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Tuesday Lunch Links

The clock continues to tick on some 35 bills passed by the General Assembly and awaiting action by the governor, but the impact from laws already enacted – along with federal sequester cuts — is setting in.

Yesterday, the Judicial Conference of the United States announced [1] that it was temporarily reducing hourly rates for the more than 10,000 private attorneys who supplement the public defender corps by $15 an hour and deferring into fiscal year 2015 up to four weeks of payments which ordinarily would have been paid to them this year.

As detailed in the National Law Journal [2], the move would drop their hourly rate from $125 per hour to $110 per hour in non-capital cases, and from a maximum of $179 to $164 per hour for capital cases.  That would save around $50 million for the public defender budget and prevent further staffing layoffs at federal public defender offices, which took the brunt of $350 million budget cuts to the courts this year as part of sequestration. The cuts will undoubtedly push some private attorneys away from handling any more indigent defense cases.

And this morning we learned that 57,000 children will lose their Head Start [3]slots – 1346 in North Carolina – on account of the sequester.

That’s one more blow to public education here, where schools are already opening with less money and fewer teachers and resources than ever before, courtesy of Jones Street. (Follow Policy Watch’s Lindsay Wagner and our special feature “Tracking the Cuts” [4]to see just how extensive cuts to the schools are).

It’s not just the schools feeling the impact of the recent legislative session. Unfortunately, the projection that what happened in Raleigh wouldn’t stay in Raleigh is proving true.

In case you missed it, The Nation had this piece [5], calling cuts to unemployment insurance and the state’s food stamp debacle the “perfect storm” for the unemployed in places like Raeford, N.C., home of the House of Raeford turkey processing plant, which shut down in late July and let go of nearly a thousand workers.  Policy Watch’s Sarah Ovaska reported from the plant [6] and was there on the last day [7] as workers left for good. As Sarah wrote:

The closure comes in a part of the state burdened with unemployment from 9 to 16 percent, a discouraging scenario for the 950 displaced workers who will become the first large-scale test of North Carolina’s new unemployment system that curtails the length of time and amount workers can collect benefits.

And NPR provided this answer [8] to a question we heard often bandied about in the senate and house during voter ID discussions: what’s so hard about getting a photo ID?

“Sometimes you can tell how hard voting can be just by looking at a place,” wrote reporter Ailsa Chang about her visit to Bertie County, where not everybody has a car or a driver’s license. Many residents relied upon the grace of others to get them to the polls during the extended early voting period and now risk being able to get there in time, if at all — or to a DMV office, for that matter, to get the supposedly free non-driver photo ID.