Phil Berger

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory
wikipedia

Leaders of the North Carolina General Assembly violated the separation of powers among the three branches of government when they created three commissions in which lawmakers appoint the majority of the members, a judicial panel said on Monday. 

Tom Augspurger (l), USFWS, taking core sample during February 8th reconnaissance of Dan River coal ash spill. (l-r) Tom Augsperger, USFWS, John Fridell, USFWS, Rick Smith, Duke Energy. Photo by Steve Alexander, USFWS..
Steve Alexander / USFWS

In retrospect, running a storm pipe under an unlined coal ash pit was a bad idea. One year ago today, such a pipe under such a pit leaked 39,000 tons of toxic ash into the Dan River.

A week after the spill, Duke Energy spokesman Jeff Brooks all but admitted the design was flawed.

“It was not a design that we placed in our other plants, certainly, and it was not the original design of the plant,” he said then. “So it’s something we’ll have to look at in our investigation.”

rainbow flag
Ted via Flickr/Creative Commons

At the North Carolina State Legislature, Senate Leader Phil Berger introduced a bill Wednesday that would allow magistrates across North Carolina to opt-out of performing same-sex marriages. He wants government officials such as magistrates and registers of deeds, who object to same-sex marriage, to receive protection.

Speaker of the House Tim Moore and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger on the first day of this year's legislative session.
Jessica Jones / WUNC

State lawmakers gathered in Raleigh Wednesday for the first official  day of this year’s legislative session. Members elected the Republican leaders of both chambers, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and a new Speaker of the House, Tim Moore. They say their priorities include continuing tax reform and job growth by making the state more business friendly.

The North Carolina legislative office building
Wikipedia

Lawmakers returned to Raleigh today to begin preparation for their first legislative session of the year. 

Photo: Rep. Tim Moore and NC House GOP Leadership
Jorge Valencia

North Carolina Republicans have nominated a new State House Speaker to succeed U.S. Senator-elect Thom Tillis. Tim Moore is an attorney and small business owner from Kings Mountain, a small town about 30 miles west of Charlotte. He's been in the House for six terms.

The Republicans in the House of Representatives chose Moore in a closed-door meeting. They locked themselves in a conference room at Randolph Community College. Moore needed at least half the votes plus one to win, and that was exactly what he got.

Pat McCrory
Dave DeWitt

Governor Pat McCrory has filed a suit against House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate Leader Phil Berger, saying he's trying to stop them from usurping executive powers.

The lawsuit, filed in Wake County Superior Court, alleges violations of the separation of powers, executive power, and appointments provisions of the state Constitution, the Raleigh News & Observer reported. Former governors Jim Hunt, a Democrat, and Jim Martin, a Republican, joined McCrory in the filing.

Photo: The U.S. Supreme Court building
Sno Shuu / Flickr Creative Commons

A federal judge in Greensboro could clear the way for gay marriage in North Carolina, following the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal on Monday to hear five pending same-sex marriage cases.

Middle District Court Judge William Osteen, who has the authority to order North Carolina to allow same-sex unions, said on Monday that he wanted to hear from both parties in a case challenging the state’s constitutional Amendment One, defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

A picture of people in voting booths
Joe Shlabotnik / Flickr Creative Commons

A federal court judge has issued a preliminary injunction on two portions of North Carolina's new voting law, following a decision from a federal appellate court this week saying the state should allow same-day registration during early voting in this year's election.

Irving Joyner, an attorney with the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, which is challenging the law in court, says that as many as 30,000 African American voters used same-day registration during early voting in the 2012 election.

Photo: Rosanell Eaton and Mary E. Perry
Jorge Valencia

A federal appeals court has suspended parts of North Carolina’s new voting law, saying it may disproportionately affect black voters. State lawmakers are already asking the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse the decision.

The ruling will allow voters to register on the same day they cast a ballot during early voting, and to vote outside of their assigned precinct.

Screen shot: Senator Phil Berger 'Protect Voter ID'
Sen. Phil Berger

The North Carolina NAACP is calling on state Senate Leader Phil Berger to stop broadcasting an ad about a new voting law. The civil rights organization says the ad is misleading and could keep some from voting.

