NC JUSTICE NEWS: The Final Budget + Child Refugees in North Carolina + The Affordable Care Act: Year 2

FINAL BUDGET: Lawmakers set North Carolina on an unsustainable path

North Carolinians want a quality education for their children, safe and healthy communities, and protections for those in need, but the final budget fails to reflect these priorities in a fiscally responsible way. Instead, it puts North Carolina on a fiscally irresponsible path that will continue to create budget challenges in the years ahead, largely as a result of the tax plan that was little debated and discussed in the final budget.

Last week Governor McCrory signed the $21.1 billion budget that includes new spending initiatives – largely pay raises for teachers and state employees – but fails to include additional revenue to sustain this spending in the long-term. Contrary to fueling North Carolina’s economic comeback, as Governor McCrory claims, the final budget continues to fund core public services at diminished levels, well below pre-recession levels, and compromises the ability of the state to get ahead and prepare for the future.

Education was perhaps the biggest talking point of the budget: teacher pay raises and the corresponding drops in public education funding. Lawmakers promised the budget would offer an average 7 percent raise but instead introduced a new salary schedule that offers younger, inexperienced teachers big gains while shortchanging veteran teachers who have gone to great lengths to build on their teaching credentials. Read more about education and the budget here and here.

The budget is also chock-full of details that don’t get much scrutiny from the residents and taxpayers that will inevitably feel the effects, finds NC Policy Watch's Sarah Ovaska. Buried in the language are some fairly significant policy and funding changes that haven’t gotten a lot of attention during the rush to pass the budget.

Join the Budget & Tax Center for a post-session webinar briefing reviewing the recent budget, the past few years of legislative change, and their impact on our economy.  We will also discuss ways to engage on these issues in the coming months. The webinar will be held on Friday, August 22 from 11am-12pm. Register here.

CHILD REFUGEES: NC lawmakers must move toward compassionate response

Our nation was founded by immigrants. For centuries, our values have told us that taking in refugees in crisis is not only the right thing to do, it makes our country stronger in the long run. How we treat the child refugees coming to North Carolina this year is a moral litmus test of the highest order. Sadly, Gov. Pat McCrory and other state leaders' recent statements on the issue fall far short of meeting this standard.

It is deeply troubling when elected officials treat these children as a threat rather than as human beings in need of our care and protection. This should not be a partisan issue, and concern for refugee children crosses ideological lines.

Authorities estimate that 1,200 unaccompanied child refugees, primarily from the Central American nations Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, have been placed with a sponsor or relative in North Carolina since January–about 12 children for each of North Carolina's counties. To say we cannot accommodate this number of endangered children is shameful. To suggest that we care deeply about them—but argue for their immediate deportation back toward the violence from which they fled—is dangerous hypocrisy.

Consider the risks inherent in walking hundreds of miles, as a child, to cross a foreign border without any guarantees of help once you arrive. Now consider how bad the violence you must face in your home country must be if your parents have decided that sending you on this dangerous journey seems like the only option. This is about our values as Americans, and as North Carolinians. If we can’t welcome children in crisis, children who are fleeing drug-fueled violence, then we will fail a critical moral test.

Tell Gov. McCrory and elected leaders across our state to end the scare tactics about immigrant children and instead to move forward with policies that treat all human beings with dignity and respect.

PAID LEAVE: How better policies can benefit employees, businesses

Paid family medical leave policies are a win across the board. They not only benefit employees and businesses, but also allow workers to recover from a serious illness or care for a sick loved one or new child without risking their job or the income they need.

Thankfully, support for paid family leave recently made advances in the U.S. Senate as lawmakers heard testimony on its benefits in a key Children & Families Subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill. During the hearing, as requested by Senator Kay Hagan, North Carolina business owners and advocates made the case for why families should be able to care for their loved one without risk of losing their jobs or falling into poverty.

Currently the Family and Medical Leave Act is the only federal law designed to help working people succeed both as providers and caregivers, yet it leaves out 40 percent of the workforce and guarantees only unpaid leave, which millions cannot afford. Only 12 percent of U.S. workers have access to paid family leave through their employers, and less than 40 percent have personal medical leave through an employer-provided temporary disability program. This means millions of workers who develop serious health conditions, have seriously ill family members or become parents are forced to choose between providing care or having the income they need to cover basic expenses.

The subcommittee hearing is the latest sign of the growing commitment by lawmakers on Capitol Hill and throughout the U.S. to find a solution that can help every working family meet the dual demands of job and family. Given the successes in other states and Senator Hagan’s leadership in DC, it’s time for state lawmakers to promote a paid family medical leave policy here in North Carolina, where 44 percent of workers have no access to paid sick days. The whole economy gains when working families have enough money to cover the basics and maintain economic stability during a family health crisis or following the birth or adoption of a baby.

HENDERSON COMMUNITY FORUM: The 2nd year of the Affordable Care Act

Join the Health Care Access Coalition, Senator Angela Bryant, Representative Nathan Baskerville, and former Congresswoman Eva Clayton for a special educational forum and community conversation on the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, and the health benefits exchanges.

As the Affordable Care Act is being implemented in our state, North Carolina lawmakers have blocked the Medicaid program from being expanded. This means that 500,000 working adults will remain uninsured in 2014. Join in the conversation with the NC Justice Center to discuss the benefits of the Affordable Care Act, how Medicaid expansion would help the community, and implementation of the online marketplace, including Special Enrollment Period opportunities. Refreshments will be served.

The event will be held on Thursday, September 4 from 6:00-7:30 p.m. at the Shiloh Baptist Church, 635 S. College Street in Henderson. Call or email today to reserve your place: Senator Angela Bryant (919-733-5878 or bryantla@ncleg.net) or Nicole Dozier (919-856-2146 or nicole@ncjustice.org).

CRUCIAL CONVERSATION: The state of the U.S. Supreme Court

Few recent rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court have done more to anger caring and thinking Americans and awaken them to the importance of monitoring the federal courts and the judges who serve on them than the now infamous Hobby Lobby v. Burwell decision of this past June. In Hobby Lobby, the Court held that a corporation cannot be required to pay for insurance coverage of contraception if to do so would offend the religious sensibilities of the corporation’s owners.

Of course, Hobby Lobby was far from the only momentous decision of the past year. Moreover, many more vitally important cases are already queued up for the coming Supreme Court term that commences this fall. So where do things stand? What can and should progressives do to make the federal courts a more hospitable venue for the causes of social, economic and political justice?

Join us as we pose these questions and others to Ian Millhiser, Senior Constitutional Policy Analyst for the Center for American Progress and the Justice Editor for the Center for American Progress Action Fund. His work focuses on the Constitution and the judiciary. Ian previously was a Policy Analyst and Blogger for ThinkProgress, held the open government portfolio for CAP’s Doing What Works project, and was a Legal Research Analyst with ThinkProgress during the nomination and confirmation of Justice Sonia Sotomayor to the United States Supreme Court.

Don’t miss the opportunity to hear from this knowledgeable and important voice at this critical time. The event will be held at 12:00 p.m. on Thursday, August 21 at the North Carolina Association of Educators Building, 700 S. Salisbury St. in Raleigh. Cost is $10, including a box lunch. Register at this link.
 

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