Raleigh – Democrats fanned out across the state yesterday to launch “Our Carolina Promise,” a positive, unified agenda for North Carolina and a vision for what the state would look like with more Democrats in office.
The platform not only is a shared, positive vision for our state but is yet another clear example that Democrats are unified, energized, and ready to break the Republican supermajority this fall. Below is select coverage from around the state.
Associated Press: North Carolina Democrats unveil platform for fall campaigns
By Gary Robertson
May 14, 2018
North Carolina Democratic lawmakers on Monday unveiled their to-do list if they got back some or all power at the Legislative Building after November, promising to raise teacher pay to the national average, expand Medicaid and retool how redistricting is done.
Holding several news conferences from Asheville to Wilmington, House and Senate Democrats described their four-part “Our Carolina Promise ” agenda as forward-thinking and unifying.
“People want to know what you’re for, not just what you’re against,” House Minority Leader Darren Jackson of Wake County said at state Democratic Party headquarters. “But it’s our job to tell people what we would do differently from the Republicans and that’s what we’re doing here today.”
Democrats have been in the minority at the Legislative Building since 2011 but say they’re energized this year and have fielded candidates for all 170 General Assembly seats. They need to win four additional House or six Senate seats to end the Republicans’ veto-proof majorities and give Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper more leverage with legislation. Sixteen more House seats and 11 Senate seats would be needed to get Democratic majorities.
The agenda is “a commitment to what’s possible with more Democrats in office and a pledge our Democratic values,” Cooper said in a video promoting the agenda. He’s been raising money for legislative campaigns and isn’t on the ballot until 2020.
Sen. Jay Chaudhuri, a Wake County Democrat, said many of the agenda items were within Cooper’s budget proposal released last week, including higher teacher pay, more money to help people addicted to opioids and covering more than 675,000 people with Medicaid through the federal health care overhaul law.
Democrats also said they would work to expand high-quality broadband to rural areas, block efforts to politicize the judiciary and approve “independent redistricting to end gerrymandering once and for all.” They also wants “common sense” gun safety laws, including tougher background checks and allowing judges to take guns temporarily from people determined to be a danger to others or themselves.
Republicans have opposed increasing gun restrictions, largely spurned calls for Medicaid expansion and backed away over the past decade from the idea of shifting remapping duties to an outside commission or nonpartisan staff.
The Democrats’ agenda would restore the state’s portion of the earned income tax credit, which provides tax rebates to families with children. But Jackson said “tax reform should be more fair to working families and to the working poor” and cited Cooper’s budget, which would block a planned corporate tax cut and part of an individual income tax cut set to begin next year.
Chaudhuri said he anticipated the agenda would make their way into debates within the General Assembly during the session that begins Wednesday. And “as we go into the fall, there will be very clear choices about what choices voters have,” he said.
WRAL: Democratic lawmakers already eyeing November
By Laura Leslie
May 14, 2018
The 2018 legislative session isn’t even underway yet, but House and Senate Democrats on Monday released their agenda for the 2019 session and beyond, should voters decide to hand Democrats the majority in the General Assembly in November.
Such a sweeping turnover would be unprecedented. Republicans hold super-majorities in both the House and the Senate. Democrats would need to retain all of their current seats – 45 in the House and 15 in the Senate – while flipping an additional 16 seats in the House and 11 in the Senate.
Given that the Republican-drawn legislative maps favor a GOP majority, a Democratic takeover would be a seismic event.
Yet, Democrats say, recent special elections in other states as well as Democratic primary turnout in North Carolina last week are clear signs that voters in 2018 are dissatisfied and highly motivated.
“Democrat enthusiasm is at an all-time high. Last Tuesday, Democratic candidates received more votes than Republican candidates, even though Republicans had more primary elections,” Sen. Jay Chaudhuri, D-Wake, said at a Monday news conference. “So it’s safe to say that the General Assembly is going to look a lot different this time next year.”
Chaudhuri and House Minority Leader Darren Jackson said the energy is being driven at least in part by frustration at President Donald Trump. Nonetheless, they said Democrats don’t plan to rely on that frustration.
“People want to know what you’re for, not just what you’re against,” Jackson, D-Wake, said. “Of course, Donald Trump has created an environment that’s created a lot of excitement among our base, but it’s our job to tell people what we would do differently from the Republicans, and that’s what we’re doing here today.”
