NC Women United’s (NCWU) legislative report card of the 2015 legislative session paints a harrowing picture for gender equality in North Carolina. This report card reviews the policy goals listed in our 2015 legislative agenda and gives each one a grade based on how it fared.
We gave 22 of the 35 goals a “Very Bad” grade, meaning the policy goals were completely or largely unmet. Tar Heel lawmakers have disappointed North Carolinians and taken giant steps backward in their treatment of women, children, and workers. This report should serve as a call to action and a tool of understanding for progressive citizens and organizations invested in women’s rights.
The General Assembly failed to pass the Equal Pay Act, restore funding to the NC Housing Trust Fund, or establish a state-run family and medical leave insurance program. Legislators’ inaction has stalled women’s economic security, with the small handful of policy successes in other priority areas being mixed at best. North Carolina lawmakers have helped entrench the gender pay gap and continued to support structural barriers to women’s economic wellbeing.
Legislators have also hindered women’s access to healthcare. They extended the wait period for an abortion and chose not to expand coverage for those in the Medicaid gap. While lawmakers reversed bad decisions enacted in previous years regarding the childcare subsidy program and made progrsses to advance sex trafficking prevention and awareness education, legislators must do more for women’s health.
The General Assembly’s performance has also been mediocre in helping end violence against women. Many of the laws continue to bar same-sex partners from protections, the state has continued to avoid common sense gun safety regulations, and there is still no requirement to ensure that North Carolina facilities comply with the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act. These laws put women’s safety in jeopardy, especially members of the LGBTQ community and those who are in prison.
Legislators have disappointed North Carolinians most consistently in their work on civic participation and equality. The policies enacted have inhibited an open and ethical government, suppressed voting rights, harmed immigrants, and discriminated against the LGBTQ community. Every policy enacted by legislators has helped to disenfranchise minority groups and make the state government less fair and open.
The 2016 Short Session needs to be a time for action. North Carolina’s current path will harm women and strike a blow against gender equality in the state. By advocating for change, we can reverse this toxic trajectory. We urge partners and citizens to use this report card as a tool for writing a letter to the editor or scheduling a meeting with lawmakers. We need you to speak up and advocate. The Short Session is a small window of time to change course on policies that are oppressive and harmful to women. Please add your voice to the demand for change.
Read President Tara Romano’s press statement on the release of the report card here.