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Coal ashThe Greensboro News & Record has a good editorial this morning in which it lauds the state Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the General Assembly’s overreach in its turf battle with the Governor over control of the state coal ash commission.

But the editorial concludes with this warning to the Guv:

“It’s the governor’s responsibility. Now he’s got to prove that legislators of his own party were wrong to distrust him with this important task.”

News

Saying that the General Assembly violated the separation of powers clause of the state constitution when it empowered lawmakers to make appointments to commissions that performed largely executive functions, the state Supreme Court today backed the governors who challenged what they called a usurpation of power by the legislature.

The battle between the branches of government came to a head in the fall of 2014 after lawmakers created the Coal Ash Commission, Oil & Gas Commission and Mining Commission and authorized the House speaker and Senate president to appoint most of the members on each.

Gov. Pat McCrory, joined by former governors Jim Hunt and Jim Martin, then filed suit against the speaker and president, alleging that lawmakers had overstepped their authority in limiting the governor’s appointments to commissions that functioned under the province of the executive branch.

But the legislative leaders claimed absolute authority to make those appointments, saying that the state constitution clearly gave them that power.

A three-judge panel ruled for the governors in March 2015, holding that state lawmakers had violated the separation of powers clause of the state constitution.

In a 6-1 decision written by Chief Justice Mark Martin, the court ruled that the statutes in question did not violate appointment provisions of the state constitution but did nonetheless extend executive functions to the legislature in violation of the separation of powers clause.

Martin wrote:

When the General Assembly appoints executive officers that the Governor has little power to remove, it can appoint them essentially without the Governor’s influence. That leaves the Governor with little control over the views and priorities of the officers that the General Assembly appoints. When those officers form a majority on a commission that has the final say on how to execute the laws, the General Assembly, not the Governor, can exert most of the control over the executive policy that is implemented in any area of the law that the commission regulates. As a result, the Governor cannot take care that the laws are faithfully executed in that area. The separation of powers clause plainly and clearly does not allow the General Assembly to take this much control over the execution of the laws from the Governor and lodge it with itself.

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Paul Newby wrote that the General Assembly acted well within its authority when it enacted the challenged statutes.

Read the full decision here.

News

HEART-NCAE-Logo-14-3The N.C. Association of Educators, one of the leading teacher advocacy groups in the state, is hitting back against the state’s latest attempt to revoke the group’s ability to deduct dues from members’ payroll checks.

NCAE President Rodney Ellis, a frequent critic of the N.C. General Assembly’s education policies, accused the Office of the State Controller of acting in a partisan manner when the office demanded the group provide membership information or risk losing their clearance for payroll deductions, WRAL reported.

Today, Ellis and company fought back.

From Ellis’ statement:

“NCAE has always been willing to work with the State Auditor to provide appropriate membership information while maintaining the constitutional rights and interests of our members and Association. Singling out NCAE for a separate verification process is retaliatory and politically motivated by some in the General Assembly to intimidate teachers and other educators from advocating for students and public schools. Instead of focusing on this issue, lawmakers should be tackling real issues like respecting educators, paying them professional salaries, and making sure classrooms have the resources to help our students be successful.”

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Commentary

This morning’s “must read” is the lead editorial in Raleigh’s News & Observer. It concerns the nagging “Keith gate” story surrounding Gov. Pat McCrory, his Department of Public Safety Secretary Frank Perry and the allegations regarding the demands of one of his big campaign contributors. Here’s the N&O:

“Frank Perry, the former senior FBI agent who now heads the state Department of Public Safety, prides himself on his reputation as a stand-up guy. Indeed, he has been a straight talker from his days in law enforcement and has been respected by elected officials Republican and Democratic.

But Perry seems to be digging himself into a controversy over an October 2014 meeting among Gov. Pat McCrory and senior officials and Graeme Keith Sr. and Graeme Keith Jr., who held through their companies lucrative contracts to do prison maintenance. McCrory, a friend of the Keiths, arranged the meeting.”

As the editorial goes on to explain, Perry’s story has changed. First Perry said he didn’t recall the Guv being in a “side conversation” (as McCrory has claimed) when Keith said he needed to get something in return for his generous campaign contributions and then, later, he claimed his “recollection is exactly the same as the governor’s.” Here’s the conclusion to the editorial:

After the October 2014 meeting, the governor asked Lee Roberts, his budget director, to determine whether Keith’s contracts, not endorsed by other state officials who were not as enthusiastic about “privatization” of services, should be extended. Roberts recommended they be extended for one year. They now have expired. Roberts, after a relatively short tenure, has resigned as budget director.

McCrory has a responsibility to clarify this, and yet he has declined to comment of late. That’s not helping his own credibility, and Perry’s apparently conflicting statements aren’t helping him. The public deserves more.”

Amen.

Commentary

Unemployment insurance[This post has been updated to include the link to Conway’s research paper at the bottom.]

This morning’s “must read” is Professor Patrick Conway’s op-ed in this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer: “Not exactly a Carolina Comeback.” As Conway, who is Chairman of the Department of Economics At UNC Chapel Hill, explains, the the supposed economic revival for the state’s unemployed workers touted by Gov. McCrory, legislative leaders and their cheerleaders in the Pope/Koch empire simply hasn’t happened:

“Evidence from the Current Population Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau indicates that the average working-age unemployed individual in North Carolina is actually less likely than an unemployed worker in the rest of the U.S. to be re-employed in the following month.

At the beginning of 2011, North Carolina unemployed workers were equally likely to find a job in the next month when compared with other states’ unemployed workers. From 2011 through mid-2015, unemployed workers in North Carolina were less likely to find a job.

It was February 2013 when state lawmakers approved unemployment insurance reform, which reduced the average payment and reduced the maximum number of weeks that the involuntarily unemployed could collect those payments. When Gov. Pat McCrory signed the legislation, he said this reform ‘will help provide an economic climate that allows job creators to start hiring again.’ About 170,000 North Carolina workers receiving insurance payments when the law took effect in July 2013 lost $780 million because of the reform.”

But that’s not all. Again, here’s Prof. Conway:

“There is one area in which North Carolina’s experience is significantly different from that of the rest of the country. Beginning in 2013, North Carolina’s unemployed workers were significantly more likely on average to leave the labor force rather than continue searching for jobs. By the middle of 2015, an individual unemployed worker in North Carolina was 30 percent more likely not to search for jobs in the next month than the average unemployed worker in the rest of the U.S. Those leaving the labor force are the “discouraged workers,” and the reform seems to have given them a strong push toward leaving.

To ensure that those results are not caused by North Carolina’s abundance of college students and individuals past retirement age, I redid the calculations using only individuals between the ages of 25 and 60. The specific percentages differ a bit, but the general findings are the same. The likelihood that an unemployed individual will find a job in the next month in North Carolina has been below that of the average for the rest of the U.S. throughout the insurance reform period.”

Conway’s bottom line:

“The reform has not had the effect on job creators that McCrory forecast. If there is to be a Carolina Comeback, it will begin by bringing our residents back into the labor force and providing our youth with the skills necessary to compete for and win available jobs. A policy that discourages workers should be reformulated or scrapped. Left in place, it creates an economy in which only some gain and many others are left behind.”

You can read the background paper on which Conway’s op-ed is based by clicking here.