NC lawmakers all but destroy a critical safety net program — and brag about it

A legislative oversight committee met yesterday at the General Assembly to discuss the state of one of North Carolina’s most critical safety net programs — its unemployment insurance system. And while conservative lawmakers driving the committee used the event as an opportunity  to crow about their supposed success in replenishing the trust fund that’s used to pay unemployed workers, the truth of the matter is that they have all but wrecked a once effective system. This is because they have gotten almost all of the money to replenish the fund by slashing benefits to jobless workers. The following is from a fact sheet prepared by the N.C. Budget and Tax Center:

“Unemployment insurance changes made in 2013 continue to play out poorly in communities across the state. Jobless workers have lost access to a system designed to provide temporary support while they seek new jobs, and communities facing significant job loss and persistently high unemployment have lost a stabilizing resource in their local economies.

A review of performance metrics collected by the U.S. Department of Labor for the Second Quarter of 2016 shows changes made to the state unemployment system in 2013 have led to a stark new reality. North Carolina’s unemployment insurance now reaches too few jobless workers for too short a time period and provides too little in payments to stabilize their spending in the economy.

Too Few     

One in 10 jobless workers in North Carolina received unemployment insurance in the Second Quarter of 2016, ranking North Carolina last in the country. Prior to changes made in the Second Quarter of 2013, North Carolina ranked 24th, with 4 out of 10 jobless workers receiving unemployment insurance.

North Carolina now has the second highest exhaustion rate in the country, with half of those receiving unemployment insurance losing benefits before they find a job.

Too Short

The average duration of unemployment insurance in North Carolina is just 10 weeks, ranking North Carolina last in the country. This short duration is, in part, a function of the state’s arbitrary sliding scale that ties the number of weeks of benefits to the state unemployment rate. Even as the state unemployment rate falls there are still more unemployed workers than prior to the recession and the majority of counties have more jobless workers than job openings.

Too Little

North Carolina ranks 46th in average weekly benefits, providing just $241 each week on average to jobless workers and a fixed maximum of $350. This is despite the fact that the average weekly wage in the state is $888. The state is therefore roughly providing just 25 cents for every $1 earned, circulating far fewer dollars than recommended by economists who typically seek a replacement rate of at least 50 percent. Prior to the 2013 changes, North Carolina ranked 25th with a wage replacement rate of 36.5 percent.”

This is a tragic state of affairs that is playing out in the form of mortgage foreclosures, bankruptcies, avoided doctor visits and hungry children throughout our state. Rather than crowing about them, lawmakers ought to be ashamed of their destructive and mean-spirited actions.

Commentary, HB2, News

McCrory confirms to Christian Broadcasting Network that talk of HB2 repeal was never genuine

In case you missed it, Gov. Pat McCrory made clear to a Christian Broadcasting Network reporter over the weekend that he had never agreed (and has no intention of agreeing) to a repeal of HB2. The governor’s statement appears to confirm the criticism of those who labeled the recent talk of a “compromise” on the controversial LGBTQ discrimination law a sham.

Here’s the transcript of the governor’s rambling and scattershot explanation of his position on possible repeal of the law:

“No, not based upon the concept of changing the definition of gender. And House Bill 2 is actually irrelevant now because the federal government has stepped in and ordered the definition of gender to be based upon expression and identity.

So, this whole focus on one bill is really a diversion and, uh, it’s probably gonna’ be re-changed after the election. It’s now a national issue and the national media has no idea and the people in the public have no idea that this issue was started by the left in the city of Charlotte, by a very liberal mayor and by the attorney general that I’m running against. And by now President Obama and Hillary Clinton is supporting this concept also. It’s a major changer in our moral fabric.”

Click here to watch the video of the Guv’s statement.

Commentary, Environment

What the LGBTQ movement can teach us about fighting climate change

Joe Romm at Think Progress has a fine post this morning that highlights what the LGBTQ equality movement can teach us about combating climate change. Here’s Romm from “End climate silence: The most important thing you can do to fight global warming”:

“People often ask me what is the most important thing they can personally do bring about climate action. The answer is both simple and hard: Talk about climate change and its solutions with everyone you know a lot more than you are doing now.

The need to have more conversations about an uncomfortable subject is, I believe, one of two crucial messaging lessons the climate movement can learn from the LGBT community. The other is to focus on the immorality of inaction.

Even though ‘two in three Americans are either moderately or very interested in global warming,’ public opinion research finds that 70 percent of Americans ‘rarely or never discuss global warming with family or friends.’

The result, according to experts on climate communications at George Mason University (GMU) and Yale University, is a ‘spiral of silence’ in which ‘even people who care about the issue, shy away from discussing it because they so infrequently hear other people talking about it?—?reinforcing the spiral.’”

