News

The North Carolina chapter of the NAACP wants the state to be much clearer about the state’s new voter identification law and what will be required at the polls the year.

NC NAACP President Rev. William Barber told reporters Tuesday that the organization is distressed that the State Board of Elections is not doing more to let citizens know they can still vote if they don’t possess a photo ID card:

“What we’ve seen happening is at best disingenuous, and at worst, a cynical attempt to further suppress the vote,” said Barber.

Rev. Barber says brochures, print collateral, and any ads about the ID requirement in 2016 should prominently include an explanation of the “reasonable impediment” provision that would allow eligible voters to cast a ballot without a picture ID.  (Impediments could include a lack of transportation, family responsibilities, or even one’s work schedule.)

Click below to hear Rev. Barber discuss his concerns about how the North Carolina State Board of Elections is educating poll workers and voters about the election law changes.

The challenge over voter ID returns to federal court January 25th.

One stop early voting for our statewide primary begins March 3rd.

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Commentary, News

U.S. Senator Thom Tillis:

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Congressman David E. Price:

“Tonight, President Obama described a new kind of American leadership: leadership sustained by our values of acceptance and equality, our diversity of thought, and our ingenuity and determination; and leadership putting first reliance on diplomacy rather than military intervention. During the President’s administration, this new paradigm has allowed us to negotiate an historic nuclear agreement with Iran, to overcome the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, to protect the rights of LGBT Americans, to broaden access to health care, and to secure a global commitment to address climate change. This kind of leadership is our greatest strength in combating extremism and intolerance, and it allows us to protect our core economic and cultural values.

“We still face serious threats as a country, both domestically and internationally. But I share President Obama’s optimism that this new American leadership and the values behind it will allow us to address these challenges and continue to thrive in the 21st century.”

Congressman Mark Meadows:

“The world is becoming a more dangerous place because of the Obama Administration’s failed foreign policy that fundamentally misunderstands America’s enemies.  At nearly every turn, the President has unilaterally made foreign policy decisions that baffle the American people. From failing to temporarily halt Syrian refugees from being admitted into the U.S. until we improve our vetting system, to bypassing Congress and unlawfully initiating the transfer of Guantanamo detainees, the American people are perplexed by the Obama foreign policy.

More than a year into the conflict with ISIS, the U.S. is engaging in anemic airstrikes with no clear strategy, creating a vacuum for Russian leadership in a conflict that demands American leadership. There’s no such thing as a lame duck President in times of war—and that is precisely what the United States is engaged in with ISIS. The President must fundamentally alter his foreign policy—and quickly—or there will be repercussions for decades to come.

After 7 years in office, it’s time President Obama try a new strategy: working with Congress to address these critical issues for the American people.”

Congressman G. K. Butterfield:

Congresswoman Virginia Foxx:

“President Obama promised hope and change, but his failed agenda has brought the wrong kind of change and many North Carolinians are losing hope. Fortunately, Republicans are committed to restoring confidence in America and empowering her people to make their own decisions and pursue their own dreams.”

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News

Former University of North Carolina President Tom Ross is reflecting on his tenure as head of the 17-campus system and the future of higher education in America.

In an interview last week with NC Policy Watch’s Chris Fitzsimon, Ross voiced his concerns about the disinvestment in higher ed:

“We spend just slightly more money today in real dollars that we did 25 years ago, and yet enrollment has increased 60 percent during that period. So we’re actually spending more than 30 percent less, per student than we did 25 years ago,” explained Ross.

Ross says policymakers and the public must understand the connection between college, critical-thinking and America’s competitive edge.

Recent analysis finds that states have cut per-student spending for higher education by an average of 21 percent between fiscal years 2008 and 2014.

To hear an excerpt of Ross’ radio interview click below. A podcast of their full discussion (in which he shares his future plans) is available on the main Policy Watch website.

Ross will be succeeded in March by former Bush Education Secretary Margaret Spellings. Junius Gonzales is serving as the interim president of the UNC system.

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Commentary, News


McCroryandMoe video1. A weak defense of a weak performance
The Governor tries and fails to put a positive spin on 2015


With the 2016 political year underway, it’s no surprise that elected leaders have been attempting to put a positive spin on the state of North Carolina’s economy and government (and their own roles in producing the current state of affairs). Last week, for instance, Governor Pat McCrory issued a New Year’s Eve video statement in which, in the frequently tortured syntax that has become one of his trademarks, he proffered a scattershot array of claims about where the state stands and the performance of his administration. The video (click here to watch) was accompanied by a bulleted list of 12 “accomplishments” under the headings “Economy,” “Education” and “Efficiency.”

