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One of the few bright spots in the Governor Pat McCrory’s policy agenda outlined last February in his first State of the State speech was his call for state lawmakers to restore funding to the state’s drug treatment courts.

With virtually no explanation, McCrory’s Republican colleagues in the General Assembly ended state funding for the courts when they took over control of the legislature in 2011. In 2012 they cut funding for the treatment services the courts provided.

McCrory asked lawmakers last year to re-establish the drug courts and his budget called for $7.2 million to pay for it.  Legislative leaders completely ignored the request even though the courts had a proven track record of saving the state money and helping drug offenders get sober.

The intensive treatment program cost the state a few thousand dollars per participant, far cheaper than the roughly $30,000 it costs to keep someone in prison for a year. And it allowed the offenders to keep working, paying taxes and taking care of their families while going though the rigorous rehabilitative program.

There was little opposition to expanding the drug courts. They were supported by prosecutors and advocates for alternatives for incarceration alike. You would think that with McCrory weighing in, the funding would be restored—but it didn’t happen.

And McCrory doesn’t seem to want to try again. At his press conference this week he outlined a new initiative to reduce substance abuse at college campuses but didn’t mention the drug courts at all.

It’s not clear why state lawmakers refused to renew the investment in a program with a proven track record and widespread support or why McCrory is apparently unwilling to fight for it again, but it’s too bad.

The state could have saved millions of dollars and even more importantly, a lot of people could have had help turning their lives around.

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vegan lunch for linksHere is your brief Wednesday mostly education edition of lunch links, with now just a week to go before Christmas.

It might be 2013 but folks are still trying to ban books in Brunswick County. Doug Clark at the Greensboro News & Record has an interesting take on the reaction by legislative leaders to the latest lawsuit by the NCAE, this one challenging the end to due process rights for teachers.

Also in the education world, national news sites are starting to notice all the problems with the school voucher scheme passed by the General Assembly this year, the latest of which Lindsay Wagner documented last week here at N.C. Policy Watch. Read More

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The News & Observer had another interesting and troubling story this morning about the McCrory Administration’s ill-advised plan to privatize the state’s economic development efforts by creating a private nonprofit to recruit companies to the state and to convince corporations already here to stay.

But the story, like the one last week about the privatization plan, leaves out one especially disturbing part, the shocking conflict of interest of John Lassiter, one member of the board of the new nonprofit.

Lassiter is a longtime supporter of McCrory and has run his campaigns in the past. He is now the head of the Renew North Carolina Foundation, the 501(c)4 political group with close ties to McCrory, that is raising anonymous money from corporations to run commercials to defend McCrory’s record. Read More

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vegan lunch for linksHere are your Wednesday lunch links exactly two weeks before Christmas Day.

Bob Geary at the Indy has a great take on the absurd spin about jobs coming out of the McCrory Administration these days. And speaking of misleading spin, one underreported story this week was the statement by fiscal staff of the General Assembly that the regressive revenue plan passed this summer will actually increase taxes on many people, contrary to what McCrory and legislative leaders have been claiming.

And with the announcement today of the lawsuit against the new school voucher scheme filed by the N.C. Justice Center and the NCAE, it’s a good time to go back and read about all the unanswered questions about the program, primarily the shocking lack of accountability in where taxpayer money will go. Lindsay Wagner’s series about the program is a great place to start. Here’s are links to Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of her report earlier this year. Read More

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Berger_Jr.-and-Sr.State law forbids members of the General Assembly from raising money from lobbyists, which seems like the least the law should do, ban people who are trying to directly influence lawmakers from writing them checks while asking for votes or legislative favors.

Lobbyists often find all sorts of ways around the law, having PACs associated with their clients give to legislators or other members of their laws firms make contributions, etc.

Tuesday, December 17th a number of lobbyists are holding a fundraiser in Raleigh for Phil Berger, Jr., who is running for Congress for the seat currently held by Rep. Howard Coble from Greensboro who is stepping down at the end of 2014.

Former GOP Chair and current lobbyist Tom Fetzer recently sent out a solicitation for the event. Other lobbyists who are members of the host committee listed on the invitation include Republican lobbyists like former House Speaker Harold Brubaker, Mark Fleming and  Dana Simpson. Democratic lobbyist Steve Metcalf is also on the committee.

It’s probably a safe bet that the candidate’s father will also be on hand for the festivities. That would be Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger Sr., who will have a lot to say about the fate of the bills the lobbyists are working on this summer.

The lobbyists must be opening their wallets for Phil Jr. only because they believe in him so strongly.  Currying favor with his powerful father surely has nothing to do with it.