And here’s his conclusion:

“The kind of climate action we now need requires that we break this spiral, much the same way the LGBT community broke theirs.

A decade ago, many progressive politicians ran away from LGBT rights, and some even credit John Kerry’s 2004 loss to the issue. More than a decade later, we’ve seen a sharp swing in public (and political) support for LGBT rights. Many factors contributed to that shift, but winning communications strategy and tactics were key.

A central tactic was to get as many people as possible to start talking about LGBT issues. I’m not saying climate change and marriage equality are exact analogies since they aren’t?—?but turning the issue around did require people to talk about an uncomfortable subject because it mattered to them personally.

So let’s end climate silence now.”

Click here to read the entire post.


Some seats still available for Wednesday luncheon with national Common Cause President

Join us October 5th as N.C. Policy Watch presents a special Crucial Conversation luncheon:

Karen Hobert Flynn, President of the national nonprofit watchdog, Common Cause:
How do we repair our broken democracy?

Click here to register

cc-flynnHas American democracy reached a crisis point? If the 2016 election campaign is any indication, this seems a fair assessment. Between the toxic combination of big, dark money, rampant gerrymandering and voter suppression, weak ethics laws and an often dysfunctional news media, the situation can sometimes seem rather bleak and, perhaps, even beyond repair.

Karen Hobert Flynn shares these concerns. As the President of Common Cause, a venerable and nonpartisan nonprofit that battles the forces of reaction and operates under the motto “holding power accountable,” she is acutely aware of the deep problems that confront the American experiment in the 21st Century. Fortunately, Flynn remains optimistic that the American people can and will overcome these enormous challenges and that, better still, the current state of affairs can provide the precise impetus necessary to spark real and lasting change.

Please join us as we hear from this important national leader at this critical moment.

Co-sponsored by Common Cause North Carolina and N.C. Voters for Clean Elections

Click here to register

About the speaker: Karen Hobert Flynn, a democracy reform activist and leader for more than three decades, including 25-plus years on staff and in state and national leadership positions with Common Cause, is the organization’s tenth president.

As Senior Vice President for Programs and Strategy, Karen has led the program and development of Common Cause from 2012-2016. During that time, she oversaw the strategy and planning for the organization and raised significant resources to support Common Cause’s national and state efforts to curb the out-sized influence of big money in politics and to protect voting rights. She launched Common Cause’s campaign to expose and stop the dangerous movement in the states for a constitutional convention that would put in jeopardy every constitutional right or protection currently available to American citizens. She oversaw a dramatic expansion of Common Cause’s digital presence, bringing in hundreds of thousands of new members and supporters.

Karen writes and speaks frequently on issues impacting our democracy, including money in politics, voting rights and ethics for elected officials. She has been quoted and had her writings published in dozens of the nations’ leading publications.

Don’t miss this very special event!

When: Wednesday October 5, at noon — Box lunches will be available at 11:45 a.m.

Where: Center for Community Leadership Training Room at the Junior League of Raleigh Building, 711 Hillsborough St. (At the corner of Hillsborough and St. Mary’s streets)

Space is limited – pre-registration required. Click here for parking info.

Cost: $10, admission includes a box lunch.

Click here to register

Questions?? Contact Rob Schofield at 919-861-2065 or


Editorials: NC must repair or repeal police body cam law

Two more editorials from major media outlets are blasting the new state law regulating access to video derived from police body cameras that’s set to go into effect on Saturday. This is from an editorial in the Winston-Salem Journal entitled “Legislature needs to repeal police cam law”:

“After last week’s shooting in Charlotte, we again urge the legislature to rescind its wrongheaded law that will prevent most police body cam- and dashboard footage from being made public. Transparency is everything in public trust.

In a press release last week, Andy Miller, the president of the N.C. Sheriff Police Alliance, defended the law, stating, ‘The new Body Camera Law … all but eliminates the typical political agendas of different politicians and narrative movement groups.’

But it should be obvious that no political agendas or opinions were eliminated because these recordings were kept out of the public eye. Instead, the withholding made the situation worse….

Law-enforcement officers perform a difficult and sometimes dangerous task that’s necessary for society to function smoothly. For the most part, officers operate with courage and integrity, which video footage can verify.

In a relative few cases, a bad apple misbehaves. Video footage can verify that, also. But not if it’s buried.

It’s not too late for the legislature to repeal this wrongheaded law.”

Click here to read the entire editorial.

And this is from a Broadcasting editorial entitled “Outcry over Charlotte police shooting shows NC’s police body cam law needs revision”:

“But now, days before House Bill 972, “Law Enforcement Recordings/No Public Record” becomes effective, significant weaknesses and concerns are all too obvious in this bill passed in a rush. Read more