Commentary

Conservative hypocrisy front and center again on issue of state employees and job tenure

This morning’s big story in Raleigh’s News & Observer concerns the actions of Pat McCrory to make hundreds of political appointees into career state employees right before he left office.

This is from reporter Colin Campbell’s story, “Before leaving office, McCrory protected 908 state jobs from political firings”:

  • After McCrory took office in 2013 as the first Republican governor in decades, the legislature raised the number of positions the governor had the power to exempt to 1,500.
  • McCrory didn’t use all of those slots. At the beginning of last November, he had classified 1,212 jobs as exempt from the protections.
  • As part of a series of moves in December to reduce Cooper’s appointment powers, the Republican-dominated legislature lowered the maximum to 425 positions.
  • By the end of December, McCrory had changed 908 jobs to give them Personnel Act protections. Of those, 105 positions were vacant and 803 had employees who gained the protections. McCrory’s administration had hired 124 of the affected employees, while 679 had been working in state government before McCrory took office in 2013, according to the Office of State Human Resources.

On of the greatest ironies in this development, of course, is that conservatives have long crusaded against protected career status for workers (i.e. the right to be fired only for “good cause”) — be they educators seeking “tenure” or private sector employees combating the doctrine of “employment at will.” Here’s the Pope-Civitas Institute commenting on a so-called education reform bill passed by the General Assembly a few years’ back:

“While this legislation was important, the most significant provision to improve teacher quality was approval of legislation to eliminate teacher career status”

Funny isn’t it, how those same groups are now utterly silent about the actions of a conservative governor to provide similar protections to hundreds of favored state employees — at least one of whom was, according to the N&O, you guessed it, a former Civitas employee.

Commentary

Editorials: So-called repeal of HB2 doesn’t get the job done

The editorial pages of two major newspapers added their names this morning to the long and growing list of critics of the so-called repeal legislation for HB2 that was introduced in the state House this week.

Here’s the Charlotte Observer

“Opinions are flying about [the proposal] but here are the facts:

  • It provides no protections for LGBT citizens.
  • It bans cities from passing “bathroom” provisions of any kind.
  • It allows cities to pass LGBT protections (minus bathrooms), with 30 days notice, but such ordinances would then be put to a public vote if opponents round up enough signatures.
  • It expands protected classes for employment and housing discrimination, but that expansion does not include LGBT citizens.

In summary, if this bill becomes law, LGBT discrimination will be legal. People who look like men would be required to use the women’s room. And LGBT minority rights will be at the mercy of a majority vote. Basic human rights should not be up for a vote.

That’s why we doubt it would bring back the NCAA, the ACC, the NBA and others who are crossing the state off their lists. Those organizations have said they don’t want to do business in a state that sanctions LGBT discrimination. North Carolina still would.”

And here’s the Fayetteville Observer:

“It’s heartening to see a bipartisan group of state representatives sponsor a bill to repeal the state’s “bathroom bill,” HB2. Unfortunately, bipartisanship is the best thing it has going for it….

The measure would give the state regulatory authority over bathrooms with multiple toilets and locker rooms. It would expand a statewide nondiscrimination law, but still exclude protection for sexual orientation or identity.

And while the measure would allow cities to pass anti-discrimination ordinances that cover LGBT people, they would be required to hold a referendum if opponents gathered enough signatures. Submitting civil rights to a popular vote is not a wise precedent. Nobody should have to face discrimination because of who or what they are, and it’s regrettable that this state won’t stand up for that principle.

We hope members of both parties continue to seek ways to repeal this destructive law, but we’re beginning to believe that in the end, federal courts will settle it.”

“A bipartisan group of lawmakers has put forth a modification of HB2, House Bill 186. Though the measure would repeal HB2, it would still make it too difficult for local governments to install anti-discrimination ordinances and would not include sexual orientation and gender identity in a statewide nondiscrimination law. This law may be better than HB2, but is far from an outright repeal, which is what is needed.”
Commentary

Second chance advocate: Why Christians should oppose mass incarceration

One of the few areas in which progressives and conservatives have managed to find some areas of common ground in the world of public policy in recent years revolves around the issue of reducing massing incarceration and promoting second chances for the formerly incarcerated. The growing momentum in North Carolina for raising the age at which young criminal defendants are automatically tried as adults, “banning the box” on job applications, and providing meaningful opportunities to expunge old criminal records are but three encouraging examples of this hopeful trend.

As part of this effort, the North Carolina Justice Center (parent organization of NC Policy Watch) helps lead an effort called the NC Second Chance Alliance. The following brief essay was written by an advocate who works with an affiliate of the Alliance known as the Christian Community Development Association.

Mobilizing Christians to resist mass incarceration

By Shawn Casselberry

Mass incarceration is a troubling trend that is inconsistent with Christian belief and practice, yet many Christians do not see ending this phenomenon as an urgent discipleship issue. Even among churches that are active around the prison system, a bifurcation exists between prison ministry and prison advocacy that makes mobilizing churches to resist mass incarceration much more difficult.

