In our Jan. 22 print edition, I explored what Republican Party control might mean for LGBT North Carolinians. It’s been nearly two weeks now since the North Carolina General Assembly opened their legislative session and Republicans have wasted no time in their quest to push through negative legislation that will hurt everyday Tar Heels, especially the “least among us.”
As of this print edition’s deadline, several items of Republican (and/or “Tea Party,” but aren’t they pretty much the same these days?) support had yet to be addressed by lawmakers in Raleigh, though some legislative agenda items have already made their way to the General Assembly since its opening on Jan. 26.
The outlook is as bleak for us as it is for communities of color, immigrants, low-income young people and other oft-maligned minorities.
A bill which GOP legislators hope will help opt North Carolinians out of President Obama’s landmark healthcare reform law was among the first filed this legislative session. Sponsored by Reps. Paul Stam (R-Wake), Jeff Barnhart (R-Cabarrus), Mark Hollo (R-Alexander, Catawba) and Tom Murry (R-Wake), the bill has an additional 59 co-sponsors. Most Republicans in North Carolina and across the country campaigned heavily last fall against the president’s new healthcare plans and reforms, so it’s no surprise a bill aimed directly at the president’s most remarkable domestic policy achievement is among the first on Republicans’ priority list.
While there’s no doubt in any (sane) person’s mind that the new federal law will prove positive for a significant number of Americans, Republicans aren’t budging in their quest to ignore important, vital facts and reality. (Glossing over the truth seems to be common currency in right-wing politics these days.) Among those reality-based facts: It will decrease the deficit, reduce health-related costs for citizens and ensure a greater number of Americans are eligible for healthcare insurance with or without so-called pre-existing conditions.
But to hell with facts, figures and honesty, right? Republicans played well to their rabid base, won their elections in November and have come to Raleigh to exact their anti-establishment, anti-American and anti-government revenge on our nation — well, to the best of their ability that is. Important note to Republicans: State laws do not trump federal laws. We’ve learned this several times. Should I repeat that for you, perhaps more slowly next time?
Above and beyond healthcare, Republicans have also put education on their list of institutions to screw up and people to screw over particularly if it has anything to do with brown-skinned, cough, I mean “illegal immigrant” children. Several GOP House members were quick to file legislation that would ban undocumented people — mostly youth and young adults who have committed no crime and are in America through no fault or wrongdoing of their own — from attending any of North Carolina’s community colleges or UNC System institutions (see story on page 9). Republicans will say they’re attempting to protect the rights of native-born citizens, that there’s only so much money to go around supporting each student. What they won’t tell you is that they have just one type of immigrant on their mind: Latinos. Really, now, who honestly thinks someone’s going to second-guess the paperwork of a white-skinned Canadian or Briton?
Other potentially negative pieces of legislation weren’t following too far behind. Legislation to lift the current cap of 100 on charter schools was filed without even the tiniest addition of regulation or oversight, a problem some progressive advocates say could lead to abuse, a potential educational harm to many of our state’s children and a re-routing of much-needed taxpayer funds from struggling public school systems.
Still on the education front, another bill sponsored by Republicans would allow community colleges to opt-out of participation in federal direct student loan programs providing low-income students with the opportunity to pay for and attain higher education.
Kinda shows you exactly what Republicans think of our state’s constitutional guarantee of quality education for every child in North Carolina, doesn’t it?
Luckily, as of deadline, several other harmful, potentially potent bills had yet to be filed in either the House or the Senate though they are probably well on their way (check goqnotes.com for the latest news). Those bills include a constitutional amendment to ban recognition of same-sex marriage (and, potentially, other legal arrangements between same-sex couples), a bill to require voters to present valid photo I.D. at the ballot box, a repeal of the state’s voter-owned election law, an “informed consent” abortion bill and potential changes to 2009’s School Violence Prevention Act and Healthy Youth Act, among others. : :