News

318protestersToday the six demonstrators who were arrested in late October for blocking traffic outside the Governor’s Mansion protesting HB 318 will hold a press conference outside of the Wake County Justice Center after appearing in court.

Why do they adamantly oppose HB 318, the Protect North Carolina Workers Act?

As the Alto HB 318 Coalition explains:

HB 318 limits the types of ID cards immigrants can use to identify with government officials, and prevents localities from passing policies which seek to limit the collaboration between local law enforcement and Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE).  The use of E-Verify systems to check an employee’s legal status has also been expanded further. The law has led to statewide protests, citing the harmful effect it will have on the immigrant and low-income communities of North Carolina.

Carmen Rodriguez, an undocumented mother who is among the protesters who will be appearing in court, explained her opposition to HB 318 in an op-ed this week on the Daily Kos website:

Essentially, the North Carolina General Assembly is giving in to the recent wave of anti-immigrant rhetoric by taking away the right to identify myself.

As of last month, the use of consular documents from embassies, as well as Municipal ID’s, was banned as a valid form of identification when interacting with certain government officials.  The use of E-Verify systems to check an employee’s legal status has also been implemented even further, which will only drive immigrants further underground, making them more vulnerable to worker abuses and wage theft.

Thankfully, a last minute change to the bill made it so law enforcement officers can still accept our Municipal ID’s, thanks in part to police departments in cities like Greensboro and Burlington who spoke out against the bill.

Still, it has been made clear that we are currently being targeted along with our state’s low-income community, and that the end goal is to criminalize us out of our desire for freedom and safety.

My life as a working mother is hard enough when our state refuses to provide people like myself with drivers’ licenses.  Being at risk of constant ticketing or worse whenever I get behind the wheel leaves me anxious to perform even the most basic tasks, such as buying groceries or picking up my children from school.

Hearing such hateful words against the Latino community from state officials like Republican Rep. George Cleveland, who recently said that my community has no right to a “sense of belonging here,” only pushes me further in my fight for social change.  Despite our work ethic and willingness to accept jobs that no one else will, we are undervalued and disrespected by our state government, and I’m tired of not being given the opportunity to take part in the simplest of activities, like volunteering at my children’s school because I am denied a state ID.

Thursday’s noon-time presser (at 300 S. Salisbury Steet.) with Rodriguez and other demonstrators will immediately follow their court appearance, and will feature allies speaking on why they risked arrest in protesting the recently signed House Bill 318.

Commentary

If you missed it over the weekend, PNC Bank Regional President Jim Hansen penned an excellent op-ed highlighting the importance of investing in early learning. Hansen writes in the Raleigh News & Observer about a recent poll that finds voters of all parties believe early childhood education should be a top national priority:

North Carolina has high-quality early-learning programs that produce good results. Duke University researchers found that N.C. third-graders had higher reading and math scores and lower special education placements in counties that spent more money on Smart Start and NC PreK. Unfortunately, far too few children benefit. Only 21 percent of our 4-year-olds are enrolled in NC PreK.

By 2020, 67 percent of jobs in North Carolina will require some post-secondary education. Yet the majority of our fourth-graders are not proficient in a key predictor of future academic success: reading. Raleigh groups such as Wake Up and Read are working on this issue, but there is an urgent need for community consensus and action.

N.C. employers say they have trouble finding people with the right skills. Six out of 10 N.C. employers reported communications skills gaps among job applicants, and close to half reported deficiencies in critical thinking and problem-solving abilities.

The most effective way to address these challenges is throughout a child’s early life, when 85 percent of brain development occurs. As Nobel Laureate Professor James J. Heckman says, “Human capital begins at birth. The foundation for school, career and life success is largely determined through the development of cognitive and character skills beginning in children’s earliest years.”

It makes sense. Children’s earliest experiences determine how their brains are wired. Brain development is not predetermined. It occurs in the context of relationships, experiences and environments. Harvard University pediatrician Jack Shonkoff puts it this way, “Brains are built, not born.”

We need to know what our community, corporate and political leaders are doing to support quality early education. With the stakes so high and with such clear results from the poll, it’s important for each of us to do all we can to support the education of our youngest citizens.

Read Hansen’s full op-ed here.

For more on the lasting benefits of high-quality pre-k programs, listen to NC Policy Watch’s recent interview with Tracy Zimmerman, executive director of the NC Early Childhood Foundation. Click below to hear an excerpt of Zimmerman’s radio interview with Chris Fitzsimon. The entire podcast can be accessed here.

