Each week, staff at Carolina Journal looks back at the week in N.C. politics and chooses what we think are some interesting, relevant stories you may have missed. Here’s a week in review:
Cooper veto: Gov. Roy Cooper issued his 10th veto of the year Wednesday, Nov. 6. The governor struck down Senate Bill 250, Remove Foreign Citizens from Voter Rolls. S.B. 250 sets up a system of removing people from voter rolls if they’re ineligible for jury duty. The bill codifies the case law requirement that jurors must be U.S. citizens. In his veto message, Cooper said laws exist to prevent non-citizens from voting and “legitimate mechanisms” of removing them from voter rolls. “This legislation creates a high risk of voter harassment and intimidation and could discourage citizens from voting,” the governor warned. One of the primary sponsors of the bill, Rep. George Cleveland, R-Onslow, said Cooper should point out what the “legitimate mechanisms” are, because the State Board of Elections has said it doesn’t have a process or comprehensive database to do so.
UNC report: A report from an outside investigation says University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill police did not give favorable treatment to neo-Confederate groups, the News & Observer reported. But the report says UNC-CH police did make a mistake when they failed to arrest a member of a “Confederate heritage” group who went on campus grounds while carrying a firearm. The report determined the inaction was the result of a breakdown in proper procedures and not an act of favoritism toward the neo-Confederate group. Twenty four recommendations for how to improve policing accompanied the report. Chris Swecker, former assistant director of the FBI, conducted the investigation on behalf of UNC-CH interim chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz.
Economic freedom ranking: North Carolina ranks 14th in the Fraser Institute Economic Freedom Ranking. The Fraser Institute, an independent, nonpartisan Canadian public policy think tank, measured government spending, taxation, and labor market restrictions to score each state. North Carolina scored 6.83 out of 10 in this year’s report. The Tar Heel State was ninth in labor market freedom, 18th in taxes, and 23rd in government spending. Although North Carolina’s overall score increased from last year’s 6.74, the state dropped from 13th to 14th. The most economically free state was New Hampshire, with a 7.93. The least free was New York, scoring 4.49.
Dan Forest education plan: Lt. Gov. Dan Forest announced a plan Thursday, Nov. 7, for how he would improve education if he became governor in 2020. His plan includes expanding the Opportunity Scholarships to every N.C. family and ensuring funding follows the student — whether they go to a traditional public school or a charter school. The education plan promises every school will have a principal with hiring and firing authority, armed security guards, a computer science teacher, and a trade professional. Additionally, the plan aims to boost ACT scores, to apply mandated background checks for teachers, and to create a career high school diploma for students looking for alternatives to attending a university.
Judge recusal: Republican legislative defendants in a partisan gerrymandering case are calling for N.C. Supreme Court Justice Anita Earls to recuse herself from the appeal review, The N.C. Insider reported. The defendants filed a motion contending Earls would be biased in her review because she previously worked for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, which was involved in redistricting litigation. “One of the lead plaintiffs here, Common Cause, is a former co-litigant alongside a client of Justice Earls. Another, the N.C. Democratic Party, is her principal campaign donor,” the motion claims. The case looks to determine whether legislative maps were subject to partisan gerrymandering.
Budget battle: Senate Republicans offered Senate Democrats higher teacher raises in exchange for overriding the veto, but Democratic lawmakers aren’t biting. The offer includes a 4.9% raise over two years for all teachers and a $1,000 bonus, as well as some other proposals, including where to move Department of Health and Human Services headquarters. Senate Democrat leaders rejected the offer. “The math is simple: We can do more for our schools if Republicans give up on corporate tax cuts and pork projects in their budget,” Senate minority leader Dan Blue, D-Wake, said in a news release. “That being said, Democratic leaders will not negotiate with Republicans on the premise of political threats.” Senate Republican leaders accused Senate Democrats of sticking with Gov. Roy Cooper’s Medicaid expansion ultimatum instead of raising teacher pay.
ISD schools: A list of 69 low-performing schools was released during a meeting of the State Board of Education on Thursday, Nov 7. The list is the first step toward transferring another school to the Innovative School District. If a low-performing school remains on the list for four years in a row without any improvements, it will likely be picked to join the school turnaround program. So far, the ISD only has one school under its wing, Southside Ashpole Elementary in Robeson County. Lawmakers adjusted the selection process this year after attempts to add Carver Heights Elementary to the ISD in 2018 resulted in significant local pushback.