The state Senate is one step away from passing legislation that would require women in North Carolina to wait 72 hours before getting an abortion. The bill entitled the ‘Women and Children’s Protection Act of 2015‘ would also require any abortion provider have board  certification in obstetrics or gynecology.

House Bill 465 won tentative approval on Thursday with the Republican-controlled chamber turning back three amendments by Democrats, including one that would exempt domestic violence victims from the 72 hour waiting period.

Durham County Senator Floyd McKissick chastised Republicans pushing the restrictive bill:

“I guess if this body could overturn Roe v. Wade that they would. But they are unable to do so, so the next thing to do is to put one hurdle after another, after another.”

Supporters of the bill say the intent is to give young, pregnant women more time to consider all their options.

A final vote comes Monday after which the latest version of HB 465 returns to the House where a conference committee will work out the differences.

To read the latest version of the bill click here. To hear Sen. McKissick speak on the bill, click below:

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AARP is formally urging Governor McCrory to use his veto stamp on House Bill 405, noting the so-called “Ag Gag” legislation prevents abuses from being reported in healthcare facilities and nursing homes.

Here’s more from the group’s press release:

AARPAARP is calling on Governor McCrory to veto House Bill 405 – The Property Protection Act also known as the Ag-Gag Bill.  Originally intended to address the concerns of the agriculture and poultry industries, House Bill 405 now casts too wide of a net and applies to any business’s employees who may seek to reveal illegal and unethical practices.  House Bill 405 will create new risks for workers, older adults, families and children because it extends to all industries including nursing homes, hospitals, group homes, medical practices, charter and private schools, daycare centers, and so forth.

Although the General Assembly and the Governor took a step in the right direction with “Burt’s Bill” earlier this week, H.B. 405 will undo that progress and prevent employees from calling foul when they spot unethical, inhumane or illegal  behaviors.  Abuse and neglect towards North Carolina’s most vulnerable populations may continue and go underreported if House Bill 405 becomes law.  Protections for businesses should not jeopardize the health, safety and security of North Carolina’s citizens and most vulnerable populations.  AARP believes that administrative and legislative policies and procedures should promote fairness, openness, and accountability.

Instead of addressing and correcting abusive practices, the large scope of HB 405 undermines whistleblower protections. Under this bill, businesses owners and managers could hide practices which could be harmful to their clients, their families and the public at large by punishing employees who blow the whistle on illegal or unethical practices while also subjecting individuals who reveal these acts to significant financial penalties.

“The public relies on our state leaders to pass legislation that protects our families.  But what happens if employees are afraid or intimidated to report the abuse and unethical practices?” asked Charmaine Fuller Cooper, AARP’s advocacy leader in Raleigh.  House Bill 405 sets up an atmosphere where the rights of North Carolina consumers, workers and residents fall behind the interests of business. AARP is ready to work with the state’s legislative leaders to strengthen, not undermine, patient and consumer protections, especially for our most vulnerable populations.”
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The NC House voted 65-45 Wednesday to allow magistrates to opt out of performing wedding ceremonies for same-sex couples if they have a ‘sincerely held religious belief’ opposing such unions.

Opponents of Senate Bill 2 argued the measure gives magistrates a license to discriminate, and allows employees paid by North Carolina taxpayers to decide which job duties they wish to fulfill.

Rockingham County Rep. Bert Jones broadened the debate telling the chamber that allowing same-sex marriages to take place was going against God’s will.

“I believe in my heart that as we move further and further away from God and from his word, that we can expect to see his blessings disappear,” reasoned Jones.

Surry County Rep. Sarah Stevens suggested that this would not pose a hardship in the state’s smaller counties as anyone could go online and get a license to perform weddings, leaving magistrates out of the equation.

Rep. Susan Fisher of Buncombe County warned her colleagues SB2 sent the wrong message to many of the large corporations the state was trying to recruit:

“This bill says that some people’s rights matter and other people’s rights don’t matter.”

In the end, the bill passed its second reading, with third and final approval slated for Thursday before heading to the governor’s desk.

Governor Pat McCrory has voiced reservations about SB2, but has declined to say whether he intends to veto the bill.

To read the bill in its entirety, click here. To hear a portion of Wednesday’s spirited debate, click below.
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1. Senate to OK SEPA Reform bill
The NC Senate is expected to give final approval today to the SEPA Reform bill. The Sierra Club notes that House Bill 795 would essentially repeal North Carolina’s State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) “by creating so many exceptions that there would likely be no projects that would be subject to the law.”

Environmental Defense Fund’s senior analyst David Kelly recently discussed with NC Policy Watch how HB 795 would significantly limit the number of projects that require environmental review under state law:

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The Senate convenes at 2:00 p.m.

2. Public forums on the selection of the next UNC-system president
The University of North Carolina’s Board of Governors will be hosting four public forums around the state in connection with its ongoing search for a new system president. The 32-member board opted back in January to dismiss Tom Ross, the system leader since 2011.

