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Update: Both the Senate and House passed versions of the bill Thursday on second readings, with the House tacking on language placing the economic development partnership back under state ethic rules. The proposals will be back next week for final passage in each chamber.

Parallel bills to privatize pieces of the state’s economic development work is on the path to approval at the state legislature, with changes emerging Tuesday that lower the private fundraising requirements and restrict some of the transparency measures.

The Senate is supposed to consider the bill on the floor today.

N.C. Commerce Sec. Sharon Decker

N.C. Commerce Sec. Sharon Decker

The most reason versions of the 19-page House Bill 1031 and Senate bill 743 would also reduce the required amount the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina must raise from private funders, leaving the group to raise $6 million from private funders over the next five years.

(To read the entire bill, click here.)

Taxpayers are expected to contribute $90 million over that same period. That’s if Gov. Pat McCrory’s request to transfer 67 positions and an estimated $18 million next year to the new group from the Commerce Department is endorsed by lawmakers in budget negotiations.

Draft legislation had initially put the group on the hook to raise $10 million from private sources immediately, but the language endorsed by House and Senate committees will lower that to $6 million over five years, a move that Republican sponsors is more realistic for a startup group.

The privatization proposal would set North Carolina on a path of its economic development that a dozen other states have embarked on, with mixed results. The public-private partnerships, sometimes referred to as PPPs, have come under fierce criticism in other states with accusations that the private setups have wasted taxpayer money, exaggerated job claims and been used to reward political campaign donors and supporters.

The current form of the bills also remove provisions putting members of the nonprofit’s board and top employees under state ethics rules, which require an annual public disclosure of financial interests as well as put in varied prohibitions on accepting gifts and performing favors. The ethics law also attaches criminal penalties for accepting money or gifts from those looking to s curry favor from public servants. (Click here for a background story). Read More

Among the many, many things going on at the state legislature today, lawmakers of both parties will be meeting to discuss overhauling the state Commerce Department and shifting the agency’s economic development duties to a new public-private group.

The privatization proposal is a central piece of McCrory’s economic agenda, and the move could shift up to $18 million to a nonprofit group headed by a board of directors appointed by political and business leaders. The setup has had mixed results in the dozen other states that have the public-private partnerships (sometimes referred to as PPPs) with criticism in several states over unrealized job numbers, pay-to-play scenarios and other conflicts of interest.

Supporters of the groups say that moving economic development functions outside of state government, the state could respond more quickly and effectively to

N.C. Commerce Sec. Sharon Decker

N.C. Commerce Sec. Sharon Decker

businesses looking to grow or move to the state.

The House is expected to take up their version of the legislation at an 11 a.m. hearing, in room 544 of the Legislative Office Building while the Senate will discuss their version at a 2:30 p.m. committee meeting in room 1027/1128 in the Legislative Building on Jones Street.

(I’ll be at both meetings, and giving updates via my Twitter account, @SarahOvaska)

Both legislative houses are working off of draft legislation (click here to read) that requires the new nonprofit to raise $10 million from private donors, a dollar amount that many involved with or watching the process say is too high. Decisions about the often-controversial financial incentives offered to incoming companies would state with state commerce officials.

State lawmakers have also previously said they want the public-private group to comply with transparency measures (the state’s public records, open meetings and state ethics laws) that Commerce officials have been wary about endorsing completely, arguing that strict disclosure rules could undermine the group’s primary mission of recruiting companies to North Carolina.

In related news, I published this investigative report yesterday about Richard “Dick” Lindenmuth, the Raleigh businessman hired by the McCrory administration on a $120,000 annual contract to transition and head the proposed setup.

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Charter schools in the Charlotte area tend to pay teachers less than if they worked for traditional public schools, while the administrators of the privately-run schools make similar salaries to what public school principals earn.

The Charlotte Observer, in an article published Saturday, analyzed salary information from 22 charter schools in Mecklenburg County, a request that touched off a brief controversy about whether salaries for the state’s privately-run but publicly-funded schools could be disclosed.

Ultimately, the N.C. Department of Public Instructions’ Office of Charter Schools reiterated that salary information is public.

Charter schools have more flexibility when it comes to pay, and aren’t beholden to the state salary structure that made North Carolina teachers among the least-paid in the nation. A controversial state Senate plan unveiled last week would dramatically increase North Carolina teacher salaries but also cut teacher assistants and force teachers interested in a salary boost to give up tenure protections.

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Senate leaders are looking at major cuts to health and human services programs that serve the poor, disabled and elderly in order to pay for teacher raises and fund Medicaid to required levels.

DHHSThe North Carolina chapter of the AARP has a good rundown here on what some of the proposed cuts will do, and the group says it is “disheartened to see the Senate budget proposal doesn’t value our state’s older adults and those who are blind and disabled.”

The state’s doctors are also concerned about the cuts to Medicaid system, and how it will affect some of the most vulnerable North Carolinians.

Robert Seligson, the head of N.C. Medical Society, denounced the state Senate’s budget proposal Thursday, saying it offers “no solution to the big challenges we’re facing in Medicaid.”

“Patient care under the Senate plan will suffer, especially for the aged, blind and disabled citizens of our state, who will no longer be eligible for Medicaid if the Senate has its way,” Seligson said in a statement.

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Maya Angelou (Source: Wake Forest University)

Maya Angelou (Source: Wake Forest University)

Sad news in Winston-Salem today, as the death of poet Maya Angelou was reported.

Angelou, 86, a professor at Wake Forest University, died at her Winston-Salem home, according to WGHP (Fox 8) in High Point.

From the Fox 8 story:

Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines confirmed Angelou was found by her caretaker on Wednesday morning.

Angelou’s publicist, Helen Brann, also confirmed the news.

Angelou had been reportedly battling health problems. She recently canceled a scheduled appearance of a special event to be held in her honor.

Angelou was set to be honored with the “Beacon of Life Award” at the 2014 MLB Beacon Award Luncheon on May 30 in Houston.

Wake Forest University issued a statement on Wednesday:

“Dr. Angelou was a national treasure whose life and teachings inspired millions around the world, including countless students, faculty, and staff at Wake Forest, where she served as Reynolds Professor of American Studies since 1982. Our thoughts and prayers are with Dr. Angelou’s family and friends during this difficult time.

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