Photo by Rachel Nash
RALEIGH – For thirteen weeks, people have gathered in Raleigh to rally against the policies of the Republican-led General Assembly, as part of a movement that’s come to be called the Moral Monday protests. Since late April when the first 17 protesters were arrested, the number has grown to a final tally of 925. The legislature adjourned its tumultuous session last week, but that didn’t stop protesters.
In the largest crowd yet, they marched on the State Capitol Building in their final Moral Monday in Raleigh, shutting down streets as their message echoed across down town.
More than a thousand gathered on Fayetteville Street, facing the building where N.C. Governor McCrory conducts his business. A smaller group gathered at the State Capitol earlier in the day to demand a meeting with McCrory. Police kept the demonstration outside the building but said they would deliver the protesters’ letter to the governor.
In the past 12 Moral Mondays, the protesters have gone into the General Assembly, where arrests where made outside chamber doors. This time, the crowd gathered on the lawn of Halifax Mall and then marched in unison to their destination, chanting along the way.
Teachers from across the state came in droves, wearing red to represent public education. Rodney Ellis, president of the North Carolina Teacher’s Association, was arrested at last week’s Moral Monday.
“Last week, the legislature passed a budget that will ultimately destroy public education in North Carolina,” Ellis said.
Ellis explained that this budget eliminates over 9,000 education positions, including teacher jobs, teacher’s assistants and education support personnel. It provides no raises for teachers and does away with a salary increase for those who earn master’s degrees. Perhaps the most controversial measure is the $20 million set aside for “opportunity scholarships,” which opponents have compared to a school voucher system.
UNC alum Rory Santaloci currently teaches in Efland and has attended many Moral Mondays. He said the budget, which McCrory signed last week, is an insult to teachers across the state.
“If the majority of our population is taught in public schools, a large portion of the budget should go to public schools as well. We’re talking about the future of our state and the future of our counties,” Santaloci said.
Santloci is going to grad school at NYU in the fall, but because of what has happened, he won’t be coming back to his home state.
“Before this law was passed, I was going to grad school with the hope of returning to North Carolina and getting a pay raise. I’m going to [grad] school in New York and the incentive to return and teach where I am from is no longer there,” Santaloci said.
UNC Alum Ashley Jones, who is in her third year of teaching, had plans to get her master’s degree this fall, but cancelled those plans.
“In the foreseeable future, I’ll always be paid as a first year teacher, and it is not very much. To know that it [teacher’s salary] won’t go up is really frustrating,” Jones said.
NAACP State Chapter President and protest leader Reverend William Barber said the Moral Monday protesters aren’t going anywhere just because the General Assembly has adjourned, exclaiming, “This state is our state!”
“We understand that we are not in some mere political movement. We’re not in some mere fight over 2014. We’re in a fight for the soul of this state, the soul of the South, and the soul of this nation. And when you are in a soul fight, you don’t give up easy,” Barber said.
Though this was the last Moral Monday in Raleigh, the NAACP will continue the rallies but move to different locations around the state. The next will be in Asheville on August 5, and there are plans to hold demonstrations in all 13 of North Carolina’s congressional districts.
“What would have divided us years ago has brought us together like never before. We know where we are. Anytime in the South, you see this many black folk, brown folk, white folk, gay folk and straight folk, and people of all faiths hugging each other, something is on the loose!” Barber said.
The first Moral Monday rallies were mostly made up of protesters from the Triangle area and members of the NAACP, but as the weeks progressed and the controversial legislation was unveiled, the crowds grew.
Paul Jones, a Clinical Professor at the UNC School of Information and Library Science and the School of Journalism and Mass Communications, said, “This is my sixth visit here [to Moral Monday] to try to turn the hearts of the legislature back to the path of righteousness and caring, to save them from the path of sin which they have entered, and to bring happiness and fellowship back to North Carolina.”
The movement has captured national attention from media outlets such as the New York Times, MSNBC, CNN and Fox News, to name a few.
“I think it is obvious that this is gaining momentum and that the values that they are speaking to resonate with North Carolinians,” said Randy Voller, Mayor of Pittsboro and Chair of the North Carolina Democratic Party.