Their agenda, labeled “Our Carolina Promise,” includes many proposals the party’s been pushing for years, from increasing school spending and expanding Medicaid to protecting voter rights and resurrecting the state Earned Income Tax Credit. It also includes a few less partisan proposals, such as infrastructure spending and broadband expansion.
One item could have come straight from the U.S. Supreme Court’s docket: A proposal to enact independent redistricting reform.
In the decades prior to 2011, when Democrats held legislative power, Republicans had called for redistricting reform, but Democrats declined to act on it. Asked what had changed, Rep. Robert Reives, D-Chatham, said voters across the political spectrum are more concerned now about redistricting than in the past, thanks in part to technology that enables more extreme gerrymandering than ever before.
“The bottom line is, nobody wants what we’ve seen for the past three or four years. Nobody wants what we’re having to see continuously in the courts,” Reives said. “You see this all throughout the country. Partisan gerrymandering is for the first time going up to the Supreme Court, and I think that makes a big difference.
“You’re right – Democrats had a chance to do this a long time ago. We did not do it,” he continued. “But I think, now that we’ve seen how bad it can get, we’re going to make sure that nobody – neither Democrats nor Republicans – will have a chance to abuse this again.”
WUNC: NC Dems Lay Out Budget Priorities, Course For Winning Votes
By Rusty Jacobs
May 14, 2018
North Carolina democrats laid out their legislative priorities for the upcoming short session, and a plan they hope will win them votes in this year’s mid-term elections to break the republican veto-proof majority in the General Assembly.
Democrats need to win four additional House or six Senate seats to end the GOP super-majority. All 170 legislative seats are being contested in the general election.
The legislative session starting Wednesday is primarily about adjusting the biennial budget. Republican leaders have a $23.9 billion spending target, including scheduled cuts to the corporate tax rate, from 3 percent to 2.5 percent; and the rate for incomes above $200,000, from 5.499 percent to 5.25.
But Rep. Darren Jackson (D-Wake), minority leader in the statehouse, said more needs to be done.
“We need to raise teacher pay and principal pay to the national average, 37th just isn’t good enough,” Jackson told reporters at the Democratic Party headquarters Monday.
The agenda laid out by Jackson and other democratic lawmakers, who held simultaneous press conferences across the state, reflects the budget priorities in a proposal released by Gov. Roy Cooper last week.
Cooper’s $24.5 billion proposal would raise teacher pay by an average of 8 percent and by no less than 5 percent. The current budget passed last year by the GOP-controlled General Assembly would raise teacher pay next fiscal year by an average 6 percent.
The governor’s proposal would pay for the increase in part by freezing the income tax rate for top earners at 5.499 percent and keeping the corporate tax rate at 3 percent.
Jackson also said Democrats want to expand Medicaid.
“More than 600,000 working people fall into the healthcare coverage gap,” Jackson said. “Expanding Medicaid would ease the burden on rural hospitals, create 40,000 new jobs, save lives, and connect people with quality mental healthcare.”
Another top priority for North Carolina democrats is taking steps to improve public safety.
“Passing common-sense gun safety measures like strengthening background checks and banning bump stocks will save lives,” asserted Jackson.
State Sen. Jay Chaudhuri (D-Wake) made it clear, in addition to mapping out a game plan for the upcoming legislative session, the unveiling of the democratic agenda was aimed at motivating voters and giving them a stark choice in November.
“One that will continue to give tax cuts to big corporations and millionaires or one that invests in working families and middle-class families so they can move up the economic ladder,” Chaudhuri told reporters at Monday’s press conference in Raleigh.
Asheville Citizen Times: Buncombe legislators push for Medicaid expansion as part of Democratic priorities
By Mark Barrett
May 14, 2018
Expanding Medicaid to cover about 600,000 North Carolinians without health insurance would be one of Democrats’ top priorities if they retake control of the state General Assembly, two local Democratic legislators said Monday.
With the federal government covering 95 percent of the cost of Medicaid expansion, “These are terms so generous that it costs us money to turn them down,” Sen. Terry Van Duyn, D-Buncombe, said at a press conference at a clinic serving low-income people.
In front of the Minnie Jones Health Center, Van Duyn and Rep. Susan Fisher, D-Buncombe, outlined policy proposals from the state House and Senate Democratic caucuses that Democrats would pursue if they gain control of the legislature in the November elections.
Other elements of what Democrats are calling “Our Carolina Promise” were discussed at similar events around the state. They include:
-Raising teacher and principal pay to the national average, expanding early childhood education and providing adequate numbers of nurses, counselors and support staff in schools.
