Payments begin for N.C. eugenics victims

Republican Gov. Pat McCrory on Monday announced that initial payments will soon be mailed to victims of North Carolina’s decades-long system of involuntary sterilization, or eugenics.

North Carolina’s eugenics program lasted from 1929 until 1974, with the state subjecting over 7,600 citizens – many of them 10-19 years of age at the time – to sterilization because they were deemed “mentally defective or feeble-minded or otherwise unfit to reproduce.”

The compensation program is part of a $10 million appropriation in the 2013-2014 state budget passed by the GOP-led N.C. General Assembly. The funds will be divided equally among living victims of eugenics who submitted their claims by the June 30 deadline. The state’s Industrial Commission is charged with determining compensation eligibility.

“Signing the legislation to make these payments possible was among the most gratifying actions I have taken as governor,” McCrory said. “While no amount of money could undo the wrong that was done to these victims, I hope these payments bring some solace in their acknowledgment that the actions of the Eugenics Board were wrong. This is a new day for us all and brings us nearer to closing one of North Carolina’s darkest chapters.”

Some 780 claim forms from potential victims of the state’s now-defunct eugenics program were received by the deadline this summer. That number is less than half of an estimated 1,600 victims of eugenics still alive today who might have been eligible to receive monetary compensation.

The state chapter of the NAACP petitioned McCrory and the legislature to extend the deadline for another year, but the June 30 deadline remained in place.

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McCrory appoints Wake County business court judge

Gov. Pat McCrory on Wednesday announced the appointment of Greg McGuire as a special superior court judge for a term beginning Oct. 13.

According to a release from the governor’s office, Chief Justice Mark Martin plans to assign McGuire to preside in the Wake County Business Court.

“Greg McGuire is a talented, hardworking attorney, whose extensive business litigation experience will prove indispensable,” McCrory said. “We appreciate his willingness to serve our state and look forward to the valuable contributions he will make in the business court.”

McGuire is an attorney at the law firm Ogletree Deakins. He received his B.S. from Cornell University in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations and his J.D. from the University of North Carolina School of Law.

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McCrory announces $1 million in grants for water resource projects

Gov. Pat McCrory on Wednesday announced nearly $1 million in grants for 10 projects in North Carolina towns and counties to restore streams, reduce erosion and study future water supplies.

The N.C. Division of Water Resources awarded $966,177 for the Water Resources Development Project Grant Program with funds allocated by the N.C. General Assembly.

“These grants will further our goal of improving the quality of life and our environment for all North Carolinians,” McCrory said.

Projects included in the grant are:

• $33,577 for the Haywood County Soil & Water Conservation District to stabilize 2,300 feet of eroding streambank along Ratcliff Cove Branch.

• $30,600 for the Haywood County Soil & Water Conservation District to stabilize 1,600 feet of eroding streambank along Rogers Cove Creek.

• $120,000 for Lansing to construct a 3,000-foot greenway along Big Horse Creek.

• $96,000 for North Wilkesboro to construct a stormwater wetland to treat stormwater before it flows into the Yadkin River.

• $121,000 to the Surry County Soil & Water Conservation District for a restoration project along the Ararat River in Mount Airy.

• $45,000 for the N.C. Forest Service to improve the water quality of the Little River in Transylvania County.

• $25,000 to Wallace for a stormwater system upgrade along North Duplin Street.

• $45,000 for Wilmington to study shoreline improvements along two miles of the downtown river front.

• $200,000 for the Yancey County Soil & Water Conservation District to remove the Cane River Dam and stabilize 2,500 feet of eroding streambank.

The state also awarded $250,000 to the N.C. Division of Soil & Water Conservation to be distributed to multiple eastern North Carolina counties for the removal of storm debris from streams. The counties include Beaufort, Bertie, Camden, Chowan, Currituck, Dare, Duplin, Edgecombe, Hertford, Hyde, Jones, Martin, Pamlico, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Pitt, Tyrrell and Washington.

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McCrory appoints members to coal ash commission he opposed

Gov. Pat McCrory on Tuesday appointed three members to the newly formed Coal Ash Management Commission that he opposed as “another level of unneeded bureaucracy.”

The appointments come after McCrory allowed the Coal Ash Management Act, which established the commission, to become law without his signature, citing concerns about adequate funding and an intrusion into his executive authority. The bill passed with bipartisan support in the Republican-controlled legislature – 84-13 in the House and 38-2 in the Senate.

