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1. So much for the charade of moderation in the General Assembly  

When the state House passed its budget last week, Rep. Chuck McGrady noted its bipartisan support in a tweet that captured what the House leadership wanted people to think was happening in the General Assembly.

“Sounds like the Speaker is leading from the middle,” McGrady wrote, extolling the allegedly moderate leadership of House Speaker Tim Moore. Folks can disagree about the virtues and flaws in the House budget—which falls well short of making the investments the state needs—but it is indeed less radical than budgets passed by either chamber of the legislature in recent years.

All signs of moderation vanished this week. [Continue reading…]

2. Mixed messages for whistleblowers?
“Ag Gag” proposal, “Burt’s Law” push in opposite directions

Editor’s note: Governor Pat McCrory issued a veto for HB 405 (the so-called Ag-Gag bill) on Friday urging lawmakers to add protections for employees who report illegal activities to authorities.

Governor McCrory signed a bill yesterday that is designed to spur action from would-be whistleblowers who work in the group home and nursing home industries. The new statute, which has been dubbed “Burt’s Law” in recognition of a developmentally disabled man who was sexually abused by a manager in a Catawba County group home, would make it a crime for employees or volunteers in such facilities not to report such information. [Continue Reading…]

3. Latest batch of prospective charter schools moves forward with concerns
State Board of Education meets next week to grant final approval

Back in 2013, when members of a state board tasked with reviewing charter school applications only greenlighted a handful of schools out of many hopefuls to open in the following year, they found themselves in the middle of a political firestorm.

“The plan was to have [charter] operators come into the state like they did in Louisiana and other states and quickly affect the public school choice landscape for the better and in quantity,” said Charter School Advisory Board member Alan Hawkes in an email to fellow CSAB board members in late 2013. [Continue Reading….]

4. Next up in the House: Another lawsuit waiting to happen
North Carolina poised to become the nation’s first state with a law allowing public officials to refuse to marry same-sex couples on religious objection grounds

Editor’s note: Governor Pat McCrory issued a veto for SB 2 on Thursday, May 28th. The Legislature may attempt to override his veto.

The bill allowing magistrates to refuse to perform otherwise lawful marriages based upon religious objections moves on in the House today after passing the Senate in February, set for a hearing in Judiciary Committee I just after noon.

Senate Bill 2 — a product of the dust-up over federal court rulings allowing same-sex marriages to proceed in North Carolina – would give refuge to magistrates who refuse to comply with those rulings under color of their professed faith.

Though lawmakers couched their text in broad and vague terms, their intent in pushing the bill was clear: Stop gay marriages. [Continue Reading….]

****Bonus video: Watch House members debate SB2:

YouTube Preview Image

 

5. Head of North Carolina’s charter school office leaving, taking job with controversial virtual charter school

The head of North Carolina’s office overseeing charter schools is leaving for a job with a controversial virtual charter school opening up this year.

Joel Medley, who had headed the N.C. Department of Public Instruction since 2011, is leaving his state job to become the head of school for the N.C Virtual Academy. The school is a new online charter school opening this summer that will be run by the Wall Street-traded for-profit education company K12, Inc. (NYSE:LRN).

“I have accepted a position at the NC Virtual Academy in June and will serve as the head of school — returning back to my roots as a school administrator,” Medley wrote Thursday in an email to N.C Policy Watch. “It has been an honor to serve here in the Department and I look forward to this new opportunity.” [Continue Reading.…]

Commentary

McCrory budgetIt’s been great to see Gov. McCrory veto two major pieces of legislation in as many days. His rejection of the absurd bill to re-institute marriage discrimination and the overly-broad proposal to limit free speech by employees who witness objectionable things in their workplaces (aka the “Ag Gag” bill)  constitutes a welcome departure from his normal posture vis a vis the General Assembly — i.e. serving mostly as a doormat.

That said, there are two obvious next steps for the Governor if he wants this little episode to amount to anything more than just a brief and quickly forgotten hiccup in the Raleigh policy battles.

First, he needs to veto the dangerous anti-abortion bill that lawmakers will send to him next week. The Guv promised during his 2012 campaign that he would approve no more restrictions on a woman’s right to obtain an abortion and there is simply no way to spin House Bill 465 as anything other than just that.

Second, he needs to take the next step and figure out a way to use the hint of a backbone he’s recently discovered as means of becoming the kind of leader who can effectively negotiate with the General Assembly before it ever gets to the point at which  he has to use the veto. The Guv is (or, at least, ought to be) the most visible and powerful Republican in North Carolina. That he has been so utterly inept in driving or even managing the agenda of a legislature controlled by members of his own party might just be unprecedented in recent state history. Until not that long ago, Gov. Jim Hunt exercised enormous control over a General Assembly of his party without the power to veto.

The bottom line: Two and a half years into his term, Pat McCrory has begun to learn how to crawl as Governor. If he wants to stand, walk upright and lead, he needs to do a lot more.

