Commentary, News

McCrory_Confederate-plateAs activists step-up their pressure on Governor Pat McCrory to end the sale of specialty license plates bearing the Confederate flag, the governor wants citizens to know he’d like to end the practice, but simply can’t.

McCrory’s press office released the following statement late Thursday:

“The governor has made it clear he wants to end the issuance of North Carolina license plates that bear the Confederate battle flag,” said Graham Wilson, the governor’s press secretary. “But the law doesn’t give him the authority to do so. It’s time for the General Assembly to provide the governor the legislative fix he needs so that this issue can be resolved once and for all.”

The law lays out the requirements that civic organizations, like the Sons of the Confederacy, must meet in order to get a specialty license plate. Once that criteria is met, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), and hence the governor, does not have the legal authority to deny the plate.

Senate President Phil Berger has said previously the governor does have the authority he needs to end the sale of the Confederate plates without further action by the legislature.

The Sanford-Herald seeks to settle the dispute. The paper’s editorial board writes Friday that in this case, the ball is squarely in McCrory’s court. Here’s an excerpt from that editorial:

The governor chose to take an official position on this license plate issue, which we applaud, but so far, he seems unwilling to put any force behind his words. Even if he can’t make it happen singlehandedly, surely his visibility and influence as the state’s highest officeholder could carry his desires a fair distance.

He must recognize that he can — and should — do something here, as his South Carolina counterpart Nikki Haley did in the days after the Charleston shooting. Haley’s swift, decisive command — which transcended party lines — was a study in leadership after a tragedy. And every community can learn something from the way Charleston reacted with strength and unity to a hateful act designed to divide.

Haley realized that if her state is to heal, there is no place for a “deeply offensive symbol of a brutally offensive past.”

Advocacy groups reportedly have delivered a petition to McCrory asking him to use his executive authority to halt the sale of these license plates. From where we sit, the ball appears to be squarely in his court.

Read the Herald’s full editorial here.

News

In a 4-3 decision, the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled Thursday the state’s school voucher program is constitutional. The ruling brought immediate reaction on both sides of the issue.

From voucher supporters:

School vouchers“I came to office promising to defend and expand educational opportunities for all children and all families regardless of circumstance. Today’s decision by the Supreme Court is a victory for every parent whose child is being underserved in North Carolina. This is a victory for choice, and it’s a victory for North Carolina students and their families.”   — Governor Pat McCrory

“We join the thousands of families across the state who are celebrating today because the Court has given them the legal right to exercise educational choice through the Opportunity Scholarship Program. We are thrilled for the many low-income students currently on the Program and the many more who need this option in the future.” — Darrell Allison, President of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina (PEFNC)

“Two-hundred and twenty-four schools have worked with parents to allow students to attend the school of their choice. Today’s court decision means that more families will have realistic access to educational options for their children.We will continue to work to expand the Opportunity Scholarship Program, so more student can be placed in an educational setting that is right for them.” — Rep. Paul Stam (R-Wake)

From voucher opponents:

“Today is a sad day for any North Carolinian who cares about public education.  The North Carolina Supreme Court disregarded the plain language of our state Constitution, which provides that public funds for education must be used “exclusively” to support the public schools.  A voucher scheme that lacks standards and accountability will be allowed to continue draining funds from our public schools, harming students across our state and undermining the foundation of North Carolina’s prosperity.” — Christine Bischoff, staff attorney NC Justice Center

“This decision will continue the damage being done to our public schools and students by allowing private vouchers to drain money from our already underfunded schools. We believe the Constitution is clear; public funds for education should be used exclusively for public schools. NCAE will continue to fight for giving our students the resources to be successful like modern textbooks and technology, more one-on-one interaction with teachers, and a quality educator in every class.” — NCAE President Rodney Ellis

“We cannot fathom how this decision upholds the constitutional promise that all children receive a sound, basic education within the public school system.”  — Yevonne Brannon, chairwoman of Public Schools First NC

News

It’s not just the state budget and Medicaid reform where legislators are at odds. On Wednesday the NC House voted overwhelmingly to reject the Senate’s latest version of a sweeping regulatory reform bill.

House Bill 765, which began as a one-page bill about gravel hauling, was transformed by the Senate into a 58-page measure that covers everything from the repeal of recycling requirements for discarded computers and televisions to allowing polluters to “self report” their violations to avoid penalties.

During a public hearing Tuesday, former state Supreme Court Justice Bob Orr told legislators that another portion of the bill that requires the courts to force private individuals to pay the state’s attorney fees if they lose their challenge was possibly unconstitutional.

“I would submit this legislation is unfair in its application, it’s bad public policy favoring the government over its citizens,” explained Orr

Yet another section of H765 would lower the age of required adult supervision (from 8 to 6) for children operating ATVs.

With Wednesday’s vote, the House and the Senate will appoint conferees to  work toward a compromise on the legislation.

Read more about H765 here. Click below to hear Orr speak on the bill:
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News

Three weeks in to the new fiscal year and House and Senate leaders appear to be no closer to announcing a final budget compromise.

NCAE Vice President Mark Jewell says the lack of a deal and the quickly approaching new school year has educators feeling especially nervous.

“It’s a lot of pressure, in fact I’ve talked to superintendents across the state over the last couple weeks and they are very concerned,” explained Jewell.

Of particular concern is the teaching assistants, who are helping get classrooms ready for the returning students this summer, but may find themselves out of a job in a few short weeks.

Burke County Public Schools recently announced 24 teacher assistants could expect pink slips if state funding is reduced in the new budget.

Jewell talked about the problems of budget procrastination over the weekend on NC Policy Watch’s News & Views with Chris Fitzsimon. Click below for an excerpt from that interview, or here for the full podcast.

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News

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump continues to find new ways to outdo himself. His latest controversial remarks came over the weekend in Ames, Iowa when he told an audience he did not consider Arizona Senator John McCain to be a war hero. Here’s the quote that lead to the firestorm:

“He’s not a war hero…he’s a war hero because he was captured…I like people who weren’t captured.”

McCain spent five and a half years as a prisoner of war in  North Vietnam.

Most Republican presidential candidates were quick to condemn the remarks. (Read the responses by Scott Walker, Ted Cruz, and Jeb Bush.)

McCain, who is not in the 2016 field of presidential candidates, said Trump owes an apology to the nation’s veterans for his comments.

A poll conducted less than two weeks ago by Public Policy Polling showed Donald Trump favored by 16% of North Carolina’s Republican voters — leading the rest of the pack. Jeb Bush and Scott Walker had just 12% of the vote, with Mike Huckabee coming in at 11%.

PPP’s poll was conducted after Trump called Mexican immigrants criminals and rapists in announcing his presidential bid.

It will be interesting to see if Trump’s latest remarks cause the numbers to shift in a state that prides itself on being the most-military friendly in the nation.

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