Commentary, News

Health numbers1. Senate pushes to eliminate health retirement benefits for North Carolina’s teachers and state retirees

Buried deep in the Senate budget proposal that lawmakers passed last week is a provision that would eliminate state-paid health retirement benefits for teachers and state employees who are hired after January 1, 2016.

“This puts the state at a major disadvantage in the recruitment and retention of state employees, teachers, and university faculty compared to other states,” said Chuck Stone, director of operations for the State Employees Association of NC (SEANC), of the Senate’s push to jettison the health retirement benefit.

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Berger-Moore-McCrory2. The missing sense of urgency in Raleigh

It promises to be a long hot summer in the Legislative Building in Raleigh as House and Senate leaders try to come up with a final budget agreement for the next two years with hundreds of millions of dollars and dozens of policy issues in dispute between the two chambers’ spending plans.

A report prepared by staff members that lists the differences between the House and Senate budget runs 372 pages long and does not include many of the major policy sticking points like Medicaid reform and changing the way local sales tax revenues are distributed.

Nobody seems eager to start tackling the daunting process. Speaker Tim Moore says the House is prepared to stay in Raleigh and Senate leaders vow not to adjourn until Medicaid reform is finished.

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Fair-housing3. Senate budget also took aim at anti-discrimination law

North Carolina might scale back its efforts to fight unlawful discrimination, if a Senate budget provision to repeal the state’s fair housing act is adopted as law.
The provision, which would repeal the State Fair Housing Act and shut down the state office that investigates discrimination complaints, was buried deep in the 500-plus budget (pages 390-391) that was made public and quickly passed the chamber last week.

The elimination of the state anti-discrimination measures got no attention during debates when the budget passed the Republican-controlled Senate last Thursday.

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Voter ID4. Lesson learned on Voter ID

Last week’s abrupt turnabout in the General Assembly on Voter ID surprised lawmakers on both sides of the aisle as well as attorneys in the lawsuits set for trial this summer.

The changes, which include provisions allowing voters lacking photo ID to cast a provisional ballot once they’ve signed a sworn statement indicating that they had a “reasonable impediment” to getting such an ID, surfaced at the last minute as part of a joint House and Senate compromise to House Bill 836.

The House, while supporting the changes as improvements on an otherwise bad law, decried the lack of process and wondered aloud what happened to bring about such a quick reversal.

“Why now,” asked Rep. Mickey Michaux. “This could have been done two years ago.”

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Gun tragedy5. Hints of hope amongst the carnage: Average North Carolinians are pushing back against the gun fundamentalists…and winning

It’s hard to feel very optimistic about much of anything in the aftermath of last week’s horrific tragedy/terrorist act in South Carolina. The idea that a hate-filled sociopath could and would enter a sanctuary of peace and then execute nine innocent, welcoming people with whom he had been purporting to engage in Bible study minutes before is so shocking and disturbing that it almost renders rational responses impossible….

And yet, unspeakably horrific as the murders were, there are growing signs that maybe, just maybe, the cumulative impact of this nation’s ever-lengthening list of mass murders and racist hate crimes is finally starting to move public opinion and policy in a positive direction.

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GunsOne of the best op-eds of the weekend came, as usual, from Ned Barnett of Raleigh’s News & Observer who shined a light on some courageous folks who’ve been working to stop the General Assembly’s latest nonsensical push to further the spread of easy guns into every nook and cranny.

In “Code orange in North Carolina for moms v. guns,” Barnett highlights the work of local activists with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America who are slowly, step by step, beginning to turn the state’s gun debate around.

The group’s top objective this year: to stop House Bill 562, the proposal to repeal the state’s successful pistol permitting system and to further loosen the state’s already minimal gun control laws. Happily, as we noted here last Friday, the group seems to be making some headway. Whereas the General Assembly has acted as a rubber stamp for the gun lobby in recent years, this time the votes are very close.

Let’s hope the group succeed this week with its efforts to halt or further water down the gun proposal. It’s currently on the House calendar for tonight. Whatever happens though, the best news is this: the activists moms highlighted Barnett say they’re just getting started:

“Members of the moms group know there’s no repealing the Second Amendment. But they think there’s room to make a difference in the margins. One step is to lobby for laws promoting the safe storage of guns. Four children have already been accidentally shot in North Carolina this year. Another is to protect laws already on the books, such as the sheriffs’ review of pistol permit requests. .

