Commentary

Experts will examine the central issue of the upcoming legislative session at May 15 luncheon

There are a lot of potential issues on the agenda for the legislative session that commences next Wednesday in Raleigh, but, ultimately, the dominant and most important topic of discussion will be the FY 2019 state budget that lawmakers will update and amend. Whether it’s teacher pay, environmental protection, healthcare or the divide between the 1% and the rest of us — no legislation will have a bigger impact on the 10 million people of North Carolina than the state budget and the tax policy choices that lawmakers make to fund it.

If you’d like to better understand the truth about the fiscal policy environment in which these decisions will be made should, you should definitely make plans to attend a special May 15 NC Policy Watch Crucial Conversation:

America’s most dangerous policy addiction (and the threat it poses to the common good)

Featuring Dr. Michael Leachman, Director of State Fiscal Research with the State Fiscal Policy division of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Click here to register

America’s addiction to regressive tax policy – at both the national and state levels – poses an increasingly serious threat to the national wellbeing. Whether it’s abetting the ongoing demise of the middle class and broadly shared prosperity, starving and endangering the essential public structures and services that knit together our society or undermining people’s belief in government as an honest broker and impartial arbiter, the relentless drive to slash taxes on wealthy individuals and profitable corporations is changing our country dramatically and for the worse.

Dr. Michael Leachman

Alexandra Sirota

Dr. Michael Leachman of the Washington, DC-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities is one of the most insightful observers and prolific analysts of this troubling trend. For the past decade, Leachman has researched a range of state fiscal policy issues including the impact of federal aid, the debt states owe in their Unemployment Insurance trust funds, and the wisdom of state spending limits. Prior to joining the Center on Budget, he was a policy analyst for nine years at the Oregon Center for Public Policy (OCPP), a member of the State Priorities Partnership. His work at OCPP included research on corporate income taxes, reserve funds, spending limits, the Earned Income Tax Credit, food stamps, and TANF.

Leachman will be joined by Alexandra Sirota, Director of the North Carolina Budget and Tax Center, who will provide a preview of the critical fiscal policy debates that are expected during the upcoming legislative short session that commences May 16.

Don’t miss this important event!

When: Tuesday May 15 at 12:00 noon — Box lunches will be available at 11:45 a.m.

Where: ***NOTE: DIFFERENT LOCATION THAN USUAL*** The North Carolina Advocates for Justice Building at 1312 Annapolis Drive (near the intersection of Wade Ave. and Oberlin Rd.) in Raleigh.

Space is limited – preregistration required.

Click here to register

Cost: $15, admission includes a box lunch. Scholarships available.

Questions?? Contact Rob Schofield at 919-861-2065 or rob@ncpolicywatch.com

Commentary, News

This week’s top five on NC Policy Watch

#1 – PW exclusive: Foreign company proposes to emit 140 tons of “super pollutant” each year in southeastern NC: Log fumigation operation would be located near low-income community of color, make use of widely banned chemical, methyl bromide — Ashley Niquetta Daniels went to services last Sunday at Evergreen AME Zion Church in Delco — the church she attended as a child — and gave a talk about pollution. Not just any pollution, but the 140 tons of methyl bromide emissions that could be emitted into the air each year in and around Delco, a hamlet in Columbus County, 18 miles west of Wilmington.

“People knew some about logs,” Daniels told Policy Watch. “But nobody knew anything about the fumigation.”
[Read more…]

***BONUS READS: 

#2 – Heads up: Legislative leaders plot still more destructive power grabs — After having exercised seven-plus years of relentless, “take no prisoners” rule and with pollsters and pundits forecasting a tough election year for the allies of Donald Trump, you’d think that North Carolina’s legislative leaders might be in a mood to choose a slightly more moderate path during the upcoming legislative “short” session that commences May 16.

Think again. [Read more…]

#3 –Why both sides are wrong: NC’s teacher pay ranking is even worse than it appears — A tired story repeats itself every year when state rankings of teacher pay are released. Public school advocates claim that North Carolina’s low teacher pay ranking and shortfall from national average pay levels indicate that we aren’t paying our teachers enough. Right-wing pundits then try to rebut the public school advocates by claiming that – when adjusted for North Carolina’s lower cost-of-living – teacher pay is actually pretty good.

