Monday, June 4, 2018 -- A round up of opinion, commentary and analysis on: N.C. legislators jam budget into law, raising N.C. minimum wage likely limited to state government employees, judicial redistricting off the table this session, establishing teaching hospitals in rural areas, legalizing possession of marijuana for personal use and more.
GOP jams budget into law
(Wilmington Star-News) -- The Republican leadership in Raleigh spent last week jamming a budget bill through the legislature. The GOP bigwigs, with lockstep loyalty from their rank and file, crafted a budget largely behind closed doors. The minions and peasantry were only informed of the details on Monday. Worse, by an exercise in parliamentary legerdemain, the GOP floor leaders handled the budget as a “conference report,” rather than as an ordinary bill. This means that legislators couldn’t offer amendments to it. They could only vote up or down, yes or no. Because the GOP has, for years now, enjoyed a supermajority in the Legislative Building -- capable of overriding any of Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s feeble veto attempts -- they can do as they please. It’s very impressive. But it is not democracy.
(Greensboro News & Record) -- Creepy things come out at night. In N.C., the new bogeyman is the adjusted state budget for the next two years.
BILLY RICHARDSON: Backing our teachers who showed us the way
(Fayetteville Observer column) -- On May 16, I was privileged to witness our teachers who rarely organize or complain — some 25,000-plus — come to our General Assembly to voice their concerns over what they perceive is the legislature’s lack of commitment to public education. Their visit left me with a plethora of thought and emotion.
RICHARD CRAVER: Raising N.C. minimum wage likely limited to state government employees
(Winston-Salem Journal reports) -- The General Assembly’s GOP leadership has been boasting about its plan for a $15 an hour minimum wage for all full-time state government employees. But it does not affect state-funded local employees. And, don’t expect those same legislators to back raising the state minimum wage for private-sector workers beyond the federal minimum rate of $7.25 an hour. North Carolina is among 17 states at that level. Key Republican legislative leaders say the free-market system should continue to dictate wages for private-sector employers. They also point to the possibility of private-sector job loss as a consequence of increasing hourly pay.
ROSE HOBAN: N.C. Legislators Do the Budget Boogie
(N.C. Health News reports) -- Instead of using all of the new $74 million in federal money to enhance child care services, N.C. budget writers engaged in a form of grant laundering, where they abided by the letter of federal rules about how to use the money while violating the spirit. It started when lawmakers took $50 million in state money out of NC Pre-K and returned it to the state’s General Fund, reducing the state funds allocated for NC Pre-K from $72 million to $22 million.
MELISSA BOUGTON: Lewis says statewide judicial redistricting off the table this session
(N.C. Policy Watch reports) -- Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett) said Friday that he does not expect the legislature to move forward with plans for statewide judicial redistricting — nor does he expect a constitutional amendment for a merit selection plan. He spoke to reporters after the House Select Committee on Elections passed redistricting measures affecting several counties including Mecklenburg, Wake, Onslow, Hoke and Stanly counties.
N.C. Rep. Boswell must turn over emails without redactions
(Elizabeth City Daily Advance) -- She may not know it yet, but state Rep. Beverly Boswell, R-Dare, is making a good case for why N.C. laws that ensure the public's access to official records are so important and why they must continue to be valued and strengthened. Currently, the House District 6 representative seems resigned to her grudging assault on transparency by resisting to hand over the complete correspondence she's conducted on her official legislative email account. That correspondence is the subject of a lawsuit filed in January by Kitty Hawk resident Craig Merrill and the American Civil Liberties Union, who want Boswell to turn over the complete emails.
TAYLOR KNOPF: Rural Broadband Highlighted in the State Budget
(N.C. Health News reports) -- The rural economy, education and health care systems all struggle economically. Advocates say broadband expansion could help people in all sectors, and lawmakers have decided to make an investment in making that happen.
ALBERT THOMAS: How should state fill judicial vacancies?
(Wilson Times column) -- As for the perfect system to select state judges, there never will be one. Some, though, are better than others. The job is too outsized, the need for nonpartisanship too overwhelming. The fact the Republicans want to analyze and discuss the issue is not without merit. Thankfully, the federal system of lifetime appointment is not something being thrown in the mix. Thankfully, except for North Carolina, no state seems very interested in moving from one type of selection to a type controlled by the legislature, which could well result in members of its “club” becoming the judges. And, thankfully, North Carolina’s citizens are insightful enough to understand the good that would be lost by approving a constitutional amendment giving the legislature full operating control.
NC lawmaker labeled 'bigot' in search results gets Google apology (AP reports) -- Google has apologized to Republican state Sen. Trudy Wade of Guilford County after a search for her picture turned up an old photo with the word "bigot" superimposed over the image.
PAUL WOOLVERTON: GOP wants ‘No’ vote on state budget to haunt Dems in tough legislative races
(Fayetteville Observer reports) -- The Republicans promise to bash Democrats on premise they voted against education and other popular spending items. When the state legislature passed North Carolina’s $23.9 billion 2018-19 budget, all of the Fayetteville-Fort Bragg region’s Democratic lawmakers voted against it, while all the Republicans voted for it. Look for their votes to show up in campaign advertising as the 2018 general election cycle revs up. “The North Carolina Republican Party is launching a digital ‘Budget Accountability’ campaign against swing-seat Democrats who voted against the new state budget, which includes large public employee and teacher pay raises, school safety initiatives, and disaster relief,” says a news release from the state Republican Party.
POLICY & POLITICS
Separating undocumented families not who we are
(Fayetteville Observer) -- In the land that believes all men and women are created equal, where we recently honored the people who died protecting freedom, where we cast off the chains of chattel slavery and segregation and became a more perfect union, a lawman at the border separates a scared mother from her young children. She does not know where they will go, nor where she will go. This is the United States of America in 2018.
