Commentary

Chris Brook of the ACLU of NC speaks about HB2 litigation

At this past Thursday’s Crucial Conversation (“One year later: What now for HB2?”)  multiple audience members asked ACLU of NC legal director Chris Brook for his take on the impact of the Trump administration on HB2, as well as the broader question of what the fight over HB2 means for LGBTQ rights more generally.

“There’s a general interest in what’s going to happen next in the litigation. What is the the impact of our new administration in Washington? And are there aspects of the litigation that deal with the general issue of discrimination against LGBT people, not just about bathrooms, but in terms of employment, and housing, and accommodations.” – Rob Schofield

“The thing that I’ve been saying since the passage a year ago, is that we need to quit calling this “the bathroom bill.” We need to start calling it HB2. And that’s not because we need to be afraid of talking about bathrooms. We need to talk about bathrooms; we are going to win those arguments. It’s just inaccurate though!” – Chris Brook

 

Commentary, News

This week’s top five on NC Policy Watch

This Week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch 

1. School choice supporters tout questionable data on charters

Charter schools in North Carolina are becomingly increasingly white and affluent. Those are two of the overriding conclusions derived from recent analysis of the state’s charter population by a variety of stakeholders.

But a new set of numbers circulating among prominent school choice advocates in Raleigh indicates the opposite, much to the consternation of public school backers in North Carolina. [Read more…]

2. One year in, LGBT lawmakers address HB2

Thursday marks one year since HB2 was signed into law, setting off a firestorm of controversy that led to statewide boycotts, mass protests and contributed to the downfall of the governor who supported it….

There are only two out LGBT members of the North Carolina General Assembly. N.C. Representatives Cecil Brockman (D-Guilford) and Debra Butler (D-Brunswick) have experienced the battle over HB2 very differently than their peers. While other lawmakers discuss LGBT rights in the abstract, these conversations have been visceral and personal for those actually impacted by the law. [Read more…]

3. Enough is enough: tax-cutting frenzy threatens North Carolina’s future

Two weeks ago a group of state Senate leaders unveiled a plan to raise principal pay in North Carolina and raise funds for school construction in rural areas. Both are good ideas.

Many small and poor counties don’t have the tax base to afford to build new schools and North Carolina ranks 50th in principal compensation.

But the GOP Senators weren’t proposing funding their plan from the state’s General Fund budget. Instead, they want to increase lottery advertising to raise new revenue from low-income communities to pay principals more and build new schools. [Read more…]

4. Roy Cooper’s lonely and courageous battle: It’s a difficult and sometimes nasty job, but somebody’s gotta’ do it

One of the hard and often underreported truths of American politics is the role that both luck and timing play in the perceived successes and/or failures of elected officials – particularly chief executives. Enter office at just the right moment – when, say, the economy is humming along and one’s political party enjoys a large majority – and elected office can be a lot of fun. Chances are you’ll have strong approval ratings, considerable clout in legislative decision making, lots of invitations to speak to large and friendly audiences and an opportunity to leave a significant imprint on your city, state or nation. [Read more…]

5. New data document the many perils of Trumpcare for North Carolina

This Thursday, March 23, marks the seventh anniversary of the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”) — the landmark federal law that secured and guaranteed health insurance for millions of previously uninsured Americans and saved tens of thousands of lives. Unfortunately however, Thursday is also the day on which leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives currently plan to vote on a “replacement” for the ACA that they have dubbed the “American Health Care Act” and that many outside of Washington have come to refer to as “Trumpcare.”

If actually enacted into law, Trumpcare would have disastrous implication for millions of vulnerable people and the economy as a whole – especially in light of the findings released last week by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. [Read more…]

Commentary, NC Budget and Tax Center

North Carolina not creating enough jobs to keep up with demands of working-age population

There’s more sobering news today on the state economy that conservative lawmakers are constantly (and, as it turns out, erroneously) touting as some kind of incredible success story. The bottom line: North Carolina continues to under-perform much of the rest of the nation in the post-Great Recession national recovery. This is new from the experts at the NC. Budget and Tax Center:

North Carolina’s economy is not creating the jobs needed to keep up with the demands of the working-age population in the state. The state unemployment rate dropped in February 2017 to 5.1 percent but remains above the national rate of 4.7 percent according to data released today by the Labor and Economic Analysis Division of the NC Department of Commerce.

Since February 2017, North Carolina’s unemployment rate has remained higher than the national average and that gap has grown slightly from a 0.3 percentage point difference to a 0.4 percentage point difference in February.

Even after years of a national recovery, job growth in North Carolina has not been sufficient to bring more people back to the labor market and provide jobs to those who are actively looking for work.

“North Carolina’s employment levels remain below pre-recession levels” said Alexandra Sirota, Director of the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the NC Justice Center. “As the labor force grows with an improving national economy, it is critical that the state’s job growth match the growth in the working-age population and the numbers still looking for work.”

The February labor market data underscore a number of important economic realities, including:

  • North Carolinians remain “missing” from the labor market: There are likely nearly 190,000 people in North Carolina that are not officially counted as unemployed but who would have been part of the labor force in earlier periods of economic growth.
  • Many North Carolinians still looking for work: There were approximately 252,500 North Carolinians looking for work in February, which is up approximately 30,000 since the Great Recession started.
  • Employment levels remain below historic levels: Job growth in North Carolina has not kept pace with the state’s growing population over the past several years. Approximately 59 percent of North Carolinians had a job in February, still well below what the state experienced in the 1990s and 2000s and below the immediate pre-recession level of 61.9 percent.

