Friday News: Astroturfing the Triad

BELTWAY GROUP ORGANIZES OPPOSITION TO "WELCOMING CITY" RESOLUTION: An online petition to prevent Winston-Salem City Council from passing a “welcoming city” resolution is generating a Washington beltway publicity push through a privately held conservative influence outfit with a murky funding structure. Although Councilman Dan Besse withdrew a “welcoming city” resolution from consideration on Monday, Stand United is working to promote opposition to the resolution in the event that it is resurrected. Triad City Beat received an email from a strategic communications fellow at the Pinkston Group, an East Coast public relations firm that specializes in “earned-media exposure,” on Thursday morning with an offer to facilitate an interview with Stand United about the effort to kill the “welcoming city” resolution.

NC DEMOCRATS TURNING OUT IN DROVES ON PRECINCT LEVEL: North Carolina Democrats have seen sharply higher turnouts for local meetings and other party events this year, as opponents of President Donald Trump and the GOP legislature get more politically active. The N.C. Democratic Party released numbers showing that 16,187 people have attended precinct organizational meetings this year – a 45 percent increase over last year’s turnout of 11,202 in a presidential election year, typically the time of greatest engagement. Those increases have been reported in liberal urban counties as well as more conservative rural counties.

CROSSOVER PUSHES QUESTIONABLE LEGISLATION FORWARD: With the crossover deadline a week off, the House moved about 40 bills over to the Senate on Thursday. Two such bills would do away with local impact fees on developers, although Rep. Graig Meyer, D-Orange, effectively gutted one, turning a repeal into a one-year freeze while a new formula for fairly charging such fees in cities and counties statewide can be developed. Another House committee approved a bill that would allow landfill operators to spray their wastewater and leaking fluids into the air as an aerosol without any environmental regulation. The state Department of Environmental Quality said it wants to work with the bill sponsor to set up a permit system.

POWER STRUGGLE OVER CONTROL OF NC'S EDUCATION ESTABLISHMENT CONTINUES: Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson is protesting limitations on his ability to hire staff at the state education department. Two House bills that would give Johnson more of his own appointees moved through a House committee Thursday, though a lawmaker warned the legislature could be contributing to the birth of competing camps at the state Department of Public Instruction. One House bill would give Johnson the power to appoint a new associate superintendent to be in charge of the staff of a new Office of Early Childhood Education. June Atkinson, the former state superintendent, said it would be better for work on early childhood education to be consolidated rather than spread over more offices.

JUSTIN BURR WANTS ANTI-UNION "RIGHT TO WORK" LANGUAGE IN NC CONSTITUTION: House Republicans are advancing a proposed constitutional amendment to reinforce North Carolina laws prohibiting union membership and paying union dues as a requirement for employment. A House judiciary committee Thursday narrowly approved a measure asking voters in November 2018 to decide whether similar prohibitions should be in the state Constitution. Burr says the state's "right-to-work" policy has contributed to a stronger economy but a state AFL-CIO official told the panel such laws contribute to driving down wages.