NCGA

Privatization of public school facilities under "leasing" contracts

Janet Cowell cuts loose on General Assembly plotters:

Most consequentially, this legislation allows state student and teacher funding (the average daily membership) and all other state education funding to be used for school facilities, in this case to pay private developers. North Carolina has a long history of supporting state funding for teachers and education staff and county funding for school buildings. This bill would blur that division and could result in the layoff of school personnel to pay private companies.

It would allow sales taxes to go to a private, for-profit company. Specifically, the bill would permit a local unit to refund a private for profit business entity for expenses incurred in operating the building from local sales or use taxes. Sales and use taxes are an important source of local government revenue. This bill assigns away these revenues to the private entity.

This fits a broader pattern Republicans in the Legislature have developed over the last 5 years or so, in which they steadily erode the powers of local governments while also shifting costs down to them. In this case, the GOP is nudging local governments to allow private entities to actually own newly-constructed public schools, and force the local government to pay rent. It's a classic privatization scheme, but this time it's not a parking lot, it's our children's development that is being leveraged. And it's as easy as adding the two words "or other" to the statute in question:

Here's me elevating the debate: Dan Forest is an idiot

Which is kind of an insult to idiots worldwide:

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest said, “Well, pretty much all of our media in North Carolina newspapers, a handful of very liberal newspapers all across the state, every city has a newspaper like the Charlotte Observer.”

“So, Charlotte and the Raleigh News & Observer are two of the most liberal rags in the country right now. It’s pretty much leftist, propaganda arms anymore. And most of them are. TV stations are the same way.”

As reported by the Christian News Service. That's actually the punchline to my joke, but a little context might make you laugh (or cry) harder:

Tuesday Twitter roundup

Election day madness:

It's amazing what having an unlimited checkbook supplied by Kansas oil industry billionaires can help you accomplish. By "amazing" I mean disgusting, of course. I have no great sympathy for Renee Ellmers, although she did jeopardize her Congressional career by pushing back against anti-abortion nut-jobs. I just hate to see the Koch Brothers being allowed to spend so freely in elections, especially ones in our state. Sticks in my craw. And that's not the only NC race they're trying to manipulate:

Harsh words for the Senate's Budget proposals

It's a lot more about election season posturing than responsible funding:

That's the thing about Senate budgets: They're as much a statement of ideology as a pragmatic attempt to fund state government. In recent years, budget writers have stripped millions from the funding for books and supplies, from teacher-assistant and teacher funding, even from school-bus replacement budgets. But now Senate leaders see no problem with diverting ever-more money from the public schools to send our kids to private schools.

While we're pleased to see substantial raises proposed for those teachers still standing, it's hard to argue that our legislative leaders are fully committed to our public schools. But looking at the budget overall, we have no doubt that they're committed to getting themselves re-elected.

Every action has an equal reaction. When you cut funding for textbooks and supplies, teachers are forced to create handouts, sometimes to the tune of tens of thousands of mimeographed reproductions in each class, by the end of the school year. Which far exceeds the volume of paper allotted for in the school's budget, so guess who has to go paper-shopping? Even in schools where parents and other supporters donate such things, it's still not enough, and teachers inevitably end up holding the shopping bag. They need a raise, if for no other reason than to cover these additional costs. But that's what happens when you want it to "seem" like you're interested in funding public schools, instead of being that way.

New leadership "forum" to discuss how to discuss

Not sure what a "media cocoon" actually is, but I'm sure that will be discussed also:

The Leadership Forum was born after Hood wrote a column about North Carolinians living in “media cocoons” and the disappearance of civil debate. Democrat Leslie Winner, then head of the progressive Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, read it and met with Hood about changing that. They recruited a bipartisan steering committee, then the group of 35.

