The state entered the second month of the budget impasse this week without any visible progress on resolution. The House moved a few pieces of legislation forward, while the Senate took the week off. Both chambers are back in session next week, but schedules may be light as almost two dozen legislators are scheduled to be in Nashville for the annual meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures.
State and Legislative Issues
State Board of Elections
The State Board of Elections found itself in an unusual situation this week after the resignation of its chairman. On Tuesday, Bob Cordle resigned his position after a controversial joke about women, sex, and cows that Cordle made during opening remarks at a gathering of several hundred local election officials on Monday. Cordle’s resignation left the board with four active members – two Democrats and two Republicans.
On Monday, the State Board had voted 3-2 to delay certification of new voting machines over concerns about election hacking. Before Cordle’s resignation on Tuesday, a new meeting was called for Thursday after one member requested the opportunity to change his vote. Cordle had voted against the measure on Monday, so a changed vote could have shifted the outcome. With the changed vote and Cordle’s resignation, the vote on Thursday resulted in a tie, with the two Democrats voting to delay certification and the two Republicans voting against the delay. Because neither side had a majority in the new vote, the previous decision stood. The State Board of Elections will meet again on August 23 to debate a requirement that any voting machine used in 2020 created a “human-readable” ballot so that voters can confirm their choices have been accurately marked.
NC Elections Board chairman resigns, apologizes following sexist joke at convention (Raleigh News & Observer)
NC elections board votes to proceed with effort to change voting machines (Charlotte Observer)
On Monday, Governor Roy Cooper vetoed SB 392, Various Charter School Changes. The bill would have allowed virtual charter schools operating in the State to increase their enrollment by eliminating a cap under State law. The provision had been controversial, in part, because both virtual charter schools have been ranked as low-performing based on State evaluation standards. The bill will now return to the Senate for consideration of a veto override. The bill originally passed both chambers by a margin large enough to override a veto.
In unrelated news, State Superintendent Mark Johnson announced that 220 teachers at the North Carolina Virtual Public School (NCVPS) would be laid off for the fall semester. The reason for the layoff is a state law regarding temporary workers. The law requires that temporary employees must have a 31-day break in service each year in order to remain classified as temporary employees. Teachers at the NCVPS are classified as temporary employees, so the requirement applies to them. Superintendent Johnson has reached out to the Governor and legislators to find a better solution.
Last Friday, Gov. Cooper signed SB 154, Allow Sports/Horse Race Wagering Tribal Lands, into law. The bill opens the way for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians to offer betting on horse racing and collegiate or professional sports. The Cherokees operate two casinos on their reservation in western North Carolina. Construction has begun on facilities at both casinos to allow for sports betting with the expectation that betting will begin later in the fall.
Harrah’s Cherokee casinos to open sportsbooks after sports betting legalized in North Carolina (Atlanta Journal Constitution)
Female Genital Mutilation
On Thursday, the Governor signed SB 9, Female Genital Mutilation/Clarify Prohibition, into law. As the title suggests, the bill clears up some ambiguity about the prohibition on female genital mutilation in the state, making it a Class C felony. In November of 2018, a federal court in Michigan ruled a federal law banning the practice was unconstitutional and that it was up to states to regulate or prohibit the practice.
Governor signs bill banning female genital mutilation in N.C. (Winston-Salem Journal)
Local Issues – Charlotte
CMS Superintendent Named
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Board of Education voted unanimously this week to appoint Earnest Winston the new superintendent of CMS. The decision comes three weeks after the suspension and resignation of former superintendent Clayton Wilcox, at which point Winston was named the acting head of CMS. The board cited its goal of consistency in leadership and desire to avoid the distraction of another search. Winston has a background in journalism and lacks an advanced degree in education administration, but he has served in the CMS administration since 2008 and has worked closely with several superintendents, including as a top aide to Wilcox.
Local Issues – Raleigh
Candidates for mayor and city council were required to file campaign finance reports last Friday. A review of those reports gives an outlook on the state of the races this fall. Three of the six candidates for mayor have more than $100,000 cash on hand as of July 1. Those three candidates (Mary-Ann Baldwin, Charles Francis, and Caroline Sullivan) are all political veterans, each having served on the Raleigh City Council or the Wake County Board of Commissioners in the past.
In the City Council races, several challengers have raised impressive amounts of money in their campaigns to unseat incumbents. Most notably, David Knight outraised incumbent Stef Mendel by a margin of greater than 2-1 in the race for the seat in District E and has more than twice as much cash on hand.
- Triangle leads nation in NIH per-capita funding (WRAL)
- Republican leaders choose replacement for Cody Henson (WLOS)
- Passenger Protection Act heads to Gov. Cooper’s desk (WITN)
- UNC Charlotte chancellor talks about his decision to retire in 2020 (Charlotte Business Journal)
- 2020 GOP convention logo has star-studded elephant, crown (Associated Press)