Commentary, News

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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