If you've been following the efforts of the very profitable K12 Inc. (we talked about them in this story) to open a virtual charter school for students in North Carolina — ostensibly it would be a school "based" in Cabarrus County, but in (virtual) reality the school would've consisted of online courses only, plus some tellers to cash the checks — it's been blocked by Superior Court Judge Abe Jones:
Judge rules that state edu board doesn't have to review #ncvirtual charter - its silence earlier was in effect a denial #ncga
— Sarah Ovaska(@SarahOvaska) June 29, 2012
Sarah Ovaska's been covering this — start here; and for more, check the links listed at the end.
K12 maintained that the State Board of Education missed its chance to review its charter application when the SBOE decided not to entertain any virtual charters before it put some rules in place for them. Oddly, a state administrative review judge agreed.
Abe Jones ruled, properly I'd say, that the SBOE's actions were tantamount to rejecting K12's application:
Read the #ncvirtual order that blocks for-profit K12, Inc.virtual #charters from opening in #NC this fall. scribd.com/doc/98680913/J… #ncga #ncpol
— Sarah Ovaska(@SarahOvaska) June 29, 2012
Gov. Perdue held a press conference this morning and announced that she will indeed send the General Assembly's budget back at them. The Republican-led G.A. has the option of:
1) Negotiating with the governor — and truly, her requests have been on the very small side in terms of dollars (but, as in the eugenics issue, sometimes the point isn't the sheer dollars) — or,
2) Taking their ball and going home — because, remember, the budget enacted a year ago is for two years, and what's before the body now is a bill to amend that two-year plan.
If the legislature's Republican leaders choose to quit for the year, leaving last year's budget in place, it would be "politics at its worst," according to Together NC, a progressive coalition. Their statement is below.
[It occurs to me to add that going home would not just be politics at its worst, it would stupid politics. Read Perdue's list of 20 budget issues. It's a roadmap for Democratic candidates in the fall. Now consider that Perdue is willing to accept their budget if the Republicans simply address a couple of her 20 issues and put another $100 million in the pot — which is available from current revenues and which would be a drop in the bucket of about 0.5% extra for a $20 billion plan. In other words, act like you're reasonable, and you disarm the Democrats. Makes sense to me ... but then I don't exactly think like your typical N.C. Republican.]
Perdue set out 20 ways the Republicans failed. Read 'em and weep.
Perdue issued a statement today about the budget's missing compensation for victims of forced sterilization —
RALEIGH – Announcing her intentions to veto the N.C. General Assembly’s budget, Gov. Bev Perdue today called on legislators to continue working to benefit citizens of North Carolina. She repeated her support for providing compensation to surviving victims of the state’s former forced sterilization initiative.
“They failed to take action on a bipartisan plan to compensate the verified living victims of the state’s former Eugenics Board program – which as, you know, involuntarily sterilized North Carolinians in the 20th century,” Gov. Perdue said. “It’s not a lot of money but a tremendous move for the state.
“We can’t change the terrible things that happened to so many of these vulnerable citizens in North Carolina. But I believe it’s long past time for us to take responsibility as a people for our state’s mistakes, and to show North Carolinians and the world that we do not tolerate violations of basic human rights.”
Gov. Perdue’s original budget designated $10.3 million to compensate verified victims and provide continued funding of the N.C. Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation. This week, she urged a compromise of $5 million. At this time, it is unclear if lawmakers intend to provide funding to the N.C. Department of Administration for continued operation of the Foundation or require DOA to find dollars from existing programs.
While more than 30 states at one time operated eugenics programs, North Carolina implemented the most aggressive program and had been poised to become the first to provide financial compensation to verified victims. Last Wednesday, the Foundation suspended intake of new victim verification. Because its original 2009 allocation of non-recurring funding will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, it has been preparing to shut down on Saturday.
The House approved legislation earlier this month that reflected Gov. Bev Perdue’s call to pay $50,000 lump sum compensation to living victims, as well as funding for the Foundation’s continued operation and expanded outreach.
To date, the Foundation has confirmed matches with archived eugenics records to 161 individuals in 57 counties, including 146 living victims. Foundation Executive Director Charmaine Fuller Cooper said the increase reflects discovery of cases in which multiple siblings and entire families were sterilized. For data reported by the county in which a procedure occurred, visit http://www.doa.nc.gov/media/releases/showrelease.asp?id=0001-20JUN12.
Fuller Cooper noted that time is not on the side of aging victims. An updated estimate from the N.C. State Center for Health Statistics earlier this month revised down the number of likely living victims from about 1,500 to 2,000 to about 1,350 to 1,800.
Here's the statement from Together NC —
RALEIGH (June 29, 2012) — We support Governor Perdue’s decision to use her veto to negotiate a better budget for North Carolina. To be clear, the budget passed by the General Assembly last week falls far short of what is needed to restore investments in education, health care and public safety.