“One of the major shortcomings is the formation of another unchecked, non-judicial commission that reports to no one, has no accountability, and adds another level of unneeded bureaucracy,” McCrory said of the commission earlier this month. “That’s no way to run an efficient government. The legislature’s duty is to draft and pass laws, not execute them. That is the executive branch’s duty.”

The three members named by McCrory to the commission are:

Michael T. Jacobs (Orange County) – Jacobs will serve as chair of the commission. He is a professor of finance at UNC-Chapel Hill and the founder of Jacobs Capital. Jacobs will hold the seat requiring experience in economic development.

Herbert M. Eckerlin (Wake County) – Eckerlin is a professor and senior extension specialist at the Department of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering at N.C. State. He is in the seat requiring experience in science or engineering in the manufacturing sector.

Larry Cobb (Durham County) – Cobb practices in the area of utility regulatory law for Nexsen Pruet. He is a former member of both the State House and Senate.  He has also served on the N.C. Utilities Commission.  Cobb is in the seat requiring expertise in determining and evaluating the costs associated with electricity generation and establishing the rates associated with electricity consumption

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Graphic: 2014 ‘short session’ longest of past 10 years

When state lawmakers returned to work in the spring, few legislative observers would have predicted Aug. 20 for this year’s adjournment date, especially since the previous so-called “short session” of 2012 saw legislators leave Raleigh before the July Fourth holiday.

These even-numbered annual sessions – which begin in May and are primarily intended to make course corrections to the state budget – are quite a bit shorter than their “long-session” counterparts in odd-numbered years, which typically start in late January and run into mid or even late summer.

Before 2014, short sessions had been getting shorter, falling from 49 days in 2006 to 39 in 2008, 35 in 2010 and just 29 days in 2012. However, that trend was dramatically reversed during this year’s session, which lasted 56 days – almost doubling in length from the last short session.

Note that the number of “legislative days” refers to the total days in which the legislature is actually meeting – its “business days,” if you will – usually Monday through Thursday during weeks when lawmakers are in session.

The driving force behind this year’s long-lasting “short session” centered on a division between the Republican-controlled N.C. House and Senate over teacher pay raises, which was finally resolved after some tense negotiations.

And while the debate over upping educator salaries caused the session to drag on, passing a teacher pay raise before adjourning for the year was a pledge that legislative leaders seemed compelled to keep – even if it meant upending the definition of a “short” session.

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Governor’s Teacher Advisory Committee makes recommendations on testing

Members of the Governor’s Teacher Advisory Committee presented nine recommendations on testing standards and assessments to Gov. Pat McCrory during a meeting at the Executive Mansion on Thursday.

Made up of 24 teachers from various parts of the state and disciplines across the K-12 spectrum, the committee is tasked by McCrory with making recommendations on such issues as teacher pay, retention, teacher performance measures, testing and technology in the classroom

The following recommendations were made by the committee on Thursday, according to a release from the governor’s office:

• Prioritize student learning: The first and most important reason for assessment is to support student growth and achievement. Assessment practices should be structured around this fact.

• Use multiple measures: North Carolina’s testing system should include multiple measures of mastery to ensure robust evaluation of student learning.

• Strengthen teacher evaluation: Improve and supplement metrics used to evaluate an educator’s impact on student growth.

• Promote developmentally appropriate testing: Ensure that assessment systems are aligned with what we know about student developmental learning capacity and the environments in which students perform best.

• Reduce or eliminate redundant, impractical or weak assessments: Ensure all assessments implemented are necessary, aligned to standards and relevant to college and career-readiness.

• Respond to local needs: Allow for additional flexibility around assessment to ensure local priorities and needs are reflected in student learning.

• Ensure clear communication: Pursue adequate communication and engagement with educators and community regarding standards and assessments before implementing changes.

• Support capacity for online assessment: Ensure adequate resources and capacity in all schools before mandating online assessment.

• Improve “Read to Achieve” requirements: Modify assessment practices around “Read to Achieve” to promote strong implementation and student success.

“Burdensome testing deprives our students of the talent and creativity our teachers have spent their careers to develop,” McCrory said. “Just as they did on teacher pay, members of the Governor’s Teacher Advisory Committee looked at the issue of testing and have produced some innovative recommendations and I look forward to studying them in depth. Long-lasting and meaningful education reform will not come from politicians in Raleigh, but from the teachers in our classrooms .”

