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What's Happened In the North Carolina General Assembly So Far This Year

Family Policy Matters / NC Family Policy
The Truth Network Radio
June 12, 2023 1:51 pm

What's Happened In the North Carolina General Assembly So Far This Year

Family Policy Matters / NC Family Policy

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June 12, 2023 1:51 pm

This week on Family Policy Matters, host Traci DeVette Griggs welcomes back NC Family’s own John Rustin and Jere Royall to discuss some of the key legislation that is making it's way through the General Assembly this year, including bills that protect life, women's sports, doctors, children, and more. 

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Welcome to Family Policy Matters, an engaging and informative weekly radio show and podcast produced by the North Carolina Family Policy Council. Hi, this is John Rustin, president of NC Family, and we're grateful to have you with us for this week's program. It's our prayer that you will be informed, encouraged, and inspired by what you hear on Family Policy Matters, and that you will feel better, equipped to be a voice of persuasion for family values in your community, state, and nation. And now here is our host of Family Policy Matters, Tracey Devitt-Griggs.

Thanks for joining us today for Family Policy Matters. We are recording this interview for both the radio show and podcast and NC Family's weekly video updates. If you're interested in seeing the video version of this interview, sign up as part of our email list at ncfamily.org.

And you will receive an email when they are online every week. Our guests today are here to give us an update on this session of the North Carolina General Assembly. John Rustin is president of NC Family, and Jerry Royal is NC Family's counsel. Both spend a lot of time at the General Assembly, keeping an eye on what's happening and working to influence laws on behalf of the families in our state. It's amazing that when you hear about all of these important bills in the media, they're portrayed as radical. As we know, when we actually read the text of the bills, which of course are always available to us on the NC legislature's website at ncleg.org, we find they're actually common sense and reasonable.

So let's talk about some of those bills. Well, let's talk first about a victory. There was a pro-life victory in the legislature.

What happened? Yes, well, there was. And hopefully, as you're aware, we have had a great pro-life victory in North Carolina. Senate Bill 20, the Care for Women, Children, and Families Act, was passed by the legislature, of course, was vetoed by Governor Roy Cooper, and the legislature overrode the governor's veto. This bill is a major pro-life victory in North Carolina. It essentially reduces the gestational age for legal abortions in North Carolina from 20 weeks to 12 weeks. Of course, at the onset of the session, we were advocating strongly for a heartbeat bill in North Carolina, which would have reduced the legal gestational age for abortion about six weeks.

It was a compromise. We obviously wanted, and many others wanted, conception to be the time when the unborn child is protected. But there were a lot of good provisions that were added along with the 12-week restriction. And Tracy, this bill is literally going to save thousands of lives every year and is going to, again, provide resources.

There's $160 million appropriated in this bill for improvements and enhancements to foster care, to adoption, to maternal care, and lots of other important services in North Carolina. We're facing crisis and unplanned pregnancies, every reason to choose life. And so we're really excited about it. Yeah, and I think it answers some of those critiques from the other side that all we care about is getting the baby born. So this is providing a lot of those services. Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. And that's so critical because there are going to be more and more women carrying a child to term. And we need to provide those practical services to them and also support in lots of different ways.

Okay. Well, let's talk about going forward then. There are a lot of bills that are important to North Carolina families that are being considered.

Talk about what those are. Well, a major bill is the Parents' Bill of Rights, which I know a lot of our viewers and listeners care about. This bill clarifies and codifies parents' fundamental rights to the care, custody, and control, using kind of legal terms, of their children, particularly in the arenas of education and healthcare. So this bill, Senate Bill 49, passed the Senate in early February and is awaiting action in the House. And we're very, very hopeful that the House is going to take this bill up and pass it because parents do have a fundamental right to the care and upbringing of their children. But because that's being challenged in lots of areas, especially in education and in healthcare, this bill does need to pass.

Okay. How about Opportunity Scholarships? Well, this is an area where more and more people are realizing we need to offer choices in education. And there's great support across the state for this. So both chambers of the House and the Senate have bills proposing that. The House actually passed their version. The Senate version was not voted on, would expand things even more.

