NC JUSTICE NEWS: Relief for Convicted Adults in NC + The Battle for Unemployment Insurance + Bush Tax Cuts

December 4, 2012

EXPUNCTION: New law offers relief for thousands of North Carolinians

As of December 1, thousands of individuals who have long since paid their debts to society may have a chance at a new beginning.

A new law allowing for expunctions of first-time nonviolent misdemeanor and low-level felony convictions went into effect at the beginning of the month. The law applies to convictions 15 years after an individual has fully completed his or her sentence. The law will benefit those who have long demonstrated a sincere dedication to contributing to society through their upstanding behavior, but are still being denied opportunities to reintegrate with and contribute to their communities.

The law is a first for North Carolina and demonstrates a positive step forward. North Carolina is now one of a handful of states providing such opportunities. Laws in these states typically require a waiting period of between 5 and 10 years before an expunction may be granted.

There are approximately 1.6 million North Carolinians with criminal records — consequences that often follow individuals throughout their personal and professional lives. A criminal record can have a more devastating effect than their actual criminal punishments. The new law, while not perfect, will make a huge difference in the lives of thousands of eligible individuals. It also shows that North Carolina's lawmakers are beginning to recognize that isolating these individuals from gainful employment, affordable housing, and community supports only serve as barriers to reentry and ultimately do more harm than good.

UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE: Proposal would harm workers, families

Tomorrow, North Carolina lawmakers will vote on a proposal that would radically overhaul our state's unemployment insurance system. The proposal fails to address the long-term financial footing of the unemployment insurance system, while reducing benefit amounts and duration of benefits for families that rely on these benefits to support their families.

The proposal was developed over the past 10 weeks in meetings of select policymakers and staff, but will be released for public review for the first time at Wednesday’s Revenue Laws Committee.

The state's unemployment insurance system has had to borrow $2.8 billion from the federal government in order to pay benefits during the Great Recession, which has been driving increased demand for the unemployment insurance system. Yet the state's insurance trust fund — what supports payment of the benefits — was severely depleted after a series of tax cuts for employers in the 1990s. Under the proposed benefit cuts, workers will have to pay for these tax cuts, resulting in not only greater financial hardship for tens of thousands of North Carolina families and their communities, but also a blow to our fragile economic recovery.

The North Carolina Justice Center and a coalition of partners delivered a petition with 575 signers to the General Assembly on Tuesday, calling on the Revenue Law Committee to give greater opportunity for public input and delay a vote at their meeting on December 5. The failure to hear from and account for the impact of benefit cuts to workers, their families and communities will have a severe impact on North Carolina's economic future.

SMALL BUSINESS: Letting Bush Tax Cuts expire would have little impact

The future of the Bush Tax Cuts on incomes over $250,000 continues to play a major role in current Congress debates, with supporters of maintaining the tax cuts arguing that letting the cuts expire — and changing the top marginal tax rate from 36 to 39.6 percent — would harm small business job creation and long-term economic growth.

Yet a new brief from the Budget & Tax Center proves that such arguments have little basis in reality. In fact, allowing the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts to expire in 2013 would affect only a small percentage of small businesses, and those that would be affected would face minimal barriers to capital reinvestment and job creation as a result. The tax changes would have no impact on small businesses that pay corporate income tax — only those which file through the personal income tax code — leaving many of North Carolina's largest businesses unaffected.

Only a quarter of total small-business income would be affected by letting the Bush Tax Cuts expire. Additionally, most of the tax-cut benefits over the past decade have not flowed to actual small business employers, but disproportionately to wealthy individuals who could not be defined as a "job creators" in any significant way.

BUILDING A BETTER NC EVENTS: Forum on economy, working families

North Carolina citizens can help write the next chapter in the story of our economy.

Communities across the state will play host to a community conversation event entitled “Building a Stronger North Carolina,” led by staff from the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the NC Justice Center, and United Way of North Carolina. Through this interactive session, members of the community will have the opportunity to respond to critical questions regarding key legislation and learn about ways to get engaged in issues that will affect the future of the state.

They will discuss top issues in state public policy, including the impact of current economic conditions on working families, and how the state budget directly affected education, health care and financial stability. Presentations will be held in communities across the state.

  • Orange County. Wednesday, December 5, 9:00 a.m. Southern Human Services Center, 2501 Homestead Road, Chapel Hill
  • Buncombe County. Tuesday, December 11. 1459 Sand Hill Drive, AB Tech Enka Campus’ Haynes Building, Candler
  • Guilford and Forsyth County. January 9, 9:00 a.m. 8818 West Market St., Girl Scouts’ Carolinas Peaks2Piedmont Triad Service Center, Colfax
  • Wake County. January 10, 3:00 p.m. NCAE, 700 South Salisbury Street, Raleigh

An additional event will be held in Greenville on January 8, 2013. More details are available at this link.

 

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