Rallies For and Against HB 2 At Start of Legislative Session

Supporters and opponents of House Bill 2 rallied in Raleigh on Monday on the first day of the General Assembly’s legislative session.

The Forward Together Moral Movement, together with the NAACP, organized a rally against House Bill 2, which pulls back legal protections for the LGBT community in the state.

LGBT advocates held a press conference outside the governor’s office before delivering boxes full of petitions. Governor McCrory’s office accused the Human Rights Campaign of organizing a smear effort and overstating how many signatures they collected.

Chris Sgro, the executive director of Equality NC, said House Bill 2 has put North Carolina in a bad light.

“If House Bill 2 has taught us anything is that discrimination is bad for North Carolina and bad for business,” said Sgro. “So not only must we repeal HB 2 to fix the mess that state leaders made for our communities, but this week I will be proposing legislation that bands discrimination of any kind statewide on the basis of veteran status, sexual orientation and gender identity.”

On Sunday, Sgro was sworn into the North Carolina General Assembly, filling a seat vacated after a death of Rep. Ralph Johnson of Guilford County.

Sgro is the legislature’s only openly gay member.

Equality NC is party to the lawsuit challenging House Bill 2 in court. Joaquin Carcaño, a transgender man who works at UNC, is the lead plaintiff.

“Access to public accommodations that align with our identity or where we feel safest should be an unquestioned right because our privacy and safety matter too and has been put at risk,” said Carcaño.

Hundreds also attended a rally in support of House Bill 2 on Halifax Mall, near the legislative building. The rally was organized by the Keep NC Safe Coalition.

Supporters held signs that read “It’s Common Sense” and “Keep Women and Children safe.”

According to a newly released poll from Public Policy Polling, only 36% of North Carolina voters support HB 2, compared to 45% who are opposed.

Dr. Rev. William Barber, President of the North Carolina NAACP, urged people not to call it a bathroom bill and instead referred to it as Hate Bill 2.

“We have to understand what’s really going on here, hate bill 2 is not a bathroom bill. It’s not a bill to protect women and children against predators,” said Barber. “It is a cynical attempt to pit supposedly Christian values against our families’ best interest and our faith’s highest morality.”

Democratic legislators introduced a bill on Monday to repeal House Bill 2.


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.”


McCrory Talks HB2 On NBC’s Meet The Press

North Carolina governor Pat McCrory talked about the controversial House Bill 2 on NBC’s Meet The Press Sunday.

Chuck Todd, host of the show, asked McCrory whether or not he had spoken with any transgender people before he signed the law. McCrory said he had not.

“But I’ve met with transgender people in the past and have met with them since and have had very positive conversations,” he said.

Over the past few weeks many have called for North Carolina to repeal the bill, but for the most part McCrory said he expects the bill to stay in place.

“There is one part of the bill I disagreed with before I signed it,” he said. “And that is not able to sue in state courts and that needs to be repealed. It was very poorly thought out.”

The bill requires transgender people to use the bathroom of the gender on their birth certificate, as well as prevents local governments from creating minimum wage laws and removes legal protections from some minority groups.

McCrory said the part of the bill concerning bathroom privacy will not be repealed, despite Todd saying over 160 companies have called for the bill’s repeal.

“Any estimates of lost revenue we have so far (NBC) has come up with, a conservative calculation is $39.7 million,” Todd said. “One hundred and eighty six million dollars perhaps in revenue and some have suggested billions.”

A number of celebrities and musicians have canceled appearances in the state.

Even with the growing number of people and groups who have come out against the legislation, McCrory said he felt there was a disconnect between businesses and the citizens of North Carolina.

He mentioned a recent visit to Hamlet, North Carolina.

“I walked into a buffet restaurant, African-American buffet restaurant and the people welcomed me with open arms and said ‘thanks for protecting us,'” McCrory said. “I got back to my car and got a call from someone in corporate America saying ‘man you’ve got to change this we’re getting killed.'”

McCrory said he wanted to have dialogue moving forward.

“This was basically a restroom privacy issue versus equality,” he said. “These things need to be discussed, not threatened by Hollywood or anyone.”