 

Commentary, News

Congress changes Trumpcare in dead of night to allow insurers to cap coverage and deny care

Shortly before 11 PM last night, the Republican House of Representatives amended their Trumpcare bill. Following the House’s delay of a planned floor vote on the American Health Care Act yesterday, Republican leadership made the change to persuade hardline conservatives in the Freedom Caucus to vote for the bill.

Zachary Tracer from Bloomberg explains how this last-minute, secretive amendment drastically alters the rules of the insurance market:

If healthy people can buy cheap, skimpy insurance plans, they don’t subsidize those who are sick — meaning that people who aren’t healthy have to pay more, or may not be able to get insurance. Cutting the rules could push insurers to offer only limited plans, resulting in less choice for consumers, particularly those who are sick or want more comprehensive coverage.

This change also opens the door for insurance companies to reintroduce lifetime limits and annual caps on coverage, yet it’s reported that Congress will vote on this bill less than 24 hours after making the change. After years of peddling alternative facts about how hastily and secretively Congress passed the Affordable Care Act seven years ago, Republican leadership in Congress aims to change the health care system under the cover of night to allow millions of Americans to be denied care and coverage.

After last night’s failed effort to bring Trumpcare to a vote on the House floor, President Trump delivered an ultimatum to the House—pass this bill or nothing at all. The candidate who promised that everyone would be covered under his plan seems to care more about the appearance of getting a bill done than he cares about what the bill does.

Commentary, News

UNC Center for Civil Rights sets the record straight in response to Board of Governors’ attack

As was explained in this post late last month, conservative members of the UNC Board of Governors are seeking to muzzle and cripple the Center for Civil Rights that’s a part of the UNC School of Law at Chapel Hill. This week the Center staff shared a detailed response to the BOG with NC Policy Watch that we’re happy to publish below in its entirety:

CLARIFYING THE RECORD

Context & Corrections to the BOG memo on the UNC Center for Civil Rights

Claim: The Center for Civil Rights has no oversight to ensure that it pursues UNC’s educational mission rather than the “personal causes and interests of center personnel.”

Fact: The Executive Director of the Center is a tenured member of the law school faculty and oversees the work of the Center, including its direct representation and advocacy. Additionally, before any litigation can commence, Center staff must submit a justification memo to the Dean of the Law School. The Center cannot engage in litigation without the Dean’s approval.

Claim: Center for Civil Rights staff “are government-funded lawyers,” who have “little incentive to resolve claims and significant incentive to litigate.”

Fact: Although categorized as state employees, Center staff salaries and benefits—as well as all programmatic costs and expenses—are funded by grants, foundations, and private gifts and donations. All direct advocacy engaged in by the Center is on behalf of clients—low-wealth individuals, families, and communities across North Carolina– whose priorities, rights, and interests determine the trajectory of any litigation.

Over half of the cases filed by the Center in the past 9 years were resolved by negotiated settlement. In one of those cases, it was the “government-funded” lawyers retained by the county that unnecessarily prolonged the litigation, filing two interim appeals that delayed the case for over a year, and were ultimately dismissed by the appellate court.

Claim: Law school clinics, unlike the Center for Civil Rights, “provide law students with hands-on legal training through representation of clients,” operate under ABA standards, and focus on educating law school students.

Fact: ABA guidelines require that students get “live-client or other real-life practice experiences, appropriately supervised and designed to encourage reflection by students on their experiences and on the values and responsibilities of the legal profession, and the development of one’s ability to assess his or her performance and level of competence.” There is no formal “in-class” requirement for clinics. 

Since its founding, the Center has directly supervised over 600 students through externships, internships, and pro bono projects. Students learn experientially how to practice law through direct involvement in research, drafting complaints, motions and briefs, conducting discovery, and interviewing clients.  Staff provides substantial supervision, mentorship, and feedback to support students’ personal and professional development.

  • “My summer at the Center for Civil Rights was a marked highlight of my time at Carolina. I feel I learned more about the practice of law in those few months than I did at any other point in my education. . . . I was exposed to numerous types of suits and legal advocacy that I did not experience at other internships or in the classroom. I received hands on training with complex discovery, investigation, client relations, and crafting pleadings.”
  • “I was an intern at the Center when I first wrote sections of legal briefs. These were not the graded writing exercises designed to teach me how to craft a legal argument, but advocacy that would end up before a court. I was an intern at the Center when I conducted my first hours of document review. This was not a Civil Procedure class explaining the discovery process to me, but time spent mining documents. I was an intern at the Center when I had my first interactions with clients. This is a skill that no professor can teach in a classroom and is far more complex in reality than any course could cover.”
  • “CCR gave me the experience I needed to obtain an amazing job after law school. I am now an Assistant District Attorney in New York City, County of the Bronx, and I would not be there without the advocacy and litigation training I obtained during my semester externship.”

Claim: If the State or a local government fails to comply with a legal requirement, UNC should advise those governments so that legal requirements can be met. Pitt County and Brunswick County spent thousands of dollars in litigation brought by the Center for Civil Rights. Read more