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 this week’s review:
Hello, Jacksonville: The Republican National Convention is heading to the Sunshine State. While a few hundred RNC officials will conduct business in Charlotte to satisfy the contract with the city, President Trump’s acceptance speech probably will occur in Jacksonville, Florida. The move comes after Gov. Roy Cooper failed to give the RNC guarantees that a late August convention could have full attendance. Cooper’s administration wanted the RNC to provide plans for holding the convention safely with COVID-19 in mind, but the two sides failed to agree. The Charlotte 2020 host committee isn’t thrilled. “Our good faith efforts to carry out our obligations under agreements made two years ago have been met with broken promises and disregard of the significant commitment from many partners across our region,” the host committee said in a statement. “We need to stop pretending there’s any part of the convention that will remain in Charlotte.”
Ballot bumble: Thousands of North Carolinians received a surprise in the mail after a voter advocacy group mailed 80,000 absentee ballot request forms with voter information at least partly filled out. The left-leaning Center for Voter Information in Washington, D.C., planned to send 400,000 partly completed absentee ballot forms, but will send only blank forms after the state elections board informed CVI of the problem. Anyone who received a filled out form should throw it out, a news release from the N.C. State Board of Elections said. “We will do our best to review mailings and other voting information distributed by third parties when requested and when resources allow for it,” said Karen Brinson Bell, the elections board’s executive director. “However, it’s ultimately up to advocacy groups to ensure their mailings do not confuse voters or potentially affect their ability to vote in an election.” A law enacted last year to prevent ballot harvesting outlawed third parties from sending ballot request forms if any voter information was included.
Teacher bonuses: Senate Republicans want to give teachers a $350 bonus and experience-based “step” raises. The N.C. Association of Educators called the offer disrespectful. “All other state employees are still scheduled to get their 2.5% raise, on top of the 2.5% they received last year, when again, we received nothing,” said Mark Jewell, NCAE president, in a news release. Gov. Roy Cooper, Democratic lawmakers, and the NCAE rejected the pay raises Republican lawmakers offered in the vetoed budget, said Sen. Harry Brown, R-Onslow, in a news release. State employees got raises when the state had a surplus, Brown said, but now the state faces a $5 billion deficit.
Nursing homes: Nursing homes are one of the largest drivers of the COVID-19 outbreak in North Carolina. About 60% of those who have died from COVID-19 came from a nursing home. Of the 1,064 dead, 559 lived in a nursing home and 83 in a residential care center. Dr. Mandy Cohen, state’s health secretary, announced on June 11 that the state will proactively test every nursing home in the state for COVID-19. State-run nursing homes residents and staff already have been tested, Cohen told WRAL. It’s time to test private centers, she said.
Outdoor seating: Starting June 12, the City of Raleigh will allow restaurants to expand seating to public property outside. Restaurants will have to get a temporary license from the city to use sidewalks, parking spaces, or the street for additional seating. “It’s really just an opportunity to help support our local businesses and get customers back in,” Whitney Schoenfeld, the city’s planning supervisor, told WRAL. “It will help them social distance and help with economic recovery.” For months restaurants were limited to take out or delivery only while the state grappled with COVID-19. Under Phase Two of reopening, restaurants can allow some dining service but with limited capacity.