News

MR_EducationA flurry of bills are being filed in the state Senate this week in advance of today’s deadline* for introducing public bills and resolutions. Here are five bills you may have missed that merit watching:

Senate Bill 384Increase Pay/Experienced Teachers – Senator Joyce Waddell may be a freshman in the NC Senate, but she knows veteran teachers deserve better pay. Her bill would appropriated more than $20 million from the General Fund to the Department of Public Instruction  to establish a new salary schedule that supports experienced educators:

salary schedule

Senate Bill 515Driver Education Funding – Senator Erica Smith-Ingram bill would restore funding from the Highway Fund for the Driver Education program administered by the Department of Public Instruction. Local boards of education would be permitted to charge up to $65 to offset the costs of providing the training. Read Lindsay Wagner’s piece on the challenge school districts face without this dedicated funding.

Senate Bill 463Increase Access to Education – Sen. Fletcher Hartsell’s bill spells out that an individual who has attended school in North Carolina for at least three consecutive years immediately prior to graduation and has received a high school diploma from a school within North Carolina (or their GED) would be accorded resident tuition status when applying for higher education.

Senate Bill 510NCVPS/Equal Access to Education – This bill would provide access for both public and non-public school students to the the North Carolina Virtual Public School (NCVPS) program. Home-schooled children would not pay any more for access than students attending traditional public schools. Virtual education is a growing area of interest for state lawmakers.

Senate Bill 512Delay Law Implementation/VIVA/Paper Ballots.- Very simply this bill would delay full implementation of the Voter Information Verification Act (VIVA) and the use of paper ballots until the court has issued a ruling in Currie v. North Carolina. You can read more about that case in this post by our courts and law reporter Sharon McCloskey.

*The deadline for filing public bills in the state House is April 8th for bills that don’t involve Appropriations or Finance.

News

Looking for a quick round-up of the day’s news on Jones Street?

Folks packed today’s first committee hearing on medical marijuana, there’s a major Supreme Court ruling on redistricting that could impact North Carolina, and the governor has a few choice words for the Senate’s tax plan.

Some of the most retweeted stories are listed below:

News

Over 30,000 people have now signed an online petition pressing Governor Pat McCrory to issue a pardon for two half-brothers who were exonerated last September after serving 30 years for a wrongful conviction.McCollum Brown

Henry Lee McCollum and Leon Brown were convicted for the 1983 rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl. Three decades later new DNA evidence proved another man committed the crime.

The petition at change.org goes on to explain:

When they were finally released from prison 6 months ago, the state gave them $45 dollars each for their trouble and sent them on their way to survive in a world completely different from the one they left in 1983. Both Henry and Leon have limited education and due to their lack of ability to get jobs have relied on the kindness of strangers. This is not freedom or justice. They both lost 30 years of their lives, and even after being proven innocent, have been forced to live in limbo because the state won’t pardon them. These men deserve a real chance to live life and be a part of the American dream. Everyday Gov. McCrory delays, is one more day Henry and Leon spend in a virtual prison.

Governor McCrory’s office has reiterated that it is reviewing the case.

But those signing on to the petition, which has gained national attention,  believe the pardon should be expedited. Here are just a few comments from those who’ve signed on:

These men should be pardoned and compensated for 30 years of loss of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
– Raymond White PEMBROKE PINES, FL

Too many innocent people are being convicted, and we seem to find it far too acceptable. We need to examine the testimony & evidence and find if there was wrong doing and convict people for false testimony and fraudulent evidence in order to keep it from happening.
– Daniel Richards BEATRICE, NE

These men have suffered enough. Do the right thing.
– Robert Schenkelberg LAKE HAVASU CITY, AZ

Saturday, April 4th, will mark seven-months since  McCollum and Brown were freed from prison. Click here to view the petition.

Commentary, News

1. Political revenge more important than public schools 
If you are looking for an example of how the pettiness and bitter partisanship of the folks currently running North Carolina have hurt the state, it’s hard to find a more illustrative one than the decision to end the North Carolina Teaching Fellows Program. 

