Commentary, News

Conservative NC lawmakers boost controversial King Day gun rally

Concerns continue to grow about a gun rights rally that has been planned for Richmond, Virginia on the upcoming January 20 King holiday.

Click here to read a Virginia Mercury story about how a state court judge recently upheld a temporary ban on bringing firearms onto the site of the rally and here to read about how the FBI has arrested three suspected members of a white supremacist group who planned on attending.

The state’s governor has declared a state of emergency in anticipation of the event, which has been endorsed by some of the same actors that participated in the infamous 2017 Unite the Right white supremacist rally in Charlottesville.

Meanwhile, despite these many troubling aspects to the event and its obvious overtones of racism and violence, it appears numerous North Carolina lawmakers have signed on to a letter in support of the rally’s goal of promoting so-called “Second Amendment sanctuary” cities and counties.

The following Facebook post by North Carolina State Rep. Steve Jarvis of Davidson County indicates that at least three North Carolina lawmakers will attend the rally and deliver a letter signed by 50 House members (see page one above — Raleigh’s News & Observer has the full letter here), including House Speaker Tim Moore. The

Today as your State House Representative I signed a letter in Support of the 2nd Amendment counties and cities in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
This letter states that the North Carolina House Republican Caucus supports the counties and cities that have self-declared themselves as “2nd Amendment Sanctuaries”.
The signers of the letter include Speaker Tim Moore and Majority Leader John Bell Freshman Majority Leader Steve Jarvis as well as 47 other members. Representative Kidwell will attend a rally on January 20th where he and several other members of the North Carolina House of Representatives including Rep Michael Speciale (Craven) and Rep Bobby Hanig (Currituck) will present the letter to the members of the Virginia legislature. “It is our hope that we can impress upon the Virginia legislature the importance of protecting the rights of the people they represent”. Said Rep. Kidwell. As stated in the letter, North Carolina and Virginia have stood together beginning with the revolution, and it is the hope of the signers of this letter of support that we will continue to stand with the citizens as their rights are being attacked in much the same way they were under colonial rule.
All in all, this is pretty scary stuff. It’s one thing to hold strong views on gun rights, but it’s quite another to play footsy with avowed white supremacists and some of the other characters involved in this event. The North Carolina lawmakers should take a step back and rethink their implicit endorsement of the event.
Commentary, Courts & the Law, News

The week’s top stories on Policy Watch

Commentary:
1. Make no mistake. The budget failed because Republicans failed to compromise.

There is a temptation—and believe me, I understand it—to celebrate the fleeting nature of this week’s special session of the North Carolina state legislature as some sort of coup.

Resist that temptation, even if the sight of an ostensibly frustrated Phil Berger is a new one to these tired eyes.

Berger and his compatriots in the Republican caucus enjoyed near unchecked power in the last decade. A post-Obama surge of conservatives played a modest part in that, although the gerrymandering did its part too. [Read more…]

2. Pipelines, roads and railways: This is why you should care about Trump’s rollback of NEPA, a key environmental law

By the time the new Interstate 885 opens in Durham later this year, some of the people who conceived of the original project will have been long dead.

In the works for 60 years, the East End Connector, as Durhamites call it, funnels traffic over four miles from NC 147 to US 70 and onto I-85, to reduce congestion on surface streets.

But environmental laws did not slow-walk the project. In fact, when the highway was first conceived in the early 1960s, there was no EPA. There was no Clean Water Act, no Clean Air Act. There was no NEPA — National Environmental Policy Act. All those laws were passed in the 1970s. [Read more…]

3. NC’s new “Raise the Age” law appears to be off to a promising start

New facilities and policies offer hope to 16 and 17 year-olds once consigned to the adult corrections system

Tall trees and a rocky, woodsy landscape envelop the C.A. Dillon juvenile detention campus in Butner. Save for the tall metal fence that rings the confinement building, the area could be mistaken for a summer camp or private school grounds.

The feeling that greets the visitor of wanting to go for a group hike or play flag football with old pals quickly diminishes inside, however, as the smell of fresh paint permeates the building and barred windows and concrete walls remind you that this isn’t a fun trip away from home. But it won’t be like that forever – after all, this isn’t jail.[Read more…]

4. State lawmaker’s failure to disclose business ties highlights broader ethics enforcement problem

State Rep. Holly Grange (R-New Hanover) failed to disclose a business owned and operated by her husband on state Statement of Economic Interest (SEI) forms for several years, according to documents reviewed by Policy Watch.

