Never a dull moment at the legislature. This week a dispute between House Speaker Moore and a senior Republican legislator went public and culminated in Representative Julia Howard being removed as a senior finance committee chair. Great news on one of the many anti-Transgender person bills filed.
The inevitable has finally happened. North Carolina Republican legislators have jumped on board the voter suppression train. Senate Bill 326, misleadingly titled the Election Integrity Act, is a measure that would restrict voting by absentee ballot in a variety of ways. In short, it is a voter suppression bill. Significantly, the restrictions do not apply to military or overseas voters.
Governor Cooper has vetoed a bill where the NCGA is trying to force teachers and students back to school without providing protection. An anti-abortion bill amendment TO THE CONSTITUTION has been introduced! One good bill was introduced – the North Carolina CROWN Act (HB 170= SB 165).
The pandemic is exposing people and institutions who were barely getting by and now will fail with insufficient assistance. Rural hospitals were already doing badly, and now are doing worse. Yet, the NC legislature continues to refuse the gift of Medicaid Expansion which would alleviate health and economic problems across in every county if implemented fully.
Rural hospitals are cutting services and even worse, closing. Billions of dollars meant to support health care in NC have been sent to other states, to those states smart enough to take advantage of great deal to expand Medicaid. The NCGA leadership needs to stop hurting NC’s people and economy. Expand Medicaid NOW! The Coronavirus is exposing how close to the edge many people live.
A third of female undergraduate UNC students reported sexual assault, and 9% of them had been drugged before they were assaulted, according to a survey by the Association of American Universities. State laws must be improved to prosecute these crimes, and universities must do more. An Equal Rights Amendment would help long term.
The NC budget finally includes money for testing rape kits – but half as much as our Governor and Attorney General requested. The anti-abortion Human Coalition, which funds crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), will receive 1.2 million dollars. It is always necessary to watch the budget bills because they often contain policy measures in addition to appropriations. The provision in the proposed budget also prevents closing down schools except for specified reasons. Waiting to see if Senate Rules Committee will try to override the Governor’s veto on a bad anti-abortion bill.
There has been a rash of anti-abortion bills introduced in the NC Legislature. The so called ‘Born Alive’ bill which was recently rushed through the Senate and House is a dangerous political maneuver that has no basis in science. There is no such thing as legislatively protected infanticide in North Carolina—or anywhere else in the U.S. This bill and other “junk science” bills are not designed to protect women. Instead, they are designed to deter women from having an abortion.
Week 10, another bad abortion bill was introduced, this bill also does not hold up under scientific scrutiny. Also, NCGA interference in law enforcement, as they threaten Sheriffs with massive fines to force them to work as extensions of ICE. Two positive bills were filed – the North Carolina Equal Pay Act and the Enact NC Healthy Pregnancy Act. In the full legislative update, you can see summary and status of the list of bills NC NOW is tracking.
ICE practices have become increasingly brutal. Week 7 of the legislative session saw the Republicans file a bill to force the new more progressive sheriffs elected by voters to cooperate with ICE or face huge penalties. Also, Medicaid Expansion bill may have been waylaid by rookie legislator’s mistake, although there are other ways to expand Medicaid anyway. Read more here.