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WEEKLY STATE UPDATE

Monday, September 10, 2018

IN THE HEADLINES

This Week in Raleigh

On Tuesday, the NC Supreme Court ruled against Governor Cooper in his lawsuit over two proposed constitutional amendments - which would shift the power of judicial and certain board appointments from the governor to the legislature. Earlier that day, the court also declined to hear an appeal from the NC NAACP, who had sued over different amendments - voter ID law and lowering the state’s maximum income tax rate.

These decisions mean that voters will likely see all six referendum questions on their November ballots.

Senate Leader Phil Berger responded to Tuesday’s ruling, saying “Governor Cooper’s attempts to prevent six million North Carolinians from voting on their own Constitution have finally come to an end. Thankfully, the N.C. Supreme Court recognized his lawsuit was nothing more than a brazen legal charade to keep his unchecked power.”

We've heard language similar to "unchecked power" from the other side of the political spectrum; Governor Cooper and other Democrats have described the Republican-led legislature's effort to take over certain Governor responsibilities as a "power grab".

Earlier this month, Governor Cooper his legal team successfully argued that the General Assembly had written misleading ballot language to be presented to voters. The legislature quickly reconvened to make some tweaks and Cooper sued again, arguing they didn’t do enough. But he lost that second trial last week and then appealed to the state Supreme Court for a final decision, which he lost on Tuesday.

In addition to constitutional amendment litigation, there is currently an ongoing lawsuit in federal court regarding North Carolina’s congressional districts, which a panel of federal judges ruled were unconstitutional. This week, the judges agreed that - despite their unconstitutionality - the congressional districts will stay in place for November, explaining that changing the maps 2 months before the election would be too disruptive. 

Making Headlines

Students are back in school, and with an extra $35 million for security and mental health help - News & Observer
All around North Carolina, public school students are starting this new school year with more school resource officers and mental health counselors on campus to provide help.

N.C. has nearly doubled early voting hours under GOP - Longleaf Politics
More than 40% of all the state’s registered voters cast ballots early in 2016, and early votes made up nearly two-thirds of all the votes cast that year.

Why North Carolina’s youngest students will get some relief from testing this year - Durham Herald Sun
At a time when there are concerns that students are being tested too much, new statewide changes this school year should reduce how much time North Carolina’s youngest students spend taking tests.

NC DMV Needs To Perform At 'Higher Level': Governor Roy Cooper - WFMY
"Clearly the DMV needs to perform at a higher level. People should not have to wait this long to get service," said Governor Roy Cooper.

N.C. legislature not holding the big debates our state needs, says Sen. Jeff Jackson - Longleaf Politics
Senator Jeff Jackson wants big, substantive debates on how North Carolina should adapt to the modern economy, and discussions on how the state should boost struggling rural counties.

Healthcare

The infant mortality rate in North Carolina has remained stubbornly high in recent years and is one of the worst in the nation. About half of the children in the state live in poverty. And more than 20 percent of kids live in households that are food insecure.

"These are some of the reasons Gov. Roy Cooper cited Wednesday when he announced an executive order that directs the state’s Department of Health and Human Services to create an Early Childhood Action Plan.

“We know that a foundation for future learning, health and well-being is built during early childhood,” Cooper said in a press release. “I want all North Carolina children to get off to a strong start in safe and nurturing families and communities, with access to high-quality opportunities to learn, and this plan can help us get there.”

He directed DHHS to present a draft of the plan for public comment by Nov. 1. It will include “targeted goals and strategies” to improve the health of children from birth through age 8.

“We must do more to change outcomes for young children and their families across the state,” said DHHS Sec. Mandy Cohen in the same press release. “The Early Childhood Action Plan will build on existing public and private efforts and develop new strategies to help us make smart, evidence-informed investments for North Carolina’s children.”

DHHS will track outcomes annually based on the set goals and benchmarks in the plan.

“It’s heartening that the governor is thinking about these things,” said Whitney Tucker, research director at NC Child, an advocacy group that focuses on child health and well-being.

She said the state has led the nation in some areas such as child care, while it struggles with food insecurity and infant mortality.

“We can’t lap up the praise for some of it and ignore other issues,” Tucker said.

North Carolina is 42nd in the nation in infant mortality rates, according to NC Child’s 2018 Child Health Report Card. There were 7.2 deaths per every 1,000 babies born in 2016. Meanwhile, African American infants are 2.7 times more likely to die in their first year of life compared to white infants. And in North Carolina’s 29 Appalachian counties, the infant mortality is 16 percent higher than the rest of the U.S.

Tucker added that infant mortality rates will be really difficult to improve if the state does nothing  to expand affordable health care options.

With the drafted plan deadline fast approaching, DHHS has already begun reaching out to groups such as NC Child that work to improve and track children’s health issues.

“It’s up in the air as to what their goal will be and their strategies for meeting them,” Tucker said." (Taylor Knopf, NC Health News, 8/31/18

Moving Forward

The legislature will reconvene on November 27th at 12:00 p.m.

Mon, September 10, 2018
10:00 a.m. -Child Fatality Task Force / Unintentional Death Prevention Committee (1027/1128 LB)

Tue, September 11, 2018
1:00 p.m.  - Permanency Innovation Initiative Oversight Committee (423 LOB)

Wed, September 12, 2018
11:00 a.m.  - Representative Yvonne Holley - Press Conference (Press Room LB)

Thu, September 13, 2018
9:00 a.m.  - Joint Legislative Transportation Oversight Committee (643 LOB)

1:00 p.m.  - Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Justice and Public Safety (643 LOB)
To see archived weekly state updates, please click here.

CONTACT US

Call us at 828-213-1221 or email us at advocacy@msj.org.