U.S. Supreme Court strikes down Texas abortion restrictions

Abortion rights advocates are declaring a victory today after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down (in a 5-3 ruling) Texas abortion restrictions that required doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

The Texas rules also required that clinics must meet hospital-like standards, prompting several clinics in the Lone Star State to shutter their doors.

In writing for the majority, Justice Stephen G. Breyer noted that such restrictions “provide few if any health benefits for women, pose a substantial obstacle to women seeking abortions and constitutes a, ‘undue burden’ on their constitutional right to do so.”

Read the full opinion in  Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt here.

Here’s reaction to the opinion from social media:


House Democrats stage sit-in, demand gun-control legislation (video)

Congressional Democrats staged a sit-in on the U.S. House floor Wednesday, demanding the chamber vote on common sense gun-control measures.

Congresswoman Alma Adams appealed to her colleagues to take action after the Orlando shooting that left 50 dead and 53 wounded. Adams drew applause as she demanded “NRA, get the hell out of the way!”

Here’s how other members of the state’s congressional delegation responded:

But several Republicans, including Rep. Mark Walker of Greensboro, called the action a stunt:


Moral Monday movement mourns Orlando shooting, anti-LGBT House Bill 2 (video)

NC NACCP President Reverend William Barber and members of the Moral Monday movement spoke out yesterday against gun violence, homophobia, and the anti-LGBT bill known as HB2.

Barber told the audience of about 150 people that :

“Religious hate, class hate, and the rhetoric of hate is always a precursor and a prerequisite to the actions of hate. And so we gather as one human family  in a vigil for love, justice, equality, and non-violence. And by our very presence we stand in protest to hate and discrimination.”

The NC NAACP is calling for a full repeal of HB2.  Click below to hear more from Monday’s rally outside the state legislature:

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Six things to have on your radar this week

love is loveMoral Monday – In the wake of the June 12th mass shooting in Orlando that left 50 people dead and 53 others wounded, the NC NAACP and Forward Together Movement will hold a Mass Moral Monday Vigil for Love, Justice and Equality against Hate and Discrimination.

“We cannot let hate have the first, last or loudest word,” said Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, President of the NC NAACP.

Today’s rally begins at 5:00 p.m. outside the NC General Assembly in downtown Raleigh.bitzer

And if you missed it over the weekend, be sure to listen to Chris Fitzsimon’s radio interview with Catawba College political scientist Dr. Michael Bitzer as he discusses the impact of the Orlando shooting on the presidential race, the politics of hate, and the fate of HB2.

The future of transit – Anthony Foxx, US Secretary of Transportation and former Mayor of FoxxCharlotte, will speak on the benefits of transit this evening at WakeUP Wake County’s Community Forum.

This event runs from 5:30 PM to 8:45 PM at the Raleigh Convention Center.

Find a complete agenda here.

Voting rights back in court – A federal appeals court in Richmond, Virginia, will hear oral arguments Tuesday over North Carolina’s restrictive voting law.

VoteThe American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice are challenging provisions that eliminate a week of early voting, end same-day registration, and prohibit out-of-precinct voting. The groups argue the law unduly burdens the right to vote and discriminates against African-American voters, in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause and the Voting Rights Act.

Tuesday’s hearing begins at 10:00 a.m. at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, 1000 East Main Street, Butzner En Banc Courtroom, Richmond, Virginia.

A closer look at the Carolina Comeback – Is the North Carolina economy improving or stagnant? Are we in the midst of a “Carolina Comeback” as Governor McCrory and others allege or a prolonged and problematic malaise?

The answers to these questions depend in large part upon the measurements we use and how we use them.

Professor Dirk Philipsen is Senior Fellow at the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University and a Duke Arts and Sciences Senior Research Scholar.

Philipsen will address the economy Tuesday at noon at the latest NC Policy Watch Crucial Conversation.

The event begins at noon at the Junior League of Raleigh Building, 711 Hillsborough St. (At the corner of Hillary ClintonHillsborough and St. Mary’s streets)

Clinton comes to Raleigh – Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton will be campaigning in Raleigh Wednesday discussing “her vision for America.”

Clinton will appear at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds Exposition Center in Raleigh. Her event is scheduled to begin at 2:30 p.m. with doors opening at 12:30p.m. Additional details can be found here.PV-SB817

Controversial constitutional amendment – Finally, the state Senate is expected to vote Saturday on a controversial bill that would have voters cast a ballot this fall for or against a 5.5 percent cap on incomes in the state.

Sponsors say Senate Bill 817 will control future spending by the legislature.

