NC Civitas | The state budget for FY 2018-19 contains nearly 170 line items totaling $30 million that are highly inappropriate or outright pork.
Appropriations directing funding to local pet projects include items such as walking trails, playgrounds, county fairs and highway signs. Moreover, dozens of nonprofit organizations receive direct appropriations in the budget. Make no mistake, these nonprofits perform admirable work. However, it is highly inappropriate – and unfair favoritism – to single out nonprofits for specific appropriations of state tax dollars, instead of having them go through the appropriate grant process.
There is little doubt that a large percentage, if not all, of these earmarks represent legislators trying to “bring home the bacon” to their districts in an election year. State taxpayers should not be forced to finance explicitly local projects.
Note that the items identified in this article include only adjustments made to the second year of the biennial budget passed last year. There no doubt are many more such earmarks that will be doled out this year that were previously included in last year’s budget.
Legislative leaders have rightly been criticized for the closed-door, non-transparent process used in crafting the budget. It is plausible to believe that these 166 line items were the result of political horse-trading behind closed doors, which left virtually no time for objections from legislators before the House and Senate voted.
Such a significant number of earmarks, while not adding up to a major percentage of the budget in dollar terms, raises legitimate concerns about political patronage in which representatives direct state funds to local projects in exchange for political support.
Below is the list of these items Civitas has identified:
Republican’s school safety plan makes some temporary changes, while giving lawmakers time to assess what else might be needed.
Education NC | Republican lawmakers announced at a press conference last month $35 million in school safety grants that made their way into the revised 2018-19 budget.
The one-time money is meant to temporarily address school safety needs while the state gathers more information on what districts and schools require to protect students.
“A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step,” said Rep. David Lewis (R-Dunn). “I think this is an ongoing process.”
The school safety plan stems from work performed by a committee on school safety that came into existence following the school shooting in Parkland, Florida and met regularly prior to the short session.
Governor Roy Cooper has his own school safety plan in his budget proposal. It amounts to a total of $130 million, including $65 million for making buildings safer and $40 million for additional personnel. Legislative Democrats also floated a similar plan yesterday.
But Republican lawmakers say it is too soon to know exactly how much money is needed. Part of the ongoing process going forward will be getting reports from districts sent to the state Department of Public Instruction so that legislators can understand what schools require. Rep. Linda Johnson (R-Kannapolis) said additional recurring money needs to be added to the budget in the future.
“Because the issue came up at the time that it came up, and the amount of effort that had to go into it, this is not the end, this is just the beginning,” she said.
The Republicans’ plan also includes between $30 and $90 million in new federal funding for student health, but that will not come until the second year because North Carolina needs a Medicaid State Plan Amendment before it can start collecting the funds. Essentially, the money will come from reimbursements from Medicaid for services the state is already providing.
Longleaf Politics | The latest major court ruling stemming from the General Assembly’s infamous 2016 “power grab”1came on Friday, as the N.C. Supreme Court settled a battle between the state Superintendent of Public Instruction and the State Board of Education over direct control of the public school system.
Both the state superintendent and the Board of Education declared victory after the decision. But the ruling is very clearly in favor of the General Assembly and the elected superintendent.
As it turns out, sometimes even a power grab results in clearer public policy.
What was the lawsuit about?
Let’s start all the way at the beginning: the state constitution. It sets up two distinct bodies tasked with public education.
The State Board of Education is directed to “supervise and administer the free public school system.” The Superintendent of Public Instruction, elected statewide every four years, is to “be the secretary and chief administrative officer of the State Board of Education.”
There’s not a whole lot of direction as to how this is to work in practice. That’s mostly been left to the General Assembly, and over the years the pendulum of duties has swung back and forth.
Once it became clear that Cooper would be the new governor, with the right to appoint State Board of Education members, the state legislature decided to tweak the responsibilities of the board and the Superintendent of Public Instruction, 34-year-old Republican Mark Johnson.
Some of the changes are more technical. Instead of the State Board of Education being in charge of establishing “policy,” it became responsible for “all needed rules and regulations” for North Carolina’s public schools.
The more substantive changes come to the superintendent role. Previously, the job was to run the day-to-day operations of the public school infrastructure “subject to the direction, control, and approval of the State Board.” That phrasing was removed in several places.
While the board remains the policymaking body, the superintendent now has clear responsibility for running the department.
The new deal with state lawmakers that the memo discloses is a little in the weeds. The bill in question is House Bill 500, currently under consideration. It’s an omnibus ABC bill, meaning that it makes a lot of little adjustments to the state’s alcohol laws. It passed the House last April and is now in Senate committees.
The bill got a few new amendments in a Senate committee. One enables wholesale business owners to transfer control of the company to a family member. Previously, this could only be done upon the business owner’s death.
A second new provision ends a practice where big brewers were able to determine who a wholesaler could sell his business to.
