HB2, News

With hours to spare, legislative leaders pledge to vote Thursday on HB2 repeal

The bill to watch Thursday will be House Bill 142.

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore told reporters Wednesday evening that they had an agreement with the governor to repeal the anti-LGBT law known to many as the “bathroom bill.”

Berger and Moore declined to take questions from the media,  but announced details would be outlined in the committee substitute for HB 142.

Their announcement comes one day after the legislative leaders said negotiations with the governor had broken down.

Thursday is reportedly the hard deadline for the General Assembly to repeal the discriminatory law or lose post-season NCAA events for the next six years.

Sen. Berger said this latest bill includes the following elements:

  • Repeals HB2;
  • Protects privacy in bathrooms and shower facilities by leaving regulation of multi-occupancy facilities to the state, returning to the status quo prior to passage of Charlotte’s bathroom ordinance;
  • Implements a temporary moratorium on local ordinances similar to Charlotte’s until December 1, 2020 to allow federal litigation to play out.

Governor Cooper issued a brief two-line statement on the proposed agreement:

“I support the House Bill 2 repeal compromise that will be introduced tomorrow. It’s not a perfect deal, but it repeals House Bill 2 and begins to repair our reputation.”

The House and Senate go into session Thursday at 11:00 a.m.

Click below to watch a portion of the Wednesday press conference:

Commentary

Latest rumored HB2 proposal ought to be a “no go”

A new tweet from WRAL at around 4:50 pm this afternoon indicates that the latest HB2 proposal from legislative leaders would place a moratorium on the enactment of new nondiscrimination ordinances by local governments until 2020.

If this is in fact the case, it ought to be summarily rejected by Governor Cooper, the NCAA and all other legislators and actors seeking to remove the HB2 stain from our state. As a practical matter the effect of such a “repeal” condition is to leave HB2 in effect for nearly four more years. There is simply no way that such a proposal can be seen as anything other an outrageous demand to cement discrimination in place. If lawmakers are serious about repealing the law, they would do well to begin by taking a look at the bill filed this afternoon by Republican Senator Jeff Tarte that would make sexual orientation a protected class under state law. Tarte’s proposal is incomplete but a much better start than the GOP moratorium idea.

Courts & the Law, News

BREAKING: 3-judge panel denies Cooper’s request to stop confirmation hearings pending appeal

A three-judge Superior Court panel denied a request Wednesday by Gov. Roy Cooper to halt Senate confirmation proceedings pending an appeal process.

Cooper requested the stay after filing a notice to appeal the panel’s decision that confirmation hearings are constitutional.

The panel’s order denying Cooper’s request Wednesday does not give a reason for the decision.

“Upon careful review of all matters of record and the written submissions of the parties, as well as the statutory and case law cited, the court hereby DENIES plaintiff’s motion for stay pending appeal.”

You can read more about Cooper’s request for stay and notice of appeal here.

Cooper’s office has not yet responded to the news, nor has legislative leaders. Check back for updates.

agriculture, Environment

House Bill 467 would shield industrial hog industry from many legal claims

 

 

Not a nuisance: hog manure spraying (Photo: John Hopkins University)

Nuisance (noun): A person, thing, or circumstance causing inconvenience or annoyance

Examples of nuisances: Pollen. A mosquito bite. A car alarm that goes off at midnight.

But industrialized hog farms, the subtext of  House Bill 467, entitled “Agriculture and Forestry Nuisance Remedies,” are more than mere irritants for the people who live next to them. They are life-altering, making it difficult to breathe and ruining the quality of life.

Yet the bill would prevent plaintiffs from recovering damages unrelated to property value, including compensation for health effects, lost income, and pain and suffering.

The House Judiciary III committee will hear the bill today at 12:30 in Room 421. It is co-sponsored by Republican Reps. Jimmy Dixon, John Bell, David Lewis and Ted Davis Jr.

