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People of color lobby daySeveral progressive nonprofits are now targeting next Tuesday, April 9 as a day of action and protest at the General Assembly.

Among the complementary events:

HK on J People of (all) Colors Lobby Day - which will commence at 9:00 a.m. at First Baptist Church – Family Life Center at 109 S. Wilmington St. in Raleigh. Click here for more information.

and Women’s Advocacy Day – which is also scheduled to commence at 9:00 a.m. Click here for more information.

Hope to see you there!

Hats off to WRAL and Mark Binker, one of the station’s investigative reporters, who put together an online (and searchable!) database of statements of economic interest for the public to use.

The ethics forms, referred to as SEIs in the jargon-laden halls of state government, are required to be filed out by elected state leaders and appointments to major boards and commissions. They came about following the legislative scandals in 2005 and 2006 that culminated with the imprisonment of former Democratic House Speaker Jim Black, and are intended to let the public know what personal financial interests state leaders have.

The forms are public, but the N.C. Ethics Commission has yet to post them online to be searched easily.  Last week, I had this post mentioning that the Independent in Raleigh had requested and posted the SEIs in an article of their own.

The WRAL database takes it a few steps further, with entries of 180 state lawmakers and statewide officials included and put in easy-to-read digital form. Read More

Phil BergerWRAL has video of all 36 minutes of Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger’s surprisingly far-ranging press conference today and today’s edition of the Fitzsimon File will have a thorough analysis shortly.

For those looking for some preliminary quick takeaways, however, here were a few of the highlights/low-lights:

Berger has decided to go all in with the far right agenda and appears to see it as his pathway to seeking the GOP nomination to take on Kay Hagan in 2014. Moreover, his legislative “agenda” was/is an utterly predictable recitation of Locke Foundation/Civitas/Art Pope priorities: Read More

A group of state lawmakers has been meeting behind closed doors to find a fix for North Carolina’s $2.4-billion unemployment insurance problem, money the state borrowed from the federal government in the height of the economic crisis.

A trio of Republican lawmakers – state Reps. Julia Howard, Edgar Starnes and Harry Warren – have been meeting weekly with legislative staff for the past 10 weeks to roll out a plan, Howard said. They plan on bringing their proposal to light on Wednesday at the N.C. Revenue Laws Committee which has the option of voting immediately on the mystery plan without holding any public discussion.

The result could be a massive overhaul of the state’s unemployment system, with a very real possibility that lawmakers side with business interests looking to cut back on how much and for how long the unemployed can collect. Advocates for the poor (like the N.C. Justice Center) say that option would cause further harm for families in crisis.

The money was borrowed at the height of the economic crisis, and went to pay for the first 26 weeks of unemployment for thousands of North Carolinians who lost their jobs as the state grappled with the fall-out from the collapse of the housing industry.  A series of tax breaks businesses received on unemployment insurance in the 1990s had left the state without enough money to weather the drastic increase of jobless workers during the Great Recession.

Read More

In case anyone had any doubts, pay-to-play politics are alive and well in the North Carolina General Assembly. As Policy Watch investigative reporter Sarah Ovaska reported here yesterday afternoon, a conservative House leader announced yesterday that he would introduce legislation this week that would establish a new tax break for corporations that fund slots in private schools.

The plan is modeled on a Florida program (now, there’s a highly successful state everyone wants to copy!) that was pitched to a group of 11 state lawmakers, including House Speaker Thom Tillis, at an all-expense paid trip to the Miami area that the pro-voucher group funded in March.

And, of course, the trip — which certainly appears to violate the state’s prohibition on gifts from lobby groups to lawmakers — had absolutely no impact whatsoever on the group’s friendly reception from House leadership or its success in winning introduction of the bill.  

To learn more about what the voucher group and its friends in the corporate world and the General Assembly appear to be up to, check out this excellent article in yesterday’s New York Times  - “Public money finds back door to private schools.”