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1. So much for the charade of moderation in the General Assembly  

When the state House passed its budget last week, Rep. Chuck McGrady noted its bipartisan support in a tweet that captured what the House leadership wanted people to think was happening in the General Assembly.

“Sounds like the Speaker is leading from the middle,” McGrady wrote, extolling the allegedly moderate leadership of House Speaker Tim Moore. Folks can disagree about the virtues and flaws in the House budget—which falls well short of making the investments the state needs—but it is indeed less radical than budgets passed by either chamber of the legislature in recent years.

All signs of moderation vanished this week. [Continue reading…]

2. Mixed messages for whistleblowers?
“Ag Gag” proposal, “Burt’s Law” push in opposite directions

Editor’s note: Governor Pat McCrory issued a veto for HB 405 (the so-called Ag-Gag bill) on Friday urging lawmakers to add protections for employees who report illegal activities to authorities.

Governor McCrory signed a bill yesterday that is designed to spur action from would-be whistleblowers who work in the group home and nursing home industries. The new statute, which has been dubbed “Burt’s Law” in recognition of a developmentally disabled man who was sexually abused by a manager in a Catawba County group home, would make it a crime for employees or volunteers in such facilities not to report such information. [Continue Reading…]

3. Latest batch of prospective charter schools moves forward with concerns
State Board of Education meets next week to grant final approval

Back in 2013, when members of a state board tasked with reviewing charter school applications only greenlighted a handful of schools out of many hopefuls to open in the following year, they found themselves in the middle of a political firestorm.

“The plan was to have [charter] operators come into the state like they did in Louisiana and other states and quickly affect the public school choice landscape for the better and in quantity,” said Charter School Advisory Board member Alan Hawkes in an email to fellow CSAB board members in late 2013. [Continue Reading….]

4. Next up in the House: Another lawsuit waiting to happen
North Carolina poised to become the nation’s first state with a law allowing public officials to refuse to marry same-sex couples on religious objection grounds

Editor’s note: Governor Pat McCrory issued a veto for SB 2 on Thursday, May 28th. The Legislature may attempt to override his veto.

The bill allowing magistrates to refuse to perform otherwise lawful marriages based upon religious objections moves on in the House today after passing the Senate in February, set for a hearing in Judiciary Committee I just after noon.

Senate Bill 2 — a product of the dust-up over federal court rulings allowing same-sex marriages to proceed in North Carolina – would give refuge to magistrates who refuse to comply with those rulings under color of their professed faith.

Though lawmakers couched their text in broad and vague terms, their intent in pushing the bill was clear: Stop gay marriages. [Continue Reading….]

****Bonus video: Watch House members debate SB2:

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5. Head of North Carolina’s charter school office leaving, taking job with controversial virtual charter school

The head of North Carolina’s office overseeing charter schools is leaving for a job with a controversial virtual charter school opening up this year.

Joel Medley, who had headed the N.C. Department of Public Instruction since 2011, is leaving his state job to become the head of school for the N.C Virtual Academy. The school is a new online charter school opening this summer that will be run by the Wall Street-traded for-profit education company K12, Inc. (NYSE:LRN).

“I have accepted a position at the NC Virtual Academy in June and will serve as the head of school — returning back to my roots as a school administrator,” Medley wrote Thursday in an email to N.C Policy Watch. “It has been an honor to serve here in the Department and I look forward to this new opportunity.” [Continue Reading.…]

Commentary

McCrory budgetIt’s been great to see Gov. McCrory veto two major pieces of legislation in as many days. His rejection of the absurd bill to re-institute marriage discrimination and the overly-broad proposal to limit free speech by employees who witness objectionable things in their workplaces (aka the “Ag Gag” bill)  constitutes a welcome departure from his normal posture vis a vis the General Assembly — i.e. serving mostly as a doormat.

That said, there are two obvious next steps for the Governor if he wants this little episode to amount to anything more than just a brief and quickly forgotten hiccup in the Raleigh policy battles.

First, he needs to veto the dangerous anti-abortion bill that lawmakers will send to him next week. The Guv promised during his 2012 campaign that he would approve no more restrictions on a woman’s right to obtain an abortion and there is simply no way to spin House Bill 465 as anything other than just that.

Second, he needs to take the next step and figure out a way to use the hint of a backbone he’s recently discovered as means of becoming the kind of leader who can effectively negotiate with the General Assembly before it ever gets to the point at which  he has to use the veto. The Guv is (or, at least, ought to be) the most visible and powerful Republican in North Carolina. That he has been so utterly inept in driving or even managing the agenda of a legislature controlled by members of his own party might just be unprecedented in recent state history. Until not that long ago, Gov. Jim Hunt exercised enormous control over a General Assembly of his party without the power to veto.

The bottom line: Two and a half years into his term, Pat McCrory has begun to learn how to crawl as Governor. If he wants to stand, walk upright and lead, he needs to do a lot more.

