RALEIGH, N.C. (WGHP) – The immediate fate of a bill designed to clear the path to fill the opening on the Guilford County Board of Education remains uncertain.
House Bill 88, introduced by state Rep. Jon Hardister (R-Whitsett), passed the North Carolina House on a voice vote last week and now has been read into the Senate, where it has been assigned to the Rules Committee.
Hardister met with the Senate earlier this week and on Thursday referred questions about the bill and its status to Senate President Pro Temp Phil Berger (R-Eden), who runs the Senate but whose district includes a large chunk of Guilford County.
Berger’s spokesperson reiterated the same position Thursday that had been communicated last week: No one has been tasked with moving this bill, and when it might be considered is unknown.
The Rules Committee, chaired by Sen. Bill Rabon (R-Brunswick), is the first stop when legislation arrives from the House and the last stop before any bill moves to the floor for a debate, amendment and vote. There could be other committee stops, as well.
Neither Rabon nor his legislative assistant responded to emails from WGHP asking when the bill might be considered and moved. The General Assembly is adjourned until Monday afternoon, and the Rules Committee has standing meetings at 9 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Hardister introduced the bill because the school board three times now has declined to seat teacher Michael Logan, an outspoken critic of the board who was nominated by the Republican members from District 3 to fill out the term Patrick Tillman vacated in November. Tillman was elected to the Guilford County Board of Commissioners.
All three votes have been along party lines, with only the two Republicans supporting Logan, an automotive instructor at Southern Guilford High School.
Hardister said the local bill – meaning it is about only Guilford County and would not require Gov. Roy Cooper’s signature – that he and state Rep. John Faircloth (R-High Point) sponsored corrected “errors made by staff.” He had said he hoped the bill could pass the Senate “maybe by the end of February.”
The bill is a scant two paragraphs and addresses general statute GS 115c-37.1, which specifies how seats on partisan boards “shall” be filled. Hardister said that statute was undermined by language in the local bill – the bill applied only to the Guilford County Board of Education and no other elected body – that former state Sen. Trudy Wade (R-High Point) pushed through the General Assembly in 2013.
Guilford County Board of Education bill by Steven Doyle on Scribd
“There were two errors made by our [General Assembly] staff,” Hardister said. “Mistake No. 1 is when we passed this bill that changed the board, it failed to strike language that should have been stricken. …. The original bill referred to ‘letter D’ in the statute. That’s just a general list of counties. That should have been ‘letter B.’ … It’s a typo.”
During debate in the House, Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Greensboro) offered an amendment – which was adopted – to ensure that the appointed individual would serve only until the next election, which is consistent with filling openings on other statewide boards.
By statute, the GOP is responsible for nominating its candidate from the district – Logan was chosen from two suggestions, Guilford County GOP Chair David Gleeson has said – but the conflict emerged because school board attorney Jill Wilson has indicated that the appointment of the person to fill the seat must be approved by a majority of the existing board.
Board members who have opposed Logan, long an activist commentator at school board meetings, have cited the fact that he was a teacher or that he had made derogatory posts about board members on social media. He has been called “divisive” by coworkers.
Logan, who said he would also run for the seat when it comes up for election in 2024, wrote to WGHP in an email after the vote last week that he would continue to attend board and committee meetings.
“So, while our school board is focused on partisan politics, we have parents, students and employees without district representation.,” Logan said. “We have an area that is being taxed for the schools and being denied official representation with a vote. It is not right.”