News

Boy Scouts of America to officially accept transgender youth

The Boy Scouts of America has announced that effective immediately it will allow transgender children in its boys-only program.

Officials with the organization explained their decision this way:

“While we offer a number of programs that serve all youth, Cub Scouting and Boy Scouting are specifically designed to meet the needs of boys. For more than 100 years, the Boy Scouts of America, along with schools, youth sports and other youth organizations, have ultimately deferred to the information on an individual’s birth certificate to determine eligibility for our single-gender programs. However, that approach is no longer sufficient as communities and state laws are interpreting gender identity differently, and these laws vary widely from state to state.

Starting today, we will accept and register youth in the Cub and Boy Scout programs based on the gender identity indicated on the application.  Our organization’s local councils will help find units that can provide for the best interest of the child.

The Boy Scouts of America is committed to identifying program options that will help us truly serve the whole family, and this is an area that we will continue to thoughtfully evaluate to bring the benefits of Scouting to the greatest number of youth possible – all while remaining true to our core values, outlined in the Scout Oath and Law.”

The announcement comes as North Carolina lawmakers struggle with transgender rights and the repeal of the anti-LGBT law passed last year known as HB2.

Click below to watch Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh discuss  gender identity and program eligibility.

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News, Trump Administration

North Carolina’s Attorney General blasts Trump’s “crude ban” on refugees

Add North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein to the list of public officials speaking out against President Donald Trump’s travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries. Stein took to Facebook over the weekend to explain why Trump’s ban has the potential to make our country less safe. Here’s the Attorney General’s full statement:

“America is a nation of immigrants. Throughout our history, we have welcomed people from foreign lands who seek a better life and in the process enrich the quality of ours. While some Americans were already here and others were brought here forcibly, millions of our ancestors came to this land to enjoy liberty and pursue happiness. We are the beneficiaries of their ambition and America’s tolerance.

President Trump’s crude ban on refugees and on people from certain countries, including those who are already permanent residents or hold a green card, from entering the country is not who we are as a nation. It also puts us at greater risk.

The human consequences are terrible – an Iraqi translator who served with American troops for a decade detained at JFK airport upon entry to the United States; a Clemson professor born in Iran who has a green card on the way back home to South Carolina from visiting family abroad yanked off a plane in Dubai; an Israeli Jew born in Yemen who has a green card uncertain if he can return home to the United States; a Syrian refugee family who had been vetted and was booked on a flight tomorrow to Chicago denied entry. The list goes on.

Trump is doing immeasurable damage to our nation’s standing in the world – a source of our strength – and is putting us all in greater danger. Trump’s action signals to the world that America sees all Muslims as terrorists. In the process, he actually strengthens the hands of ISIS, making it easier for them to recruit new terrorists, and undermines the United States with our allies in the Middle East whose help we need to fight ISIS.”

More than a dozen state attorneys general have issued a statement pledging to work together to make sure that Trump’s order does not “unlawfully target anyone because of their national origin or faith.”

News, Trump Administration

Trump’s Muslim travel ban draws 1,000 protesters to RDU airport

An estimated 1,000 demonstrators spent Sunday afternoon at Raleigh Durham International airport protesting Donald Trump’s travel ban on seven predominantly Muslim countries.

Similar protests opposing the ban erupted this weekend at dozens of other airports including: Charlotte-Douglas, JFK, Philadelphia International, Indianapolis, and Denver International.

Below are just a few images from the peaceful turnout at RDU before officials ended the event due to overcrowding.

Photo by: Suijin Li Snyder

Photo by: Suijin Li Snyder

Photo by: Lisa Sorg

Photo by: Suijin Li Snyder

News

The Week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

1. Educators weigh-in on how Trump’s pro-charter, pro-voucher Education Secretary could influence North Carolina’s schools

There’s a moment, partway through school choice champion Betsy DeVos’ oft-strange confirmation hearing before the U.S. Senate, in which President Trump’s nominee for the top education post in the country suggests a federal civil rights law protecting students with disabilities is a matter best left to the states.

Questioned minutes later, DeVos confesses she may have “confused” the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), leading Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan to worry aloud that the presumed chief of the United States’ massive public education structure is “unfamiliar” with one of its most basic protections.

It’s scenes like these that seem to be most vexing to public education advocates like June Atkinson, North Carolina’s former superintendent of public instruction, as DeVos’ confirmation looms. Atkinson was recently ousted from her longtime post by a Republican challenger who, much like DeVos, comes to the top position with relatively little experience in public school policymaking.

“It was painful to watch,” says Atkinson of this month’s DeVos hearings. [Read more…]

2. Building on Saturday’s historic marches
What they mean and what they don’t for the fight against Trumpism

The global resistance to the dark and troubling new world order promised by President Donald Trump got off to a fabulous start this past Saturday. All across the planet, caring and thinking women and men took to the streets by the millions to register their opposition and to commence the process of pushing back.

