NC JUSTICE NEWS: Payday Lending Returns to NC + Fighting for Medicaid Expansion + Save the State EITC

February 19, 2013

PAYDAY LENDING: New bill would return "legalized loan-sharking" to NC

Last week, a new bill was introduced by lawmakers that would legalize predatory lending in North Carolina by permitting loans of 390 percent interest, opening the door for harmful payday lending in North Carolina. In short, it appears to be business as usual at the General Assembly, after weeks of introducing harmful legislation for North Carolinians.

Senate Bill 89, which was just introduced on Feb. 13, could come up for a vote as early as Tuesday, Feb. 19. The NC Justice Center's Al Ripley calls it "legalized loan-sharking at its worse." Payday lending is one of the most harmful forms of lending in existence. Despite substantial public opposition, this bill would let high-cost predatory lending back into North Carolina when there is no policy justification to do so. Advocates for seniors point out that these types of loans are particularly dangerous for older North Carolinians who have fixed incomes.

Major payday lenders are all based out of state or out of the country. Most are based in Mexico, South Carolina, Texas or Ohio, so any revenue generated will flow out of state. N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper issued a statement opposing the bill, pointing out that this type of payday lending was run out of North Carolina years ago. "These overpriced loans trap borrowers in a cycle of debt many cannot escape. Payday lending was a bad idea then, and it’s a bad idea now."

MEDICAID PETITION: 10,000 sign petition to support expanding Medicaid in NC

Last week, health care advocates attempted to deliver a petition bearing 10,000 signatures to Gov. McCrory, asking him to reject efforts to block Medicaid expansion for 500,000 uninsured North Carolinians.

Unfortunately, the group was turned away from the Governor's office on Friday after the North Carolina House passed Senate Bill 4, which would block the expansion and prevent the state from creating a state health exchange. But it's not too late for the Governor to hear the message of the 10,000 signature strong petition and the voice of the thousands of other North Carolinians whose lives would be negatively affected by Senate Bill 4.

Expanding Medicaid would offer insurance coverage to half a million low-income adults across the state when the Affordable Care Act is implemented next year. Through the expansion, North Carolina would have leveraged at least $15 billion in federal funds over the next decade and saved thousands of jobs for North Carolina health care workers and rural hospitals. It would also save money for all North Carolinians who buy health insurance.

STATE EITC: A modest but vital support for low-paid North Carolinians

Policymakers are currently mulling over changes to North Carolina's tax code, including reducing or eliminating the state Earned Income Tax Credit, a critical support for low-paid workers during the state's weak economic recovery. A cut in the state EITC or its outright elimination, which could happen as early as this week, would result in a tax hike on low-earning families.

The state EITC provides workers earning low wages with a credit to offset their total state and local tax contributions. Nearly 907,000 North Carolinians claimed the credit in 2011 in each of the state’s 100 counties. These North Carolinians work, pay taxes, and would be directly affected by the reduction or elimination of this modest but crucial income support.

Even with the state EITC, moderate- and low-income families still pay a greater share of their income in state and local taxes compared to the upper-middle class and wealthy. Despite this upside-down structure, legislators are considering either reducing the state EITC from 5 to 4.5 percent of the federal credit for tax year 2013 and simply not extending the tax credit past December 2013.

Worst yet, it could push more North Carolinians into poverty by eliminating one of the state’s most powerful antipoverty tools at a time when North Carolina has the 13th highest poverty rate in the nation, and more than 1 in 4 of its children live below the federal poverty line. The EITC is widely recognized as one of the most effective anti-poverty tools nationwide, especially for children. It's a small investment that ensures hard-working North Carolinians are able to meet their basic needs and avoid raising their children in poverty.

LICENSES FOR IMMIGRANTS: "No lawful status" attached to new IDs

Last week, North Carolina Transportation Secretary Anthony Tata announced that the DMV will issue driver's licenses to immigrants eligible under DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), saying that these individuals are "lawfully present" and therefore eligible for driver's licenses.

The announcement was a boon for DACA-eligible immigrants across the state. Yet a closer look at the newly designed driver's licenses reveals a downside to the good news. Immigrants will receive driver's licenses that look different from an average adult ID: they will be vertical rather than horizontal, feature a pink header, and include the words "NO LAWFUL STATUS."

The licenses will still be valid, and it's encouraging that officials did the right thing and made it so these young immigrants could receive licenses. But the extra labeling is unnecessary, and a thorn in what would otherwise be a fair victory for DACA youth.

CRUCIAL CONVERSATION: Events on secretly-funded elections, unions in NC

Mark your calendar for two upcoming Crucial Conversation events.

On Thursday, Feb. 21, Michael Copps will join NC Policy Watch and Common Cause North Carolina for a Crucial Conversation event on media consolidation and secretly-funded elections. For decades, Copps has been battling the rapid consolidation of media corporations and the equally speedy demise of voter-funded election. He has fought for advancing common sense solutions — first as a longtime staff person in the U.S. Senate, then as Assistant Secretary of Commerce, and, from 2001 to 2009, as one of five commissioners of the Federal Communications Commission. Don’t miss this important opportunity to hear from this incredibly knowledgeable voice of reason on these critically important subjects. Register here.

On Monday, March 4 NC Policy Watch and North Carolina AFL-CIO will welcome Liz Shuler, Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO, for a conversation on unions and "right to work" laws in North Carolina. The state has long been a stronghold of anti-labor union sentiment. It's also a state that features vast economic chasms between have and have nots and in which working families have long struggled to make ends meet and to obtain decent wages and benefits.

Shuler was elected AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer in September 2009, the youngest person ever to become an officer of the AFL-CIO. Shuler previously was the highest-ranking woman in the Electrical Workers (IBEW) union, serving as the top assistant to the IBEW president since 2004. Click here to register.

Both events will be at the Junior League of Raleigh, located at 711 Hillsborough Street in Raleigh.

CAMPAIGN FOR BETTER CARE: Community event in Albemarle

Join the NC Justice Center and AARP NC on Tuesday, March 19 for a Campaign for Better Care community meeting at the Stanly County Senior Center in Albemarle and make your voice heard on one of the most important, complex issues in North Carolina today.

As the Affordable Care Act is implemented in NC, a crucial part, Medicaid, may be blocked by the NC General Assembly from being expanded so 500,000 currently uninsured working adults in North Carolina will not be able to get coverage. Join us to discuss what suggestions you have for changes in our health care system while you learn from representatives from the US Department of Health and Human Services, AARP, Seniors’ Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP) and the NC Justice Center.

The free event will be held from 11:30am – 1:00 pm at the Stanly County Senior Center, 283 North Third Street, Albemarle, NC.

To reserve your seat, contact the Senior Center at 704-986-3769 or or Nicole Dozier at or 919-856-2146.

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