Commentary, News

This Week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

NCChamber-onHB21. The NC Chamber comes clean about its cynical opportunism on HB2
Ever since North Carolina lawmakers and Governor Pat McCrory rammed through North Carolina’s new all-purpose discrimination law (HB2) in just a handful of hours on March 23, there has been widespread speculation about the motives and role in the whole affair of North Carolina’s largest business lobby group, the NC Chamber.

The fact that the new law (which was supposedly about responding to the city of Charlotte’s nondiscrimination ordinance) ended up including out-of-nowhere provisions that repealed the 30-year-old right of North Carolinians to bring employment discrimination lawsuits in state court, along with a ban on local living wage laws, was widely seen as an indication that the Chamber had quietly struck a deal with lawmakers. The group’s conspicuous silence in the intervening weeks only added fuel to the fire.

As the Charlotte Observer noted in an April editorial:[Continue reading…]

Voucher-sb8622. Lawmakers seek massive expansion of voucher scheme that discriminates against LGBT students
If a handful of right-wing legislators have their way, taxpayers in North Carolina may soon be spending $125 million a year funding private and fundamentalist religious schools that can refuse to admit gay or transgender students—or even students with gay parents.

That’s one of the many troubling features of the state’s school voucher scheme, misleadingly named the opportunity scholarship program that provides $4,200 vouchers to private academies and religious schools to pay for the education of low and moderate income students who apply to participate.

The state has currently $12 million of public money available for private schools with virtually no accountability measures in place to guarantee or even monitor the quality of education the children are receiving.  A bill filed this week at the General Assembly would increase that funding every year until it reaches $125 million a year in ten years. [Continue reading…]

WB-10403. HB2: Not the only area in which NC will soon trail the field
State lawmakers are preparing to make poor services, crumbling structures and regressive taxes permanent
The ongoing crisis surrounding North Carolina’s embattled governor and his controversial, all-purpose discrimination law (HB2) grew more serious yesterday as state and federal officials turned to the courts to sort out their dispute. What started out two months ago as a skirmish over a public restroom access policy in one city has now morphed into a national (and even international) conflict over LGBT equality.

Whatever the initial intentions of the various parties to the dispute, North Carolina is now clearly understood by millions of people around the nation and the world to be the torch bearer for those who would deny full equality to LGBT people. As columnist Ned Barnett of Raleigh’s News & Observer noted this past Sunday: [Continue reading…]

Mc_509-400A4. The evolution of Gov. Pat McCrory into right-wing culture warrior
One of the many repercussions of HB2, the sweeping anti-LGBT bill signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory in March, is that it has forced McCrory to finally take a side in the debate about North Carolina’s future.

Would he try to cling to his carefully crafted and misleading image as the moderate former mayor of the state’s largest city?  Or would he fully embrace the far-right agenda of the legislative leaders of his own party who are remaking the state not only by slashing funding for schools and human services to pay for tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy but also fighting the religious culture wars against women’s access to reproductive health care and gay rights?

McCrory hasn’t done much in the last four years to stand up to the draconian agenda passed by the General Assembly, signing legislation restricting access to abortion after promising during his campaign that he wouldn’t and signing budgets that have cut taxes by billions of dollars after initially demanding that any tax reform be revenue neutral so schools and state services could be adequately funded. [Continue reading…]

Bonus read: U.S. Department of Justice files suit against North Carolina over House Bill 2
Bonus video: U.S. Attorney General announce Justice Department will sue to block “state-sponsored discrimination” (video)

School-desk5. Proposed House education budget cuts $27 million for reducing first-grade class sizes, reallocates most to literacy coaches

N.C. House leaders in a key budget committee gave their approval Thursday to a report on the chamber’s draft of the state education budget, a document that, overall, allocates an additional  $12.9 million in K-12 spending, but, notably, also axes about $27 million intended to reduce first-grade class sizes by adding additional teachers.

The report presented Thursday does not address teacher pay. Committee Co-Chairman Rob Bryan, R-Meck., said that would be discussed at a later date by the chamber’s larger appropriations committee.