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McCrory names Aviation Development Task Force

Gov. Pat McCrory on Thursday announced the appointment of 18 members to the state’s Aviation Development Task Force.

Created through an executive order issued by McCrory in May, the task force is charged with submitting recommendations to the secretary of transportation for the enhancement of the state’s aviation programs.

According to the governor’s office, the aviation industry is directly responsible for over 100,000 jobs in North Carolina, with a $25 billion annual impact on the state’s economy.

Members appointed to the task force are:

• John Lennon (New Hanover County) – Lennon is managing partner for Oceancrest Advisory Services. He is chair of the aviation committee on the North Carolina Board of Transportation. Lennon will serve as chairman of the Aviation Development Task Force.

• Michael Landguth (Wake County) – Landguth is president and CEO of Raleigh-Durham International Airport. Prior to joining RDU, he served as CEO and president of the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport Authority.

• Dan Danieley (Alamance County) – Danieley is executive director of the Burlington-Alamance Regional Airport. He is also vice president of the N.C. Airports Association.

• John Taws (Moore County) – Taws is president of Fletcher Industries, Inc., a company that provides manufacturing solutions for special application textiles.  He is a member of the Moore County Partners in Progress board of directors.

• Robin Hayes (Cabarrus County) – Hayes is a businessman and former congressman who represented North Carolina’s 8th Congressional District from 1999 to 2009. Hayes owns a hosiery mill in Mount Pleasant.

• James Kalbach (Chowan County) – Kalbach is the Northeastern Regional Airport Commission chairman. Previously, he worked for Whitener Capital Management and several peanut production companies throughout the Southeast.

• Larry Ford (Clay County) – Ford is an attorney whose practice concentrates on estate and Medicaid planning and related legal matters on behalf of clients and charitable organizations throughout Western North Carolina. He currently serves as chairman and board member of the Clay County Travel & Tourism Authority.

• Jim Bailey (Carteret County) – Bailey is a real estate developer in Carteret County. He is the principal and founder of Old Seaports Development, LLC, Bailey Shore Development, LLC, and Oceanfront Resort Development, LLC.

• W. Ashley Smith Jr. (Lenoir County) – Smith is president/CEO of Jet Logistics Inc. He is the incoming chairman of the National Business Aviation Association’s Domestic Operations committee.

• Steve Bright (New Hanover County) – Bright is co-owner and co-founder of Talbert & Bright Engineering Planning Consultants, which works on aviation engineering projects.

• Julie Wilsey (Brunswick County) – Wilsey is deputy airport director of  Wilmington International Airport and was recently named the airport’s next director.

• Gary Lowder (Stanly County) – Lowder is chairman of Stanly County’s airport authority and has served on the authority for over 15 years.

• Bill Whiteheart (Forsyth County) – Whiteheart is the owner of Whiteheart Outdoor Advertising Company Inc., and is a Forsyth County Commissioner. He also serves as the National Association of Counties vice-chairman of the Airport Sub-Committee, as chairman of the Airport Commission in Forsyth County and is on the board of trustees for the Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation.

• Russell Barringer Jr. (Durham County) – Barringer is chairman and CEO of Dealers Supply Company. He is a private instrument-related pilot and aircraft owner.  Barringer was appointed to the N.C. Aeronautics Council by former governor Jim Martin.

• Kevin Baker (Guilford County) – Baker is executive director of the Piedmont Triad International Airport. Prior to being named executive director, Baker served as the assistant director to PTI.

• Kenneth Walker (Mecklenburg County) – Walker is retired from Driven Brands, Inc. He served on the Charlotte Douglas International Airport Oversight Committee.

• Louis Ridley Jr. (Mecklenburg County) – Ridley works for the Federal Aviation Administration in the FAA Headquarters Performance-Based Navigation Office. Prior to this, Ridley served as an air traffic control specialist for the FAA.

• Tony Tata (Wake County) – Tata, a retired U.S. Army brigadier general, is secretary of the N.C. Department of Transportation.

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Political odd couple Hood & Fitzsimon make case for redistricting reform

Chris Fitzsimon (left) and John Hood speak in favor of redistricting reform on Wednesday.

John Hood, head of the conservative John Locke Foundation, joined Chris Fitzsimon, director of the progressive NC Policy Watch, on Wednesday to make the case for changing the way voting maps are drawn in North Carolina.

Speaking before the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, the political odd couple noted that they seldom agree on policy, but both are longtime supporters of making the redistricting process less partisan.