-Prioritizing economic development and programs for job training and retraining, rebuilding infrastructure, ensuring workers get wages they have earned and pushing harder for equal pay for women.
-Protecting the right to vote, passing independent redistricting, resisting efforts to insert politics into the judiciary and passing the Equal Rights Amendment.
-Passing laws to improve background checks for gun purchases and temporarily take guns away from those deemed to be a threat to themselves or others, fighting opioid addiction and reversing budget cuts to the state department charged with protecting the environment.
Van Duyn said expanding Medicaid would help people who make too much money to qualify for Medicaid today but not enough to allow them to buy health insurance through the Affordable Care Act or other means. Expansion was envisioned to go into effect along with the ACA to take care of that coverage gap, but North Carolina is one of 18 states that have declined to participate.
Van Duyn and Fisher said expansion would improve the health of North Carolinians, put rural hospitals on a better financial footing and expand funds available to deal with opioid use.
In addition, “Our economy would be better off,” Van Duyn said. “Expanding Medicaid would invest $4 billion in our economy and create 40,000 well-paying jobs.”
The federal government will lower its payments for expansion to 90 percent of the cost in 2020, with states on the hook for the rest. Van Duyn said a plan from Gov. Roy Cooper to get the state share from hospitals and other health care providers would cover the state’s obligation but could not provide details.
Republican legislative leaders in North Carolina have opposed expansion, saying the state’s share of the cost could increase over time and the state still had work to do to contain expenses of the existing Medicaid program.
WLOS: NC Dems lay out priorities ahead of short session in Raleigh
May 14, 2018
Blue Ridge Public Radio: Van Duyn, Fisher Renew Call For Medicaid Expansion
By Jeremy Loeb
May 14, 2018
Two Buncombe County Democrats took the lead in laying out the Democratic agenda in one of 6 news conferences held across the state. BPR’s Jeremy Loeb reports it primarily centered on expansion of Medicaid.
Senator Terry Van Duyn and Representative Susan Fisher described what they called a “unified, forward-looking, positive promise to the citizens of North Carolina.” Speaking at the Minnie Jones Health Center in Asheville, Van Duyn renewed Democrats’ call for expansion of Medicaid in the state.
“Expanding Medicaid isn’t just smart policy. It is the right thing to do. It’s the moral thing to do. And it’ll be the first thing a Democratic legislature does.”
The Republican-controlled legislature has resisted the idea of Medicaid expansion. And they hold a veto-proof super-majority. But Rep. Fisher said Democrats are energized.
“After a spirited primary, Democrats now have a strong candidate running in every single seat this year.”
The legislature starts its so-called short session on Wednesday.
WECT: Democrat representatives say we need to protect the water and air from GenX
By WECT Staff
May 14, 2018
Rep. Deb Butler (D-New Hanover) and North Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Goodwin hosted a press conference Monday morning in Wilmington, as part of a statewide effort to launch a new positive, unified 2018 agenda and priorities for North Carolina’s Democrats.
They talked about ways to make North Carolina healthier and safer, saying it starts with protecting the water and air from GenX and other pollutants.
Butler also mentioned she will attend the teachers rally happening in Raleigh Wednesday, May 16, calling it the start toward fair pay for educators.
“It’s not going to work out today, it’s not going to work out tomorrow, it’s going to work out in November when the election cycle happens,” Butler said. “It’s going to work out in November when teachers say, ‘you know what, I’ve got a choice because there’s a good democrat in every race across North Carolina for the first time in ten years’. So there’s going to be some choices made, and I think you’re going to see it at the ballot box in November.”
Goodwin added the candidates will be much more diverse in this year’s election.
“The one political party that represents the diversity of North Carolina, and actually mirrors North Carolina’s diversity, is the Democratic Party,” Goodwin said. “Compare the two parties and you’ll see which party has women and minorities and persons of color and everybody best represented. I think you’ll see a much different legislature in 2019 because of the diverse slate that we Democrats have.”
This press conference is one of six events democrats plan across the state to launch the unified agenda and priorities.
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WWAY: Lawmakers Divided On Teacher Rally In Raleigh
By Basil John
May 14, 2018
WNCT: State Democrats hold meetings Monday to reveal new agenda and priorities
By Josh Birch
May 14, 2018
North Carolina Democrats spent Monday meeting with constituents to lay out new priorities and a new agenda.
