Under the Dome

November 4, 2013

Morning Memo: Teacher protest carries political implications

Teachers, parents and students are expected to show their displeasure toward Republican-led education policies Monday in a proposed protest and possible walkout. The N.C. Association of Educators is encouraging teachers not to walk out but to "walk in" to school and start a dialogue on the issues teachers and schools face, such as low wages and budget cuts. But Republicans – Senate leader Phil Berger most prominently – are using any action by teachers as a political tool.

Teachers, parents and students are expected to show their displeasure toward Republican-led education policies Monday in a proposed protest and possible walkout. The N.C. Association of Educators is encouraging teachers not to walk out but to "walk in" to school and start a dialogue on the issues teachers and schools face, such as low wages and budget cuts. But Republicans – Senate leader Phil Berger most prominently – are using any action by teachers as a political tool.

Loaded with anti-union rhetoric, Berger issued a statement ahead of the event Monday declaring that NCAE owns the protest, saying it was a public relations gimmick. He also criticized the high salaries the teachers association (which argues it is not a union) pays top staffers. How the spectacle plays out is likely to influence sentiment toward teachers during the 2014 legislative session, when Republicans are expected to give teachers raises, given the state’s status as one of the worst-paying in the nation.

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TODAY IN POLITICS: Gov. Pat McCrory will spend most of the day in Asheboro. He will tour Klaussner Home Furnishings at 3 p.m. and then attend the central chapter of the N.C. Society of Accountants annual dinner at 6:15 p.m.

U.S. Rep. David Price, a Democrat, will meet with students at Seventy-First High School in Fayetteville at 10 a.m. to talk about Congress.

THE VIRGINIA GOVERNOR'S RACE: Just across the border in Virginia, the governor's race is demanding a good bit of national attention. The latest poll from Raleigh-based Public Policy Polling finds Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe ahead by 7 percentage points against Republican Ken Cuccinelli, 50 to 43 percent. Gov. Pat McCrory went to Virginia recently to campaign for Cuccinelli. http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/main/2013/11/mcauliffe-leads-final-poll-by-7.html

MIKE STONE GETS DEMOCRATIC OPPONENT: Brad Salmon, an attorney, farmer and small business owner, says he will challenge Republican state Rep. Mike Stone in House District 51, which covers portions of Lee and Harnett counties.

"After prayerful consideration, many conversations, and intensive encouragement, I have decided to run for the North Carolina House of Representatives," Salmon said in prepared statement. "For too long we have had unsteady, short-sighted leadership representing us in Raleigh. I offer vision, values, and a business friendly, moderate approach to government."


ORSON SCOTT CARD PROFILE -- Sunday A1 in Raleigh and Charlotte -- A look at the man Senate leader Phil Berger appointed to UNC TV trustees, whose book-turned-movie is No. 1 at the box office. From the story: Card has long been outspoken in his views about gays and gay marriage. In 2000, he told a Salon writer that gay behavior was "deviant." In 2008, he wrote a column suggesting the legalization of gay marriage could force a fight to destroy the U.S. government. In 2009, he joined the board of the National Organization for Marriage, a group working to prevent legalization of gay marriage. He left in July.

Lionsgate, the company distributing the "Ender’s Game" movie, has announced repeatedly that it disagrees with Card’s anti-gay views, but it hasn’t been able to stop a group called Geeks OUT from organizing a boycott.

Neither has Card, who attempted to defuse the controversy in July, in a statement declaring the gay-marriage issue moot in light of two June Supreme Court rulings seen as victories for gay marriage.

"Ender’s Game is set more than a century in the future and has nothing to do with political issues that did not exist when the book was written in 1984," Card’s statement said. "Now it will be interesting to see whether the victorious proponents of gay marriage will show tolerance toward those who disagreed with them when the issue was still in dispute."

Despite the statement, Card keeps getting hammered, not only for his views about gays, but for other statements, such as his description of President Obama as a dictator who might create a national police force to destroy his enemies.

