NC JUSTICE NEWS: Moral March on Raleigh THIS WEEKEND! + Gerrymandering Ruling + Don't Fear the Robots

February 9, 2016

VOTING RIGHTS: What do the Congressional District changes mean for NC?

Last week — just over a month before the North Carolina primary on March 15th — a federal panel threw a much-needed wrench in plans to curb voting rights in our state.

A federal three-judge panel threw out North Carolina’s Congressional Districts 1 and 12 as racial gerrymanders and gave the General Assembly until February 19 to redraw new maps, reports NC Policy Watch's Sharon McCloskey. The court decision reads: "The Court finds that... race predominated in both CD 1 and CD 12 and that the defendants have failed to establish that its race-based redistricting satisfies strict scrutiny. Accordingly, the Court holds that the general assembly’s 2011 Congressional Redistricting Plan is unconstitutional as violative of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment... the Court will require that new congressional districts be drawn forthwith to remedy the unconstitutional districts."

In short, the federal order demands essentially a "do-over" by the state — and soon. The ruling is welcome and the timing is tricky, given that thousands of mail-in absentee ballots have already been issued. State officials have already asked the panel to stay their order, arguing that disrupting the primary elections underway will lead to “significant voter confusion and irreparable harm to the citizens of North Carolina.”

We'll have to see what happens with our earlier-than-usual primary, the state of which is uncertain. Regardless, the ruling affirmed what we already knew: that racial gerrymandering is a blatant suppression of voting rights, and it should not be tolerated in the Tar Heel state.

MORAL MARCH: Join NAACP for 10th annual March on Raleigh on Feb. 13

Join the NAACP, NC Justice Center and more than 100 coalition partners for the 10th Annual Moral March & HKonJ People's Assembly in Raleigh THIS SATURDAY, February 13.

The Moral March on Raleigh is part of a love and justice movement covering a wide array of issues that affect the lives of everyday North Carolinians:

  • Voting Rights: The expansion and protection of voting rights for all
  • Labor Rights: Fair living wages, economic justice, and union rights
  • Education Equality: Funding for quality public schools and support for HBCUs
  • Health Care for All: Medicaid expansion, women's health, and environmental justice
  • Equal Protection Under the Law: Justice without regard for race, creed, class, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or immigration status
  • Police Reform

Click on the above links for videos on these vital issues, and follow @ncjustice on Twitter and Facebook throughout the upcoming weeks for updates.

The pre-rally begins at 9:00 a.m. at 2 South Street in downtown Raleigh (across from the Raleigh Memorial Auditorium). The march begins at 10:00 a.m., with the assembly commencing near the State Capitol on Fayetteville Street.

RSVP at this link.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY FMLA!: 23 years on, too many still lack access to paid leave

The Family Medical Leave Act turned 23 last week, but too many North Carolinians still can’t get time off when they need it most—when they are faced with chronic illness, when they need to care for a newborn, or when they need to take an ailing grandparent to the doctor.

Twenty-three years on, nine out of 10 working North Carolinians still lack access to paid family leave through their employers. For a low-income family with no paid family leave, going just 3.5 days without wages is equivalent to losing a month’s groceries. The U.S. is one of the only nations left in the entire world that doesn’t have some type of paid medical leave policy. In this day and age, this is completely unacceptable.

Fortunately, Congress is currently debating two pieces of legislation that can correct this critical gap in our nation’s employment laws. The Family And Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act (H.R. 1439/S. 786) would provide workers with family medical leave insurance. In exchange for a small premium of less than $5 a week, workers would receive a significant portion of their incomes for up to 12 weeks while they take time off to welcome a newborn or adopted child, recover from pregnancy, or provide care for family members suffering from serious health conditions.

This bill represents a major step towards ensuring that all workers don’t have to choose between paying bills and recovering from illness, taking care of a newborn or helping an aging parent. Last year, Senator Burr voted in support of a non-binding amendment to provide paid sick days for America’s working people, but he has yet to announce his support for the FAMILY Act. Now is the time for Senator Burr to join his colleagues in cosponsoring these important bills.

DON'T FEAR THE ROBOTS: What's the future of work in North Carolina?

What’s the future of work in our state, and what can we do to have an economy that works for all North Carolinians? These questions will be floating around Raleigh this week as the Institute for Emerging Issues Forum on FutureWork addresses how automation and rapid technological development is changing how we work, for whom we work, and how our work is rewarded.

There’s nothing inherently bad about automation; what matters is whether work pays a wage that can boost the economy and people have the resources they need to adapt to the changing demands of the market. Public policy can play a crucial role in ensuring that technological disruption in employment and automation doesn’t result in a lower quality of life and lower levels of well-being. In order to meet the challenges we face as the future of work changes, we must ensure that people who lose their jobs are supported to find a new one or trained for a new career, and that those who work can support their families.

The NC Justice Center joined with the NC AFL-CIO to talk with workers about the future of work and the continued need for policymakers to focus on good, quality jobs that boost our economy. A video compilation of those comments was released on social media today and can be found at this link.

TAX CUTS vs. EDUCATION: Cuts reduce revenue, cost state valuable resources

Tax cuts will hamper North Carolina’s ability to invest in public education and promote widespread prosperity over the next two years, putting high-quality learning and education opportunities for all North Carolina students at risk, according to a new report from the Budget & Tax Center.

State tax cuts in the latest budget will reduce available revenue for the biennium by $841.8 million, on top of costly tax cuts passed by state lawmakers in 2013. Within four years the annual cost of the 2015 tax cuts are estimated to reach $1 billion a year, as rate reductions for individual taxpayers and profitable corporations phase in. In short: we'll lose valuable resources for early childhood learning initiatives, public schools, affordable higher education,  and other vital public services that promote broad economic gains for North Carolinians.

Quality learning and education opportunities aid the healthy development of children, well-being of families, and economic prospects for the entire state. All are at risk under current budget:

  • Early childhood education: Eroding state support for early childhood development and public schools in recent years has challenged the ability to ensure that all North Carolina children enter their formal schooling years ready to learn. These challenges will only persist under the current two-year budget. This year, more than 6,400 fewer state-funded NC Pre-K slots are available than in 2009 despite more than 7,200 children being on NC Pre-K wait lists last year.
  • K-12: Meanwhile, state lawmakers shifting existing state dollars from one area to another means that the actual increase in support for public schools is less than what appears in the budget. While the state appears to spend an additional $254.6 million on classroom teachers, the current budget doesn’t include $254.6 million in lottery dollars for classroom teachers that were included in last year’s budget. Accordingly, state dollars provided for teachers in the current budget simply replace the missing lottery dollars, meaning no net additional state funding will be provided for classroom teachers.
  • Higher education: State support per student at four-year public universities this year is down nearly 16 percent. The eroding support is due in part to more than 12,000 additional students enrolling in public four-year universities during this period without any corresponding increase in state support.

Public investments in a wide range of areas, including early childhood development and public schools, are the essential building blocks of long-term economic growth and shared prosperity. Yet at this critical point in the state’s uneven and slow economic recovery, policymakers chose to deliver greater benefits to the wealthiest few rather than build a solid foundation that supports opportunity for many. As a result, all North Carolinians lose.

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