The Week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch:

 

The Week's Top Five on NC Policy Watch:

1. The truth about the Senate leaders’ tax plan from their own staff

The wisdom of the plan by Senate leaders to cut taxes by $839 million was called into question this week by an important source, the nonpartisan legislative staff that works for them and inadvertently by a powerful Senator himself.

Two weeks ago, the Senate passed the proposal that would be yet another boon for corporations and wealthy North Carolinians with assurances that the state could afford it and that it wouldn’t hurt efforts to fund schools, health care programs, environmental protections and other vital state programs.

But the Fiscal Research Division of the General Assembly says that’s not true, that the tax package would result in state budget shortfalls of more than $600 million in just three years. [Read more...]

2. Local school districts prepare for “enormous disruptions” as Senate refuses to ease class size requirements

North Carolina’s largest public school system may be warning of “enormous disruptions” without speedy action from state lawmakers on a looming class size funding crisis, but key education leaders in Raleigh tell Policy Watch there’s little sign Republican lawmakers in the General Assembly will act soon.

“It doesn’t seem like there’s any movement planned,” says Sen. Floyd McKissick, a Durham Democrat who sits on the state Senate’s Rules and Operations Committee, a panel that includes some of the chamber’s most powerful lawmakers and sets the agenda for future committee talks.

McKissick said he met late last week with Sen. Bill Rabon, the eastern North Carolina Republican who chairs the committee, but GOP leaders remain reticent to make any commitments regarding a legislative fix to the funding controversy, despite stiff warnings from district chiefs that thousands of teachers’ jobs are in jeopardy. [Read more...]

3. An important bright spot emerges at the General Assembly
Progress on “second chance” agenda marks a rare positive development in state policy wars
There are a lot of reasons for caring and thinking North Carolinians to be discouraged these days about what’s happening in the world of public policy. In the nation’s capital, the corrupt and illegitimate Trump administration is a perpetual, slow motion train wreck. Meanwhile, Congress is a frequently dysfunctional war zone in which some of the most conservative political leaders in modern American history are engaged in a pitched battle with far right extremists who want to repeal fundamental components of the national social contract.

And here in Raleigh, conservatives are wielding their ideologically driven wrecking ball for the seventh consecutive year. All around us, public structures and systems essential to a thriving and sustainable middle class society lie wounded and bleeding by the side of the road while the wealthy, large and profitable corporations, polluters, privatizers and religious zealots remain firmly in control of the bulldozer of state. [Read more...]

4. Committee reins in expansive powers for AOC director; approves District Court judges serving on Superior Court

After North Carolina representatives from both parties expressed concern about a bill that would give the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) director unfettered power over court processes, an amendment was approved to eliminate the provision altogether.

Rep. Rena Turner (R-Iredell), the sponsor of the bill, said she would have preferred to keep House Bill 236 whole, and a representative speaking on behalf of the AOC deferred to her when asked what the organization preferred.

Democratic Leader Rep. Darren Jackson and Rep. David Rogers (R-Burke, Rutherford) spoke against the overly-broad language of the bill, which as written, would allow the AOC director the authority to rewrite all court policies, procedures and processes.

Jackson and Rogers had been contacted by the District Attorneys in their districts with concerns about that section of the bill. [Read more...]

5. Elections watchdog calls for criminal investigation of NCGOP over baseless voter fraud claims

Carol Turner hadn’t lived in North Carolina long before last November’s election. A retired nurse, she had recently moved from Maryland with her son Mark, a Naval officer, and his wife to help take care of their baby.

But Turner had done everything necessary to vote here in the general election.

“I consider myself a very responsible citizen,” said Turner, 65. “Voting to me is a right as well as a privilege. I believe in being responsible about it. So after I voted in the primary in Maryland, I made sure to contact them and let them know I would be registering and voting in North Carolina in the general.”

Having been so careful, Turner was furious to find she was one of about 600 voters the North Carolina Republican party was accused of voting improperly in the wake of the election. About 95 percent of those accused voters were found to have cast their votes legally. But that didn’t stop them from being libeled in a political effort to manufacture a massive voter fraud problem, Turner said. [Read more...]