Sarah Green, 36, of Winston-Salem, is a mother of three and the volunteer leader of the North Carolina chapter of the moms group. She said the national organization has responded to the inability to get gun control laws through Congress by focusing on the states. Her hope is that Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America can attain the same level of influence achieved by Moms Against Drunk Driving. Green’s group recently posted an interactive map of unintentional shootings involving a person 17 or under.

‘We don’t feel like it’s a futile effort, but we realize this is a marathon, not a sprint,’ Green says. ‘We’re committed. We’re parents. The gun lobby fears losing their guns. We fear losing our children.’”


GunsIt appears that the North Carolina House will continue its return to the hard right policies of the Thom Tillis days this morning when the House Rules Committee, after numerous false starts, takes up the dangerous proposal to further eviscerate state gun safety laws. This is from the good people at North Carolinians Against Gun Violence:

“The Rules Committee will consider one of the most dangerous and controversial pieces of gun legislation in our state on Wednesday at 9am in 1228/1327 LB.

HB 562 eliminates North Carolina’s successful pistol permitting system, which provides background checks for the approximately 40 percent of gun sales that happen through private sellers.

Polls show 87 percent of North Carolinians support the current system, which keeps guns out of the hands of felons, domestic abusers, and others. When they got rid of background checks on unlicensed sellers in Missouri, they saw their handgun homicide rate increase by 25%.

Other controversial provisions include:

  • limiting doctors’ ability to ask about guns in the home and prohibiting them from sharing information about gun possession with law enforcement;
  • instituting arduous requirements for those posting gun-free signs;
  • and allowing people who have been convicted of stalking to get a concealed carry permit after three years.”

For more information and/or to get involved in speaking up on this measure, visit:


Rep. Jacqueline Schaffer

Rep. Jacqueline Schaffer

The folks running the North Carolina General Assembly may decide to buck public opinion yet again in the coming weeks and force through Rep. Jacqueline Schaffer’s legislation to put killing machines in the hands of more dangerous people, but one gets the sense that the momentum to stop such proposals and preserve some of the state’s remaining modest and common sense gun regulations is growing.

Schaffer’s bill is now drawing national attention as is evidenced by the fine op-ed in this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer by Prof. Daniel Webster of Johns Hopkins University entitled “Making it easier for criminal to get guns in NC.” Here’s Webster:

“Research indicates that the proposed changes would lead to more violent crime in North Carolina. A study of legal handgun purchasers in California during the period just before the state barred violent misdemeanants from possessing handguns found that violent misdemeanants were roughly 10 times more likely to be arrested for committing a violent crime after purchasing a handgun than were truly law-abiding purchasers. When California changed its law to prohibit persons convicted of violent misdemeanors from having firearms, the newly prohibited group was much less likely to commit violent crime than individuals with similar criminal histories who legally acquired handguns prior to the change in the law.

If you want to know what happens when a state repeals a law requiring background checks for all handguns sales, you can look to the state of Missouri. Read More


5-11-15-NCPW-cartoon1[This post has been updated.] As explained in the post immediately below, the House Rules Committee was scheduled to take up a bill this morning to further liberalize North Carolina gun laws. Late last night, however, the meeting was, thankfully, cancelled. Greensboro News & Record columnist Susan Ladd explains this morning why the bill “is not designed to ‘protect’ or ‘affirm’ citizens’ Second Amendment rights. It is designed to keep expanding those rights beyond the realm of reason.”

Here is Ladd’s handy summary of what the bill would do in its present form:

• If you’re a business owner and don’t like the idea of your customers packing heat, tough beans. Your only option is to place a large sign in a prominent location notifying customers that weapons are prohibited. But like the right of parlay in “Pirates of the Caribbean, this is more like a guideline than a rule, because violating the notice would no longer be a misdemeanor but simply an infraction.

• Schools would be unable to forbid students and teachers from having guns in their locked vehicles on school grounds. I’m sure that long walk to the car and the laborious process of unlocking it would be sufficient to keep a person bent on violence from using a gun on fellow students or teachers.

• Doctors would be forbidden Read More