A few numbers to start this week’s update….
$11.4 million. That is the amount of money that has landed NC in a Top 5 List we do not want. It is the combined total that Republican Senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis have received from the NRA, making them # 2 and #4, respectively, on the Top 5 US Senators with the most contributions from the NRA.
$5.6 million. The amount of taxpayer money that the GOP in the NCGA has spent thus far fighting lawsuits over their 2011 gerrymandering fiasco. That number will continue to climb as the numerous suits work their way through the courts, and as the attorney fees for plaintiffs’ are ordered paid every time the GOP loses.
$8,940. The amount that was spent per pupil in NC in 2017, ranking us 43rd in the US and $3,000 behind the national average.
New lawsuit brought over four gerrymandered Wake County House Districts
36, 37, 40, 41. These are numbers Wake County residents are getting to know very well, as they are at the center of a lawsuit to force their lines back to the 2011 version.
In the suit brought Wednesday by the state NAACP, League of Women Voters, Democracy North Carolina, the A. Philip Randolph Institute and four named voters, the plaintiff’s claim that these four Districts should never have been redrawn to address the concerns raised in previous cases, as they were not part of the racial gerrymandering issues.
The plaintiffs are seeking an injunction by March 9th on the use of the 2017 maps that impacted these Districts and the old District lines reinstated in order to hold the scheduled May 8th primary. If the court cannot rule by the requested date, the primaries may be delayed.
Districts 36 (Nelson Dollar) and 37 (Linda Williams) seats are currently held by Republicans. Districts 40 (Joe John) and 41 (Gale Adcock) seats are held by Democrats. Williams has announced that she will not seek re-election, while the remaining incumbents are running for re-election. We will continue to follow this case.
"Well, what does the right to instruct mean? Don’t they have to know about it to say, 'I don’t like that?'"
This question from Judge Wayland Sermons is at the heart of another lawsuit we are monitoring, Common Cause, et al v. Daniel J. Forest, et al. This case relates to the Fourth Special Session that was called at 12pm on December 14, 2016 and convened at 2pm that day. In the session, Senate Bill 4 and House Bill 17 were introduced, passed, and sent to then-Governor McCrory for his signature on December 16th. Senate Bill 4 is the infamous merging of the State Board of Elections and Ethics Committee, reestablishment of partisan elections for the state Supreme Court and Court of Appeals, modification of the appellate court process and allowed McCrory to fill a vacancy on the Industrial Commission, which he immediately filled with the wife of his Chief of Staff. House Bill 17 stripped incoming Governor Roy Cooper of a number of executive powers.
Cooper v. Berger I and Cooper v. Berger II that we discussed in a previous Update, are Governor Cooper’s lawsuits to address these laws in relation to their impact to Executive power. The Common Cause lawsuit attacks the constitutionality of the Fourth and Fifth Special Sessions in 2016, as they violated citizen’ right “to instruct their legislators” as stated in the state Constitution and denied citizens the right to participate in the legislative process. This was due to the fact that the Session was called with only two (2) hours notice and with no announcement of subjects to be addressed.
The case was heard by a three judge panel in Superior Court on Wednesday. They indicated that they would rule as soon as they possibly could. We will let you know what happens in a future update.
Update: Legislative Study Committee on the Division of Local School Administrative Units
As we noted in last week’s update, the Legislative Study Committee on the Division of Local School Administrative Units was created to study the best size for school districts in the state, possibly breaking up larger districts like Wake County. The Committee held its first meeting on Wednesday and no action was taken. We did learn that the average number of students per district is inline with our Southeastern US counterparts. Information was also presented showing that students in larger districts fare better in student performance metrics.
The Committee’s next session is scheduled for March 14th.
Another school shooting, another House Committee
House Speaker Tim Moore, in response to last week’s tragic school shooting in Parkland, FL, announced that he would be creating bipartisan House Committee on School Safety to examine current safety procedures in the state’s elementary, middle, and high schools.
This committee has been formed after we learned earlier this month that a legal loophole only “encourages” charter schools in NC to hold annual school-wide lockdown drills.