Now, the ball is in the legislature’s court. If they are unable to override the veto, legislative leaders can decide to work with the Governor to negotiate a compromise budget or they can leave town without approving revisions to the 2012-13 state budget.
We believe that it is the legislature’s responsibility to remain in Raleigh and to negotiate a compromise with the Governor. If legislators adjourn without revising the approved 2012-13 state budget, they will be responsible for the ensuing cuts to public schools and Medicaid. Such a refusal to negotiate would be politics at its worst.
And here's most of the statement from the N.C. Budget & Tax Center, part of the progressive N.C. Justice Center —
As the Governor mentioned, this budget fails to make adequate investments in the education of our children, well-being of our seniors and safety of our environment, all while keeping in place an ineffective tax break for wealthy North Carolinians.
There are better choices available to policymakers. Limiting the tax break passed last year to target small businesses is one option that would make greater reinvestment in our schools or Medicaid possible. The worst decision the General Assembly could make now is to not consider and work towards a better budget and go home. The result would be a budget that:
* Requires schools to return more than half a billion dollars a year in state funding
* Leaves the Medicaid program underfunded by more than a quarter of a billion dollars, impacting thousands of vulnerable North Carolinians' access to necessary medical care
* Continues to under-invest in the highway and road infrastructure necessary for our state's economy
It is critical that policymakers come together to work towards implementing a budget that takes into account the needs of our community and the means we have to support those needs. Leaving Raleigh without making an effort to develop a better budget will ignore the wishes of all North Carolinians who seek leadership that is focused on a better future for all.
Gov. Bev Perdue acted today to protect the Racial Justice Act from the GOP-led General Assembly's effort to gut it. The ACLU of NC is out with a reminder that the fate of the veto hangs on whether three House Democrats (Brisson, Hill and Owens — see below) will stand with her or — as they did when the measure was on the floor — with the Republicans.
First, from the Governor's Office:
Governor Vetoes Senate Bill 416
Senate Bill 416, “An Act To Amend Death Penalty Procedures”
“As long as I am Governor, I will fight to make sure the death penalty stays on the books in North Carolina. But it has to be carried out fairly – free of prejudice.
Three years ago, North Carolina took steps to achieve this result by passing the Racial Justice Act. In response to the enactment of this historic law, our State has rightfully received national acclaim for taking a positive and long overdue step to make sure racism does not infect the way the death penalty is administered.
Last year, Republicans in the General Assembly tried — and failed — to take North Carolina backwards by passing a bill that would have undone the Racial Justice Act. This year’s Senate Bill 416 is not a “compromise bill”; it guts the Racial Justice Act and renders it meaningless.
Several months ago, a North Carolina superior court judge ruling on a claim brought under the Racial Justice Act determined that racial discrimination occurred in death penalty trials across the State over a multi-year period. The judge’s findings should trouble everyone who is committed to a justice system based on fairness, integrity, and equal protection under the law. Faced with these findings, the Republican majority in the General Assembly could have tried to strengthen our efforts to fix the flaws in our system. Instead, they chose to turn a blind eye to the problem and eviscerate the Racial Justice Act. Willfully ignoring the pernicious effects of discrimination will not make those problems go away.
It is simply unacceptable for racial prejudice to play a role in the imposition of the death penalty in North Carolina.”
And from the ACLU of NC —
Gov. Bev Perdue has just vetoed SB 416, a bill that would gut the historic Racial Justice Act.
Please help preserve the Racial Justice Act by contacting the legislators listed below and urging them to sustain the governor's veto of SB 416!
SB 416 would effectively repeal the Racial Justice Act, which allows death-row inmates to appeal their sentences and receive life without parole if they can prove that race was a significant factor in their sentence.
Please help preserve the Racial Justice Act by contacting the legislators listed below and urging them to sustain the governor's veto of SB 416!
Rep. William D. Brisson (D-Bladen, Cumberland) 919-733-5772 or William.Brisson@ncleg.net
Rep. Dewey L. Hill (D-Brunswick, Columbus) 919-733-5830 or Dewey.Hill@ncleg.net
Rep. Bill Owens (D-Camden, Currituck, Pasquotank, Tyrrell) 919-733-0010 or Bill.Owens@ncleg.net
SB 416 has been advertised as an amendment to the Racial Justice Act, but in reality it would effectively repeal the Racial Justice Act by requiring courts to ignore mountains of statistical evidence showing racial bias in the capital punishment system that sentenced a defendant unless he also had evidence of a smoking gun - like a racist statement or associational membership by the prosecutor.
