1. The NC Chamber comes clean about its cynical opportunism on HB2
Ever since North Carolina lawmakers and Governor Pat McCrory rammed through North Carolina’s new all-purpose discrimination law (HB2) in just a handful of hours on March 23, there has been widespread speculation about the motives and role in the whole affair of North Carolina’s largest business lobby group, the NC Chamber.
The fact that the new law (which was supposedly about responding to the city of Charlotte’s nondiscrimination ordinance) ended up including out-of-nowhere provisions that repealed the 30-year-old right of North Carolinians to bring employment discrimination lawsuits in state court, along with a ban on local living wage laws, was widely seen as an indication that the Chamber had quietly struck a deal with lawmakers. The group’s conspicuous silence in the intervening weeks only added fuel to the fire.
As the Charlotte Observer noted in an April editorial:[Continue reading…]
2. Lawmakers seek massive expansion of voucher scheme that discriminates against LGBT students
If a handful of right-wing legislators have their way, taxpayers in North Carolina may soon be spending $125 million a year funding private and fundamentalist religious schools that can refuse to admit gay or transgender students—or even students with gay parents.
That’s one of the many troubling features of the state’s school voucher scheme, misleadingly named the opportunity scholarship program that provides $4,200 vouchers to private academies and religious schools to pay for the education of low and moderate income students who apply to participate.
The state has currently $12 million of public money available for private schools with virtually no accountability measures in place to guarantee or even monitor the quality of education the children are receiving. A bill filed this week at the General Assembly would increase that funding every year until it reaches $125 million a year in ten years. [Continue reading…]
3. HB2: Not the only area in which NC will soon trail the field
State lawmakers are preparing to make poor services, crumbling structures and regressive taxes permanent
The ongoing crisis surrounding North Carolina’s embattled governor and his controversial, all-purpose discrimination law (HB2) grew more serious yesterday as state and federal officials turned to the courts to sort out their dispute. What started out two months ago as a skirmish over a public restroom access policy in one city has now morphed into a national (and even international) conflict over LGBT equality.
Whatever the initial intentions of the various parties to the dispute, North Carolina is now clearly understood by millions of people around the nation and the world to be the torch bearer for those who would deny full equality to LGBT people. As columnist Ned Barnett of Raleigh’s News & Observer noted this past Sunday: [Continue reading…]
4. The evolution of Gov. Pat McCrory into right-wing culture warrior
One of the many repercussions of HB2, the sweeping anti-LGBT bill signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory in March, is that it has forced McCrory to finally take a side in the debate about North Carolina’s future.
Would he try to cling to his carefully crafted and misleading image as the moderate former mayor of the state’s largest city? Or would he fully embrace the far-right agenda of the legislative leaders of his own party who are remaking the state not only by slashing funding for schools and human services to pay for tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy but also fighting the religious culture wars against women’s access to reproductive health care and gay rights?
McCrory hasn’t done much in the last four years to stand up to the draconian agenda passed by the General Assembly, signing legislation restricting access to abortion after promising during his campaign that he wouldn’t and signing budgets that have cut taxes by billions of dollars after initially demanding that any tax reform be revenue neutral so schools and state services could be adequately funded. [Continue reading…]
Bonus read: U.S. Department of Justice files suit against North Carolina over House Bill 2
Bonus video: U.S. Attorney General announce Justice Department will sue to block “state-sponsored discrimination” (video)
N.C. House leaders in a key budget committee gave their approval Thursday to a report on the chamber’s draft of the state education budget, a document that, overall, allocates an additional $12.9 million in K-12 spending, but, notably, also axes about $27 million intended to reduce first-grade class sizes by adding additional teachers.
The report presented Thursday does not address teacher pay. Committee Co-Chairman Rob Bryan, R-Meck., said that would be discussed at a later date by the chamber’s larger appropriations committee.
Meanwhile, legislative staff told lawmakers that the first-grade teacher funding was allocated last year during budget negotiations, and none of those positions have been filled yet. The cash was geared toward lowering the teacher-student ratio from 1 teacher per 17 students to 1 teacher per 16 students.
GOP lawmakers, responding to Democrats’ questioning about the draft budget, said the cut was somewhat offset by an additional $25 million allocation to hire literacy coaches to work in the bottom 20 percent of the lowest performing elementary schools in the state. [Continue reading…]