Theirs actually would include all income levels. Now, it would be on a sliding scale the amount of these grants, but because the bill has not been taken up, many people are talking about the fact that it will be put in the state budget, which is what has happened in recent years. But either way, there is going to be a significant expansion of these scholarship grants. Not an unlimited amount, but they are going to continue to increase the availability of these scholarships. Yeah, so expanding eligibility so more children, more families will be able to choose the educational environment that's best for their children. And also forward funding, as the legislature has done, so that there are appropriations set aside for Opportunity Scholarships for years in advance. So we're really excited about this initiative, and the legislature is really continuing making North Carolina one of the leading states in the nation in school choice. So this is what critics have hammered on, is the all income levels that you're going to be providing these scholarships, which have in the past been for people who are low income or who've had special needs children. So now we're giving scholarships and taking these rich kids and paying for them to go to private schools. What's the truth in that statement?

Well, I mean it is, but it's on a sliding scale. But the reality is people are saying taxpayers are putting money into the state fund, and so it only makes sense that if people are choosing for their children to take another path, that some of those resources should follow the child. I understand the point people are making, but the reality is, doesn't it make sense to let resources, but not as much of the state resources, follow the child as they go to various schools?

Okay. The next one I think is Fairness in Women's Sports Act. Yes, and this bill is really designed to protect the health and safety of female athletes in middle school, high school, and college by designating sports teams as either male, female, or co-ed based on biological sex. And so there were similar bills introduced in both the state senate and the state house. Those bills passed their chamber of origin, so the senate bill passed the senate, the house bill passed the house, but neither chamber has taken up the other chamber's bill yet. So since there is clearly support in both chambers for this legislation, we fully anticipate that this bill will be taken up in either the house or the senate, and that bill will be passed.

Quick note on that, John. That doesn't normally happen. Usually one chamber passes, a bill sends it over to the other. In this case, as you say, they did pass their own version.

The main difference is the house version includes college sports, so it remains to be seen how they're going to work out that difference. Okay, so this is primarily about transgender individuals trying to play on a sport that doesn't match their birth gender. So we've got another bill that's similar, Prohibiting Gender Surgeries on Minors. What's happening with that?

Right. Well, this is house bill 808, which passed the house in early May. It has not been considered by the senate yet. The original version of this bill, and there's a companion senate bill, would prohibit the administration of puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and the performance of gender reassignment surgeries on minors in North Carolina. So the house took up their bill. They took out the puberty blockers or the chemical portions and kept it as just a prohibiting cross-sex surgeries on minors and sent that bill over to the senate. We're hopeful that the senate will take up their version of the bill or reinstate the chemical treatment prohibition as part of this bill. Because these drugs, these chemicals, and these surgical procedures are irreversible and sterilize the individuals who receive these services.

And it's just not a good thing for especially our youth to be subjected to. And so individuals who are dealing with gender dysphoria certainly need support, they need compassion, they need care, but they don't need irreversible surgeries and chemicals in their bodies. Okay, so these two bills are not proof that Republicans hate transgender individuals then. Is that what you're saying? Yes, that is correct. That is correct. No, it is. It's showing true care for people.

As John said, they're permanent changes. There's no proof. I mean, more and more, we've seen it over in Europe, other parts of the world, that they've been on this path and have seen they're coming with negative outcomes. This is bringing harm to people's lives. So it is. It's really showing compassion.

One other quick note, too, John, it remains to be seen how they work out their differences. The House version did still have a provision in there, even though it didn't keep the chemical part, where no state funding would go towards any kinds of treatments. Yeah, it is interesting that the United States is doing much more radical things with individuals who believe themselves to be transgender than even European countries, some of these countries we expect to be. Well, and Tracy, in a related bill, there's also legislation that would protect the rights of conscience of health care providers in North Carolina. It's a very broad bill, but part of the intention of the bill is to address and protect physicians and others in the health care industry from being forced to engage and participate in these kinds of administration of drugs and surgeries on minors. So that is House Bill 819, the Medical Ethics Defense Act.

