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August 18, 2016 12:00 pm
In Part 2 of this 2-part series, NC Family President John L. Rustin talks with NC Family Lobbyist and Counsel Jere Royall, about the highlights of this past session of the North Carolina General Assembly.
The substance of House Bill two is related to privacy and safety of our citizens was maintained. Policy with NC family Pres. John Weston thanks for joining us for family policy matters. Our guest again this week is oil director of community impact and counsel with the North Carolina family policy Council last week Jerry and I had a great discussion about NC families role as an advocate and lobbyist in the North Carolina Gen. assembly and all that entails. When the Gen. assembly is in session.
We are down there every day looking out for the interest of families and family values this week were going to discuss the recently concluded legislative session of the North Carolina Gen. assembly in which NC family was very actively engaged in the actions or state lawmakers took on particular issues of interest.
Jerry, thanks for being with us again on family policy matters.
Thank you for having me back. We are very thankful for all that you do.
Jerry well is we begin our discussion jury.
Let's talk about the obvious, which is House Bill two and let me set the stage for our listeners. As you may recall, the Charlotte city Council passed a set of highly controversial ordinance changes in February, including opening public bathrooms, locker rooms, changing rooms and other facilities to individuals of either sex and also enacting provisions that would have enabled the city to trample on the religious liberty rights of citizens and businesses. Well, the North Carolina Gen. assembly would not stand for this and they held a special session on March 23 to stop these ordinance changes before they could go into effect.
They were scheduled to go into effect on April 1 so the legislature came into session on March 23 again to stop that lawmakers passed House Bill two on that day, and fortunately, Gov. Pat McCoury sign that bill into law that very evening. Knowing the legislature was coming back into session for the regularly scheduled short session. Just a month later on April 25 LGBT activist groups like the human rights campaign, ACLU and equality. North Carolina really turned up the heat on state lawmakers calling for a full repeal of House Bill two.
The media was also complicit in creating what turned into a national firestorm over this common sense legislation well.
With that background and intro. Jerry tell us about what happened with House Bill two during the session.
As you said, we continued to hear that lawmakers were facing a lot of pressure and especially late in the session and we heard at that point that some specific changes were being considered by some legislators say throughout the session. We continued to meet with members. We continue to send out alerts encouraging other citizens to affirm what the legislators had done to let them their senators, their house member and the governor know that they appreciated that the strong position that our state had taken to protect the privacy and safety of our citizens.
But what we did is we continue to meet with legislators throughout the session, especially at the end was to remind them of some of the basic facts about House Bill two and in and the necessity for that wall to be maintained.
First of all that Charlotte had acted beyond its legal authority and that's why the legislature had to act in the number two, the state needs to maintain a statewide bathroom privacy and safety law. In addition to those he also reminded them that our state's antidiscrimination laws are almost exactly the same as 27 other states and the federal government well. Also, while the session was going on. The US Department of Justice in education made this a national issue by issuing a guidance letter that applied to all public schools kindergarten through the University level that would affect restrooms, locker room, showers and dormitories, and other facilities and what happened in response to that is, there are now 23 other states. In addition to North Carolina and Virginia that are in lawsuits against the federal government to defend the states privacy and safety laws so this is an issue that now has become a national issue, which was a good way for our legislators to be encouraged that what they were doing was the right thing when you have now half the states involved with defending this almost same law around our country. So what ended up happening at the end of the session was just one change was made in the law that was passed that's referred to as House Bill two in this change was a bill entitled an act to restore the state tort claim for wrongful discharge.
What that meant was that state claims could be brought in state courts, as it related to wrongful discharge from employment. House Bill two had not affected claims that were brought under federal law in either state or federal court so this was a change that I think everyone agreed was a good adjustment that was made in the law that the substance of House Bill two is it related to the privacy and safety of our citizens was maintained and upheld jury that was really just a wonderful blessing because the donation was looking at North Carolina. We were clearly Ground Zero in this fight. So the fact that the legislature and the governor held the ground on this. They did make this one little tweak. But again is you said it did not change the the substance or nature of House Bill two and so that the vast majority of House Bill two remains in effect. So we were very very pleased to come out of the session with House Bill two remaining intact. Clearly jury we could spend an entire show and we have spent several family policy matters programs discussing House Bill two, but we do want to look at some of the other important issues that the Gen. assembly acted on the session.
