A week of bipartisan progress for NC

by | Mar 3, 2023 | Politics | 2 comments

Damn, what a week for North Carolina politics. Instead of the normal partisan divide, we’ve seen movement on important bipartisan bills that are good for the state. The state board of education also seems to have come to consensus on teacher pay raise. Every now and then, we can come together for a better state. 

At 4:20pm on Wednesday, the Senate passed a bill to legalize medical marijuana with broad bipartisan support. It’s the second time they’ve passed it. Last year, the bill died in the House without a vote. This year, Speaker Tim Moore believes the bill has at least a decent chance to pass. 

That’s good news for North Carolinians. The current bill limits use for a fairly narrow and specific set of ailments, but would still bring revenue to the state and offer relief for people who suffer but want alternatives to more powerful and addictive drugs like opioids. In time, restrictions would likely loosen to allow broader use, especially as more states legalize it for recreational use. 

The Senate bill has some flaws, though. As Pat Oglesby, an attorney who advises states on marijuana policy points out, the bill would turn the business over to out-of-state corporate interests and take much of the profits out of North Carolina. The House needs to fix those problems. We have the potential to build a locally-owned and locally-grown industry that provides jobs and profits to struggling rural communities. We shouldn’t squander this opportunity. 

Legalized weed is coming to North Carolina eventually. We should embrace it now and we should get it right, even if it takes more time to implement. Oglesby suggests setting up a state system as a transition to a locally-owned privatized model. If conservatives who prefer a free enterprise system disagree, they can make the state system time-limited, mandating a privately-run system in five years, but a state system could get distribution up and running quickly without turning our industry over the monopolistic out-of-state corporations. 

Let’s get it done, though. We shouldn’t postpone the inevitable like we did the lottery, losing millions of dollars to other states. Let’s keep as much revenue in North Carolina as possible. 

And yesterday, the House and Senate announced they have reached an agreement on Medicaid expansion. We will finally join the ranks of the vast majority of other states in providing health care to working people who fall between the cracks of Medicaid and private insurance. This agreement is a big deal. It will likely improve the health of our citizens and also put money into rural hospitals that are struggling. 

Part of the agreement brought an end to Certificate of Need (CON)laws that help keep hospital monopolies and limit the ability of private providers to deliver services. North Carolina has some of the most restrictive CON laws in the country. It’s time the system gets reformed. Hospitals that have warned the loosing CON restrictions would cause loss of service have been decreasing access to service for decades. It’s a good move. 

Finally, State Board of Education voted unanimously to request a 10% raise for teachers as well as a pilot program designed to retain new teachers. Those proposals are timely and needed to combat high teacher turnover and to acknowledge that teachers are an essential part of our economy and economic development. Without them, we don’t have the workforce we need to supply workers and attract businesses.

The vote crossed partisan lines with Cooper appointees voting alongside Republicans Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt and Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson. Robinson will likely be the GOP nominee for governor in 2024. That puts him on the record as being pro-teacher.

We still have plenty to disagree about, but, this week, we’ve got bipartisan agreement on matters that can impact our state. Legalized marijuana with not only provide revenue, but save money in our judicial and public safety systems. Let’s just get the details right to build a homegrown and locally owned industry. Medicaid expansion will improve healthcare for both people and communities. And consensus on dramatically increasing teacher pay can improve our schools and our future. Let’s applaud progress. 


  1. TC

    I think it contentious that the State Board and the legislature keeps wanting to throw a pittance at teachers. And then use some arbitrary means of quantifying the expenditure. You’re going to measure success or failure of education on the basis of standardized testing. Something we know is hardly objective. Then consider students evaluating their teacher or a teacher leader. But, we have a basis on which to justify the expenditure.
    How about revamping the entire pay structure? Pay what the job is worth, not lowballing salary what you can get by with. North Carolina can afford to do better, it chooses not to. Retention however runs beyond low salary.

    Teachers lack respect and control in the school and the classroom. Children want to run the class and school in the same manner they run their house and parents. Parents have become the enablers. Administrators are uninvolved third parties. The child is no longer the culprit, but the perpetual victim. Manifest disrespect and disobedience have given rise to verbal tirades and physical assaults and they are increasing. In Newport News a scant 6 weeks ago, we saw what happens when Administration ignores or pretends the obvious is not what is in plain view before them. Teachers are tired of a complete and almost total lack of support from their administration, school board, and parents.

    Teachers ignore and refrain from making referrals to administrators about disciplinary problems because they know there is no use. Frustration and eventually anger builds to the point that they either quit, or act out themselves, having reached that point. So until someone decides this is an ancillary problem to pay, North Carolina will continue to hemorrhage educators.

    They aren’t the only ones however. Within the past month, school bus drivers in Asheville staged a mass resignation because of inadequate pay. Drivers in Cumberland County did the same. The disparity in pay and the lack of control and discipline is not confined to just the classroom. Not to pit one against the other, but one is just as important as the other. You can’t fill the classroom if you can’t get the kids to it. School transportation systems are forced to double and triple route the buses they have with the drivers they have left. As a result, the pick-up times get earlier and later respectively. Putting more stress in the classroom on the basis of mental acuity and irritability; the kids are sleepy and tired. I don’t think people realize the entire process school bus drivers subject themselves to in order to drive. They are commercially licensed drivers. They have to obtain specialized endorsements in conjunction with a commercial license to drive a school bus. They have to obtain a specialized certificate in addition to the commercial license to lawfully drive that public school bus. It’s not a matter of pulling Joe the Janitor off the mop and throwing him behind the wheel. Driving a bus isn’t for everyone either. Yet, many school systems in this state require their teacher assistants and other staff members to obtain the commercial license in order to drive a bus. Some have a codicil added to their contracts stating as much. Many leave their primary role as a result. Driving a school bus is not for everyone.

    So while raising pay is a step in the right direction, it is a wobbly and unsteady one at best. The reasons ancillary to teacher retention are myriad and not based solely in poor pay. North Carolina only does payroll once per month for their staffs. As a new school system employee, you have to wait two months before being paid. I wonder if changing that to every two weeks would improve morale and job satisfaction just a smidge too.

    Bear in mind though that teachers aren’t the only commodity that affects the success of North Carolina with regard to education. Teachers are crucial, but they aren’t the only straw in the broom. In order to be the delivery mechanism of the gift of education, it takes all hands on board to get that job done.

  2. bremerjennifer

    I definitely agree that these are all positive moves. On the minus side, Riddell introduced a draft joint resolution for a Article V Convention. Common Cause says they need just six more states to sign on for them to be able to call what is in effect a constitutional convention, assuming the five states that rescinded approval are not ultimately counted. Hoping NC’s resolution will spend its days in Rules; last time the Senate passed it but not the House. The proponents need 34 (2/3) to call the convention, which could, of course, be disastrous (especially if the voting is state-by-state, as in the Electoral College). https://www.commoncause.org/resource/u-s-constitution-threatened-as-article-v-convention-movement-nears-success/

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