For now, Mondays in downtown Raleigh will be a little more quiet until the legislature gets back to business.
To hear the radio version, click here:http://chapelboro.com/news/state-government/protesters-march-in-epic-end-to-raleigh-moral-mondays/
Pictured: Rally against abortion regulations
RALEIGH – The state Senate gave final approval Thursday to a bill that will tighten regulations for abortion providers in North Carolina. Hours later, the House passed drastic changes to the state’s current election laws.
House Bill 589 was revamped by Senate Republicans Tuesday to include provisions that go beyond the original voter I.D. requirement. The new version of the bill shortens the early voting period in general elections from 17 to 10 days, prohibits counties from extending early voting hours on the Saturday before Election Day to accommodate crowds, eliminates same-day voter registration during early voting, and eliminates straight-ticket voting, among other provisions.
One form of identification that would not be accepted is the student I.D., and some believe this is targeting the collegiate vote. Protesters, including UNC students, have been rallying and have even been arrested at the General Assembly this week, outraged because of the legislation.
The abortion bill now goes to Governor Pat McCrory, who previously said he would sign it into law. Backers of the bill steadfastly pushed the bill through the General Assembly. Senate Republicans originally attached the measure to a bill concerning Sharia Law. The next week, the abortion regulations were tacked onto a motorcycle safety measure, Senate Bill 353. It is the version now awaiting the Governor’s signature.
Democrats and pro-choice advocates have criticized the legislation, saying it would close abortion clinics and force many women to resort to unsafe methods to have an abortion. The bill makes regulations for abortion providers similar to those in ambulatory care centers without “unduly restricting access.”
Only one abortion clinic in the state meets those standards.http://chapelboro.com/news/state-government/nc-abortion-regulations-bill-going-to-gov-mccrory/
Pictured: N.C. General Assembly
ORANGE COUNTY – Throughout this entire legislative session, critics of the General Assembly have been outspoken against its Republican leadership. We’ve shared the liberal perspective on the legislature, but it’s been difficult to get a conservative perspective in Orange County.
WCHL has reached out to Stephen Xavier, Chair of the Orange County Republican Party, several times.
Dave Carter, a Republican who challenged Senator Ellie Kinnaird in the 2012 election to represent the 23rd district, shares his thoughts as this controversial legislative session comes to end.
“They’ve [the General Assembly] been all over the road. They’ve done some things I would view as progressive, which I am not a fan of. I’m not a fan of the ultraconservative crazies either,” Carter says. “And I see the current legislature, like the last legislature, and the legislature for the last 12 years that I have been following, they are driving all over the road. Sometimes they pull the wheel left, and sometimes they open their eyes and they are going to the extreme right.”
Carter doesn’t consider himself a moderate, but leans more toward Libertarian ideals.
He says he gives this General Assembly a grade of a “C.”
“They talk up a good thing, but they get all carried away with minutia. They are really not doing the things that they said they would do.”
Others, including the Moral Monday protesters, would not have so gracious an estimation of the Legislature. Each week since late April, protesters, led by NAACP State Chapter President, Reverend William Barber, have gathered in Raleigh to rally against what they call “regressive policies.”
“The Moral Monday stuff seems very fabricated, like it is almost backed by corporate sponsors,” Carter says. “I kind of expect to see Reverend Barber walking around with a big sign on the back of his shoulder, like you’d see a football player, saying sponsored by whomever.”
More than 900 people have been arrested inside the General Assembly as part of the Moral Monday protests.
“It’s like ‘Go get arrested and we can say: Look, we have 80 people arrested!’ That’s not civil disobedience; it is proving it with quota kind of stuff,” Carter says.
Activists were outraged recently when tighter abortion regulations swept through the General Assembly with little public notice, tacked onto unrelated bills.
“I know that there was recent brouhaha over the abortion stuff,” he said. “I think it was kind of tricky for them [Republican lawmakers] to do what they did, using rules in their own special way. They followed the rules, but they did it in a tricky way, and I think they could have been a little bit more transparent on that.”
