Commentary, News

The week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

education-budget-4001. A reversal of fortune?

Governor’s budget writers backtrack on 2% reduction for public schools; education advocates suggest tight re-election battle may be the motivating factor

North Carolina officials say they have been assured by one of Gov. Pat McCrory’s budget chiefs that a controversial directive to ready a $173 million budget cut will not apply to the state’s public schools.

The seeming reversal comes after Policy Watch’s report last month that all state departments, including the public schools, were called on by McCrory’s budget director to submit 2 percent budget reduction proposals for the state’s 2017-2019 biennial budget, a move that prompted a swift and angry rebuke for McCrory’s office from top education officials and public school advocates. [Continue reading...]

***Bonus read: Preliminary teacher pay data show NC teacher salaries fall short of $50,000

wb-altered2. Altered beyond recognition?
The conservative remake of North Carolina at the six-year mark

A year ago, the staff of NC Policy Watch released a special report on the conservative policy revolution that has overtaken our state during the current decade entitled Altered state: How 5 years of conservative rule have redefined North Carolina.

The report explored how this shift has played out in several key areas, including the social safety net, access to healthcare, fiscal policy, K-12 and higher education, environmental protection, voting rights, LGBTQ rights, reproductive freedom, and the criminal justice system. It also explained how conservatives have done their utmost to engineer a takeover of the state judicial system in order to cement the shift and blunt court challenges that might slow things down. [Continue reading...]

***Bonus read: McCrory’s top N.C. economic development officials at odds about damage from HB2

voting-line23. Election watchdogs worry voter intimidation could depress turnout

Long early voting lines and a particularly contentious presidential election have led to incidents of voter intimidation and confrontations at voting sites across the state, say voter protection organizations and election directors.

Some amount of that happens in every election cycle, said Anita Earls, executive director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. But this year is a bit more intense.

“Is it more than we’ve seen in the past?” said Earls Tuesday. “Yes. I can’t remember this type of intimidation happening during early voting. That was always a quiet period.” [Continue reading…]

justices-4004. The men and the money behind North Carolina’s State Supreme Court race
How do you keep the North Carolina Supreme Court race nonpartisan when the ideological makeup of the bench hangs in the balance?

There’s not really an answer, especially this year, when so much is at stake and big outside money wants a say.

The ballot won’t disclose Incumbent Justice Bob Edmunds’ or his opponent Superior Court Judge Mike Morgan’s respective political parties, but it’s no secret that the former is supported by the Republican Party and the latter by the Democratic Party.

Conservatives currently hold a 4-3 majority on the court and the Edmunds’ seat is the only one up for election this year, prompting many observers to consider this race one of the most important contests on the ballot this election cycle.

Political party committees have spent more than $38,000 combined on their candidates, but that doesn’t even come close to the close to $2.2 million groups operating independently of the campaigns have spent. [Continue reading...]

wnc-brian-stansberry-creati5.While the planet warms, North Carolina tries to unplug the Clean Power Plan

The drought in parts of the Blue Ridge Mountains is so deep that leaf-watching, an annual ritual for thousands of tourists, has become instead an exercise in branch-watching. There is some color, sure, but stressed by the extremely dry weather, poplar, birch and cherry trees prematurely lost their leaves in late September.

All of western North Carolina, an area including 1.3 million people, has earned its place in the record books as having one of the five driest falls on record. Cherokee, Clay, Macon and Transylvania counties are experiencing an extreme drought, and if a dry winter ensues, as forecast, it could be classified as exceptional.

Meanwhile, the eastern part of the state, still healing from the effects of Hurricane Matthew, is experiencing one of that region’s five wettest falls in recorded weather history, according to state climate data.

Extreme weather conditions — more intense floods, wildfires, storms and droughts — are symptomatic of a warming planet. No longer an abstract concern for our as yet unconceived great-grandchildren, climate change is happening now, and it’s not a diabolical plot by the sun. [Continue reading…]

Commentary, News

Opportunity to take part in early voting ends on Saturday

About two weeks ago, our colleague Suijin Li Snyder blogged about participating in her first presidential election as a U.S. citizen.

