Under the Dome

Dome: Lawmakers to hear from NC educators

February 25, 2013 

Groups of superintendents, teachers and school principals will be in Raleigh this week to offer legislators advice on new education laws.

House Speaker Thom Tillis, a Mecklenburg Republican, said legislators want to know from people who work in schools every day what can be done to improve results and how the changes legislators are considering will mesh with existing rules and practices.

The confabs are beginning early in the session so “they feel comfortable with first, providing us with ideas but also challenging us when they see legislation moving that they believe may be operationally problematic.”

Tillis doesn’t expect harmony on all issues. There will be bills on providing tax money to help public school students pay tuition to attend private schools. Tillis expects pushback on that idea, but that superintendents and legislators will have to “agree to disagree” on that.

GOP wants investigation

The North Carolina Republican Party has filed two complaints against Blueprint North Carolina, a nonprofit that distributes information and coordinates activities for a variety of nonprofits in the state, including the Center for Voter Education and the nonpartisan and nonpolitical Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

The GOP wants the state elections board and the Internal Revenue Service to investigate Blueprint for political activity that the party says is “well outside the boundaries of a charitable organization with privileged tax status.”

The GOP is referring to memos leaked to the press last week and first reported by the Charlotte Observer.

One includes polling data and lays out messaging points on education and taxes; the other is a three-page draft of legislative strategy that calls for aggressive attacks against GOP legislative leaders and Gov. Pat McCrory.

Blueprint’s Executive Director Sean Kosofsky acknowledged in the Charlotte story last week that his group distributed the polling memo to the organizations it works with.

But Kosofsky denies the group was behind the strategy memo.

“Blueprint NC continues to be the victim of a deliberate disinformation campaign by political operatives seeking to silence our free speech rights around important issues facing North Carolina,” Kosofsky said in a statement on Monday.

“Blueprint NC did not author the memo and did nothing to violate its 501c3 status. Should an investigation or lawsuit be pursued in an attempt to silence or intimidate us, we will defend our right to free speech.”

A nonprofit organized as a 501c3 is prohibited under federal tax law from engaging in partisan political activity.

In its complaint to the IRS, the GOP claims that the memo and statements by Blueprint NC executives “demonstrate that the organization is an arm of the Democratic party.”

Last year, the GOP sent a complaint to the IRS alleging that five nonprofits, including Democracy North Carolina and the NC Justice Center, advocated for political candidates in violation of federal law.

AARP says no to payday loans

AARP of North Carolina has lined up as an opponent of a bill introduced in the state Senate that would revive payday lending.

Doug Dickerson, AARP’s state director, has written a letter to the sponsors of Senate Bill 89 urging them to reconsider their stance.

“AARP is concerned about the effect that payday loans have on the lives of indigent senior citizens, struggling families and the cash-strapped unemployed and under-employed,” Dickerson wrote.

The organization is a longtime foe of payday lending, which the state outlawed in 2001.

Bill sponsor Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Archdale, has argued that his bill contains safeguards that protects consumers from the abusive payday loans.

Staff writers Lynn Bonner, Mary Cornatzer and David Ranii

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