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House passes bill on abortion discussion in classrooms

CORRECTED: This post has been corrected to reflect the correct speaker for the closing argument.

After cutting off debate, the House passed a bill that would require schools teach students about the connection of abortion to pre-term birth.

The bill will now return to the Senate for concurrence, and then head to the governor’s desk for a signature.

An amendment that would delete “causes of” and substitute “risks for,” sponsored by Rep. Jean Farmer-Butterfield, a Democrat from Wilson, passed in a vote of 110-4. The Committee on Health and Human Services struck down a similar amendment previously.

Rep. Paul Stam, a Republican from Apex and the bill’s main sponsor, supported the amendment, saying that “risk is not incorrect.” In a previous interview, though, he stated that “cause” is the correct “scientific term.”

UNC's Ross warns of 'sobering implications' for education in House budget

UNC President Tom Ross weighed in Friday on the House budget that passed this week, saying it has "sobering implications" for the university campuses.

"Across the country, state leaders from both parties are making strategic investments in their public universities," Ross told the UNC Board of Governors. "They understand that talent is the most valuable commodity in today's economic competition and they're gearing up to compete."

McCrory signs a whole lot of bills

Gov. Pat McCrory has writer’s cramp, or he should. He signed 39 bills on Wednesday.

His office is highlighting HB903, a bill related to transferring credits from community college to the UNC system; HB146, which requires the state Board of Education to teach cursive writing and memorizing multiplication tables; and SB129, which prohibits issuance of a certain kind of debt.

Bill sponsors joined the governor for the signings.

Update: BTW, here are the rest of those bills: HB 10, HB 25, HB 32, HB 114, HB 125, HB 142, HB 301, HB 315, HB 361, HB 368, HB 383, HB 384, HB 407, HB 410, HB 449, HB 480, HB 532, HB 581, HB 591, HB 610, HB 687, HB 710, HB 774, HB 788, HB 789, HB 813, HB 821, HB 829, SB 208, SB 210, SB 252, SB 279, SB 433, SB 460, SB 603 and SB 634.

House OKs bill delaying school grading system that Senate GOP leaders want

Legislation delaying a new grading system for North Carolina's public schools passed the state House with near-unanimous support Thursday, leading to a showdown with Senate Republican leaders, The N&O's Keung Hui reports.

The bill, H435, would delay until Aug. 1, 2014 the release of A through F letter grades for individual schools based on factors such as passing rates on exams and graduation rates. The grading system, which was introduced by Senate President Pro Temp Phil Berger as past of last year's budget, is set to start this year.

The House bill would also make it easier for schools to get higher grades than Berger's model. The House would let schools raise their letter grade if they're showing growth on exams even if their passing rates is low.

The House bill, which passed by a 105-4 vote, now goes to the Senate.

The Senate Education Committee will consider Wednesday Berger's bill, S361. It would, among other things, set out how the grading system would work and end tenure for teachers.

Armed school marshals proposed in new bill

After all the recent controversy about whether Wake County elementary schools should have unarmed or armed security, a new state Senate bill could affect the situation.

The "Public School Protection" bill introduced Thursday would authorize school boards to designate people to the newly created position of school safety marshal. These people, who could be school employees, school volunteers, or people specially hired for the position, would be authorized to carry firearms on campus.

Legislative preview: Meet your delegation, look at the issues, meet key players

On Wednesday, the General Assembly returns to Raleigh to begin the long session, which is expected to last about five months. In today's paper we take a comprehensive look at the people and the issues that will be making the news, and the laws, in the months ahead. From lawmakers to lobbyists -- and lawmakers turned lobbyists -- plus key staffers behind the scenes, and an army of competing interests, the statehouse on Jones Street is about to begin whistling like a kettle.

Report notes North Carolina's longtime ties to ALEC

Dome meant to note this earlier, but it’s been a busy year: One local liberal group, Progress N.C., put out a report some months ago on the American Legislative Exchange Council that will likely have some bearing on the upcoming session.

ALEC was a significant part of Republican lawmakers’ agenda in Raleigh, with a “boot camp” on “model legislation,” a spring summit meeting of the organization’s various task forces – each specializes in specific issues – was held in Charlotte, and in the summer of 2011, a large contingent of Republican members of the House attended the national conference in New Orleans, where House Speaker Thom Tillis was named one of the legislators of the year.

Meanwhile, a drumbeat by liberal groups outed ALEC’s behind-the-scenes work to bring the corporate agenda to the nation’s legislators to pass pro-business laws. Despite the bad P.R., North Carolina legislators aren’t likely to severe their longstanding ties to ALEC, and the group will likely continue to be a player in the new session that begins in January.

Lawmakers, educators blast private school corporate tax break bill

A contingent of Democratic lawmakers and education officials held a news conference at the Legislative Building on Wednesday to decry a proposal to give corporations a tax break for contributing money to low-income students to move from public to private schools.

Rep. Rick Glazier, a Democrat from Fayetteville, said Democrats in the House and Senate “will do everything conceivable to fight this bill.” He said it was part of a larger conservative agenda to push private schools that would lead to the “destruction of public education as we know it in North Carolina.”

William Harrison, chairman of the state Board of Education, said the tax-credit bill puts “private interests above the common good” and funnels state money into private enterprise. He said it was part of a progression of legislation that in a few years would lead to offering private school vouchers to everyone.

“We’ve slipped a major policy issue into a budget bill,” Harrison said. “That seems to be the method of doing things in Raleigh these days.”

Mayors back Perdue's tax hike

Speaking of the governor's tax-increase proposal, her office today released a letter signed by 53 North Carolina mayors supporting the idea.

Notably missing are the mayors of Raleigh and Charlotte. Predictably included are the mayors of Carrboro, Chapel Hill and Durham. But the mayors represent cities big and small from one end of the state to the other.

They're pinning their support on the education angle, saying the budget the Republican-controlled legislature passed last year was harmful to education because of the large number of teacher layoffs it prompted. More cuts are expected in the second half of the budget yet this year.

Perdue has proposed a three-quarters of a penny sales tax increase. The Democratic-controlled General Assembly enacted a temporary 1-cent sales tax hike in 2009, which expired last year. Perdue unsuccessfully fought to retain three-fourths of that penny in the budget.

Post-Penn State, was this law a good idea?

A brief bill that sailed through the General Assembly this year without much attention looks a little more significant in the wake of the child-molesting scandal at Penn State, where officials are accused of failing to report the suspected crimes to law enforcement authorities.

SB394, with only one vote in opposition and signed into law by the governor in June, decriminalized school principals' failure to report specific crimes, including sex offenses.

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