NC Legislative Roundup: Budget, Charter Bill, Judicial Redistricting

May 31, 2018

The North Carolina Senate is expected to take a final vote on the $24 billion state budget today.  The House will take up the plan today as well.  The budget, which includes a 6.5 percent average raise for teachers among other items, would take effect July 1.

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Governor Roy Cooper hasn't said publicly what he'll do with the bill, but the Democrat has criticized GOP leaders for failing to accept his ideas on blocking tax breaks and how to raise teacher pay and improve school safety. He vetoed the two-year measure last year, but Republicans quickly overrode it.

Bill That Would Allow Towns To Operate Charter Schools Moves Forward

A divided state Senate education committee has approved a controversial bill giving Matthews, Mint Hill, Huntersville, and Cornelius the power to create their own charter schools. House Bill 514 would also give residents of the towns operating such schools preference in enrolling their children there.

The bill’s sponsor Republican state Rep. Bill Brawley of Matthews told members of the Senate committee the bill wouldn’t force anyone to do anything.

“We’re talking about the possibility of one charter school in the Town of Matthews, which will not pull all 6,000 students that are currently attending school in Matthews out of anything. So I don’t see how it has the sweeping effects that people fear,” said Brawley.

Leaders of those four towns say municipal charter schools will give parents another option and help relieve overcrowding. 

Democratic Senator Joyce Waddell of Mecklenburg County said she’s concerned the bill will increase school segregation.  CMS leaders, whos opposed to the bill, have the same concerns.

“We’ve tried so hard to have complete, integrated schools, and what this is going to do is going to make segregation come back in many of our schools,” said Waddell.

A separate provision expected to pass as part of the state budget would allow town governments to fund these schools with property tax revenue.  The Senate education committee approved HB 514 on a voice vote. It requires action in two more committees before reaching the Senate floor.  

Senate Approves Bill Re-Drawing Mecklenburg County’s Judicial Districts

A bill that would re-draw judicial election districts in Mecklenburg County received approval from the Senate Wednesday and is now headed to the state house. The measure creates eight election districts for Mecklenburg’s superior court.  There are just three now.  Some lawmakers have argued population imbalances within those three districts are likely unconstitutional. Voters in the new proposed districts would elect one Superior Court judge.

The bill also creates eight identical boundaries for district court seats. Voters in each of those districts would elect two or three district court judges. There are 21 district court judgeships in Mecklenburg County now that are elected by residents countywide. Many of the county judges expressed concern over similar bills last year that would have divided the county into multiple districts. They pointed out that dividing the district would take away the ability of citizens to vote for most of the judges that sit in the county.