McCrory budgetThe word on the street is that Gov. Pat McCrory will put an exclamation point on a dreadful year of state lawmaking today by signing the controversial bill advanced in the waning days of the 2015 session that targets immigrants and recipients of food assistance. The Governor has announced that he will conduct a bill signing ceremony at 2:30 at the Guilford County Sheriff’s office and the expectation is that he will sign House Bill 318.

This is from the October 2 edition of the Fitzsimon File:

“And while he has the veto stamp out, he should also use on it House Bill 318 that passed in the legislative session’s waning days that would punish undocumented immigrants in the state and make it harder for thousands of families to afford enough to eat.

A letter from N.C. Justice Center Executive Director Rick Glazier asking McCrory to veto the bill points out that it takes authority away from how local communities interact with immigrants and gives local law enforcement agencies less flexibility.  McCrory, as a long time mayor, ought to understand that.

And as Glazier wrote to the governor, the bill was passed with disturbing anti-immigrant rhetoric in the debate on the House floor, where bill supporters described North Carolina being ‘overrun by illegal immigrants.’

The bill also punishes low-income families by banning the state from continuing to apply for waivers from the federal government that allow people in economic distressed parts of the state to receive food stamp benefits.

The bill would result in 100,000 people being denied food assistance next year, regardless of the economic conditions in their communities.”

Sadly, however, it appears common sense explanations like this and the pleas of thousands who have protested the bill have gone for naught. Unless the Governor is somehow overtaken by a last minute wave of human decency and compassion, North Carolina will add two more areas to the list in which it is home to some of the nation’s worst and most heartless state laws. All in all, it’s an apt way to close the legislative year.


Tara RomanoYesterday, Tara Romano, President of NC Women United and a regular contributor to NC Policy Watch, spoke at a rally protesting House Bill 318 — the legislation wrongfully targeting immigrants and food assistance recipients that currently sits on Gov. McCrory’s desk awaiting review.

She was kind enough to share a copy of  her remarks, which we present below:

“Buenos tardes. Me llamo Tara Romano, and I am president of North Carolina Women United. As an organization that advocates for the full equality of all women across the state, we stand with the many groups represented here in calling for Governor McCrory to veto HB318. Deceptively titled ‘The Protect North Carolina Workers Act,’ we see this bill as only protecting those who already have power, and are vested in upholding the current racist, sexist status quo.

How are we protecting North Carolina workers when we are denying people jobs and the ability to provide for themselves and their families based on their immigration status? This bill attempts to reinforce the racist lie that black and brown people are making it hard for white citizens to find jobs; when the real reason many North Carolinians can’t find jobs is because of the failed economic policies of our state leadership. Immoral and greedy employers who have taken advantage of undocumented workers desperate to care for their families aren’t interested in creating good jobs for residents of North Carolina, or for anyone; they are only interested in increasing their profits however they can, including by continuing to exploit workers who are further and further pushed to the margins of society by policies like HB318.

How are we protecting North Carolina workers and their families when we are decreasing their ability to be safe in their homes and communities? By creating additional barriers between the immigrant community and their local governments, service providers and law enforcement, we are pushing entire groups of people and families further into the shadows, leaving them vulnerable to corrupt and criminal elements that will take advantage of this second-class status to exploit and harm them.

In particular, we are concerned that the epidemic of sexual and domestic violence Read More


The Protect North Carolina Workers Act is one of the remaining piece of legislation on the governor’s desk, following the nine month session. And before deciding whether the bill should become law, Susan Ladd says Governor McCrory should consider the confusion this bill will create at the county level.

While HB 318 would impact food stamp recipients,the Greensboro News & Record columnist explains this bill would also negatively affect immigrants:


Consular IDs would be banned under HB 318

Case in point: House Bill 318, which among other things, banned consular cards and IDs created by communities or nonprofits, such as the FaithAction IDs, as acceptable forms of identification.

Guilford County Register of Deeds Jeff Thigpen and other registers of deed across the state are scrambling to figure out whether they are bound by the language of this bill and how they will deal with Hispanic residents seeking marriage licenses and birth certificates for their children if Gov. Pat McCrory signs it into law. The vast majority of Hispanics use — you guessed it — consular IDs to apply for both these vital documents.

“It would have a significant impact on Hispanics,” Thigpen said. “Even some Hispanics who are citizens use the consular card. The question is, to what extent are we going to deny an applicant who has an unapproved ID, who otherwise has the right to marry?”

His office conducts an average of 20 marriages each day, and Hispanics using consular cards account for several of those.