It’s not coincidental that bill has been introduced while North Carolina’s hog industry, in particular Smithfield,  is the subject of legal complaints by nonprofit environmental groups; the EPA is also investigating allegations that the swine industry has intimidated residents, most of them minorities, living near the farms.

Dan Crawford, director of governmental relations for the NC League of Conservation Voters, issued the following statement in response to HB467:

“Unfortunately, residents of eastern North Carolina know this smell well: this time it’s the stink of foreign corporate profit at the expense of our natural resources and communities. House Bill 467 is nothing more than lawmakers putting a Chinese-owned company ahead of the long-term health and safety of the very communities who have been forced to endure the harms of hog waste for decades. Residents have a right to defend and protect their families through democratic legal channels. 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.”

Andy Curliss, NC Pork Council CEO, released this statement:

The N.C. Pork Council supports House Bill 467 and the reasonable protections it offers to all North Carolina farmers. The bill provides clarity about damages that could be recovered in nuisance lawsuits.

We are proud to stand with the N.C. Farm Bureau in encouraging the legislature to pass this bill for the benefit of North Carolina’s entire agriculture industry.

Agriculture is our state’s number one industry and largest economic driver. We have more than 50,000 farmers who care deeply about their communities and being a good neighbor. We would rather work with our neighbors to address problems instead of defending ourselves against frivolous nuisance complaints.

 

 

News

New report: School funding gaps between wealthy, poor counties in N.C. on the rise

Public School Forum President & Executive Director Keith Poston

Major public school funding gaps between North Carolina’s poorest and wealthiest counties are on the rise, according to a nonpartisan assessment of the state’s K-12 spending released this week.

The annual study, released Tuesday by the Public School Forum of N.C., a K-12 policy group in Raleigh, documents the yawning gaps in per-pupil funding across the state, largely a testament to counties’ widely varied tax bases.

“The end result is our poorer counties continue to fall further behind our wealthier counties in terms of resources available to their local schools,” said Keith Poston, president and executive director of the Public School Forum, in a statement. “Young people born into one of the state’s economically thriving counties will have levels of investment in their education not shared elsewhere in the state; perpetuating a ‘have’ or ‘have not’ scenario for children’s access to high quality education based solely on zip code.”

Among the key takeaways of the report—which also examines a district’s ability to spend in the context of their tax base—high-wealth counties such as Orange County can spend more than $4,700 per student, far exceeding the state average of about $1,500. Poorer regions like Swain County spent less than $400 per student.

Meanwhile, the ten highest spending counties spent an average of about $3,026 per student, far outstripping the lowest spending counties, which spent an average of $710, according to the report, which relied on data from the 2014-2015 academic year.

This week’s report comes weeks after state House lawmakers approved a proposal to launch a task force for revamping North Carolina’s complicated system of school funding, although it’s unclear when or if the Senate will take up the bill. Critics, meanwhile, have noted that task force, if approved, is not expected to consider the overall adequacy of the state’s K-12 funding.

A report from the legislature’s Program Evaluation Division in November shredded the system as unfair to poor counties, students with special needs and students with limited English proficiency.

And, although some critics have argued GOP-led reforms may only worsen the divide between poor and wealthy counties, lawmakers are expected to pursue so-called “student-based funding,” which designates a base amount of spending per student along with additional tiers of funding for students in need.

The Public School Forum addressed those plans this week.

“This year the General Assembly is considering options to overhaul the state’s school finance system,” said Poston. “Our concern is that a new system alone that does not address adequacy and equity will not change these trend lines and will continue to leave poorer counties behind. We encourage our legislators to ensure that adequacy and equity in school finance remain top priorities.”

“When it comes to funding our public schools, the focus should be on how we ensure there are adequate resources in every county to serve every child, regardless of the delivery structure for those necessary investments. Even in the school systems that get the most support from their local government, resources are stretched and overall the state’s per pupil spending still lags compared to the national average.”

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