From Newport to New Bern, Raleigh to Fayetteville, North Carolina holds a special place in my heart.
I spent part of my formative teenage years at the Governor’s School of North Carolina in Winston-Salem discovering my love of acting, learning to volunteer in my community and finding out it is okay to be smart.
Now, my heart is breaking.
North Carolina’s state motto is “Esse quam videri,” which means “To be, rather than to seem.” Where other southern states have tried, and failed, North Carolina has for decades made tremendous strides to be a progressive beacon on social, environmental and educational issues.
Now, and for the first time since deconstruction, Republicans control both houses of the legislature along with the governor’s mansion. Since January, they have increasingly displayed an agenda that reads like it is lifted from the Republican National Committee playbook.
Don’t believe me? Here are 10 ways North Carolina is destroying decades of progress:
1. Gutting Education
North Carolina has always understood the importance of education, from early childhood through college.
However, current Senate budget proposals include reducing the funding for early childhood spending by 60 percent and reducing or eliminating programs that focus on recruiting and training high quality teachers, increasing teacher aides in classrooms, reducing class sizes and those programs that made teacher salaries some of the most competitive in the region.
North Carolina now ranks 46th in per-capita education spending and only outranks West Virginia and Mississippi in teacher spending.
2. Less Investment in Children’s Health
Until this year, a state task force focusing on policies that improve childhood health and safety, as well expanding Medicaid to allow more women and children to qualify for medical care, has managed to cut infant and child death rate almost 50 per cent.
The state has in the past also subsidized early intervention programs for children with disabilities, providing developmental and speech therapy.
Now, proposals will eliminate the task force, remove thousands of women from Medicaid, and cut more than $10 million dollars from the disabled children programs.
3. Slowing Rural Economic Development
Since 1984, several programs have focused on the economic development of rural communities and other business development initiatives.
Current proposals would severely reduce or eliminate the almost $700 million dollars in grants that were used for these programs.
4. Raising Taxes on the Poor and Middle Class
This year, Governor McCrory signed a bill to repeal the earned income tax credit that gave over 900,000 low income workers a rebate on their taxes.
As part of their voter omnibus bill, the legislature desires to eliminate the dependent tax credit for parents with college students who vote in their college town instead of their hometown.
They also plan to eliminate the progressive tax system that has been in place since 1921, which has helped fund North Carolina’s roads and world class universities.
Proposals to replace this include a flat tax and increases in sales tax, which would further hurt the poor and middle class.
Next page: North Carolina’s war on women, benefits, the environment and more.
5. Cutting Earned Benefits
Despite having one of the highest unemployment rates in the region, the state has dramatically cut unemployment benefits and reduced the eligibility period in which residents can receive benefits from 26 six weeks down to 12.
This has caused North Carolina to be the only state dropped from the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, causing more than 170,000 residents to lose their long term unemployment benefits.
6. Rolling Back Environmental Protections
Bills moving through the legislature would eliminate or reduce existing environmental programs, some that have been in place since the 1970s.
These programs have protected coastlines, water supplies, historic sites, wetlands and endangered animal habitats, while also increasing the number of parks in the state.
The legislature has also passed a law that prevents any local environmental rules from being stricter than state ones, which are already not allowed to be more stringent than federal laws.
7. Opening New Fronts on the War on Women
Earlier this month, the Senate passed an extreme anti-abortion bill that imposed unnecessary regulations on abortion clinics and licensing requirements on providers, which would force most of the state’s abortion clinics to close.
The bill was attached to an anti-Sharia law bill without public comment.
Under threat of veto from the governor, this week the House passed a similar measure designed to meet the governor’s concerns.
The House bill keeps many of the Senate bill’s clinic regulations, prohibits sex selective abortions and prohibits the offering of abortion coverage in public employee health plan exchanges.
This time it was attached to a motorcycle safety bill, again, without public comment.
8. Reversing Progress in Social Justice
The legislature reversed a 2009 law, the Racial Justice Act, which allowed those sentenced to death to use statistical evidence showing how race affected their trial and sentencing.
That bill is waiting for the governor’s signature.
9. Ignoring the Constitution
In April of this year, the “Rowan County, North Carolina Defense of Religion Act of 2013” was introduced in order to supposedly show that the state has a right to declare an official religion.
The bill was withdrawn after the bill’s authors were informed that they can’t create a bill that says it has a right to ignore the Constitution.
10. About Those Elections…
Historically, dating back as far as 1977, North Carolina has passed legislation to support public financing of elections, and currently public financing is available for all political parties, state and judicial elections.
The legislature now plans to abolish all public financing.
Finally, North Carolina was one of the pre-clearance states in the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Since the Supreme Court declared Section 4 of the Act unconstitutional, North Carolina is expected to move forward with the House bill passed in April, which includes provisions for ending early voting, Sunday voting and same day voter registration.
Esse quam videri.
You’re doing it all wrong, North Carolina.