This week’s regional input sessions will be held in:

  • Asheville: 7 p.m. on May 26, at the Sherrill Center (Room 417) at UNC-Asheville’s campus.
  • Greenville: 7 p.m. on May 27, East Carolina Heart Institute (Room 1415) in Greenville.
  • Durham: 7 p.m. on May 28, Mary Townes Science Complex (Room 1111) on N.C. Central University’s campus.

Want to attend? Find more information on the forums here.

3. Magistrates Recusal bill re-emerges
marriage amendmentWednesday at 12:30 p.m. the House Judiciary I committee takes up the controversial Magistrates Recusal bill. The legislation allows magistrates to opt out of performing same-sex marriage for six months if they have a “sincerely held religious objection.”

Supporters of Senate Bill 2 maintain the measure simply preserves First Amendment religious freedom. Opponents argue the legislation is discriminatory and sets a precedent allowing any county employee to decline to perform job duties he or she finds to be objectionable. The committee debates the bill at 12:30 p.m. in Room 415 of the Legislative Office Building.

4. State Unemployment Rate to be released – North Carolina’s unemployment rate for April will be released this Wednesday. In March the statewide rate stood at 5.4%.

5. The NC Teacher Pipeline Crisis – A Community Conversation
On Wednesday, MeckEd and the Public School Forum of North Carolina will host a thoughtful conversation in Charlotte about the teacher shortage facing our state and strategies to address it.

This event will feature a panel discussion followed by a town-hall style Q&A. Confirmed panelists include Ann Clark, Superintendent, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS); Dr. Chance Lewis, UNC-Charlotte School of Education; Bill Anderson, Executive Director, MeckEd; and Keith Poston, President & Executive Director, Public School Forum of North Carolina. The panel will also include a CMS classroom teacher. The public and media are invited to attend.

The event runs from 8:00am to 9:30am at Piedmont Natural Gas, Auditorium B, 4720 Piedmont Row Drive, Charlotte, NC.

6. Raleigh Moral Monday on Wednesday: Healthcare & Environmental JusticMoral Mondays 2e
The NC NAACP and the Forward Together movement hold the 3rd Moral Monday on Wednesday in Raleigh, uplifting the unjust refusal of Medicaid expansion, coal ash being dumped in our communities, unregulated pollution from industrial meat production in poor and minority communities, fracking, and the attacks on women’s health.

The event gets underway at 5:00 p.m. at Bicentennial Mall, across the street from the NC General Assembly. You can find more information here.

Commentary, News

1. House education budget boosts teacher pay and school vouchers, falls short on classroom needs

House lawmakers unveiled a draft biennial budget Monday that includes pay raises for all teachers and a patchwork of funding initiatives aimed at improving leadership and instruction — but what’s not in the budget is what some say will prove to be the biggest challenge ahead for North Carolina’s classrooms.

“The proposed House budget does not go far enough to ensure every child will receive a quality education in North Carolina,” said North Carolina Association of Educators’ president Rodney Ellis in a statement released Monday afternoon. “If we are serious about every child’s future, we must provide students with modern textbooks and technology, more one-one-one attention, and a quality educator in every classroom.” [Continue reading…]

2. Seven (of many) reasons the House budget falls short

Every state budget is a mixed bag of decisions that make sense and decisions that don’t, vital programs that receive needed funding and vital programs that are underfunded or even ignored.

Many budgets, including the version before the House this week, unfortunately also make policy changes that have never been considered before on the House or Senate floor or even debated in a committee.

Some of them are good ideas and some aren’t but most of them have no business in the budget where members can only vote yes or no. They deserve separate hearings and debates and votes. [Continue reading…]

3. Koch-onomics: On the march in NC
The Right’s shameless, myth-based attacks on renewable energy

There are, of course, dozens of ways in which the current political powers-that-be in North Carolina are trying to roll back the hands of time in the world of government and public policy. From voting rights to reproductive freedom, public education to tax policy, gun violence to the social safety net, the war on modernity and progress is being waged on numerous fronts.

If there were an award for the “most outrageous and destructive, greed-based attack of 2015” however, it would be tough to top the ongoing effort of conservative legislators and their supporters in the right-wing, Koch Brothers-supported “think tanks” to scuttle North Carolina’s fast-growing solar energy industry.  [Continue reading…]

4. For voting rights, a blockbuster summer ahead

Just as the U.S. Supreme Court wraps up its term with decisions in several high-profile cases expected in late June, state and federal courts here will be gearing up for what promises to be a long hot summer for voting rights – with more to follow.

Several constitutional challenges to the sweeping voting law changes enacted in 2013 head to trial starting in July and the state Supreme Court rehears the redistricting case in August.[Continue reading…]

5. Controversial online college on its way to North Carolina?

A controversial online university that credits students for their existing skills and knowledge could soon have a larger role in North Carolina, with a funding stream carved out in the state House’s version of the budget.

The Utah-based Western Governors University, which tends to compete with for-profit colleges like the University of Phoenix and Strayer University, is a non-profit that was founded in 1995 by a bipartisan group of governors from the western part of the country. [Continue reading…]