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Jim Lind is a decorated US Air Force vet and a software development professional who’s done it all over a 39-year career: managing and developing for commercial industries, for the military, for education systems, for space systems, you name it.

He’s also been unemployed since early 2009 when the Great Recession resulted in major layoffs at his and so many other workplaces. When Jim finally found work for a contractor for Amtrak, the sequester cut that short just 10 weeks into the job.WP_20140220_005-edit-600-web

Jim was one of eight unemployed professionals who met with U.S. Rep. David Price and Wake Tech President Stephen Scott last week to explain the human toll exacted by North Carolina’s reckless changes to its unemployment insurance program, detailed by a recent Budget and Tax Center report on the issue. They also spoke about how important the programs at the community college have been for them.

“The reason I am here is to talk about who the unemployed are. Who are we really. Myths are not helpful for becoming re-employed,” he said.

Jim explained that the federal extensions of unemployment at a higher weekly rate than is available now were a life saver for him, providing the most basic assistance to eat and pay some bills.

“I had to count slices of bread, eggs in the fridge, measure things in ounces, plan when to wash my clothes in order to be able to pay the rent where I was living,” he said. Plus, even looking for work in today’s world requires expensive tools like a cell phone, an Internet connection and computer, a car. “I don’t know how cutting people off…is helpful for people finding work.” Read More

ICYMI, the lead editorial in the Charlotte Observer is a good one. It explains — much as NC Policy Watch Courts and Law reporter Sharon McCloskey did in this story yesterday — why the claims of legislative leaders of that “legislative immunity” somehow insulates them from disclosing the real reasons behind the voter suppression bill passed last session are completely bogus. After exploring the recent hubbub surrounding the bizarre comments of Senator Bill Rabon in the puppy mill controversy, the editorial puts it this way:

“The legislators say they are protected by ‘legislative immunity,’ which they claim not only shields them from ‘arrest or civil process for what they do in legislative proceedings,’ but also having to reveal the conversations they had during the crafting of that legislation.

Are they right? Read More

The board of governors for the 17-campus University of North Carolina system will decide next month if it wants to freeze in-state tuition and reject some of the tuition increases the legislature mandated for out-of-state students in this year’s budget.

Click here for a detailed overview in the News & Observer of the tuition proposal.

The UNC Board of Governors, who discussed the proposals at a meeting Thursday, will also vote on system-wide2014-15 budget recommendations (click here to see) at their meeting next month, on Feb. 21. The proposal also seeks to reverse an estimated $7.8 million in discretionary cuts called for by the legislature.

Tom Ross, the UNC system president, spoke with reporters after Friday morning’s meeting, said  continual cuts to the university system isn’t sustainable.

“What’s the breaking point when it begins to affect quality?,” Ross asked. “There are times now that we’re hearing from students that they can’t get the course they need. We have to be sure we’re protecting quality as well.”   Read More

‘Tis the season for every media outlet (include yours truly) to make end-of-the-year lists. No surprise here, but North Carolina popped up on several national lists tracking politics and policy.

Having that same journalistic drive to create an end-of-the-year list, I collected several lists floating around the Internet that involve North Carolina politics and policy. Take a look, and offer up any other lists of interest in the comments section. Read More

CambioWe as Americans know when a person is arrested and jailed in our country he or she has the right to a lawyer regardless of ability to pay.

Here’s the thing, though. People –including American citizens — who are jailed on immigration violations DO NOT have those same rights.

An immigration lawyer sure would have been helpful in the case of North Carolinian Mark Lyttle, a mentally ill native of Rowan County who was deported TWICE to Mexico in 2008. And there’s this doozy, where a man (finally determined to be a U.S. citizen by birthright) whose father is a U.S. citizen was deported at least four times based on a non-existent passage in the Mexican constitution.

Yes. As crazy as it sounds, American citizens get jailed and deported. Regularly.

According to immigration lawyer Kara Hartzler’s 2008 testimony in front of the U.S. House of Representative’s Subcommittee on Immigration, her Arizona non-profit sees between 40 and 50 cases per month of people in immigration detention who have potentially valid claims to U.S. citizenship.

“These individuals will commonly be detained for weeks, months, and even years while attempting to prove their citizenship. While some are ultimately successful, others often abandon their cases in the face of what can feel like indefinite detention,” Hartzler states.

Read More