The Fallout From Bad Legislation
When the General Assembly adjourned on July 1, I hoped that we were done damaging the state for the year. But sometimes the fallout lingers long after a disaster.
Since we finished this year’s legislative session, there has been non-stop news about the harm done to North Carolina from the last few years of Republican legislative action. Here are but a few examples.
HB2 Economic Losses
You likely know that the NBA has pulled next year’s All-Star Game from Charlotte. I have heard that all that they wanted from our Governor and legislature was a bipartisan commission to study the bill. But somehow that was too much to ask of our entrenched Republicans. Now we have lost approximately $100 million in revenue that would have come with hosting the game.
A group of entrepreneurs recently told me that they’re having trouble getting out of state investments because funders don’t believe they can recruit the best talent to North Carolina in the wake of HB2. One company that is poised for a major hiring push may move out of state in order to maintain their funding and growth.
Meanwhile, Republican legislators took $500,000 out of the state’s disaster relief fund to defend HB2 in court. There’s some great irony in that, because HB2 is most certainly a disaster. But what if a hurricane hits this fall or Zika spreads north?
Voter ID Ruling
North Carolina was one of three states to have Voter ID laws struck down by courts on July 29. The unanimous court decision in North Carolina’s case called it our law of the most racially biased laws since Jim Crow.
There is much good news in this decision. Voters will be able to cast a ballot in November without one of the state-sanctioned forms of ID. The early voting period will be a week longer than previously scheduled (returning it to the same length as in 2012). And new voters will be able to register and vote on the same day during the early vote period.
Unfortunately, the taxpayers now have to foot the bill for both side’s legal costs in this prolonged lawsuit. North Carolina has already spent more than $9 million dollars defending lawsuits since Republicans took control in 2011.
Coal Ash in Well Water
According to news reports and a deposition from a former state scientist, Governor McCrory and top officials from the Department of Health and Human Services withheld information about cancer-causing chemicals in well water near leaky coal-ash pits.
If that’s not bad enough, the Governor’s office has accused the scientist of lying under oath. The public should wonder whether the former Duke Energy employee (Gov. McCrory) or a state scientist is more likely to be honest about protecting our drinking water.
Who’s Paying More Taxes
New numbers from the North Carolina Justice Center show that the Republicans taxation scheme is upside-down. In 2015, those making less than $20,000 paid 9.2% of their income in taxes. Those making over $376,000 paid only 5.3%. The top 1% of taxpayers have seen their taxes cut by an average of almost $15,000 while the bottom half of taxpayers have actually seen their taxes go up.
The Expensive Failure of Virtual Charters
Even on summer break we get bad news about schools. A new report from Stanford University shows that students in “Virtual Charter Schools” can trail the progress of their traditional school peers by up to an entire academic year.
Back in 2014, North Carolina approved two of these online charter schools. Both are operated by for-profit companies, and combined they received $14.5 million in funding for the 2015-16 school year. During that year, they both had 30% of their students drop out. This experiment needs to stop.
It’s Time for Better Leadership
Elections have consequences, and laws have consequences. Unfortunately, too many of the consequences from our legislature have been disasters. We are wasting taxpayer money and not doing enough to help everyday working people. It’s time for better leadership.
Graig Meyer is the State Representative for House District 50, covering portions of Orange and Durham Counties. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.