News

Five things to have on your radar this week

1. Trump’s cabinet picks move toward confirmation – Confirmation hearings begin Tuesday in Washington for President-elect Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees. First up will be the hearing for Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Trump’s choice to be our next U.S. Attorney General. On Wednesday, Rex Tillerson, the Secretary of State nominee, will appear before the Foreign Relations Committee.

Democrats are urging Senate Republicans not to rush the process as some of Trump’s nominees — including Education Sec. nominee Betsy DeVos — have not yet completed the ethics review process.
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2. Charter school expansion and segregation – The number of charter schools in our state has more than doubled in the last five year, and this week we could see more schools on the path to opening their doors.

The NC Charter Schools Advisory Board will hold its first meeting of the year Tuesday-Thursday. You’ll find their  agenda here.

Ahead of the meeting, you might want to check out Amy Hawn Nelson’s piece on demographic data that shows charter schools are more segregated than traditional public schools. Nelson is the Director of Social Research for the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute.
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3. Medicaid expansion – Assuming the remnants of last week’s wintry weather does not postpone it, members of the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Health and Human Services meet Tuesday at 8:30 a.m.

Legislators are likely to share a few thoughts on Governor Roy Cooper’s announcement that he will push for Medicaid expansion.

Speaking of expansion, be sure to read Chris Fitzsimon’s Monday numbers column.
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4. NC General Assembly returns – After five special sessions in 2016, members of the North Carolina House and Senate return to Raleigh on Wednesday for the beginning of the 2017 “long” session.

Republicans in control of the House and Senate will have to decide how that want to work with Governor Roy Cooper on hot-button issues such as Medicaid expansion and the repeal of HB2.

Meredith College political scientist David McLennan says this session will also be shaped by the recent federal court order to redraw legislative districts by mid-March and hold new elections in 2017:

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You can hear our full radio interview with David McLennan here.
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5. Nationwide Mass Mobilization to Protect Immigrants & Refugees – Just one week before Donald Trump’s inauguration, immigrants, families and allies will rally, march, and hold vigils and mass community gatherings to build momentum for sanctuaries of safety and deportation defense networks in cities, schools, churches and states.

Saturday’s mobilization is part of a growing wave of resilience and defiance against Trump’s promises to rip families apart, create a Muslim registry and enact policies like “stop and frisk” rooted in racial profiling and discrimination. Further,  immigrants contribute vastly to our economy, and Trump’s mass deportation plan could lead to additional exploitation of immigrant works and would drive down wages for all workers.

On January 14th, people from coast to coast will stand together and say that we are #HereToStay and will not be moved.

Events are currently planned in over 20 states across the country, including local events in Charlotte and Raleigh.

See the current nationwide event list here.

Commentary, News

This week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

This week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch:

1. There’s finally a grownup in Raleigh

We are only a few days into the New Year but two starkly different political styles are already on display in Raleigh.

Newly elected Governor Roy Cooper is beginning his term by methodically announcing his choices for cabinet posts after calling Republican legislative leaders to inform them of his decisions. And they are good ones.

Tuesday Cooper named Michael Regan to head the state Department of Environmental Quality. He was most recently with the Environmental Defense Fund and worked at the EPA in Democratic and Republican Administrations.

Cooper also named Jim Trogdon to head the state Department of Transportation. Trogdon is an engineer who is currently the National Transportation Director for SAS Institute. He worked at DOT for 25 years, rising to Chief Operating Officer before retiring in 2013.[Read more…]

Roy Cooper at Economic Forecast forum2. Gov. Cooper announces he will expand Medicaid, calls for full repeal of HB2, raising teacher pay to national average 

In a startlingly decisive step that took place on just the fourth day of his term in office, Governor Roy Cooper announced this morning that he will take immediate action to expand Medicaid coverage to hundreds of thousands of uninsured North Carolinians under the terms of the Affordable Care Act. Cooper’s action, which has long been sought by health care advocates and important sectors in the health care industry, would make North Carolina the 33rd state (including the District of Columbia) to adopt Medicaid expansion. Click here to see the current list.

Cooper’s action seems certain to spur howls of protest from Republican lawmakers and conservative advocacy groups that have long derided Medicaid expansion and the Affordable Care Act (aka”Obamacare”) as “socialized medicine.” Four years ago, at the outset of the administration of Cooper’s predecessor, Pat McCrory, North Carolina legislators enacted a law that purports to prevent the Governor from acting unilaterally to expand Medicaid. Cooper, however, believes that he has authority to act in his role as the state official empowered to craft and negotiate the “Medicaid waiver” plan that North Carolina is currently negotiating with federal officials. It is known that McCrory engaged in conversations with the Obama administration on such a possible move.[Read more…]

Bonus video: WATCH: Governor Cooper explain his plan for Medicaid expansion

3. Gov. Cooper names Michael Regan, former EPA, Environmental Defense Fund to lead NCDEQ

As soon as Michael Regan spoke at the governor’s mansion today, it became clear that he is the antithesis of Donald van der Vaart.

