Commentary, News

The week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

1. Teachers demand policy changes, cheer Cooper at unprecedented education rally

“Here for our kids” is the common refrain as 20,000+ marchers overrun downtown Raleigh

On Tuesday, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger—one of the state’s most powerful Republican politicians—told North Carolina’s teachers they’d soon be receiving their fifth consecutive round of raises.

Emily Rex heard Berger’s promise. But the fifth-year, special education teacher—who lives in Berger’s state Senate district in Guilford County—points out she’s received raises in four of the last five years, not that she could much tell after soaring health premiums took their toll.

Rex said she completed her taxes in April. And over the last five years, her take-home earnings have inched up by about $1,000. “Any increase that we’ve had has been consumed by higher payroll deductions,” she said. [Read more…]

***Bonus: Memorable moments from NC’s #RallyforRespect (audio postcard)

2. Process schmocess: Berger, Moore say 2019 budget changes have already been negotiated | Read more

3. Residents voice passionate opposition to proposed methyl bromide operation; regulators remain tight-lipped | Read more

***Bonus reads:

4. Stealth session? G.A. returns, but the agenda (including plans for judicial redistricting) remains under wraps | Read more

5. Speakers at Durham conference: Criminalization of poverty is big and growing problem in NC | Read more

News

Controversial Farm Bill falls in the U.S. House, divides NC Congressional delegation

Members of the U.S. House on Friday rejected (198-213) the $867 Billion farm bill with members of the Freedom caucus helping Democrats get the votes needed to defeat the bill.

All House Democrats voted against the massive piece of legislation amid concerns it would seriously undercut the Supplemental Nutrition Program, also known as SNAP.

As the Budget & Tax Center’s Brian Kennedy reported on the Progressive Pulse earlier this week, passage of the farm bill would have taken food away from at least 133,000 North Carolinians.  Kennedy also noted that North Carolina is ranked the 10th hungriest state in the nation.

Democrats who spent the week working to defeat the measure ironically were aided by members of the conservative Freedom Caucus, who balked after failing to get deeper spending cuts and concessions on immigration legislation.

As USA Today explained:

Friday’s vote was an embarrassing defeat for [Speaker] Ryan, R-Wis., who had championed the farm bill as a major step toward welfare reform but saw the measure squelched by members of his own Republican conference. Thirty Republicans voted against House leadership bill.

Ryan and other GOP leaders will now have to grapple with the volatile issue of immigration to satisfy arch-conservatives who want the House to vote on a hardline measure that would slash legal immigration and authorize construction of President Trump’s border wall.

Members of the House Freedom Caucus demanded a vote on the immigration proposal before the House voted on the farm bill. Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., said Republican leaders had failed to make good on promises to deal with the immigration issue, and their only point of leverage to get a solution was to hold up the farm bill.

Here’s how the full North Carolina delegation voted:

Nay
Rep. G.K. Butterfield – 1st District
Rep. Walter Jones – 3rd District
Rep. David Price – 4th District
Rep. Mark Meadows – 11th District
Rep. Alma Adams – 12th district
Rep. Ted Budd – 13th District

Yea
Rep. George Holding – 2nd District
Rep. Virginia Foxx – 5th District
Rep. Mark Walker – 6th District
Rep. David Rouzer – 7th District
Rep. Richard Hudson – 8th District
Rep. Robert Pittenger – 9th District
Rep. Patrick McHenry – 10th District

News

Republican legislator blasts “union thugs,” blames teachers for inconveniencing parents with May 16th Rally for Respect

State Representative Mark Brody is not mincing his words when discussing teachers taking part in the upcoming May 16th Rally for Respect at the General Assembly.

In a Friday Facebook post, the three-term House member wrote:

Let’s call this what it is, Teacher Union thugs want to control the education process! I am speaking up because I don’t want Union County schools, and for that matter all NC school systems, to turn into Chicago. Let the Union thugs get their way now and we are half way there.

I will end this by saying I strongly support those teachers who do the right thing, in the right way and at the right time. Your biggest legislative support comes from the Republican State legislature. Your greatest enemy for the causes you strive for is the Teacher Union, your incompetent and/or spineless local administrations and, the biggest problem of them all, the NC Department of Public Instruction.

Brody said teachers coming to Raleigh on Wednesday were choosing to ‘inconvenience’ parents, who will need to make other arrangements for their children that day.

More than 650 people had reacted to the post by Saturday morning, including Facebook user Chuck Rananto who responded:

Mr Brody. From what you typed I can tell that you have never had to fight for what is right and just in society. Your only saying this because they are protesting you and what you represent as a leader in our state. Please get out of the chamber and visit every school (and i mean EVERY SCHOOL) in your district unannounced and sit in several classrooms and see what teachers do with students. You may be surprised with what their needs are and the responsibility they carry. Unless you have walked in their shoes, you cannot speak about them the way you do.

Read Rep. Brody’s full post below:

News

BTC: NC Policy makers have the tools to address concentrated poverty (w/ video)

If you missed it over the weekend, NC Policy Watch Executive Director Rob Schofield had an excellent interview with Brian Kennedy of the Budget & Tax Center on the growth in communities of concentrated poverty in North Carolina.

Concentrated poverty, or an “extreme poverty neighborhood,” is defined as a Census tract where the poverty rate is 40 percent or higher.

Here’s what Kennedy uncovered in his latest report:

Although the total number of North Carolinians living in concentrated poverty neighborhoods has skyrocketed, certain groups have been disproportionally affected by this trend of growing poverty and economic segregation. From 2012 to 2016, African American North Carolinians were 71 percent more likely than Latinx North Carolinians to live in concentrated-poverty neighborhoods and 434 percent more likely than white North Carolinians. Even when income is not a factor, Black and brown North Carolinians are more likely to live in neighborhoods with concentrated  poverty. Between 2012 and 2016, 5.8 percent of poor white North Carolinians lived in concentrated poverty neighborhoods compared to 16.6 and 8.9 percent of poor African Americans and Latinx, respectively.

As for what legislators can do to reverse this trend, listen to Kennedy in the video clip below:

Our full radio podcast with Brian Kennedy can be found here.