THE KICKER: In a recent column, Los Angeles Times book critic David Ulin, who has a gay son, analyzed the dilemma by quoting lawyer Alan Dershowitz: "Freedom of speech means freedom for those who you despise, and freedom to express the most despicable views."

But he also took note of Card’s recent plea for tolerance: "There’s something unpleasantly ironic about a man who for decades espoused intolerance turning to tolerance as a last resort." Read more here.

THE NEVER-ENDING CAMPAIGN: In his column, Rob Christensen writes about the governor's racing shaping up more than 1,100 days from Election Day. He sees Democrat Roy Cooper taking the 2012 Pat McCrory approach. "The go-long strategy worked so well for McCrory that Perdue announced in early 2012 that she would not seek re-election. Cooper seems to be following the McCrory model of starting early and running a multiyear campaign against an incumbent – one who like Perdue has been dropping in the polls.

"But McCrory learned from Perdue as well. Perdue’s popularity crumbled in her first six months during a deep recession, and she never recovered. Faced with a sharp drop in his popularity, McCrory’s political backers, through The Renew North Carolina Foundation, in September began running TV ads statewide bolstering the governor’s image." Read more here.

A RURAL SOLUTION REMAINS ELUSIVE: The administration of Gov. Pat McCrory, like others before, says helping rural pockets prosper is a critical part of boosting North Carolina’s overall economic health. McCrory, a Republican, and Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker say they want more jobs at higher wages outside the state’s metropolitan areas.

Solutions have proven difficult, a wide range of experts say, and that’s something state leaders acknowledge. "There is no one program from the state that is going to solve it," said Pat Mitchell, a former county manager in Ashe County. She has just started work in a new position as the Commerce Department’s assistant secretary for rural economic Development. Read more here.

FORMER WAKE COUNTY ASSISTANT DA SAYS CONVICTION HARSH FOR ‘MORAL MONDAY’ PROTESTERS: Jack Hall, writing in a News & Observer op-ed -- "Criminal conviction of the Moral Monday folks seems harsh. The resolution of the prosecution of the Moral Monday protesters might usefully involve the concept of "jury nullification." Let the government know how much the public is not inclined to convict those who truthfully and fairly criticize our lawmakers." Read more here.

DONORS GIVE FOREST'S OFFICE A $270,000 MAKEOVER: AP -- Forest used business connections to seek private firms willing to loan or donate to the state labor, supplies and furniture for the improvements. Companies came through, especially a Charlotte-based furniture company that outfitted Forest and his small staff in the large house with contemporary desks, bookcases, coffee tables and upholstered chairs. "We wanted it to be different," he said. "We wanted to do something that other lieutenant governors hadn't done." Read more here.


NEW PROCESS SLOWS MENTAL HEALTH PLACEMENTS: North Carolina has reduced the number of people with severe mental illness being relegated to adult-care homes in the state, but in the process has made it harder for some people to get into such facilities when necessary.

Social workers say delays caused by a screening system put in place in January – to ensure that people with mental illness are not moved into assisted living facilities when they could live more independently – actually could endanger some clients who are no longer able to live safely by themselves or with family and need new living arrangements quickly. The delays also inadvertently have left some patients sitting in hospital rooms for days after they were medically ready to leave. Read more here.

STATE TRIES TO HELP ADOPTEES GET TREATMENT: The state has a new policy aimed at making it easier for adoptive parents to find mental health treatment for their children.

Until now, parents who adopted children on Medicaid, the government insurance for the poor, elderly and disabled, have had trouble finding mental health therapists for them once the children started lives with their new families and moved away from the counties where they were born.

On Friday, the state Medicaid office tried to straighten out that problem, declaring that the children’s new home was to be used for Medicaid treatment and provider-payment purposes."This policy change insures beneficiaries receive services without delay and providers receive payment for services rendered," the administrative letter said. Read more here.

GRAIG MEYER OFFICIALLY APPOINTED: A Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools employee has been formally appointed by Gov. Pat McCrory to the North Carolina House to serve out the term of a legislator who moved to the Senate. He will be sworn in Thursday. Read more here.

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