News

Individuals and groups challenging North Carolina’s 2011 redistricting plan wasted little time today getting their case back before the state Supreme Court, filing papers a short while ago asking for an expedited hearing and decision in time for elections in 2016.

That request followed on the heels of this morning’s U.S. Supreme Court order vacating the state court’s December 2014 decision upholding the plan and calling for a new hearing in light of the high court’s late March decision in a similar Alabama case.

In today’s filing, the plan’s challengers pointed out five ways in which the state Supreme Court decision erred, given the analysis called for by the justices in the Alabama case:

First, the United States Supreme Court’s Alabama decision establishes that the trial court here correctly concluded that race was the dominant factor used to draw the challenged Senate, House, and Congressional Districts. Indeed, under the Supreme Court’s decision, there is no reasonable basis to conclude that race was not the predominant factor used by the North Carolina General Assembly in drawing the challenged districts.

Second, the decision establishes that North Carolina’s Section 5 justification for its race-based actions is invalid, unfounded, and unsupported by the text of Section 5.

Third, the decision establishes that even if North Carolina had a compelling Section 5 justification for its race-based actions, it failed to narrowly tailor the challenged districts to conform to any such justification.

Fourth, the decision and the remand in these cases strongly suggest that North Carolina’s Section 2 justification for its race-based actions is also invalid and unfounded and unsupported by the text of Section 2.

Fifth, the decision and the remand strongly suggest that even if North Carolina had a compelling Section 2 justification for its race-based actions, it failed to narrowly tailor the challenged districts to conform to any such justification.

They are asking the court to set a schedule that envisions an initial determination whether the case has to go back to the three-judge trial panel for additional findings and then further briefing if necessary at the Supreme Court to be completed by the end of June, with argument to follow as soon as possible thereafter.

To that end, it’s worth noting that the state’s highest court has already scheduled an unusual late June argument day to hear an expedited appeal of the Governor’s lawsuit against the legislative leaders concerning commission appointments.

Click here to read the challenger’s motion in full.

NC Budget and Tax Center

The ongoing, raging debate at the federal level regarding tax changes highlights the contrast between the proposals being put forward by President Obama and Congress for developing a budget and supporting the economy. The President would like to provide tax cuts to middle-income taxpayers – by enhancing the Child Care Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit, for example. Congress, by contrast, would like to repeal the federal estate tax, for example, which would benefit the wealthy.

The estate tax is essentially a tax on very large inheritances by a small group of wealthy heirs. An estate must have a value of $5.4 million (after related debt is accounted for) before the estate tax applies. Only the estates of the wealthiest 0.2 percent of Americans – roughly 2 out of every 1,000 people who die – owe any estate tax.

A repeal of the estate tax amounts to a massive windfall for those heirs. Proponents often claim that the estate tax hurts small farmers and businesses by forcing people to sell their family farm or business. In North Carolina we have heard this claim despite no evidence presented to support the claim. Still, proponents have continued to make the claim over the years, as Dean Baker at the Center for Economic and Policy Research notes. In the early 2000s, the American Farm Bureau Federation, a leading advocate for repealing the estate tax, could not cite a single example of a farm lost because of estate taxes.

North Carolina state lawmakers latched onto this false claim back in 2013 to repeal the state’s estate tax. Read More

News

Members of the House Judiciary Committee, who will be discussing legislation today to increase the financial accountability of North Carolina’s charter schools, might want to revisit what happened to the students of a recently shuttered school in Columbus County.

As WECT-TV reported last week, SEGS Academy in Delco, NC gave parents just two days notice this month before closing its doors. That sent many students back to their public school district, without any funding:

segs“…the influx of students means some teachers have larger classes and little time to prepare the newcomers for end-of-grade tests, even though their scores will count toward Acme-Delco’s letter grade.

“We don’t have very much time to find out where they are, what they need and how we can make the very most of the last few days of this school year,” Hedrick said.

Because the former SEGS students are transferring so late, Columbus County Schools won’t get any state money for educating them through the end of the school year, according to Superintendent Alan Faulk.

“We’re going to teach them no matter what. It would have been nice had some funding come with them, but there is no funding and that’s not going to affect the way that we teach the children,” Faulk said. “We’re helping out in a situation that went bad, and we’ll do everything we can to help the students.”

Faulk said Tuesday his schools had enrolled approximately 25 former SEGS students, but he expected more to follow because 61 students who live in Columbus County’s district attended the charter school in March.”

House Bill 96, up for consideration this afternoon in Judiciary I, would addresses debt collection from personally liable individuals following the dissolution of a charter school.

The bill would also require the Department of Public Instruction’s Office of Charter Schools to maintain a database of individuals with the authority to expend funds on behalf of charter schools.

A favorable vote today and the bill will head to Regulatory Reform.

You can read more about SEGS’ recent decision to voluntarily close its doors here.

News

The U.S. Supreme Court sent the North Carolina redistricting case back to the state Supreme Court this morning for further review in light of the high court’s recent decision in a similar Alabama case.

The North Carolina groups and individuals who initially sued lawmakers in state court — contending that the state’s 2011 plan constituted an unlawful racial gerrymander — filed papers in January asking the justices to review the state Supreme Court’s 2014 decision upholding the plan.

Then in late March, the nation’s highest court decided the Alabama case — applying a different analysis than that used by our state justices and sending that state’s plan back to the trial court for further review. (For more on the relationship between the Alabama and the North Carolina cases read here.)

The Court ruled that race predominated in an Alabama redistricting plan which moved black voters into majority-minority districts in order to prevent the percentage of minority voters from declining, and that such race-based redistricting must be strictly scrutinized.

Five days later, the court likewise sent a case raising similar issues regarding Virginia’s 3rd Congressional District, Cantor v. Personhuballah, back down for further review.

The challengers of the North Carolina plan — relying in part upon the analysis in the Alabama decision — argued in papers recently filed with the Supreme Court that our state maps should also be strictly scrutinized and rejected as race-based gerrymanders.

With today’s order, the state Supreme Court will now have to review the 2011 redistricting plan using those parameters.

Here’s the order:

Dickson GVR

 

Commentary

Nicole and LindaTomorrow is Women’s Advocacy Day at the North Carolina General Assembly and there are a lot of good reasons for caring women (and men) to attend. The one at the top of my list will be Medicaid expansion – the long-neglected plan to extend decent, affordable health coverage to hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians.

As has been explained repeatedly in countless places in recent months, North Carolina would benefit greatly from Medicaid expansion. The numbers of lives that would be saved and the amount of money that would flow to the state are both huge and more than reason enough for state leaders to act. As a group that has long endured lower pay and benefits, women would also benefit disproportionately from expansion.

For me, however, the motivation for speaking out goes well beyond the numbers. It’s also about speaking out on behalf of people who I know and care about – people like my friend, Linda Dunn (that’s us on the left at the General Assembly last month).

I met Linda back in December at a community forum in Kinston at which Sen. Don Davis, Lenoir County Sheriff Ronnie Ingram and several other community leaders expressed concern about the failure to expand Medicaid and the fact that, in Lenoir County alone, expansion would cover 2,270 residents and create more than 350 desperately needed jobs.

Linda attended the forum along with her adult daughter. I met them just before the discussion was set to begin. She was terribly concerned about her daughter’s lack of access to insurance and medical care.

In fact, she was so concerned that she was later inspired to travel to Raleigh to share her family’s story during last month’s Medicaid Expansion Advocacy Day. Linda held onto the podium in the Legislative Building press room while some in the audience held back tears as she spoke like only a mother could about the devastating impacts of suffering from chronic health conditions without insurance. Read More