Civil Rights Groups File Lawsuit Against House Bill 2

Advocates have been speaking out against House Bill 2, and now that bill will be challenged in court. The American Civil Liberties Union in North Carolina, Lambda Legal and Equality NC held a press conference Monday announcing a federal lawsuit challenging House Bill 2, which rolls back protections for the LGBT community.

Chris Brook is the legal director for the ACLU in North Carolina.

“Let’s be clear, the legislature and Governor McCrory have done nothing less than encourage discrimination against thousands of LGBT people who call North Carolina home and countless others who may travel here. They have particularly targeted transgender North Carolinians with ugly and baseless vitriol that seeks to harm and marginalize an already venerable community,” said Brook.

House Bill 2 was signed into law last Wednesday by Governor Pat McCrory after being introduced only 12 hours earlier in a special legislative session.

Facts And Myths (That McCrory Forgot) About House Bill 2

Three members of the LGBT community as well as the ACLU and Equality NC are plaintiffs in the lawsuit. The defendants are listed as Governor Pat McCrory, Attorney General Roy Copper, the UNC System and UNC Board of Governors, including Louis Bissette, chairman of the board.

The lawsuit claims that the bill violates equal protection, privacy and liberty guaranteed under the 14th amendment and Title IX, which prohibits discriminating against students on the basis of sex. Brook said that could put the UNC System at risk of losing federal funds.

As Attorney General, Roy Cooper is charged with defending the state in any legal litigation but he has already denounced the bill saying it harms North Carolina families and the economy. Roy Cooper is the democratic nominee for Governor, challenging incumbent Governor McCrory.

Simone Bell is a member of Lambda Legal, an organization that works to promote LBGT rights and is proving council in the lawsuit.

“We stand shoulder to shoulder to say we are not going to have this, so we are going to take you to court. And we found people who believe so much in decency, and not just equality, but justice, who are willing to put their lives on the line for our communities,” said Bell.

Joaquìn Carcaño is the lead plaintiff in the case. Carcaño works at UNC and is a transgender man but is listed as a female on this birth certificate. Under the new law he would be required to use the female restroom at work.

“Yes I am a transgender man but I am a man. My family, my friends, my co-workers and many more in this state affirm my male identity, that is not something that can be stripped away by a bill such as this,” said Carcaño.

Pat McCrory released a statement Friday, attempting to dispel “myths” surrounding House Bill 2. Proponents of the bill have called it “common sense legislation” and a public safety issue.

But Carcaño sees it as an issue of values.

“It is so much more than a restroom. It’s about dignity, it’s about respect. It’s about valuing us as a broader part of the North Carolina community. North Carolina is better than this,” said Carcaño.

The case, Carcaño v. McCrory will be argued in the federal court for the middle district of North Carolina.

The Carrboro Board of Alderman unanimously passed a resolution on Saturday calling for the General Assembly to repeal the bill.


NC Below National Average For Drop In Uninsured Workers

According to a report done by Families USA, the percentage of North Carolina workers without health insurance dropped 15 percent in 2014, which was below the national average of 19 percent.

Families USA Dee Mahan said top states saw their uninsured workers drop 36 percent.

“During the first full year of the ACA, virtually every state saw a decrease in uninsured workers,” she said. “However, the rate of that decrease was substantially higher, nearly twice as great, in states that expanded Medicaid that year.”

Under the Affordable Care Act, states can add people to their Medicaid program that make no more than 138 percent of the federal poverty rate.

The federal government will pay the entire cost of the expansion until next year, when it will start gradually dropping to 90 percent in 2020.

North Carolina was one of the 24 states that did not expand Medicaid in 2014, and remains one of the 16 states that have yet to expand.

All but two of the states that had their uninsured workers drop at a rate above the national average were expansion states.

Cara Stewart from Kentucky Equal Justice Center said expansion has gone well in her home state.

“We saw our uninsured rate plummet,” she said. “The most interesting thing I think we figured out was that the majority of people who became insured through Medicaid expansion were workers.”

Tennessee state senator Richard Briggs said his state is one of those that have not accepted the expansion.

Briggs is a cardiac surgeon and said he frequently sees patients come through the emergency room at his hospital with heart attacks because they could not afford their necessary medication.

