A Tale Of Two Moderates: McCrory, Spellings, And HB2

“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”
-Kurt Vonnegut

Every time there’s a contentious political issue, we tend to demonize our opponents – and we also tend to lump them together.

House Bill 2, for instance. They say we’re fomenting radical upheaval! We say they’re all ignorant bigots! And sadly, in all the shouting we lose sight of the fact that there are a lot of distinctions among the two sides as well.

Take HB2’s supporters. True, there are bigots, who only support HB2 because it makes life harder for LGBT people – but the bigots are not to be confused with good people who are still learning. Or those who genuinely worry about non-transgender men abusing a trans-friendly policy. Or those who say gender distinctions help protect privacy in bathrooms and changing rooms. Or libertarians, who at least support letting private businesses set their own policies. Or conservatives in the literal sense, who just aren’t thrilled about having to rethink everything that assumes a strict male/female divide – even if they concede that the assumption is wrong.

All those subtle distinctions are important.

But it’s not just why people support HB2 that matters – there’s also the question of degree.

On the one hand, sure, you have your die-hards: people who love House Bill 2, show up at all the rallies, believe it’s the only thing standing between us and total upheaval.

But then there are the moderates, and there’s a lot more of them than you think. The moderates aren’t happy with HB2. They think it’s poorly written. They think it’s way too broad. They’re embarrassed by the bigots. They know the “public safety” concerns are overblown. They hate what it’s done to our state’s reputation. They hate what it’s doing to our economy. And they think there are more important issues we ought to be addressing. Maybe they still support parts of the bill, maybe they think it’s better than nothing, maybe they’re worried about party unity, maybe they just don’t want to make waves – but they’re clearly not comfortable with it. And as the two sides get more entrenched (and more extreme), the moderates are caught in the middle.

So if you’re a moderate, and you get pressed to take a stance on HB2, you have a hard choice:

What do you do?

And that’s a huge question. How you act is even more important than how you think. Two moderates could share the exact same opinion about HB2 – but if they act in different ways, they’ll end up in very, very, very different places.

Case in point, submitted for your approval:

Margaret Spellings and Pat McCrory.

Both of them Republicans, both very public figures, both holding major positions of power in state government – and both of them highly ambivalent about House Bill 2.

McCrory, ambivalent? Actually yes, and no doubt about it. Pat McCrory refused to call the GA into special session precisely because he was afraid they’d do something nuts. In his signing statement, he couldn’t even get through two paragraphs before hinting the GA went too far. Even now, he rarely attempts to defend Parts 2 and 3 of the bill, the non-bathroom stuff; when asked about them, he steers the conversation back to Part 1. His April 12 executive order begged the GA to walk back Part 3 – and made it clear that his office would have no part of workplace discrimination against LGBT people, even if HB2 made it legal. And at no point has McCrory ever bought into the “public safety” craze: he’s consistently been a “privacy” guy, and he’s repeatedly rejected the notion that there’s any danger of people being assaulted in bathrooms. Pat McCrory supports Part 1 of HB2, he thinks Charlotte’s ordinance went too far, he’s willing to swallow Parts 2 and 3 to get the provision he wants – and he’s fully aware the NCGA would have just overridden him if he’d taken a stand and tried to veto. But he’s never been happy with HB2, not for a second.

And in that, Pat McCrory is not far off from Margaret Spellings. Spellings has never been comfortable with LGBT issues, she has a history of saying the wrong thing, and in the case of HB2 she’s clearly not interested in picking a public fight with the General Assembly. Nor should we expect her to be. She’s a very prominent Republican in North Carolina, so it would be front-page news if she did pick a fight; she needs to maintain friendly relations with the NCGA because they pay UNC’s bills; and she doesn’t believe she has the authority to defy a government directive in the first place. So it’s no surprise she hasn’t exactly been getting herself arrested at Moral Mondays. But we also know that she’s not a fan of HB2. She said so herself, and unlike McCrory she went after the “bathroom” stuff directly:

“Were it up to me, I would not recommend enactment…I think it sends a chill through these institutions for staff, faculty and student recruitment…We don’t intend to enforce anything.”

When HB2 passed, Pat McCrory and Margaret Spellings found themselves in the same boat. They both had qualms about the bill. They both believed it went too far. But they’re also ambivalent on LGBT matters, this issue was never their top priority, and they both have strong incentives to avoid challenging the all-powerful NCGA. They had their differences – McCrory supported the “bathroom” stuff in Part 1, Spellings apparently opposed it – but for all practical purposes, Pat McCrory and Margaret Spellings were caught in exactly the same position: moderates, forced to take a public stand on a volatile issue.

What do you do?

Pat McCrory didn’t have to make the choices he made. He could have vetoed the bill, forced an override, dumped it all on the NCGA. He could have quietly signed the bill and said no more about it. He could have issued a signing statement calling for amendments, or at least more dialogue. He didn’t have to issue statement after statement defending HB2. When the boycotts came, he could have simply called for cooler heads to prevail. When the lawsuits came, he didn’t have to say anything at all.

Margaret Spellings didn’t have to make the choices she made. The night HB2 passed, she could have issued a statement thanking the NCGA for establishing a clear statewide policy. She could have said UNC cared about “protecting students’ safety” or “protecting students’ privacy.” When the Obama administration stepped in, it could just as easily have been Spellings on TV denouncing “federal overreach.” It could just as easily have been UNC suing the Justice Department – Margaret Spellings leading the charge.

Any of those choices would have made perfect sense.

It could have been so different.

But those weren’t the choices they made. Pat McCrory could have quietly backed away, but instead he took it upon himself to be HB2’s public face. Margaret Spellings could have put on a smile and gotten on board, but instead she went out of her way to be as reluctant as possible. Pat McCrory accused HB2’s opponents of being uninformed and hypocritical; Margaret Spellings told reporters UNC is a “welcoming and safe space for all.” Pat McCrory sued the U.S. government; Margaret Spellings implied the U.S. government was probably right.

True, Spellings has still taken some heat for not opposing HB2 more strongly.

But let’s just say there are no delis in Charlotte currently serving a sandwich called “Burn In Hell Margaret Spellings.” Pat McCrory, not so much.

So whenever we find ourselves arguing about HB2, let’s pause for a second and take a moment for the moderates – forced to choose between cruddy options, on an issue they wanted no part of. Be frustrated with Spellings’ tepid reaction, but recognize how much she has been pushing back. Criticize McCrory, but remember he wasn’t the architect of HB2 – he’s just a guy who got a bad situation dumped in his lap and made one fateful choice that’s been snowballing ever since.

Kurt Vonnegut said, “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” McCrory and Spellings started in the same place – but Pat McCrory is the face of House Bill 2, and Margaret Spellings is not. It could have been so different, so easily.

Remember the moderates. It’s hard out there these days.

http://chapelboro.com/featured/a-tale-of-two-moderates-mccrory-spellings-and-hb2

Think You Can Enforce House Bill 2? Take This Easy Quiz!

On Wednesday, March 23, the North Carolina General Assembly rushed back to session and passed House Bill 2, a law designed to overturn Charlotte’s recent anti-discrimination ordinance.

What does it do? Well, among other things, the bill makes it legal to discriminate against gays, lesbians, and military veterans; it bans cities from regulating child labor; and it prohibits you from suing in state court if you’re discriminated against. (Instead you’ll have to go through the state’s Human Relations Commission, which the GA nearly eliminated just last year.)

(Read the bill for yourself if you think I’m exaggerating.)

But forget all that! The real purpose of House Bill 2 is to protect your safety – by prohibiting men from going into women’s restrooms, and by keeping women out of the men’s room. That was the thing that got everyone upset about Charlotte’s ordinance, after all – one provision that would have allowed transgender individuals to use the bathroom that corresponded with their gender identity, rather than their “actual” biological sex.

And I mean a lot of people were upset about that. What? Men dressing up as women, going into the women’s room? And Charlotte wants to allow that? Outrageous!

And the NCGA heard your outcry. So now we have House Bill 2, which requires everyone to use the bathroom that corresponds to their “biological sex,” or the gender that’s listed on their birth certificate.

Makes sense, right?

Problem solved? Easy fix?

Let’s find out!

NC State Patrol badge

You are hereby deputized as an agent of the North Carolina State Bathroom Patrol! Your job is to enforce House Bill 2 – by steering the men to the men’s room and the women to the women’s room. Remember, we’re talking biological sex here: it’s not what you look like or how you dress, it’s the gender on your birth certificate that matters.

Ready?

All right, ten people are heading your way. No time to check birth certificates, but this should be easy. All you have to do is separate the men from the women. Go!

Ben Jordan

Janet Mock

Ines Rau

Brooklyn Beckham

Jamie Raines 1

Margaret Trudeau

Ben Melzer

Amal Clooney

Aydian Dowling

Jamie Raines 2

 

Time’s up! Any trouble?

If House Bill 2 makes any sense at all as a public safety measure, this quiz should have been super easy. Men are men and women are women, right?

Well, as it happens, this quiz was super easy. Turns out, the boys and girls had already separated themselves!

The top four photos are all biological men. First guy up there in the denim shirt is male model Ben Jordan. Looking good! Right under Jordan is New York Times bestselling author Janet Mock, followed by internationally-renowned model Ines Rau. They’re both transgender women. The guy in the bumblebee shirt is Brooklyn Beckham, son of David and Victoria. One hundred percent man right there!

The bottom six photos are all biological women. In the red hoodie is YouTube celebrity Jamie Raines, aka “Jammidodger.” After that is former Canadian first lady Margaret Trudeau, the mother of current Canadian PM Justin. That steamy-looking tough guy underneath Trudeau? That’s transgender fitness model Ben Melzer. Better make sure to send him to the women’s room, right? After Melzer is a woman you might recognize, human rights lawyer Amal Clooney. (Maybe you know her better as George Clooney’s wife.) Following Clooney is another fitness model, Aydian Dowling; last year he became the first trans man to make the cover of Men’s Health magazine. And finally – time warp! That last picture is actually YouTube celebrity Jamie Raines again, after his transition from female to male.

So!

How’d you do?

If House Bill 2 makes sense, then you should have gotten 10 out of 10, no problem. The underlying assumption behind House Bill 2 is that men and women are profoundly different, totally easy to tell apart, and there are no blurry lines or fluidity between the genders at all.

But I bet you didn’t get 10 out of 10, did you?

And even the ones you got right, I bet a couple of those were lucky guesses?

That’s the problem with the “biological sex” approach. House Bill 2, and the lawmakers behind it, don’t really believe there’s any such thing as being “transgender.” It’s men and women, they think, and that’s it.

Trouble is, there is such a thing as being transgender.

There are blurry lines.

There is fluidity.

And if we ignore that fact – as House Bill 2 does – then all of a sudden we find ourselves waking up in a state that forces sexy supermodel Ines Rau to go into the bathroom with a bunch of guys…and sends muscle-bear Ben Melzer into the women’s room to hang out with the ladies.

Because that’s what House Bill 2 does, y’all. And that’s the best thing it has going for it.

Good morning.

 

 

(Photo Credits:  Ben Jordan via W Magazine, Janet Mock via janetmock.com, Ines Rau via Oob Magazine, Brooklyn Beckham via Man About Town, Jamie Raines via YouTube, Margaret Trudeau via Arlen Redekop/Vancouver Sun, Ben Melzer via Instagram, Amal Clooney via Jason Merritt, Aydian Dowling via Men’s Health, and Jamie Raines via YouTube.)

http://chapelboro.com/featured/think-youve-got-what-it-takes-to-enforce-house-bill-2-take-this-easy-quiz

NCGA Shifts All 2016 Primaries To March

Two years ago, the North Carolina legislature voted to separate the presidential primary from the federal, state, and local races, planning to conduct the first in March and the others in May.

But Orange County Elections Director Tracy Reams says concerns about the cost of hosting two primaries and two early voting periods prompted lawmakers to move every race to the March ballot.

“Because of the cost- I think it was $9.5 million statewide- to conduct the second primary in May, they elected to move all primaries up to March 15,” explains Reams.

She says this move saved Orange County taxpayers approximately $107,000.

She notes this will mean a significant change to the filing period as well. Those making up their minds to run in 2016 have only a few weeks to think it over.

“As far as the filing period, that will begin December 1 and it will end before December 21, so they’ll need to come in and file before Christmas gets here,” says Reams.

The move could make a difference in the 2016 county commissioner races, where four seats will be up for grabs. Orange County is a Democratic stronghold, and primaries between Democratic candidates are traditionally more hotly contested than the General Election. A shorter primary season means less time for candidates to fundraise and campaign.

In addition to the commissioner and county school board seats, federal, state, gubernatorial and judicial races will be on the ballot next March.

http://chapelboro.com/news/state-government/ncga-shifts-all-2016-primaries-to-march

With State Budget Set, School Districts Inch Toward Final Spending Plans

Now that state lawmakers have finally signed off on a budget, local school districts can complete their spending plans.

Chapel Hill-Carrboro administrators say the school board will be ready to vote in October. Orange County Schools officials anticipate the board will adopt a budget November 23, nearly halfway through the current fiscal year.

The state budget left funding for teaching assistants and Driver’s Education largely intact, meaning neither district will see significant changes in those areas.

While Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools come out of the budget process mostly unscathed, some of the provisions related to salary increases, bonuses and transportation funding cuts will cost the Orange County district $643,000 more than originally planned.

Leaders in both districts are keeping a close eye on House Bill 539 that would mandate the transfer of increased funding from public schools to charter schools.

If approved, Orange County Schools stands to lose $75,000, while Chapel Hill-Carrboro could lose more than a quarter million dollars, some of which would come from special district tax revenues.

The school boards will meet with Orange County Commissioners on  Tuesday to discuss their budget requests. They’ll also discuss how to prioritize the more than $330 million dollars worth of repairs to aging schools in both districts.

The boards meet at 7 o’clock at the Whitted Meeting Room in Hillsborough. You can find the full agenda here

http://chapelboro.com/featured/with-state-budget-set-school-districts-inch-toward-final-spending-plans

GoTriangle ‘Still Evaluating’ NCGA’s Light Rail Spending Cap

Jeff Mann is the general manager of GoTriangle, the transit authority that’s been working to build a light rail line from Durham to Chapel Hill. He says the legislature’s cap on spending may not be enough to derail the project.

“We’re still evaluating what the provision would mean to the project,” says Mann. “Obviously it’s a hurdle that we would have to overcome, but we’re still looking at alternatives and evaluating what it means, so I’m not prepared to say now that it’s a project-killing provision, only that we will continue to evaluate funding alternatives and work hard to support the project, because we believe it’s vital to the region.”

Buried in the state budget released this week is a provision that would cap funding for light rail projects at $500,000 dollars per year, far less than the $138 million total transit planners had been expecting.

“[The project] was allotted that funding through the Strategic Transportation Investments Law, which scores projects through a data-driven process,” says Mann. “This cap that has been inserted in the budget would circumvent that process and not allow expenditures of that $138 million except for that small amount.”

Transit officials worry the cut in state funds could also jeopardize federal funding for the $1.6 billon dollar project.

“Projects such as this, that are funded through the Federal Transit Administration, typically are funded in a formula that’s 50 percent federal funding, 25 percent local funding, and 25 percent state funding,” says Mann. “So obviously it’s a concern if we don’t have the matching funds to match the federal 50 percent.”

Just a day before the state budget was released, the Federal Transit Administration awarded GoTriangle $1.7 million to help plan development around light rail stops.

Despite the legislature’s spending cap, Mann says he’s committed to moving forward with the planning process and seeking other sources of funding if necessary.

“We want folks to know that we’re still working for this project. We think it’s the right project for the region. We keep evaluating alternatives for the project to move forward because we think its a vital project.”

The 17-mile light rail line is still in the project development phase. GoTriangle anticipates asking permission from the FTA to enter into the engineering phase early next year.

In the meantime, as transit planners assess their funding options, GoTriangle is preparing to host a series of public hearings on the recently-released environmental impact study that narrows down potential routes through Orange and Durham counties.

For a full list of those meetings, click here.

http://chapelboro.com/featured/gotriangle-still-evaluating-ncgas-light-rail-spending-cap

Solar Supporters Push To Save Tax Credit Program

State House Representative Pricey Harrison (D-Guilford) says more than 23,000 jobs in the renewable energy industry could be at risk if the General Assembly doesn’t move to extend tax credits set to expire this year.

“Clean energy is an economic success story in our state,” said Harrison, speaking at a press conference Thursday. “The data and the facts prove it. It is not a political football to be spiked in the Legislative Building.”

She joined other lawmakers and representatives from Environment North Carolina to present a report detailing the impact of renewable energy tax credits and subsidies.

This comes as the General Assembly is looking to scrap both the tax credits and a standard requiring power companies to use renewably generated energy to produce 12.5 percent of the electricity they sell.

A measure to limit that mandate passed in the House and is currently stalled in the Senate. The tax credit program is wrapped up in state budget negotiations, which have already stretched months past the July deadline.

This was the second presentation in two days on the topic of renewable energy. On Wednesday the conservative-leaning American Energy Alliance sponsored an hour-long roundtable discussion decrying the tax credit program and the renewable energy portfolio standard.

North Carolina has seen a surge in solar energy investment since 2007. The Tar Heel state now ranks fourth in the nation and first in the South for solar power.

Proponents say it’s a $2 billion dollar industry that’s created thousands of jobs and brought economic development to poor, rural parts of the state

Michael Wray, a Democrat who represents Halifax and Northampton Counties, says the solar energy industry has been a boon to his region.

“’These are new tax revenues our local communities and governments desperately need to pay for vital services like schools, roads, police, water and sewer” said Wray. “We believe very strongly we need to keep our existing clean energy policies in place, otherwise, our rural communities will suffer even more.”

He says he and other pro-business Democrats are hoping to be able to support the budget plan tentatively scheduled for a vote next week, but in order to do so he’ll need a guarantee that the solar power tax credits will be extended.

http://chapelboro.com/featured/solar-supporters-push-to-save-tax-credit-program

NCGA Cracks Down on Graffiti

A bill to impose tougher penalties on graffiti vandals is on Gov. McCrory’s desk, waiting to be signed.

House Bill 552 makes it a Class 1 misdemeanor to create graffiti vandalism. However, it’s charged as a Class H felony if the offender has two or more prior convictions for graffiti vandalism.

A Class H felony carries a sentence of four-to-25 months.

The final, amended bill passed the House 98-11.

Democrat Verla Insko represents Orange County District 56 in the state House. She voted for HB552.

“The amendment that Sen. Stein added in the Senate made it more clearly targeted to gang members, and not to just innocent graffiti,” said Insko.

She’s referring to District 16 Sen. Josh Stein, a Democrat. (Rep. Graig Meyer, a Democrat representing Orange and Durham, had an excused absence, and did not vote.)

Orange County Sheriff Charles Blackwood agreed with Insko that gang-related graffiti is a real concern.

“Tagging has been a problem for some years, in the Chapel Hill and Orange County and Hillsborough and Mebane and surrounding areas of our county” said Blackwood. “And that is, gangs who are tagging territory by putting their symbols up to let everyone know ‘I’ve got control over this ground.’”

That means drug trafficking. And when other gangs start X-ing out the original tags, that, basically, is a declaration of turf war.

Blackwood recalled how the late Robin Britt, best-known as owner of Merritt’s Store & Grill, was forced to deal with that problem at the former site of another one of her businesses.

“Robin ran Britt’s BP on Mt. Carmel Church Road,” said Blackwood. “Well, as soon as that business closed down, and the doors were shut, and the windows were covered over, graffiti tagging started to occur on that building. And we went to Robin, and we said ‘Hey, look, we’ve got some tagging going on. We want to cover that up.’

“And so she had somebody immediately go out an pressure wash and take that stuff off. The quicker we let them know we’re not going to tolerate it, the quicker we get it off of these buildings and properties, the better off the community stands.”

Even when it comes to the stupidest, least threatening forms of graffiti, the cleanup is annoying and expensive for business owners.

For the past five years, David Yu has owned the Gourmet Kingdom restaurant on Carrboro’s Main Street.

Both he and his neighbor Carquest Auto Parts have been repeat victims of graffiti vandalism in recent years. Gourmet Kingdom’s outside walls are immaculately clean right now, while Carquest’s wall facing the parking lot they share is defaced with a few crude tags and an anarchy symbol.