The Governor’s release came just a day after Senate leader Phil Berger issued a similar list of “accomplishments” under a Lincolnesque photo of himself gazing into space and the headline “Reflecting on a Productive Year.” [Continue reading…]

Gun violence2. The very least we can do about gun violence

A picture accompanying a recent story about U.S. gun laws in the Guardian newspaper shows a sign on a table of semi-automatic guns for sale at an Alabama gun show. The sign says “no paper work” and credit cards welcome.

That’s not news to anyone who has been to a gun show at the North Carolina State Fairgounds in Raleigh or just followed the absurd debate about guns in America, but it is startling nonetheless.

Think about it for a second. Anyone can walk up to that table and thousands like it at events every weekend across the county with cash or credit and buy a weapon that can shoot 30 times a minute without reloading, many more times with the high capacity magazines that are also for sale to whoever wants them, no questions asked. [Continue reading…]

***Bonus read: Somebody please ask Sen. Berger how Obama is “grabbing” guns

ConnectNC_4003. Yes to invest and not just in buildings

All hands were on deck earlier this week for the official launch of the campaign to pass the $2 billion bond package for higher education and state parks that will go before voters on March 15th.

Leaders of both political parties spoke at a packed rally at N.C. State University’s Centennial Campus in Raleigh and given the current political climate in the state, it’s encouraging to hear bipartisan support for important public investments in university and community college buildings, expansion and renovation of state parks, and the modernization of outdated water and sewer systems across the state.

There’s even a bipartisan spirit in whose running the campaign with a Republican consulting firm sharing the business with a leading Democratic firm

In fact, it’s hard to find folks opposed to the bond with the exception of some Tea Party groups and a few far-right bloggers, though you don’t have to be very cynical to wonder if some of the support from conservative groups would be as likely if the bonds were proposed by a progressive Democratic governor instead of Republican Pat McCrory who is seeking reelection in what is expected to be a close race in November. [Continue reading…]

N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson4. Report details the struggle to recruit at NC’s low-performing schools

“You are confirming what, anecdotally, we all would expect,” said A.L. Collins, vice chairman of the N.C. State Board of Education.

Expected, perhaps, but no less troubling, it would seem. Collins’ words came shortly after staff with the N.C. Department of Public Instruction presented a report to the state board Wednesday that quantified, in bitter detail, the apparent struggle for North Carolina’s low-performing schools to recruit high-quality teachers.

Based on the report, presented by Tom Tomberlin, director of district human resources for DPI, the attrition rate for teachers at low-performing schools and their counterparts has been surprisingly similar since 2013. Since then, both designations have seen about 22 percent of their teachers depart. [Continue reading…]

Barber_808b5.Grief at the heart of the Moral Movement
A personal mediation for 2016

In a violent and fragmented society, sometimes the grief is so deep that I cannot help responding as a father as well as a Christian pastor and a political leader. All of the children are our children, whether it is a baby shot amid a senseless crime in Chapel Hill or a child shot in two seconds by a trigger-happy cop in Cleveland.

There is a time for prophetic grief. As I heard the news about the Ohio prosecutor’s decision to not bring charges against the police officers who shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice, I got a call from a friend asking for a comment on the death of Maleah Williams, a 1-year-old killed on Christmas Day by a drive-by shooting in a North Carolina housing project. I told him I could not comment. My rage and lamentation went beyond any words I could offer.

Though I had plenty to say, I could hear the Bible’s admonition against speaking out of wrath. I know, too, that grieving precedes but does not preclude moral action. As I hung up the phone, I let the tears flow and sat still as the reality of black death washed over me. [Continue reading…]

News

Saying “change is tough” Gov. Pat McCrory announced the departure of state Budget Director Lee Roberts and Revenue Secretary Lyons Gray on Thursday.

Gray will move to the N.C. Utilities Commission where he replaces Commissioner Susan Rabon, who retired at the first of the year.

Roberts, who replaced Art Pope as the state’s budget director 16 months ago, heads to the private sector to an investment management firm.

“Lyons Gray will bring his considerable experience and common sense wisdom to the utilities commission, a regulatory body that affects nearly every North Carolina citizen. Lee Roberts will be helping to create jobs and invest in our state as he builds a new investment management business. I’m grateful for the service of these fine individuals,” said Gov. McCrory.

Drew Heath, chair of the state Industrial Commission, will step into the budget director’s role. Jeff Epstein, who has served as the Chief Operating Officer at the Department of Revenue since April 2013, will replace Gray as Secretary.

Click below to hear McCrory discuss the resignation of Lee Roberts:

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