The Morning Roundup: Art Pope Group To Save the Day? | News

The Morning Roundup: Art Pope Group To Save the Day?

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Good morning, fam. It's Thursday and HB 2 remains a scourge upon this once great land. But don't worry!

1. A veritable dream team of non-government, liberal and conservative leaders has come together to "quell the furor."

The group, led by former Lt. Gov. Dennis Wicker, a Democrat, and Art Pope, who needs no introduction, hopes to get folks on each side of the HB 2 debate talking to each other again and possibly to bring about some legislative changes. Other notable members include former Republican Gov. Jim Martin (who is not Jim Hunt) and conservative leader John Hood. 

Hood said the group hopes to tap around a dozen people from different walks of life, such as school leaders, businessmen and advocates on either side of the issue.

"North Carolina is a place of very opinionated people who disagree often, but this can show we're willing to talk about it," Hood said.

If successful, he said, the working group would forge at least some legal fixes that might tamp down opposition to the bill. On other topics related to House Bill 2, he said, they may have to settle for lowering the level of vitriol in the dialogue.

In an interview with WRAL News last week, Martin said that he hoped all sides could take a step back from the rhetoric surrounding the bill.

"That is what I propose, that we say we are going to lay down our weapons here for a while and give all of us a chance to talk together and try to learn a little something," Martin said.
Martin calls HB 2 a "a debacle that has become very embarrassing and damaging to the state's economy," which, yes, nail on head. 

2. Speaking of the state's economy, things are now going well enough in spite of HB 2 that leaders in the Senate are proposing giving teachers a raise. A real one!

So real in fact that it would ensure that teachers hit the top of the state's teacher salary scale within fifteen years and would bring the average salary to more than $54,000 in two years.

Berger, R-Rockingham, did not say how his chamber would pay for the raises and did not provide a detailed salary schedule. However, he said that tax collections have been on the upswing in recent years and that a generally improving economy allowed the Senate to take up long-delayed priorities.

"We put forward where our priorities are," he said.

Along with plans from Gov. Pat McCrory and the state House, this is the third major teacher raise proposal put forward by state government this year, although all three work somewhat differently.

The Senate will roll out its entire budget next week, Berger said. When asked how the Senate budget would deal with pay raises for state employees or other areas of spending, he said he was "not prepared" to discuss those items.
If you enter your name, email address and zip code into this website, you can find out some more fun facts about the Senate proposal, such as, North Carolina would be first for teacher pay in the southeast and 24th in the nation.

Critics say the proposal looks a lot like HB 2 damage control in an election cycle as the Senate hasn't, in recent years, exactly been known for its benevolence toward teachers or public education in general.
Rodney Ellis, president of the North Carolina Association of Educators, said that the "devil is going to be in the details" of any teacher pay proposal.

"NCAE has consistently beaten the drum that, for our students to be more successful, we must invest fully in our public schools by increasing the resources they have and by compensating educators as professionals," Ellis said in a statement. "Now, because it’s an election year, Senate leaders are trying to play catch-up from the destructive swath they created for our public schools. ... Last time there was a pay raise, they promised it would get us to 32nd in the country, and here we sit at 41st."
We can expect lengthy budget negotiations in the coming weeks.

3. Meanwhile, Senate Democrats introduced legislation they admit has no chance of passing to raise the state minimum wage to $12 an hour, from $7.25.

Sen. Angela Bryant of Rocky Mount and Sen. Joyce Waddell of Mecklenburg County held a news conference to draw attention to their bill. It would raise the minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $12, and tie future annual increases to the Consumer Price Index, which measures inflation.

“While everyone is talking about bathrooms and discrimination, we’ve got a large part of our community that is struggling,” Waddell said. “We must do better. We’re going to push that bill forward until it gets some attention.”

Bryant said that $12 is “not an ideal level, but we thought it was a reasonable compromise.” The bill also sets aside $2 million to boost pay for state employees who are currently paid minimum wage.

Republican Senate leaders are unlikely to hold votes on the bill this session. The legislation has been referred to the Senate Ways & Means Committee, a group that hasn’t met in years. It’s where bills go when the leadership doesn’t want to consider them.

“Our legislation, we know, will not see the light of day,” Bryant said. “Not only do they stand against the minimum wage, some in their party believe that wages are too high.”

4. Yesterday the House approved the bill that gives Duke Energy stall time on coal ash cleanup and, to the chagrin of Gov. McCrory, re-constitutes the coal ash management commission. 

Read this whole story from the N&O.
The 86-25 vote sends the bill to the Senate, where its sponsor, Rep. Chuck McGrady, a Republican from Hendersonville, says he is optimistic it also has enough votes to pass and override a veto.

The bill renews a wrestling match over who controls the multi-billion-dollar task of cleaning up coal ash in North Carolina: the governor or the General Assembly. After the Supreme Court agreed with Gov. Pat McCrory that the legislature had overstepped its authority in creating an executive branch commission, the governor disbanded it. McCrory and top officials in his administration worked to defeat the bill this week, saying the governor would veto it and sue again.

After Wednesday’s vote, McCrory issued a statement saying the bill had been rushed and written in secret. It was first made public Tuesday afternoon.

“It’s disappointing to see legislation of this magnitude drafted behind closed doors,” McCrory said. “This bill is a blatant attempt to bypass state regulators and seek more favorable treatment from an unaccountable and unneeded bureaucracy that further delays the cleanup process.”

The bill creates an unusual alignment of Republican and Democratic lawmakers, Duke Energy and the N.C. Chamber pitted against McCrory, whose response to coal ash cleanup has been criticized by some environmental groups because he worked for the utility for two decades. The state enacted the nation’s first coal ash regulatory law following the spill into the Dan River at Eden in 2014.

Now it is McCrory accusing legislators of going soft on Duke Energy. The legislation has also divided environmental groups over whether it is tough enough on cleaning up the coal ash ponds.
5. Early voting for the June 7 primary begins today.

The N&O has a voter's guide here. The INDY's endorsements come out next week. 

Here's a video of Brad Paisley mocking HB 2 in song to help you on your way this glorious little Thursday. 




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