We do have conscience protections in North Carolina protecting doctors, physicians, health care providers from participating in abortions. And this would extend that in a much broader sense. So we are hopeful that this bill will be taken up because that's really important, not only to prohibit minors from participating.

But if adults are seeking these kinds of treatments that if a health care provider objects to it on religious, ethical or moral grounds, they should not be forced to participate in it. So another important bill. OK, so the final one that our organization is watching is called the REACH Act. And as someone who loves history and thinks that we all need to learn more about our founding fathers and some of the founding documents, I love this one.

But explain what that is. Well, the REACH Act would require three credit hours of instruction on American government and our founding documents as a prerequisite for graduation from North Carolina universities and community colleges. So the title of the bill is Reclaiming College Education on America's Constitutional Heritage. The acronym for that is REACH. So that's where the REACH Act comes from. And there were bills introduced in both chambers to do this. There have been discussions, but no final action taken yet on this legislation by the General Assembly.

Right. And why is this important? Well, as we're seeing now, they've done surveys and asked people basic questions about government. And sadly, the responses are almost shocking.

And this is where people are going, OK, we see this is a problem. As citizens of this country, we need to understand our system of government. We all need to participate.

And that's what, of course, we're about. And we appreciate the fact that so many of you work together with us within our government. But if people don't understand how the government system works, they're not as likely to be involved and interested. And so this is an important part of helping people see what does it mean to be a citizen of this country, of this state. Right. And I think this is why it's important for all of us to be an educated electorate.

This is why getting involved with NC Family, signing up for those emails and actually reading them when they go into your email box is important because you're continuing to educate yourself on how you can be active. Got a couple more issues to talk about. I know we're running short on time. Of course, gambling has been a huge focus of the legislature, unfortunately, in recent weeks. As we are having our discussion today, the sports gambling and horse racing bill has passed the General Assembly and has been sent to the governor.

He is expected to sign the bill in the coming days. And it's just very unfortunate because we know the tremendously negative impact that the legalization of sports gambling in North Carolina is going to have, especially on our young adults and youth. The legislature is also considering bills and discussing bills that would place casinos in North Carolina and also legalize video lottery terminals or basically video poker machines under the auspices of the state lottery. We are fighting these bills like the dickens and I'm just heartbroken to see the sports gambling bill and the horse racing bill pass the legislature.

If this is an issue that is of concern to you, please keep your eyes and ears open for alerts from the Family Policy Council as we move further into the session because these bills are likely to come up quite quickly. And then the last one is medical marijuana, which I think is just ridiculous that we're actually still talking about this. We know all the evidence that shows that it's not healthy to have this legalized marijuana.

Talk about what's happening in North Carolina. Well, it passed earlier this year in the Senate. As the House has not brought it up yet, we and you and many others continue to inform our members of the legislature of the House, just as you're saying, Tracy, about the realities.

All major medical groups are saying, no, let us be the ones who approve medications. This we're finding harm, not help. And again, thank you for your involvement because the more they're hearing, the more they're being encouraged with the facts and the truth, we're understanding that opposition is continuing to grow.

So this coming week, we've heard they may be voting in the House, within the caucus of Republicans, where if it's defeated there, then that will be the end of the bill, which is what needs to happen. So we all are going to keep working together to inform, encourage them, which goes back to your whole point about being involved with government, looking out for our neighbor, caring for one another. This is one more way we can do that. And y'all, it's so valuable that we have these people up there, you know, advocating on our behalf. So thank you very much for all the good work that you guys do. Thank you, Tracy.

Appreciate that. You've been listening to Family Policy Matters. We hope you enjoyed the program and plan to tune in again next week. To listen to the show online and to learn more about NC Families work to inform, encourage and inspire families across North Carolina, go to our website at ncfamily.org. That's ncfamily.org. Thanks again for listening and may God bless you and your family.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-06-12 14:40:36 / 2023-06-12 14:46:44 / 6

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