Carter, who remains active in the Orange County Republican Party, says he’s entertained the idea of running again, but nothing is definite at this point.
Pictured: Moral Monday Protest; photo by Rachel Nash
RALEIGH – The Senate backed sweeping changes in the election process Wednesday evening that will likely alter the way we vote in North Carolina. The bill proposes significant changes to the state’s current election laws and also requires photo I.D.’s at the polls.
House Bill 589 was revamped by Senate Republicans Tuesday to include provisions that go beyond a voter I.D. requirement. The new version of the bill shortens the early voting period in general elections from 17 to 10 days, prohibits counties from extending early voting hours on the Saturday before Election Day to accommodate crowds, eliminates same-day voter registration during early voting, and eliminate straight-ticket voting, among other provisions.
One form of identification that would not be accepted is student I.D.’s and some believe this is targeting the collegiate vote. Protesters, including UNC students, have been rallying and even arrested at the General Assembly this week, outraged because of this bill.
UNC Student Body President Christy Lambden says he is concerned about how these possible changes will affect his peers’ access to the polls.
“I’m disappointed to see the introduction of the Voter I.D. Bill, especially if a student I.D. is not counting a valid form of voter I.D,” Lambden says.
Reverend William Barber of the state NAACP says in a statement: “These policies will be the most race-based, regressive and unconstitutional attacks on voting rights of the citizens of North Carolina that we have seen since the implementation of Jim Crow laws…”
Backers of the bill say that photo identification will cut down on voting fraud, whereas opponents of the bill say it is a strike against the more liberal groups, like student voters.
“Anything that is putting a constraint on voting and making it harder for students to vote, as I think this will, I think means that student voice is not going to be heard and that is ultimately troubling for me as a student representative,” Lambden says.
The election law changes normally would have been subject to authorization under the Voting Rights Act, but the Supreme Court’s recent decision exempted North Carolina from federal review until a new process is created by Congress.
“I think the state legislature needs to focus on maximizing student participation in the election process and I think to do that, they need to make sure that students can vote as easily as possible,” Lamden says.
A final vote of concurrence is expected in the Senate on Thursday. If passed, it will then go back to the House for a final vote and finally head to the desk of Governor Pat McCrory.http://chapelboro.com/news/state-government/nc-election-process-likely-to-see-big-changes/
CHAPEL HILL – We never like to hear that North Carolina is being viewed in a negative light nationally, overshadowing the progressive efforts we’ve made locally. Recently, though, it seems our state can’t stay out of the spotlight, and for reasons many are not pleased about.
Chapel Hillian Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling in Raleigh feared that this negative press, sparked by policies rolling through the Republican-led General Assembly this session, will hurt the state’s business climate.
“We’re getting made fun of on the Daily Show, getting made fun of on the Colbert Reports, that sort of thing. You combine that with the more serious fact of getting chided by the New York Times, it seems like every week there’s a new thing getting a lot of attention where people outside the state are really sort of making fun of North Carolina,” Jensen said.
The New York Times published an editorial last week on the state recent policies with the headline: “The Decline of North Carolina.”
“Ultimately if you get a reputation as a yokel state where the government is kind of crazy and that sort of thing, that’s bad for business recruitment and it makes businesses not want to move here and create jobs for the state,” Jensen said.
Last year, N.C. was ranked No. 4 on CNBC’s “America’s Top State’s for Business,” but this year dropped eight spots to No. 12 on the list. N.C. had previously been on the list each year since it was started in 2007.
“I think that’s one of the first signs that people outside of North Carolina sort of are waking up to the fact that North Carolina is getting extreme,” Jensen said. “That particular thing [NC dropping out of top 10 states for business] I think that maybe why you see the Republicans’ poll number getting so bad.”
Jensen explained that there is increasing dissatisfaction with the Republican majority in the House and Senate, driven by the less than transparent manner in which the abortion restriction bill was pushed through both houses. Only 34 percent of voters support the proposal, while 47 percent are opposed. 80 percent of voters think it’s inappropriate to combine abortion legislation with bills about motorcycle safety or Sharia Law. Those numbers are based on a PPP survey of 600 state voters between July 12 and July 14.