Another new provision ends a mechanism where “suppliers” — meaning beer brewers — could own part of a wholesale business for eight years and make business loans to help other companies acquire wholesale businesses.
In all three cases, the changes make North Carolina’s alcohol laws just a little bit more wholesaler friendly. In the third part, that comes at the expense of beer brewers.
The bill passed committee as amended, but must first go to the full Senate and then back to the House now.
All that’s not the interesting part, though. The bill as a whole makes sense. Why should a big beer brewer be able to dictate how a wholesaler sells his business?
The interesting part is how the changes came about.
Longleaf Politics | Hurricane Matthew struck eastern North Carolina on October 9, 2016.
A full 18 months later, some of the first federally funded repairs are slated to begin this June.
Hurricane Matthew has re-emerged as a political issue in Raleigh as thousands of people in eastern North Carolina await public money to rebuild.
The storm was one of the most devastating in North Carolina’s history, killing 31 people and caused more than $4.8 billion in damage. Matthew set rainfall records in 17 counties, and 2,300 people were rescued from floodwaters.
Why is recovery taking so long?
It mostly has to do with the processes set up to distribute the roughly $1.7 billion in recovery aid expected from the federal and state government.
While the initial response from the N.C. National Guard and FEMA came quickly, North Carolina has been in no hurry to distribute money intended for longer-term recovery.
And as it turns out, there’s a huge difference between money that’s been approved — and money that’s actually been used.
The breakdown of funding sources is an alphabet soup of agencies, each with its own policies and mechanisms and hoops to jump through. State governments have incentives to get roads repaired quickly. Homes, not so much.
Here’s a quick explanation of how disaster recovery works. It’s ordered by how quickly money has been distributed.
Note: Corrects N.C. State Senate District 2 results
Scott Dacey seriously underestimated Walter Jones and seriously misread the mood of the congressional district. More
Ginger Garner will go against Norman Sanderson for N.C. State Senate District 2.
Barbara Lee will go against Mike Speciale in N.C. House of Representatives District 3. Speciale held off a spirited challenge in the Republican primary from Eric Queen, winning 57.24 percent of the vote, an underwhelming showing for an incumbent going against a newcomer. He’s going to have to have a better showing in November if he’s going to beat Lee, a well-known former New Bern alderman. In the primary, Speciale was contending with Republican voters divided over his conduct in office. In November, Speciale faces Democrat and independent voters, as well.
Incumbent Sheriff Jerry Monette had more competition from Eric Smith in the Democratic primary than he perhaps expected. Had there not been a third candidate, John Gillyard, Smith may well have won. Now Monette faces Chip Hughes, who won the Republican primary default without a challenger. Hughes has run against Monette in the past unsuccessfully.
E.T. Mitchell has worn a lot of hats during her nine years in New Bern, sitting on boards for the Twin Rivers YMCA, Craven Literacy Volunteers, Craven Community College Foundation, New Bern Housing Authority, and as an appointee to the New Bern Board of Aldermen. Her recipe for success includes experience, time, talent and lots and lots of money. She raised $27,052 and spent $16,866, according to the latest report on file. Billy Joiner, the Trent Woods commissioner who ran against her, launched a half-hearted attempt. The result: 60.6 percent of the vote to Mitchell, 39.4 percent for Joiner. Yes, Mitchell beat Santa Claus. Who says money doesn’t talk?
Meanwhile, elsewhere in Craven County, District 5 Commissioner Theron McCabe won his reelection bid against Rufus Carter Jr., by eight votes.
Candidates who ran unopposed:
Craven County Board of Commissioners District 1 — Jeff O’Neill, Democrat, running against incumbent Tom Mark, who won his Republican primary
Craven County Board of Commissioners District 2 — Jason Jones, unopposed in the Democrat primary, no one ran in the Republican primary. He wins by default.
Craven County Board of Commissioners District 3 — Johnnie Sampson, opposed in the Democrat primary, no candidates in the Republican primary, he wins by default.
Craven County Board of Commissioners District 4 — E.T. Mitchell won the Republican primary, there is no Democrat running, so she takes the office by default. (Incumbent Scott Dacey ran for Congress and lost)
Craven County Board of Commissioners District 5 — Theron McCabe won the Democrat primary, there is no Republican running, so he retains his office by default.
Craven County Board of Commissioners District 6 — George Liner ran in the Republican primary unopposed, and there is no Democrat challenger, so he retains his office by default.
Craven County Board of Commissioners District 7 — Denny Bucher ran unopposed in the Republican primary, Kelli Muse ran opposed in the Democrat primary. They face off in November. (Incumbent Steve Tyson did not run)
Craven County Sheriff — Chip Hughes ran unopposed in the Republican primary, faces incumbent Sheriff Jerry Monette who won the Democrat primary.