It's a political campaign spot airing on TV stations in the Triad. And it gives Sen. Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) credit for a 2013 law that changed many rules about voting in North Carolina.

"Now," the narrator says, "thanks to Phil Berger, voters must show a valid ID to vote."

A Duke Energy power plant and coal ash ponds outside Asheville.
Zen Sutherland

A few members of the North Carolina House of Representatives will be back in Raleigh for a skeleton session today, but no real business is expected to be conducted. Technically, they need to be there to keep the legislature in session. That’s because they couldn’t agree with their colleagues in the Senate on one of their main priorities this summer – what to do about 33 coal ash dumps around the state.

This story starts in February this year, and you might have seen it on national newscasts.

NC Legislative Building
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

After a 15-hour day at the legislature, Senators voted this morning to pass the $21.3 billion state spending plan. 

Senators didn't leave the legislative building until about 1 a.m. They were determined to make a final vote on the budget and wrap up any loose ends before heading home. 

But they'll be back soon enough. They're expected to return in a couple of weeks to take up any possible vetoes from the Governor. Then, they'll be back in November to pick up at least two bills they didn't finish. 

NC Legislative Building
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

 Nearly a month past their deadline, state leaders say they hope to release a final spending plan adjustment in the next couple of days.

Top negotiators haven't officially released any details yet, but they expect to give teachers average raises of about 7 percent. 

State Senate chamber
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

House and Senate leaders are not showing signs of meeting their July 1 deadline to make adjustments to the state's two-year budget. They're still deadlocked over differences in their spending plans.

Senate leaders call the House's budget plans unbalanced and unsustainable. They say a five percent pay raise for teachers is not enough. Senators are offering 11 percent by cutting back on teacher assistants.

Governor Pat McCrory gathered with school leaders and legislators on Wednesday to show their support for a scaled-down spending plan that focuses on teacher pay.
Reema Khrais

State House Republicans are teaming up with Governor Pat McCrory to help speed up slow budget talks. Legislators are supposed to make adjustments to the two-year state budget by July 1, but progress has been sluggish.

Representatives say they want to at least pass a scaled-down spending plan that focuses on teacher pay. It would give teachers an average five-percent raise without relying on funds from the lottery. 

Teachers and supporters carried heavy cardboard boxes of petition signatures calling lawmakers to raise the teacher pay to the national average.
Reema Khrais

 A group of teachers and supporters dropped off a 61,000-signature petition to lawmakers on Thursday, demanding pay raises that do not result in destructive cuts to public education.

They carried the 14 heavy and large cardboard boxes to the offices of Senate Leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Thom Tillis, who are currently leading the efforts to raise teacher pay. 

Senate Leader Phil Berger takes an impromptu meeting with Moral Monday protesters.
Reema Khrais

Monday night, 15 Moral Monday protesters sat in front of Senate Leader Phil Berger’s door.  Berger wasn't in his office, so the protesters sat there until the Senate session ended. Soon, State Capitol Police began to usher everyone out. They said that the building was closing, everyone had to leave. Reporter Dave DeWitt was with the protesters. He wrote about what happened next this way:

Phil Berger
Dave DeWitt

Bryan Proffitt fully expected to go to jail Monday night. He spent most of the day at Hillside High School, where he teaches history, proctoring exams. A few hours after the final school bell, he was in an upstairs auditorium at the state Legislature, rallying supporters.

“We’re generally a pleasant and rule-following bunch,” he said. “But when you attack our students, when you threaten our schools and our communities and their families and you bully us and our co-workers, than you’d better prepare for what happens next.”

Elrod
Dave DeWitt

In the back corner of Stephen Elrod’s third-grade classroom, a man is lurking who wants to take the children’s money. He’s not a real man, and it’s not real money. It’s a large cartoon drawing of a maniacal character clutching fistfuls of dollars. A plastic bin is attached to the wall below the picture, filled with play money.

“Every time we take a test like Case 21 or EOG we either give him money or we keep our money,” explains Joanne, one of the students. “And, if we don’t make our goal, we have to give him some money, and if we do make our goal, we get to keep our money.”