Gov. Roy Cooper’s choice to lead the state Department of Environmental Quality, Regan was softspoken, yet confident. In contrast, as DEQ secretary, van der Vaart exerted his authority through a domineering, even defensive persona. Both men do have expertise in air quality: Regan worked for 10 years at the EPA in that division. Meanwhile, van der Vaart, who aspires to work at the EPA, last week demoted himself back to a section chief in DEQ’s air quality division as a way to avoid being fired as political appointee.

But the similarities end there. Regan is a clean energy proponent, having spent eight years as the National Director of Energy Efficiency Southeast Climate & Energy Policy at the Environmental Defense Fund (where he also worked as Southeast regional director).[Read more…]

4. New Superintendent of Public Instruction highlights urgent need to transform “outdated” school system

Mark Johnson to begin his term with a listening tour

Pledging to “transform” North Carolina public schools, new Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson told members of the State Board of Education Thursday that he believes the state’s system of schooling is “outdated.”

“I will be generous and say that this system was designed for students in the 1950s,” Johnson said. “I will be generous because you could probably trace this system back to the 1920s or even earlier.”

Johnson’s comments, while lacking specifics on planned reforms, marked his first extended address to the state board since stunning longtime Democratic Superintendent June Atkinson in November’s election. And they come in the midst of a broiling legal dispute between the state board and the state legislature over the powers of his office.[Read more…]

5. Three-judge panel temporarily blocks law overhauling State Board of Elections

A three-judge panel upheld Gov. Roy Cooper’s request to block a new law that would overhaul the State Elections Board.

Cooper’s attorney, Jim Phillips of Greensboro, has not returned a phone or email message seeking to confirm the news, and a trial court administrator said she could not confirm it until an order is entered in the case. As of 11 a.m. Friday, an order had not yet been entered.

The judges heard arguments in the case Thursday morning but said they would not be making a ruling from the bench. The Associated Press reported that word about the decision came late Thursday from a court administrator writing to the lawyers in the case on behalf of the judges. [Read more…]

***Bonus reads and additional background:


****Upcoming event: Jan. 18 Crucial Conversation — What is the true state of the economy and how do we make it work for everyone?

NC Policy Watch presents our first Crucial Conversation luncheon of 2017:

What is the true state of the economy and how do we make it work for everyone? Featuring special guest, Dr. William Spriggs, Chief Economist for the national AFL-CIO. Register here.

News, public health

WATCH: Governor Cooper explain his plan for Medicaid expansion

Governor Roy Cooper will file the paperwork this week asking the federal government to amend the state’s Medicaid plan, opening door for expansion. While conservative legislators staunchly oppose Medicaid expansion, Cooper told business leaders Wednesday it makes sense fiscally.

North Carolina’s new governor says expansion would bring $2-4 billion in new investment to the state and create between 20,000-40,000 jobs.

Watch Cooper’s remarks below:

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News

As Cooper is sworn in, outgoing McCrory finds fault with HB2 opponents, ACC

Roy Cooper wasted no time with the start of the New Year in taking the oath of office to become the 75th governor of North Carolina.

Gov. Cooper posting on social media just after midnight:

“It is the honor of my life to be your governor, and to work for all of North Carolina. I pledge to give my very best to the people of this great state of North Carolina, the state I love and where I have spent my life.”

Photo: Office of Governor Roy Cooper

His predecessor, Pat McCrory, also used social media in his final days in the governor’s mansion to offer a 15-minute assessment of the past four years. McCrory skipped the traditional year-end interviews with the media and instead offered his take on You Tube.

He voiced pride in how his administration shaped the economy, addressed teacher pay, and tackled the coal ash clean-up. As for HB2, McCrory called the outcry over the anti-LGBT law that he signed in March a “manufactured crisis.”

He also took a parting shot at the ACC for its decision to move  its championship football game from Charlotte to Orlando because of the discriminatory HB2:

“I thought it was a travesty, and by the way, they didn’t do a good job of filling up the seats in Orlando,” he said. “They were giving away tickets.”

Click below to hear McCrory discuss reaction to the so-called “bathroom bill.”

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News

Congressional Republicans’ plan to keep decorum could silence live streaming of sit-ins, protests

House Democrats captured headlines last June when they staged a sit-in to demand a vote on gun control legislation. But events like that streamed online could become far less common under a new Republican House proposal.

The initiative that will go before the U.S. House for a vote next month could result in members of Congress being fined as much as $2,500 for digital photography, audio or video broadcast on the House floor.

As NBC News reports:

In June, Democrats led by civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., staged a dramatic sit-in on the House floor with fellow Democrats to force a vote on gun control legislation.

The protest was not publicly broadcast because the House had not formally gaveled into session. Instead, the protest gained steam after Rep. Scott Peters, D-Calif., used the video streaming app, Periscope, to share footage of the sit-in. C-Span eventually broadcast Peters’ video feed.

The newly proposed policy, which would have to be approved by the full House when they return in January, would fine a member $500 for the first offense and $2,500 for any subsequent offenses. The funds would be taken out of the member’s net salary.

Click below to watch Congresswoman Alma Adams (NC-12) during the gun control sit-in tell the NRA to “Get the hell out of the way!’

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A spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan said in a statement this week the ban on live-streaming will ensure order and decorum.

The 115th Congress convenes January 3rd.