Uncategorized

The Week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

1. Democrats: Berger-Moore budget process may quash debate, amendments

When N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger addressed reporters last week, they boasted that negotiations on the state’s estimated $24 billion budget were “far ahead” of years past.

According to top Democrats who spoke to Policy Watch this week, that may be because Republican lawmakers are considering a maneuver that would dramatically limit debate on the privately negotiated spending plan in the coming days.

State House Democratic Leader Darren Jackson says members of his party believe the GOP may pack the entire budget bill—negotiated by House and Senate leadership behind closed doors—into a conference committee report either late this week or early next week. While such a tactic is not unheard of at the General Assembly, this would be an unprecedented move with respect to the state budget according to several longtime lawmakers and legislative staffers.

Because a conference report is considered the final product of House and Senate negotiations on an already-filed bill, General Assembly procedures would provide only for a “yea” or “nay” v ote with no allowance for amendments.[Read more…]

Bonus read: Ten education policies to watch closely in the 2018 legislative session

2. Coincidence or collusion? NC Oil and Gas Commission receives curious requests to frack.

3. Legislators seek background checks, fingerprinting for election workers

4. NC officials order dozens of campaigns to forfeit illegal PAC contributions from pharma giant

5. One simple, moral and business-friendly step NC lawmakers could take to boost the economy

NC Budget and Tax Center, Uncategorized

Governor Cooper recognizes North Carolina is in a hole, stops digging

Governor Cooper released a proposed budget for 2018-19 that takes an important, though modest, first step in reversing the state’s failed tax cut experiment. The Governor proposed freezing corporate income tax rates at 3 percent rather than allowing them to drop again in January 2019, while also stopping personal income tax rate cuts on higher incomes.

Combined, this fiscally responsible approach will ensure $110 million is available in 2018-19 for public investments in areas that have immediate needs. Over the full Fiscal Year, the result will be an estimated $223 million in revenue available. Even more work will be required to undo the years of cuts that have been the priority of North Carolina’s General Assembly.

The hole we are in is deep.

This prudent first step in this year’s budget process demonstrates, however, what is possible when leaders put public investments before tax cuts. The Governor’s budget invests in a number of priorities in communities across the state, including increasing the number of school nurses and psychologists, funding classrooms, ensuring the Department of Environmental Quality gets the funding it needs to monitor air and water quality, and funding the transition of young people to the juvenile justice system under the Raise the Age proposal, among others.

There is no doubt that the damage of cutting tax cuts to our public institutions and communities has been years in the making and a more thorough adjustment from the tax-cutting approach will be required.

That should not diminish the importance of Governor Cooper’s recognition  that the first step when realizing you are in a hole is to stop digging.  Let’s hope the General Assembly follows suit.

Who pays? Read more

Uncategorized

As Congress grapples with how to reduce gun violence, a major gun retailer moves beyond “thoughts and prayers”

The Chairman and CEO of DICK’S Sporting Goods announced Wednesday the company has decided to no longer sell assault style rifles or firearms to anyone under 21 years of age. High capacity magazines will also no longer be sold by the national chain.

The company recently learned that it had legally sold a gun last November to 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, though it was not the gun or the type of weapon used in the Parkland, Florida school shooting.

In a series of tweets the company announced its decision to pull all AR-15s and other semiautomatic rifles from its store shelves and websites.

‘We deeply believe that this country’s most precious gift is our children. They are our future. We must keep them safe.’

The sporting goods chain is also imploring elected officials to:

• Ban assault-style firearms
• Raise the minimum age to purchase firearms to 21
• Ban high capacity magazines and bump stocks
• Require universal background checks that include relevant mental health information and previous interactions with the law
• Ensure a complete universal database of those banned from buying firearms
• Close the private sale and gun show loophole that waives the necessity of background checks

DICK’S Sporting Goods operates more than 715 stores nationwide. You can read their full statement here.

Uncategorized

How NC’s Congressional delegation voted on the GOP’s sweeping tax-cut bill

Members of the U.S. House on Tuesday pushed through (227-203) the Republican’s sweeping plan to rewrite the nation’s tax laws.

The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) says the final GOP-Trump tax bill would provide most of its benefits to high-income households and foreign investors while raising taxes on many low- and middle-income Americans.

Republicans claim the tax overhaul will spur economic growth.

Here’s how the full delegation voted:

Nay
Rep. G.K. Butterfield – 1st District
Rep. Walter Jones – 3rd District
Rep. David Price – 4th District
Rep. Alma Adams – 12th district

Yea
Rep. George Holding – 2nd District
Rep. Virginia Foxx – 5th District
Rep. Mark Walker – 6th District
Rep. David Rouzer – 7th District
Rep. Richard Hudson – 8th District
Rep. Robert Pittenger – 9th District
Rep. Patrick McHenry – 10th District
Rep. Mark Meadows – 11th District
Rep. Ted Budd – 13th District

What select members of the delegation are saying about the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act.