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WAKE DEMS WEEKLY UPDATE, Vol. 1, No. 2

WAKE DEMS WEEKLY UPDATE, Vol. 1, No. 2

Regardless of one’s political stripe or viewpoint, we the people are bonded by the faith that our lawmakers will abide by a fair process conducting the people’s business. But that did not happen last December. This was an affront to our democracy.

–Bob Phillips, Executive Director, Common Cause NC

EDUCATION
Teachers and parents protested in Raleigh this week to oppose HB 13 – Class Size Requirement Changes, which they argue will force teacher layoffs and sacrifice art, music and PE. After many years of GOP cuts to the public school budget, the laudable goal of lowering class size in K-3 challenges the physical limitations of a school building, lack of discretionary funds, and a teacher shortage. “Wake County Superintendent Jim Merrill explains the district may have to consider cutting art and music from elementary schools, lay off art and music teachers, reassign students and have 40-student classes to meet new state K-3 class size limits.” The bill passed the House and was stuck in the Senate Rules Committee for weeks until it was referred Friday to the Higher Education Committee, which is chaired by Wake County’s own Chad Barefoot. As a member of the Rules Committee, Sen. Barefoot was a key roadblock to HB 13 getting a hearing, and he continues to be.

A WEEK OF GOOD GOVERNMENT BY OUR ‘TWO BOBS’

  1. Executive Director Bob Phillips announced that Common Cause NC and 10 residents of NC filed a lawsuit that alleges that the one-day session on December 15, 2016 – as well as the two bills passed into law that day – is unconstitutional. Read more here.
  2. Executive Director Bob Hall of Democracy NC wants state and federal prosecutors to investigate a “possible conspiracy by the Pat McCrory re-election committee, and the NC Republican Party to use fraudulent charges of voter fraud to harass and intimidate voters, deny them their right to vote, interfere with the elections process, and corrupt the results of the 2016 elections.” Read the report, The Deceit of Voter Fraud, here.

THIS JUST IN – VETO STAMP TIMES TWO
As promised, Governor Roy Cooper has vetoed HB 239 that reduced the NC Court of Appeals from 15 to 12 members. He wrote, “Having three fewer judges will increase the court’s workload and delay timely appeals. Just as bad is the real motivation of Republican legislators, which is to stack the court with judges of their own party. In addition, I believe this legislation is unconstitutional, and we should all be concerned about unwarranted attacks on the judiciary.” Read the governor’s veto message here.

The Governor also vetoed SB 68 that combined the State Board of Elections with the State Ethics Board. This was a “tweaked” bill that answered last month’s 3-judge panel ruling that the General Assembly overstepped their authority by combining these two boards. “This is the same unconstitutional legislation in another package, and it’s an attempt to make it harder for people to register and vote,” Governor Cooper said. Read the governor’s veto message here.

CROSSOVER WEEK
Crossover deadline is next Thursday, April 27. That means that next week at the General Assembly will be chaos: long days, unscheduled meetings, cancelled meetings, and recesses, while legislators desperately vie to get their bills passed and sent to the other chamber. Non-appropriation or finance bills that do not pass one chamber are dead for the short session.

 

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Everything You Need to Know About Gerrymandering

This is one of the best summaries of the issues and potential avenues of solution related to gerrymandering that I’ve read.
We recently learned that Barack Obama may return to politics, to take on the issue of gerrymandering. According to Politico, Eric Holder, who served as Obama’s attorney general, said the former president is looking to help the National Democratic Redistricting Committee (NDRC) produce more fair congressional maps in the 2021 redistricting process. Wondering what exactly gerrymandering is, aside from being a word you remember hearing in your AP history class? Here’s what you should know about the issue that’s big enough to reel Obama back into politics.
Read the full article on teenvogue, written by

WAKE DEMS WEEKLY UPDATE, Vol. 1, No. 1

WAKE DEMS WEEKLY UPDATE, Vol. 1, No. 1 

Welcome to the first “Wake Dems Weekly Update.” Our goal is to connect our members to some of the issues being debated at the NC General Assembly. We are watching. We want you to join us!

Calling the legislative redrawing of the Greensboro City Council districts unconstitutional, a federal ruling said it was “not directed or rationally related to any identifiable legitimate governmental purpose.”