House Majority Leader Paul Stam's bill to support private schools with public funds — a.k.a. vouchers — won't be law any time soon. Despite his high status in the Republican Party, Stam couldn't get his plan funded in the state budget, and his efforts to get the bill enacted separately are apparently at an end today as the current "short" legislative session heads to a close.
Stam's bill failed, on an 11-11 vote, to win the House Finance Committee's approval this morning. I read that he filed a minority report and might try to bring the report to the House floor for a vote. But just now, Darrell Allison, of Parents for Educational Freedom in NC, the leading advocacy group for Stam's plan, told his supporters that the bill, House Bill 1104, is dead for this year.
Here's the message Allison sent:
“Being defeated is often a temporary condition. Giving up is what makes it permanent.”
- Marilyn vos Savant, American columnist and author
I am encouraged by this quote after thinking about the thousands of poor children who will suffer through another year of being in schools that are not meeting their academic needs due to the N.C. Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit Program being held up this legislative session.
Unfortunately, the measure failed this morning in the House Finance Committee by a 11-11 vote. While the vote was even, the opportunity to overcome this stalemate and move this measure forward will not happen this legislative session.
Many thought this program would not make it very far in the legislative process. Others tried to demonize the measure as an effort to destroy our traditional public schools. Despite these obstacles, I want to say that YOUR voices were clearly heard at the General Assembly - from the more than 1,200 of you that rallied and marched at the General Assembly last month to over 7,200 supporters that contacted legislators in support of this measure over the past few weeks.
For your efforts, I would like to personally thank you for standing up for low-income children across North Carolina. You provided them with a voice during the legislative process. This idea of allowing low-income families the ability to access quality educational options is one that will not go away and must not be pushed aside any longer. We must think about the hundreds of thousands of poor students that are failing state tests every year and how their parents are unable to afford the resources they need.
These children and families are the reasons why we must not give up. We must channel our disappointment into action as we work towards making the N.C. Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit Program a reality for North Carolina’s children next year.
We must also remember that the disappointments of today will only prepare us for the victories of tomorrow!
The North Carolina House and Senate have approved a bill that would effectively repeal the Racial Justice Act, which allows death-row inmates to appeal their sentences and receive life without parole if they can prove that race was a significant factor in their sentence.
Whether Perdue's veto will be upheld in the House (it won't be in the Senate, apparently) seems to depend on getting three House Democrats who voted for SB-416 to turn around and vote no on an override.
The ACLU, the Carolina Justice Policy Center and the N.C. Coalition for a Moratorium are sending around nearly identical alerts this afternoon about the urgency of contacting Democrats William Brisson, Dewey Hill and Bill Owens. Here's how it came across from George Reed at the N.C. Council of Churches:
The fate of the Racial Justice Act probably rests with the three representatives listed below. The Governor's veto could come at any time and the override vote could happen shortly thereafter, so please don't delay in making these contacts, and make the contacts even if you are not a constituent of any of the three. Thanks.
We need your help!
Five of the Democrats in the House of Representative sided with those who say that 20 years of discrimination against African American jurors is no longer enough to prove racial discrimination in death penalty cases.
You know that's wrong, and it guts the Racial Justice Act!
Click here to email Rep. Brisson, Rep. Hill, and Rep. Owens, and ask them to support the Racial Justice Act by voting to sustain a veto of S 416.
Have an extra minute? Follow up with a call to each of the three Representatives.
Rep. William D. Brisson: 919-733-5772
Rep. Dewey L. Hill: 919-733-5830
Rep. Bill Owens: 919-733-0010
Thanks for your continued support of the Racial Justice Act!
Last week we reported on the Republican General Assembly's plans to send big chunks of public funding to private and Christian schools. [Inventively headlined: "GOP plan would send public funds to private schools"]
Since then, the Republican scheme's been steaming along. The House budget contains money for it, and various reports suggest that the Senate will go along. Expect a budget veto from Gov. Bev Perdue. But last year, five Democrats in the House deserted her, and with their aid and comfort the Republicans overrode her veto in both houses.
Today, Facing South is out with a detailed report on these "neovouchers" for private/Christian schools and the billionaires who love them. We knew about the Walton Family Foundation, i.e., Walmart money. Didn't know about Betsy DeVos — at least, not in this regard.
Who is Betsy DeVos? She's the —
billionaire wife of Amway founder Richard DeVos and former chair of the Michigan Republican Party. Betsy DeVos' younger brother is Erik Prince, founder of the North Carolina-based private security firm previously known as Blackwater; their father was the wealthy founder of an auto parts company noted for his right-wing politics. The DeVoses have spent tens of millions of dollars to support school privatization efforts.
A good reporting job, by Sue Sturgis.
Or a depressing one, should you think billionaires might not be wisest arbiters of how your public school funds should be spent.
h/t BlueNC ("North Carolina becoming a national joke"):
Sea-level rise of one meter or more? There's no way to know what that would mean.
