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Commentary

Credit: Candescent Films

On November 23, 2012, 17-year-old Jordan Davis was shot and killed in Jacksonville, Florida, by Michael Dunn, who was subsequently charged with – and eventually convicted of – first-degree murder. The altercation began with music being played too loud in the parking lot of a gas station and ended with the death of a young black man, less than a year after Trayvon Martin died. Soon after his death, Ron Davis received a text from another grieving father, Tracy Martin, a mere five hours south from Jacksonville: “Welcome to a club none of us want to be in.”

Jordan’s story was highlighted at the Full Frame Documentary Festival this past weekend in Durham, and unfortunately, 3 ½ Minutes is as timely as ever. The film covers the circumstances of Jordan’s death and subsequent legal battle – often called the “thug music” trial, since Dunn’s fiancée testified that mere minutes before he shot 10 bullets into the car where Jordan and three of his friends were listening to music, Dunn told her, “I hate that thug music.”

The film documents the case’s long and tumultuous journey through the legal system. The first trial ended in a mistrial last February after the jury convicted Dunn, who is white, of three counts of attempted second-degree murder for firing at the other teenagers in the car but could not agree on the first-degree murder charge. The eventual retrial ended with the jury finding Dunn guilty of first-degree murder on October 1, 2014.

Every year, Full Frame offers dozens of films that reflect both the past and immediate struggles of modern life. In addition to 3 ½ Minutes, this year’s offerings included films highlighting police brutality (Peace Officer); struggles in Mexico, Russia, and North Korea (Western, Cartel Land, Kings of Nowhere, Kingdom of Shadows; The Term; Red Chapel); the environment (Containment, Overburden); autism (How to Dance in Ohio); the human cost of war and the war on terror (Of Men and War, Tell Spring Not to Come This Year, (T)ERROR)… and circus life (The Circus Dynasty).

No film felt quite as timely as 3 ½ Minutes. With new cases of unarmed black men being shot cropping up with alarming consistency, the film’s impact is even greater. Read More

NC Budget and Tax Center

State legislative leaders said tax plan changes were supposed to help most North Carolinians, while groups like the Budget & Tax Center cast skepticism at those claims, predicting that the average North Carolinians would see their share of the tax load increase as the richest in the state enjoyed tax breaks.

So what happened in your household? Did you see your state income taxes go up or down this year? How did it affect your family finances? Was the change worth the broader impact on your community and public services?

We want to hear from North Carolinians filing their taxes or preparing taxes for others. With the new Policy Watch feature Your Soapbox — The Tax Shift, we’re hoping to lift up the stories of those who have been most affected by the tax changes and what that means for their quality of life, their communities and public services. We are already hearing personal stories from people and their families who stand to be affected by the tax shift. One North Carolinian writes:

I am paying almost as much to the state in income taxes as I do to the federal government. For what? All I hear about is the state cutting services like unemployment, etc., for people like myself in the lower end of the economic scale. What I am getting for my tax dollar, exactly, except more grief?

Others are already seeing massive increases in their North Carolina income taxes. One family saw a whopping 564% increase between 2013 and 2014; instead of owing $251, this year they owe $1,415.00.

My (Stroke Victim) And my wife’s (Asthmatic) medical expenses for 2014 averaged $952.92. Medical expenses were not allowed as a deduction on the 2014 NC SIT [state income tax].

The NC Legislature also eliminated the Personal Exemption of $2,500 per person. Our income from Pensions, Social Security, and small investments increased 1.034% from 2013 to 2014. We have been significantly impacted by the 2014 SIT changes and definitely were not considered by Governor McCrory at the signing of the Bill when he stated “Everyone will benefit some from this bill.”

This is just the beginning of what will be likely be a widespread impact of the tax plan, one that will be felt by North Carolinians from across the state and from all walks of life.

Share your story using the submission form here. If you have photos, videos or other media you would like to include, please email them to Julia Hawes at julia@ncjustice.org.

Commentary

EITC_ncToday marks a little known “holiday”: Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) Awareness Day. The IRS-led national event is intended – as the title implies – to spread awareness about this modest but vital tax credit and make sure that all qualified workers receive it. The day is as much about educating people as to what exactly the EITC is as it is about directing individuals to sites where they can get free tax help to claim the credit. For those that do, often for just two or three years, it can mean the difference between struggling for another year and getting back on your feet.

In North Carolina, however, the day isn’t so simple. In fact it’s hard to find cause for celebration in the only state in the country to have eliminated the credit.

There are plenty of individuals who are fully aware of what the EITC means for their own lives as well as those of their neighbors, despite its absence in the Tar Heel state. Last year, NC Justice Center staff spoke to individuals across the state that had been directly impacted by the credit and acutely felt the loss of the EITC.

They talked about how the EITC arrived at the perfect moment in their lives: when they gave birth to a child with medical needs and struggled to pay hospital bills; when they were stuck in a low-wage job that wouldn’t allow them to save enough to pay off their debts; or when they were hoping to finally become a homeowner after relying on family and friends for shelter. These were all working North Carolinians. Their stories were familiar and at times heartbreaking. Some are still struggling, and others saw their families lifted out of poverty thanks in part to the EITC. They are the individuals who once relied on the EITC and urge policymakers to reinstate the credit – not only for themselves, but so that other families can feel the benefits.

A few basic facts on the state EITC that bear repeating: Read More

Falling Behind in NC, NC Budget and Tax Center

Lawmakers let the state Earned Income Tax Credit expire at the end of 2013, making North Carolina the first state in nearly 30 years to eliminate this proven anti-poverty tool. The state EITC helps promote shared economic prosperity for all North Carolinians. It goes only to working people with modest incomes, offering extra support to pay for basic necessities.

In a new video from the series “North Carolina: First in Flight from the EITC,” Heather Partridge talks about how the state EITC has helped her family. Heather lives with her husband and three daughters in Gibsonville, where she works at Hardee’s and earns $7.55 an hour – just barely above the state minimum wage of $7.25. In past years, the EITC has helped Heather pay for everyday goods for her children as well as pay off debt.  Read More

Uncategorized

Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Education issued new guidelines that outline the legal responsibility of schools to enroll all students, regardless of a child’s or parent’s immigration status. It’s an important step in ensuring the right of every child to a public education, and fortunately is one that will be carried out here in North Carolina as well.

On May 12, State Superintendent June Atkinson sent a letter to all North Carolina school districts, reminding them of the policies that prohibit the schools from denying or delaying enrollment for students.

The letter reads:

School districts, whether through registration, student information verification, or other data collection, may not require Social Security numbers, may not ask questions regarding or evidence of immigration status, or for any other documentation that is not required in order to register or enroll in school.

Read More