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What you missed in the N.C. General Assembly this week

Photo courtesy of the N.C. General Assembly.

Partisan primaries, school budgets and GenX were up for discussion. With the 2018 session well underway, here’s what you might have missed from last week in the North Carolina General Assembly:

Partisan primaries back in court

A federal judge ruled Wednesday that partisan primaries must occur for North Carolina appellate court races in 2018, partially halting provisions of Senate Bill 656 that passed in October. 

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles extends only to appellate court races and not to all judicial elections, adding that there was justification for eliminating partisan primaries in local judicial elections.

SB 656, known as the Electoral Freedom Act of 2017, canceled all state judicial primaries for 2018 when it passed in the General Assembly in October. A veto of the bill by N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper was overturned.

Appellate court candidates may now begin filing with other non-judicial candidates on Feb. 12. Primaries for the elections will be held on May 8. 

School officials ask for budget flexibility

A group of North Carolina school leaders urged lawmakers Wednesday to give more flexibility in budget management and more funding for students with disabilities. 

The General Assembly's Joint Legislative Task Force on Education Finance Reform met with school superintendents and school finance officers to hear concerns about education funding. The task force is working to change how the state allocates education funding. 

Many school leaders advocated for more flexibility in how they can spend state funds. 

North Carolina currently doles out education funding in a series of 37 allotments, each one for a specific use. Critics of the current system say that it is too complicated and favors wealthier counties. 

GenX safety panel

A panel of state-appointed scientists met in Raleigh on Monday to discuss safe levels of the chemical GenX.

The 16 members of the State Advisory Board, along with scientists from around the U.S. and the world, have been researching the unregulated chemical, which was discovered last year in the Cape Fear River. 

The panel was designed to advise regulators on healthy safety limits for the chemical. It is also concerned with how other chemicals in the river will interact with one another. Makers of these chemicals are allowed to keep their characteristics secret as confidential business information.

DuPont has been dumping GenX into the Cape Fear River from its Bladen County plant since 1980, according to a federal lawsuit against the company.

Cooper battles Republicans over election board

Attorneys representing Gov. Cooper asked justices on the N.C. Supreme Court Tuesday to hurry up with formalizing a ruling that tosses out a series of laws governing the makeup of the state elections and ethics board. 

The court ruled in Cooper’s favor, saying state lawmakers had gone too far in requiring him to choose half of the members of the board from a list of candidates generated by the Republican Party. 

Cooper would like the court to formalize the decision before Feb. 12, when candidates may begin filing for Congressional, legislative, judicial and county seats, so he can fill the board’s vacancies. 

The current board has been vacant since last spring.

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Previously, there was a separate State Board of Elections and State Ethics Commission. Cooper believes the ruling will revert the board to its old state.