Archive for February, 2018

TOP ISSUE FOR THE UPCOMING SESSION—PRE-SCHOOL EDUCATION

This week top business leaders, education board members, and some political activists gathered in Raleigh where the Emerging Issues Forum zeroed in on public education. Billionaire Jim Goodnight, CEO and founder of SAS Institute identified the vision for the assembly: lifting people out of poverty through education. Goodnight and others insisted that pre-kindergarten programs are a key to lifting up public education in the state, but public appropriations limit participation of only half the 70,000 pre-kindergarten age children who are living in poverty. N.C. Rep. Craig Horn of Union County, a retired business executive and House Appropriations Education chair, is a strong voice for increased funding for pre-school education. Horn has been meeting with education leaders across the state to gain input for the upcoming session in May.

The state spends $10 billion a year on public education which is almost half the $23 billion budget.

CONGRESSIONAL RACES

Since Massachusetts Governor Gerry implemented a congressional district in 1810 that looked like a salamander, “gerrymandering” has been used to describe the process of creating congressional districts for partisan advantage. North Carolina reportedly leads the nation in the process. Republicans represent 10 of the 13 N.C. Districts. In a year when Republican seats are vacated by retiring members, Democratic control of the U.S. House is regarded as a possibility. Serious Democratic candidates are expected in the N.C. Ninth and 13th Districts held by Republicans, one of which is facing a fierce primary fight. A switch of 21 seats in the U.S. House would give Democrats control. National attention will be focused on North Carolina in the election season, especially as the state is expected to gain another congressional district after the 2020 census.

HERE WE GO

The filing period for candidates in the 2018 elections starts Monday. A lot of names of veteran lawmakers will not be on the list when the period ends in three weeks. But a flood of new names will appear. Democrats are working to be sure there is a candidate for the N.C. House or Senate in districts where Gov. Roy Cooper got at least 44 percent of the vote in 2016. In a number of districts incumbent Republicans may face primary challenges from announced opponents. This could be the largest turnover the Legislature has experienced in decades.

Democrats would have to gain 16 seats in the House and 11 seats in the Senate to gain control. But the GOP super majority which can overide gubernatorial vetoes would be lost if Democrats gain about half that number. Loss of the super majority is just one chamber would give Governor Roy Cooper leverage to restore the balance the power between the legislative and executive branches of government. Observers predicted the GOP-controlled General Assembly to push hard for changes to the judicial branch, eliminating public elections of district judges.

With the popularity of President Trump in rural areas, a Democratic sweep seems unlikely. But the days of the Legislative control over the state’s agenda may be numbered.