Jensen said there’s also been a major shift in voter opinion polls rating the job that N.C. Governor Pat McCrory is doing.
“This is the first time that we have ever found Governor Pat McCrory with a negative approval rating. Only 40 percent of the voters approve of the job he’s doing. 49 percent disapprove, and that’s a net 15 percent decline from last month.”
The numbers suggest that the Moral Monday protests against the policies of the General Assembly are viewed positively by a majority of North Carolinians. 45 percent of voters have a favorable opinion of the demonstrations whereas only 40 percent disapprove, according to Jensen.
The protests have caught the attention of national media outlets, such as MSNBC, Fox News, and CNN, who have sent camera crews to cover the weekly peaceful rallies that have resulted in more than 800 arrests.
“Nothing like this has ever happened in North Carolina,” Jensen said. “I think we’ve always been thought of as a pretty centrist but forward moving state that, especially more than any other states in the South, has been willing to move forward on key issues. What’s happened over the last two and a half years, but especially over the last six months, is something that’s very new for us.”
The 2012 election resulted in a Republican governor and a Republican-controlled General Assembly for only the second time in 140 years, but, Jensen said this could change in the next election.
“And when you ask people, ‘If there were a legislative election today, what party would you vote for?’ Democrats have a nine point lead, 51 percent to 42 percent, which is the biggest lead we have ever found for them on that measure,” Jensen said.
To view the full report by the PPP, click below:
Pictured: Planned Parenthood protest of proposed abortion restrictions
CHAPEL HILL – Following an impassioned debate, the state House voted Thursday 74-41 in favor of new regulations on abortion clinics in North Carolina. The measure now returns to the Senate for final approval before going to Governor Pat McCrory.
WCHL spoke with state Senator Ellie Kinnaird (Dem. Orange and Chatham Counties) Wednesday about the controversial process by which these measures moved through the General Assembly.
“You have to have an issue that is germane, or related in other words. When they took this abortion bill, they took it out on a motorcycle bill and there ain’t nothing germane about motorcycles and abortions,” Kinnaird said.
It was case of déjà vu Wednesday after the House mimicked actions taken by Senate last week by tacking abortions restrictions onto an unrelated bill with little public notice.
Senate Bill 353, the new abortion bill passed Thursday, was originally a bill about motorcycle safety. It was re-titled “Health and Safety Law Changes” after abortion regulations from a completely separate bill were added and then passed by a House Judiciary Committee Wednesday.
Women’s groups cried foul as there was no public notice that the abortion-related provisions would be on the calendar Wednesday, calling it a sneak attack.
Kinnaird said these tactics are common place in politics, saying that Democrats used similar strategies when they held the majority power.
“It’s is crazy, but things are crazy over here. You would have thought they would have found a health bill—surely there are some health bills sitting around that they could have added it into. But it is crazy over here, why not one more crazy thing they must have thought?”
Governor Pat McCrory threatened to veto the first abortion bill, House Bill 695, saying that significant changes and clarifications were necessary. Yet after Judiciary Committee made some changes to the new abortion bill Wednesday, many said the tweaks were only “modest” and that the language of the bill was still unclear.
Kinnaird said that she was pleased with the changes, calling them “significant.”
“It’s a better bill in terms of the Governor’s reaction. I want to say that all over the place, the Governor and his administration are really beginning to react.”
She explained that the bill asks the Department of Health and Human Services to write regulations for abortion clinics “similar” to those for ambulatory surgery centers, “while not unduly restricting access,” according to what was said in the committee hearing. Kinnaird also said the bill does not require a doctor to be present during all phases of a non-surgical, drug-induced abortion.
She said the changes, forced by the governor’s veto threats, do reflect that he is listening to what opponents of the restrictions are saying.
“It was an acknowledgement that there is a great deal of disagreement in the administration and the legislature on how to move forward with some of these issues,” she said.
Kinnaird said that Republican lawmakers are not as unified as they once were heading into the final weeks of the legislative session.
“The cracks are widening and how wide they will get, I don’t know,” she said.