Craven County Clerk of Superior Court — Incumbent Terri Sharp unopposed Democrat, Lexanne Huffman unopposed Republican, face off in November.
District Attorney — Scott Thomas, unopposed in the primary, no challenger in November, keeps his office by default.
Craven County Republican Scott Dacey’s gamble didn’t pay off.
Dacey gave up his seat on the Craven County Board of Commissioners in a quest to unseat U.S. House of Representative District 3’s longtime, wacky Walter Jones.
Instead, Dacey came in a distant third in a three-man race. Dacey wasn’t even able to win his home county, losing to Jones by nine votes.
Dacey describes himself as a Trump Republican, so much so that his campaign website is DaceyTrump.com.
Dacey attempted to connect Jones, one of the higher-rated congressional conservatives from a variety of conservative rating systems, with Democrat congresswoman and conservative pariah Nancy Pelosi.
(See Dacey’s somewhat creepy campaign video here and watch him speak without moving his lips at the end.)
“Our President needs a congressman he can count on,” Dacey proclaims on his website, which between it and his campaign was heavily funded by donations from outside the district (list here)
Dacey’s “donate” button is labeled “Donate to Scott’s MAGA fund.” He received numerous donations from the Indian tribes that he serves in his day job as a Washington D.C. lobbyist.
In all, Dacey raised $357,497 for his campaign, compared to $2.77 million raised by Jones and $209,082 raised by Phil Law.
(Fun fact: You can tell a lot about a candidate by who puts skin into the game to get him elected. Here is N.C. Rep. Mike Speciale’s contribution report. Speciale raised $332,481 — almost as much as Dacey but for a much smaller district, and at the state level. Speciale won his primary race against Eric Queen, whose contribution report got lost in the mail or something because it reports he raised zero dollars, which is unlikely.)
Dacey claims on his website that Congress and the Washington establishment are the problem, and that Walter Jones is part of the problem.
Anyone who would think of Representative Walter Jones as part of the Washington establishment is deluded. Jones transcends party politics and remains one of the few members of Congress on either side of the aisle who will vote his conscience and his district’s needs over party politics.
Dacey? Not so much.
Anyway, Jones finished with 20,862 votes, 43 percent of the total. Law and Dacey split the rest, with Law pulling in 14,266 votes and Dacey collecting 13,380.
Dacey’s strongest showings were in Jones and Lenoir counties, where he came in first. Law won his former home county of Onslow (he lives in Raleigh now). Jones took the remaining 14 counties, most significantly Carteret, Pitt and Craven counties, which pulled in the highest numbers.
No Democrat filed to run for the office, so absent a strong write-in campaign, Walter Jones keeps his seat. He has vowed that this will be his last term.
Meanwhile, E.T. Mitchell, a former appointee to the New Bern Board of Aldermen, has won the Republican primary for Dacey’s old seat on the Craven County Board of Commissioners. There is no Democrat in the race, so again, absent a write-in campaign, she will take over for Dacey after the November elections.
N.C. Rep. Mike Speciale of New Bern, who is running for reelection in the Republican primary, posted a long response on Sunday night to opposition from a fellow conservative who is not even on the ballot.
Speciale tore into Tyker Gonzales, a Cove City resident who advocates on behalf of independent farmers and humane treatment of animals.
As Speciale tells it on his Facebook wall, “A lady by the name of Tyker Gonzales is having a hard time grasping the facts about a puppy mill bill from six years ago.
“She has chosen to make my debate on the House floor against this bill an issue in this year’s primary election. She is supporting my opponent who apparently is leading her to believe he would have supported this bill, and together they are trying to paint me as someone who does not like animals.
“That is pure nonsense, and anyone who knows me knows that I love animals. This is one reason I would not support this bill.”
Gonzales, who said she has been blocked from commenting on Speciale’s Facebook wall, was alerted to his posting by a friend.
Here is her response. After that, read the rest of Speciale’s comments.
From Tyker Gonzales:
Tyker Gonzales, from Facebook
WOW…..So tonight I was tagged in this post by a friend, a post by NC House Rep. Michael Speciale…..Wouldn’t you know Mr. Speciale’s post was written concerning yours truly! Oh my word. To make it better, he blocked me from commenting on it.
So let me be clear, I am NOT nor have I ever voted for Michael Speciale and let me explain why.
Years ago, Mr. Speciale used to work at a feed store where I purchased our horse feed. He was always very smug, acting as if he did not want to be there. I tried many times to get a smile out of him, to no avail. The next thing I knew he was running for the NC state house of Representatives……. My family was stunned. We did not vote for him as previously stated.
I have been present when he was a guest speaker at several CCTA meetings after he was elected and was still not comfortable with him representing some of us in NC with his views and overall thought process.
