RALEIGH, N.C. -- North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper says he'll neither veto nor sign a bill fixing an upcoming public school class-size dilemma but also changing the state elections board and a natural gas pipeline agreement.
According to rules in the state constitution, the bill will take effect in mid-March based on the Governor's decision. Governor Cooper spoke to reporters on Wednesday regarding the bill approved by the Republican-controlled General Assembly the day before and said he would allow it to become a law.
Governor Cooper says lawmakers heard the voices of parents and phased in lower student-teacher ratios in early grades and also gave more time to implement smaller ratios. But he says the bill falls short in addressing more funding for school districts in need among other education concerns.
Governor Cooper also threw shade at the Republicans, saying anything in the bill unrelated to education was a "petty partisan political power grab." Part of the bill outlines a plan related to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline with is set to run through the eastern part of the state.
Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore issued a statement early Wednesday afternoon calling on the Governor Cooper to recuse himself from acting on the bill. Their reasoning was that it was a conflict of interest, noting Governor Cooper grew up and has property in Nash County, one of the counties the pipeline would run through.
Republican leaders say Governor Cooper is trying to keep control of a roughly $58 million "slush fund" coming from developers involved in the ACP. Instead, GOP leaders say that money should be allocated by lawmakers, so in House Bill 90, the $58 million would go toward school systems in the 8 counties affected by the pipeline.
Governor Cooper says that's a promise he's not sure the state can keep, even if it's law, because investments coming from the ACP will also need to go toward jobs and construction. He adds, there's no conflict of interest on his part.
"That is ridiculous and part of the whole political strategy," he explains. "It is just hard to believe that the class size mandate and Pre-K is mixed up in all of this and it just shows how low they will go."
But in a rebuttal following Governor Cooper's press conference, Senate leader Phil Berger told reporters the Governor is just making excuses.
"It's clear he got his hand caught in the cookie jar and he is doing everything he can to twist and turn to find an explanation that sticks," Berger claims.
Despite his qualms with the bill, Governor Cooper did say he would allow it to become law for the sake of students. The Governor applauded the bill for getting rid of the Pre-K waitlist and making a clearer plan for classroom sizes, but added there are more problems with our education systems he thinks lawmakers still need to fix.
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