The N.C. Budget and Tax Center says the constitutional amendment is a bad idea that would reduce state revenue moving forward hurting education spending and support for other critical needs in our state.

Learn more about the harms of SB 817 here.

Commentary, News

This week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch


bb-6151. Federal complaint says new N.C. policy harms poor children with special needs

To JoAnna Barnes, it’s the biggest education story you’ve never heard of in North Carolina.

Barnes, a Triangle attorney and president of the Learning Disabilities Association (LDA) of N.C., says the state’s education leaders have, for about a year, been devising sweeping policy changes to how North Carolina identifies children in need of special education services.

The policy that they crafted, which was approved by the N.C. State Board of Education in February, will seriously undercount the number of low-income, minority children who qualify, she says, and it’s a violation of federal law.

Barnes, along with advocates like the nonprofit Disability Rights N.C., warned state board members repeatedly that their actions might harm the roughly 200,000 or so children across the state who qualify for special education. When state officials moved forward anyway, Barnes says she filed a complaint this month with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, asking federal education officials to bar North Carolina’s reforms. [Continue reading…]

Protesters gathering outside the State Capitol in Raleigh Wednesday.2. Teachers, NAACP blast legislature and Gov. McCrory over school funding

“This group here and that man there need somewhere else to live.”

When he said it, Donald Dunn, former president of the N.C. Parent Teacher Association, pointed at the legislature and in the direction of the governor’s mansion, respectively, setting off cheers all around.

Dunn was one of just a handful of educators and civil rights leaders who gathered on the front steps of North Carolina’s legislative building Wednesday afternoon to protest the public education policies of the GOP-led legislature and Gov. Pat McCrory, urging voters to show up at the polls this November to cast both parties out.

The heat from the crowd of about 100 or so nearly matched the blazing heat of the afternoon, as a group of pro-public education protesters, calling itself Organize 2020, completed their 23-mile march from schools in Durham and Raleigh to the legislative building. [Continue reading…]

Berger_2016C3. Do Senate leaders believe their own claims on teacher pay?

Senate leaders made a big splash touting their two-year plan to raise teacher salaries. They held a packed press conference and launched, the strange website that – in exchange for handing your contact information over to the NC Republican Senatorial Committee – will let you view information on their plan.

For those who are unwilling to fork over your email address to Senate leader Phil Berger, please allow me to summarize: The Senate claims that by the 2017-18 school year, teacher salaries in North Carolina will average $54,224, an average salary that would propel our state ranking from 41st in the nation to 24th.

Are these claims accurate? [Continue reading…]

Shooting at Pulse Nightclub4. Another massacre—and nothing changes.

There’s simply no way to make sense of the tragedy in Orlando that left 50 people dead and 53 others wounded. It just doesn’t seem possible that one human being could commit such an unspeakably horrific act against fellow human beings in cold blood for whatever twisted motive emerges from the current investigation.

It seems that way every time this happens, when a man opens fire in a movie theater in Colorado or an elementary school classroom in Connecticut or an African-American church in Charleston.

It simply doesn’t make sense.

Neither does the fact that we continue to make it easier for it happen again and again.

Nothing changes after we are horrified and we find out that the shooter was seriously mentally ill or identified with foreign terrorists or domestic hate groups or maybe was tortured himself by a lifetime of agony and abuse and self-loathing.

Sometimes the victims are targeted because they are gay. Sometimes they are targeted because they are African American. Sometimes it’s impossible to know why they were targeted. [Continue reading…]

wb-613B5. McCrory vs. Obama
Much of the current political debate in North Carolina boils down to competing views of the Governor and the President

There’s a well-known maxim used in many walks of life that “victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan.” And so it is when it comes to the economy and overall societal wellbeing in the world of policy and politics.

When things are going well, anyone with the slightest connection to political power claims credit. Meanwhile, when things are trending downward, blame usually gets shed like water off of a duck’s back.

Often, the politicians in question have very little to do with the trends for which they are claiming credit or shunning blame. Frequently, it’s just a matter of having the good fortune of being in office at the time that natural swings in the business cycle are trending upward or having the bad luck to preside over a decline that was years in the making.

Herbert Hoover had been President for just seven months when the 1929 stock market crash plunged the nation into the Great Depression. As many historians have noted, it was his do-nothing predecessor Calvin Coolidge whose policies (and lack thereof) helped precipitate the crash. Yet Coolidge escaped public blame while Hoover bore the full brunt and has long been considered one of the nation’s failed presidents. [Continue reading…]