Uncategorized

Former state Rep. Stephen LaRoque will wait until February for a jury trial on charges of stealing $300,000 from two federally-funded economic development groups he ran.

LaRoque-PC

Former N.C. Rep. LaRoque

LaRoque, a Kinston Republican, was scheduled for an October trial in a federal criminal courtroom in Greenville. The trial was pushed back to Feb. 2 because of delays in getting transcripts from a previous trial, according to an order filed in federal court this week.

A jury had convicted LaRoque in June 2013 of a dozen charges related to the theft, but U.S. Senior District Court Judge Malcolm Howard set aside those verdicts and ordered a new trial after finding out a juror in the case did home Internet research, a violation of court rules.

LaRoque, a former co-chair of the powerful House Rules committee and a self-declared “right hand man” for N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis, has maintained he is innocent of any criminal wrongdoing, and said he was owed the money federal prosecutors contend he stole.

He resigned from the state legislature in 2012, after an indictment of federal charges accusing him of taking $300,000 from two federally-funded nonprofits he ran and using the money to buy cars, a Greenville skating rink, expensive jewelry and replica Faberge eggs for his wife.

The federal investigation began after N.C. Policy Watch published a 2011 investigation into LaRoque’s non-profit work, which found that he was paid generous salaries as high as $195,000 a year to run organizations that for years only had one or no other employees. The boards of his non-profit were also stacked with immediate family members and he signed off on giving low-interest loans of federally-sourced money to close business and political associates.

From our NC Justice Center colleagues:

Join us in Raleigh and Durham for FREE screenings of “Inequality for All”

The North Carolina Moral Movies Film Series draws to a close this month with screenings of the acclaimed documentary Inequality for All. The film features Robert Reich – professor, best-selling author, and Clinton cabinet member – as he demonstrates how the widening income gap has a devastating impact on the American economy.

The NC Justice Center is proud to join with Working Films, the NC NAACP and other sponsors to bring screenings of Inequality for All to nine cities across the state beginning on July 22nd. These interactive events will spotlight the threat of income inequality on the viability of the workforce in North Carolina and will involve audiences in dialogue and action to address economic inequality.

RALEIGH

Join us in Raleigh on Tuesday, July 29 at 7:00 p.m. at Community UCC, 814 Dixie Trail.
RSVP for Raleigh using this link.

DURHAM

Join us in Durham on Thursday, July 31, 6:30 p.m. at the Durham County Public Library Auditorium, 300 N Roxboro St. RSVP for Durham using this link.

Hope to see you on there!

 

The market capitalism lovers at Forbes announced today for the fifth time in eight years that the Raleigh metro area is the nation’s best for business and careers. Here are the factors highlighted first in the story

Fueling Raleigh’s consistent results are business costs that are 18% below the national average, and an adult population where 42% have a college degree, the 12th best rate in the U.S. (30% is the national average). Raleigh is home to North Carolina State University and nearby schools include Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The area’s appeal has led to a strong inflow of new residents to the city, which boasts the sixth fastest net migration rate over the past five years. (Emphasis supplied.)

Perhaps the Forbes people could share this information with their fellow travelers over at the Raleigh-based Pope Center for Higher Education, which has been banging the drum for years that — we are not making this up — North Carolina has too many college students and graduates and the value of higher education has been “oversold.”

Gov. Pat McCrory, previously a Common Core supporter, signed a bill into law Tuesday that could set the stage for North Carolina to Common Core picrid itself of the more rigorous academic standards—although he doesn’t quite see it that way.

“It (the legislation) does not change any of North Carolina’s education standards,” McCrory said in a press release indicating his support for the legislation. “It does initiate a much-needed, comprehensive and thorough review of standards.”

Lawmakers began moving toward a repeal of the Common Core standards months ago, which are a set of guidelines that that the state adopted in 2010 which outline what students should be able to know and do in mathematics and English language arts.

The House passed legislation that would repeal the standards and force the State Board of Education to consider alternatives that would not include the Common Core. But the Senate version, sponsored by Sen. Jerry Tillman, keeps the door open for Common Core, allowing a review commission of mostly political appointees to recommend to the State Board some or even all of the standards currently in place.

Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Common Core State Standards, which were developed by local stakeholders, the National Governors Association and The Council of Chief State School Officers, of which North Carolina’s State Superintendent, Dr. June Atkinson, is president-elect.

But states have recently begun to step away from the standards. Indiana, Oklahoma and South Carolina have repealed Common Core, and numerous other states have expressed their intention to renege on their promise to implement them in various ways.

North Carolina has spent many millions on implementing the Common Core, using mostly federal Race to the Top (RttT) funds. The state has spent at least $72 million of RttT money on transitioning to the Common Core, and an additional $68 million was spent on building local districts’ technological capacity to be able to deliver on the new standards.

Outside of RttT funds, local school districts have also spent their own money on CCSS implementation – and it’s difficult to even put a figure on that cost.

While Sen. Tillman’s legislation seems like a compromise, potentially allowing Common Core to stay — it should be noted that Tillman has been a vehement opponent of the standards, telling some folks at a news conference last May that Common Core is a sellout and “we’ve sold our soul.”

“Well, they dangled $430 million dollars out there, Race to the Top. Good old easy money, bought us off…But we got some powerful people fighting this thing. And so I want us to stop it [Common Core],” said Tillman.

Tillman will likely play a role behind the scenes in suggesting who will sit on the Academic Standards Review Commission, which will comprise four appointees selected by Senate leader Phil Berger, four appointees selected by Speaker Thom Tillis, 2 members of the State Board of Education and one appointee of Gov. Pat McCrory.

Stay tuned to learn who will sit on that commission, which is designed to determine the fate of the Common Core standards in North Carolina.

 

With the release last month of the latest labor market figures, the Budget & Tax Center has updated as well its estimate of the number of missing workers in North Carolina’s labor market.  This measure estimates the number of workers who would be in the labor market, looking for work, if job opportunities were stronger.  In June 2014, the number of missing workers remained elevated at 241,445.  If these workers were counted in the unemployment rate, that rate would be 11.5 percent rather than the official 6.4 percent for that month.

BTC - Missing Workers June 2014

In combination with the state’s persistent jobs deficit, the missing worker measure points to a still weak labor market with too few jobs for those who want to work.