“For a few dollars, maybe a couple of hundred dollars a month, they could’ve taken their medication,” he said. “Instead they build up a bill that somebody is going to have to pay for that could be anywhere from $25,000 to $100,000 depending on how sick they are after surgery.”

Over the summer Governor Pat McCrory said he would like to expand Medicaid, but would like a plan tailored to North Carolina.

However, an expansion would have to pass the state legislature before reaching the governor’s office.

To see the full report, click here.


Four Fatalities Occur Due To Winter Weather

Governor Pat McCrory continued to urge people to stay off the roads during this winter storm.

In a press conference held Friday morning,  McCrory announced that four fatalities have occurred this year due to car accidents related to winter weather.

“Early this morning we had a very serious wreck on I-95 where one person has died,” he said. “A major trucking accident with several trucks and a car. We’re having some very serious issues on I-95 at this time.”

Because of the accident, parts of I-95 were closed.

McCrory said accidents are occurring because people don’t see snow on the road and speed up because they assume it is clear.

He urged drivers to be cautious and be aware of black ice.

“A concern we have right now is some of the mixtures are going from snow to rain back to snow back to rain to freezing ice and you’ve got to recognize that when the rain comes it’s taking off the materials that DOT did such a good job putting on.”

He said when the black ice comes after the rain, the salt brine or sand that has been laid down won’t work.

From Thursday night into Friday morning, the State Highway Patrol responded to 571 calls for assistance and McCrory said they have identified about 25 to 30 abandoned cars.

“The issue across the state is very strong gusty winds, which could cause power outages and make it difficult for safety personnel” he said.

Do not call 911 in non-emergency situations.

If you want updates on the roads or the weather, call 511, visits ReadyNC.org or download the ReadyNC app for your smartphone.

“Something my wife reminded me of last night that I didn’t mention,” McCrory said. “Make sure to check with your neighbors and check if they’re okay, especially if the power goes out.”


Pat McCrory Issues State of Emergency

Governor Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency in anticipation of the winter storm that is expected to hit late Thursday night.

“As you know with weather there are certain predictions of weather but you never know what the end result will be,” he said. “That’s why we’re going to do everything we can to prepare our roads, public safety personnel and the general public to ensure we’re prepared for the worst of the worst, but hoping for the best.”

He said at the time of the press conference two North Carolinians had already lost their lives due to ice related car accidents.

“Stay off the roads when travel becomes dangerous,” McCrory said. “Unnecessary travel during a storm only puts people at risk. It also puts our emergency personnel at risk and if you must travel please slow down and leave room between you and other vehicles.”

This year North Carolina will be continuing a recent policy of checking all abandoned vehicles in case someone has been trapped in their car.

“This is very important for us is that we do not want to leave anyone abandoned on our highways and that’s going to be a major priority for the highway patrol,” McCrory said.”

North Carolina has also developed the ReadyNC app for smartphones, which will give users updates on the road conditions, shelter openings and the weather.

Colonel William Gray of the State Highway Patrol urges people to avoid using 911 in non-emergency situations.

“Keep track of the road conditions in your area,” he said. “But I ask you to do that by going to ReadyNC.com or by calling 511. Don’t call 911 or *HP. Let’s keep those open for emergency communication.”

For anyone who is forced to abandon their vehicle on the side of the highway, the highway patrol has a link on their website to let people know where their cars have been taken.



Gov. McCrory Signs Common Core Changes Into Law

RALEIGH – Common Core curriculum standards for North Carolina schools will be rewritten under a bill signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory.

Gov. McCrory signed the bill Tuesday along with four others. He said the Common Core bill does not officially repeal the federal standards but will review and improve them.

North Carolina is now one of five states that have changed or removed the Common Core standards from schools and are creating new state-specific ones.

The law directs the State Board of Education to rewrite the Common Core standards for the North Carolina’s K-12 schools. A new 11-member standards advisory commission will be formed to make curriculum recommendations to the board. Common Core, which schools began testing two years ago, would remain in place until the new standards are completed.


Epic End To Raleigh Moral Mondays

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:


Abortion Regulations & Voter ID Go To Governor

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.