“It has me saying the unusual sentence of, ‘John Hood is right,’ which I think I say about once every five years, but it’s always about this issue,” Fitzsimon joked.

Under North Carolina’s current system, state lawmakers are tasked with redrawing congressional and legislative voting maps after each 10-year census in order to account for population shifts.

But Hood and Fitzsimon say having partisan politicians in charge of the redistricting process creates a conflict of interest and results in districts skewed to favor one party or the other.

“In November, for more than half the people in North Carolina, the decision of who’s going to represent them in the General Assembly has already been made,” Fitzsimon said.

The two men noted that gerrymandered districts have been drawn by both political parties when in the majority.

“Both sides are capable of rationalizing self-interested behavior. But there is a self-interest argument for redistricting reform, too,” Hood said.

He noted how Democrats, who controlled the redistricting process for a century, were largely blindsided by a Republican sweep in the 2010 elections that put the GOP in charge of the most recent round of map-drawing.

Hood said with no one sure of who will hold a legislative majority for the next installment of redistricting, passing a reform in the near future could serve as an insurance policy of sorts for lawmakers.

“You never really know who’s going to draw the maps. Who’s going to win control of the General Assembly in 2020? We really have no idea,” Hood said.

A bill passed by the Republican-led N.C. House in 2011 with broad bipartisan support would have given redistricting authority to nonpartisan legislative staff, but the measure stalled in the GOP-controlled Senate.

However, Hood believes lawmakers might be open to revisiting redistricting reform in the 2015 session.

“We are cautiously optimistic that there’s an opportunity to make this case to the legislature starting next year,” Hood said.

Full video of Wednesday’s redistricting reform discussion can be seen below:

For more on redistricting reform, visit EndGerrymanderingNow.org

Related:

N.C. lawmakers voice support for redistricting reform at Apex forum

Poll: N.C. voters strongly support redistricting reform

As ‘gerrymandering’ turns 202, is there a real chance for redistricting reform in North Carolina?

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McCrory names new chair of State Ethics Commission

The office of Republican Gov. Pat McCrory announced on Tuesday his selection of former N.C. Supreme Court justice George Wainwright Jr. as chairman of the State Ethics Commission.

He replaces John Tyson, who stepped down as chairman of the ethics commission on Aug. 4.

Wainwright earned a degree in political science as a Morehead Scholar at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill before working in agribusiness and real estate in Wilson for more than 15 years. He earned his law degree from Wake Forest University in 1984 and went on to serve for eight years on the N.C. Supreme Court from 1998-2006.

McCrory appointed Wainwright to the State Ethics Commission in April of this year.

The eight-member commission is tasked with establishing ethical standards for certain public officials, state employees and appointees to state boards, as well as interpreting lobbying laws. The body also requires public disclosure of economic interests by officials in the executive, legislative and judicial branches of state government.

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Poll: N.C. legislature gets poor marks from voters

As the 2014 legislative session draws to a close, a new poll finds that a plurality of North Carolina voters give the General Assembly a failing grade.

According to the survey from Public Policy Polling, 27 percent of voters give the Republican-controlled legislature an “F” grade, followed by 24 percent that would give the body a “C.” Just 6 percent of voters would award the legislature with an “A.”

At the same time, 21 percent of voters approve of the legislature’s job, while 57 percent disapprove.

When it comes to arguably the marquee issue in this year’s session – teacher pay – half of voters say the General Assembly did not make a good-faith effort to increase educator salaries, compared to 39 percent that say the legislature did indeed act in good faith.

The General Assembly passed a teacher pay increase with its budget this year, which legislative leaders say will result in an average 7 percent salary boost for educators. But critics contend that the pay increase will in reality be much smaller for longtime teachers.

Unsurprisingly, there is a dramatic partisan divide when it comes to attitudes on the GOP-led legislature, with 77 percent of Democrats holding an unfavorable view on the General Assembly and 65 percent of Republicans having a favorable view.

Among independent voters, 47 percent have a negative opinion of the legislature, compared to 33 percent who see that body in a favorable light.

It remains to be seen how these generally negative attitudes toward the General Assembly might play out in this year’s legislative elections. While all 170 seats will be up for a vote, almost half will feature just one candidate on the ballot and many of the remaining contests are in districts with a built-in advantage for one party or the other.

The race where the General Assembly’s public standing could play a key role is in the U.S. Senate contest between Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan and Republican N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis. The same poll finds Hagan holding a slim lead in that race, 42-38 percent.

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