senate

"You've held up very well" Sen. Tillman uses Question Time to Remark on Appearance of Woman Presenter in Education Committee Meeting

A brief yet fraught moment during the Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee joined the ongoing drumbeat of instances of sexual harassment in the workplace.  

The committee meeting began with a presentation from “Schools that Lead,” a professional development opportunity for teachers. Three women presenters from the program offered their thoughts on student-centered approaches, data, and solving problems in the classroom. They then fielded an increasingly long list of questions and comments from legislators.

Yet despite the time constraints, one male legislator could not help but widen the scope of his question (more like an unsolicited comment) beyond programmatic details. Senator Tillman (R- Moore, Randolph) instead opted to use his question time to comment on the presenters’ appearance.

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These 39 Republicans said they thought judges should be elected, rulings against their unconstitutional laws might have changed that

In 2012 Civitas asked candidates for office in NC if judges should continue to be elected by the voters. (2012 was the last time Civitas posted a survey.)

The answer from those that filled it out was a resounding yes.

27 current Republican members of the House said they agreed with the statement “Judges should continue to be elected by the voters.”

This included members such as Chris Malone, Debra Conrad, Ted Davis, and Jonathan Jordan.

Despite the widespread support for Judicial elections amongst the Republican caucus, rumors and even threats swirl that the Republican majorities in the legislature are considering moving to a legislative appointment process in the wake of several legal losses.

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After Republican leaders refuse to allow retired judge to speak on judicial redistricting, Democrats walk out in protest.

Yesterday’s Senate Judiciary Committee meeting was not without drama.

After “technical difficulties” that delayed the meeting and eventually forced everyone to move to a new location, Sen. Bishop opened the meeting by stating that the Governor’s representative, retired Judge Don Stephens, would not be allowed to speak on proposed judicial redistricting.

Sen. Bishop (R-Mecklenburg) ruled that Don Stephens, a recently retired judge, was not an appropriate representative for Gov. Cooper because he was not employed by the Governor’s Office.

Sen. Chaudhuri (D-Wake) objected to this, saying that he was interested in hearing from Judge Stephens and that not doing so was a missed opportunity.

Sen. McKissick (D-Durham) had to ask multiple times for an opportunity to speak before Sen. Bishop would allow it. McKissick asked for a point of order to allow the members of the committee to vote on whether they would allow Stephens to speak, Bishop refused.

The three Democratic Senators present, Chaudhuri, Ford, and McKissick, walked out in protest of the obvious attempt to disallow input from a judge on the Republican judicial redistricting plans.

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ICYMI: Senate Select Committee on Judicial Redistricting

The Senate Select Committee on Judicial Redistricting had its first meeting on November 8 – where they were given presentations by HB 717 sponsor Representative Justin Burr, Brad Fowler of the Administrative Office of the Courts, and Judges Joe Buckner, Brad Letts, Joe Crosswhite, Michael Crowell, and Gerry Cohen.

Republican Senator Dan Bishop asked Burr outright if his new maps were part of “some evil partisan plot” or an intentional “racial gerrymander” after extending his sympathies to Burr in hopes that his feelings have not been hurt by the negativity surrounding HB 717.

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VIDEO: Redistricting Public Hearings

Hear what North Carolinians had to say on new maps proposed by House and Senate Republicans.

In Halifax County the public hearing took place in one of the districts ruled an unconstitutional racial gerrymander. 

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Video: First Redistricting Committee Meeting

The joint legislative redistricting committee met for the first time on Wednesday in Raleigh. 

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Unconstitutional GOP majority proposes budget—our first take

This unconstitutionally elected Republican majority continues to legislate, not on behalf of the people of North Carolina, but on behalf of their billionaire backers. Instead of protecting the middle class and building world-class public schools, this budget gives tax breaks to billionaires. Under this budget, North Carolina will keep falling behind when it doesn’t have to.

  • The Republican budget fails our schools, middle class families, and the future of our economy at a time when we do not have to.
  • Cooper found a way to raise teacher pay more than 5% next year. Republicans only offer 3.3%. Instead of investing in classrooms, Republicans are giving millions in tax breaks to billionaires.
  • Cooper offered free community college for high school graduates, money to help teachers pay for out-of-pocket expenses, and eliminated the waitlist for pre-K. Republicans did none of those things.
  • Under this budget, we are still spending less that we did before the recession per student, teachers are still underpaid, and we have seven thousand fewer teaching assistants than we did in 2008.
  • Instead of prioritizing education, Republicans are undercutting our kids and it’s our economy that will suffer as North Carolina falls farther and farther behind other states and competitors like China and India. 