Neither side is using teacher pay data correctly. [Read more…]

***BONUS READS: 

#4 – Orange County: Part of the changing-face of pretrial justice — The inequities of the cash bail system are something Orange County officials have long understood. The county is one of dozens across the state that support pretrial services — a jail alternative system that identifies poor people who are low risks for violence and likely to show up for their court dates and allows them to be released on very low or no bail. [Read more…]

***BONUS READ: 

#5 – DPI veterans question cost, speed, and value of latest agency audit — The longtime leaders of North Carolina’s top public school agency are questioning the depth and the cost of a newly-released organizational review that calls for a “transformation” in the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.

Consultants with Ernst & Young conducted the agency review over a period of 12 weeks this year, after state Superintendent Mark Johnson asked for and received a $1 million budget allocation from state legislators last year to audit DPI.  [Read more…]

Commentary, Courts & the Law, Defending Democracy

Leading voices for civil rights to gather on May 15 in Durham for conference on NC’s broken criminal justice system

North Carolinians who care about civil rights and the desperate need to improve our flawed criminal justice system will not want to miss this event:

“Criminal Justice Debt: Punishing the Poor in North Carolina”

May 15, 9:30-2:30

Great Hall, NC Central University School of Law
640 Nelson St., Durham

Defendants in criminal cases are frequently caught in a web of fines and fees imposed at all stages of the criminal justice process. For poor defendants, these costs are often unpayable. Set up to fail and sanctioned with additional fees, extended probation, license revocation and–in violation of constitutional law–jail, individual defendants, and their families and communities, are driven deeper into crisis, even as they funnel millions of dollars into state coffers.

Please join us for this important discussion on ways to reform the criminal justice debt trap.

Cosponsored by ACLU of North Carolina, Forward Justice, North Carolina Advocates for Justice, North Carolina Association of Black Lawyers, North Carolina Central University School of Law, North Carolina Commission on Racial and Ethnic Disparities in the Criminal Justice System, North Carolina Justice Center, North Carolina Poverty Research Fund, North Carolina Public Defender Committee on Racial Equity, North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, Southern Coalition for Social Justice and the UNC Center for Civil Rights.

The Conference is free and open to the public though registration is required.

Agenda and registration link: https://goo.gl/forms/XPcDWYU5riT24bPF3

Commentary

Momentum building for teacher rally on May 16

It’s becoming clear that Wednesday May 16 will be a different kind of opening day for the 2018 legislative session. Thousands of school teachers – inspired by actions in other states like Arizona, Oklahoma and West Virginia – are planning to descend on the Legislative Building to demand an about-face in state education policy.

As Charlotte seventh grade teacher Justin Parmenter explains in an op-ed in Raleigh’s News & Observer, the demand is well founded. This is from Parmenter’s essay:

Consider the facts of the last several years:

Parmenter might have added that while lawmakers have tried recently to gussy up their years of disinvestment with modest pay hikes for some teachers, that doesn’t begin make up for the thousands of lost jobs or the cuts to text books, facilities and numerous other essentials.

The bottom line: It’s not ideal that thousands of teachers will have to take May 16 off and it will likely cause some inconvenience, but given the dire state of education policy right now in North Carolina, it’s hard to see how the teachers have any other choice. Let’s hope the turnout is large and loud because, goodness knows, a major policy shift is sorely needed.

Commentary, News

Advocates plead with Senate Judiciary Committee chair not to change rules to aid Trump nominees

Sen. Richard Burr refused to return his “blue slip” for two African-American Obama nominees over an eight year period. Now he supports the nomination of controversial conservative Thomas Farr.

Sen. Thom Tillis serves on the Judiciary Committee and could block Brennan and other objectionable nominees.

Advocates from 18 states, including North Carolina, descended on the Des Moines offices of Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) yesterday to urge him not to destroy a 100-year-old Senate tradition that would prevent Senate Republicans from rubber-stamping President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees without the approval of home-state senators.

The Senate is preparing to confirm federal appeals court nominee Michael Brennan to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, despite the objection of one of his home-state senators, Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI). The blue slip rule has long required that both home state senators consent to a judicial nominee in order to move the nomination forward.

This bipartisan rule has always been honored by Democratic Senate leaders, most recently during the Obama administration. In fact, a previous nominee for this seat nominated by President Barack Obama was never confirmed because her Republican home-state senator objected. Here in North Carolina, Senator Richard Burr refused to return his blue slip throughout the entire Obama presidency on two different nominees nominated to serve on the federal district court for the state’s Eastern District. Either nominees would have been the first Black judge to serve on the court in its history.

Now, however, Republican leadership wants to dismantle this time-honored rule by forcing Brennan’s nomination process to move ahead over Baldwin’s objections. Read more