Friday News: Supporting mediocrity


A HANDFUL OF DEM SENATORS VOTE FOR BERGER'S BLAND BUDGET: The budget, Senate Bill 105, would give an average of 3% raises to teachers and most other state employees over the next two years. It also doles out $5.4 billion in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds for coronavirus relief. The budget’s tax cuts include cutting the personal income tax rate to 3.99% by 2026, down from 5.25%, and phasing out the corporate income tax rate to zero. Also, the tax bracket for paying zero taxes, called the standard deduction, would be raised to $25,500. The child tax deduction would increase to $500. It was the first of two votes required to move the bill to the House. The other will be held Friday morning. The four Democrats who voted for the budget are Sen. Paul Lowe, Sen. Kirk deViere, Sen. Don Davis and Sen. Ben Clark.

NC HOUSE APPROVES PERMITLESS METHANE CAPTURE FOR NC HOG FARMS: The House on Thursday approved legislation that would allow hog farms across North Carolina to set up methane collection operations without each one going through an individual permitting process. The hog farm permits are part of the General Assembly's annual Farm Act, which passed the House on a bipartisan 75-32 vote. The legislation now heads back to the Senate for a final vote, but it's expected that the House and the Senate will ultimately have to negotiate a compromise bill. Right now, any hog farmer who wants to cover a waste lagoon to capture gas rising off the pond so it can be burned for energy has to get a permit to do so. Senate Bill 605 would create a blanket permit for the state, allowing any farm in North Carolina to implement a methane collection operation. Rep. Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford, said the process goes beyond simply throwing a tarp over a waste lagoon, noting pipelines would have to run from farms to nearby methane processing operations. Those pipelines wouldn't be regulated by the state Department of Environmental Quality, she said, predicting problems with gas leaks and explosions.

HOUSE BILL WOULD FORCE MUNICIPALITIES TO HOOK UP WATER & SEWER FOR CHARTER SCHOOLS: Durham’s decision to not extend water and sewer service to a new charter school could lead to the state limiting the ability of municipalities to restrict charter schools. The North Carolina House voted 92-14 on Thursday for a bill that requires municipalities to extend water and/or sewer service, if they have the capacity, when requested by charter schools. Both Durham Public School and the Wake County school system unsuccessfully opposed the application for the new charter school. Durham school leaders argued the new charter would hamper efforts to improve nearby Glenn Elementary School and increase segregation and socio-economic isolation in eastern Durham. North Oak Academy has run into far more difficulty getting approvals from Durham city leaders. National Heritage Academies sought to incorporate the planned school’s property into city limits and asked for water access last November. The request was rejected by the Durham City Council. In addition to requiring providing water and sewer, the legislation also says that municipalities have to approve annexation requests from charter schools if the property is eligible.

NEW YORK (STATE) REVOKES RUDY GIULIANI'S LAW LICENSE OVER STOLEN ELECTION CLAIMS: New York state suspended Rudolph W. Giuliani from practicing law on Thursday, months after the former New York mayor battled to overturn the settled results of November's election on behalf of President Donald Trump. The committee of First Department Appellate Division judges that made the determination said Giuliani is not fit to continue practicing law after he “communicated demonstrably false and misleading statements to courts, lawmakers and the public at large in his capacity as lawyer for [Trump] and the Trump campaign in connection with Trump’s failed effort at reelection in 2020.” The panel issued a 33-page opinion on the matter. The court’s disciplinary committee, which fielded multiple complaints against Giuliani and is overseeing arguments in the case, found that his conduct “immediately threatens the public interest and warrants interim suspension from the practice of law,” the opinion said. Trump issued a statement Thursday calling Giuliani “a great American patriot” and “one of the greatest crime fighters our Country has ever known,” and again falsely insisting that Biden’s election was fraudulent. Trump dubbed Giuliani’s suspension part of a “Witch Hunt” orchestrated by political rivals and said that “all of New York” should be “ashamed of themselves.” The suspension order says Giuliani fabricated claims about dead people voting in Philadelphia, at times claiming the number of fraudulent votes there was more than 8,000 while other times putting that number at 30,000 — without showing proof that either figure was true.

