News: Quick Takes

CJ politics week in review, Jan. 6-10

Each week, staff at Carolina Journal looks back at the week in N.C. politics and chooses several interesting, relevant stories you may have missed. Here’s a week in review:

McKissick resigns: Sen. Floyd McKissick Jr., D-Durham, has officially resigned from the N.C. General Assembly. McKissick was appointed to the N.C. Utilities Commission in October but didn’t leave immediately. The Democratic Party in McKissick’s district plans to vote Sunday, Jan. 12, on a replacement, the News & Observer reported. Gov. Roy Cooper will have to sign off on the choice. McKissick’s resignation comes days before the General Assembly returns to session, where the Senate may take up Cooper’s budget veto. If all Senate Republicans are present, then just one Democratic senator is needed to vote with them for an override. The House overrode Cooper’s veto last year.

Emergency purchase: The State Board of Education distanced itself from State Superintendent Mark Johnson’s decision for an emergency purchase of Istation. Late Jan. 7, Johnson spent more than $928,000 to buy Istation’s services. The new contract will last until March 31. The state was left without a reading assessment tool after a Superior Court judge refused to lift a stay in a contract dispute with Istation’s competitor, Amplify. During the Jan. 8 education board meeting, members asked why they didn’t see the contract before Johnson signed it. Johnson said it was in his authority to sign off on the purchase without input from the board. “Thank you for that discussion that clarifies that the State Board didn’t have a role in this emergency procurement,” Eric Davis, chairman of the board, told Johnson during the meeting. 

Gear up grant: The U.S. Department of Education has awarded the University of North Carolina system with a seven-year, $25.7 million grant to increase the number of low-income students prepared to begin a post-secondary education career. This is the fourth time since 2000 the U.S. Department of Education has awarded UNC the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, or GEAR UP grant. “This grant combines innovative thinking, rigorous evaluation, and the support of key partners to increase academic achievement across North Carolina,” Dr. Shun Robertson, senior associate vice president for P20 Policy and Programs for the UNC System, said in a news release. 

Silent Sam lawsuit: A news organization is taking the University of North Carolina Board of Governors to court over the recent Silent Sam settlement. DTH Media Corp., publisher of the Daily Tar Heel student newspaper at UNC-Chapel Hill, said the board violated the state’s Open Meetings Law when it negotiated and approved, out of public view, a deal with the state chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. The deal sees SCV take ownership of the Confederate statue while UNC-CH places $2.5 million into a trust to help pay for the group to house it. In another arrangement, UNC-CH pays SCV $75,000 to not display Confederate flags on campus during any meetings or demonstrations for five years. DTH Media Corp. wants the deals voided because they were devised in secret. 

Steyer event: Democratic presidential hopeful Tom Steyer is coming to Raleigh. The billionaire Democratic activist is holding a meet-and-greet Saturday, Jan. 11, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Raleigh. Steyer is the latest Democratic presidential candidate to visit North Carolina. Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, and Michael Bloomberg have all visited the Tar Heel State. 

Early childhood grants: North Carolina will get more money to help promote children’s health and well-being, as well as to improve access to high-quality early childhood learning opportunities. Gov. Roy Cooper announced Thursday, Jan. 9, the state will get $56 million over the next seven years in the form of two federal grants to N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. “These two grants are a down-payment on our state’s Early Childhood Action Plan, and also give us opportunities to innovate for the health and well-being of older children,” Mandy Cohen, state DHHS secretary, said in a news release.