Commentary, News

The Week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

 

1. Almost absolute power is corrupting in Raleigh, absolutely

Here is something you may not know about the way the General Assembly works these days.  The odds are that your senator and representative have almost no say in what happens to controversial legislation. None.

This week when the Senate considered a proposal from the House to combine the state ethics and elections commissions, taking power away from Governor Roy Cooper, Senators were banned from offering any amendments to the power-grabbing plan.

That’s because House leaders didn’t introduce a bill of their own to change the law, they simply took a bill that had already passed the Senate, stripped out its contents and replaced it with the proposal to merge the elections and ethics commissions.[Read more…]

2. Competing bills would alter method for funding charter schools

For the better part of a decade, charter and traditional school advocates have bickered over charters’ share of North Carolina dollars.

But two bills drafted by influential state Senate leaders in recent days want to settle the issue this session. One, Senate Bill 562, has the blessing of public school advocates; the other, not so much.

“If Senate Bill 562 were to move forward, I think you’d see a much more collaborative approach between the charter schools and the traditional schools,” says Bruce Mildwurf, associate director of government relations for the N.C. School Boards Association, a group that lobbies for local school board interests at the state legislature. [Read more…]

3. The return of the “Know Nothings”
Anti-immigrant fervor spawns destructive (and utterly illogical) proposals on Jones Street

There are a lot of labels that have been applied to the ideology that has held sway in North Carolina policy and politics over the past six years. Some have been embraced by the politicians and pundits who have been running the show (“conservative,” “libertarian,” “fundamentalist” stand out) while others (“reactionary,” “backward-looking,” “right-wing”) have not.

Of course, such labels are rarely static and can, over time, come to mean something very different from the original. There was a time in the United States in which “liberal” was widely understood to be a moniker for those who opposed government participation in the economy.[Read more…]

4. Full speed ahead: GOP lawmakers plow ahead with plans to remake the state court system

It’s starting to look like “court-packing” may not be as dead in the water as some Republican lawmakers said it was in December.

The General Assembly passed House Bill 239 this week, which would reduce the Court of Appeals from 15 judges to 12 and add more than 100 cases per year to the state Supreme Court’s workload. Gov. Roy Cooper plans to veto the legislation.

“The Republican effort to reduce the number of judges on the Court of Appeals should be called out for exactly what it is – their latest power-grab, aimed at exerting partisan influence over the judicial branch and laying the groundwork for future court-packing,” states a press memo from his office.[Read more…]

5. Local officials breathe sigh of relief as federal court strikes down legislature’s Greensboro redistricting plan

When a federal judge ruled last week against a state law that reconfigured and redistricted the Greensboro City Council, it was celebrated in the Gate City. But the larger implications of the ruling weren’t widely discussed.

But Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan, who spearheaded the legal and popular resistance to the law, said the ruling was more than just a victory for Greensboro. It was more than a win for one of the state’s most liberal cities in a two year struggle against the conservative North Carolina General Assembly.

“I think it was a very important decision for the state of North Carolina,” Vaughan said this week. “It reaffirmed the ability of cities to determine their form of government. Importantly, it offers the citizens the ability to have a referendum, to have a voice in what their government looks like. That’s something they were trying to do away with here – and if it had been successful, it’s something a number of other towns and cities would have seen.” [Read more…]

Upcoming event on Tuesday, April 18 @ 8:30am:
Crucial Conversation breakfast – Immigration policy in the era of Trump: Where do things stand in North Carolina?
NC Policy Watch presents a special Crucial Conversation breakfast: Immigration policy in the era of Trump: Where do things stand in North Carolina? What is the reality “on the ground”? Learn more and register today.

News

House Speaker: Bill attempting to ban gay marriage will not be heard

Just days after passing legislation to repeal the anti-LGBT law known as HB2, the last thing legislative leaders wanted was to wade into another highly-publicized, controversial battle over gay marriage.

House Speaker Tim Moore issued a statement Wednesday saying House Bill 780, which would bar same-sex marriages in North Carolina and refuse to recognize such marriages, would not move out of committee and was dead for this session.