The bill is almost certain to go into law at this point, though Kinnaird anticipates the regulations will likely generate Constitutional issues in the courts for some time.http://chapelboro.com/news/state-government/house-approves-proposed-nc-abortion-regulations/
RALEIGH – In yet another surprise move coming out of Raleigh, the state House answered a veto threat from Gov. Pat McCrory by altering proposed abortion restrictions passed by the Senate and tacking them on another bill about motorcycle safety. Representative Verla Insko, of Orange County, has been outspoken against abortion restrictions and questioned the motives of Republican lawmakers to push the legislation through.
“No one who believes in a thriving democracy should avoid or be opposed to open and transparent process with a vigorous debate on both sides of the issue. They clearly did not want to expose themselves to transparency,” Insko said.
Last week, the original abortion regulations were unexpectedly attached to House Bill 695, buried under legislation on Sharia law. Those restrictions would require abortion providers to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgery centers, a move abortion-rights advocates say is designed to shut down providers. Only one clinic in the entire state currently meets those standards. HB 695 moved through the Senate in less than 24 hours, just before the July Fourth holiday, and with little public notice. The bill then returned to the House for a final vote of concurrence.
After public backlash, however, the bill’s approval was halted Tuesday for a two-hour public hearing held by the House Health and Human Services Committee. It was decided further changes and clarifications were necessary before the bill could move forward. During that hearing, Insko was very outspoken about the potential consequences of preventing women from having safe abortions.
By Wednesday morning, the abortion-related provisions from HB 695 were then transferred to Senate Bill 353— the motorcycle safety bill. The new version of Senate Bill 353 was then passed by a House Judiciary Committee later in the day.
“They want to reach their goals in the dark of the night to the extent that they can. I don’t think North Carolinians will accept the process, much less the outcome,” Insko said.
Insko said the changes made by the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday were “modest,” and restrictive, and the language of the bill was still unclear. She explained that committee members only gave “vague answers” when asked what the changes would imply.
“I expect that it is the only way they could have gotten the Republican caucus in the House to agree to that language because the caucus members were clearly not of one voice on that issue,” Insko said.
As of 11:50 Wednesday morning, the new version of SB 353 was not available to the public, and McCrory announced his intent to veto HB 695 only after work was nearly complete on the alternate version SB 353, according to WRAL.
Insko said Democrats in the General Assembly and abortion-rights activists now have a mounting case against Republicans lawmakers of abusing the democratic process, as there was no notice that the abortion-related provisions would be on the calendar Wednesday, mirroring actions taken in the Senate last week.
“I’m increasingly frustrated, disappointed and agree that they are misusing their power. It really is a power move,” Insko said.
Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos advised state lawmakers Tuesday to update the inspection procedures for abortion clinics because they haven’t been reviewed since 1995. Insko said she supports that proposal because it will help to keep the clinics open and safe. She says the problem is that the state doesn’t provide adequate funds to carry out those inspections.
“We pass laws that create good regulations, but the inspectors are never funded. If you never see someone running a stop sign, you never get a ticket,” Insko said.
Led by Planned Parenthood, protesters have been rallying outside and inside the General Assembly since the Senate passed HB 695 last week.
“I think that the women of North Carolina are energized, and they see that their hard-fought-for civil rights are being removed. I think that you’ll see a continued effort to make sure that those are protected,” Insko said.
The new version of SB 353 will move to the House floor Thursday. If approved, it would then return to the Senate for a final vote of concurrence before going to Governor McCrory.http://chapelboro.com/news/state-government/rep-insko-questions-motives-behind-new-abortion-bill/
RALEIGH – Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos advised state lawmakers Tuesday to clarify the sum of the provisions proposed in House Bill 695 to restrict abortion access. The bill moved through Senate in less than 24 hours last week, and only a needed a concurrence vote by the full House to pass. After backlash from abortion-rights activists, the House and Human Services Committee held a public hearing to discuss the bill further.
There was a clear division in the room where the hearing was held. Pro-choice supporters wore pink and anti-abortion advocates wore blue.
Outside of the State Legislative Building, protesters, including Carol Brooke of Carrboro, gathered for a rally led by Planned Parenthood against abortion restrictions.