Hood emphasizes that the goal is not to find moderate solutions. “Our point is not we have these extremes and if everyone was more centrist we’d be better off,” Hood told me last week. “We like the fact that we have people way out on the right and left. The goal is not to marginalize them and aim for the common denominator. The point is to have a dialogue that is very robust with points of view strongly argued, but respectfully and with no name-calling. … If we can have people argue rather than bicker, make good-faith logical arguments, that’s a very valuable outcome.”

I suppose there could be some merit in pursuing such a dialogue, but it could also produce a false sense of security. The policy moves of current state leaders have produced horrific outcomes for many people living in North Carolina, and each year brings new and outrageous results. If this forum can't or won't smooth down those sharp edges, then it's (at best) a masturbatory exercise. At worst, it could blunt efforts (and money) dedicated to reversing those outcomes. Here's more:

How to argue with "pragmatic" Dems when they whine about LGBT issues

If they really want to know what the problem is, they should look in the mirror:

In the aftermath of North Carolina’s 2014 election season, I interviewed several women who’d run and lost on the Democratic ticket in Rutherford County. One of them summed up the Republican rout as: “Across the board, voters want jobs and education. But they voted against gay marriage and abortion.”

Two years later, it’s shaping up to be déjà vu all over again. The same LGBT culture war rages on, with the same ability to suck all of the oxygen out of the political sphere. And in a familiar reaction, Democrats appear poised to remain almost solely focused during the election on this culture war’s latest battle, transgender bathroom access.

First of all, it's not about "culture," it's about basic human rights. Lives are at stake. Some 40% of transgender individuals will attempt suicide in their lifetimes, which is about equal to the rate Reservists who have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan for 2-3 combat tours attempt. PTSD takes many forms, but regardless of the stimuli, whether it's bombs or bullying, the end result is the same. And it must be addressed. I am proud the Democratic Party has stood up for these folks; it's not an aberration, it's what we do. And as far as those election losses: Rutherford County chose Bush over Gore 13,755 to 7,697, and chose Bush over Kerry 16,190 to 8,108. Gay marriage wasn't even on the radar back then, at least not in rural North Carolina, and abortion was still simmering at about the same level it had been for years. And this observation about Amendment 1 demonstrates even less logic:

NC House passes bill to kill the I-77 toll road

At least some level of sanity has prevailed in the NCGA:

Lawmakers approved the bill 81-27 with strong bipartisan support. Though Senate passage is far from assured, supporters were encouraged by the 3-1 margin.
State Rep. Charles Jeter sponsored the bill to cancel the Interstate 77 toll project contract.

“That should send a loud message to Gov. Pat McCrory that this is a bad project for our communities, for our commerce and for our citizens,” said Bill Russell, president of the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce.

It will be interesting to see if the puffed chests in the Senate follow suit, or decide to smother this effort.

The next GOP Jordan Lake boondoggle: Freshwater mussels

And you thought the SolarBees were a stupid idea:

A provision in the Senate budget unveiled yesterday earmarks $500 thousand from the state's Clean Water Management Trust to study whether freshwater mussels can be used to clean up the Jordan and Falls reservoirs and other polluted water bodies. An interim report on the study would be due in March 2017, and a final report due in May 2018.

The North Carolina Conservation Network says this new proposal and other budget provisions "largely eschew science-based management strategies in favor of unproven tactics."

Okay, we really do need to (re)introduce native bivalves like the Carolina Heelsplitter (Ow!) into rivers and lakes where they've died out. But as usual, Republicans have their science (if you can call it that) ass-backwards. The main reason those native mussels became endangered is the same reason we were forced to develop the Jordan Lake Rules in the first place:

Fish have more rights than women

Ok, that title is a bit of an exaggeration, but I'm sure I can be forgiven to taking this discussion to the next level. Women have tried for decades to pass an Equal Rights Amendment to the US Constitution, a straight-forward way to legally recognize women as persons before the law. Women have tried for decades to get all levels of government to recognize that women have the right to consult with their doctor and make decisions regarding their own health without governmental interference. It hasn't happened yet.

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