Here’s Moore’s statement:

“There are strong constitutional concerns with this legislation given that the U.S. Supreme Court has firmly ruled on the issue, therefore House Bill 780 will be referred to the House Rules Committee and will not be heard.”

Sponsors of the “Uphold Historical Marriage Act” sought to have the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage nationwide declared “null  and  void.”

News

Education expert on the gap in school funding and the revival of the NC Teaching Fellows program (audio)

If you missed it over the weekend, be sure to listen to Chris Fitzsimons’s radio interview with Public School Forum president and CEO Keith Poston on local school financing, the Roadmap of Need, and legislation to resurrect the NC Teaching Fellows program.

Environment, News, public health

Six things to have on your radar this week ahead of Easter

Making it official – Dr. James C. “Jimmie” Williamson, who began his role as the eighth president of the NC Community College system in July, is officially being installed today on the campus of Richmond Community College.

Dr. Williamson has a background steeped in education, business, economic development, workforce development and community service. Most recently, he served two years as the System President and CEO of the South Carolina Technical College system.

Two notable bill’s on the House Calendar – Members of the House reconvene at 4:00 p.m. with two notable bills to watch. Representatives are expected to give final approval to the Agriculture and Forestry Nuisance Remedies bill (HB 467) and the School Calendar Flexibility bill (HB375).

Learn more from Policy Watch’s Lisa Sorg about the troubling rush job on HB467.

Education reporter Billy Ball has a rundown on HB375 and another school calendar bill (HB389) that would impact the school start dates of 20 rural counties.

“Brunch Bill” back before lawmakers –  Tuesday at 9:00 a.m. members of the House Alcoholic Beverage Control committee will consider a bill that would allow liquor sales at restaurants beginning at 10:00 a.m. on Sundays instead of noon.

Members will also consider ABC Omnibus Legislation that would allow North Carolina breweries to self-distribute up to 200,000 barrels per year and would make it easier for small breweries to terminate distribution agreements.

The House Alcoholic Beverage Control meets is Room 1425 of the Legislative Building at 9:00 a.m.

Medicaid expansion – Proponents of Medicaid expansion have repeated this talking point for quite some time: There are currently more than 500,000 uninsured in North Carolina, more than 300,000 of these individuals and families have no affordable options for health insurance.

On Tuesday House Bill 662, entitled “Carolina Cares,” will be introduced creating a healthcare program that addresses the needs of North Carolinians who are ineligible for Medicaid due to income levels but are otherwise unable to afford health insurance.

Primary Bill Sponsor Rep. Donny Lambeth holds an 11:00 a.m. press conference in the legislative press room to discuss the ins and outs of the bill. For now, here’s how the News & Observer’s Lynn Bonner explains the legislation:

Under the bill, adults whose incomes are at or below 133 percent of the federal poverty level – less than $16,000 for a single person – would qualify. They would have to pay annual premiums equal to 2 percent of their household income, with some hardship exemptions. In most cases, adults would have to be working or “engaged in activities that promote employment” to be eligible for the coverage.

Legislation caregivers will want to watch – The House Aging Committee will vote on the Caregiver Relief Act – House Bill 543. This bill would provide support in the workplace under state law for caregivers who provide direct care to certain family members in need of care in instances where such leave would not be afforded to the caregivers under federal law.

The bill would require that employers that comply with the federal Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 with respect to a spouse, son, daughter, or parent of the eligible employee’s sibling, grandparent, grandchild, stepchild, stepparent or parent-in-law.

Why does this matter? Well, bill sponsors note there are 1.7 million family caregivers in North Carolina providing care to an adult with limitations in daily activities at some time during the year.

The Aging Committee meets at 11:00 a.m. in Room 423 LOB.

Funding a solution to NC’s food desert– Finally, Tuesday at noon the House Ag. Committee will discuss the Corner Store Initiative. House Bill 387 would establish a source of funding and assistance for small food retailers in both urban and rural areas to increase the availability and sales of fresh fruits, vegetables, and other nutrient dense foods at affordable prices to local residents.

The  goal is to improve the diet and health of residents in food desert zones. The Agriculture committee meets in Room 643 of the Legislative Office Building.