THE RALEIGH REPORT
January 31, 2018
It's always my goal to provide constituents with updates about what is going on in your state government. Since we have not yet adjourned the long session but are instead meeting periodically in called sessions without solving any problems, I have little to report except that we have spent upwards of $600,000 of your tax dollars since we took our first recess in July. You might think the lack of accomplishment is a good thing; but we still have several critical issues that are time sensitive. This is not good government.
Public school districts across the state are hiring teachers and finalizing plans for their Fall start date; but they still don't know if they will be expected to reduce K-3 class sizes to no more than 18 students. That's an impossible mandate for schools that are already at full capacity with no extra classrooms and no extra teachers. But, we are silent.
The House passed a bill that would give our Department of Environmental Quality the capacity to test the waters for Gen X discharges and other emerging pollutants at various Eastern and Central NC sites. The Senate recessed without taking it up. The testing is on hold; the potential adverse health effects still need to be determined and public health officials need a program to educate the public about risks. And, chemicals similar to Gen X were recently discovered in small amounts in Jordan Lake and in Cary, Chapel Hill and Durham tap water.
Candidate filing for the 2018 elections starts in two weeks; but we still don't have firm districts for US Congress, the NC House and NC Senate, or our judicial races. Because the US Supreme Court ruled the NC House and NC Senate maps to be unconstitutional based on racial gerrymandering and not partisan gerrymandering, both political parties believe the Special Master maps will stand their appeal. Both parties are recruiting state legislative candidates based on those maps.
The proposed redistricting of our trial court judges, both Superior Court and District Court, is more complicated. Republicans have cancelled the primary for all of these judges. If that stands, every voter in the November elections could be choosing among dozens of district and superior court judge candidates from both parties. Everyone who files would be on the ballot. It would slow down voting in every county across the state. But, by cancelling the primary, they have more time to create maps that are not so strongly opposed.
The first round of district court maps double bunked 40% of the black judges in the state and further gerrymandered districts to favor electing more Republican judges. Those maps were publicly opposed by most judges from both parties as well as by the general public. Cancelling the primary gives Republicans more time to produce maps that still favor Republicans but are not opposed by so many people. We are hearing we may vote on district court maps before the end of January and in time for the February candidate filing period. In the event that fails, Republican could push out the candidate filing period and perhaps the May primary.
The current challenge to our US Congressional districts map is based on partisan, not racial, gerrymandering. In 2011, Republican redrew the US Congressional maps in 2011 to ensure Republicans would win 10 of the 13 NC Congressional Districts despite the fact that Democrats running for Congress outpolled Republicans state-wide. When those maps were ruled unconstitutional based on racial gerrymandering, Rep. David Lewis (R, Harnett) stood on the floor of the NC House and announced that Republicans would redraw the maps so Republicans would still win 10 seats. They would do that based on political registration that, at the time, had never been ruled upon by the US Supreme Court. He added that the only reason they were drawing the maps to win 10 seats is that they could not figure out a way to win 11 seats.
On January 10, a federal district court panel ruled those NC Congressional maps to be unconstitutional based on partisan, political gerrymandering. They ordered the General Assembly to produce new maps by January 24th. Republicans appealed that ruling to the US Supreme Court asking the court to stay the decision and to use the existing maps for the 2018 elections. On January 18, the Supreme Court blocked the district court panel's ruling; but, it's still not clear what will happen. The Supreme Court is currently considering the question of partisan redistricting and may deal with all the cases at the same time, including North Carolina.
How to Engage
It's tough to keep track of what is happening. Here are some ways to stay involved.
1. Call me or my legislative assistant Gina Insko at 919-733-7208 or email me at Inskola@ncleg.net with How can I get involved in the subject line.
2. Follow us on Twitter at @verlainsko and Facebook at Verla Insko.
3. Visit ncleg.net where you can see bills, listen to session, and see daily calendars.
4. Help us spread the word on social media or by forwarding this newsletter and other alerts or key news items.
As always, thank you for your support of my work in Raleigh as your representative. Please let me know of your position on issues, your suggestions for legislation and your requests for help.