government transparency and accountability. That side of journalism, what The Wall Street Journal reportedly calls DBI (dull but important), has suffered as newsrooms continue shrinking.

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But I have no plans to spend hours every week regurgitating legislative committee hearings. “Eat your spinach” reporting that lacks context or perspective isn’t my idea of fun. I didn’t strike out on my own to bore people. At least that wasn’t the goal.

I also doubt there’s much of an audience for constant DBI updates. After all, interest groups and trade associations hire lobbyists to sit through and report on mind-numbing presentations!

That said, you’ll occasionally see a “breaker,” and I appreciate any tips sent my way. 

Next Friday, AMAA!

I’ll publish my first mailbag aka Ask Me Almost Anything column Friday, Feb. 26. To make this happen, I’ll need more feedback. What do you want to know about me, this project, what I hope to accomplish, what do I think about the designated hitter, why did I start playing ukulele, you name it.

Between now and then, email, post a comment, get in touch with me somehow. (FYI, I will tell the story of the 1980s origin of my Deregulator handle in a separate post. Soon. Promise.)

I also welcome specific reactions (in the comments or privately to me) about how you think this is going. What do you like, what could be better, etc.

Top tweet of the week

From the official Durham visitors account:

The second-best news of the week:

And, by far, the best news of the week:

Enjoy your weekend!