A last-minute amendment by Senate leaders Wednesday docked the University of North Carolina School of Law budget by $3 million. Democrats say it’s political payback for the school’s employment of legislative critic Gene Nichol.
Despite the fact that Republican Senate leaders have been working on the budget behind closed doors for nearly three weeks, Senate Rules Committee Chairmam Tom Apodaca apparently forgot until the end of Wednesday afternoon’s floor debate – after Democrats had loudly criticized the GOP-penned budget for hours – that he wanted to take $3 million from the law school in Chapel Hill and give it to the Mountain Area Health Education Center, or MAHEC, located in Asheville.
The UNC School of Law employs Professor Gene Nichol, a frequent and outspoken critic of Republican legislative leaders. Earlier this year, the GOP-appointed UNC Board of Governors ordered the closure of the think tank Nichol used to lead, the privately-funded Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity, but Nichol retains his tenure on the school’s faculty.
Sen. Terry Van Duyn, D-Buncombe, chastised Apodaca for the move.
“I have great respect for you, and you know how near and dear MAHEC is to me. But this, quite frankly, breaks my heart because it seems totally undeliberative and quite, in fact, punitive and just not worthy of this body, and it pains me to say that,” Van Duyn said. “This is not the way we should be making laws.”
Sen. Mike Woodard, D-Durham, questioned whether the “capricious” cut would force reductions in financial aid or public service programs at the school.
“This feels like the Gene Nichol transfer amendment,” Woodard added.