Commentary, News

The Week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

1. Teacher development, struggling schools on chopping block as State Board of Ed implements G.A.-mandated cuts

Members of North Carolina’s State Board of Education passed down $2.5 million in legislative cuts Tuesday, ordering layoffs and operations reductions that are most likely to impact professional development and support services for the state’s poor and low-performing districts.

State officials will need to chop another $737,000 to meet the legislature’s $3.2 million demand, board Chairman Bill Cobey said. Decisions about the location of additional cuts are likely to be made in early August.

“This is sort of like the first big step,” Cobey said. “But just like anytime you’re cutting, the next step, even though the amount is smaller, it may be that much tougher. So there’s a lot of work to still be done.” [Read more…]

2. Courtroom rundown: Democrats show political disadvantage as judges scold GOP map delay

Democratic candidates are paralyzed until Republican lawmakers redraw the State House and Senate districts that were found to have been unconstitutionally racially gerrymandered.

The GOP partisan advantage in the absence of constitutional districts is so great that it’s driven opponents into the shadows and all but halted their fundraising efforts for the 2018 election, according to testimony during a federal court hearing Thursday.

The courtroom was packed as a three-judge panel listened to arguments addressing how much time legislators should have to redraw the unlawful maps and whether there should be a special election early next year to remedy the violations. [Read more…]

*** Bonus video: Rep. Grier Martin on redrawing the legislature’s unconstitutional district maps

*** Bonus read: Attorney General Josh Stein scrambling to cover $10 million budget gap

*** Bonus video: Attorney General Josh Stein on the harmful impact of the legislature’s $10 million budget cut to his office

3. First time candidates, many progressives crowding local races

When filing for North Carolina municipal elections closed last week, one thing was obvious: this year, there won’t be many uncontested races.

“This year there are definitely more candidates than we’re used to seeing,” said Gary Simms, elections director for Wake County. “There is definitely a sense of people wanting to get involved with politics and there are many grassroots efforts to get people interested in running in local contests.”

In the Raleigh City Council race there are 24 candidates for eight seats – the most in nearly two decades. Seven of those candidates are running for just two at-large seats.

In Greensboro, there are 38 candidates running for just nine seats on the City Council – fifteen of them for just three at-large seats.[Read more…]

4. SePro CEO and North Carolina native co-founded front group for chemical industry, with ties to DuPont

Weeds. Insects. Fungus. Head lice. SePro has a chemical to kill it.

And as CEO of SePro, Bill Culpepper, through his work with Crop Life America and its affiliate Responsible Industry for Sound Environment (RISE) — both front groups for the agrichemical industry — has fought to kill tighter federal and local regulations on pesticides, herbicides and algaecides. He also founded the Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration Foundation. Based in Flint, Mich., AERF funds research into chemical treatments in lakes and ponds. The group also paid the lodging, travel and food expenses for EPA officials who traveled from Washington, D.C., to Florida for an aquatic pesticide tour.

The state budget includes $1.3 million in a no-bid contract for SePro to conduct a trial of chemical treatments for algae in Jordan Lake. The EPA and NC Department of Environmental Quality, as well as independent scientists, have questioned the toxicity and cost-effectiveness of those treatments.[Read more…]

5.“Public” is not and should not be a dirty word
The destructive delusions in the Right’s opposition to public transit

The modern day conservative opposition to public transit has always been a bit of a puzzle. For much of the 20th Century, large scale public works – like mass transit systems – were the kinds of public-private partnerships that won the support of many a billionaire business leader. Walt Disney, a ferocious right-winger who battled workers and championed corporate power, still had enough common sense and foresight to build monorails and “people movers” around his amusement parks in the 1950’s and 60’s and promote them as the transportation systems for cities of the future.

People like Disney didn’t back public transit so much because they loved the environment – though they certainly weren’t opposed to order, cleanliness or combating pollution. Instead, their top priority was commerce and that meant getting people to and from their jobs, places of business, schools, public spaces and, of course, recreation and entertainment venues. [Read more…]

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