Congressman Walter Jones (NC-3):

Congressman David Price (NC-4):

Congresswoman Virginia Foxx (NC-5):

Congressman Richard Hudson (NC-8):

Congresswoman Alma S. Adams (NC-12):

Uncategorized

The Week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

1. Worried about environmental damage, Pleasant Garden residents gear up to fight a proposed granite mine

Gerald Hall stood in his farm field, where the collards nearly reached his knees. On about three and a half acres between them, Hall and one of his brothers grow myriad greens, like Swiss chard and kale, and in the summer, warm-weather crops, such as tomatoes and peppers, all headed to restaurant and local groceries, including Deep Roots co-op in nearby Greensboro.

Hall, known around these parts as the Egg Man, also raises laying hens, whose eggs he packages by hand and then sells wholesale or by the dozen from a small shed a few steps from his house.

“I used to work in paving,” Hall said of his former job as asphalt manager for the City of Greensboro. “In the summer, we’d work all night. And the trucks would be hauling rock and asphalt all night long.”

Just when Hall thought he had left behind the stench of asphalt for the fresh country air, now he and his neighbors are battling a proposed granite quarry, that, if built, would abut his family’s 80-year-old farm in Pleasant Garden. Just 100 feet from Hall’s property, the trucks would fill their beds with rock that earlier had been blasted from an open pit in the earth, then haul it away — at times, all night long. [Read more…]

*** Bonus read: An epic hearing over a proposed granite mine leads to a pivotal vote by Guilford County Commissioners

2. Legislators begin “heavy lift” of examining funding structure of North Carolina schools

Craig Horn knows many education advocates want the school finance task force he co-chairs to weigh whether North Carolina spends enough on its public schools.

But the Union County Republican, an influential K-12 budget writer, wasted little time in reaffirming Wednesday that he considers the state’s spending levels to be an altogether separate discussion.

“Some people have taken us to task for this,” Horn said. “But adequacy is a different issue. This is an issue of what funds we have, and how they’re distributed. Because, regardless of how much money we have, if we’re not distributing it properly and for the benefit of students, then we’re wasting money.”

Horn’s comments came with legislators convening the first meeting of a pivotal joint chamber panel that, over the next year or more, is expected to overhaul North Carolina’s labyrinthine school funding system. [Read more…]

*** Bonus read: With Robeson elementary mulling closure, N.C.’s Innovative School District left with no schools to take over?

3. Deception and bad faith at UNC
The Board of Governors is not just pushing the Right’s agenda, it’s intentionally withholding information from the public

[Note: This story has been updated — see below.] That there is a war underway for the heart and soul of higher education in North Carolina comes as no surprise to anyone who follows the state policy debate. For years now, North Carolina’s conservative think tanks and politicians have, along with the people who fund them, been waging a relentless effort to seize control of what they, rather bizarrely when you think about it for a minute, view as a bastion of the radical left.

Whether they’re firing able and honorable public servants like Tom Ross, railing against non-traditional instructors and curricula, attacking rules designed to promote equality for women, racial minorities and LGBTQ people, touting a supposed commitment to “free speech” in order to silence protesters who would challenge voices of hate and exclusion, defunding shoestring efforts at law schools designed to enforce civil rights laws and combat poverty, or just simply slashing funding and jacking up tuition and fees, conservative ideologues have, as the saying goes, “an agenda.” [Read more…]

4. UNC speech policy takes final steps to passage

The UNC Board of Governors’ Committee on Governance passed a controversial university speech policy Thursday in a standing-room-only meeting.

A controversial university speech policy took a crucial step toward becoming a reality Thursday, passing the UNC Board of Governors’ committee on governance unanimously.

The committee on governance met in Chapel Hill Thursday, part of the the first of two full-day meetings for the full board. The policy will need to be reviewed and passed by the board at its next meeting.

“I feel like we have a consensus free speech policy that will be a benefit to the university,” said Governance Committee Chairman Steve Long.

The committee did spend weeks reaching out to students, faculty and staff at the university – and the latest draft policy does reflect some concessions to their concerns. But students, faculty and staff members said Thursday they do not think there is a need for the policy. [Read more…]

*** Bonus read: UNC Board of Governors discuss hiring own employees

5. Why are legislative leaders so afraid of fairer elections?

The latest news from the federal courts about the unconstitutional racially gerrymandered General Assembly districts and the response to it from legislative leaders makes one thing clearer than ever.

The folks in charge of the House and Senate are terribly afraid of what will happen if our elections are fairer, if every district is not gerrymandered by race and partisan considerations to all but guarantee that their supermajorities will remain in place, and if the voters have a slightly better chance at electing who they want instead of having their representatives chosen for them.

That’s the only conclusion you can draw from the bitter reaction from legislative leaders to their latest setback in the courts—that they are scared—as a three judge panel brushed aside lawmakers’ objections and hired an outside expert to redraw several districts lawmakers drew after their original maps were struck down as unconstitutional because of the role race played in their development. [Read more…]

*** Bonus reads: