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Senate Leader Says Cooper Should Defend Amendment

RALEIGH — State Senate leader Phil Berger says Attorney General Roy Cooper should defend North Carolina’s same sex marriage ban in the wake of a federal appeals court ruling striking down Virginia’s law.

The Rockingham Republican said after the Senate session on Monday that Cooper should stand up for the people of North Carolina and uphold its constitution.

More than 60 percent of voters approved the amendment in 2012.

Cooper said at a news conference earlier in the day that his office would not defend the state’s ban on same sex marriage, saying the ruling by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, made it highly likely North Carolina’s ban will be overturned.

North Carolina is part of the 4th Circuit.

http://chapelboro.com/news/state-government/senate-leader-says-cooper-defend-amendment/

McCrory Threatens Senate Budget Veto

RALEIGH – Gov. Pat McCrory says he’d veto any North Carolina budget plan on his desk that raises teacher pay dramatically like the Senate wants because it would mean huge cuts elsewhere to pay for it.

McCrory told The Associated Press in an interview Thursday he’s not going to risk key government services and allow Medicaid reductions to accept the Senate’s average 11 percent pay offer. The original Senate proposal cut funding for thousands of teacher assistants to pay for it.

Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) issued the following statement Thursday:

“I’m disappointed by the governor’s threat to veto the largest teacher pay raise in state history and surprised by his demand for a budget without cuts to teacher assistants and Medicaid – given that his own budget included almost $20 million in cuts to teacher assistants along with significant, though ultimately achievable, cuts to Medicaid.

“The governor has been unable to sustain any of his previous vetoes in the Senate. It would be more helpful for him to work with members of both chambers of the legislature, since his unwillingness to listen to those who have an honest disagreement with him on spending priorities in favor of staging media stunts and budget gimmicks is a major reason the budget has not been finalized.”

The governor is siding with the latest House offer to raises teacher pay on average by 6 percent, up from 5 percent. He says 6 percent is about as far as he can go and feel comfortable.

The two chambers are negotiating budget adjustment for the year that started July 1.

http://chapelboro.com/news/state-government/mccrory-threatens-senate-budget-veto/

Gov. McCrory Announces Raise For Incoming Teachers

JAMESTOWN, NC – Governor Pat McCrory and other state leaders announced a plan Monday morning to increase starting teachers’ salaries nearly 14 percent in the next two years, but no immediate increase was mentioned for teaching professionals already in place.

This year, starting teacher pay will increase $2,200 to $33,000; next year an additional $2,000 will be added taking salaries to $35,000.

Supplemental pay for teachers who completed their coursework for their Master’s degrees has been extended up until July 1, 2013 as well.

However, there was no discussion of raising teachers’ salaries for those who are just getting their start.

The announcement to raise incoming teachers’ salaries $4,200 in the next two years was made at Gov. McCrory’s former high school, Ragsdale, with Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, Senate Leader Phil Berger, and House Speaker Thom Tillis in attendance.

http://chapelboro.com/news/pre-k-12-education/gov-mccrory-announces-raise-incoming-teachers/

Local Representatives Criticize State Budget

CHAPEL HILL – Over the weekend, your state’s House and Senate leaders met to reconcile the differences between their two budget proposals. Now with a settled budget that both House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate leader Phil Berger seem happy about, passage looks likely.

But Representative Verla Insko, who represents OrangeCounty in the General Assembly, says she opposes the new budget and feels its cuts will end up costing North Carolinians more in the future.

“I just disagree with the philosophy of austerity during a recession,” Insko says. “I think stimulus makes a lot more sense.”

Among the items in the budget are a reduction in sales tax-free periods and cuts to the estate tax, corporate tax and a new income tax that would put all citizens, regardless of income level, at the same tax rate.

“There’s very little evidence, some would say no evidence, that cutting taxes for the wealthiest people actually produces any new jobs,” Insko says. “What produces new jobs is having the middle class have enough money to be able to purchase goods and services.”

State Senator Ellie Kinnaird also opposes the budget, criticizing its cuts to public sector employees.

“There’s a particularly sensitive group, the Highway Patrol, that had been promised over the years that they would have a certain percentage of pay raise every year no matter what,” Kinnaird says. “And they’ve just gone back on that.”

Insko especially criticizes cuts to child and adult service programs, namely those that deal with mental health care. She says she feels these cuts are not only unnecessary, but that it cuts more than it lets on.

“There’s a hidden $20 million cut to mental health in this budget because last year, they made a $20 million appropriation non-recurring and they didn’t fund that this year, so there’s really a $35 million cut to mental health,” Insko says.

While the state budget gives additional funding to voucher programs to help low-income families pay for private or charters schools, it also eliminates teacher tenure. Insko says that tenure should have been “tinkered with,” but not done away with altogether.

“Teachers don’t make a whole lot anyway, and job security was one of the things that allowed us to keep people who could make a lot more money in another job,” Insko says.

Kinnaird even speaks out against the funding for vouchers and says they are part of a larger goal in the state’s budget.

“Because they’ve instituted a voucher plan for private schools, that reduces the average daily funds going to the public schools,” Kinnaird says. “It’s a concerted effort to really, I think, destroy our public schools.”

While Kinnaird says that she was surprised by the “boldness” of the General Assembly’s budget, she says the individual provisions themselves were all expected.

“We’ve known, right at the beginning, what they were going to target,” Kinnaird says. “There’s nothing there that’s a surprise to me.”

Insko and Kinnaird did add that they were happy to see compensation for victims of the state’s eugenics program. Insko was one of the co-sponsors of legislation in the House to authorize compensation for the victims.

http://chapelboro.com/news/state-government/verla-insko-criticizes-general-assemblys-budget/

Berger Still Not Ready To Decide On US Senate Bid

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – The Republican leader of the North Carolina state Senate says he should make a decision by the end of July about whether to enter the race to try to unseat Democratic U.S. Senator Kay Hagan.

Senator Phil Berger told reporters Tuesday about his potential timetable. The Eden attorney has been weighing a bid for several months. His counterpart in the House – Speaker Thom Tillis – already announced in May he would seek the Republican primary nomination.

Berger confirmed he spoke Tuesday morning with representatives of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which recruits candidates and usually gives financial support to primary victors.

Physician Greg Brannon of Cary is running in the GOP primary. The Rev. Mark Harris of Charlotte is considering getting in as well.

http://chapelboro.com/news/state-government/berger-still-not-ready-to-decide-on-us-senate-bid/

NC Senate Delays Final Vote On Tax Overhaul

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – The North Carolina Senate has delayed a final vote on a tax overhaul plan to discuss changes with House members and Gov. Pat McCrory.

Senate Leader Phil Bergerof Eden said Tuesday a scheduled final vote was being put off for talks with McCrory and the House, which already passed its own proposal. The Senate’s plan tentatively passed last week. Berger said the proposal will be scheduled for action Wednesday.

The Senate plan cuts taxes by billions through a gradual repeal of corporate taxes and lower income tax rates. Proponents say it will boost the economy.

Critics have said it is not true tax reform because it doesn’t make major changes to the sales tax code. Others say it will severely hurt state and local public services.

http://chapelboro.com/news/state-government/nc-senate-delays-final-vote-on-tax-overhaul/

Lottery and Drones Bring Bipartisan Divisiveness

Are you tired of the partisan divisiveness that is poisoning the political environment of our state and nation?

Do you wish that the politicians from the two parties would work together more often on issues of common concern?

Me too.

Maybe we are getting what we wished for, thanks to the North Carolina lottery and our country’s use of unmanned drone aircraft to target and kill our enemies throughout the world.

Welcome to the world of bipartisan divisiveness?

You might get tired of this form of divisiveness, too.

The legislature, then controlled by Democrats, established the state lottery at the urging of Democratic Governor Mike Easley, whose pro-lottery positions were major campaign planks.

It was a popular issue for the governor, too. Schools needed the money. People wanted to play the games and were going across state lines to buy lottery tickets. A lottery would be a voluntary tax. Free money. 

Most Republicans opposed the lottery’s establishment. So did lots of Democrats. Liberal Democrats agreed with libertarian Republicans that running a gambling business is not a proper function of government.

Government, they said, should encourage its citizens to work and save for their future, not on fostering dreams of getting rich by winning the lottery. Certainly, they continued, government should not stoop to the low level of a carnival barker selling chances on games in which the odds of winning are stacked against the player.

Some lottery opponents argued that having state officials deal with the gaming industry would have special pitfalls. Don’t expect to lie down with dogs and not come up with fleas, they warned.

Today, the lottery is an established part of state government, and there have been fewer fleabites than expected.

But, with Republicans now in charge of state government, they could ditch the lottery.

Will they?

Governor Pat McCrory recommends only a first step, suggesting that the state “reallocate a portion of money away from the bloated and frankly annoying advertising and the large administration costs of the lottery commission.”

Senate Republican Leader Phil Berger and one-time vigorous lottery opponent Representative Paul Stam are not pushing for lottery repeal, only reducing advertising and administrative expenses and fees.

Even these modest proposals have put the lottery back in play. Some Democrats will join Republicans to cut the lottery’s wings. And some Republicans will vote with Democrats to maintain or enhance the lottery’s profits.

More lottery divisiveness, but it is bipartisan divisiveness.

Similarly the bitter partisan divisions in Washington collapsed for a moment last week after Senator Rand Paul filibustered the nomination of John Brennan to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Paul used his speaking time to call for accountability and clear policy for the use of drone aircraft for targeted killings. Specifically, Paul demanded to know whether the U.S. president has the authority to direct the killing of some presumed enemy within the United States.

Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham denounced Paul for trying to tie the president’s hands in the fight against worldwide terrorism. Meanwhile, liberals like Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson supported Paul. Robinson wrote, “The way we use drones as killing machines has to be consistent with our freedoms and our values. For grabbing us by the lapels, Rand Paul deserves praise.”

How much authority should the president have to call for drone strikes against suspected enemies of the country?

The question is divisive.

Bipartisan divisive.

Enjoy it while you can.

D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch.” During UNC-TV’s Festival, the program airs Thursdays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV. For more information or to view prior programs visit the webpage at www.unctv.org/ncbookwatch
Next week’s (Thursday, March 21 at 5 p.m.) guest is Terry Roberts, author of “A Short Time to Stay Here.” (Note the Sunday airing will be preempted by UNC-TV’s Festival programming). The program will also air at Wednesday March 20 at 11 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on UNC-MX, a digital cable system channel (Time Warner #172 or #4.4). In addition, airing at 11:30 Wednesday on UNC-MX will be a classic Bookwatch program featuring Haven Kimmel author of The Solace of Leaving Early.
 
A grant from the North Carolina Humanities Council provides crucial support for North Carolina Bookwatch.
 
More about Terry Roberts:
 
Madison County, north of Asheville and up along the Tennessee border, has been the location of two novels featured recently on Bookwatch: Ron Rash’s “The Cove” and Wiley Cash’s “A Land More Kind than Home.” Now there is a third fine Madison County novel. Terry Roberts’ “A Short Time to Stay Here” is a story of World War I and more than 2,000 Germans interned in a resort hotel in Hot Springs. It is a story of love, killing and conflict of different cultures that come together in explosive and surprising fashion.

http://chapelboro.com/columns/one-on-one/lottery-and-drones-bring-bipartisan-divisiveness/