–U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles

EDUCATION
GOP-sponsored HB 704 – Divide School Systems/Study Committee, a bill to study breaking up large school districts, was referred to the House Committee on Education-K-12. Rep. Chris Malone (R-Wake), a former Wake County School Board member, is a primary sponsor, and former school board chair Ron Margiotta said he favors this idea. But current school board chair Monika Johnson-Hostler pointed to the ability to share resources and maintain diversity in our merged district. Read more here.

TAXES
SB 325 – Billion Dollar Middle-Class Tax Cut passed the Senate and now resides in the House Rules Committee. Sen. Chad Barefoot (R-Wake) is a cosponsor. NC Policy Watch explains, “Proponents of the bill claim that the tax cuts are targeted to middle-income taxpayers, but this is not the case. The majority of the net benefits for the tax cuts will go to the highest income earners in the state. Simply put, this bill is not a billion dollar middle class tax cut, despite the title of the bill. This is a false claim that becomes apparent upon a deeper analysis of the bill.” Read more here.

HOGS
Christmas came early for the corporate pork industry when HB 467 – Agriculture and Forestry Nuisance Remedies passed the House and was sent to the Senate. NC Policy Watch explains that the “bill would prevent plaintiffs from recovering damages unrelated to property value, including compensation for health effects, lost income, and pain and suffering.” Director of governmental relations for the NC League of Conservation Voters Dan Crawford had this to say: “It’s despicable that the bill sponsors attempt to equate the long-term suffering of their constituents to a ‘nuisance’ that can be silenced by a foreign entity.”

CONGRATULATIONS to Rep. Cynthia Ball (D-Wake) on her very first bill HB 84 – DL/Deaf or Hard of Hearing Designation that passed the House unanimously. This bill would allow a person to designate on their driver’s license that they or deaf or hard of hearing, if they wish.

CONSTITUTION? WHAT CONSTITUTION?
HB 780 – Uphold Historical Marriage Act introduced by Reps. Michael Speciale (R-New Bern), Larry Pittman (R-Cabarrus), and Carl Ford (R-Rowan) claims that the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allows gay marriage is not valid in North Carolina. House Speaker Tim Moore quickly released a statement that the bill would not be heard because of “strong constitutional concerns.” Rep. Pittman took to his Facebook page to respond to the nationwide criticism that followed the bill introduction. As clarification, he compared Hitler to Abraham Lincoln.

NC Public Schools need your help! Contact your Senator today!

Last year the Gen. Assembly passed a bill, which on its surface folks thought was a great move; they lowered class-size but the problem was and is that they did not provide any budget supplemental funding to hire additional teachers nor assist local governments in finding the additional required classroom space. This bill was passed by the House unanimously but the Senate under our good friend Berger has squirreled it away in the Senate Rules Committee which is the Senate’s way of killing a bill. Please contact your Senator and ask that he do whatever is necessary to dislodge HB13 out of the rules committee and of the Senate floor so that we can really know who is for education and who is not.

School officials preparing to fire thousands of specialty teachers in order to meet K-3 classroom mandate

Here is a perfect example of the legislature passing a law mandating lower class sizes with absolutely no consideration to the funding implications of their actions.

Please keep these and the many other examples I have shared with you in mind as we begin preparing for a possible special election this fall and then the general election of 2018.

School officials preparing to fire thousands of specialty teachers in order to meet K-3 classroom mandate

North Carolina Justice Center – Budget and Tax Center Newsletter

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April 2, 2017

ICYMI: What we've covered so far this year

Did you know that the Budget & Tax Center releases a new issue of Prosperity Watch nearly every Monday that takes a look at the things that could make North Carolina thrive? Here are a few things you might not have learned if you missed an issue this quarter:

Here are all of the topics we have covered since January:

Taxes & funding public services matter to North Carolinians

N.C.'s economy still must address missed opportunities

Federal choices on health care & immigration would hurt N.C.

Follow our hashtag #ProsperityWatch on Twitter to read the latest on the things that matter to you in North Carolina. If you have an idea for a Prosperity Watch you’d like to see, please email Mel Umbarger, the Budget & Tax Center’s Senior Communications Specialist!

North Carolina Justice Center | 224 S. Dawson St., PO Box 28068, Raleigh, NC 27611 | www.ncjustice.org