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Carter Wrenn: Teacher raises may not buy GOP lawmakers love

Carter Wrenn, the veteran GOP strategist, writes that raising teacher salaries, won't necessarily by the Republican legislature love in his blog post Talking About Politics.

"After Democrats ran an ad in State House Districts, something akin to a shockwave rippled down the hallways of the General Assembly, unsettling the less stouthearted Republican legislators.

"Last fall, after the last election House Republicans, riding high, assumed, We won. People love us. We can do what we want. They did. Then their poll numbers dropped. Then that ad hit. Then a cry went up from the unsettled, If we just give teachers raises – people will love us again.

"But are pay raises actually the reason for House Republicans’ shrinking poll numbers?"

Read the entire post here.

State Board of Ed talks about "flat pathetic" teacher pay

State Board of Education member John Tate wants the board to back a resolution to bring teacher pay in the state to the national average.

Tate sprung his proposal on the board this week, calling teacher pay "flat pathetic." Teachers and state employees received one 1.2 percent raise in the last five years.

After years of concerted efforts to raise teacher to the national average, North Carolina was ranked 25th in 2008 by the National Education Association. The state has slipped since then, and is close to the bottom of national rankings.

"I feel like we have to send a message to our teachers as soon as possible," Tate said.

Legislative health and human services October meeting

Legislators may get their questions about state Department of Health and Human Services salaries, buggy computer systems, and Medicaid spending answered at a meeting scheduled for Oct. 8.

The Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Health and Human Services has scheduled an all-day meeting to talk about department goings on. The agenda's not out yet, but there's no shortage of topics to cover. The morning session will be a joint meeting with the Information Technology oversight committee. Health oversight members will have DHHS administrators to themselves in the afternoon.

Democratic legislators are keen to talk about salaries, raises, personal services contracts, and the problems with computer systems that pay Medicaid claims and provide food assistance. Republicans have shied away from complaints about salaries, but they want to know what's going on with computer systems that have frustrated doctors and local services workers, and have left poor people searching for food.

Elon Poll: McCrory decline is continuing

Another poll, and more declining ratings for Gov. Pat McCrory.

The Elon University Poll found the governor's approval ratings had dropped to 36 percent -- down from 46 percent in April when Elon last surveyed North Carolinians. The poll found that McCrory's steepest declines came from Democrats, but that he has also lost support among independents and Republicans as well.

The new poll shows McCrory with 36 percent approving his performance with 45 percent disapproving and 17 percent not sure.

That compares with President Barack Obama, who had a 38 percent approval rating in the state, with a disapproval rating of 50 percent with 9 percent not sure.

Only 37 percent approve of the president's handling of Syria, while 46 percent opposing it.

As for the General Assembly, 32 percent approve of the job they are doing, with 48 percent disapproving.

On the Moral Monday protests, 48 percent had a favorable opinion, while 31 percent had an unfavorable opinion and 19 percent said they didn't know.

Only 31 percent of North Carolina voters said the state was on the right track, with 58 percent believing it was on the wrong track. Asked which party they blamed for North Carolina being on the wrong track, 19 percent said the Democrats, 49 percent said the Republicans, and 27 percent said neither.

The survey of 701 registered voters was conducted Sept. 13-16 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percent.

Legislative Black Caucus to hold town hall meetings

The N.C. Legislative Black Caucus is holding a series of town hall meetings called the What's Up Tour: Taking Back Our State.

Lawmakers will talk about legislation affecting families, education, health care and voting rights. The Black Caucus, which has all Democratic members, didn't like much of what the GOP-led legislature did this year, particularly in the areas of education, health care, and voting.

The tour started Monday in Lumberton and will hit eight more cities by December. The Raleigh Town Hall is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 14, 6 p.m., at the Martin Street Baptist Church.

Teachers group pushes for DHHS salary investigation

The North Carolina Association of Educators called for an investigation Tuesday into raises granted Gov. Pat McCrory’s former campaign aides after the governor called for a freeze on wage hikes.

It’s the legislature’s job to examine “the glaring scandal over taxpayer-funded pay raises,’ said NCAE President Rodney Ellis at a news conference Tuesday morning outside the Legislative Building.

Public attention has focused on two 24-year-old McCrory campaign staffers, Ricky Diaz and Matt McKillip, who went on to work at the state Department of Heath and Human Services for salaries of $85,000 and $87,500.

McCrory has used cost overruns in Medicaid to explain why teachers did not get raises this year, Ellis said, yet the same agency that runs Medicaid is “granting huge raises for the politically connected.”

Democrats turn trash molehill into trash mountain

The state Democratic Party wants to gig Gov. Pat McCrory for signing a regulatory bill last Friday, but its barb is off the mark.

“Imagine the impact to our coastal tourism when you’ll be able to enjoy a 270-feet trash mountain from sea,” said Micah Beasley, an NCDP spokesman, “It’s pretty clear what Republicans think of rural North Carolina that their idea to create jobs is for folks to work on trash mountains."

Here's the problem. Loosened language that would have allowed giant landfills in coastal counties did not make it into the bill McCrory signed.

The law scales back community input required when siting landfills. But it keeps all the buffer zones around wildlife refuges, parks, and existing gamelands approved in 2007 that were meant to prevent the giant landfills.

Update: Beasley said in an interview that the criticism still applies because buffer zones around future gamelands will be reduced.

Virginians were worried about the potential for a giant landfill near the state border. The Virginian-Pilot wrote a story about the regulatory re-write stalling this year.

Woodhouse leaving Americans for Prosperity

Dallas Woodhouse is leaving his job as state director for Americans for Prosperity to "pursue business opportunities in the political arena," according to the organization.

Woodhouse has been with APF since 2006 and has been state director since 2007.

The group saw a number of its priorities realized this legislation session, including a new voucher program, a change in the tax code, and looser regulations.

Gov. McCrory targeting House Republicans to sustain veto

Gov. Pat McCrory is using Facebook to put pressure on 26 House Republicans to sustain his vetoes.

"Contact your representative, Susan Martin @ 919-715-3023 who represents Pitt county and tell her to sustain my vetoes of fiscally irresponsible & job-killing legislation: HB 392 & HB 786. Watch below. #NCPOL," reads a post from earlier this morning. The others follow the same format and link to a video of McCrory explaining his vetoes.

The direct targeting of lawmakers from his own party is a new tactic for McCrory and signals his frayed relationship with GOP legislators.

Moral Monday protesters more popular than legislature

The public has a higher opinion of the Moral Monday protesters than it does the legislature, according to a new survey.

Asked who they have a higher opinion of, 47 percent chose the protesters and 38 percent chose the General Assembly, according to a survey by Public Policy Polling, a Democratic-leaning firm based in Raleigh.

The poll found that only 24 percent of those surveyed approved of the job the legislature is doing. A majority (50 percent) think the legislature is causing North Carolina national embarrassment, while 34 percent did not.

If the election were held today, 50 percent said they would vote for Democrats while 41 percent said they would vote for Republicans.

Asked if their opinion of the Rev. William Barber, the head of the state NAACP who has lead the demonstrations, 28 percent had a favorable opinion, 26 percent had an unfavorable opinion and 46 percent were not sure.

The survey of 600 North Carolina voters was conducted August 8-11. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

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