Obama Calls For Repeal Of House Bill 2

The growing list of people who have called for the repeal of House Bill 2 just added its biggest name yet — President Barack Obama.

“The laws that have been passed (in North Carolina) are wrong and should be overturned,” he said.

A number of local governments, businesses and public figures have already called for the bill to be repealed.

Bruce Springsteen and Ringo Starr have recently canceled North Carolina concerts and some business have announced they won’t expand into the state.

Governor Pat McCrory has asked for the state legislature to consider changing the portion of the law that does not allow someone to sue in state court if they feel they are fired based on discrimination.

He has also said many aspects of the bill will remain intact.

“They’re in response to politics, in part,” Obama said. “In part some strong emotions that are generated by people, some of whom are good people, but I just disagree with.”

NC senate leader Phil Berger would be one of the people with whom the president disagrees.

“Not every father has the luxury of secret service agents protecting his daughters’ right to privacy in the girls’ bathroom,” Berger said in response to Obama’s comments.

McCrory’s office responded by released a statement.

“Governor McCrory agrees with President Obama that all people are welcome to our state and everybody will be treated well with extraordinary hospitality. However, the governor respectfully disagrees with the political left’s national agenda to mandate changes to basic, common-sense restroom norms.”


Carrboro Urges Supreme Court to Overturn Immigration Ruling

Carrboro is one of 118 cities across the United States to urge the Supreme Court to overturn the ruling that struck down president Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration.

“The President’s executive action will provide relief to an estimated four million immigrants and their families,” said mayor Lydia Lavelle. “Carrboro is a welcoming community for everyone, and I am proud that our town has joined this brief as a show of support and respect for our immigrant community in Carrboro.”

The executive order, issued in 2014 would offer a reprieve for undocumented parents of American citizens and immigrants who arrived as children.

People in both groups would apply for a deportation deferral every three years.

If permitted,  the order could impact between four and five million people.

After a lower court struck down the order, but the Supreme Court is set to hear the case in April.

Carrboro has signed a friend-of-the-court amicus brief to show support of the executive action.


Poll: Nation On The Wrong Track

North Carolina voters aren’t happy with the direction the nation is headed.

The Civitas Institute is a conservative publication, which conducted a poll in late July. In the release of the poll last week, it stated 70 percent of registered North Carolina voters think the United States are on the wrong track compared to the 20 percent that thinks things are heading in the right direction.

In October 2012, the split was 55-40, with the majority still believing the nation wasn’t in the right place.

The number one issue voters said they were concerned about was the economy. In a close second was jobs and unemployment, followed by immigration, health care, and the current government.

Neither political party had the upper hand in the poll. When voters were asked which candidate they would vote for if the election for Congress was held on that date, 43 percent said the Republican and 43 percent said the Democrat.

And, when asked specifically how President Barack Obama is doing—almost at the midway point in his second term—53 percent disapprove while 45 percent approve.

To see a complete breakdown of the poll, click here.


UNC Title IX Task Force Recommendations Anticipated To Be Ready By End Of April

UNC Chancellor Carol Folt said Friday that she anticipates having a report from the University’s Title IX Task Force by the next Faculty Council meeting, which is on April 25.

The Task Force has been working since May of 2013 to rewrite UNC’s sexual assault policy. The tentative goal was to have had recommendations ready by the fall of last year.

“I think we are all waiting for the report from the Task Force, and I know some people wish that report would come forward,” Folt said.

Christi Hurt, Chair of the Task Force, who also served as Title IX Coordinator for an interim period, has said that the group is regularly reexamining their work and ideas on the sensitive issues.

Once a draft is completed, it will be presented for campus community feedback and then will go before administration for final review.

The Task Force was formed in response to changing federal Title IX requirements for universities and incidents on UNC’s own campus that prompted the need for change.

Folt, who spoke during Friday’s Faculty Council meeting, said she applauded the extent to which the task force is “trying to get it right.” She said a number of changes have already been implemented.

“We believe that a number of ideas that are being put forth by our Task Force are already anticipated, or would be the ones that are the guidelines, for some of that federal attention,” she said.

In January, President Barack Obama announced the creation a national task force to combat sexual assault, particularly at the university level.

The same month, Folt traveled to the White House to participate in policy discussions on a number of topics. During the trip, she spoke with the President and Vice President Joe Biden about policies regarding sexual assault on college campuses. Biden is leading the efforts of The White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, as it is called.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

“There is a great deal of interest built on concern that sexual violence has reached epidemic proportions in our nation’s universities,” Folt said.

