Senator Gladys A. Robinson Deputy Minority Leader 1.12.2018
Standing or Select Committees
It is my pleasure to serve as your voice in Raleigh. Thank you for the opportunity to represent your concerns in the State Senate. Please feel free to contact my office if you should have any issues or concerns.
Appropriations on Health and Human Services
Appropriations Base Budget
Education/ Higher Education
Select Committee on Nominations
. Non-Standing Committees
Gladys A. Robinson
Joint Legislative Administrative Procedure Oversight Committee
Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee
Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Health and Human Services
Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Medicaid and NC Health Choice
Legislative Updates Senate Bill 698- Increase Voter Accountability of Judges The main points of SB 698 are as follows:
Terms for all judges will end on December 31, 2018, even if the judge was elected to a term that should expire after 2018. Beginning in 2018, all judge terms will be two years instead of the current four or eight year terms. Current judges and critics of the bill are concerned that it will result in fewer cases that judges can address because of the political pressures associated with re-elections.
These changes prompt for judges to be in a constant campaign mode. Many experts, such as the current Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Martin and retired Supreme Court Justice Bob Orr (both Republicans) and Governor Roy Cooper have spoken out forcefully against this bill, which would force judges to campaign and fundraise constantly. While the bill was put on the calendar for this week’s session, the senate did not get to vote on the bill. Instead, it has been referred to the Joint Select Committee on Judicial Reform and Redistricting. The Senate adjourned on Wednesday, leaving Friday January 12th as a skeletal session.
Congressional Redistricting Three federal judges agree: North Carolina Republican lawmakers drew a congressional map that intentionally discriminated against voters and entrenched their party’s power. They struck down the 2016 map as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander and ordered the state not to hold an election until a remedy is enacted. The legislature has until 5 p.m. Jan. 24 to redraw the congressional map, and with a candidate filing deadline looming, the court said it also intends to appoint a special master to help draw an alternative plan. It’s the first time a federal court has blocked the use of a congressional map because of an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. The 191-page majority opinion, written by Judge James Wynn, a President Barack Obama appointee, and joined by Judge Earl Britt, appointed by Jimmy Carter, sharply criticizes Republican lawmakers for their overt partisan intent. Judge William Osteen, a George W. Bush appointee, wrote a separate 14-page opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part. Judge Wynn wrote that the effect of partisan gerrymandering in North Carolina was the diluted vote. The GOP-controlled legislature has indeed attempted in its time to pass measures with either the intended or unintended consequence of suppressing voters, including a voter identification law that was struck down by the courts. He addressed lawmakers’ arguments that the partisan gerrymandering claims should be struck down because they involve the same harms as racial gerrymandering and that race-based claims allege a more serious violation of the Constitution. The judge also wrote that the court agreed that some injuries flowing from partisan gerrymandering are analogous to the ones attributed to racial gerrymandering but noted important differences.es of plaintiffs who supported non-Republican candidates in the 10 districts that lawmakers drew to elect Republicans.
Legislative Updates When a partisan gerrymander entrenches a political party in power, Wynn wrote, it undermines the ability of voters to effect change when they see legislative action as infringing on their rights. Lawmakers argued that the empirical evidence did not offer a judicially manageable standard for adjudicating partisan gerrymandering claims, but instead are “a smorgasbord of alleged ‘social science’ theories that lack any constitutional basis.” It’s an argument also before the U.S. Supreme Court, and one in which Chief Justice John Roberts might agree. He referred to empirical evidence in the Wisconsin gerrymandering case as “sociological gobbledygook.” However, to uphold that argument, Wynn wrote, would be to admit the judiciary lacks the competence or willingness to keep pace with technological advances – an obligation necessary to “effectively fulfill its constitutional role to police ever-more sophisticated modes of discrimination”. The evidence presented by experts appears to have helped the court decide that the partisan gerrymandering in the 2016 plan violated the Equal Protection Clause. It also helped show the legislature’s intent to maximize partisan advantage and thereby discriminate against voters who supported or were likely to support non-Republican candidates, the opinion states. North Carolina Republican legislators have started trying to block a federal court ruling ordering them to draw new congressional districts. AS REPORTED BY NEWS & OBSERVER
Class Size Mandate The North Carolina General Assembly included new class size restrictions for grades K-3 in the 2017-18 budget, requiring school districts to reduce those class sizes while simultaneously taking away the funding flexibility districts have long relied upon to fund enhancement teachers for art, music, PE and world languages in those schools. The only funding for those positions was districts’ flexibility to use the classroom teacher allotment for enhancement teachers. The combined effect is a massive unfunded mandate that would have required larger districts to find new classroom space and teachers and districts of all sizes to reduce their enhancement staffing. The NC House unanimously passed a bill (HB13) that would have allowed average district-wide class sizes up to three students above the funded student-teacher ratio, and individual classes of up to six students above the new limits in order to restore the flexibility districts historically used to fund enhancement positions. However, Senate leaders accused districts of having misspent “tens of millions of dollars” and refused to vote on the bill. Instead, the new legislative budget simply delayed the class size restrictions for one year and imposed onerous, duplicative reporting requirements on district officials. In October 2017, lawmakers returned to Raleigh for a special session to pass budget corrections and override vetoes. The House included the original HB13’s class size flexibility in its budget corrections bill, but the Senate did not, and it was the Senate version that ultimately passed both chambers. Now, as planning for the 2018-19 school year approaches, the unfunded mandate is threatening districts once again.