As I mentioned in the intro. A primary focus of the short session is the budget and state lawmakers finally agreed upon a $22.3 billion state spending plan besides just that that appropriation of $22.3 billion jury were there other provisions in the budget that we were particularly interested in or concerned about. Yes, there were a in in the area of education. There was an expansion of the scholarship funds, which help families who want to make an educational choice other than a public school to do that and their two areas that were established in previous session but were increased this year and one of those with the opportunity scholarship grants which allow lower income families to receive assistance up to $4200 a year for their children to attend a nonpublic school in this program over the next 10 years is going to be increased so that 20,000 more students will be able to participate in that scholarship grant program and also there was an increase in financial assistance through scholarship grants for families with children with disabilities in that program allows for $6000 a year for tuition in special education and related services for children with disabilities you're listening to policy matters so I spent to listen to our radio show online and from what resources have a place of persuasion in your community website.org there was one other issue of particular interest in the budget that we were not that particular area of what is related to the lottery and over the last three years there have been proposals that would increase the lottery advertising allowance that $19 million which would basically would double the amount of advertising in our state for the lottery and we have worked on the lottery and gambling issues for over 20 years have seen all the harms that come with gambling in in our state and across our country where you have more broken families, divorce, bankruptcies, domestic violence, and other crimes like theft, all these come with gambling in an estate and especially gambling that is being promoted by our state government. We try to help legislators see that even though this is now legal in our state. This is not a way for our state to bring in additional revenue at the expense of our citizens and the many literally thousands of people who will become problem in addicted gamblers.
If you continue to increase the advertising expense on that will jury the lottery provision is a great example that sometimes a successful lobbying effort isn't just about what passes but is also about what doesn't pass or make it to a final vote.
Clearly we have to stay vigilant and old guard throughout the session. Because we never know when an issue whether good or bad may pop up out of nowhere and actually we did have one of those happen at the end of session diddly yes we did.
It was what's referred to often is the needle exchange program. This is an issue that we have research for many years and there's a lot of mixed information about these programs. The ideas is a laudable one.
And this is one of things that we want to acknowledge when we're working on issues are the positive aspects as well as the Nevitt negative aspects and for those to be weighed by us and by legislators as they are considering these important issues. The idea behind these programs is they help reduce the spread of disease. When people are sharing contaminated needles and also when law enforcement officers and other emergency personnel are interacting with people who may have contaminated needles in their possession and they they could be injured by these needles. And finally, these programs offer an opportunity when people come to participate in the exchange program to receive clean needles that they can also be referred to treatment centers where hopefully they can be cured of their addiction but our concern on the other side of it is that these programs can in fact help people continue in their addiction and actually make matters worse, and we actually have some studies that indicate that that in some cases they the people end up with more contaminated needles and you end up with increased drug use as well. So we were concerned about this being past especially right at the end of the session without adequate debate, but unfortunately this one was added to a bill at which eliminate a lot of the debate would normally happen in the committee process and in the debate on the floor well and I think what you say is important that we did communicate to legislators.
As we discussed our concerns about this bill to them when we learned in the closing days of session it was coming up that there was really up a lot of mixed research and evidence about these programs but as laudable as the objectives of the programs or at the very least, syringe exchange or needle exchange program send a mixed message to our youth and our society at large. It it's a really challenging issue.
It's a complex issue, but something that we we did express concerns about and unfortunately Saul enacted in the legislature. We will be watching this very closely.
As the program progresses to see what kind of experience. North Carolina has with that which or anything else that we saw the session of interest. One thing on a very positive note appropriation that was made that was has been made in recent years to Carolina pregnancy care fellowship which is a nonprofit pro-life organization is committed to equip and encourage network pregnancy care's ministries across North Carolina. The center serve over 20,000 women and men each year by assisting them in making healthy life-affirming choices for themselves and their unborn babies. So we were thankful to see that appropriation continue in our state budget this year Jerry.
Overall, it sounds like the session was really quite a success, especially with all of the attention focused on house bill two. There were a number of other issues that were discussed and debated and not just in the realm that we talked about today, but a lot of issues that the members of the general assembly grappled with some bills passed some bills did not, but overall we are grateful for the work of the Gen. assembly were extremely grateful for the involvement and participation of citizens across North Carolina who care passionately about these issues and contact their members of the Gen. assembly to express their concerns injury on a just a personal note, I want to thank you so much for all of your hard work and your efforts on behalf of NC family and our supporters all across the state and all across the nation. Thank you John said that the beginning this is a great blessing for me getting to work together with you and with people here, the family policy Council.
People all over the state who are working together with us. Simple jury. Thanks so much for that in the listeners.
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