Public Weighs In on Voting Redistricting

A state-wide public hearing was held on Monday to discuss the redrawing of voting districts. The hearing was held via tele-conference.

Last week a Federal Appeals Court rejected a request to uphold the current electoral districts for the upcoming primary. Lawmakers must redraw the districts by Friday unless the US Supreme Court rules that the districts can be maintained.

State Senator Bob Rucho said he and his colleagues would work to keep the districts as they are but he said public input on the process was important.

“We will exercise all avenues of appeal to see that [the districts] remain in place, however because of the compressed timeline imposed upon us by the court and in light of our ongoing appeal and request for a stay, we think it’s a prudent course to open a public comment process in an event that the maps need to be redrawn,” said Rucho.

The US Supreme Court previously ordered the State Supreme Court to review the voting districts. The State Supreme ruled the districts were constitutional. That decision was then appealed to a federal court, which ordered the redrawing of the districts.

Proponents of the districts continue to defend the districts legality. Opponents of the districts say they were drawn based on race.

The districts in question are the 1st district, which includes northern Durham and rural areas in the northeast part of the state and the 12th district, which runs along I-85 from Charlotte to Greensboro.

Brain Fitzsimmons is the chair of the Wake County Democratic Party.

“You tried to fix a problem that does not exist. Senate and Congressional districts 1st and 12th had elected African American candidates without the redistricting process of putting predominately African American voter roles into each of those districts,” said Fitzsimmions.

Helen Pannullo, Chairman of the 7th District Republican Party, said the time frame given by the court was too short.

“The requirement to redraw the 1st and the 12th [districts] by February 19, just four days from today is an impossible task. One has to wonder why the court has imposed such an unreasonable deadline,” said Pannullo.

Thomas Keith Thompson, a small business owner from Woodson, said that the short time frame should not be a problem.

“The eyes of the world are upon you. It is always the right time to do the right thing,” said Williams.

Earl Johnson, of Raleigh, said that the issues around redistricting are reminiscent of past policies.

“These districts move us back to a day of segregation that most of us thought we had already moved away from,” said Johnson.

The districts were drawn by the Republican majority legislature in 2011 but North Carolina has a long history of gerrymandering by both Democrats and Republicans. Democrats controlled both houses of the state legislature for most of the 20th century.

Tom Byers from Asheville urged the legislature to consider a non-partisan committee to draw the voting districts.

“I respectfully urge you legislators what a significant contribution would be made to a government of, by and for the people of North Carolina if you will take a step in direction of redistricting reform,” said Byers.

Lawmakers will meet this week in Raleigh to redraw the districts unless the Supreme Court rules that the districts can be maintained until after the March primary.

North Carolina Congressional Districts

North Carolina Congressional Districts. Photo via:’s_congressional_districts

Senate Proposes to Scrap Driver’s Ed

The state Senate’s proposed budget would scrap the requirement that 15-to-17-year-olds have to complete driver’s education in order to get a learner’s permit. That would mean young drivers, like everyone else, could get a learner’s permit after the vision and multiple choice tests.

In place of driver’s ed., the proposed budget increases both the number of supervised driving hours required and the number of correct answers needed to pass the written driving test.

It’s a proposal that doesn’t sit well with Todd LoFrese, Assistant Superintendent for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools.

“We think it’s a public safety interest to make sure that students receive driver training,” LoFrese said. “It’s a public safety issue.”

Spruce Hill Republican Ralph Hise added the amendment after the Senate proposed to remove the $65 cap on driver’s ed. course fees and move driver’s education out of the public school system and into community colleges. The amendment, Hise said, is meant to ensure teens who can’t afford the drivers ed. fee or make it to a community college can still get a learner’s permit. LoFrese agrees with the sentiment.

“Not every county has a community college, and it’s difficult for students to get there,” he said.

But LoFrese says he hopes driver’s ed. remains both required and accessible to young drivers in public schools.

“Hopefully with the state budget process, it gets resolved and funding is provided for the program. But if it’s not, we need to be prepared to make the necessary changes,” he said.