It focused around a Carolina promise, featuring four key points: schools, health, jobs and people.
In Greenville, Rep. Jean Farmer-Butterfield and Sen. Erica D. Smith spoke at Pitt Street Brewing. Sen. Smith said the economy is a center piece of their plan.
“We promise to ensure workers get the pay and benefits that they earn and deserve by cracking down on employer mis-classification as well as withholding tips for overtime pay. We believe in equal pay for equal work,” she said.
Sen. Smith also said she wanted to focus on expanding grants for small town businesses and put more of an emphasis on growing small and rural areas.
“10 jobs in a Pitt County or one of the smaller rural counties like Bertie where I serve, 10 to 20 to even 15, would have a major impact in the local economy.”
Sen. Smith and Rep. Farmer-Butterfield both said teachers need to be paid more and advances in technology need to be made to better connect rural communities.
The General Assembly reconvenes on May 16th.
WITN: Democrat state lawmakers kickoff general election season
May 14, 2018
Democrat state lawmakers are kicking off the general election season with a series of news conferences across the state.
Democrat Senator Erica Smith and Democrat House of Representative’s member Jean Farmer-Butterfield held a press conference at Pitt Street Brewing Company in Greenville on Monday.
They discussed their promise to create a stronger economy that bridges the urban-rural divide.
They both say job training programs and worker and consumer protections that will help lift workers in our state are important. One way they hope to do that is by investing in infrastructure and bringing back small businesses to help revitalize downtown’s.
They also spoke about the importance of green energy, clean environment, better public schools and everyone’s right to have access to affordable health care.
The Daily Reflector: Lawmakers visit Greenville to announce legislative agenda
By Seth Thomas Gulledge
May 15, 2018
As part of a state-wide unveiling of the Democratic legislative agenda, area lawmakers visited the Pitt Street Brewery to discuss education, small businesses and infrastructure among a long list of priorities.
Monday morning, Rep. Jean Farmer-Butterfield, D-Wilson, and Sen. Erica Smith, D-Northampton County, hosted a news conference in conjunction with conferences in six other cities in the state, in preparation for the start of the short session on Wednesday, as well as the upcoming fall election campaigns.
Farmer-Buttefield said the unveiling of the ‘Our Carolina Promise’ agenda demonstrates what the Democrats hope to accomplish with increased influence in the capital.
“This is a vision of what’s possible with more Democrats in office,” she said. “This is a vision of not what we can accomplish in the short session, but what we can accomplish in 2019, 2020 and the years beyond.
“One the biggest parts of that work is making sure voters have something to vote for and not just against,” Farmer-Butterfield said. “We need to articulate our shared positive values.”
Democrats have been in the minority at the General Assembly since 2011, but said they are energized this year and have fielded candidates for all 170 seats.
They need to win four additional House or six Senate seats to end the Republicans’ veto-proof majorities and give Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper more leverage with legislation.
“After a spirited primary, Democrats now have a strong candidate running for every single seat this year and this is also one of the most diverse sets of candidates we’ve ever had,” Farmer-Butterfield said. “People across the nation and North Carolina are frustrated with the current leadership in North Carolina and the General Assembly as well as in Washington. Democrats aren’t just relying on that frustration, we are working hard every single day to reach out constituents and explain how we are fighting for them.”
The legislative agenda is divided into four categories: Our School, Our Health, Our Jobs, Our People. Included in the platform are calls for increased teacher pay, rural infrastructure improvements — such as internet access and improved roads — and support for small businesses.
The plan also is committed to expanding Medicaid to more of the working poor, raising teacher pay to the national average and transferring redistricting powers to a special commission if Democrats they take control of the General Assembly in the November elections.
Smith said investing in education is a priority for improving the state.
“We want to create a state that is a leader in public education, including giving our teachers the respect they deserve and our schools the resources they need to succeed,” she said. “Our children need to be first and foremost.”
Smith also said that to boost economic prosperity in the state, leaders needed to start supporting more small employers and not hunting for larger corporations. She said Pitt Street Brewery is a perfect example of why small businesses are important in communities.
“This is a small business that saw opportunity and and saw a vision for helping revitalize our downtown area,” Smith said. “It’s dedicated to supporting local artists, musicians and businesses and this is an example of the type of businesses we should promote across the state of North Carolina.
“We have to take our focus off these big out-of-state corporations, many of which we know are not coming to the rural parts of our state in eastern and western North Carolina,” she said.
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