More than 200 people gathered May 13 to support the 49 people arrested for peaceably protesting at the N.C General Assembly building in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Garrison Keillor opens his monologues with "It's been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon." But North Carolina is not a quiet town on the prairie, and we are no longer being quiet.
This week in North Carolina started with 49 arrests at the N.C. General Assembly -- arrests of people peaceably assembled and singing songs of peace and unity to protest the ALEC-ification of our state. This brings the total number of civil-disobedience arrests so far to 96, including 17 arrests April 29, 30 arrests on May 6, and 49 arrests on May 13.
More arrests are expected on May 20, the next "Moral Monday" called by the N.C. NAACP and its coalition partners in protest of the Republican supermajority's ramrodding of nearly 2,000 bills -- many of them designed to decimate public education, deny/restrict access to health insurance, kneecap labor rights, seize local control from elected municipal governments, restrict women's access to reproductive healthcare, expand firearms permissions, eviscerate oversight boards, permit exploitation of public lands, implement "fracking" and other environmental abuses, and suppress voter rights -- through the state legislature since the end of January.
Here's a great video published online by UpWorthy that tells the story of those arrested and why they chose to make this statement. This is not a small effort. The 96 people who've chosen to sit, stand, and sing in the hallways of the N.C. General Assembly are backed by thousands of North Carolinians who are coming to the NCGA to be heard. (See the footage around 6:50 into the video clip.)
This is the beginning of a groundswell moment in North Carolina history: the tipping point at which Tar Heelinians let our legislators know, in no uncertain terms, that they either serve the state with the consent or the governed or we will withdraw our consent. But we will not back down. We will not go back. We've worked too hard and paid too much to be dragged back in time by the "secret political societies" our state's constitution authors warned us about.
Many of these bills are taken verbatim from the American Legislative Exchange Council's (ALEC) "model legislation" playbook. All of this is made possible now that our newly elected Republican governor, Pat McCrory, has named Art Pope the state's deputy budget director. Pope's long been known as an ALEC vizier; his bankroll funded the campaigns of many of the lawmakers now working to implement ALEC plans in North Carolina.
Many of these bills are taken verbatim from the American Legislative Exchange Council's (ALEC) "model legislation" playbook. All of this is made possible now that our newly elected Republican governor, Pat McCrory, has named Art Pope the state's deputy budget director. Pope's long been known as an ALEC vizier; his bankroll seeded the campaigns of many of the lawmakers now working to implement ALEC plans in North Carolina.
Yesterday, May 16, was Crossover Day at the N.C. General Assembly: the date when bills that pass the N.C. House of Representatives cross over to the Senate side, and when bills that pass the N.C. Senate cross over to the House side. Once bills have made their way through both houses intact, they are delivered to the governor's desk for signature (although in some cases, Gov. McCrory has allowed bills to become law without his signature).
According to the Raleigh News & Observer, here are just a few of the odious bills that survived crossover. Yes, this is an exhaustive list. In less than 12 weeks (from January lawmaker installation to bill submittal deadlines late in March and early in April), nearly 1,000 bills were submitted in the N.C. Senate and more than 1,000 in the N.C. House.
- House Bill 146 and Senate Bill 243 require the instruction of cursive writing and that students learn memorize multiplication tables. This bill effectively strips the N.C. Department of Education of its authority to establish curriculum guidelines and hijacks instructional time from addressing testing measures that schools must meet to retain public funding.
- House Bill 935 tightens income eligibility requirements to 100 percent of federal poverty level. If passed, thousands of children in Wake County Public Schools alone will no longer qualify for pre-K services.
- Senate Bill 189 and House Bill 230 broaden the definition of home schools. Parents or guardians would no longer have to provide instruction; having parental determination of the course of instruction and additional sources of education would meet the definition.
- Senate Bill 337 creates an independent board to manage charter schools and removes requirements that instructors hold teaching certificates. Teachers of core courses at charter schools would not even be required to have a college degree of any kind.
