It should have been a solemn day last Thursday when the NC General Assembly passed legislation that has been called the most severe voter restrictions and Anti-Choice legislation in the country, but instead there was fiddling, dancing and ice cream.
It was the final death nails to the progress made by years of social justice and civil rights advancements. The same progress that made North Carolina standout among the other southern states for the quality of life, education and tolerance was wiped out in one session.
The legislation has sent a clear message that if you are unemployed, disabled, in school, sick, a teacher, a woman, an arrested person of color, small business owner, a voter, a local government or middle income, you are a target.
On July 1, 70,000 unemployed people stopped getting checks. The legislature cut the time a person can collect benefits to 20 weeks and cut the benefits they could receive. By cutting the benefits, the state became ineligible to get any federal funds to extend payments to the uninsured, a move that will affect over 170,000 unemployed people.
In the budget passed, they have traded teaching fellow scholarships to best and brightest undergraduates wanting to become educators and pay incentives for the teachers who earn advanced degrees for vouchers to private schools. They gutted the schools’ teacher funding by 286 million dollars. They approved increased class size and cut teachers’ aids.
They have refused the Medicaid expansion that would have covered 500,000 citizens, said no to the estimated 25,000 jobs that would have come as a result to the expanded care. They have placed the small community hospital in financial jeopardy as they receive less funding for charity care. It is estimated that 2,800 uninsured people will die each year. The fact they will die because of lack of care is heartbreaking, but what is unconscionable is the suffering they will endure while dying because they cannot afford care and medicine to alleviate the suffering. Oh, if you are lucky enough to get treatment, Thursday they passed legislation that will allow hospitals to go after your property if you cannot pay your hospital bill.
The argument made over and over again in the floor debate of the anti-choice legislation, was the concern of women’s health. Where was that concern when they denied the Medicaid expansion?
The Anti-Choice legislation passed outlaws any insurance plan in the federal healthcare exchange from offering abortion coverage. They are telling private insurers that if you want to sell insurance in NC, you cannot include this coverage in your policies. In addition, the law forbids city and county insurance plans to cover only what is allowed in the State Health plan. The legislation requires the health care clinics that provide abortion service meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers, despite the fact that the majority of the procedures are medically induced rather than preformed surgically. There is only one clinic in the whole state that meets this criterion, effectively shutting down 15 clinics that provide valuable women’s health services such as pelvic exams, mammograms and family planning.
This legislation was not deemed important enough to be issued as stand alone legislation. It was tacked onto a motorcycle safety law late one night in secrecy with most Democrats becoming aware of it only as they walked into the chamber the next day.
The legislature repealed the Racial Justice Act. North Carolina was the only state in the country to have a Racial Justice law that allowed for investigation of death penalty cases to see if racial bias was involved in jury selection and to see if racism was involved the determination to pursue or of the sentencing of death. Four cases had been tried and it found that racism had played a part in all 4 cases. In these cases, the law is the conviction is to remain, but the sentence to be changed to life in prison without parole. More…