Because it's metric.
And other Stephen Colbert gems about what our NC Republicans are up to that, unfortunately, are both funny and true.
[Update 4: From WRAL: Edwards is acquitted of one count; mistrial is declared on the remaining five.]
[Update 3: CNN has a succinct report. The jury remains deadlocked on five of the six charges against Edwards, including the conspiracy charge. It reached agreement only on Count 3, which involved Bunny Mellon's money. The defense moved for the judge to announce the verdict on Count 3, obviously in the belief that it was the weakest charge and most likely to be the one they'd acquit on; it wanted the judge to declare a mistrial on the remaining five charges. The judge said no to both actions, so we don't know what the Count 3 verdict was as yet.
Because the laws on campaign contributions are so riddled with exceptions and work-arounds as to be completely useless as a shield against big money's influence in politics, I don't much care what the verdict on Edwards turns out to be. He probably will be found not guilty, but being not guilty of violating laws that it's almost impossible to violate is hardly any vindication. As I said before, the law ought to make it illegal for contributors to give huge sums of money to candidates—and for candidates to accept them—when they're in or running for public office. If that's not the case, and Duke Energy can give unlimited sums to Pat McCrory for his personal use, and McCrory can spend unlimited sums of his own money on his campaign—as he can—then you might as well give up entirely on having any limits on campaign contributions.]
[Update 2: WRAL is reporting that the jury reached a verdict on just one count; the judge sent them back to the jury room to keep talking about the other five charges without announcing what the decision was on Count 3: Bunny Mellon's money.]
[Update: No verdict yet. If you care, WRAL is streaming live coverage, waiting for word from inside the courthouse in Greensboro.]
My original post, before the jury came in the first time this afternoon:
While we wait. It should be illegal to give a candidate for public office hundreds of thousands of dollars for his personal use. Whether it is or not is another question.
Or rather, it's pretty clear, in the post Citizens United era, that it's not illegal at all.
Whether it was when Johnnie was raking in the money for the care and feeding of his mistress, I don't know.
Neither did the jury, apparently. At least, it took 'em awhile.
But as I say, it should be against the law if it isn't.
Gov. Bev Perdue issued an executive order telling DENR and Commerce to study how fracking can be undertaken safely in North Carolina. The two departments are to form a working group and reach out to the General Assembly, which is considering a couple of different Republican bills aimed at allowing fracking. The order is open-ended — no time limit is set.
Here's the order:
“North Carolina needs a strong set of standards in place before we allow fracking here. If done safely, fracking can be part of a larger energy solution to create jobs and help lower energy costs. Before we permit anyone to ‘frack’ in North Carolina, however, we must hear from all sides, address all issues, and develop a robust set of rules.
First and foremost, those rules must put every necessary precaution into place to protect our drinking water and safeguard the health and safety of every single North Carolinian. The rules must also protect the interests of landowners and address the needs of county and municipal governments. “Today’s Executive Order will help to establish guidelines and create a framework for considering the type of standards that must be developed before any energy development begins.”
The gist of Perdue's statement seems to be, we're gonna be fracking, so let's get cracking.
Democracy North Carolina is, as its slogan says, of, by and for the people. Above all, it's for the people's right to vote — and to cast an informed vote about who's on their side and who isn't.
For that reason, Democracy NC is fighting efforts to curb early voting, put an end to same-day registration and voting (on early-voting days) and throw roadblocks in the way of people being able to cast a vote. Roadblocks like the nefarious Voter ID bills pushed by Republican leaders here and in many other states that are aimed at reducing voter turnout in low-income communities. Take a look:
Is this unprecedented in North Carolina history? Of course it isn't. In fact, the efforts of the wealthy and business elites, now in control of the Republican Party, to suppress low-income voters is all too reminiscent of what happened in 1898, when business elites were in charge of the Democratic Party. Back then, they turned away voters with guns and overthrew fusion governments in a coup d'etat.
Today, they do it by complicating the voting process while also flooding the airwaves with deceitful political advertising.
But the object is the same: Leave the rich in control by preventing the masses from voting their interests.
Getting the masses to understand their interests and vote accordingly is the point of Wednesday's HKonJ People of Color Justice and Unity Legislative Day.
In preparation, Democracy NC today released its short film on the history of voting rights struggles in North Carolina, produced in partnership with the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke. Yes, it's scare tactics. The events of 1898, the only successful coup d'etat in U.S. history, are at the film's center.
But think about it. Isn't the Citizens United case, the Supreme Court decision that allows unlimited sums of money from global corporations and the wealthy to be spent in American political campaigns, the 21st century equivalent of a coup?
Find some time to watch this film, especially if you're a little hazy on what happened in Wilmington, NC in 1898. And consider how it compares to the corruption we see all around us today.