Commentary

Durham physicians David Grimes and Amy Bryant authored an excellent op-ed for this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer that aptly describes the new abortion waiting period bill recently adopted by the state House. This is from the essay;

“These delays translate into increased risk and expense. No medical justification exists for these waiting periods, and paradoxically they can cause harm: While abortion is an extremely safe procedure, it is safest when done as early as possible in the pregnancy. Thus, HB465 could have the unintended consequence of causing abortion complications.”

The doctors offered these real life examples from their practices:

“One of our patients was a young mother of two whose abusive boyfriend hit her multiple times in the abdomen while pregnant. She made the courageous decision to leave that relationship, get a restraining order and have an abortion. Having to wait three days after contacting the clinic could have put her life in jeopardy if her partner had discovered her plans. Another patient had a desired pregnancy but learned that her fetus had no kidneys. It would not survive if born. The diagnosis was not made until she was at the upper gestational-age limit for abortion. Having to wait another three days would have meant that she would need to travel out of state, at great expense, to have her procedure.”

They concluded this way:

“HB465 is bad medicine. The World Health Organization advises, “Once the decision is made by the woman, abortion should be provided as soon as is possible to do so.” Thus, HB465 directly contradicts the medical advice of the World Health Organization.

Groucho Marx once commented that, ‘Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.’ His critique certainly applies to HB465. Medical care should be directed by licensed physicians and other health professionals, not by part-time politicians unaware of the realities of medical practice. North Carolinians deserve better.”

Read the entire op-ed by clicking here.

Commentary

(This post has been updated) The House Health Committee just passed a new anti-abortion bill this morning. The revised House Bill 465, which was unveiled just minutes before the meeting this morning (the current version isn’t even available online yet), includes a 72 hour waiting period for women seeking this particular health procedure. Only two other states have such an an onerous requirement. Pro-choice advocates at NARAL Pro-Choice NC, who were completely denied an opportunity even to be heard this morning during the 45 minute meeting, issued the following statement:

NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina Statement: H.B. 465 in NO Way Helps Women

NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina opposes House Bill 465 because it will not help women. The bill’s 72-hour abortion waiting period regulation is medically unnecessary. We are disappointed that at today’s House Health Committee meeting, only one pro-choice speaker was allowed to be heard. We brought a number of physicians and medical professionals prepared to speak to the problems with this bill and their information was never allowed to reach House Committee members.

H.B. 465 would make it harder for women, who have made a choice about their own body, by making them wait 72 hours, instead of the current 24 hour period, between asking for an abortion and being legally permitted to get one. Mandatory delay laws such as these would endanger women’s health and create additional burdens for North Carolina women, especially women in rural areas who often have to travel for many hours to reach a health-care provider, and for women who do not have the resources to take extra time off work or to pay for child-care. According to a study conducted in Texas, on average women travel 42 miles to visit their nearest clinic (although some women had to travel up to 400 miles) and incur an average of $146 in costs to the additional waiting period. These restrictions have a disproportional impact on low-income women, women of color, immigrant women, and young women. Women who want to get abortions but are denied are three times more likely to fall into poverty than those who can get an abortion, according to recent studies.

The study also showed that waiting periods do not do anything to sway women’s decisions about terminating a pregnancy, but are simply emotional manipulation tactics to shame women and make them feel guilty about making decisions about their own bodies. One third of the participants in the study said the waiting period negatively affected their well-being. Read More

Commentary

Women’s advocates at NARAL Pro-Choice NC, N.C. Women United, NC NOW and Progress NC will be delivering petitions to Senator Thom Tillis’ office in Raleigh this afternoon. This is from the new release (which also includes a link to new and encouraging polling numbers — see after the page break):

Thousands Demand Senators Tillis and Burr Protect Sex Trafficking Survivors Now, NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina and Local Leaders to Deliver Petitions

Sen. Tillis’ Office in Raleigh, NC to be Inundated with Petitions on Wednesday at 2:00PM

On Wednesday April 8, NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina, in partnership with NARAL Pro-Choice America, Progress NC Action, NC NOW (National Organization for Women), and NC Women United, will deliver thousands of petitions to the district office of Senator Tillis telling him to stop playing politics and pass a clean Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act for the health and safety of exploited women and children.

NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue had this to say:

“Instead of pushing for the immediate care that survivors of sex trafficking need, Senators Tillis and Burr are treating them like political pawns by stalling this important bill to advance their anti-choice agenda. Given that thousands of American women and children are coerced into performing commercial sex acts for the financial gain of criminals every year, the with banning abortion regardless of individual circumstances is incredibly dangerous. We will accept nothing less than unfettered access to a full range of reproductive health care services for trafficking survivors from our representatives in Congress.”

WHAT: Petition delivery calling for a clean Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act.
WHO: NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina and local leaders
WHEN: April 8, 2:00PM
WHERE: 310 New Bern Avenue Raleigh, NC 27601

NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina Executive Director, Shoshannah Sayers had this to say: Read More