The House has already passed its own appropriations bill. The two chambers and the governor will be in negotiations for weeks before they settle on a final budget.

Art Pope Resigns As State Budget Director

Courtesy of

Courtesy of

North Carolina State Budget Director Art Pope is leaving the position after taking the Legislature through two budget cycles under the leadership of Republican Governor Pat McCrory.

Gov. McCrory made the announcement Wednesday at a press conference naming Raleigh banking executive Lee Roberts as his successor effective sometime in the first week of September.

The Governor told the media that Pope agreed to one year as budget director when he signed on. However, Gov. McCrory asked him to stay through the end of this short session to develop another budget, which the Governor says he will soon sign.

WCHL’s Aaron Keck spoke with NC House Rep. Graig Meyer (NC House District 50) about Pope’s resignation and what it means for state government.

20 Arrested At Moral Monday

RALEIGH — Nearly 20 people were arrested outside the doors of the state Senate chamber at the North Carolina General Assembly, two days after a judge struck down building rules regarding demonstrations.

Hundreds of protesters streamed into the second and third-floor rotunda of the Legislative Building Monday, taking full advantage of a ruling in Wake County Superior Court regarding rules enacted this year. The group celebrated the court decision with loud singing, chanting and shouting just before the Senate met.

The arrests during the weekly “Moral Monday” rally focused on collective bargaining and raising the minimum wage.

One protester who was arrested said she hopes state senators hear voices like hers who have to struggle to make ends meet as a single mom working at a fast-food restaurant.

Listen Live: Rep. Meyer Preparing For 2014 Election

ORANGE COUNTY – Your newest state representative has his work cut out for him in 2014 as he’ll have to fight for his seat before ever officially sitting in it.

Representative Graig Meyer was appointed to the House 50 seat in late October and was sworn in on November 7. However, the General Assembly doesn’t reconvene for the short session until May 14, and the 2014 Primary is May 6.

Rep. Meyer replaced Valerie Foushee who replaced Sen. Ellie Kinnaird in Senate District 23. Both seats were highly sought after as five OrangeCounty residents announced their intention to fill the House seat; seven people said they wanted the appointment to the Senate.

The filing period for the North Carolina Legislature this year is February 10-28.

Tune in to the WCHL Morning News at 7:06 a.m. as Ran Northam talks with Rep. Meyer about his plans for 2014 as far as securing his seat in the House.

Chatham Legislator Resigns Amid Tax Charges

RALEIGH – A North Carolina legislator has been arrested on felony tax charges.

The N.C. Department of Revenue announced Wednesday that Rep. Deborah H. McManus, D-Chatham, faces three counts of embezzlement of state property. The first-term lawmaker from SilerCity is alleged to have used her position working as a bookkeeper for a medical practice to embezzle more than $47,000 that had been withheld from employees to pay state income taxes between January 2011 and July 2013.

The agency said the 56-year-old had appeared before a magistrate at the WakeCounty jail and placed under a $150,000 bond. Her first appearance in Wake County District Court is scheduled for Thursday. It’s not immediately clear if she has an attorney.

Rep. Meyer: “Gvt. Needs To Serve All People”

HILLSBOROUGH – Orange County resident and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools’ Director of Student Equity and Volunteer Services, Graig Meyer says he will lead you from his House 50 seat with integrity, intention, and inclusion.

“I truly believe that whether it’s as a representative in Raleigh or in the work that I do in education that you start with integrity, you’re intentional about your decisions, and one of the things that you’re intentional about is how to be inclusive of all people,” Meyer says. “Our government needs to serve all people.”

Meyer was sworn in by State Senator Valerie Foushee who represents District 23. She resigned from the House 50 seat to fill the position Ellie Kinnaird left after 17 years in office.

The Historic Hillsborough Court House saw a standing-room-only crowd Thursday night. Meyer says it’s not for the spotlight and the politics, but for the people that he has chosen to serve.

“To hear the things that they say…that the people who are here tonight aren’t here because I’m a politician, they’re here because they know me and they express their belief in me, it’s very joyful and very humbling,” Meyer says.

Meyer is married with a daughter in college at UNC Charlotte and two sons in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools system.