Legislative Updates The proposal arrives with pressure mounting on state lawmakers to address a 2016 legislative order that school systems trim class sizes in the early grades. General Assembly Republicans behind the mandate say they want to improve the quality of instruction in K-3, but school district leaders say the directive will wreak havoc in systems across North Carolina. Critics say lawmakers must approve additional funding for classroom teachers or offer greater flexibility. Otherwise, they say districts may be forced to nix Pre-K programs, move students into mobile classroom units and lay off thousands of arts, music and physical education teachers to make room for more “core” subject teachers. AS REPORTED BY NC POLICYWATCH / PUBLIC SCHOOLS FIRST
Proposed GenX Bill Appropriates $1.3 million to DEQ The North Carolina House unanimously approved a bill Wednesday evening that would allocate more than $1 million to the state Department of Environmental Quality to buy a $500,000 tool called a high-resolution mass spectrometer and hire five new scientists to use it. However the top Senate leader criticized the bill and suggested any further action to deal with pollution linked to the company Chemours would wait until lawmakers’ regularly scheduled business in May. The Senate adjourned Wednesday before the House vote.
The breakdown of the money is as follows:
$813,000 to the Division of Water Resources for time-limited positions and operations support of water quality sampling related to GenX and other emerging contaminants and to address permitting backlogs. $232,950 to the Division of Air Quality for sampling and analysis of atmospheric deposition of GenX and other emerging contaminants. $279,050 to the Division of Waste Management for sampling and analysis of GenX and other 44 emerging contaminants in groundwater wells, soil, and sediment.
The legislature attempted to pass a related bill in the fall of 2017 that gave some funding to UNCWilmington and the local water treatment plant to begin addressing the GenX pollution. At the time, Cooper vetoed that bill because it didn’t include any of the money he had requested for DEQ or the Department of Health and Human Services. The bill the House passed Wednesday addressed Cooper’s concerns about DEQ, although Republican legislators shot down Democratic attempts to add in the money for DHHS. Wednesday evening, Governor Cooper’s spokesman Ford Porter noted the lack of DHHS funding and slammed the Senate for leaving without taking a vote at all. The legislature also did not address a bill Cooper supported related to public school class size requirements. AS REPORTED BY NC POLICY WATCH/ NEWS & OBSERVER
North Carolina Updates NC Teacher Licensure Delay State delays in processing North Carolina teacher licenses are keeping some teachers from being hired and preventing others from getting their full pay and benefits. State education officials said Tuesday they’re working to improve the licensure process to end the days when some teachers waited six months or more to get their licenses. The goal is six to eight weeks, although a recent internal audit found multiple issues that are impeding the ability to process applications quickly.
Delays in processing applications impact the ability of principals to hire teachers, which is especially crucial before the start of the new school year. Some teachers may also lose out financially since their districts may pay them less as substitutes until their paperwork is processed. Educators need a license to teach in the state’s traditional public schools (only 50 percent of teachers at charter schools are required to be licensed) so new applications are submitted annually by beginning teachers and teachers moving into the state. Pitre-Martin said a staff of 16 in the state Department of Public Instruction’s licensure section process 5,000 to 8,000 applications each year. The audit recommended a number of changes, including:
Make sure the expected processing time of six to eight weeks is communicated; At a minimum, aim for processing times of six weeks during the busy months and consider four weeks during the fall and winter; Finalize a plan to more effectively manage call volumes during the busy summer months AS REPORTED BY NEWS & OBSERVER
Governor Wants NC Exempt From Off-Shore Drilling Following an announcement late yesterday that the Trump Administration will exempt Florida from its plan to open Atlantic and Pacific coastal waters to offshore drilling, Governor Cooper today urged Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke to grant an exemption for North Carolina. Governor Cooper requested a meeting with the Secretary to explain the critical threat drilling and seismic testing pose to North Carolina’s coastal communities, economy and environment. The state is also exploring legal options to prevent offshore drilling. The purpose of the meeting is to explain the risks of seismic testing and drilling off of North Carolina’s coast and demand an exemption for North Carolina like Florida received. In a letter to Secretary Zinke, Governor Cooper reiterated his opposition to offshore drilling off of North Carolina’s coast and emphasized the threat to the state’s coastal economy.
“Coastal tourism generates $3 billion annually in North Carolina and supports more than 30,000 jobs in the eastern part of the state. Commercial fishing brings in another $95 million every year. In addition, North Carolina has over 300 miles of coastline, 2.3 million acres of estuarine waters, and over 10,000 miles of estuarine shoreline. All of these contribute to a robust national economy,” says the governor. The Cooper Administration is committed to protecting North Carolina from the threat of offshore drilling. Last month, the N.C. Division of Coastal Management asked four companies to submit additional information about proposed seismic testing for offshore oil and gas resource development because their original proposals did not consider the latest scientific studies on the harmful impacts to marine life. At least 30 coastal communities have passed resolutions opposing drilling, joining hundreds of businesses and a bipartisan group of North Carolina’s Congressional delegation. GOVERNOR PRESS RELEASE
North Carolina Updates
HBCU Scholarship for Guilford County Say Yes to Education has a new scholarship available for a limited number of students entering historically black colleges and universities in the fall of 2018. Scholarship winners will come from each of the three Say Yes community-wide chapters: Buffalo, Syracuse and Guilford County. The scholarship is to help students enrolling at any HBCUs that are not part of Say Yes' existing scholarship programs. The scholarship is for up to $10,000 per year for up to five years. It's funded by a donor to the national Say Yes program. To apply, Guilford County Schools seniors must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and log into the Say Yes Guilford eScholarship Portal at www.sayyesguilford.org. Applications for the scholarship are due by February 15th. AS REPORTED BY NEWS & RECORD
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Senator Robinsonâ€™s Office Contact Information 1120 Legislative Building
Office: (919) 715-3042
16 W Jones St.
Fax: (919) 733-2599
Raleigh, NC 27601