For a second day in a row, inclement weather has cancelled numerous appropriation committee meetings that had been scheduled for today at the General Assembly. Legislators, like most of us, are waiting it out at home until temperatures can rise and clear away the icy patches on bridges and roadways.

With a few extra hours on their hands, House and Senate members may want to use this down time to read the latest report on incentives and economic development from the NC Justice Center.

Allan Freyer, the author of Picking Losers: Why the Majority of NC’s Incentive Programs End in Failure, explains that more than half of all firms receiving incentive awards from the state’s Job Development Investment Grant (JDIG) program have failed to live up to their promises of job creation, investment, or wages.

Click below to hear Freyer discuss his new report. To read the complete findings for yourself,  click here.

YouTube Preview Image
Commentary, News

1. The flawed formula for North Carolina’s A-F school grades 

At East Garner Elementary School, Principal Kimberly Burton asked her teachers what they really needed to help their students succeed.

Their answer? Time.

In the face of so many challenges and obstacles – designing new curricula aligned with Common Core, teaching a large population of English language learners and grappling with the reality that 75 percent of their students qualify for free or reduced price lunch—Burton’s teachers wanted a protected, regular time slot to come together, look at data and figure out which of their teaching methods worked and which ones didn’t so they could bring their students along on a path toward success.[Read more….]

2. Suing for support? North Carolina’s cash-strapped courts ponder next move

The legislative session may be young, but already some state lawmakers are talking about making state court funding a priority.

Certainly that’s news, given how the judicial branch has been passed over during budget negotiations in recent years.

Perhaps that’s because they’re listening to their like-minded conservative Chief Justice, Mark Martin.

The court system’s operating budget has been slashed by more than 40 percent since 2008 and the state’s third branch of government is teetering on the brink of a funding emergency, the Chief Justice told Capitol Tonight viewers recently.

“I would characterize it as getting fairly close to “911,”” Martin said.[Read more….]

3. Why you should march this Saturday

This is the time of year – especially here in North Carolina – during which Martin Luther King, Jr. and the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement are both much on the minds of progressives. With the recent celebration of the King Day holiday, this Thursday’s anniversary of the founding of the NAACP and this Saturday’s Moral March on Raleigh, there is a heightened awareness of a connection between the pioneers of the mid-20th Century and today’s ongoing effort to combat inequality and injustice.

That said, there is also good reason to bristle at the endless efforts by corporations and conservative politicians to appropriate and sanitize King’s words and deeds. [Read more…]

4. More evidence that North Carolina does not value teachers

Despite all the platitudes from politicians, especially in election years, North Carolina does not value public school teachers, not really.

That’s not only the fault of the folks currently in power, state leaders have been telling that lie for a long time,  though the crowd in charge for the last four years has certainly made things a lot worse.

Governor Pat McCrory provided more evidence of that in remarks at a Wilson high school last week, though he didn’t mean to. [Read more…]

5. The disingenuous gas tax hike an ominous sign for the legislative session

If you are looking for a sign about what sort of legislative session to expect this year, the gas tax increase passed by the Senate this week is an ominous one.

Don’t be confused by the misleading spin from Senate leaders. The bill will raise the gas tax in North Carolina. No one really disputes that fact. The proposal cuts the tax temporarily but then raises it by changing the formula that determines the tax. [Read more…]

Bonus video
from this week’s Crucial Conversation: The Constitutional Challenge to School Vouchers (full video)
YouTube Preview Image


1. Omnibus Economic Development Improvements -EITC_nc This bill introduced by Rep. Susi Hamilton (D-New Hanover) and Rep. Rodney Moore (D-Mecklenberg) would restore the Film Incentive and Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits. House Bill 89 also calls for the the state Earned Income Tax Credit to be re-established, which ended in 2014.

2. Disapprove MEC Oil and Gas Rules – This measure is intended to slow down the fracking process and would disapprove of the Mining and Energy Commission’s proposed fracking rules that relate to setback distances from residences and our waterways, as well as waste disposal. House Bill 76 has been referred to the House Committee on Commerce and Job Development.

3. Dropout Prev. & Recovery Pilot Expansion – Senate Bill 84 – Senator Jerry Tillman’s Bill would require the State Board of Education to establish a three-year Dropout Prevention and Recovery Pilot Program involving charter schools. The idea is to assess whether charter schools are more effective at re-engaging students (and increasing the graduation rates) by offering flexible scheduling and self-paced learning options. Existing charter schools would be able to apply to to participate in the pilot.Voter ID

4. Curbside Voting ID’s – If you thought the omnibus voter ID bill of 2013 covered it all, you were mistaken. Senate Bill 49 would extend the need for a photo ID to those individuals who use curbside voting – typically the elderly or those with a physical handicap. If signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory, this measure would take effect January 1, 2016.

5. North Carolina Medical Cannabis Act – House Bill 78 would  permit the medical use and cultivation of marijuana in North Carolina. The bill reads:

Compassion dictates that State law should make a distinctMarijuanaion between the medical and nonmedical use of cannabis. Hence, the purpose of this Article is to protect patients with debilitating medical conditions, and their physicians and caregivers, from arrest and prosecution, criminal and other penalties, and property forfeiture by allowing the beneficial use of medical cannabis in a regulated system for alleviating symptoms caused by debilitating medical conditions and their medical treatments.

Rep. Kelly Alexander‘s bill was given an “unfavorable” report in 2013 and died with no debate by state lawmakers. Will new leadership in the state House and the change in public opinion about marijuana’s medicinal benefits change the bill’s fate this year? Stay tuned.