Day: September 3, 2013

The NC House took less than an hour Tuesday to override Governor Pat McCrory’s vetoes of two bills that would require drug screening for some welfare recipients, and broaden an exemption for the E-Verify immigration system.

Rep. Jim Fulghum, M.D. urged his colleagues to sustain the governor’s veto of House Bill 392. He argued that the drug-screening bill failed to solve any real problems, and amounted to  ‘kicking a man while he’s down.’

Rep. Dean Arp of Union County said supporting the governor’s veto on this bill was a vote in favor of providing benefits to those taking illegal drugs.

Fulghum took exception to Arp’s insinuation, but in the end the veto was easily overridden, 77-39. In addition to Fulghum,  Representatives Rick Catlin and Nathan Ramsey were the only Republicans in the House who voted to sustain McCrory’s veto of H392.

The veto of the E-verify bill fell next, 84-32.

The NC Senate convenes Wednesday at 9:00 a.m. to vote next on the two vetoed bills. To hear a portion of Tuesday’s House debate on H392, click below:
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Recently, the AP released a story about North Carolina parents receiving lists that are longer than usual for supplies that their children will need for school. It seems that even though some defenders of the state budget claim that the state has never spent so much money on education as it is spending right now (a fact disproven by the data), there just are not enough supplies for North Carolina’s classrooms. This is just more proof of how the budget falls short on supporting public education.

The list sent by a teacher mentioned in the story includes such basics as paper to make copies and materials to clean the classroom.

“We horde supplies,” said Ashley Montgomery, who teaches kindergarten at Nancy Reynolds Elementary School in Stokes County. “If there’s anything to grab, we grab it. Because whatever the parents bring in is what we’ve got for the year, unless we go out and buy it ourselves.”

The list Montgomery sent home with her students is pretty typical — notebook, crayons, glue sticks, pencils, etc. But, like many other teachers across the state, she also asked parents to provide copier paper, cleaning supplies and other items that were once provided by the school.

“We don’t have the funds we need,” said Montgomery, who has been teaching 10 years. “It gets kind of frustrating when you hear about some of the things they’re spending money on down in Raleigh and we don’t have paper.”

The simple facts reported in the AP story are enough to render the claims of those responsible for the budget utterly maddening. Whatever the state is spending, the growing list of supply demands make clear that it is not enough.

But when you think about it, of course, it’s crazy that parents and teachers have to spend any money to get supplies in the first place. We have become so accustomed to the list being sent to parents that the story is that the list is longer. The story should be that we even have a list at all.

Our Parent Teacher Associations are given the responsibility to conduct fundraisers. Some have made it easy by partnering with grocery stores to get a percentage of a parent’s purchase. Some of the fundraising provides money so teachers can buy equipment. But PTAs should not carry this burden. The state should provide everything a child needs for his or her educational experience. We have become too used to this being a function of parents.

Even more appalling is that we expect teachers to dig into their already low-paid pockets to buy supplies. It takes 15 years for a North Carolina public school teacher to make $40,000 but it only takes one trip to Staples or Office Depot to get a discount for supplies.

Parents living in poverty should not fear or be ashamed that when the list comes to their home that they will not be able to purchase everything or anything on the list.

The legislature wasn’t the only branch of government back in action today.

The state Supreme Court returned to the bench to hear argument, opening the first of three scheduled sessions this week with a case involving the state’s little known “Map Act.”  As detailed in this case preview,

North Carolina’s Map Act permits the DOT to file a map with the local register of deeds identifying property where it anticipates putting a road and, with that, protect all property along the corridor from development or any other action that might improve the value of the property – in effect, holding down the purchase price until the DOT is ready to buy.

The case,  Beroth Oil Co. v. N.C. Department of Transportation, landed before the court after Forsyth County property owners along the path of the proposed Winston-Salem Northern Beltway — many of whom had been living with the prospect of a road running through their neighborhoods for 17 years or more — had asked the trial court to allow them to sue the Department of Transportation as a class and force the department to buy their respective parcels of land.  Both that court and the Court of Appeals denied that request, telling the owners that they’d have to sue individually. 

Before a standing-room only courtroom, the justices struggled with having to determine a procedural appeal — whether class certification was properly denied — in a case where the constitutionality of the underlying Map Act clearly troubled them. Of particular concern was the DOT’s apparent ability under the Act to freeze properties for an unlimited period of time until it decides to build a road and then buy those properties.

For example, addressing the DOT’s 17-year delay in connection with properties along the proposed Northern Beltway, Justice Mark Martin asked what time frames other states with comparable Map Acts had and then added:

“At what point does delay have constitutional implications?”

Read more on the Court of Appeals decision and the issues before the justices here.

 

Lunch sandwichHere’s something to spur a little dyspepsia on the first day of a short work week: The General Assembly is back in Raleigh!  Yes, just six weeks or so after blowing town, the honorables are back for what will apparently be a two-day veto session. In case you’ve forgotten, the state Constitution (Article II, Section 22) requires an affirmative vote of three-fifths of those present and voting to override a gubernatorial veto and, at this point, it looks very much as if both the House and Senate will produce margins of this amount or greater on both bills at issue. In other words, it would appear that Governor McCrory’s September is about to get off to a start very much consistent with his extremely lousy August – a month so bad that it prompted his hometown newspaper to question his truthfulness.  

And speaking of important official events in Raleigh today, the State Board of Elections will convene at 1:00 to take up an appeal of a candidate challenge to Montravias King from Pasquotank County. Click here to watch the live feed from WRAL. The Board will also consider the appeals for one-stop alternate plans for 2013 municipal elections in Watauga and Pitt counties. Students and civic groups including NCPIRG, Common Cause, Ignite NC, NCSU Student Power Union, Democracy NC and Rock the Vote will be on hand to call on the Board to reverse recent decisions by local county boards of elections that make it harder for young people to vote.

And speaking of “must see” video, Read More

Last week a phone call pushed me to write this op-ed in the News and Observer:

I spoke on the phone this week with a woman who had a series of serious cancers. She was doing well but facing more treatment and a slew of medical bills from the care she had already received. She had lost insurance coverage several years ago and couldn’t afford a policy because of pre-existing health conditions…[read more]