Phil Berger

Tom Augspurger (l), USFWS, taking core sample during February 8th reconnaissance of Dan River coal ash spill. (l-r) Tom Augsperger, USFWS, John Fridell, USFWS, Rick Smith, Duke Energy. Photo by Steve Alexander, USFWS..
Steve Alexander / USFWS

In retrospect, running a storm pipe under an unlined coal ash pit was a bad idea. One year ago today, such a pipe under such a pit leaked 39,000 tons of toxic ash into the Dan River.

A week after the spill, Duke Energy spokesman Jeff Brooks all but admitted the design was flawed.

“It was not a design that we placed in our other plants, certainly, and it was not the original design of the plant,” he said then. “So it’s something we’ll have to look at in our investigation.”

rainbow flag
Ted via Flickr/Creative Commons

At the North Carolina State Legislature, Senate Leader Phil Berger introduced a bill Wednesday that would allow magistrates across North Carolina to opt-out of performing same-sex marriages. He wants government officials such as magistrates and registers of deeds, who object to same-sex marriage, to receive protection.

Photo: The U.S. Supreme Court building
Flickr user Sno Shuu

A federal judge in Greensboro could clear the way for gay marriage in North Carolina, following the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal on Monday to hear five pending same-sex marriage cases.

Middle District Court Judge William Osteen, who has the authority to order North Carolina to allow same-sex unions, said on Monday that he wanted to hear from both parties in a case challenging the state’s constitutional Amendment One, defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

Rosanell Eaton, 92, and Mary E. Perry, 84, attended U.S. District Court in Winston-Salem for Thursday’s scheduling hearing.
Jorge Valencia

A federal appeals court has suspended parts of North Carolina’s new voting law, saying it may disproportionately affect black voters. State lawmakers are already asking the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse the decision.

The ruling will allow voters to register on the same day they cast a ballot during early voting, and to vote outside of their assigned precinct.

Screen shot: Senator Phil Berger 'Protect Voter ID'
Sen. Phil Berger

The North Carolina NAACP is calling on state Senate Leader Phil Berger to stop broadcasting an ad about a new voting law. The civil rights organization says the ad is misleading and could keep some from voting.

It's a political campaign spot airing on TV stations in the Triad. And it gives Sen. Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) credit for a 2013 law that changed many rules about voting in North Carolina.

"Now," the narrator says, "thanks to Phil Berger, voters must show a valid ID to vote."

NC Legislative Building,
Dave DeWitt

After a 15-hour day at the legislature, Senators voted this morning to pass the $21.3 billion state spending plan. 

Senators didn't leave the legislative building until about 1 a.m. They were determined to make a final vote on the budget and wrap up any loose ends before heading home. 

But they'll be back soon enough. They're expected to return in a couple of weeks to take up any possible vetoes from the Governor. Then, they'll be back in November to pick up at least two bills they didn't finish. 

Senate Leader Phil Berger takes an impromptu meeting with Moral Monday protesters.
Reema Khrais

Monday night, 15 Moral Monday protesters sat in front of Senate Leader Phil Berger’s door.  Berger wasn't in his office, so the protesters sat there until the Senate session ended. Soon, State Capitol Police began to usher everyone out. They said that the building was closing, everyone had to leave. Reporter Dave DeWitt was with the protesters. He wrote about what happened next this way:

Phil Berger
Dave DeWitt

Bryan Proffitt fully expected to go to jail Monday night. He spent most of the day at Hillside High School, where he teaches history, proctoring exams. A few hours after the final school bell, he was in an upstairs auditorium at the state Legislature, rallying supporters.

“We’re generally a pleasant and rule-following bunch,” he said. “But when you attack our students, when you threaten our schools and our communities and their families and you bully us and our co-workers, than you’d better prepare for what happens next.”

Elrod
Dave DeWitt

In the back corner of Stephen Elrod’s third-grade classroom, a man is lurking who wants to take the children’s money. He’s not a real man, and it’s not real money. It’s a large cartoon drawing of a maniacal character clutching fistfuls of dollars. A plastic bin is attached to the wall below the picture, filled with play money.

“Every time we take a test like Case 21 or EOG we either give him money or we keep our money,” explains Joanne, one of the students. “And, if we don’t make our goal, we have to give him some money, and if we do make our goal, we get to keep our money.”

State Senator Phil Berger
Dave DeWitt

The head of North Carolina's state Senate, Phil Berger, says he's looking forward to beginning this year's six-week legislative session.

What's known as the short session is intended primarily to make budget adjustments to the state's two-year budget cycle. Berger says that is the main focus of the session, which starts next Wednesday.

"This session we intend to continue the work that we've engaged in over the past three years and we intend to pursue further those policies that have proved successful over the past three years," says Berger.

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