Sen. Phil Berger

Sen. Phil Berger

One would have thought it tough to top the shameless pandering that Gov. Pat McCrory has engaged in in recent days over the issue of the rights of transgender people. As is explained in this morning’s edition of the Weekly Briefing, McCrory plumbed new depths this week with his embarrassing effort to limit the rights of a Virginia boy trying to live as who he is.

The Governor even went so far as to issue a statement in which he essentially said that transgender people do not exist, but are merely people of one gender masquerading as people of the other.

Now, however, comes word that it may be possible to outdo McCrory. Yesterday, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger issued a statement attacking Attorney General Roy Cooper for not joining McCrory’s pro-discrimination effort. Berger even issued the following through-the-looking-glass tweet:

“Shame on AG for Putting Politics Above Student Safety”

You got that?! Berger is attacking Cooper for playing politics. This is like Vladimir Putin accusing the people of Crimea of aggression against Russia.

The bottom line: If not joining a lawsuit designed to deny basic human rights to a mild mannered 16 year old boy is “playing politics,” North Carolina could use a whole lot more a such “play” and a whole lot less of whatever it is that Berger is shoveling.


One of this weekend’s “must read” editorials appeared in the Sunday edition of the Winston-Salem Journal under the headline “Low-performing schools: Local system right to stand up to legislature.”

The subject was last week’s over-the-top interrogation at a General Assembly oversight committee during which Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and his lieutenants lined up to bash and harass some hardworking local school officials from Winston-Salem. The subject was Berger’s ill-conceived and destructive school grading system which, as Senator Bob Rucho admitted in a Freudian moment, is “designed to to show that the (public school) system has failed.”

Here’s the Journal:

“Earlier this year, the legislature changed the definition of ‘low-performing schools’ in a way that greatly expanded their number. The legislature then called for special reports on such schools, and threatened school principals whose schools were defined as ‘low performing” for more than two years. As a result, the number of schools in Forsyth County — and throughout the state — that meet the definition have increased significantly, undermining schools that were showing progress and threatening them with dire consequences.

Our school board pushed back with two resolutions, stating that the system would apply the same standards to all its schools and that the system would not take action against any of the principals at the schools in question, calling the requirement to do so ‘arbitrary and capricious.’

So the legislative leaders, who have never shown much love for public education, called our educators on the carpet.

While there, [Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School Superintendent Beverly] Emory and [school board Chairwoman Dana] Jones tried to discuss the issues, but the legislature was more interested in making sure that our school system would comply with their dictates….

Unfortunately, the senators weren’t about to listen. As the editorial noted:

“Emory said at one point: ‘Do we intend to comply? Absolutely. Are there differences in opinion here? Yes.’

Ultimately, our system will have to follow the legislature’s dictates or risk even more funding cuts as long as the current crowd is in power.

But it’s beyond frustrating that these legislators don’t take our local officials’ well-thought-out concerns seriously. We know that our local officials are dedicated to better educational outcomes for all their students.

This current slate of legislators has repeatedly shown that it has nothing but disdain for public education. It has continually cut resources for public schools. Its treatment of North Carolina teachers has sent scores either to other states or out of the profession altogether. It has insisted on transferring tax money from public schools to charter and private schools with a scarcity of oversight.”


Lawmakers want to know more about the closed-door session held last month by the governing board of the state’s public university system, in which most chancellors received significant raises during a secret portion of the meeting.

“On behalf of the Speaker and the President Pro Tem, pursuant to G.S. 120-19, I am writing to request any and all records in the University’s possession regarding today’s UNC Board of Governors’ meeting,” wrote Andrew Tripp, an attorney in Senate Leader Phil Berger’s office, in an email sent the same day as the University of North Carolina Board of Governors’ Oct. 30 meeting.

Tripp asked for any audio recordings, as well as draft minutes and agendas for both the open and closed portions of the meeting. (Scroll down to read his email.)

The 32-member UNC Board of Governors announced this week it will hold a previously unscheduled meeting in Chapel Hill Friday to discuss the legislative request, as well as to get an update on faculty compensation.

Meanwhile, an agenda for the Nov. 18 joint legislative committee on government operations has the UNC system listed for a report, as well as an update about the recent controversy over the McCrory administration’s decision to award a prison maintenance contract to a campaign contributor over correction officials’ objections.

The chancellor raises, which included pay bumps as high as 20 percent or up to $70,000, came as rank-and-file employees have seen little movement in their own salaries in recent years, other than a $750 bonus that all state employees are slated to receive this year.

It also comes shortly after the UNC Board of Governors, who all received appointments from the Republican-led legislature, announced its hiring of former U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings at a base salary of $775,000, much higher than the $600,000 that outgoing UNC president Tom Ross received as a base salary.

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GerrymanderingIn case you missed it, Raleigh’s News & Observer is featuring an essay by one of the nation’s founding fathers today that highlights the sorry state of politics in 21st Century North Carolina.

As Elbridge Gerry — the man for whom gerrymandering was named — informs us:

“A short while ago, I read that most legislative districts in North Carolina were not even competitive, with nearly half of your General Assembly races having just one candidate on the ballot last year – effectively deciding the election before a single vote was cast. Sadly, the prime culprit depriving you of a choice at the ballot box is gerrymandering.

As someone who risked his life to establish American democracy, I must say that this is appalling. We fought our revolution for the right to decide our own fate, for the right to vote for our leaders. Now other Americans, from both political parties, are trying to take it all away.

I was really depressed when I realized this and was feeling more than a bit guilty for my role in pioneering such tactics, but lately I have seen some signs that gerrymandering may be waning.

Twenty-one states have taken the power of redistricting out of the hands of politicians and given it to independent commissions…

And about two weeks ago, the U.S. Supreme Court – one of our better creations when we wrote the Constitution – upheld the right of states to create these independent redistricting commissions. Justice Ginsberg got it right when she said ‘the people themselves are the originating source of all the powers of government.’

Also good news is that the U.S. Supreme Court told Alabama, Virginia and North Carolina that they needed to take another look at the way they did redistricting in the last round. They ordered Alabama to redo its map drawing and another court told Virginia to redo theirs. North Carolina is still up in the air.”

The bottom line: If even the man for whom gerrymandering was named can endorse a better path forward, surely Senator Phil Berger — the man responsible for the current mess in North Carolina — can do so. Come on Phil, don’t wait 203 years to admit your error.

Sen. Phil Berger

Sen. Phil Berger

This week’s Supreme Court decision that reaffirmed the constitutionality of allowing independent commissions to draw congressional districts prompted Charlotte Observer reporter Jim Morrill to ask Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger about legislation sponsored by a majority of the House that would create a nonpartisan redistricting process in North Carolina.

Still not a good idea? Berger thought it was a fine idea when he was in the minority in the General Assembly. He co-sponsored redistricting reform five times, most recently in the 2009-2010 session.

The only thing consistent is his hypocrisy.