State Senator Phil Berger
Dave DeWitt

The head of North Carolina's state Senate, Phil Berger, says he's looking forward to beginning this year's six-week legislative session.

What's known as the short session is intended primarily to make budget adjustments to the state's two-year budget cycle. Berger says that is the main focus of the session, which starts next Wednesday.

"This session we intend to continue the work that we've engaged in over the past three years and we intend to pursue further those policies that have proved successful over the past three years," says Berger.

Teacher of the Year sign
Dave DeWitt

This is an issue with way more than just two sides. To illustrate how convoluted and complicated paying teachers has become, consider this fairly simple argument from Terry Stoops, the Director of Education Studies at the conservative John Locke Foundation:

“Frankly it’s unfair to our highest-performing teachers,” Stoops says. “There’s no reason why the Teacher of the Year in North Carolina should make as much as any other teacher.”

Now here’s an actual, real life North Carolina Teacher of the Year, who, in a free market, would get paid more:

Emerging Issues
Dave DeWitt

Diane Ravitch is an education historian. She’s also a best-selling author and hugely influential on social media. In the past few years, she’s also become the champion for traditional public school teachers. What she isn’t, is subtle.

“North Carolina is bleeding talent,” she told the crowd at the Emerging Issues Forum in Raleigh on Tuesday. “North Carolina is bleeding experience. North Carolina has a brain drain caused by bad policy.”

Pat McCrory
Dave DeWitt

Republican leaders in North Carolina have announced a plan to increase teacher compensation. It would raise the starting salary for new teachers, making North Carolina much more competitive in what it pays new teachers – especially when measured against southern states like Virginia, Tennessee, and South Carolina.

Governor Pat McCrory chose his old high school, Ragsdale High in Guilford County, to announce the plan to pay new teachers a more competitive salary.

teacher hearing
Dave DeWitt

There are 95,000 public school teachers in North Carolina, give or take. So how many, given their only chance to comment publicly on the end of tenure, would make their way to downtown Raleigh to voice their displeasure? Hundreds? Thousands, maybe?

Try four.

But maybe the low attendance wasn’t so much a reflection on teachers’ anger – it might just speak more to their sense of duty. The public hearing, after all, was scheduled on a Wednesday afternoon at 1 PM. Hardly convenient for a teacher.

Rep. Howard Coble (R) is retiring next year. The race to replace him is already underway.
Jeff Tiberii

 Audio FileJeff Tiberii's report on candidates who want to succeed Congressman Howard Coble.Edit | Remove

Teachers protesting
Dave DeWitt

Earlier this year, as the North Carolina General Assembly was just beginning its session, Senate Leader Phil Berger stood before the media to explain what he hoped to accomplish. Not surprisingly, much of his efforts were going to be focused on education.

“The goal obviously is to make sure that our kids have every opportunity to succeed in their educational environment but also in life,” Berger said. “Right now, our public educational system is failing too many of our students and we need significant improvement there.”

North Carolina Teacher Project
NC Museum of History

Alice Battle was already a veteran teacher when integration finally came to North Carolina.

Thirteen years after Brown v. Board of Education, she was peering out the window of her second-floor classroom, watching as white and black students streamed into Chapel Hill High School – together, for the first time. Battle had previously attended and taught in segregated Black schools and was more than a little nervous.

A riot had occurred a few days earlier, and tensions were high.

Ann Goodnight
NC State University

Ann Goodnight is not happy. In a letter-to-the-editor in the News and Observer, she goes after the state budget and the leaders who wrote and passed it:

We are knowingly under-investing in our pre-K-12, community college and university students; in our teachers; and in innovative new approaches to learning. This budget is an embarrassment in its lack of investment in the skills and competitiveness of its people. This is a grievous mistake.

Protesters crowd the capitol for a Moral Mondays protest.
Matthew Lenard

It seems like a long time ago, but it’s really been just seven months since newly-inaugurated Governor Pat McCrory sounded this hopeful tone:

“North Carolina’s greatest strength and asset remains its people,” he said during his inauguration speech.

“On those main streets across this state, it’s the people that count and that make a difference. People will come from different backgrounds but share a common set of principles. Self-starters and hard workers.”

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