Wednesday News: Gridlock


GENERAL ASSEMBLY CAN'T AGREE ON SIMPLE PANDEMIC ISSUES: The House and the Senate remain divided over whether to extend the exemption to a state law against wearing masks in public past an Aug. 1 deadline so people can continue covering their faces during the coronavirus pandemic. There's also some concern over a proposal backed by the North Carolina Retail Merchants Association that would allow businesses to meet their obligation to enforce Gov. Roy Cooper's statewide mask requirement simply by posting a sign in their front windows. Lawmakers also are split on whether to give school districts the flexibility to start off the new school year with remote learning. Many are implementing plans to rotate groups of students through both in-person and remote instruction to limit the number of students at school at a given time, but state law currently says no remote learning is allowed during the first week of class.

JUDGE RULES AGAINST COOPER IN BOWLING ALLEY LAWSUIT: The judge in the bowling alley case, Wake County Superior Court Judge James Gale, noted that Cooper has allowed some other types of indoor businesses to reopen in his current Phase Two of reopening. He said Cooper didn’t give good enough evidence why bowling alleys should remain closed. The judge wrote that keeping those bowling alleys closed was unfair because the group had promised to “commit to operational changes to address those factors, including procedures for social distancing and sanitation, and, most significantly, requiring employees and bowlers to wear face coverings.” Some of the other safety requirements at the newly reopened facilities will include provisions like keeping every other lane empty and using fiberglass dividers between them, and requiring frequent cleaning of items like rented shoes and bowling balls, the judge ordered.

NC REPUBLICANS WILL ATTEMPT TO OVERRIDE SEVERAL COOPER VETOES TODAY: The House and Senate have planned veto override attempts on six bills for when they hold floor sessions on Wednesday. Four vetoed measures seek to overturn parts of Cooper's executive orders limiting business activities or mass gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic. A fifth would force current and future governors to get support from a majority of Council of State members to issue lengthy emergency declarations. The sixth would allow concealed weapon permit holders to carry a handgun at a religious place of worship that is also the location of a private school. A Cooper veto hasn't been overridden since December 2018. It's the result of Democrats holding enough seats to uphold vetoes if they remain united. He's issued 25 vetoes since.

SEVERAL PROMINENT GOP LEADERS PLAN TO SKIP TRUMP'S CORONA PARTY IN JACKSONVILLE: Republicans’ determination to press ahead with a convention next month despite escalating coronavirus cases in the host city of Jacksonville is prompting a growing split in the party, with some GOP leaders saying they’ll stay home and others stressing the importance of attending to show support for President Trump. Politicians, donors and party officials, especially seniors at higher risk of complications from the disease, now face a difficult choice between a personal risk to their health and a potential backlash from the president and his supporters. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), 78, indicated Tuesday he will attend the convention, but two other top Senate Republicans, Iowa’s Charles E. Grassley, 86, and Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander, 80, are taking a pass. They are joined by two of the most senior Republican women in the Senate. Maine’s Susan Collins, 67, said though a spokesman that she avoids attending the party convention in years when she is facing reelection. Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, 63, also has no plans to attend, according to a spokesperson, nor does Utah’s Mitt Romney, 73. Unlike the Democrats, who have settled on a virtual convention for Aug. 17-20, the GOP is pressing ahead with plans for a three-night mass gathering the following week that will put up to 15,000 people in one venue in a city wracked by increasing viral infection.

TRUMP USES INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS AS A LEVER TO FORCE IN-PERSON COLLEGE ATTENDANCE: A directive by the Trump administration that would strip international college students of their U.S. visas if their coursework was entirely online prompted widespread confusion on Tuesday as students scrambled to clarify their statuses and universities reassessed their fall reopening policies amid the coronavirus pandemic. The White House measure, announced on Monday, was seen as an effort to pressure universities into reopening their gates and abandoning the cautious approaches that many have announced they would adopt to reduce Covid-19 transmission. The effect may be to dramatically reduce the number of international students enrolling in the fall. Together with delays in processing visas as a result of the pandemic, immigrant advocates say the new rules, which must still be finalized this month, might discourage many overseas students from attending American universities, where they often pay full tuition. International students whose universities are not planning in-person classes — which is currently the case at schools including the University of Southern California and Harvard — would be required to return to their home countries if they are already in the United States. Those overseas would not be granted permission to enter the country to take online coursework here.



Everyone I know in higher education...

jokingly refers to international students as "cash cows", but the truth is they are for many universities. It's one of the reasons that schools like Duke are going to have at least some (more or less) in-person classes this fall, so that they can keep their international students in the country.