Looking Back and Ahead as the 2015 North Carolina General Assembly Long Session Begins

Written by: Isabella Higgins, NCWU intern

Last week marked the beginning of the North Carolina General Assembly’s long session. In preparation for the 2015 long session, it is important to review legislation and budgeting passed over the last two years. Unfortunately, numerous bills and an inadequate budget were passed in 2013 and 2014 that are in conflict with NCWU’s four main focuses: Access to Healthcare, Civic Participation and Equality, Violence Against Women, and Economic Self-Sufficiency. As such, the latest rounds of policymaking have been to the detriment, rather than the benefit, of women living and working in North Carolina.

Listed below is a review of 10 pieces of legislation passed during the 2013 and 2014 General Assembly sessions that are in conflict with all that NCWU strives to achieve—many of these points are featured in our latest Legislative Report Card.

Access to Health Care

Failure to Expand Medicaid:

Upon implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the federal government gave each state the opportunity to take federal funding in order to expand Medicaid. Unfortunately, the NCGA and the Governor decided that expanding Medicaid was a bad move for North Carolina, despite research indicating otherwise. Expanding Medicaid in the state of North Carolina would lead to new jobs and a healthier population. Although Medicaid has not yet been expanded, McCrory has recently discussed the possibility of seeking a waiver from the federal government and implementing a modified version of Medicaid expansion.

Regulations Set to Limit Abortion Access:

The 2013 NCGA is infamous for its harsh attack on reproductive rights and pass of the “Motorcycle Vagina” law. Numerous Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers, or TRAP, laws, which put numerous restrictions on abortion providers and essentially aim to shut down abortion clinics, were implemented. Rather than helping to fund pro-choice clinics that provide numerous reproductive health services, the NCGA decided to funnel state tax dollars to anti-choice Crisis Pregnancy Centers.

Biased “Healthy Living” Curriculum:

The NCGA updated a bill on reproductive health and safety education in public schools to continue and reinforce that a monogamous heterosexual relationship is the best way to avoid sexually transmitted diseases and promote abstinence-based education. The NCGA additionally added that misinformation on the side effects of abortion be taught.

Civic Participation and Equality

Voter Rights Limited:

The NCGA passed numerous voting restrictions that especially target women, youth, people struggling to pay their bills, and communities of color. Restrictions enacted include: requiring a voter ID, reducing time for early voting, no longer allowing pre-voter registration, and ending same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting.

Violence Against Women

Gun Access:

HB 937, passed in 2013, makes the presence of concealed weapons much more common. Concealed weapons are now allowed in more settings including: restaurants, bars, parks and playgrounds. Gun violence is prevalent in the United States, and by granting more places for guns to be allowed in North Carolina, the NCGA puts women and children in greater danger and risk of being victims of gun violence.

Economic Self-Sufficiency

Education Budget:

The NC public education system has experienced horrendous budget cuts over the past few years. Students are losing access to the resources they need and teachers are losing jobs and not earning even close to the salaries they deserve. In fact, WalletHub recently ranked North Carolina the worst state for teachers. The NCGA’s decisions about taxes and the public education budget have put the future of our state in great jeopardy.

Equal Pay Act: House bill 603

In 2013 the Equal Pay Act was introduced to the General Assembly but was sent directly to the committee where bills go to “die.” Only eight states still remain without an Equal Pay Act. If the NCGA were to pass the Equal Pay Act, it would be illegal for people to receive different pay based upon their gender.

Elimination of Earned Income Tax Credit:

In 2013 the NCGA ended the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which was implemented in 2007. By ending the EITC, almost one million low-income working families no longer have access to a refundable credit that can help to prevent poverty.

Affordable Housing:

Many hard-working North Carolinians have trouble accessing safe affordable housing. Although the NCGA created the North Carolina Housing Trust Fund in the late 80’s, which helps North Carolinians to access affordable housing, the 2014 budget allotted only $6.9 million to the fund. In order to make a bigger impact and increase availability of affordable housing, it is suggested that the NCGA allot $50 million to the fund annually.

Home and Community Care Block Grant:

The Home and Community Care Block Grant provides important home-delivered services to the elderly. The grant helps to fund services that are needed by more than 16,000 elderly in North Carolina. Despite this need, the NCGA decided to cut funding for the grant by about $1 million. Now even more elderly North Carolinians remain without crucial and important home-delivered services.

Get Involved

Better choices are available. The new session is an opportunity to put women, families, and communities on a better path so that we can all thrive. If you are upset by this legislation and want to participate in efforts to prevent more conservative legislation from being passed this year, here are some ways to get involved!

Saturday, February 14, 2015: Participate in the Mass Moral March on Raleigh to speak out and rally against legislation that put vulnerable populations at even greater disadvantages in North Carolina

Tuesday, February 24, 2015: Attend NCWU’s Women’s Advocacy Day at the NC Legislative Building to learn about effectively lobbying for the issues that matter most and to put your lobbying skills into practice