“I would hope that Governor McCrory will remember how many women in this state helped to elect him and how many women he is representing, and that he will do the right thing and veto this bill,” Brooke said.
House Bill 695 would require abortion providers to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgery centers, a move abortion-rights advocates say is designed to shut down providers. Only one clinic in the entire state currently meets those standards.
Governor Pat McCrory, who said last fall that he would not support further abortion restrictions, criticized the way in which House Bill 695 moved rapidly through the Senate with little public notice, buried in legislation against Sharia Law. Even if McCrory follows through on his pledge, Republicans have a veto-proof majority in both houses making the bill almost certain to pass.
Secretary Wos said that regulations and inspection procedures for abortion clinics need to be updated, saying that they haven’t been reviewed since 1995.
Micah Allen sat in the public hearing and said he is pro-life under all circumstances.
“In terms of consistency across the board with dangerous medical procedures this has to happen. It is inconsistent to argue against it and say that other procedures of a similar nature have to have a sterile environment, and a surgeon present; it really makes no sense. Logically, this bill makes a lot of sense,” Allen said.
Allen agrees with points the DHHS made, saying that certain provisions of the bill needed to be clarified to ensure the safety standards. Two abortion clinics were shut down this year in Durham and Charlotte for unsafe practices.
“I think a lot of the speakers in favor of the bill touched on the issue that has tended to be an emotional thing. Abortion has been put on a pedestal, and currently the laws have put it in another category than surgical centers. That’s unfortunate because it’s much less safe than people have presented it as,” Allen said.
Gabrielle Johnson, a UNC law student, attended Tuesday’s rally and is pro-choice. Johnson also attended last Wednesday’s impromptu demonstration of more than 600, organized in response to the bill itself as well as the way it was passed in the Senate.
“Even if it does pass, I hope that these same women who are getting rallied up at this moment for this anti-women’s rights bill will remember this during election time and will get equally excited and equally energized to remind them [the General Assembly] that if you go against us once, you’ll have to pay for it with your election and your seat,” Johnson said.
Representative Verla Insko of Orange County was outspoken during the hearing, arguing that abortion clinics protect women’s health by providing safe ways to have the procedure done. Representative Beverly Earle of Mecklenburg County said that if all but one clinic were to close, women would be forced to have abortions in the “back-room type of places.”http://chapelboro.com/news/state-government/abortion-restriction-bill-will-be-reviewed-further/
CHAPEL HILL –Two UNC students were arrested Wednesday in Raleigh during in a protest of more than 350 people. The group rallied against a recent wave of controversial state legislation.
“In this moment, we felt like we had no other option,” said UNC senior Zaina Alsous.
The group, NC Student Power Union, mobilized hundreds of college students from 10 universities across the state on May Day.
Alsous and fellow UNC student Carissa Morrison were both charged with disorderly conduct. Morrison was also charged with misdemeanor assault on a government official. Five students in total were taken into custody.
The rally began at the NC State Bell Tower and ended at the NC State Legislature. Protestors held a banner that read: “We Demand a Future! Stop budget cuts! Stop racist voter laws! Stop attacks on workers!”
This coming just two days after 17 people were arresting during an NAACP demonstration against a House-supported voter ID bill.
“We hope that other community members will see what is going on and express their discontent as well. We know that these policies are incredibly unpopular,” Alsous said.
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory’s proposed budget cuts to the UNC System total more than $140 million.
“I don’t know any college who wants to pay more for tuition, who wants to lose their financial aid, and with these budget cuts, more than 8,000 students would lose financial aid,” Alsous said.
Art Pope is McCrory’s budget director –Alsous believes with the proposed budget cuts, affordable and accessible higher education is being put at risk.
“We’ve had call-in days where hundreds of calls have been made to Pope and well as Governor McCrory urging them to stop attacking public education. And we’ve never gotten a response,” Alsous said.
Alsous said the protests will continue throughout the summer.http://chapelboro.com/news/unc/unc-student-arrested-during-protest-we-felt-like-we-had-no-other-option/