A number of representatives from UNC have participated in the on-going national conversation.

UNC graduate student Katie Akin, a member of the UNC Title IX Task Force, was invited to sit at the table next to the Vice President in February during a discussion on sexual assault. She offered several recommendations for his consideration.

Vice President Joe Biden talks with Katie Akin; Photo by David Lienemann

Vice President Joe Biden talks with Katie Akin; Photo by David Lienemann


PPP: Obama’s Approval Up 2% From December

President Obama’s approval numbers have improved slightly in a new poll, which could be one reason Democrats have re-taken the lead in a generic congressional ballot.

According to a new national poll from Raleigh-based Public Policy Polling, Barack Obama’s approval rating is now at 43 percent, with 51 percent disapproving.

“Those still aren’t very good numbers, but they’re the best we’ve found for him since October,” says Director of Public Policy Polling Tom Jensen. “He had, in the interim, hit his record low at 41 percent.

“And it does seem that people are warming up, at least a little bit, to Obamacare.”

Thirty-nine percent of voters now think the rollout of the Affordable Care Act has been successful. That’s up seven points from the last PPP survey in late January.

Democrats may also appear to have reason for optimism regarding the U.S House, but Jensen throws a little cold water on that notion.

After trailing Republicans 42-to-40 on a generic Congressional ballot in January, Democrats have now reclaimed a small lead, at 43-to-40.

“The problem for Democrats,” says Jensen, “even though they have this small lead on the generic congressional ballot, is that because congressional district lines across the country and a lot of states are really drawn in a way that benefits the Republicans, Democrats would have to win by a lot more than three points in order to have a real chance at getting back control of the House this fall.”

In another PPP poll released this week, numbers for U.S. Senator Kay Hagan of North Carolina also showed a slight improvement.

She now leads presumed Republican frontrunner, NC House Speaker Thom Tillis, 45-to-43. In the previous poll, she trailed all Republican challengers except for one.


UNC’s New Title IX Leader Talks On-Going Reforms To Sexual Assault Policies

CHAPEL HILL – In his first month as the UNC’s new Title IX Compliance Coordinator, Howard Kallem has taken on the challenge of heading up an expanding department charged with monitoring sexual harassment cases on campus.

This coming at a time when the pressure in on UNC leaders to make changes and reform current policies due to past controversy involving the handling of sexual assault cases.

Sexual assault on college campuses is currently an important topic of conversation, not only in Chapel Hill, but across our state and even in Washington D.C.

President Barack Obama recently announced the creation a national task force to combat sexual assault, particularly at the University level.

Prior to assuming the position at UNC in January, Kallem worked as Chief Regional Attorney of the District of Columbia Enforcement Office for the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR).

“It has been an incredibly steep learning curve to understand all of the procedures and processes at the University and to just get a sense of the culture here,” Kallem said.

Howard Kallem, photo courtesy UNC

Howard Kallem, photo courtesy UNC

UNC’s Title IX Office is expanding in 2014 with Kallem and the most recent hire, Hilary Delbridge, the Title IX public communications specialist, coming on board.

Delbridge’s hire sparked criticism on campus. Andrea Pino, who co-filed a Title IX complaint in January 2013 criticizing UNC’s handling of sexual assault, told the Daily Tar Heel that it was merely a PR position. Pino suggested that the University needed to stop treating “scandals as scandals” and focus on fixing its problems internally.

Kallem said that the communications officer position is not a just a “PR job,” rather, he said Delbridge will serve as liaison to hear from the community about “what we [the office] are doing right and what we could be doing better.”

The Title IX Office is in the process of filling two additional positions—another case investigator and a program coordinator to help with training.

“I have to say that it is quite unusual for the University to devote this level of resources to this issue, which is why I took the job,” Kallem said. “Most colleges will have a Title IX coordinator. They are required to do so by Title IX law, but it is often someone who is an assistant athletic coach, or they might be in the human resources department, and it is the second or third responsibility for them.”

Since the spring of 2013, UNC’s Title IX Task Force has been working to address student-on-student sexual misconduct.

The 22-member task force is broadly based, including students, faculty, and staff members who specialize in this area.

Chair of the Task Force, Christi Hurt, served as interim Title IX Coordinator and is also director of the Carolina Women’s Center. Kallem, who has been to two Task Force meetings, said he is benefiting from the work that Hurt has done.