SENTENCING PHASE FOR GEORGE FLOYD'S MURDERER WILL BEGIN TODAY: On Friday afternoon, Mr. Chauvin, 45, will return to the courthouse in downtown Minneapolis where he was convicted in April to learn his fate. Prosecutors are asking that Mr. Chauvin face 30 years in prison, while his defense team has requested probation. The maximum sentence allowed by law is 40 years. The sentencing hearing is expected to last at least an hour and to include statements from members of Mr. Floyd’s family, who may speak about his life and how his death has affected them. The gruesome killing of Mr. Floyd as Mr. Chauvin, a former police officer, held a knee on his neck for more than nine minutes was captured on cellphone video and drew millions of Americans to the streets to protest against racial injustice and police brutality toward Black people. Mr. Chauvin will be permitted to speak at his sentencing hearing on Friday, but legal experts said it was unlikely he would choose to do so. Any remarks, they said, could be considered in future federal court proceedings, where Mr. Chauvin faces additional charges, and might complicate an appeal of his state conviction. According to research conducted by Philip M. Stinson, a criminal justice professor at Bowling Green State University, 11 police officers, including Mr. Chauvin, have been convicted of murder for on-duty killings since 2005. The lightest sentence has been just less than seven years in prison, while the harshest was 40 years. The average sentence has been 21.7 years. Most legal experts said they expected Judge Cahill to deliver a sentence closer to the 30 years the prosecution has asked for than the far shorter guideline sentence of 12.5 years.



The charter school bill is a political favor

The Dems need to hammer this proposed law into the ground. It's very obviously a reach-around by GOP legislators to the founder and chair of National Heritage Academies. Per Huffpost:

National Heritage Academies has important political ties that have helped in keep in operation. Its founder and chair, J. C. Huizenga, is a member of the board of directors of the Michigan affiliate of the right wing Mackinac Center for Public Policy think tank and a major Michigan Republican Party donor. National Heritage Academies is affiliated with the rightwing lobby group ALEC and is a member of its Education Task Force. Huizenga was also a major campaign donor to the presidential campaigns of George W. Bush and Mitt Romney.

This was not the first or last time National Heritage Academies was involved in legal or educational disputes. In 1998 the American Civil Liberties Union in Michigan sued National Heritage Academies for promoting religious activities, including prayer sessions for parents, in its charter schools there. The suit was later dismissed. In 2000, National Heritage Academies was accused of planning to use a curriculum in its Rochester charter school that presented creationism as a scientifically based theory and as an alternative explanation to evolution. Company schools continue to offer what they describe as a back-to-basics curriculum with a moral focus.

A Michigan focused political blog has more about his work there:

Huizenga’s financial success comes from the outrageous million dollar rents charged to National Heritage Academies’ 47 schools in Michigan for the buildings they lease. These schools are all K-8, which is cheaper to operate than high schools. For every $7,000 per-pupil tuition grant National Heritage Academies receives from the state, only $5,000 is spent on teaching students. Remember, for-profit charter schools have to make a profit before educating students.

How about J.C. Huizenga’s claim that National Heritage Academies are academically superior? out of the 47 for-profit charter schools operating in the state of Michigan, only 7 out-perform real public schools in Michigan. another 22 perform at the same level as the state’s real public schools. The rest perform far below public school rankings.

National Heritage Academies are part of the Religious Right’s efforts to eliminate public schools in Michigan. When Huizenga says, “we’ve gotten results,” what he really means is, “I’m getting fabulously rich not only collecting people’s garbage, but shoving garbage schools down the taxpayers’ throats.” Since the first days the Religous Right schemed to destroy public education, J.C. Huizenga was right there with them, doing his part.

A progressive blog just last month noted racist comments after Huizenga, at a recent school board meeting, said he didn't know what "BIPOC" meant; the post also outlined his influence in Michigan:

First, JC Huizenga is the CEO of the Charter School company known as National Heritage Academies, a Grand Rapids-based company that runs Charter Schools in 9 different states across the US. So how is it that the CEO of company that education focused not know what BIPOC means?

In addition, JC Huizenga is a member of the Grand Rapids Power Structure. Huizenga is a major contributor to the Republican Party, both at the state and federal level. The National Heritage Academies CEO also sits on the Board of Directors of the West Michigan Policy Forum, which seeks to influence public policy at the state level; plus Huizenga sits on the Board of Directors of the two major far right Think Tanks in Michigan, the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty, and the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.