No one disputes that the state currently faces a teacher shortage. [Enrollment is down at private and public schools of education while student enrollment in K-12 public schools continues to grow as the state’s population increases.[Continue Reading…]

2.Two North Carolinas, huh? 
Are conservative lawmakers finally seeing the light or merely hypocrites?
Sometimes, the responsibility of governing and “making the trains run on time” can force a public official to rethink hoary and ideologically-driven positions. Take, for instance, State Rep. Bob Steinburg.

As Chris Fitzsimon explained recently, Steinburg – a fire-breathing Tea Partier on most issues – deserves credit for waking up to the complexities and gray areas that permeate the debate over publicly-funded business incentives. To Steinburg’s probable consternation, his newfound awareness (and probably, the mention from Fitzsimon) even earned him an attack from the Koch-funded automatons at Americans for Prosperity. [Continue Reading…]

3. Politicians took in more than $1 million from UNC Board of Governor hopefuls 
The candidates seeking appointments on the University of North Carolina’s governing board aren’t strangers to lawmakers – many of their names have repeatedly shown up on checks cashed to the politicians’ campaign accounts. 

The 30 people currently vying for appointment to the board and their immediate family member have contributed more than $1 million to state campaign accounts since 2007, according to an analysis conducted by Democracy North Carolina, a government watchdog group, for N.C. Policy Watch. [Continue Reading…]

4. Down one judge and deserving another
The federal courts in eastern North Carolina have been operating under a state of judicial emergency for years now, though you wouldn’t know it given the lack of a sense of urgency exhibited by the state’s United States senators.

Down a judge since December 2005, the courts in this largely rural part of the state have managed one of the heavier district caseloads in the country — relying in large part on help from three senior judges: James C. Fox, age 86; W. Earl Britt, age 83; and Malcolm Howard, age 75. [Continue Reading…]

5. Punting on Personal Education Plans? 
Lawmakers propose to rid public schools of tool aimed at helping at-risk students. In 2001, North Carolina began requiring public schools to administer to some students Personal Education Plans (PEPs) as a way to ensure that children who were identified as at-risk of failing school would receive additional academic support. 

Some teachers say, however, that the PEP has become nothing more than a statutory mandate requiring teachers to fill out burdensome paperwork to comply with the law—not a mechanism that brings about true academic improvement for those who need it most, as it was intended.[Continue Reading…]

News

Governor Pat McCrory says he is in “strong disagreement” with the NC Senate’s new economic development plan. The proposal put forth Wednesday would cut the corporate tax rate and shift how incentives are administered.

The governor told members of the N.C. League of Municipalities that the Senate’s plan “breaks the bank” and would serve only to divide North Carolina.

Specifically the Senate’s jobs bill would lower the corporate income tax to four percent beginning in 2016 and three percent beginning in 2017, making North Carolina’s rate the lowest in the Southeast.

The bill would also limit the state’s incentives money going to Wake, Mecklenburg and Durham counties. The measure  would guarantee projects in North Carolina’s other 97 counties receive more than half of incentives funding going forward.

The director of the NC Budget & Tax Center said the Senate leadership fails in several areas with this proposal:

“The corporate tax cuts in the Senate’s proposal would further reduce revenue for investments in our public schools and universities and other building blocks that help drive the success of businesses,” said Alexandra Sirota of the Budget & Tax Center. “Businesses need an educated workforce and modern infrastructure to be successful. Cuts to the tax rates for profitable corporations or changes to the way corporate income is considered for purposes of taxation also won’t address falling wages for the average North Carolinian. Furthermore, the Senate proposal changes to taxes paid by profitable multi-state corporations would not guarantee reinvest in our state and be at the expense of small, home-grown North Carolina businesses.”

To hear the Gov. McCrory discuss the Senate’s jobs plan, click below. Read more about the Senate proposal here.

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