The Task Force is taking time to develop a complaint process that is tailored to the needs and concerns of the students, Kallem said, rather than to those of the administration.

“The goal is to come up with a policy that the community will be into. The way to do that is to have input from the various segments in building the policy from the very start,” he said. “I think all those have the building blocks certainly to develop a process here and change the culture here in a way that could be very interesting and unique in the country.”

Kallem said there has been frustration expressed on campus about the progress of the Task Force, with some members of the UNC community wanting to see results of its work sooner. Kallem explained that there are still issues that need to be addressed, such as the judication process of complaints.

Once the policy has been rewritten, it will be presented for campus community feedback and then will go before administration for final review.

Kallem did not have an anticipated completion date for the work of the Task Force.

“There are lots of pieces already here that are addressing the issue. My challenge is to knit them together into a comprehensive approach and identify any gaps where we can improve.”

The Task Force is also trying to ensure compliance with the UNC System’s statewide reforms.


Sen. Hagan’s Fate May Rest In The Hands Of The President

RALEIGH – Public Policy Polling Director Tom Jensen says the 2014 senate race will be greatly affected by the President’s approval rating.

“It’s really kind of amazing,” Jensen says. “Barack Obama’s approval has dropped ten points in North Carolina since September; Kay Hagan’s net approvals has dropped ten points in North Carolina since September. We really are seeing that Obama’s fate is basically dictating Hagan’s fate.”

Democrats are losing points when the Affordable Care Act and its website aren’t working the way legislators said it would. Senator Hagan sent a request to the Obama Administration to launch an investigation into the problems behind the ACA, but Jensen says that hasn’t really helped her numbers.

“She’s not somebody who voters have really strong feelings about one way or the other,” Jensen says. “So, where she ends up in our polls sort of goes up and down depending on other things that are going on politically.”

Jensen says the next 11 months will be crucial for Senator Hagan.

“Really, if it’s a good year for Democrats, Hagan should be fine,” Jensen says. “If it’s a bad year for Democrats, she’s in a lot of trouble. If it’s kind of a neutral year, I think we should expect a pretty close race.”

There are five Republicans vying for the opposition to Senator Hagan. Jensen says the numbers have started to settle, and that over the last three months there’s been a big shift in how the race is looking.

“Kay Hagan is up on Thom Tillis by two points, tied with both Heather Grant and Mark Harris, and down by two points to both Greg Brannon and Bill Flynn,” Jensen says.

Public Policy Polling found 43 percent of voters approve of the job Senator Hagan is doing while 49 percent disapprove.

To see the complete results of the polls, click here.


GOP, Obama Line Up Behind Modest Budget Deal

WASHINGTON — Top Republicans and President Barack Obama are lining up behind a modest but hard-won bipartisan budget agreement that seeks to replace a portion of tough spending cuts facing the Pentagon and domestic agencies.

The deal to ease those cuts for two years is aimed less at chipping away at the nation’s $17 trillion national debt than it is at trying to help a dysfunctional Capitol stop lurching from crisis to crisis.

It would set the stage for action in January on a $1 trillion-plus spending bill for the current budget year.

The measure unveiled by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan and Senate counterpart Patty Murray of Washington blends $85 billion in spending cuts and fees to replace $63 billion in cuts to agency budgets over the coming two years.


AP-GfK Poll: Low Approval Of Congress, Obama

WASHINGTON — A new poll finds Americans hold Congress in strikingly low regard as a midterm election year nears. Nearly two-thirds say they would like to see their House member replaced.

The Associated Press-GfK poll finds that elected officials in Washington are not benefiting from the public’s slightly improved view of the economy and their own personal finances.

President Barack Obama’s approval rating is negative: 58 percent disapprove of the job he’s doing, while 42 percent approve.

The low opinions of Congress don’t necessarily signal major power shifts next year in the Republican-controlled House and Democratic-controlled Senate. Many House districts are safe enough to protect incumbents despite public discontent.

Most Americans favor a pathway to legal status for immigrants living here illegally. The House has not approved such a measure.


Obama, In Speech, To Focus On Income Disparities

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is renewing his focus on the income gap between rich and poor.

He’ll deliver an address later today to argue his case that income inequality and wage stagnation are threatening upward mobility and retirement security.

White House says Obama will reiterate his call for an increase in the minimum wage and promote possible economic benefits of the troubled health care law.