North Carolina Senate GOP Targets Children Who Live in Democratic Districts

Lindsay Gibbs

Lindsay Gibbs Reporter, Think Progress

At 3:07 a.m. on Friday morning, North Carolina Senate GOP leaders rushed through a budget amendment that stripped education funding for teaching assistants and STEM programs in districts led by Democrats, cut funding to provide fresh produce to food deserts, reallocated money that was supposed to go to an arts museum and a downtown revitalization project, and eliminated a position that works to secure federal aid for disaster relief.

It appears the amendment wasn’t passed to achieve specific policy goals though, but rather as an act of political retribution after a prolonged and contentious budget negotiation in the state’s senate.

As Thursday night ticked into Friday morning, the two parties seemed deadlocked — every time Democrats would file an amendment to fund their initiatives, Republicans would reject it, and Democrats would introduce another amendment.

But at 1:00 a.m. on Friday morning, Senate Rules Chairman Bill Rabon called a recess and met with other GOP leaders behind closed doors. As reported by the News & Observer, Democrats passed the time with an “impromptu dance party” in the hall.

The dancing Democrats didn’t see what was coming next, according to Colin Campbell,

The session finally resumed around 3 a.m., and Republican Sen. Brent Jackson introduced a new budget amendment that he explained would fund more pilot programs combating the opioid epidemic. He cited “a great deal of discussion” about the need for more opioid treatment funding.
Jackson didn’t mention where the additional $1 million would come from: directly from education programs in Senate Democrats’ districts and other initiatives the minority party sought.

Senators weren’t given adequate time to read through the revised budget — a vote was called within minutes, and thanks the supermajority held by Republicans, it passed. The budget now goes to the House of Representatives, where Republicans hold a supermajority as well.

A rural district in northeastern North Carolina, represented by Sen. Erica Smith-Ingram (D), is impacted the most by this amendment. The budget would strip $316,646 in funding away from two early college high schools in her district, and prohibits state funding for Eastern North Carolina STEM, a summer program for science, math, and technology. The program primarily serves African-American students from low-income families, and Smith-Ingram said that if the amendment is included in the final budget, it will effectively shut down the STEM program.

“I don’t know what motivated the amendment, but it will have a devastating effect on an area that is already suffering,” Smith-Ingram told the News & Record. “The future of children should not be caught up in a political disagreement between members.”

The amendment also reallocates funding for a program that offers stipends to teachers assistants if they are working towards their college degree and teaching licenses. As a result, the program will no longer be available to residents of seven counties represented by Democratic Senators Smith-Ingram and Angela Bryant. Instead, it will only be available to residents in counties represented by Republican senators.

Additionally, the amendment removes $200,000 to bring fresh produce to food deserts, $250,000 for additional staff to accommodate an expansion at the N.C. Museum of Art, and $550,000 for downtown revitalization projects — the only remaining funding for downtown improvement programs is in Robeson County, which, you guessed it, is represented by a Republican in the state senate.

This ugly amendment is just another example of the highly partisan nature of politics in the state legislature.

Smith-Ingram is holding out hope that there can be another vote on the amendment in the senate due to the questionable procedural practices.

“Procedurally, it appears that there is enough in our rules to come back and reconsider that amendment,” Smith-Ingram said. “I’m willing and I’m open to continuing to negotiate with the majority to make sure we right this wrong that occurred.”

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Reposted from Think Progress.

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Freight can’t wait

From the USW

From tumbledown bridges to decrepit roads and failing water systems, crumbling infrastructure undermines America’s safety and prosperity. In coming weeks, Union Matters will delve into this neglect and the urgent need for a rebuilding campaign that creates jobs, fuels economic growth and revitalizes communities.

A freight train hauling lumber and nylon manufacturing chemicals derailed, caught fire and caused a 108-year-old bridge to collapse in Tempe, Ariz., this week, in the second accident on the same bridge within a month.

The bridge was damaged after the first incident, according to Union Pacific railroad that owns the rail bridge, and re-opened two days later. 

The official cause of the derailments is still under investigation, but it remains clear that the failure to modernize and maintain America’s railroad infrastructure is dangerous. 

In 2019, 499 trains that derailed were found to have defective or broken track, roadbed or structures, according to the Federal Railroad Administration’s database of safety analysis.

While railroad workers’ unions have called for increased safety improvements, rail companies have also used technology and automation as an excuse to downsize their work forces.

For example, rail companies have implemented a cost-saving measure known as Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR), which has resulted in mass layoffs and shoddy safety protocols. 

Though privately-owned railroads have spent significantly to upgrade large, Class I trains, regional Class II trains and local, short-line Class III trains that carry important goods for farmers and businesses still rely on state and local funds for improvements. 

But cash-strapped states struggle to adequately inspect new technologies and fund safety improvements, and repairing or replacing the aging track and rail bridges will require significant public investment.

A true infrastructure commitment will not only strengthen the country’s railroad networks and increase U.S. global economic competitiveness. It will also create millions of family-sustaining jobs needed to inspect, repair and manufacture new parts for mass transit systems, all while helping to prevent future disasters.

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work