The General Assembly held two short sessions earlier this week where very little business was conducted. Many of my colleagues in the House attended the Monday session to protect against any attempts at a surprise vote, and there were none. In the Senate, however, Republican legislators used the special session to introduce another bill to attack teachers. The bill would require all teachers, regardless of their experience, to sign yearly contracts. At the end of the year, the teachers could be fired without any explanation or reason. The bill also proposes a merit pay system, but bill supporters say they have not yet found a merit pay system that works and could offer no specific information.
House Minority Leader Joe Hackney characterized the bill as a way to make it easier to fire more teachers and to make it more difficult to hire new ones. The supporters of these initiatives have claimed that change is needed because the state’s schools are failing. In fact, North Carolina’s high school graduation rate improved 8.5 percent just between 2008 and 2011. Nearly 80 percent of our students now graduate from high school. While there is still much work to be done, more students than ever are now finishing their high school degrees and teachers are working harder than ever to help them. The attacks on teachers are unfounded and unnecessary and I am going to continue to stand up for them and the work they are doing.
With the next full session of the General Assembly scheduled to start in a few weeks, Gov. Perdue has started sharing parts of her budget proposal. The full proposal is expected to be released soon.
In conjunction with President Obama’s visit to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to fight against a proposed doubling of interest rates for college student loans, the governor announced she will include $35 million in her proposed budget for need-based aid for students in the UNC system. The budget approved by the Republican majority last year cut $35 million in financial aid. As a result, the number of students receiving grants dropped by about 9,000 students (from 66,000 in 2010-2011 to an estimated 57,000 in 2011-2012).
The governor also plans to extend several tax credits that support growth of jobs and investment. These tax credits could be applied to construction materials, machinery and equipment in some circumstances. The governor also proposed extending a tax break for expanding businesses.
Her budget proposal also includes money to help small manufacturers market their products in key international markets and funds to help provide resources and technical assistance to small- and medium-sized manufacturers in the state.
Gov. Perdue has also announced that she will include $10.3 million in her budget proposal to support reconciliation efforts for people who were involuntarily sterilized under the state’s Eugenics Board program. The program was in operation from 1929-74. The money will be used to support $50,000 payments to verified victims of the program. Money will also be used to pay for the operation of the N.C. Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation. The foundation provides ongoing outreach and clearinghouse services to sterilization victims.
“We cannot change the terrible things that happened to so many of our most vulnerable citizens, but we can take responsibility for our state’s mistakes and show that we do not tolerate violations of basic human rights,” Gov. Perdue said. “We must provide meaningful assistance to victims, so I am including this funding in my budget.”
The appropriation is based upon the recommendations of the Eugenics Compensation Task Force, which issued its final report in January with bipartisan support.
Thank you for your interest in state government. In the meantime, please contact me if I can be of help.
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Michael H. Wray
NC House District 27