Note: This post has been updated to reflect information provided by the UNC system. 

A Senate bill capping the terms of members on the University of North Carolina’s Board of Governors moved through a House Rules committee Monday, and could potentially shift at least two current members off the board, if passed.

UNCsystemAn individual could serve three, four-year terms (a total of 12 years) under Senate Bill 670, which was headed to the House floor and possible passage during what appears to be the final week of the legislative session.

The current UNC Board of Governors’ policy limits members to three consecutive, four-year terms, while the bill being proposed by Sen. Tom Apodaca would apply to both consecutive and non-consecutive terms.

The full House will vote on the measure tonight.

There are currently three members on the UNC Board of Governors who are in the midst of their third or fourth terms, according to information provided by the UNC system.

John Fennebresque, the chair of UNC Board of Governors and a Charlotte attorney, received a four-year apointment from 1995 to 1999, as well as appointments from 2011 to 2015, according to information provided by a UNC system spokeswoman . He was re-appointed to his third term this spring.

Craig Souza and Frank Grainger are serving their fourth terms on the board. Both men served three, four-year terms from 1997 to 2009. Grainger rejoined the board for his fourth term in 2011, and Souza re-joined in 2013.

Hannah Gage, a former board chair, was a voting member of the UNC Board of Governors from 2001 to 2013. She is now serving in a non-voting, emeritus position.

The state legislature is responsible for appointing all 32 members of North Carolina’s governing board for its public university system. That’s led to significant changes to how the board does business, now that all 32 members currently serving have gotten their appointments from Republican-dominated state legislature after decades of Democratic control.

Apodaca, a Hendersonville Republican, introduced the bill regarding the term limits and said Monday it would affect three of the board’s current 32 members if and when it became law.

He did not name the three individuals, and it’s unclear if he was referring to Souza, Grainger, Fennebresque or Gage.

State Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam, an Apex Republican, voted against the bill, saying lawmakers could just choose not to reappoint those members, if they felt they had been in their positions too long.

“I’m just wondering why” legislation for term limits are needed, Stam said in committee Monday. “You don’t have to re-elect them to a fourth term.”

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In case you missed it, be sure to check out reporter Bruce Siceloff’s story in this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer in which he explores the behind-closed-doors decision of unnamed state lawmakers to deep six the Triangle’s developing plans for a traffic-busting light rail system.

Siceloff quotes one of the legislature’s longest-serving and most influential conservative lawmakers, Rep. Paul Stam on Wake County as professing not to know the origins of the provision.

To which all a body can say in response is “give us a break.” Stam is either remarkably inept at his job or being remarkably dishonest. That something so important to his home county could be inserted without his knowledge or participation simply defies logic.

Speaking of inept, Governor McCrory comes off once again as utterly incompetent in the story — blasting the provision that he himself signed into law.

The bottom line: As is noted in this morning’s Weekly Briefing, the light rail killer is just the latest in a long line of recent anti-environmental provisions rammed through the General Assembly by conservative legislators and their buddies in the polluter lobby. Perhaps even more importantly, however, it is also a classic example of corrupt, secretive and unaccountable government at its worst.

You’d think a group of ideologues so cocksure of their twisted ideology as the current legislative leadership is would at least have the courage to stand beside their actions.

Sadly and quite pathetically, this is not the case.

State Rep. Paul Stam

State Rep. Paul Stam

As noted in the post below, one of the myriad last minute additions to the state budget (i.e. the 400-plus page behemoth set to become law tomorrow) that was not present in either the House or Senate versions of the budget is a section added by anti-abortion crusaders to cut funding to Planned Parenthood.

This is a clear violation of House Rules. House Rule 44(b) specifically forbids the addition of such new, out-of-whole-cloth provisions unless the House refers the matter to a standing committee for review — something that is clearly not going to happen today.

What makes this all the more outrageous is that Rep. Stam — the man repeatedly identified in the News & Observer editorial cited below as the driving force behind the Planned Parenthood amendment — has a long history of raising hell on the House floor about… you guessed it…the addition of last minute provisions like this in violation of Rule 44.

In 2009, for instance, Stam took to the House floor (click here at go to 1:42 in the audio) to castigate the budget conference report for making tax changes not included in previous versions of the budget bill. He called the addition of the new provision a “blatant, flagrant and obvious violation of Rule 44(b).”

Stam’s only conceivable excuse in all this is that the current version of Rule 44(b) only applies to the addition of provisions dealing with “significant matters.” Perhaps in the twisted worldview of a person with a demonstrated, career-long indifference to women’s health, the act of harming thousands of women by making it much harder for Planned Parenthood to provide them with essential health care is not a “significant matter.” And given the low to which politics in the General Assembly have sunk in recent years, he’ll no doubt get away with it.

In the real world of words and laws that mean something, however, Stam’s position on this matter can only be described as blatant, flagrant and obvious hypocrisy.

Paul Stam 2

Rep. Paul Stam

Faced with the hard reality of a growing state budget shortfall resulting from their ill-advised tax giveaways to wealthy individuals and profitable corporations, state legislative leaders have apparently opted to try to spin their way out of the mess.

House Speaker Pro Tem Paul Stam was the latest to try out a little song and dance step on the issue yesterday when he issued a statement claiming that there is no shortfall because “After controlling for population and inflation, we are likely to have just as much revenue in 2014-15 as we did in 2013-14.”

This is classic political double-speak.

The fact of the matter is that a budget shortfall exists when the state does not bring in enough money in a new year to pay for the level of services it provided in the previous year. It’s not about “growing government” as Stam alleges; it’s about sustaining the services we have — i.e. not raising class sizes, not cutting health care reimbursements for the disabled, not further decimating our broken courts system, etc….

Right now, it’s clear that the 2013 tax cuts have led directly to a situation in which the state will bring in hundreds of millions of dollars less than it needs just to keep things going at their already inadequate levels in the new fiscal year that begins July 1. Indeed, as a percentage of total state income, state spending during the current year is already at 1970’s levels.

The bottom line: Try as Stam and his allies might to lower the bar with talk of red herrings like inflation and population growth, they simply won’t be able to spin their way out of this situation. And absent some kind of dramatic ideological turnaround that would lead to the implementation of the kind of policy changes that would produce a truly responsible state budget, North Carolinians will soon suffer the consequences of this latest ill-conceived and destructive experiment in trickledown economics.


marriage amendmentAccording to news reports, Representative Paul Stam will hold some kind of legislative “briefing” tomorrow on a “religious freedom” bill that would permit magistrates and other state employees to deny same-sex couples marriage licenses if it violates their own religious beliefs.

This is an enormously troubling idea.

From a legal standpoint, permitting state employees to refuse to perform the duties of their job based on their faith opens the door to all sorts of potentially absurd new practices. There are many religions out there with many different beliefs, including some that are contrary to our state laws or policies. Are we now saying that a person’s individual, albeit sincerely-held, beliefs take precedence over the duties of their job? Can an EMT refuse to provide medical treatment to a member of the LGBT community because their lifestyle violates her religious beliefs? If a police officer, whose religion beliefs include the right of a man to discipline his wife, witnesses domestic abuse while on the job, can he choose not to arrest the husband? We’re heading down a very slippery slope with this bill.

But let’s think about this bill itself, which Stam claims is intended to defend religious freedom. The irony of this, of course, Read More