News

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory made a surprise appearance at the quarterly meeting of the state’s public-private economic development board Friday morning, asking for support for economic financial incentives and his $3 billion transportation and infrastructure bond package.

AGGAG-vetoHe also told board members, who are largely business people from around the state, that he’d made headway in showing the legislature that the public backed those proposals.

McCrory said that public support, which he referred to as “surveys,” may be set back after yesterday’s veto of a bill that would have permitted magistrates to refuse to marry same-sex couples and more vetoes he said were on the way.

“That [survey information] may change after yesterday’s veto and today’s veto and two other vetoes coming up,” McCrory said. “And I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do.”

Shortly after the morning meeting, McCrory’s office announced he vetoed the “ag-gag bill,” which had been opposed by animal-rights groups and AARP and would have penalized whistle-blowers who exposed wrongdoings at companies they work at.

When asked afterwards about his comments about future vetoes, McCrory would not expand on his comments.

Another controversial bill making its way through the legislature that would require a 72-hour waiting period for abortions, and require doctors to send patients’ ultrasounds to the state health agency.

A list of other bills on McCrory’s desk is here.

At Friday morning’s meeting, McCrory also had sharp criticism for his Republican colleagues in the legislature, where his bond proposal is getting a lukewarm reception.

Photo: WRAL.com

Photo: WRAL.com

McCrory wants to put the proposal, which would fund a myriad of transportation and state government projects around the state, before voters. The proposal needs legislative backing to get on the ballot.

“We have support in the legislature but it is very soft support,” McCrory said, adding that the legislature was busy with budget proposals. “Frankly, they’re scared of their own shadow.”

He also said that he would play “hardball” and wouldn’t be deterred by opposition from those in his political party.

“I’m not going to let three or four people in the legislature block progress in North Carolina,” McCrory said. “I don’t care what party they’re from.”

Friday morning’s quarterly meeting of the economic development meeting is a public meeting, but N.C. Policy Watch was the only media member, as well as the only member of the public, to attend the meeting at  Red Hat’s headquarters in downtown Raleigh.

The public-private partnership was established last year by the state legislature, and transferred the tourism and business recruitment division of the state Commerce Department to the quasi-public group. It’s largely funded with public money ($16 million) but is on the hook to raise $1.25 million from private funders in its first year.

The group has raised $830,000 so far from private contributors, with several other gifts promised and about $250,000 more to be raised by October, said John Lassiter, a Charlotte attorney and chairman of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina.

Want to hear for yourself? McCrory’s comments about the legislature and upcoming vetoes begin at the 4:40 minute mark:

 

Note: This post has been changed from the original to more accurately reflect McCrory’s comments about upcoming vetoes. He referred to the vetoes in the context of how “surveys” from the public may change in light of the vetoes, not his relationship with the legislature as initially reported. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Commentary

Good for Gov. Pat McCrory. He announced this afternoon that he would veto the bill passed by the House today that would allow magistrates to opt out of their duty to officiate at marriages due to their “religious beliefs.”

Now, the question is: Can he make a veto stick or will he just get rolled over by state lawmakers as he usually does? A first look at the veto override math leads to the conclusion that he will have his work cut out for him.

The Senate seems likely to be a lost cause since only 30 votes are necessary to override and the bill passed with 32. There were also two excused absences — at least one of whom is a sure thing to support an override.

The House is where the drama will be. Assuming all members are present, 72 votes are necessary for an override. Since the bill passed by votes of 65-45 and 67-43, there would appear to be some hope. Note however, that there were 10 people who failed to participate in both votes. Add to this that at least two members voted for the measure on third reading who did not do so on second reading (Democrat Charles Graham went from “not voting” to “yes” and Republican David Lewis went from “no” to “yes”) and you can see how this could quickly get very messy.

The bottom line: Stay tuned as we’re about to find out a lot about McCrory and the future of North Carolina.

Commentary

McC709It was just a few years ago that opponents of then-Senator and presidential candidate Barack Obama were howling at the notion that he had voted “present” on multiple occasions while a state legislator in Illinois (something that’s permitted for lawmakers in the Land of Lincoln but not  in most states — North Carolina included).

The gist of the not-unfounded criticism at the time was that a “present” vote was and is a pretty gutless way out of taking a stance on sticky issues. If one goes to all the trouble of running for office and serving as an elected representative of the people, went/goes the reasoning, the least a lawmaker can do is to have the courage to make a decision when presented with a choice of whether something will be made law or not.

Such logic would seem to apply with even more force to a governor when it comes to approving or not approving a bill sent to him or her by a legislature. After all, it’s not like he or she is just one of a couple of hundred legislators whose vote may or may not even really matter. The constitution specifies that the decision to sign or veto a bill is his or hers alone. (It should probably also be noted that when a U.S. president fails to sign a bill while Congress is out of session, the effect is to veto the bill — the process is known as a “pocket veto.”)

This brings us, of course, to yesterday’s decision by Governor Pat McCrory to let the controversial — many would say “thoroughly inadequate” — coal ash “clean up” bill become law by simply not acting on it. Read More