“So much time and energy was put into making consular cards a good standard of identification,” Thigpen said. “There’s been a lot of work to make sure those cards are secure and solid. If we can’t use that, what does that mean? Do we then accept your power bill? If we can’t use that, are we relying on a less-secure form of identification?”

There is no explicit guidance in existing statutes about what kind of identification the register of deeds office can accept, but most offices use a common set of guidelines. House Bill 318, however, covers “any government official,” which likely would include employees of the register of deeds.

For Thigpen, it’s another headache from a legislature that is focused more on its next election slogan — “I’m tough on immigration” — than the practical effects this bill might have.

“It was not well thought out, and there was no discussion with our folks,” Thigpen said. “We didn’t know it was coming, and haven’t had time to discuss the implications of it.”

Read More


SNAPvote[UPDATE: This bill passed its “second reading” today and is scheduled for a final vote in the Senate next Monday.] Another “you can’t make this stuff up” bill has emerged in the final days of the 2015 state legislative session. Under an amendment tacked on to a bill originally designed to target the employment of undocumented immigrants, SNAP benefits (i.e. Food Stamps) would be made significantly harder to obtain for childless adults in struggling parts of North Carolina.

Here’s the deal:

SNAP benefits are limited under federal law to three months out of every three years for childless, non-disabled adults unless they are working at least half time, participating in a qualified job training program for 20 hours a week, or in workfare. This time limit applies regardless of whether these individuals are actually able to find employment or training opportunities.

This can obviously work a great hardship. In North Carolina, for example, 83 counties actually have more jobless workers than job openings.

Thankfully, federal allows states to suspend the time limit in areas with high unemployment. As a result, every state except Delaware has waived the time limit for at least part of their state at some point. During the recent recession, many states qualified for state-wide waivers from the time limit. Most states will have to reimpose the time limit for at least part of their state in 2016. North Carolina has already applied for a waiver for 77 of the state’s 100 counties — i.e. the ones with high unemployment rates.

Absurdly, however, under the new provision (click here and scroll to page 6) the Department of Health and Human Services would be barred from applying for a waiver, effectively reimposing the time limit even though parts of the state qualify for a waiver due to high unemployment. This unnecessarily restricts food assistance for poor childless adults in areas where the economy has not yet fully recovered.

This bill would further prevent the state from ever requesting a waiver, removing an important state response to future economic downturns.

The bottom line: If the bill becomes law, a large number of hurting North Carolinians in some of the state’s least healthy communities will lose yet another small lifeline that allows them to survive. On the day Pope Francis is receiving global accolades for calling on Americans to help the poor, North Carolina lawmakers are, once more, doing the exact opposite.

Adjournment of the 2015 session cannot come soon enough.

NCGA food drive

House Speaker Tim Moore – Photo:

As Chris Fitzsimon aptly noted last Thanksgiving, there are few things more maddening in the world of state politics than the spectacle of lawmakers piously calling for donations to help the poor even as they enact and defend new policies to do precisely the opposite.

Yet, here we are again today, watching as state legislative leaders “team up” with the state’s Retail Merchants Association to hold a “food drive” at the General Assembly just months after having concluded a legislative session that slashed unemployment insurance, eliminated the state Earned Income Tax Credit for working families, cut child care subsidies to thousands and denied affordable heath insurance to hundreds of thousands.

As Chris wrote last November:

“You’ve probably seen the request from a politician, asking you to donate generously to your local rescue mission, food pantry, emergency shelter or medical clinic. And you should. They do incredible work to help children and families who are struggling to survive.

But there’s a disconnect somehow in the holiday message and the rhetoric we hear from many political leaders and right-wing pundits the rest of the time. Low-income families and unemployed workers don’t fare so well in their press releases and talking points then.

Instead they are portrayed as lazy, people who are living off the government, who aren’t looking hard enough to find a job.

They are ‘takers’ we are told, the 47 percent that Mitt Romney so famously derided in the 2012 presidential campaign.

They need to help themselves, pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Those are the clichés and the stereotypes we hear about the poor and the unemployed in Raleigh and Washington, that helping people who are struggling only breeds dependence and makes them less likely to do what they need to do to lift themselves out of poverty.

And it goes beyond legitimate questions about the effectiveness of specific anti-poverty programs. It’s somehow become acceptable in the current political debate to blame people for their struggles, to question their character.”

The hard and plain truth: Even under the best of circumstances, private charitable efforts like food drives will always remain a small part of the solution to the problems of hunger and poverty in our state. Meanwhile, state political leaders continue to blame people in need and undermine the public structures that actually have the capacity to make a large and permanent difference.