My discernment was confirmed when he made horrible comments on the house floor in 2013 referring to the puppy mill bill. I called him out on those comments on Facebook, and his response was that it was a ridiculous bill and he was pointing out it’s ridiculousness with his comments. ‘Exercise on a daily basis’ – if I kick him across the floor, is that considered daily exercise?” Speciale said. ‘Euthanasia performed humanely’ – so should I choose the ax or the baseball bat?” This was reported in Rolling Stone magazine and covered by WRAL. Even many of his colleagues were disgusted. He replied to WRAL with this statement, “For those of you who were not there and did not understand the context and the moment, reading my printed words could give the wrong impression, so get off your high horses and do your research before you take what you read as gospel. I will debate as I believe to be most effective, and I will not succumb to political correctness.”
Now, Mr. Speciale has not tried to correct the bill, reintroduce the bill, nor did he vote for it when it did pass the house in 2015 (two years later). This shows to me he has no interest in this bill other than making a mockery of it.
Furthermore, there was another post on Facebook in the last month asking if kids should be taught how to grow plants and vegetables while at school. Mr. Speciale responded no, they should concentrate on reading, writing and arithmetic. I responded in disagreement- pointing out how kids think their milk comes from Walmart and burgers from McDonald’s. It was important for them to learn where their food comes from and how to learn to raise it.
Those of you that know me, know farmers and animals are in my heart. You know how I feel about personal responsibility, and irresponsibility.The Bible clearly speaks about farmers and animals also, “The righteous man regards the life of his animal, but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel” Prov. 12:10 “Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.”James 5:7 “It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops”.2 Tim. 2:6…. Regarding life, teaching patience and hard work…….animals and farming are life lessons.
Mr. Speciale, I am sorry you feel you had to lash out to me personally seeing I am not on the ballot. I am also sorry you think Mr. Queen is “leading me to believe he would have voted for it” as we have never even discussed it honestly. I am supporting Mr. Eric Queen because of his integrity, his service, his experience in protecting others in pinpoint circumstances while in the Marines, his honesty, the fact that he visited and showed interest in our animal shelter asking questions to see what is needed, what is lacking and how the state is involved, the solutions he proposes for the opioid epidemic are solid, school safety is one of his specialties (you should hear his testimonies of protecting Afghanistan schools).
So for those of you watching this race, I ask you again to vote for Eric Queen. It is crystal clear to me now more than ever that while Mr. Speciale is also a child of God and loved by God and me, we are given the choice of who best represents us- and I believe that man is Eric Queen.
Here is the rest from Speciale’s post:
The facts are that the bill was pure nonsense, and this bill has been presented every session for years, and every session it has not passed. In 2013 Governor McCrory’s wife made it her pet bill and Speaker Tillis, as well as several members of the House, were determined to pass this bill in order to please her.
In order to get the bill to pass the individual committees, it was successively watered down with each committee, so that by the time it came to the House floor, it was so generic and watered down as to be useless to law enforcement and unenforceable in a court of law. My objection to the bill was its ambiguous wording and its unenforceability.
The American Kennel Society was against the bill, as were many other organizations and individuals. The bill exempts breeders of hunting dogs, breeders of less than 10 dogs, breeders of show dogs, breeders of sporting dogs, breeders of dogs kept for purposes other than pets, and field trials. So who does this bill apply to? What is the purpose of the bill?
When new laws are written, they must be specific enough to be easily recognized, charged, and adjudicated in court.
Nothing in this bill is specific enough to prevent opinions of what is or what isn’t being done. The bill states that dogs must: Have access to exercise on a daily basis. Access?
Who determines what access is? That is not specific enough, and leaves it up to an officer to determine if a violation has occurred. Must have access to food and water. Again, access is not defined. Must be humanely euthanized. What exactly does that mean in a legal sense? Some folks have use axes to euthanize their dogs, and they thought that was humane because it was quick. What does humanely mean when there is no apt description. This and others like this are why I fought to defeat this bill. I used strong verbage like the reference to the axe to get my point across to my fellow Legislators, whose votes I was trying to turn against the bill. I did succeed in turning some to vote no, but not enough to stop passage. The bill died from neglect in the Senate. It was brought up again in the 2015-2016 session and did not pass, and again last year, where it did not pass the Senate.
Tyker Gonzales is taking my words on the floor of the House in this debate to mean that I hate animals, and that is nonsense and the idea is absurd! Instead of worrying about how I chose to debate, she should be happy that this watered down bill did not pass and make everyone feel all good inside as if they accomplished something. You, the citizens of this District, did not send me to Raleigh to pass useless bills for the Governor’s wife at your expense. My words are not the problem here, the bill was the problem but my opponent apparently would vote yes for this bill if given the chance. Please vote for someone who reads the bills and can discern their meaning and their effect and vote accordingly. Don’t be fooled by my opponent, Vote Michael Speciale.