11 Things The North Carolina Legislature Gave Us This Session

North Carolinians rejoice. The NCGA is done until May 15, 2014. However, the consequences of what they’ve caused since January will be felt for years to come. This is just a sampling of what we can thank them for.

1. The start of Moral Mondays.

The Moral Mondays protests started this past spring to show outrage over various issues. From unemployment to abortion to Voting ID. Over 900 people were arrested during the 12 weeks of peaceful demonstration at the state legislative building.

The movement received national attention and helped to get a national conversation going about what was happening in North Carolina.

While a wonderful act of solidarity, it is sad such weekly protests had to happen to begin with.

2. Harsh abortion restrictions hidden in a motorcycle bill.

Originally the abortion bill, which could potentially close all but one clinic in the state, was put into an Anti-Sharia Law bill during a committee meeting with no public notice. After initial outrage, it was instead added into a bill about motorcycle safety (again without public notice).

While Gov. Pat McCrory promised he would veto any new abortion restrictions while on the campaign trail, he has made it clear he would sign this one into law, breaking his campaign promise.

3. The most restrictive Voter ID laws in the country.

One of the last things the legislature decided to ram through before they adjourned was a draconian Voter ID bill, which would make it extremely difficult for many people in the state to vote.

Included in this bill are requirements for government issued IDs, which do not include school or city government IDs, cutting early voting by a week, banning the pre-registering of 16 and 17-year-olds, ending straight party ticket voting, and same day voter registration just to name a handful of the new restrictions.

This bill is so blatantly obvious as a way to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of North Carolina voters that the Department of Justice will likely file suit against the state.

4. The decimation of public education as North Carolinians know it.

The North Carolina budget has a lot of problems with it, but no group is hit harder than the education community.

In addition to cutting over 9,000 education positions statewide (including over 5,000 teachers) the budget provides no pay increases to teachers. The state, which had ranked 25th in teacher pay in 2008, now ranks 45th and will likely rank dead last without raises. The budget also eliminates the popular (and effective) Teaching Fellows Program, which has been named the “most ambitious teacher recruiting program in the nation.”

If all of this weren’t bad enough, the budget does not allocate any additional pay increases for those who go on and further their education through getting advanced degrees (unless those degrees are a requirement of their job). So a high school teacher who comes out of pocket to get their Masters would not be compensated for it in their salary.

5. The assumption that all those on government assistance are drug addicts.

North Carolina followed several other states and passed a bill requiring drug testing those who receive welfare.

Not only is this insulting, as the rate of drug use among those on government assistance has been found to be at the same rates (or sometimes even lower) than then general population, but it is costly. In Florida, which has a similar law, actually lost money from having to test people. Even if a handful of people were found to be on drugs, it would have been cheaper to continue to pay them benefits than to do the drug testing they did.

In addition these bills hurt children. The majority of people who benefit from programs like welfare and SNAP are children, whose parents are the ones getting the benefits. Programs such as these could see the benefits stripped from parents who now can’t put food on the table for their children, or could cause those who have used tested substances to not even bother to apply.

6. The expansion of where you can carry your concealed weapon.

The legislature passed a measure making it legal for those with concealed permits to carry their guns into bars, playgrounds, and funerals, and to allow them to be locked in their cars on educational campuses.

In addition there will be no limit on the number of permits a person is allowed to have and city and county governments will not be permitted to pass laws restricting where those with concealed carry permits can carry their weapons. You’ll also be able to hunt with a silencer, just in case you thought you were giving your game too much of a chance.

7. The repeal of the Racial Justice Act.

The NCGA repealed the Racial Justice Act, a historic piece of legislation that allowed those on death row to appeal their sentence based on racial discrimination during their trial. The law was the first of its kind in the country and was hailed as a victory for civil rights. With its passage it also put a moratorium on executions in the state.

The Racial Justice Act was passed after a study at Michigan State University found striking patterns of racial discrimination throughout all aspects of capital cases, from charging to sentencing and jury selection.

8. The end of federal unemployment benefits.

In a bold move, and the first of its kind in the country, North Carolina rejected federal unemployment benefits affecting nearly 200,000 of the state’s long term unemployed.

With this new state law benefits for the unemployed run out after 20 weeks and changes the maximum amount of money a person can get from $535 to $350 a huge cut to a state that is struggling with unemployment.

9. A ban on Sharia Law.

This probably would have slipped more under the radar had legislators not originally tacked the abortion restrictions on to it.

Many agree this law is unnecessary, as there are already federal laws banning foreign law if it infringes upon state or U.S. constitutional rights.

There is also vague wording, which could make it harder for some religions to go through divorce proceedings like those in the orthodox Jewish community.

With North Carolina early on trying to establish a state religion, it is easy to see what they’re trying to do with this one.

10. Salary hikes to those in Gov. McCrory’s cabinet.

Teachers in North Carolina won’t see raises for the next two years, but Gov. McCrory decided to give members of his cabinet (which includes a number of prominent campaign donors) a hefty pay increase.

Increases range from 5 to 11 percent, which is far more than anything afforded to state employees in recent years.

When asked about these hikes, McCrory said, “I’m trying to make it at least where they can afford to live while running multibillion-dollar departments,”

11. Turning the state into a national laughing stock.

From The New York Times to The Washington Post to Rachel Maddow and The Atlantic the national media have shined an ugly spotlight on what the state government of North Carolina is doing.

The state, once a beacon of progress in the south, has been turned upside down into a complete and utter embarrassment and has given credence to the stereotypes that have plagued it for years.

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