NCGA

On Art Pope and the UNC System

A few jabs from Thomas Mills to set the tone:

It’s part of why North Carolina developed a reputation as a beacon of light in an otherwise dark South. Our university system became an engine of economic progress that has made the Triangle a leader in the information age and one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the country.

Pope doesn’t believe in any of that. He believes that the free market is the key to success. Higher education should be little more than job training and critical thinking skills learned in a liberal arts curriculum have little place in his world. Pope is neither a manager nor a deep thinker. He’s an ideologue born with a silver spoon in his mouth who has spent his life forcing square pegs into round holes.

Many of those discussing the possibility of an Art Pope-directed UNC System are focusing on how he might cut programs, but the more likely result would be a skewing of the curriculum, something he's been trying to do for years. But I'll let one of UNC's professors explain:

The real 2015 legislative agenda

The 2015 NCGA session opening day, with all of its pomp and flourish that no one except the legislators themselves care about, has come and gone.

The legislators feel obligated to posture for the cameras, and the media feels obligated to report what is upcoming for this year's session.

So the Democrats dredge up something about ethics reform, hoping maybe they can get the Republicans to buy into something -- anything -- they might propose (they picked the wrong thing. The GOP already has shut down the ethics reform train).

Bergermoore offers circumspect comments that are nothing but hot air, promising vaguely to work on jobs and education, two happy buzzwords that the media lap up.

NC Medicaid: Another "independent" commission

The latest fad among the NC GOP pestilence is the disturbing trend of creating "independent" commissions to handle hot-potato political issues.

They created a commission to manage coal ash, and now they're talking about creating a commission to manage the state's Medicaid program.

A legislative panel on Thursday recommended draft legislation calling for taking oversight of the state Medicaid program away from the Department of Health and Human Services.

The legislation ... proposes creating a Health Benefits Authority to manage Medicaid

Trudy Wade's Greensboro gambit gets nod from Berger

And the stink of this plan just got unbearable:

When asked if he would favor legislative changes in the makeup or size of the Greensboro City Council — something Sen. Trudy Wade (R-Guilford) said she is considering — Berger said he would be interested to see what Wade proposes.

“There are some very good reasons to make some changes,” he said. “I think she may very well be on the right track.”

And what are some of those reasons, pray tell? Neither you nor Trudy Wade have revealed to the public anything more than vague mumblings, which means this is not a populist move, it's something else. And that something else needs to be revealed to the people of Greensboro, before you attempt to stifle their voices.

Another charter school circles the drain

And this one just might set a record for the fastest failure:

Another Charlotte Charter school is in trouble. Entrepreneur High School opened its doors August 2014 and less than a year later it could close. The state has cited the school for multiple violations. The school is more than $402,000 in debt, it doesn't meet the state enrollment standards for charter schools, and school leadership fired the school's founder and principal, Dr. Han Plotseneder.

"It's been a hot mess," NC Charter School Advisory Board member Becky Taylor said. "It's been really bad and it's embarrassing to see this situation get here this quickly."

What's missing from this story is how many taxpayer dollars got wasted in the process. I'm assuming that x number of children were enrolled for classes in the Fall, and the school received some state/local dollars per pupil as a result. Leaving that out of the story is a huge fail. If the reporter(s) asked and that information was withheld, that should be part of the story, too. If anybody reading this knows, post it in the comments, please. In the meantime, I'll grab my digging tools.

Coal Ash Wednesday: Local opposition to proposed dump grows

Following the toxic dust trail:

Strickland said anyone living near the railroad tracks between Charlotte and Wilmington would be affected by coal ash dust contaminating the air during transport, and anyone drinking water from the Cape Fear River would be affected by potentially contaminated water. “It's not just a Lee and Chatham County thing,” she said.

According to informational sheets distributed by BREDL and EnvironmentaLee members, the Cape Fear River runs through eight counties and passes by 12 towns and parks along the way. An additional 24 towns and universities are located along the railroad from Wilmington to Sanford, and 17 towns and parks are located along the railroad from Charlotte to Sanford.

Like many of these folks, I'm finding it hard to understand the need to transport this stuff halfway across the state. If they were moving it close to a facility where it could be reused for concrete or some other process, I could get that. But just for storage? Dig a new (lined) pit beside the old one and shift it over, then put a cap on it. Unless you're intentionally trying to generate horrendous costs during the process of cleanup/disposal of your first few projects, so you can convince lawmakers or commission members to back off. It also helps if you can get your money back from ratepayers with the help of the NC Utilities Commission.

Tillis and the looming destruction of the social safety net

It's not what you know, it's who you listen to:

Republican Sen. Richard Burr, the state’s senior senator, escorted him around, as did others who know the place well. Now Tillis is one of the 100 senators, talking to them all the time. “Not only about the senatorial process, but which hallways you can go down that don’t actually have a dead end,” he joked, at least in part. The Capitol is a labyrinth of marble stairways, long corridors, senators’ secret hideaways and underground passageways. It’s easy to get lost.

The desk of Tillis’ chief of staff, John Mashburn, is under a large state seal in the same room as the receptionist, directly opposite the office’s entrance. Mashburn is known as a very conservative Republican. He’s a North Carolina native with long experience on Capitol Hill, including work for the late Sen. Jesse Helms.

Mashburn is more than just another of Helms' old cronies. He's an anti-Welfare zealot, whose goal of punishing the poor has been blocked for decades by less radical elements in the GOP, not to mention Democrats. But he may finally get his wish by pulling Tillis' strings:

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