In North Carolina, public officials are required to disclose connections to all non-publicly owned companies by which they or their immediate family members are employed or in which they have an interest.

Grange’s husband, David Grange, registered his “consulting” business Osprey at Compass Pointe LLC with the state Secretary of State’s office in July 2015. Yet the business did not appear on Grange’s SEI form in 2016, when she was first appointed to a state House seat to replace incumbent Rick Catlin. She ran unopposed for the seat in that year’s election. Rep. Grange also did not list the business on her SEI forms in 2017 or 2018. In February 2018, the business was administratively dissolved by the Secretary of State’s office for failure to file an annual report. [Read more…] Read more

Commentary, Education, Higher Ed

UNC law professor: Silent Sam deal an “investment in falsehood”

Just before the holidays, five members of the UNC System Board of Governors defended the Board’s decision to pay $2.5 million to the Sons of Confederate Veterans to house and display the Confederate monument known as Silent Sam.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans are purveyors of what historians call the myth of the Lost Cause – the story that “the preservation of liberty and freedom was the motivating factor in the South’s decision to fight” what they call “the Second American Revolution.” The group insists that “the war was not fought in order to keep African Americans enslaved.”

It stands to reason that these are the historical claims Silent Sam will bolster in any museum they build with the $2.5 million.

The five Board members said that this was the best deal they could strike to try to resolve what they saw as “a deeply divisive and personal issue.”

“Divisive?”  I suppose the centrality of slavery to the Confederate cause remains divisive in some circles.

But “personal?”

There is nothing remotely personal about this issue.

To see why, think about a few hypothetical $2.5 million settlements the university might reach with others to help them tell their story.

  • The university settles litigation with a soft drink company by setting up a fund to support a series of conferences about how sugary sodas do not contribute to the obesity epidemic.
  • The university settles litigation with an anti-vaccination group by setting up a fund to finance a social media push against childhood immunizations.
  • The university settles litigation with a religious institution by funding a geology museum proving that no rock can be more than 6,000 years old.

How would the public react to any of these expenditures?

With near-universal outrage, and for good reason.  However “divisive” the causes of obesity, the merits of vaccinations, and the age of the Earth may be in some quarters, these university expenditures would be serving untruth.  They would be doing the opposite of what a research university does, which is to study things carefully, using rigorous standards of inquiry, and thereby to increase knowledge and uncover truth.

There is nothing “personal” about whether the perpetuation of slavery was central to the Southern cause in the Civil War.  It is something that brilliant historians – including many in the UNC System – have devoted their lives to documenting.

This is one of the things that is so deeply disturbing about the decision of the Board of Governors to pay a huge sum to an organization to preach the myth of the Lost Cause.  It’s a $2.5 million investment in falsehood.

To watch this unfold is devastating.

But it’s nothing personal.

Eric Muller is the Dan K. Moore Distinguished Professor of Law in Jurisprudence and Ethics at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Commentary, Legislature

Legislative fail: Health care special session

Image: Adobe Stock

When Rachel Radford made the trip to Raleigh Wednesday morning, she was hoping to get the chance to talk with her legislators about expanding Medicaid.

“So many families like mine have the most unappreciated, most overlooked job to care for children who have special abilities,” said Radford, a parent and advocate from Goldsboro NC. “Unfortunately caring for children with special needs is not a job that comes with health insurance. Every parent needs health coverage so that we can survive to care for our children. We need our legislators to pass Medicaid expansion swiftly.”

Unfortunately Rachel’s legislators weren’t there to listen.

Speaker Moore and Senate Pro Tem Berger had called legislators to Raleigh for a “special session” that was supposed to be about health care. That session was called to order on Tuesday morning. Legislators adjourned and left Raleigh the same day with no budget, and no action on health care.

Once again, legislative leaders did not allow any discussion or vote to expand Medicaid – despite the fact that they have a bipartisan bill on the table in HB 655.

