Commentary, News

This week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

1. NC Board of Elections cools voting plan controversy in marathon meeting

Given the controversy leading up to Thursday’s State Board of Elections meeting, many were predicting a bit of a mess.

And for good reason.

First, a federal court invalidated large parts of NC election laws rewritten in 2013, including the cutting of early voting down to 10 days.

Then, as county election boards across the state tried to agree on local early voting plans last month, they came under pressure from the NC GOP to cut or prevent Sunday voting, cut back voting hours and limit the number of voting sites in places popular with Democratic voters and generally make party-line decisions for the good of the party.

Many of the conservative appointees to those boards did just that. [Continue reading...]

jk-907-hb22. McCrory’s HB2 timeline: Tracking the Governor’s oft-changing stance and explanations

As the battle of HB2 continues it is instructive to look at Gov. Pat McCrory’s shifting positions on the law, its necessity and the arguments used to justify it.

Whether he was voicing concerns about “public safety” and protecting “long established values and norms,” defending “state sovereignty” or contending that that transgender people are actually mentally ill, the Governor’s explanations for the law (and, indeed, his position on the law itself) have changed frequently and sometimes dramatically over the last six months. Though by no means totally comprehensive, the following timeline highlights several key moments in this process.
February 22: The Charlotte City Council extends protections in its non-discrimination ordinance to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. This includes protections against discrimination in places of “public accommodation.” Controversially, the law would explicitly allow transgender people to use public restrooms that match their gender identity.

Before the city council vote, McCrory emailed the council’s two Republican members to say passage of the ordinance would result in blowback from Raleigh. [Continue reading…]

***Bonus read with video: McCrory vs. the NC Chamber: One of them is not telling the truth

Farm Tour_33. Gov. McCrory berates federal government over Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge

Gov. Pat McCrory, who rarely misses an opportunity to accuse the federal government of overreach, is now targeting the Department of Interior and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over regulations on a national wildlife refuge.

Monday McCrory and Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler toured Tyrrell and Washington counties, where Tropical Storm Hermine dumped five to 10 inches of rain last weekend. During a stop near Columbia and Creswell in Tyrrell County, McCrory remarked that “federal government regulations of the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge is compounding flooding issues on these farms,” according to a press release from his office.

McCrory also “highlighted how the federal government is trying to convert farmland into swampland, and that the state is continuing its effort to protect North Carolina farmers and economic development.” [Continue reading...]

TeacherPayRaises4. Why NC is not measuring teacher pay properly (and how we should do it)

Politicians from both sides of the political spectrum understand that teachers are the most important classroom factor when it comes to improving student performance. Unfortunately, their policies over the past decade have failed to reflect this understanding. North Carolina’s average teacher pay ranking has fallen from 22nd in FY 03-04 to 41st in FY 15-16, and enrollment in teacher preparation programs is plummeting.

Competitive salary systems play a vital role in recruiting and retaining the best and brightest into the teaching profession. High-performing countries such as South Korea and Finland have made competitive salaries for teachers the foundation upon which their educational systems are built. Competitive salaries benefit other recruitment and retention strategies such as tightening admission standards to schools of education, offering paths for professional growth, and increasing the prestige of the profession. Attracting high-performing teachers into the profession is especially important given the important impact high-quality teachers have on students, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds. [Continue reading…]

***Bonus video: NCAE’s Mark Jewell on the $50,000 teacher

WB-9075. It’s not too late for the U.S. Senate to do its job
The facts of the Merrick Garland nomination still demand action (and indicate that it may still be possible)

“Better late than never.”

It’s an unfortunate aspect of modern American politics that this simple little aphorism of compromise and common ground is frequently derided and discarded as the language of “losers.” In today’s hyper-partisan world of supersized egos, pitched ideological battles and “winner take all” government, it’s frequently seen as a sign of weakness for politicians to admit an error and reverse course or for their opponents to accept such a change with grace and understanding. It’s better to plow ahead (or to accuse the other side of a “flip flop”) and score points with one’s political base – or, at least, so goes the thinking in some circles.

Happily, all hope is not lost in this realm. Despite the toxic tack that the national political debate has taken throughout most of 2016, major opportunities remain to pull back from the precipice of utter gridlock and to get some important things done that will benefit the nation and the various political players on both sides of the national divide. What’s more, there are even a few indications that the men and women in power in Washington are beginning actually to grasp this reality. [Continue reading...]

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