- Senate Bill 236 allows the boards of commissioners in nine specific counties, including Wake, to take control of school construction and ownership away from school boards.
LOCAL GOVERNANCE, REGULATION, AND OVERSIGHT
- Senate Bill 334 sends the city of Raleigh back to the negotiating table with state leaders as it tries to turn the state-owned Dorothea Dix property (formerly a hospital treating the mentally ill that was closed due to state budget decisions) into a city park. This bill nullifies an agreement that the state and the city of Raleigh spent years negotiating.
- House Bill 150 limit local governments’ ability to set design and building standards for houses.
- House Bill 120 restricts local authorities from imposing additional inspections on home builders and delays state building code upgrades to every six years instead of three years.
- Senate Bill 325 redraws the Wake County school board districts in a way that critics say will politicize the seats and benefit Republicans. This bill sets aside current school board district boundaries that were established after the latest census; effectively, the newly elected school board members could see their terms cut by two years, while other school board members could see their terms extended by two years without reelection.
- Cities can’t ban the selling of large, sugary drinks under House Bill 683. It also prohibits lawsuits against food makers for obesity or health issues.
- House Bill 1011 would replace more than 100 incumbents on regulatory boards with Republican-appointed members. In just two instances, this bill eviscerates the power of the public utilities commission to have a public advocate and the state geologist sitting on the regulatory board overseeing utility issues.
- Voters will be required to show photo identification at the polls under House Bill 589. There is no similar requirement for absentee balloting.
- House Bill 311 puts it to voters to remove a literacy test to vote from the state constitution.
- State-mandated energy efficiency standards for new commercial construction would be rolled back by 30 percent under House Bill 201.
- Senate Bill 76 lifts the state’s fracking moratorium in 2015, allowing deep-well injection of fracking waste and ceding control over public transparency of chemicals and processes used to drill gas wells in North Carolina to the fracking industry. This bill is expected to change substantially after crossover, due to industry pressure to eliminate oversight panels and commissions and offer more control to fracking giant Halliburton.
TRANSPORTATION [AND RACISM]
- House Bill 786 (The RECLAIM NC Act) offers "special driving permits" for immigrants who are in the United States illegally. Along the way, the bill establishes tough new immigration enforcement measures for police and the courts.
- House Bill 628 promotes the use of North Carolina-grown timber in state buildings, which would keep them from receiving LEED green building certification.
- Senate Bill 515 repeals rules that have been in place for several years to improve water quality at Jordan Lake. It would require new rules be written that restrict efforts to solely cleaning up the lake itself rather than examining and addressing sources of upstream pollution.
- Senate Bill 151 allows the building of terminal groins or jetties in all 14 of the state’s inlets despite warnings that the state’s beaches would end up looking like New Jersey’s.
- See FRACKING information in SB 76, outlined above.
- Senate Bill 306 repeals the 2009 Racial Justice Act, which allowed death row inmates to appeal their sentences on the grounds of racial bias in the court system. If a judge agreed, the inmate's sentence could be commuted to life without the possibility of parole.
- Senate Bill 327 prohibits the sale of cars in North Carolina by unlicensed out-of-state dealers online or by phone. It is aimed specifically at Tesla.
- Senate Bill 489 raises the rate on many consumer finance loans. Previous N.C. law prohibited interest rates higher than 36%; SB489 eliminates any maximum interest rat and also strikes down the clause that prohibits penalties for early payment of principal and interest.
- House Bill 829 allows restaurants and grocery stores to fill 64-oz. "growlers" of beer.
- House Bill 834 enables a massive government restructuring, creates more political appointee positions and weakens civil service protections for state employees.
- House Bill 872 prohibits state contracts that require contractors or subcontractors hire union labor.
- House Bill 937 allows people with permits to carry concealed weapons to bring their firearms into bars and restaurants that serve alcohol, onto college campuses, and on public greenways.