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News

State Secretary of Public Safety Frank Perry told members of the Joint Legislative Commission on Governmental Operations Wednesday that he was repeatedly reminded of the political donations made by a McCrory supporter, but said he did nothing to show favoritism to Graeme Keith Sr.

Sec. Perry told legislators that the $3 million private prison contract awarded last year to Keith was an effort to find savings in the budget, not a “quid pro quo” arrangement based on past campaign contributions.

Asked to explain the governor’s role at an earlier meeting with Keith in Charlotte, Perry said McCrory served to mediate “as he should do in bringing jobs, and more private sector jobs. I saw it completely proper and good of him.”

Still Sec. Perry made it clear his own staff did not feel the extension of the private maintenance contract would save the state much money, or improve safety at the correctional institutions.

As for his own actions, Perry, a former FBI agent, told the commission he did not feel a duty to report Keith’s comments seeking payback or favoritism for his political contributions:

“I know where the line is. I’ve worked those cases.”

The FBI continues to interview state officials about the contract. Perry declined to comment further about their investigation.

Click below to watch a portion of Sec. Perry’s exchange with House Minority Leader Larry Hall.

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News

Governor Pat McCrory is among more than a dozen governors urging the Obama administration to cease the resettlement of Syrian refugees to the United States.

Cecillia Wang, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said:

“Some politicians have attempted to fabricate a link between the tragedy in Paris and the resettlement of Syrian refugees to the United States. Making policy based on this fear mongering is wrong for two reasons. It is factually wrong for blaming refugees for the very terror they are fleeing, and it is legally wrong because it violates our laws and the values on which our country was founded.”

Click below to hear McCrory’s comments regarding the refugees during a Monday press conference in Charlotte.

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News

#1 Charter Schools – The North Carolina Charter Schools Advisory Board is meeting in Raleigh this afternoon and again on Tuesday.

Members have scheduled a policy discussion on charter school funding and evaluating charter school educators. Learn more here.

#2 Living Wage – Wake County Commissioners will discuss amending the County’s Wake CommissionersPersonnel Ordinance to  provide  for  a  minimum  living-wage  standard  for  regular  employees effective December 1, 2015. If approved the  minimum-salary  for  regular  employees would be established at $13.50 an hour, which would yield an annual salary of $28,080.

Why is a living -wage so important? Well, just to afford the fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment, the typical worker in North Carolina would need to earn $14.68 per hour.

To date, eight local governments across North Carolina have already adopted living-wage ordinances.

Wake County Commissioners meet at 2:00 p.m. on the 2nd floor of the Wake Co. Justice Center to discuss and vote on the living-wage ordinance.

#3 Fracking – Lee County Commissioners could decide as early as this evening whether to okay a two-year moratorium on fracking.

Chatham, Stokes an Anson Counties have already taken steps to ban fracking in their regions.

Read Lee County’s proposed resolution here.

#4 Race-based policing – A recent front page article in the New York Times once again shined a bright light on a troublesome and longstanding problem in North Carolina – discriminatory policing that targets people of color for unfair treatment.
Black-lives-matter
On Tuesday, NC Policy Watch will presents a very special Crucial Conversation luncheon on race-based policing.

Join us as we hear from Professor Frank Baumgartner of UNC Chapel Hill, Orange and Chatham County Public Defender James Williams and Fayetteville Police Chief Harold Medlock.

Want to attend? We have a few seat remaining.

#5 Prison contracts, open meetings, and health care mergers –  Wednesday brings the highly anticipated meeting of the Joint Legislative Commission on Governmental Operations, where members will hear from Department of Public Safety Sec. Frank Perry and state Budget Director Lee ff-1103Roberts about the private prison contract extended for Governor McCrory’s political donor Graeme Keith, Sr.

Keith reportedly said at a meeting called by McCrory that he expected something in return for his campaign contributions.

Reports in the News & Observer and Charlotte Observer show that Roberts worked hard to make sure Keith kept his prison contract, over the objections of Sec. Perry.

Also on Wednesday’s agenda, members will hear from:
•    Members of the the UNC Board of Governor on Compliance with Open Meetings Law.
•    DHHS Sec. Rick Brajer on the merger process for Managed Care Organizations (LME/MCO)

A complete agenda can be found here.

Want to go?  Wednesday’s Gov. Ops. meeting gets underway at 10:30 a.m. in Room 643 of the Legislative Office Building.

#6 Race relations on college campuses – Finally, on the heels of recent student protests in Missouri and New Haven, UNC-Chapel Hill will host a town hall meeting on campus Thursday to engage with students, faculty and staff on the issues that continue to hamper the ability of the campus to be inclusive, inspiring and safe. The event runs from from 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. Find more information here.