If you’ve been following the uproar and backlash over Indiana’s religious freedom law, you’ll want to read these next two articles:

First, civil rights icon Julian Bond thoughtfully explains why these ‘religious discrimination’ bills cropping up across the nation (including North Carolina) have nothing to do with religion. From Dr. Bond’s op-ed:

bondThese religious refusal proposals tell folks they can pick and choose which laws they want to follow. That individuals can sue not only businesses but teachers, firefighters, and police officers if they believe their religious rights are violated. If a police officer sues his precinct because he is required to patrol a mosque, can laws like the one in Indiana protect him? If a father sues a teacher because she disciplined his child under a community-wide antibullying policy, can legislation like that before the governor of Arkansas put that teacher in jeopardy? These bills are intentionally vague, leaving it up to an overburdened court system to decide whether an individual’s religious beliefs are more important than another person’s basic civil rights.

We oppose these bills because they seek not to preserve or protect religious believers but to demean and exclude LGBT people, religious minorities, and others who may find themselves standing on the outside looking in.

I have seen discrimination. I have stood inside businesses that would not serve me because of my race, and I have been told that the rights of those business owners were more important than mine. I countered that logic then, as I do now. We have no crisis of religious discrimination; we have a crisis of fear. I stand against these bills and with those who are fighting to stop them. I refuse to allow discrimination to cloak itself in a shroud of faith. I refuse to give into fear.

Now click over to Policy Watch’s main site and read today’s Fitzsimon File, in which Chris Fitzsimon pointedly asks in his Tuesday column: Gov. McCrory barks against discrimination–but will he bite?

fitzsimonBoth the bills currently in the General Assembly, the misnamed religious freedom act and the proposal to allow magistrates to refuse services to gay couples, are appalling attempts to give legal authority to discriminate and harken back to the Civil Rights era when segregationists fought to retain the right to discriminate against African-Americans in public accommodations.

If the proposals pass the General Assembly, McCrory will have to decide if he wants to stand with the 21st century version of the segregationists or stand up for human rights and a more enlightened state.

Simply saying he opposes the bills isn’t enough. He needs to make it clear he will veto both of them and force legislative leaders to try to override him, making them go to extraordinary lengths to allow discrimination against thousands of people in the communities they represent.

Click here to read and share Fitzsimon’s full column.


college-campusA bill that would granted in state tuition status to any student who has attended high school in North Carolina for at least three consecutive years immediately prior to graduation is earning the praise of Latino advocates.

Senate Bill 463, introduced by Sen. Fletcher Hartsell (R-Concord) last week, would make higher education  more affordable for undocumented students who have received a high school diploma or a general education diploma (GED) in our state.

“If you’ve worked hard in school, lived here for at least 3 years and graduated from a NC high school, you should qualify for in-state tuition to North Carolina community colleges, public colleges and universities,” said Marco Zárate, President of the NC Society of Hispanic Professionals. “This is about both rewarding students’ hard work and allowing them and all North Carolinians to contribute to the workforce and economic development of our state.”

Members of the Adelante Coalition says beyond benefiting the students the legislation will increases the state’s productivity and strengthen North Carolina’s future tax base.

“Especially with higher education growing increasingly less affordable, improving educational opportunities for all North Carolinians is a win for the students and a win for our state,” said Paul Cuadros of the Scholars Latino Initiative.

“This is not a special privilege afforded to any single group,” said Dr. Robert Landry, the first Latino-born principal and superintendent in NC and multicultural board member of BB&T. “All students must earn their spot at a public college or university. This way, we can all benefit from the investments we’ve made in students who are already here and have already been educated in the North Carolina school system.”

Sixteen states have passed legislation allowing certain undocumented graduates of high school to pay in-state rates for college, according to the Adelante Education Coalition.

SB 463 has been referred to the Senate Rules Committee. You can read more about the bill here.

Commentary, News

Seven years after the Great Recession began, North Carolina’s recovery has been largely been limited to urban areas of the state. A new report by the NC Budget & Tax Center finds that wages and salaries have also been remarkably flat.

For a better understanding of North Carolina’s lackluster economy, be sure to read Chris Fitzsimon’s Monday numbers column.

You can also listen to Fitzsimon’s weekend radio interview with BTC economic analyst Patrick McHugh. McHugh explains while the worst of the Great Recession may finally be behind us, the lingering damage continues to weigh down communities and families across the state.

McHugh notes that many of the good paying careers have been replaced by low-paying jobs that have hampered mobility and prompted consumers to scale back their spending.

Click below for an excerpt from Fitzsimon’s radio interview with McHugh or here for the full podcast.

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Governor Pat McCrory was all smiles in January when he announced his administration had reached a $52 million dollar deal to sell the Dorothea Dix campus to the City of Raleigh.

Now Senate Bill 705 (Ensure Fair Sale of Dorothea Dix Property) threatens to upend the governor’s real estate deal.

The bill filed by Republican Senators Louis Pate, Ralph Hise and Tommy Tucker terminates the earlier contract with Raleigh and calls for the minimum acceptable bid to be set at $52 million.

Click below to watch Gov. McCrory announce the Dix park sale earlier this year. To read Senate Bill 705, click here.
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womens-healthOn the final day for state Senators to file bills for the session, Senators Shirley Randleman, Joyce Krawiec, and Warren Daniel teamed up to introduce the Women and Children’s Protection Act of 2015.

Senate Bill 604  would impose new requirements on doctors performing abortions and stipulate that abortion clinics have in place written agreements with area-hospitals to accept the transfer of patients who are in need of emergency care.

The bill also would appropriate $500,000 from the General Fund to establish a perinatal resource care program at UNC Hospitals to serve families with complications.

NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina said SB 604 was nothing more than anti-choice politics. Here’s more from the statement the organization released Thursday afternoon:

‘Today, we ask that our legislators focus their energy on women’s health, not politics.

NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina’s top priority is to protect comprehensive reproductive healthcare access. While 7 in 10 Americans believe in protecting a woman’s fundamental rights, the majority of North Carolina counties do not have access to an abortion provider. SB 604 will only further restrict access to comprehensive reproductive healthcare.

NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina agrees that women should receive reproductive healthcare in the safest possible environment, and that doctors should be free to provide the best medical care for every patient’s individual needs. SB 604 will make it more difficult for patients to receive the quality care they deserve. On the surface these regulations may seem mundane, but in reality, their purpose is to block women’s access to abortion. We agree with previous statements made by legislative leaders that the General Assembly should not be practicing medicine.’

To read Senate Bill 604 in its entirety, click here.