Capital Tonight Aug. 21: State of NC Public Education

CapitalTonight821On Capital Tonight: We take a look at the state of public education in North Carolina with Terry Stoops of the John Locke Foundation and Keith Poston of Public School Forum of North Carolina. Watch the program here.

Capital Tonight Aug. 20: Sen. Richard Burr

Capital_Tonight_0821On Capital Tonight: Sen. Richard Burr talks about his role as Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman and his thoughts on the 2016 presidential election. Lawmakers Rep. Craig Horn (R) Union County and Rep. Rodney Moore (D) Mecklenburg County talk about budget negotiations. Watch the program here.

Sen. Burr Discusses State of National Security

BURR HOMELAND SECURITY TOWN HALL PKGRALEIGH — U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, who is also chairs the Intelligence Committee, spoke to a National Public Affairs Forum in Raleigh Thursday.

Along with insight into terrorist targets, Sen. Burr spoke more about the current state of national security.

“Since the first of the year, the FBI has arrested over 67 individuals in the United States, most if not all have been charged material support to terrorism,” he said.

Tim Nichols, a Visiting Associate Professor of the Practice in the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University, said the number of arrests is not a spoke for the U.S., but it is a result of more laws put into place since 9/11.

“We’ve given law enforcement more tools to use, by giving them more laws that allow them to arrest, prosecute and convict people that are supporting terrorism,” he said.

Sen. Burr also shared his stance in the debate of how much power law enforcement should have to fight terrorism.

“I happen to be one who gives a little more leway towards more tools versus less,” he said.

Sen. Burr also said from an intelligence standpoint, ever-changing technology can pose a challenge.

“If we can see the communication between two people, we still can’t see what was being said,” he said.

Nichols said communications over an encrypted network is used by a variety of terrorist groups.

“They are taking advantage of stuff that hackers and other computer programmers have built to hide their existence and source information,” he said.

Even with the challenges, Sen. Burr said he is optimistic about the current state of national security.

“If there is any agency that deserves a tremendous amount of credit right now, it’s the transformation that the FBI has made at getting in front of these attacks,” he said.

Looking at the 2016 U.S. Senate race, Sen. Burr currently leads potential Democratic challengers in the latest left-leaning Public Policy Polling. A few Democratic candidates have expressed interest in running, but have not officially announced a run.

– Carly Swanson

NC House Approves Bill Tightening Unemployment Regulations

NC_unemployment_marchRALEIGH—The NC House has approved a bill that would mandate North Carolinians who get unemployment checks, have to make contact with at least five employers a week.

The measure is part of a larger bill making various unemployment law changes, but the provision raises some red flags.

It follows changes over the past few years that included reduced payments for recipients and surcharges for businesses as a debt to the federal government was paid off. The bill tentatively removes  the surcharge, but also places a new burden on the unemployed.

It says that rather than current two mandatory contacts with potential employers each week, unemployment recipients must now make contact with five.

It is a change that some legislators think is fair.

“Short of telling them they can sleep all week, how much easier can it get? It is not unreasonable to say one employer per day,” said Rep. Michael Speciale, a Craven County Republican.

Other lawmakers disagree, saying this is a harsh requirement for the unemployed and could be burdensome for the employers.

“People come in to get applications for jobs that they really don’t have any qualifications for and they are just wasting everyone’s time,” said Rep. Jonathan Jordan, a Watauga County Republican.

Some employers, who also sit in the state House, disagree with Jordan and support the proposal.

“We have posted job openings on places like indeed, monster, craigslist, looking for people.  do you know how many applicants who have unemployment have come seeking work at my company? Zero. Zero,” said Rep. John Bradford, a Mecklenburg County Republican.

An effort to reduce the requirement back down to three was voted down after some lawmakers said the Senate had informed the House if any changes were made to the bill they would kill the entire bill for the year.

With the amendment defeated the bill was approved, as is, by the full House—the  bill needs one more vote of approval from the Senate before being sent to the governor for consideration.

– Loretta Boniti

CapitalTonight819On Capital Tonight: Public schools will begin a new year without a finalized state budget. We talk with Leanne Winner of the NC School Boards Association. Our Advocates Becki Gray and Perry Woods tackle the latest poll numbers in the 2016 presidential race. Watch the program here.

Capital Tonight Aug. 18: Post-Secondary Education And The Economy

capital_tonight_19jpgOn Capital Tonight: A new study shows the importance of post-secondary education to the economy of North Carolina. We speak with the study’s authors from the NC Center for Public Policy Research. Our Insiders Kerra Bolton and Chad Adams take on the compromise state budget spending number and the 2016 US Senate race. Watch the program here.

Jeb Bush Continues South Carolina Campaign Swing in Rock Hill

jeb_bush_to_ncROCK HILL, S.C. — Still months away from the primaries, Presidential candidate and Former Governor of Florida Jeb Bush has been making his way through South Carolina this week.