Yu said the last incident at his business was about six months ago. As always, he had it painted over. It costs him around $200 every time. Yu doesn’t even remember what kind of things get spray-painted on his wall. He just calls it “nonsense.”

He said he likes what little he’s heard about the bill.

“That’s good,” he said. “That protects the business. It’s just a better way to regulate this kind of nonsense.”

In the Senate, HB552 passed 40-9.

District 23 Sen. Valerie Foushee, a Democrat from Hillsborough, voted against HB552.

“This whole school-to-prison pipeline is really concerning to me,” said Foushee. “And when I saw what this bill was really going to do, it just made it apparent to me that we are making felonies out of many situations where I think we need to do some other work.”

That work, she said, should include providing more educational and employment opportunities for young people at risk.

Foushee added that she’s also worried that penalty changes are being made without recommendations from the Sentencing Commission.

According to a fiscal impact study attached to the bill, it will cost the Department of Public Safety Prison Section up to $3,500 for each active sentence imposed.

And there are no assumptions on the deterrent effect of HB552, or its impact on prison population.

It all begs the question: Why not just make graffiti artists clean up their own messes? Wouldn’t that save taxpayers and business owners a lot of money, while teaching a valuable lesson to young offenders?

Insko said she likes that idea. So did Blackwood.

“You’re reading my mind,” said Blackwood. “That’s part of a pre-arrest diversion program we’re looking at.”

http://chapelboro.com/news/state-government/ncga-cracks-down-on-graffiti

CHCCS Looks To Revamp Teacher Pay Plan

Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools officials want to move away from longevity bonuses for teachers to a pay scale that rewards professional development. While that might mean more money for some educators, it could come at a cost to others.

“Some will be very upset, yet I think it’s the best thing to do, in the long-term, for teachers, so that you don’t have to go be an assistant principal in order to make more money,” said Chapel Hill-Carrboro school board member Jamezetta Bedford, speaking at a board meeting last week.

Last year the North Carolina General Assembly passed a budget that requires school systems to submit a plan for differentiated teacher pay. But CHCCS officials say they want to make sure the pay plan the district adopts will support the progress of all teachers, not just the top performers.

Board Chair Mike Kelley said the plan under consideration now meets that goal.

“A possible alternative that the state legislature could impose on us might look very ugly, but this to me seems like its homegrown- it comes from our professionals and it’s been developed and thought out in a way which is very careful, deliberative and not reactionary,” said Kelley.

A committee of teachers, staffers and advisors from UNC’s School of Education recently sat down to evaluate options for reconfiguring teacher pay.

They came up with a plan in which teachers would earn points for participating in professional development and get credit for rising student test scores. These points would then translate to salary increases.

But this could mean those teachers who don’t invest in professional development might lose out on potential pay raises, as longevity bonuses would no longer be guaranteed.

Still, given that many teachers have seen their compensation levels frozen for years, Assistant Superintendent Todd LoFrese said the new plan might be better than the status quo.

“Their current reality is they’ve been standstill for six, seven years, and now the new model that the state has in terms of the salary schedule shows that raises come every five years,” LoFrese told the board. “So we’re trying to change that and we think this is a positive step in that direction.”

Superintendent Tom Forcella told the board last week the full financial details are not yet available, but administrators want to make sure it doesn’t cost the district more, or cause those currently employed as teachers to lose ground. Board Chair Kelley warned it might be tough to do both.

“Unless there’s new money for salaries- and that would probably have to come from the state in some fashion, because it is probably not likely going to come from the district- then there may have to be some redistribution of the funds that are available,” said Kelley.

The school board will discuss the plan further at the district’s planning retreat in February. Administrators will present a final proposal to the board in March.

http://chapelboro.com/news/pre-k-12-education/chccs-looks-revamp-teacher-pay-plan

Local Leaders Eye 2015 NCGA With Cautious Optimism

As the General Assembly reconvenes, local leaders say they hope legislators will take a more favorable view of municipal issues in 2015.

Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt says during the last legislative session, some members of the General Assembly declared war on North Carolina’s cities.

“In the last legislature, the relationship between the legislature and cities was not very good,” says Kleinschmidt. “We had several members of the legislature who seemed to be at war with the cities that they were representing, particularly Representative Stone and Representative Moffitt.”

