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State Democratic Party Chair Pleased with Election Results

North Carolina – Voter turnout this election year was low, but that won’t stop members of the Democratic Party from making bold predictions about their opponents’ futures.

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Randy Voller is the Chair of the North Carolina State Democratic Party, and he says he and his party’s supporters should be pleased with last week’s election results.

“We pretty much swept all the races across the state, and in the big cities,” Voller says.

Charlotte, Greensboro, Durham, and Sanford are a few cities included on his list of successes for the Democratic Party in this year’s municipal elections. So what went right for the candidates dressed in blue?

“Tuesday night was a referendum on what the mood of the electorate is in our cities,” Voller says, “The mood was to elect democrats and democrat city counsels across the state, especially in our bigger cities from Asheville to Wilmington.”

Voller says that mood was set by both federal and state government actions and events.He says the government shutdown and structural issues nationally had an effect on this election.

But Voller says events closer to home, within North Carolina’s state government, had a heavy influence on voters’ decisions as well.

“I think the interference in local control by the general assembly probably was on a lot of people’s minds,” Voller says, “There are a number of places where the general assembly got involved in local issues which traditionally they would not have done.”

Voller says he thinks the results in this election are foreshadowing future setbacks for opponents of the Democratic Party.

“I think what happened in Charlotte, where the republicans invested heavily and lost, is a bell-weather for 2014,” Voller says. And he has a message for voters not following his flock.

“If your stance is, ‘I don’t believe in government, or government doesn’t work, or we should privatize government,’ you’re probably on the defense right now,” Voller says.

Rep Insko Questions Motives Behind Abortion Bill

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.

Abortion Restrictions To Undergo Further Review

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.”