More than half a million North Carolinians, including Rachel and her husband, can’t see a doctor when they need one, because reliable health insurance is out of reach. Children need healthy parents by their sides. And children are more likely to have health coverage and get the care they need, when their parents are covered. To drive that point home, in 2018 the number of uninsured children in North Carolina increased for the second year in a row.

House Speaker Tim Moore promised a House vote on the compromise legislation in September, when House members voted to override the Governor’s veto of the state budget.

“I said, we will actually vote on the Carolina Cares Medicaid bill. I’m going to keep my word. We’re going to vote on that bill,” Moore stated in his press conference after the veto override, adding that the vote would take place the following week.

Months later, the House has still not been allowed to vote on the issue, and the Senate has never even discussed it in a committee meeting. Speaking to NC Health News last week, bill sponsor Rep. Donny Lambeth (R-Forsyth) made it clear that Moore and Berger are the ones standing in the way of action on his compromise bill.

“I think the House is in a good position to move it whenever we decide to do that, whenever leadership decides to give me the okay to move forward,” Lambeth said.

Meanwhile thousands of people in every North Carolina county have no access to affordable health coverage. We need legislative leaders to put political games aside and get the job done.

Three-quarters of states have already accepted the federal funds to expand their Medicaid programs. These states are saving money and getting care to those who need it most, according to dozens of peer-reviewed studies. Kansas just announced they will be the latest “red” state to expand Medicaid.North Carolina should be the next.

Adam Sotak is NC Child’s Public Engagement Director. His article initially appeared on the NC Child website.

Commentary, NC Budget and Tax Center

Report: Children, teachers, parents benefit from early childcare and education system

N.C.’s youngest children would benefit from a high-quality early child-care and education system. So would everyone in our communities.

New research estimates that a “values-based” early child and education (ECE) system would benefit North Carolina’s children, teachers, and parents. A comprehensive publicly financed system that compensates educators fairly could serve between 368,000 and 485,000 children and would employ between 152,000 and 205,000 ECE teachers at fair wages once fully implemented. 

The report comes as the state must grapple with the growing evidence  reinforced in December by the court-ordered report from West Ed on the state’s failure to provide the constitutionally required sound, basic education — that North Carolina needs to consider all the ways in which children must be supported to thrive.  We must also consider the reality that as a state we are not supporting the education and brain development of our youngest children with a high-quality early child care and education system to help them thrive. 

The report, from Economic Policy Institute (EPI) and the University of California, Berkeley’s Center for the Study of Child Care Employment (CSCCE), explains that many proposals for ECE reform have focused primarily on improving access and affordability for families, but have ignored the elephant in the room: ECE is substantially “funded” through low teacher pay and inadequate supports for ECE teachers, who are primarily women  specifically, women of color.  It considers a bold proposition — leveraging public financing to reach more kids with quality care. 

The authors find that ECE teachers in North Carolina with a bachelor’s degree are paid 28.8% less than their colleagues in the K-8 system. And the poverty rate for early educators is 17.6%, much higher than North Carolina workers in general (10.6%) and more than 7.4 times as high as other teachers. 

Policymakers and other stakeholders in North Carolina have an opportunity to disrupt this problematic status quo and ensure that North Carolina’s system has the funding it needs to work effectively for children, families, and teachers.   

The federal government already provides North Carolina about $650 million annually, and parents pay $1.1 billion.  Moreover, with recent agreement reached in Congress to expand the Child Care and Development Block grant, North Carolina policymakers could have the opportunity once again to make transformational investments for our youngest children — and revisit the missed opportunity of the last economic expansion.   

The latest research released from the nonpartisan Economic Policy Institute estimates that once this values-based system is fully implemented, there would be an annual cost for a high-quality and comprehensive ECE system in North Carolina ranging from $9.1 billion to $12.4 billion, or $25,000 to $27,000 per child.  These figures are not far from the investments per child we see in high quality K-12 systems   

 North Carolina would benefit tremendously by making a serious investment in early care and education. The reality that our state leaders can no longer ignore is that we need a stronger public commitment to the early childhood system in order to ensure every child is supported to their full potential.  We must invest early and now in a solid pathway to 3rd-grade reading and the full realization of our state’s constitutional obligation to a sound, basic education for every child.