Courts & the Law, Defending Democracy, Education, News

The Week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

1. A truly Trumpian budget for North Carolina

Secrecy. Greed. Dishonesty. Self-dealing. Neglect disguised as concern. Contempt for democracy. If one were asked to describe the most notable hallmarks of the administration of President Donald Trump, it would be hard to come up with six more accurate characterizations.

Back in 2015 when Trump was first running for the Republican presidential nomination, it was easy to find prominent North Carolina conservatives who could foresee and would publicly acknowledge the threat that Trump posed to the very fabric of the American experiment. Today, tragically, less than three years later, that’s all ancient history. In 2018, not only has the North Carolina conservative movement embraced Trumpism, it is now in the process of aping all of the most shameful features of Trump’s loathsome approach to governance.

To see the latest concrete confirmation of this appalling state of affairs, North Carolinians need look no further than the preposterous state budget bill that Republican legislative leaders rolled out yesterday. Faced with the distinct likelihood of losing their legislative supermajorities at the polls this fall, Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore appear to have opted for what can only be described a scorched earth approach to lawmaking. [Read more…]

2. Education budget shocker could alter the fundamentals of NC school funding

When GOP leaders in the General Assembly unveiled their privately-crafted $23.9 billion budget Monday night, the biggest surprise wasn’t its proposals for teacher pay or another round of tax cuts.

No, the real stunner came in a three-page provision starting on page 257 that authorizes North Carolina municipalities to spend property tax revenues on any public school that “benefits the residents of the city,” including charter schools. It’s a massive, and little debated, overhaul of the state’s longtime funding method that has the potential to drastically alter K-12 funding, and not for the better, advocates say.

“This is a monumental policy shift in North Carolina,” says Scott Mooneyham of the N.C. League of Municipalities, an organization that advocates for nearly all of North Carolina’s 552 cities, towns and villages. [Read more…]

3. The secretly-negotiated 2018 budget: What’s in it? Why won’t legislative leaders allow real debate?

The North Carolina General Assembly unveiled a proposed 2019 state budget bill earlier this week and expects to send it to Gov. Cooper tomorrow. As always, the proposal is chock-full of controversial appropriations decisions and substantive law changes spread over hundreds of pages.

What is highly unusual this year, however, is the way the budget is being adopted. In an unprecedented move, Republican legislative leaders are using the parliamentary maneuver of amending the proposal in-full into what’s known as a “conference committee report” on another measure that has already passed both houses. The practical result of this trick is to prevent any amendments from being offered or debated on the bill. In other words, all 170 members of the General Assembly are being forced to vote “yes” or “no” on the entire budget with no prospect whatsoever of changing it. [Read more...]

*** Bonus read: The politics of “pork”

4. GOP plan to redistrict judges in Mecklenburg wins quick Senate approval; Dems, judges cry foul

Sen. Dan Bishop recently said it himself: if lawmakers can’t get a consensus on judicial redistricting for the whole state, they’ll go after Mecklenburg County. Now he’s making sure they follow through.

Bishop and fellow Mecklenburg Republican, Sen. Jeff Tarte, are teaming up for a second time to split up Mecklenburg County judicial districts. District court judges in the large, urban area are currently and have always been elected county-wide. Superior court judges are elected in three separate districts within the county.

Senate Bill 757 would create eight identical judicial districts for superior and district court races, which means Mecklenburg County voters in each of those areas would only elect the judges residing in their district. [Read more..]

5. DEQ to expand testing to other fluorinated compounds; Chemours neighbors complain of water making their hands “sticky”

Joan Jackson and her husband, Lawrence, have lived a mile and half from the Chemours Fayetteville Works plant for about 40 years. They’ve relied on a 70-foot well for their water — water that hasn’t felt right for some time.

Although state tests showed the Jacksons’ well tested below the health advisory goal for GenX and older fluorinated compounds, PFOA and PFAS, there is something amiss, Joan Jackson said.

“I despise putting my hands in it,” she told state environmental officials at a public meeting in Robeson County last night. “It leaves your hands sticky and nasty feeling. I want to know what it is.” [Read more…]

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