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It’s hard to know what to make of the news trickling out of the back rooms where House and Senate leaders are working on a tax cut deal. And yes, it’s about cutting taxes now, not reforming the tax code.

House Speaker Thom Tillis told the News & Observer that the two sides must “breach a philosophical divide,” which doesn’t sound like they are close to an agreement.

But the last line of a story by NC Capitol at WRAL.com says that Tillis and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger believe a deal could be done this week. That’s not much time for philosophical divide breaching.

There are also whispers in the legislative halls that some folks are pushing for a bare bones budget deal now and a special session on taxes in a few weeks.

As Chris Fitzsimon noted with some biting and on-the-money humor last week, conservative state political leaders appear to have reached the point in the 2013 legislative session at which they have ”jumped the shark.” For those who may not have caught the cultural reference, the phrase derives from a late-20th Century TV sitcom called “Happy Days”; the show was widely seen to have reached its nadir during an episode in which one of the main characters jumped over a shark while water skiing.

For conservatives, it’s hard to point out just one shark-jumping moment in their script, but as Chris notes, the bill to excuse the state from the First Amendment’s establishment clause seems like a strong contender.

Rob Christensen of Raleigh’s News & Observer wrote a rather curious column over the weekend in which he alleged that GOP leaders had basically gotten all the shark-jumping ideas under control, but judging by the agenda for the coming week Read More

Last week was Sunshine Week, a national initiative to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information.

Today the sun seems to have gone into hiding here in Raleigh.

During House Education Week last month, Speaker Thom Tillis tapped several school superintendents to serve in “education working groups” with legislators, with the intent of seeking superintendents’ expertise and input on policies and legislation related to education reform.

Last week, the Winston-Salem Journal reported that lawmakers had already met informally in these education working groups to look at regulatory reform and identify state restrictions that can be eliminated to give schools more flexibility. Future meetings are said to include superintendents.

The word on the street is that there will be an education working group meeting of lawmakers and superintendents tomorrow, Tuesday March 19, 9am-noon in room 306B of the Legislative Office Building. Multiple calls to Speaker Tillis’ office, however, went unreturned when asked to confirm whether or not this meeting is open to the public. Calls to various lawmakers’ offices about this meeting went unreturned; however, one legislator’s office did confirm that the meeting will take place tomorrow.

The open meetings law states that “Whereas the public bodies that administer the legislative, policy-making, quasi-judicial, administrative, and advisory functions of North Carolina and its political subdivisions exist solely to conduct the people’s business, it is the public policy of North Carolina that the hearings, deliberations, and actions of these bodies be conducted openly.”

A public body is defined as: “any elected or appointed authority, board, commission, committee, council, or other body of the State, or of one or more counties, cities, school administrative units, constituent institutions of The University of North Carolina, or other political subdivisions or public corporations in the State that (i) is composed of two or more members and (ii) exercises or is authorized to exercise a legislative, policy-making, quasi-judicial, administrative, or advisory function.”

NC Policy Watch plans to try to attend the meeting tomorrow.

Thom Tillis 2In case you missed it over the weekend, even North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis now admits that the problem of voter fraud is illusory. According to Tillis, the reason we need to implement his controversial proposal to mandate photo ID for voting (and thereby threaten the franchise of thousands of citizens) is comfort.

Tillis told an MSNBC host that a voter ID law  ”would make nearly three-quarters of the population more comfortable and more confident when they go to the polls.” 

Well, bless their hearts. We certainly wouldn’t want people to be uncomfortable while they’re casting an absentee ballot from their yacht in Monte Carlo — even if it means an 85 year-old in small town North Carolina has to catch a bus and pay money from her meager food budget to get a new birth certificate and state ID so that she can convince the people whe’s been voting with for decades that she is who she says she is.

In today’s “Friday Follies” edition of his column Chris Fitzsimon reminds us of how remarkably prescient House Speaker Thom Tillis was in his October 2011 speech to Madison County Republicans in which spelled out his plan for dividing and conquering people “on assistance” in our state. Now, as Chris notes, the dividing and conquering has moved on to outright punishment.

In case you’ve forgotten the specifics of Tillis’ offensive remarks, we’re happy to offer an encore presentation below. 

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