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.
Lumbee tribe recognition: The Lumbee Tribe’s fight for federal recognition has two new major allies: President Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. Federal recognition would give Lumbee Tribe members access to services and benefits available to other federally recognized tribes. Federal acknowledgement could allow the tribe to scout out sites for gambling operations, as well. Trump will campaign in Lumberton on Saturday, Oct. 24, touting his support for tribal recognition. Biden’s campaign announced Oct. 8 its support for the tribe’s recognition. The tribe has sought federal recognition for 135 years. Legislation to give the tribe federal recognition stalled in 2019, but support from the two presidential candidates breathes new life into the effort.” It’s not 100% it’s going to happen — a lot of things can happen between now and the end of the year — but it’s just another big step,” Harvey Godwin, the tribe’s elected chairman, told the Associated Press.
Lights out: The annual N.C. Chinese Lantern Festival won’t light up this year. Festival organizers canceled the holiday event, citing concerns over COVID-19. Each year since 2015, LED-lit lantern displays fill the Koka Booth Amphitheatre in Cary. “As much as we hate to do it, considering the current restrictions, we knew there was no way we could welcome the overwhelming crowds that attend each year,” Taylor Traversari, Koka Booth Amphitheater general manager, says in a news release. In 2019, more than 121,000 people attended the festival. Instead of the full festival, several lantern displays will be featured in downtown Cary this holiday season.
Tax Foundation ranking: North Carolina ranked in the top 10 for best tax code in the nation. The Tax Foundation’s State Business Tax Climate 2021 Index compares how well each state’s tax code is structured. North Carolina ranked 10th overall, significantly better than neighboring states such as South Carolina, which ranked 33rd. States that score poorly on the index have complicated tax codes with high rates. The Tax Foundation scored states based on corporate, individual income, sales, property, and unemployment insurance tax. North Carolina ranked fourth for its corporate tax code, but 26th for its property tax code.
Election confidence: More than 60% of North Carolinians are worried about mail-in voting fraud, a new poll from Spectrum News/Ipsos found. Of the 1,401 adults surveyed, only 31% aren’t worried about voting fraud through mail-in-ballots. Fears about mail-in voting fraud is split along partisan lines. More than 80% of Republicans said they were concerned, compared to 52% of Democrats. Regardless of who wins the presidential election, 63% of poll respondents said they will trust the outcome. But nearly a quarter of respondents said they weren’t likely to trust the presidential election results. The poll surveyed N.C. residents Oct. 7-15. The margin of error is plus or minus 3%.
Virtual open house: College tours are going virtual. The University of North Carolina System is hosting a Virtual Open House allowing students from all 100 counties to check out the state’s universities from the comfort of their homes. The open house will feature eight virtual sessions showcasing the system’s 16 institutions. This is a game changer, said Bethany Meighen, the UNC System vice president for student affairs, in a news release. “The programming will enhance college access by making the open house experience safe and affordable for everyone, no matter where they live,” Meighen said. The virtual open house will run from Oct. 26 to Oct. 30. Anyone interested in attending must register here.
UNC budget: Challenges are ahead, UNC System President Peter Hans said Thursday, Oct. 22, discussing UNC’s money matters at a meeting of the UNC Board of Governors. Recurring revenue is limited for the 2021-23 budget, early predictions show. To prepare for cuts, the UNC System is focusing on four areas. The university must build reserves and fund enrollment growth, members of the BOG decided, since the system added a record number of students this fall. The board is requesting money to continue supporting NC Promise, a cut-rate tuition program at three institutions. The board will also seek money for faculty and staff salaries. It’s important to retain top talent, Hans said. UNC isn’t asking to fund any new projects and won’t consider new operating budget requests from its campuses. It’s too soon to say whether UNC will cut salaries or enact layoffs, Hans said. “There are no easy options right now for any of us.”