KRISTINA PETERSON: In Race to Succeed Paul Ryan, More Names Pop Up
(Wall Street Journal analysis) -- Most of those being discussed as potential GOP leadership candidates already flex some power, including Rep. Mark Walker of North Carolina, chairman of the Republican Study Committee, a group of almost 160 House lawmakers; Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden of Oregon; Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul of Texas; and Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, according to House GOP aides and other Republicans.
BRYAN MIMS: Picnic, protest draw awareness, seek end to gun violence
(WRAL-TV reports) --People in the Triangle and across the country rallied against gun violence, marking lives lost and celebrating life. At a Durham park, families gathered for a picnic, fun and games wearing orange, the color hunters wear for protection in the woods. "We just want everyone to be aware that there are things that we can do to change this. We can change laws. We can change minds. There really are tangible things that can be done to end gun violence," said Jessica Hulick, N.C. chapter leader of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
CELIA RIVENBARK: Corporate ‘apology tour’ entertaining
(Wilmington Star-News column) -- I’m digging the “apology tour” by the likes of Wells Fargo, Uber, Starbucks and Facebook these days. Someone’s been very naughty and, in a refreshing change of pace, they’re owning it. You can’t hardly turn on the TV or open a newspaper without seeing them admit to copious amounts of wrongdoing and screwing over of the public.
ROBERT GEBELOFF: Numbers That Explain Why Teachers Are in Revolt
(New York Times reports) -- American teachers are angry. They have taken to the streets in N.C., West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Arizona and Colorado. Dissent is building in Louisiana and Nevada, too.The underlying conflict between public school employees and policymakers has roots in decisions made during the last recession, when states and local districts short of cash curtailed education spending for the first time in decades. This had a pronounced effect on school staffing, with layoffs hitting many states. Districts cut support staff as well as regular classroom teachers. In N.C., the number of teachers is down 5 percent since peaking in 2009, while the number of teaching assistants is 28 percent lower. And teacher pay stagnated nonetheless.
DANA MATTIOLI: Education Realty Trust is in Talks With Possible Private-Equity Buyers
(Wall Street Journal reports) -- Student-housing owner Education Realty Trust Inc. is exploring a potential sale, according to people familiar with the matter. The Memphis, Tenn., company is one of the largest developers, owners and managers of collegiate housing in the U.S., according to its website. It has partnerships with 50 universities in 25 states and provides housing at such schools as UNC-Chapel Hill, and the University of California, Berkeley. In addition to on-campus dormitories, Education Realty provides housing in the areas surrounding major campuses.
MOLLY WORTHEN: Sex and Gender on the Christian Campus
(New York Tims analysis) -- Recent events at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago show that religious freedom does more than protect the dissenting views of minority groups — it encourages members of those groups to fight vigorously among themselves. In January, a former Moody communications instructor named Janay Garrick filed a suit in Federal District Court. She accused Moody of “discrimination and retaliation,” charging that the school fired her for such insubordinate acts as helping female students file Title IX complaints about the pastoral ministry program, which was then restricted to men and still excludes women from some parts of the major. She also counseled lesbian and transgender students and collected the testimonies of female students who reported sexual assaults and harassment, according to court documents. (Moody declined to comment.)
ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT
EVA ELLENBURG: Rains hurt Southeastern N.C. blueberry crop
(Wilmington Star-News reports) -- The heavy rains this past May did more than just create dreary days — they hurt the blueberry crops too. Mark Seitz, the Pender County extension director and field crops/commercial horticulture agent, said the heavy rain has caused many ripe blueberries to fill up with excess water and split open. “It’s like overfilling a balloon with air,” Seitz said. “At some point the balloon will pop if too much air is blown into it.” Split blueberries can’t be harvested, but that’s not the only issue caused by the rain, said Seitz. The fields get too wet to drive equipment without tearing up the land, and farmers cannot package wet blueberries since they will grow moldy in the clamshells.
Don’t take the Outer Banks for granted
(Winston-Salem Journal) -- As summer vacation season gears up, it’s a great opportunity to enjoy N.C.’s Outer Banks. But we should not take these natural treasures for granted. Nor should we deny the truth about what is putting them in jeopardy.
TIM WHITE: The tarnished joy of messing about in boats
(Fayetteville Observer column) -- There’s a wonderful line in Kenneth Grahame’s “The Wind in the Willows” that’s been lodged in my brain for at least 35 years now. It dates from the first time I read the children’s classic to my son, when he was maybe 3 or 4 years old. It comes back to me every time I hang around water — which is often.
… AND MORE
Z. Bryan Haislip Sr.
(Obit) -- Mr. Zesely Bryan Haislip Sr., 91, of Tarboro, died May 25, 2018, after a short illness. He worked as a reporter with the Raleigh News & Observer and the Associated Press; in public relations with John Harden Associates in Greensboro; as a columnist for the N.C. Association of Afternoon Dailies; on the editorial staff of the Fayetteville Observer and the Winston-Salem Journal; and as the editor of the editorial page of the Winston-Salem Sentinel.
James Russell Sugg
(Obit) -- On May 26th, N.C. lost a native son, James Russell Sugg. His early farm life and hard working Craven County upbringing were a significant part of the person he would become: A lawyer with a deep sense of justice, serving as county attorney for Craven County for nearly four decades. He served his state as a legislator in the N.C. General Assembly in the late 1960s, and from 1972 to 1976, he served as Chairman of the N.C. Democratic Party. An early founder and president of the N.C. Association of County Attorneys, Jim retired from practicing law after 50 years in 2009.