Governor Cooper has submitted his budget. North Carolina did not suffer the predicted revenue shortfall due to the pandemic; our reserve funds are flush with 5 billion dollars; and projections are rosy. The Governor’s budget includes substantial pay raises for teachers, smaller raises for state employees, restoring the earned income tax credit, raising the state minimum wage to $15 an hour, and expanding Medicaid. For more details, see: https://www.wral.com/raises-bonuses-for-teachers-state-workers-in-cooper-s-budget-plan/19592329/. But Republicans have other plans—more tax cuts. See: https://www.newsobserver.com/news/article250132909.html.
A bill (HB 354) has been introduced to expand the scope and increase the penalties in North Carolina’s hate crime law. Women are not included in the existing hate crime law. This bill would include gender and also ethnicity, gender identity, gender expression, disability, and sexual orientation—all categories not covered by our present law. In addition, the bill would define a new offense, felonious assault, as a hate crime.
Republican Senators grilled State Elections Director Karen Brinson Bell for over two hours in committee over the settlement to a lawsuit that extended the time that absentee ballots would be accepted and counted. The settlement of the lawsuit was negotiated by the Attorney General’s office and attorneys for the State Board of Elections. Initially, the bi-partisan State Board of Elections endorsed the settlement unanimously, but the Republican members recanted and resigned after pressure from legislators. The Senators are incensed because they believe the settlement infringed on their rights as legislators, and a bill (SB 360) has been introduced that will ban the Attorney General from settling lawsuits that name legislative leaders without including the legislators in the negotiations. For more details, see: https://www.wral.com/senate-republicans-stewing-over-absentee-ballot-changes-roast-state-elections-director/19590616/
Democrats are beginning to respond to the mis-named Republican Election Integrity Act (SB 326) which is actually a bill to suppress the vote on a number of fronts. Sen. Mike Woodard has introduced Senate Bill 364, Automatic Voter Registration Act to simplify voter registration. Democrats promise more bills to make voting more accessible. For more details, see: https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/north-carolina/articles/2021-03-25/senate-democrats-pitch-bills-to-expand-voting-access-in-nc
North Carolina Republicans have joined the national movement to bar trans women from participating in school sports by introducing HB 358, Save Women’s Sports Act. The heart of the argument of this movement is that testosterone is magic male juice that makes males better athletes than females. The facts are actually much more complicated than that. This is yet another example of fake science being used to justify discrimination. For an examination of the false arguments used to justify this kind of ban and a survey of what science actually shows, see: https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/the-movement-to-exclude-trans-girls-from-sports.
See whole report at North Carolina NOW Legislative Update #9 – 29 March 2021