Just outside Snyder’s office hangs a fun Election Day advent calendar, counting down the days until November 8th filled with quotes reminding us how important it is to take part in the political process.

Today’s quote from counterculture figure Abbie Hoffman seems appropriate as North Carolina’s early voting draws to a close this weekend:

ah-advent-calend

So, if you want to participate and vote early, remember you’ll need to do so before 1:00pm Saturday, November 5th.

After that, you’ll have to wait until Tuesday, November 8th to cast your ballot.

Click here to find an early voting site in your county.

Need more information about the candidates? Check out this nonpartisan voter guide provided by Common Cause North Carolina.

On Tuesday, polls will be open 6:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.  You can find your Election Day polling site here.

News

Special session planned for December to address Hurricane Matthew recovery

North Carolina legislators are expected to return to Raleigh in early December to begin addressing the long-term financial needs of those affected by Hurricane Matthew.

More than $61 million has already been approved for individuals who suffered losses from the October storm. That number could rise substantially when preliminary damage assessments are shared with the state’s congressional delegation and Congress considers supplemental federal disaster assistance.

Satana Deberry, Executive Director of the North Carolina Housing Coalition, says topping the priority list should be a commitment to more affordable housing, which was already in short supply before the storm waters arrived.

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Click below to hear Chris Fitzsimon’s full interview with Deberry.

On Tuesday, the governor’s office announced the formation of a Hurricane Matthew Recovery Committee. The committee includes nearly three dozen high-profile figures and community leaders — including former state budget director Art Pope, UNC system President Margaret Spellings, and former Gov. Bev Perdue — tasked with fundraising and developing long-term plans for the recovery.

News

One week to go: Top races a virtual tie in North Carolina

If you’ve ever thought one vote couldn’t make a difference, you might want to reconsider that this election year.

The latest polling by Elon University finds that the presidential and gubernatorial races are simply too close to call, while the U.S. Senate contest favors Richard Burr, but remains within the margin of error.

“North Carolina is still very much in play for both Trump and Clinton,” said Jason Husser, director of the Elon University Poll and assistant professor of political science. “The Old North State is continuing its tradition as a source of true toss-up electoral votes.”

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In the U.S. Senate race, Burr, the incumbent Republican, has the support of 43.5 percent of likely voters compared to 40 percent for Democrat Deborah Ross. (Note this poll was conducted before this story broke on CNN, for which Burr has apologized.)

Look for then undecided to be the determining factor for this Senate seat – that’s 13.5% of those surveyed in this poll.

elonpoll3_senate

Down ballot, Democrat Roy Cooper is holding the thinnest of leads over incumbent Republican Pat McCrory in the North Carolina’s governor’s race.

Husser says count on this one being “a nail-biter” until the bitter end.

elonpoll3_governor

Cooper continues to show solid support among black voters, with 91 percent planning to vote for him, while 63 percent of white voters support McCrory.

And it’s worth noting, only a small portion of voters plan to split their tickets, with 94 percent of Clinton supporters planning to vote for Cooper, and 96 percent of Trump voters supporting McCrory.

If you want to vote ahead of election day, remember that early voting lasts until mid-day Saturday, November 5th.  Find local early voting sites here.

To see all the questions and crosstabs for the latest Elon University poll, click here.

News

North Carolina politicos remember Rep. Paul Luebke’s 25 years of public service

State Rep. Paul Luebke died from lymphoma Saturday at the age of 70. The Durham County Democrat served in the State House of Representatives since 1991. Here’s how many North Carolinians are remembering his legacy:

“Representative Luebke was a dedicated servant whose long career in education and in the General Assembly reflected his undeniable passion for serving his district and helping the people of North Carolina. Ann and I join with people in Durham and throughout the state in mourning his loss.”Gov. Pat McCrory