Tuesday morning he made a stop in Rock Hill to speak about national security to more than 200 voters about his plans if he were to take office.

“We need to have the courage to recognize we have to preserve and protect our entitlement programs that are really important for a lot of people we also have to reform it for the next generation,” said Governor Bush.

According to the latest CNN poll Governor Bush is in second place following Donald Trump by eleven points. Bush is expected in New Hampshire and Ohio later this week.

– Jordan Harpstrite

NC Legislators Agree on State Spending Target

budget_talksRALEIGH—It is just step one, but state spending plan writers say the announcement of a new budget bottom line is a breakthrough.

Legislators have agreed to increase state spending by just over 3 percent from this year. Both chambers say this compromise will mean some big decisions need to be made by budget writers.

The announcement came Tuesday morning. While that does not mean that there is a budget deal, it means that now the two chambers can start to work out some details of spending.

“At least we’ve got a starting point, because until you can agree on a number, you can’t give targets and it is hard to move forward. But at least we’ve got that done now,” said Majority Leader Sen. Harry Brown.

The new budget bottom line is $21.7 billion, which is $265 million more than the Senate was looking to spend, and $415 million less than the House had proposed.

“A number of the items the House was looking to invest in, particularly pay issues, obviously there will be far less money available for salary increases for teachers and state employees,” said Rep. Nelson Dollar, a Wake County Republican.

The details of how much will be spent in each area of the budget have not been worked out yet. Those details, referred to as spending targets, should be hashed out fairly quickly so that the detail work of the budget can begin.

“We’ll be working without Senate colleagues on how that number will be worked out with a variety of priorities. How much we will have in education, how much we will have in public safety, and health and human services. And how much additional money within that target, will be available for other purposes,” said Rep. Nelson Dollar, a Wake County Republican.

Beyond just spending, there are still many policy decisions that will have to be decided in the budget, perhaps none more vast than those surround education.

“I think the biggest issue now with still be in education, we’ve got to get our education chairs together, we just haven’t had that opportunity to work out those differences,” said Brown.

Head budget writers say it is still tough to say when the full budget negotiations will be complete, but they say this is the jumpstart to the process they have been waiting for. Under the current continuation spending plan the state is operating under, lawmakers have until Aug. 31 to come to a new budget agreement.

– Loretta Boniti

Capital Tonight Aug. 17: Drones in North Carolina

dronesOn Capital Tonight: The popularity of drones for personal and commercial use has lawmakers and law enforcement concerned. We speak with Rep. John Torbett and law enforcement about rules in place to regulate the use of drones in North Carolina. Watch the program here.

Lawmakers Stuck on Finding Compromised State Spending Plan

NC_house_newRALEIGH—State lawmakers say there is still a stalemate when it comes to finding a compromised state spending plan.

Legislators close to the negotiations say once a bottom line for spending is agreed to, the process could move along quickly. However, agreeing on that bottom line is a tough hurdle to cross.

North Carolina has been operating under a contingency budget since July 1. Legislators seem to agree that once a framework and bottom line is agreed upon, it could be a matter of days until a final budget is in place.

But that first agreement seems to be a difficult one.

“I don’t see us any closer than we were a month ago,” said Sen. Tom Apodaca, Buncombe County Republican.

Late last week lawmakers continued their up and down roller coaster of budget negotiations.

“The intent is that we start moving in a much more expeditious manner next week on the budget,” said Rep. Tim Moore, NC Speaker of the House.

This week, lawmakers are continuing to be hopeful that the ever important budget bottom line can finally be agreed upon.

“When you get to that point in the appropriations process, where you begin to have agreements on how much money is available, some of the major issues are either resolved or taken off the table then it can begin to move a little more quickly. But you have to understand, you had two versions of the budget that were vastly apart, in both money perspective as well as policy perspective and they were never going to be easily reconciled,” said Rep. Nelson Dollar, a Wake County Republican.

As the school year is set to start, and local governments are working without a full picture of what the final budget will look like, legislators say they agree with the frustrations about them not being done with their work.

“It is embarrassing that we are at this point and still don’t have a budget. Did we not know July 1 was coming? My guess is we could have looked four, five years ago at the calendar for July 2015 and we would have had a July 1,” said Rep. Craig Horn, a Union County Republican.

Neither the House nor Senate had voting sessions on Monday, but work was done over the weekend on the budget, it just didn’t produce any of the big decisions that need to be made.

“We are certainly exchanging ideas, exchanging specifics on certain areas. Once we arrive at a framework, hopefully arrive at a framework, we’ll be able to move forward,” said Rep. Dollar.

While there is certainly some optimism that a budget can be moved along, we are now into another week with no framework ready to go. It is not until after that framework is agree upon that talks on specifics can begin.

The current continuing resolution runs until the end of this month.

– Loretta Boniti