News

womens-healthOn the final day for state Senators to file bills for the session, Senators Shirley Randleman, Joyce Krawiec, and Warren Daniel teamed up to introduce the Women and Children’s Protection Act of 2015.

Senate Bill 604  would impose new requirements on doctors performing abortions and stipulate that abortion clinics have in place written agreements with area-hospitals to accept the transfer of patients who are in need of emergency care.

The bill also would appropriate $500,000 from the General Fund to establish a perinatal resource care program at UNC Hospitals to serve families with complications.

NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina said SB 604 was nothing more than anti-choice politics. Here’s more from the statement the organization released Thursday afternoon:

‘Today, we ask that our legislators focus their energy on women’s health, not politics.

NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina’s top priority is to protect comprehensive reproductive healthcare access. While 7 in 10 Americans believe in protecting a woman’s fundamental rights, the majority of North Carolina counties do not have access to an abortion provider. SB 604 will only further restrict access to comprehensive reproductive healthcare.

NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina agrees that women should receive reproductive healthcare in the safest possible environment, and that doctors should be free to provide the best medical care for every patient’s individual needs. SB 604 will make it more difficult for patients to receive the quality care they deserve. On the surface these regulations may seem mundane, but in reality, their purpose is to block women’s access to abortion. We agree with previous statements made by legislative leaders that the General Assembly should not be practicing medicine.’

To read Senate Bill 604 in its entirety, click here.

Commentary

Please join us for a very special Crucial Conversation luncheon in Raleigh on Tuesday, April 7:

Can this coastline be saved? Offshore drilling and what it will likely mean for North Carolina’s beaches and wetlands
Click here to register

Recently, the U.S. Department of the Interior released a draft five-year plan that would make the Mid- and South Atlantic coasts available to oil and gas leasing starting in 2017. This represents a significant shift in federal policy, as there have never been any producing oil or gas wells drilled off the ecologically rich coastlines of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. Offshore drilling could threaten the economic livelihood of the coastal communities that rely on healthy waters and clean beaches to support local tourism and fishing industries. It could also damage barrier islands and marsh ecosystems, as well as sensitive wetlands that provide drinking water and hurricane protection to nearby communities.

NCPW-CC-2015-04-07-sierra_weaver

Join us as we explore this controversial “sea change” with one of the state’s leading experts on the topic, Southern Environmental Law Center attorney Sierra Weaver. Attendees will have a chance to get fully up to speed on the rush to drill and learn what will come next after the initial March 30 comment period and how to stay engaged in the issue.

Don’t miss the chance to learn more about this important issue at this critical juncture.

Note: If you’d like to comment by the March 30 deadline, go to http://regulations.gov, type “Docket ID: Boem-2014-0085? into the “search” tab and click on the “Comment Now!” button. You can also click here to check out information from the NC Coastal Federation Facebook page.

When: Tuesday, April 7, 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)

Click here for parking info.

Space is limited – preregistration required.

Cost: $10, admission includes a box lunch.

Click here to register

Questions?? Contact Rob Schofield at 919-861-2065 or rob@ncpolicywatch.com

NC Budget and Tax Center

For Throwback Thursday, the Senate is relishing in old school ideas.

Case in point, a bill was filed today to further cut income taxes for profitable corporations and continue to reduce the flat income tax rate that benefited the wealthiest taxpayers the first time around. It is an eerily similar approach as the legislation passed in 2013, which is now hurting our state and economy.

Income tax cuts like the one proposed in today’s throwback are not the answer to the state’s economic challenges. Just ask Senator Brown who is working to secure additional sales tax revenue for rural counties that have been hit hard by the 2013 tax changes which ultimately reduced state investments in public schools and economic development. Take a look at the academic research which finds no consensus on tax cuts benefiting the economy through job creation or increased incomes. Or consider the experiences of states’ like Kansas where income tax cuts have not delivered a boost in jobs or wages but have resulted in cuts to core services.

The continued pursuit of income tax cuts will not boost North Carolina’s economy, it only serves to further reduce revenue that pays for services that people rely on each day, like our schools.  Preliminary estimates suggest the cost of this bill would be $1 billion, on top of the nearly $1 billion price tag of the tax changes passed in 2013.

One major beneficiary of these tax cuts will be profitable corporations.  Read More

Commentary

Payday loans.jpgThe federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is unveiling some long-awaited proposed rules targeting the predatory payday lending industry at a big hearing in Richmond, Virginia today and you can follow along on Twitter at the hashtag #StoptheDebtTrap. Generally, the proposed rules amount to a promising start. There are, however a few worrisome potential loopholes. The good people at the Center for Responsible Lending explain:

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to Limit Payday Loan Debt Trap; Curb 400% Interest Rate Loans

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will offer a first look at where the agency’s efforts to rein in the abusive practices of payday and car title lenders are headed at a Thursday hearing in Richmond, VA. The consumer agency will release information outlining their deliberations and take testimony from a panel of consumer and civil rights advocates as well as industry representatives.

Mike Calhoun, President of the Center for Responsible Lending, will present testimony at the hearing.

Calhoun comments on the proposal:

“The proposal endorses the principle that payday lenders be expected to do what responsible mortgage and other lenders already do: check a borrower’s ability to repay the loan on the terms it is given. This is a significant step that is long overdue and a profound change from current practice. If made mandatory, the ability to repay standard will help millions of borrowers avoid dangerously high-cost payday and other abusive loans. The requirement would prevent debt traps, an all-too common practice where a lender flips loans over and over and the consumer ends up paying double the amount borrowed in interest and fees. And the Bureau appropriately applies the standard to both shorter and longer term loans, including vehicle title loans.

At the same time, we are deeply concerned about provisions in the proposal, the so-called “debt trap protection options,” which would in fact permit payday lenders to continue making both short- and longer-term loans without determining the borrower’s ability to repay. The industry has proven itself adept at exploiting loopholes in earlier attempts to rein in the debt trap. The consumer agency can look to necessary revisions to the Military Lending Act after widespread abuses were found, dragging active service members into debt so damaging that a Defense Department report found it undermined military readiness.

These “options” are an invitation to evasion. If adopted in the final rule, they will undermine the ability to repay standard and strong state laws, which give consumers the best hope for the development of a market that offers access to fair and affordable credit.

We urge the consumer bureau to adopt its strong ability to repay standard without making it optional.”

Let’s hope the regulators are listening.

News

Guilford County Schools chief Maurice “Mo” Green is asking the county for an additional $26 million in local funds to help fill the gaps that schools are facing thanks to years of disinvestment in public education by state lawmakers.

The News & Record reports that school leaders say they’re persistently seeing increased needs and mandates but dwindling funds.

“We’re just not doing what we know is educationally sound for children,” Guilford schools superintendent Green said Tuesday.

The $26 million would go toward mitigating some of the following scenarios Guilford schools are dealing with, according to the N&R:

  • Enrollment has increased by more than 1,200 students since 2008-09 but there are 185 fewer full-time teacher positions, district figures show.
  • The fiscal 2015 budget included almost $18 million in reductions and included a dip into the school system’s fund balance.
  • The amount of local funds allocated per student has steadily dropped over seven years from $2,416 to $2,340.
  • The school system hopes to avoid increasing class sizes once again and have enough funds to provide students and teachers with the resources they need, like textbooks.

Governor McCrory’s latest budget proposal would translate to a $4.4 million loss for Guilford County schools that would sap funds for teacher assistants and driver’s education, among other line items. Read More