Part of the problem is, our ideological and political leanings shape the way Christians view prisoners and approach prison reform, creating unique blind spots for conservative and liberal Christians. According to a survey by Lifeway Research, only 46% of pastors see “the rapid growth of the inmate population in recent decades as unjust.” In Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America, Michael Emerson and Christian Smith argue that white evangelicals struggle to see racial structures of inequality or systems of injustice. This systemic blind spot leads many Christians with a heart for justice to focus on personal forms of prison ministry, sometimes to the exclusion of prison advocacy.

While liberals tend to emphasize systemic change, they have blind spots of their own.

Read more

Commentary

Making discrimination permanent: Why the latest HB2 proposal is no compromise

As Melissa Boughton reported last night in the post immediately below, a group of House lawmakers proposed legislation yesterday that purports to “repeal” HB2. Here’s why the proposal is ridiculous and deserves the widespread derision it has thus far received:

#1 – It doesn’t actually repeal the old law’s most infamous prohibition – Instead of repealing HB2’s prohibition of local ordinances that would guarantee fair and equal treatment to transgender North Carolinians when it comes to the use of public facilities, it makes the prohibition permanent. That’s right: the supposed “repeal” is even weaker sauce than the “moratorium” compromise floated by conservatives during last December’s special session that would have prevented local ordinances for several months. The new proposal, HB 186 specifically states that:

“The regulation of access to multiple occupancy bathrooms, to showers, and to changing facilities is a matter of general, statewide concern and the entire field of regulation of such access is preempted from regulation except as provided by an act of the General Assembly.”

As a reminder, hundreds of cities across America have guaranteed access to public restrooms based on gender identity for years without any problems. By permanently preventing such a solution in any North Carolina cities, the main thing HB 186 would do is to keep our state mired in the same absurd and embarrassing position it’s been for the past 11 months.

#2 – It offers no protection from discrimination to LGBTQ North Carolinians – The new proposal does absolutely nothing to prevent discrimination against LGBTQ North Carolinians under state law. The only smidgen of a grudging concession contained in the proposal is a section that would allow cities to adopt general nondiscrimination ordinances (that must, of course, have nothing to do with bathrooms). But then the sponsors add a whole new and unprecedented procedure on top of that to allow opponents of such plans to demand local referenda anytime cities try to do the right thing. Great, just what our state needs: dozens of local political campaigns to test whether LGBTQ people should have basic human rights. Can you imagine if we were required to hold public votes on proposals to ban discrimination based on race? It’s a wonder the sponsors didn’t include an appropriation to the haters in Franklin Graham’s operation or the misnamed North Carolina Values Coalition to organize those local challenges.

The bottom line: The new proposal does absolutely nothing meaningful to move North Carolina into the 21st Century on this issue. The sponsors may have been working on it for a long time and sincerely believe that it is a genuine “compromise,” but there’s a much simpler and better solution that has yet to be tried: let the members of the General Assembly have a simple “up or down” vote on a straight repeal of HB2.

Let’s see how lawmakers vote when they are given such an opportunity and then we can determine whether there’s a need for some kind of “compromise.” That Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore will not allow such a vote speaks volumes about what they fear will happen if HB2 is really put to a public test.

Commentary

Another byproduct of the Medicaid Blockade: Catastrophic medical bills, massive debt for families

There are a lot of terrible problems that North Carolinians have been forced to endure as a result of the Medicaid Blockade that state legislators continue to enforce. Here’s another especially awful one: Every year, an average of 14,776 North Carolina families experience financial distress as the result of catastrophic medical bills. This is the case even though 67 percent of families lacking health coverage have either a full-time or part-time worker in the family.

Happily, in spite of the Blockade, the Affordable Care Act has helped millions of people. Prior to passage of the ACA, 41 percent of adults between ages 19 and 64 years reported having trouble paying medical bills and/or accumulated medical debt. As the ACA has increased Americans’ ability to access more affordable health coverage, however, the number of people reporting difficulty paying their bills fell by 13 million people in the past five years. Unfortunately, the Blockade has prevented these benefits from flowing to hundreds of thousands of other people who need them.

Not surprisingly, there is a strong association between medical debt and lack of health care coverage. And, of course, thanks to the Medicaid Blockade, there are 500,000 North Carolinians in the coverage gap and thus at risk of facing catastrophic medical bills. What’s more, many of these insurmountable medical bills result from one-time events. Take, for example, Jacqueline and Darian. Five years ago, Darian experienced a workplace injury that has left him unable to return to the labor force. Even though Jacqueline still works, she does not have employer-sponsored health insurance. Unfortunately, both are in the coverage gap.

Darian’s workplace injury resulted in a medical bill of close to $20,000. That is a lot of money for most families and completely beyond the means of low-income working families. Luckily, Darian was among a relatively small group of people who are able to obtain charity care. But, while Jacqueline and Darian appreciate the charity care they received, they understand that their fiscal, physical, and emotional health are still at risk in the event of another accident, unforeseen injury or health emergency. What’s more, both also recognize that they are not alone in their financial fragility; they understand that medical debt and its many related impacts are a huge community-wide plague.

The bottom line: People like Jacqueline and Darian understand only too well that even hard working North Carolinians can lose their ability to work and contribute financially to their communities if they lack access to health care and remain uninsured. And thanks to the Medicaid Blockade, this is a huge problem that’s not going away any time soon.