But Kleinschmidt says he’s optimistic that this year will be different, in part because those representatives were voted out of office.

Though the House and Senate are still under firm Republican control, state Democrats managed to gain three seats in the November election. Two of the incumbents who lost their seats led the charge to rein in municipal authority. Kleinschmidt says their loss sends a message to those who would target city government.

He’s also looking to Governor Pat McCrory to take a stand on a number of controversial issues including the statewide expansion of Medicaid.

“Now he’s got to decide if he’s going to pick some fights, and it looks like he’s already laying the groundwork for some of those fights,” says Kleinschmidt.

A recent report from George Washington University shows North Carolina lost $2.7 billion dollars last year when Republican leaders decided to forgo Medicaid expansion. The state stands to lose $3.3 billion more next year.

There’s also a showdown looming on historic preservation tax credits. The General Assembly repealed them last year, but even before the legislature reconvened, civic leaders from across the state launched a bi-partisan effort to bring them back.

“We have some lines being drawn and that’s going to be fun to watch,” says Kleinschidt. “Now, can Chapel Hill and out legislative delegation get in there and exploit some of that? That remains to be seen.”

Kleinschmidt and other members of the Chapel Hill Town Council sat down recently with state Senators Valerie Foushee and Mike Woodard, as well as Representative Graig Meyer and a spokesperson from Representative Verla Insko’s office to hash out plans for the 2015 legislative session. Kleinschmidt says the local delegation will mostly be playing defense to help towns maintain their revenue sources and planning authority.

If the General Assembly follows through on a promise to do away with extra-territorial jurisdictions, it could throw a wrench in Chapel Hill’s plan to help fund a sewer project in the Rogers Road community by extending the town’s ETJ to encompass the neighborhood.

“It would take Chapel Hill out of the equation,” says Kleinschmidt. “We would have to find some roundabout ways to provide direct financial contributions.”

Despite reports that Republican leaders have already begun conducting closed-door sessions on education policy that shut out Democratic leaders, Kleinschmidt says he and other local leaders are looking to the upcoming legislative session with hope.

“At this point, let’s decide to be optimistic and hope that the end is near for those closed door meetings, that there will be attempts to bring in members of the minority to advise and provide some input into the policies of our state.”

The 2015 legislative session convenes Wednesday for a one-day organizational session. The General Assembly will reconvene on January 28.

http://chapelboro.com/news/state-news/local-leaders-view-2015-ncga-cautious-optimism

Foushee, Meyer, Insko Easily Win State House And Senate Seats

Democratic incumbents swept away their Republican challengers in three local races for State House and Senate.

Valerie Foushee, Verla Insko and Graig Meyer will all be returning to Raleigh to represent Senate District 23 and House Districts 56 and 50.

Foushee defeated Mary Lopez-Carter with 68 percent of the vote for the Senate 23 seat representing Orange and Chatham counties.

Foushee says she’s hoping Democrats will be able to advocate for more progressive issues in the next legislative session .

“I think that there is a push across the state for consideration of Medicaid expansion,” says Foushee. “I think that we’ve heard from people that believe that North Carolina is what it is because of previous investments in education; we’ll be able to push that agenda again, so I look forward to that.”

Meyer beat Hillsborough pastor Rod Cheney with the smallest margin among the three Democrats. Meyer won with 57 percent of the vote, Chaney garnered 42 percent.

Meyer says he took nothing for granted in his first campaign for office. He raised more than $230,000 and contributed much of that to support candidates in more hotly contested races.

“It doesn’t do me any good to be in the back row of a minority party that can’t even break a veto,” says Meyer. “So I wanted to make sure that we elected Democrats in Wake County, Buncome County, Lee County, places where we had targeted races. People in some of those areas can’t raise as much money as Orange County, so I wanted to help do what I could to help elect those candidates so we can make some good changes in the legislature.”

In the House 56 race representing Chapel Hill and Carrboro, Verla Insko won against Dave Carter 81 percent to 18 percent.

Insko returns to the State House for her 10th term. Foushee and Meyer were appointed to their positions last fall following the resignation of former Senator Ellie Kinnaird.

http://chapelboro.com/news/election/foushee-meyer-insko-easily-win-state-house-senate-seats