Commentary

Bill to bring guns into more places of worship in House committee today

It’s good to know that the North Carolina General Assembly is focusing on the critical matters holding back the state these days — things like laws that might (gasp!) dissuade gun owners from bringing their weapons to their church, synagogue or mosque. Today, the House Judiciary I Committee will take up legislation that seeks to solve the “problem” that arises when places of worship are also home to schools.

Notwithstanding the efforts of the gun lobby, current law generally prohibits gun owners from bringing guns onto school campuses, but it does not bar guns from places of worship — so long as the church, synagogue or mosque does not bar them. Apparently, this dichotomy is acting — heaven forbid — to bar some concealed carry holders from packing heat at worship services where the church, synagogue or mosque is also home to a school. The proposed bill would change this to make clear that gun owners can bring their pieces onto the property as long as it’s outside the operating hours of the school and the place of worship doesn’t say “no.”

In other words, the bottom line effect of this bill if it becomes law will be to assure that more North Carolinians will be carrying concealed weapons to worship services. Sigh….

Is this the biggest deal of the 2017 session? Probably not. But it’s another remarkable example of how far the corporate gun lobby (and the small minority of Americans who are obsessed with guns as virtual holy icons) have come in their never ending effort to make sure killing machines can be found in every nook and cranny of our society.

NC Budget and Tax Center

Trump’s skinny budget would cut North Carolina’s medical research projects

As pointed out last week, President Trump’s proposed skinny budget shows a lack of vision as it makes no attempt to prioritize the allocation of money against various important American needs and priorities in a strategic manner. Since the skinny budget was released, there has been more analysis across the county as to how the proposed budget would impact each state. Today, we focus on analysis regarding the impact to health research in our state.

Recently, the Center for American Progress started a special series to assess State-by-State Cuts to NIH Funding in the Trump Budget. According to the analysis, if Trump’s proposed budget takes effect, there would be an 18.3 percent cut to North Carolina’s National Institutes of Health Funding.

The researchers point out that North Carolina was the 6th most highly funded stated in 2016. Last year, NIH made 2,221 grants to organizations in North Carolina, totaling $1.2 billion.
Regarding specific projects that could be threatened, they state:

“The Trump administration’s budget outline would cut NIH funding by $5.8 billion, an 18.3 percent drop. This proposal would have pared North Carolina’s NIH grant allotment to just $980 million if it had been applied this year.

This funding cut also threatens medical research projects in North Carolina scheduled to receive NIH support in future years. For example, Trump’s deep budget cuts could threaten projects including:

• Research being conducted at Duke University on combatting childhood obesity
• Duke University research into improving radiation therapy for cancer patients
• Efforts at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, or UNC, to determine how to diagnose Alzheimer’s Disease at early ages to improve treatment
• UNC research on new treatments for the eradication of HIV

News

N&O slams GOP teacher pay claims as “mostly false”

N.C. Senate President Phil Berger

A “PolitiFact NC” report late Monday from The News & Observer is finding some dubious assertions about teacher pay by influential N.C. Senate Republican Phil Berger.

Berger, who serves as Senate president, recently claimed his party raised average teacher pay in the state by more than 15 percent over the last three years.

According to the paper, that’s not exactly true.

From The N&O:

PolitiFact NC looked into that claim and ruled it Mostly False.

In reality, the average teacher has seen a raise of about 10.8 percent in the last three years. So Berger’s claim missed the mark – and he also failed to mention that the GOP has been in charge of the state budget for the last six years, not just the last three years.

In the first three years of budgets written and passed by Republican lawmakers, average teacher pay declined every year. So in the total span of GOP control, average teacher pay has risen about half as much as Berger’s claim.

Berger did point to a state document that initially seemed to back up his 15 percent claim, but it applied only to the state’s portion of teacher pay and also relied on accounting tricks to reach that number.

The debate comes with both the GOP-controlled N.C. General Assembly and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper expected to back sweeping raises for teachers in this year’s budget.

This month, Cooper proposed a 10 percent raise for all teachers over two years, a rate the governor’s office claims would bring the state to tops in teacher pay in the southeast in three years. GOP lawmakers have also expressed a goal of raising average teacher pay, which falls just shy of $50,000 today, to about $55,000 in their spending plan.

Courts & the Law, News

Cooper files notice of appeal of Senate confirmation hearings; asks court to pause process

Gov. Roy Cooper is appealing a three-judge panel’s ruling that the North Carolina Senate’s confirmation hearings are constitutional. He has also asked the Wake County Superior Court to stop the hearings while the appeal is pending.

Cooper’s attorneys filed the notice of appeal and motion for stay Monday.

“Here, staying the effectiveness of the Advice and Consent Amendment during the pendency of the Governor’s appeal will preserve the ultimate relief that the Governor seeks. If the Governor is ultimately successful on appeal, he will not suffer injury from the Advice and Consent Amendment taking effect before a final appellate determination of constitutionality can be made. If allowed to continue to have effect, the Advice and Consent Amendment will require the Governor’s chosen department heads to prepare for and appear at confirmation hearings before Senate committees. The time, effort, and focus that will be required to prepare for the confirmation hearings set by Defendants will distract the principal department heads and their staffs from their day-to-day work carrying out the business of the State and implementing the Governor s policy priorities.”

The motion for stay states that if one of Cooper’s picks to lead a department is rejected by the Senate, he will have to find another individual willing to serve, and ultimately, if the courts reject the advice and consent amendment, his original choice likely will have moved on.

“North Carolina’s government has functioned for decades without the Senate exercising the power to veto the Governor’s chosen principal department heads.”

The three-judge panel that ruled the process constitutional sided with Cooper on striking down two other laws the legislature passed during a special session in December.

They ruled that it was unconstitutional for state lawmakers to pass legislation combining the State Board of Elections and the State Ethics Commission.

They also ruled to block the Republican-controlled legislature from trimming exempt positions from 1,500 jobs (under the McCrory administration) to just 425 positions for Cooper.

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore did not return requests for comment about whether they planned to appeal the court’s rulings.

In a statement last week, Berger said they would decide whether to seek additional remedies from the court system after a further review of the order.