NC Legislature Finishes Session, Passes Harmful Bills
The North Carolina state legislature dismissed on Wednesday (9/30) after an 8.5 month session, the longest such session in 14 years. Despite the length of this legislative session, the legislature passed several harmful bills that will restrict eligibility for the SNAP program, make further cuts to Planned Parenthood, and make it easier for companies to skirt around pollution laws.
North Carolina’s Republican leaders proved one thing with the nearly endless legislative session that finally concluded at 4:18 a.m. on Wednesday:
They can’t govern.
House Bill 318, with the ironic title of “Protect NC Workers Act,” will create more hunger and poverty. It restricts eligibility for SNAP, or food-stamp benefits for childless adults, a segment of the population that doesn’t qualify for much to begin with, because most programs focus on families with children.
The real intent of this law is to further bash Planned Parenthood and cut off the group’s funding, based on widely discredited smear videos. The bill denies family-planning funds to any group that provides abortions. Cutting off funds for contraception and family-planning education only serves to increase unplanned pregnancies and, as a result, abortions.
House Bill 373 increases the influence of big money on legislation by creating “affiliated party committees,” which essentially circumvent campaign finance laws to create a slush fund for legislators. Originally, the bill called for this fund to be controlled by the leaders of the House and Senate. In a last-minute change, the leaders of each caucus now can choose who controls this fund. Whoever is in control will have powerful leverage over other lawmakers in getting support for bills.
House Bill 765, the Regulatory Reform Act, will result in greater pollution of the state’s air and water. Nicknamed the “Polluter Protection Act,” it exempts polluters from civil penalties for violating environmental limits if they self-report the violations. It also reduces the number of air-quality monitors, used by people with asthma (including me) and others with health conditions, to know when to limit outdoor activities.
Unfortunately, the Republican leadership, with Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) and House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) at the helm, does not want to govern.
It wants to rule.