Standing amidst 20,000 or so inspired souls in Raleigh’s damp and drizzly Moore Square, I was struck and moved by the passion, compassion, intelligence and remarkable creativity of the protesters. With a sound system that was clearly designed for a much smaller gathering – like just about every march on Saturday, the Raleigh event drew far more people than had been expected – it was difficult to hear everything that was emanating from the podium, where an inspiring roster of speakers attempted to address the crowd. Happily, though, the amazing array of inventive signs was enough to keep a body fully occupied and inspired. Some were outrageous and provocative, while some others were profoundly moving. One of the best simply said: “Donald Trump will lie about this.” [Read more…]

***Bonus read: North Carolina senator tells women marchers ‘if brains were lard, you couldn’t grease a small skillet’

***Bonus video: Sarah Preston of Lillian’s List on the Women’s March and the need for more women running for public office   (Our full interview with Preston airs this weekend on Policy Watch’s News & Views with Chris Fitzsimon)


3. EPA to NC DEQ: “Grave concerns” about swine industry’s intimidation of minority residents

Last October, about 20 people from North Carolina’s hog country — working-class, African-American, ordinary people — drove 300 miles to Washington, D.C., to tell their story. At two meetings, one with the EPA and another with several members of Congress and staff, these ordinary people described their very unordinary lives near industrialized hog farms.

About the stench and the flies that make it impossible to go outside on a beautiful summer evening. Their breathing problems and depressed property values. About the liquid hog manure that drifts from the spray fields and settles in their yards and on their porches.

They also told federal officials about the intimidation, the threat of physical violence they felt from some hog farmers — a consequence of the residents’ outspokenness. That the NC Department of Environmental Quality has done little, if anything to help these communities, and that at times, it had even worked at cross purposes to them.

“They couldn’t imagine what it was like,” said Devon Hall of the federal officials. Hall is executive director of REACH, (Rural Empowerment Association for Community Help) in Warsaw, in Duplin County. “You can’t, unless you live here.” [Read more…]


4. Federal judge to decide fate of Medicaid expansion litigation without court hearing

A federal judge said Thursday that she has all the documents she needs to decide a Medicaid expansion dispute between top GOP lawmakers and the state, and there will no longer be a court hearing Friday in New Bern.

U.S. District Court Judge Louise Wood Flanagan will either decide to halt litigation for 60 days so that President Donald Trump’s administration can evaluate the issues or she will decide whether or not the state can proceed with plans to expand Medicaid. She could also decide to dismiss the case.

House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger filed a lawsuit earlier this month against the state and federal Department of Health and Human Services to stop Gov. Roy Cooper from expanding Medicaid.  [Read more…]

5. Democratic lawmakers talk agenda for new NCGA session

Democratic members of the N.C. House and Senate gathered Wednesday afternoon for a press conference on the new session of the General Assembly, their priorities and working with new Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue (D-Wake) and House Minority Leader Dan Jackson (D-Wake) led the wide-ranging discussion, which focused on unmet funding needs in public education, the continuation of disaster relief efforts begun during last month’s special legislative session, the possibility of expanding Medicaid in the state and the repeal of HB2.

Still the largest controversy facing the General Assembly, various aspects of HB2 took up much of the discussion.

Both Democratic leaders said they believe the votes exist in the House and Senate for a full and unequivocal repea of HB2l – but the GOP leadership doesn’t want to let that vote occur. [Read more…]

***Bonus read: Five questions with Rep. Cecil Brockman (D-Guilford)

***Bonus video: Sen. McKissick: Restore trust, image by passing statewide non-discrimination ordinance

News, Trump Administration

Enrollment in Obamacare continues, even as Trump administration “sabotages” final sign-up efforts

Kevin Counihan, former CEO of healthcare.gov.

It’s no secret that the President Donald Trump intends to repeal the Affordable Care Act. But his administration took steps this week to accelerate its demise by halting all media ads marketing the program.

The timing is especially unfortunate as open enrollment in the health care exchange for this year will close out next week on January 31st.

While Congress is working to fully repeal and replace the ACA, contracts and subsidies that lower the premium costs are still in place this year, according to Kevin Counihan, the former CEO of healthcare.gov.

What’s more, Counihan tells CNBC enrollment was running ahead of schedule prior to January 20th.

“But the Trump Administration’s outrageous decision to sabotage open enrollment will mean coverage could cost more next year and insurers could drop out of the marketplace,” Counihan said.

Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, also criticized efforts to undermine enrollment. Pollack telling The Washington Post:

“The Trump administration’s mean-spirited decision to pull the already-paid-for enrollment ads belies the president’s promise that he wants to cover ‘everybody’ with health insurance.”

Counihan, who appeared last week on NC Policy Watch’s News & Views, says North Carolinians still have until Tuesday to sign up for 2017 coverage and receive financial assistance.

Click below to hear Chris Fitzsimon’s radio interview with Counihan, the former CEO of healthcare.gov.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, of the 11.5 million ACA marketplace enrollees nationally, 6.3 million live in Republican congressional districts with 5.2 million living in Democratic congressional districts.