Meanwhile, legislative staff told lawmakers that the first-grade teacher funding was allocated last year during budget negotiations, and none of those positions have been filled yet. The cash was geared toward lowering the teacher-student ratio from 1 teacher per 17 students to 1 teacher per 16 students.

GOP lawmakers, responding to Democrats’ questioning about the draft budget, said the cut was somewhat offset by an additional $25 million allocation to hire literacy coaches to work in the bottom 20 percent of the lowest performing elementary schools in the state. [Continue reading…]

Bonus read:  House K-12 education budget reflects impact of prioritizing tax cuts over reinvestment

Commentary, News

Federal money safe for now in #HB2 dispute, corporate America may be less patient (video)

The Obama administration clarified Thursday that it would not cut off federal funding to North Carolina while the legal wrangling over a controversial LGBT law plays out in the courts.

On Monday U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced that the Justice Department would seek a court order to overturn House Bill 2 that stipulates transgender individuals use the restroom that corresponds to the sex on their birth certificate.

Lynch says HB2 violates the Civil Rights Act and amounts to “state-sponsored discrimination.”

Today White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters:

“So these are two separate actions that the government is taking, one sort of questioning, evaluating this policy question about what impact the law has on funding, but also, separately, the Department of Justice has been engaged in a process of enforcing the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  And while those are two separate processes, it is clear that the decision on the part of the Department of Justice to move forward with enforcement means that, while the process plays out, the administration will not be taking action to withhold funding.”

Governor McCrory’s communications director Josh Ellis responded:

“As Governor McCrory has said all along, his administration’s assertive action against Washington overreach will protect federal funding for schools and other services while allowing the courts resolve this issue,” said Ellis.

Higher education officials are likely breathing easier as the UNC system, which is also caught up in an HB2 lawsuit, receives $1.4 billion in federal funding.

But Rep. Grier Martin notes the economic pushback in the private sector is still very real:

“What scares me even more is the rumblings I hear behind the scenes,” said Martin. “Folks in business who have talked to corporate recruiters, economic developers who are hearing off the record from companies ‘Hey, we aren’t even considering North Carolina because of House Bill 2.'”

Rep. Martin appears this weekend on News & Views with Chris Fitzsimon to discuss efforts to repeal HB2 and the The Equality for All Act.

A study released this by UCLA’s Williams Institute estimates that reduced corporate investment in the state related to HB2 would have created jobs paying over $40 million in annual salaries. The report also notes that at least five states, the District of Columbia, and 21 localities have adopted travel bans to North Carolina.

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ICYMI: Constitutional law Professor Michael Gerhardt on the Merrick Garland nomination and its implications for the U.S. Supreme Court (Full video)

It’s been well over a month now since President Obama nominated Merrick Garland, the Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court. To date, however, Senate Republicans (including Richard Burr and Thom Tillis) have remained adamant that Garland’s nomination will not even receive a hearing – much less an “up or down” confirmation vote.

To veteran constitutional law expert, Professor Michael Gerhardt, this is an important and disturbing turn in the history of the Court and the politics surrounding it. As Gerhardt has explained in a variety of national publications, Garland is one of the most distinguished and well-prepared nominees in Supreme Court history. If senators follow through with their plans to ignore the nomination, it will have important implications for the future of the Court.

Gerhardt spoke to Policy Watch’s audience in Raleigh, N.C., on Tuesday, May 10th.

Please watch and then share this special presentation:

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Caught in the middle, UNC system hopes to protect federal funding in HB2 dispute (video)

UNC system President Margaret Spellings made it clear Tuesday the she did not want to lose federal funding and hoped a resolution could be found to the U.S. Department of Justice’s lawsuit over House Bill 2.

DOJ sued the UNC system and the state of North Carolina on Monday,  alleging that the law signed by Governor McCcrory March 23rd violates both Title IX  and Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act.

Following a lengthy closed-door meeting with the Board of Governors, Spellings told reporters their next step would be to hire an attorney to offer guidance in the suit against the Justice Department.

Here’s the full statement Spellings released after Tuesday’s meeting:

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Click below to hear Spellings and UNC Board of Governors chairman Louis Bissette discuss the difficult position the university system is in as the state and federal government square-off over the transgender bathroom bill:

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