Loading...
BYH to the complainer in Farmville who did not like Lime Bikes and as a result of that, the town lost something that...

State lawmakers spiral Jerry Springer-style

Colin Campbell

Colin Campbell is editor of the Insider State Government News Service.

Loading…

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

For a solid 30 minutes, it looked like state legislators might actually have a bill that everyone could support.

House and Senate leaders held a news conference Thursday to announce they'd found a solution to mandated smaller elementary school class sizes. That's the law that prompted widespread complaints from school superintendents who worried they'd have to cut arts, music and physical education in order to hire more classroom teachers.

Legislators unveiled a bill that would phase in the requirement over four years — with no change for the 2018-19 school year — and add more funding for arts and gym classes.

The proposal seemed to address the concerns Democrats had been expressing for months, using the phrase "class size chaos." So would Senate leader Phil Berger be joining Gov. Roy Cooper for a champagne toast to public education by the end of the week?

Nope. This is Raleigh in an election year, and the signs of turmoil were apparent even before the legislative session began. Early in the week, no one in leadership would say what was on the agenda. Reporters' emails and calls were ignored or met with vague statements.

And during the news conference to tout the class size solution, no one mentioned that there were other surprises added to the bill. In the spirit of 2013's famous "motorcycle abortion" combination bill, Republicans added two unrelated provisions that Democrats and Gov. Roy Cooper were sure to hate — forcing them into an uncomfortable vote.

One addressed the makeup of the state's elections board, a few weeks after the N.C. Supreme Court ruled that the legislature's previous attempt to reshape the board was unconstitutional. The latest proposal would keep an even split between Republicans and Democrats but add a ninth board member who's not in either party.

The impact of that provision is that the court battle will likely continue, and that could mean the board overseeing elections remains vacant even as candidate filing begins and primary elections loom.

But that issue was overshadowed by a fight over a $57.8 million fund Cooper privately negotiated with the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which recently won state permits to build a natural gas pipeline near Interstate 95.

The energy companies developing the pipeline will pay to help offset set environmental impacts and boost economic development efforts along the pipeline route. But Republicans argue it's unconstitutional for Cooper to control the money — the legislature usually handles budget matters — and they question whether the money came in exchange for the permits. Cooper says the fund was negotiated separately.

"The appearance of evil is insurmountable," Rep. Dean Arp, R-Union, said during a surprise inquisition of Cooper's new legislative director, who was previously a lobbyist for one of the pipeline's developers.

Lee Lilley had been on the job for just five days — arriving after the pipeline agreement was signed — but Republican lawmakers decided to grill him like a deadbeat dad on The Jerry Springer Show. Most of their questions raised legitimate concerns that the Cooper administration should answer, but Lilley didn't have the answers because he'd been told he was just there to introduce himself.

The end result was an hourlong spectacle that made Democrats irate and washed away any goodwill from the class size solution. So why make such a big deal over $57.8 million and a pipeline that the leaders of both parties support?

My sense is Republicans think they can make Cooper look corrupt in a state where prominent Democrats of past decades have gone to jail. They also recognize that the gas pipeline is a tough issue for Cooper because many environmentalist Democrats oppose it (some were arrested in a recent protest at the governor's office).

Cooper has sought to divert attention by stressing his strong opposition to offshore drilling, but the GOP's action keeps the focus on the pipeline. The class size/elections board mega-bill also seizes the $57.8 million from the governor and directs it to public school districts along the pipeline route.

Both the legislature and the governor have good ideas for the money, but that's not really what the fight's about. It's just another constitutional battle over who's more powerful: The legislature or the governor? The courts will end up settling it after both sides spend heavily on lawyers.

And the average voters — who have better things to do than keep score in incessant lawsuits — will tune out.

Colin Campbell is editor of the Insider State Government News Service. Follow him at NCInsider.com or @RaleighReporter. Write to him at ccampbell@ncinsider.com.

Loading…

Humans of Greenville

@HumansofGville

Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.

Op Ed

October 19, 2018

Los Angeles Times

The Trump administration on Monday unveiled its latest proposal for reining in the cost of pharmaceuticals: requiring television advertisements for prescription drugs to display the price tag of the medication being promoted. For the 10 drugs seen most often on TV, the…

October 19, 2018

President Trump's constant, relentless, remorseless lying is a central feature of his presidency, an unprecedented threat to our democracy and — in my view — an impeachable offense.

I realize it does not qualify as news that Trump lies all the time. I also realize it is not always…

Eugene Robinson

October 18, 2018

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., shouldn't be underestimated as a political strategist or written off as an ideological twin of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. She has done three smart things in the early preseason of the 2020 Democratic presidential race.

First, she rolled out what is…

Jennifer Rubin

October 18, 2018

It's been noted a million times that Democrats need to pick up 23 seats to take control of the House of Representatives in next month's midterm elections. Nearly all analysis has focused on how many seats Republicans might lose.

Less noticed is the fact that the GOP will likely pick up a small…

Byron York.jpg

October 17, 2018

After the roller-coaster ride of 2016's election night, have journalists and political junkies learned not to let conventional wisdom substitute for hard knowledge?

Nate Silver, the closest thing there is to a celebrity in the arcane field of statistical journalism, is not wildly optimistic about…

Margaret Sullivan

October 17, 2018

Democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, seeking to represent New York's 14th Congressional District, has called for the abolition of the Electoral College. Her argument came on the heels of the Senate's confirming Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

She was lamenting the fact that Chief…

Walter Williams

October 16, 2018

The Washington Post

The loss by the Cleveland Indians last week to the Houston Astros in the American League Division Series brought the team's 2018 season, too soon for fans, to an end. It also marked the end — none too soon — of the team's use of its racist logo. Good riddance to…

October 16, 2018

Per-capita consumption of sugar and other caloric sweeteners was down in the U.S. in 2017 for the third straight year — and 13th out of the past 18. And this time, consumption of refined sugar, which had been rising over the past decade as consumers (and soft-drink makers) turned away from…

FOX

October 16, 2018

There's a lot of bad information going around about the six constitutional amendments on this year's ballot.

The questions on your ballot were written by legislators who want them to sound as enticing as possible. They're like the ads for $99 plane tickets that fail to mention baggage and other add-…

Colin Campbell

October 15, 2018

There's a scene in the new movie "Gosnell: The Trial of America's Biggest Serial Killer," that should launch candid conversations around the country. Alexis McGuire (played by Sarah Jane Morris), the lead prosecutor in the case against the Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, is depicted at…

kathrynlopez
291 stories in Op Ed. Viewing 1 through 10.
«First Page   «Previous Page        
Page 1 of 30
        Next Page»   Last Page»