In addition to education, the GOP budget fails to provide for critical areas of need for rural North Carolina - including broadband and economic development..

  • Governor Cooper's budget invests $20 million to expand access to broadband and improve the economy of rural North Carolina, while the Republican budget would spend $250,000 on state IT bureaucrats.
  • Cooper proposed $30 million for a ready-sites program to attract new jobs to rural areas. The Republican budget leaves rural areas behind, choosing to spend only $2 million on ready-sites.

The GOP budget also wastes money on projects of the extreme right:

  • The Republican budget spends $1.3 million on an anti-abortion advocacy group that masquerades as a provider of health services to women, pushing dangerous and misleading propaganda on vulnerable women.
  • The GOP spends $40 million on private school vouchers which send tax dollars to unaccountable private and religious schools.

 

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Which Republicans will be most endangered without a gerrymander?

Real Facts NC today released a report that ranks the 20 Republican state lawmakers most likely to face more competitive districts when maps are redrawn. Last week, the US Supreme Court affirmed that North Carolina’s current maps are unconstitutional racial gerrymanders, but GOP leaders are dragging their feet. Meanwhile, rank and file legislators are predictably anxious about their new districts.

“I’m sure GOP leaders have new maps drawn already, but they’re not letting anyone see them,” said Daniel Gilligan, Executive Director of Real Facts NC. “So we’re going to try and pull back the curtain a bit to give everyone a peek at what the political landscape might look like in the next election.”

“Without unconstitutional racial gerrymanders, GOP leaders will be hamstrung in their ability to draw maps that will preserve their legislative super-majorities. Some safely-held GOP districts will have to be more competitive and some rank-and-file members will be facing their first competitive election in years,” said Gilligan.

Here are the Top 20:

1. Bob Steinburg
2. Larry Yarborough
3. John Bell
4. Susan Martin
5. (Tie) Reps. Jon Hardister, John Faircloth and John Blust
8. Trudy Wade
9. John Szoka
10. Jeff Collins
11. Greg Murphy
12. Jimmy Dixon
13. Chad Barefoot
14. Wesley Meredith
15. (Tie) Reps. Andy Dulin and Scott Stone
17. (Tie) Sens. Dan Bishop and Jeff Tarte
19. Brenden Jones
20. Rick Horner

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While Republicans haggle over minor budget differences, neither offers “real competition” to the Cooper plan

Though there are several key sticking points between House and Senate versions of the budget that need to be negotiated, neither version holds a candle to the Cooper plan. As the Raleigh News & Observer said, Cooper’s budget offers a “better vision” for North Carolina.

Benefits for state retirees

The Senate budget provides no cost-of-living adjustment for retired state employees, and the House version includes only a one-time bonus of 1.6 percent.  When House Democrats tried to increase the cost-of-living adjustment for state retirees with an annual adjustment of 2 percent, Speaker Moore successfully tabled the amendment. With the House “adamant” to include the retiree bonus in the final budget, cost of living adjustments might become a sticking point between chambers.

Wind farm moratorium

The wind farm moratorium could be a deal breaker as the House might not have enough votes to override a Cooper veto if the final budget contains a moratorium. The Senate’s version of the budget includes a three-year moratorium on wind farms. Several key members of the House, including Rep. Bob Steinburg, said they could not support a budget with a wind energy moratorium. 

School construction grants

The chambers do not agree on the greatest needs in education funding. The Senate’s budget included a $75 million fund that would help pay for school repair and construction in poor counties. The House directs more money toward financial aid for college students and K-12 buses instead.

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Video: Despite his own bill, Sen. Wesley Meredith votes against rural broadband

In February Senator Wesley Meredith introduced S65, the BRIGHT Futures Act which encourages the establishment of a digital infrastructure, “necessary for economic innovation,” including broadband, in rural areas.

Meredith joined Cumberland Rep. John Szoka and Lt. Gov. Dan Forest for a press conference on February 9, in which Meredith expressed excitement about the bill saying it was something he had been working on for six years. 

“We have a lot of people who do not have access to broadband,” Meredith said, “we need to have that.”

S65 puts the Rural Economic Development Division in charge of giving grants to the Rural Infrastructure Authority to build digital infrastructure to support broadband. But while S65 is stuck in Senate Rules, Meredith had a chance to vote for the exact broadband investments he says he wants.

Instead, Meredith voted against a budget amendment that would have resurrected his six-year endeavor to connect rural North Carolina during the late-night Senate budget debate on May 12.

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