- House Bill 17 makes confidential the records of permits issued to purchase handguns and to carry concealed weapons.
- House Bill 716 makes it illegal to perform abortions based on the gender of the fetus.
- House Bill 730 expands to all health-care workers legal protections for refusing to participate in abortions, and prohibit the state’s health insurance exchange and cities and counties from providing coverage for abortions.
- Senate Bill 132 requires schools teach that abortion is a “preventable cause” of premature birth in subsequent pregnancies. [N.C. state law already requires the teaching of "abstinence-based" sex education. Current law is an improvement of a pre-2010 law that required "abstinence-only" education.]
- House Bill 695, aka Anti-Sharia Law, prohibits judges, mediators and agencies from applying foreign law to divorce, child custody, alimony and other similar domestic cases. This comes from the same pro-Christian Republican legislators that put forward bills to establish a state religion, strictly regulate abortion, require divorcing couples to pay for mandatory counseling for two years, and create all sorts of other Sharia-like laws in North Carolina.
I know. Exhausting, isn't it? But this is what we're up against in North Carolina. This is why we fight. We're faced with a well-funded Republican and/or Tea Party supermajority in the N.C. General Assembly that is throwing everything it can find at us and affording us no opportunity for public input. None.
In March and April, for instance, Rep. David Lewis (R-District 53) hosted what he called "public hearings" on the voter ID bill. Several hundred people signed up to speak, but many of those who spoke in favor of the voter ID bill were members of the so-called Voter Integrity Project." They presented claim after claim of voter fraud in North Carolina. However, the day after the second "public hearing," the Voter Integrity Project issued this statement:
RALEIGH, NC–4:55 PM, Friday, April 12, 2013. Late this afternoon, we learned that some of our findings, revealed at the April 10 public Legislative hearing, may be inaccurate; so we plan to issue a full report after completing an audit. While we regret this human error and apologize for any embarrassment it may have caused to the presenters and to election officials, we caution the public against losing sight of the undeniable fact that North Carolina’s voter rolls are so corrupted that, without an effective voter ID law, it will be impossible to know who is really voting. Keeping that in mind, we look forward to constructive engagement with any stakeholders who support open and honest elections in our state.
Jay DeLancy, Executive Director
Voter Integrity Project of NC
I and a few others led an immediate campaign to request a third public hearing on voter ID, with remarks from the Voter Integrity Project to be stricken from the tally of public comments or added provisionally, with a note about suspicious input. These requests were denied by Rep. Lewis, who insisted that although the claims of voter fraud were themselves fraudulent, he is convinced that there "could be" voter fraud in North Carolina. However, the voter ID bill does not address the source of the very few instances of voter fraud in the state: absentee balloting.
Fiscal notes attached to the voter ID bill lowball estimate an expenditure of $3.6 million over four years, with no line items for office overhead, pay increases for staff, or increased staffing over the four years. All of this for exactly zero (0) cases of in-person voter fraud in North Carolina. No needs assessment. No impact survey. No study of absentee balloting.
This is why we fight. This is why we are convening at the North Carolina General Assembly on Mondays to make our voices heard. This is why we insist that our state legislators obey the state constitution, which states:
Sec. 12. Right of assembly and petition.
The people have a right to assemble together to consult for their common good, to instruct their representatives, and to apply to the General Assembly for redress of grievances; but secret political societies are dangerous to the liberties of a free people and shall not be tolerated.
Secret political societies like ALEC seem to have taken over the North Carolina General Assembly and to have eliminated the right of the people to assemble together, consult for our common good, and instruct instruct our representatives.
And so we fight. And so we'll be arrested -- by the dozens, by the scores, by the hundreds, and perhaps even by the thousands. But we will not give up.
Tune in Monday night, May 20, to learn how many more North Carolinians have been arrested to turn back the tide of ALEC-sponsored takeovers in our state and to exert the consent of the governed.