The week’s top stories on Policy Watch

1. UNC officials, students push back on Tim Moore rumors

State lawmakers, UNC students and LGBTQ advocates are pushing back on talk that state House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) might be the next president of the UNC System.

Last week, state officials and members of the UNC Board of Governors, which governs the UNC system, began speaking openly about persistent rumors Moore will seek the position.

Moore denied he will apply for the position and characterized the speculation as “wild rumors” last week. But he also declined to directly answer a question from Policy Watch on his interest in the position. [Read more…]

2. Republican-led General Assembly has approved teacher pay raises. The ball is in Gov. Cooper’s court.

As was expected Thursday, the North Carolina General Assembly approved in a party line vote a 3.9 percent teacher pay-raise that would be distributed over the next two years.

Republicans in the House and Senate voted in the favor of the pay raise while Democrats voted against it, many arguing that the proposed raise is too little.

In the House, the bill passed on a 62-26 vote with Democrats on the losing end. The margin in the Senate was closer. Twenty-eight Republicans voted in favor of the bill and 21 Democrats against. [Read more…]

3. A reminder of what the GOP budget would mean for North Carolina

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger placed a motion to override Gov. Cooper’s June veto of the 2019-2021 state budget bill on the Senate calendar this week and though no vote was taken last night, Berger’s action appears to make it possible that a vote could take place at virtually any moment.

The issue is surrounded by a great deal of speculation and intrigue for a variety of reasons – not the least of which is that an override motion requires a 3/5 vote to pass in a body in which Republicans hold a 29-21 advantage.

Add to this that a small handful of Democrats voted for the measure the first time around, that some members have remained tight-lipped about their intentions, that Republican leaders have been wooing Democrats with all sorts of policy and pork promises, and that the House has already succeeded in overriding the veto through the use of a rather stunning and unprecedented bit of trickery, and it all shapes up as a moment of high political drama. [Read more…]

4. NC State scientist discusses Trump administration’s war on critical air pollution regs

For three years NC State University Distinguished Professor Chris Frey served on an EPA advisory panel that focused on air pollution, specifically minute-size particulate matter — PM 2.5 — that is no larger than a human hair.

PM 2.5 is emitted by power plants, construction sites, fires, industry and vehicles. It is especially harmful to human health because the particles burrow deep into the lungs. Exposure can cause or worsen asthma, heart problems, and breathing issues, and has been linked to premature death.

Members of Frey’s panel, which included 19 other scientists, such as UNC’s Barbara Turpin, were from varied backgrounds. They advised a much smaller EPA body, the Clean Air Science Advisory Committee on the standards for particulate matter. [Read more…]

5. North Carolina reacts to court decisions in favor of ‘fairer maps’

Voting rights advocates and lawmakers were hit with a double whammy Monday: remedial legislative maps drawn to correct extreme partisan gerrymandering were accepted by a state Superior Court three-judge panel for the 2020 elections, and the 2016 congressional map was struck down.

The two decisions were anxiously awaited by all ahead of looming election deadlines, and reactions to the news were mixed; advocates and progressive voters praised the court for tossing the congressional map, but they were hesitant to call the new legislative maps a win.

“Today’s decision by the court granting an injunction in Harper v. Lewis is a welcome victory for the people of North Carolina,” said Bob Phillips, Executive Director of Common Cause North Carolina. [Read more…]

6. Must read: Uninsured rate for kids headed in the wrong direction

On Wednesday, the Center for Children and Families and a Research released our ninth annual report that tracks children’s health insurance coverage at the state and national level. This report looks at two-year trends from 2016 to 2018 analyzing American Community Survey data from the Census Bureau. We believe this is the first national report to look at this two-year time period, a time during which our nation moved from implementation of the Affordable Care Act to a time when some of our leaders moved to repeal and dismantle it. This report looks at what has happened to kids during this two-year period. In a few instances we are not yet able to look at two-year trends and include only a one-year trend (2017 to 2018), as noted in the report. [Read more…]

7. Effectiveness of ‘Read to Achieve’ called into question after dip in reading scores

“Read to Achieve,” the state’s signature education reform program, was under attack Wednesday after the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) showed a dip in reading scores for North Carolina students.

The state has spent more than $150 million on the program since it was launched by the North Carolina’s Republican leadership in 2012 but has little to show for it.

The NAEP report shows reading scores in fourth-grade dropped between 2017 and 2019 and that the scores are lower than they were in 2011 before “Read to Achieve” was enacted. [Read more…]

8. Biden surges in N.C. cash race among 2020 Dems

WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden surged ahead in fundraising in North Carolina over the last three months, far outpacing the other Democrats who are vying for the presidential nomination.

Biden’s campaign made significant gains in fundraising from July through September in North Carolina. In that three-month span, the campaign raised $263,687 from North Carolina donors, twice what they had previously brought in from the state.

The surge brought Biden to the top of the pack of Democratic candidates for fundraising in the state, where he had lagged in third place when campaign totals were last released over the summer. [Read more…]

9. Weekly Radio Interviews and Micro-podcasts:

Click here to listen to this week’s newsmaker interviews and commentaries with Policy Watch’s Rob Schofield.

10. Weekly Editorial Cartoon:

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