*Correction: Meyer’s boys are enrolled in the Durham Public Schools system where his wife, Jen, teaches.

He says his top role model is his father. But he says his top political role model stands out for the politician he is and for the father he is.

“I never really had another strong role model until I saw Barack Obama,” Meyer says. “When I saw him, I admired that he came out of a community-organizing background the same way as I came out of a social-work organizing background, and I admired the way that he approached the balance in his life between being a public leader and a private father. I really wanted to emulate his ability to do that.”

Meyer joins Rep. Verla Insko and Sen. Foushee in Raleigh as your newest representative. For more information on Meyer and to contact him, click here.

Sen. Foushee: “I Didn’t Run To Campaign, I Ran To Serve”

CHAPEL HILL – The short session of the North Carolina General Assembly doesn’t begin until June, and Senator Valerie Foushee says she’s taking the time to meet with the people she represents both in Raleigh and out in the community.

“I’ve established office hours in Raleigh, and I’ve also engaged in town hall meetings; I’ve had two of them now: one in Hillsborough, and one in Pittsboro,” Sen. Foushee says. “It’s been exciting getting to meet new people and having the opportunity to reconnect with others that I’ve served before and just hearing their concerns.”

Sen. Foushee was appointed to the District 23 seat replacing 17-year senator, Ellie Kinnaird. She left the House of Representatives District 50 seat which was recently filled by Graig Meyer.

The legislative shuffle leaves Sen. Foushee and Rep.-appointee Meyer finishing out the terms that expire in December 2014. That puts the primary election one week before either will officially govern from their new seat.

“I didn’t run to campaign, I ran to serve,” Sen. Foushee says. “I serve every day. So, I don’t give too much thought about who’s going to run or what’s going to happen. Every day when I step outside, I’m thinking about how I’m serving the people of District 23.”

Click here for Meyer’s plan for fighting to hold onto the House 50 seat.

Hopeful municipal and school board leaders are currently fighting that fight in Orange County, as Election Day is Tuesday.

If the early voting period is a sign of things to come, Sen. Foushee says she’s concerned about this year’s turnout in Orange County.

“I’m hoping that people are not developing complacency, because this is critical that we do exercise our right to vote,” Sen. Foushee says.

And she says it’s important to get the right people in office, not just for governing you at the local level.

“One of the ways we prepare leaders for state and national levels is to be involved at the local level, because all politics is local,” Sen. Foushee says.

Tune in to the WCHL Sunday Morning News to hear about a town hall meeting Sen. Foushee is holding in Chapel Hill Next week.

She says you can meet with her Wednesdays from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. in the Legislative Office Building

NC Lawmakers Pass Sweeping Changes To Gun Laws

Photo by Daniel Weber

RALEIGH – North Carolina lawmakers have approved a bill greatly expanding where concealed handguns are legally allowed.

The Republican-backed bill approved by both the House and Senate on Tuesday allows concealed-carry permit holders to take firearms into bars and restaurants and other places where alcohol is served as long as the owner doesn’t expressly forbid it.

The measure will also allow concealed-carry permit holders to store weapons in locked cars on the campus of any public school or university. Guns will also now be allowed on greenways, playgrounds and other public recreation areas.

The final bill dropped a controversial provision that would have repealed the long-standing law requiring a background check and permit issued by county sheriffs for handgun purchases.

The measure now heads to Republican Gov. Pat McCrory’s desk.

Charter School Changes Approved By NC Legislature

Photo by Brian J. Matis

RALEIGH – Legislation heading to Gov. Pat McCrory allows North Carolina charter schools to follow the lead of local traditional schools on criminal history checks for employees.

A negotiated final version of the bill passed the House and Senate on Tuesday. The measure creates more rules to govern a growing number of public charter schools, but drops plans to create a separate panel to oversee them. The legislation would essentially retain an advisory commission already in place to make recommendations to the State Board of Education.

The proposal retains the current requirement that at least half the teachers at charter schools meet state certification requirements. Earlier versions of the bill would have allowed charter school directors to decide whether to check job applicants for any criminal history.