Weekend reads: Loosening state gun laws, diversity efforts targeted, and a new wave of book banning

By: - April 2, 2023 8:30 am

North Carolina State Capitol (Photo: Clayton Henkel)

Big changes start Monday:

NC Policy Watch is becoming NC Newsline

For nearly two decades, people who care about North Carolina’s most vulnerable, who relish understanding the people and politics that factor into the state’s policies, and who have strong opinions about what our state should look like in the 21st Century, have been loyal and supportive readers of NC Policy Watch. [Read more…]

In other news:

1. NC legislature loosens gun laws as governor’s veto is overridden

Two days after a mass shooting at a Tennessee school, the North Carolina legislature loosened state gun laws by lifting the requirement for local sheriffs to approve pistol purchases as lawmakers completed the override of a bill Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed last week.

The state House voted 71-46 Wednesday to override Cooper’s veto, following the Senate’s override vote Tuesday.

In addition to repealing the pistol permit requirement, the law allows concealed permit holders to carry guns in schools that double as places of worship and launches a two-year firearm safe-storage campaign. [Read more…]

2. State data: Black students suspended from NC public schools at four times the rate of whitesBlack and American Indian students are suspended and expelled from schools at dramatically higher rates than their white peers, according to recent state data.

During the 2021-22 school year, these groups had the highest rates of short-term suspensions, according to data compiled in the NC Department of Public Instruction’s Consolidated Data Report 2021-22. It consists of the annual reports on school crime and violence, suspensions and expulsions, alternative learning placements, reassignments for disciplinary purposes, uses of corporal punishment and dropout rates. [Read more…]

3. Faculty, staff bristle as Diversity, Equity and Inclusion efforts are targeted

When the General Assembly’s Joint Legislative Commission on Government Operations sent a recent detailed request to the UNC System seeking information about any Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility (DEIA) training programs employed by the system and its 17 campuses, Professor Jelani Favors wasn’t surprised.

“We’ve been here before,” he told Policy Watch this week.

Favors is a history professor at N.C. A&T University and author of the award-winning book “Shelter in a Time of Storm: How Black Colleges Fostered Generations of Leadership and Activism.” As he teaches his students, he said, powerful social movements often have their beginnings at colleges and universities — and they often inspire powerful backlash.[Read more…]

4. Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina needs to remain a public asset (Commentary)

Twenty-five years ago, when a powerful state senator quietly and suddenly advanced a bill that would have allowed the leaders of Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina to transform the giant and successful health insurance nonprofit into a for-profit company, advocates, consumers, average citizens, and ultimately, the full General Assembly, took a stand.

For more than a half-century, Blue Cross had been afforded all manner of public assistance and preferential treatment in the form of tax and premium breaks as it grew into massive institution that employed thousands of people who served millions of customers. So state legislators passed a law mandating that if Blue Cross converted to a for-profit, it wouldn’t be allowed to leave the state’s residents high and dry. Instead, the law specified that the would-be converters could have the name, but its assets would be transferred to a publicly controlled charitable trust for the benefit of the state’s citizenry. [Read more…]

5. NC House proposed budget has tax cuts, employee raises, and is stuffed with policy changes

GOP agenda items for schools, COVID, elections, judicial retirement are included in omnibus proposal — Medicaid expansion could be impacted

The budget state House Republicans presented this week would increase teacher salaries an average of 10% over two years and give state employees 7.5% raises over the two-year budget cycle.

School bus drivers would get an extra 2% on top of the overall increase.

Retired teachers and state employees would receive a 1% cost of living increase in each of the two years. [Read more…]Bonus budget reads:

6. As national conservatives target schools, libraries, a look at the new wave of book banning

Last week the U.S. House passed HR 5 — a federal “Parents Bill of Rights”, part of a conservative wave of similarly named legislation that targets books and speech on topics like race, gender and sexuality in schools, and would compel teachers and school staff to out transgender children to their families.

Passed 213-208 along party-lines in the House, the bill isn’t expected to survive the Senate’s Democratic majority or to be signed into law by President Joe Biden. Indeed, had all House members been present for the vote, it’s quite possible the bill would not have passed there. But the heated, 48-hour debate over the bill mirrored similar debate over North Carolina’s Senate Bill 49. [Read more…]

7. Report: Some incarcerated people don’t trust NC’s prison grievance system

Fear of punishment, concerns that prison staff thwart attempts to submit grievances cited

A new report on North Carolina’s prison grievance procedure found that some incarcerated people do not think the policy resolves their complaints and fear they will be punished for raising an objection about their confinement.

“If we write a grievance we will be wrote up and put in the hole,” one person wrote in a letter sent to NC-CURE, a nonprofit advocacy group behind the investigation. [Read more…]

8. Despite signs of progress in hurricane recovery, ReBuild NC continues to struggle

Leoni entered this world on Jan. 23, a daughter of Donnie Red Hawk McDowell and his wife, Humming Bird, hurricane survivors and members of the Tuscarora Nation.

In March, Leoni, her 3-year-old sister, Dyani, and their parents moved to a room on the second floor of an Extended Stay America in Fayetteville while their new mobile home was installed near Maxton.

McDowell and his family had lived in their damaged mobile home since Hurricane Florence. They had endured a three-year odyssey with ReBuild NC, which last October acknowledged their file “was mismanaged by our vendor case management partner” – Horne, a national firm with which Rebuild has long contracted.

Then Leoni arrived, a source of joy. And the family felt hopeful when they moved into the Extended Stay. Their old home had been demolished. A new one was on the way.[Read more…]

Bonus reads in environmental news:

9. This bill is your legacy’: A divided NC House votes big on sports gambling (w/video)

In a 66-45 vote, members of the North Carolina House approved legislation Tuesday to legalize sports wagering in North Carolina.

House Bill 347 opens the door to electronic betting on college sports and professional sports with 10 to 12 licensed operators accepting bets.

Rep. Jason Saine (R-Lincoln) the bill’s primary sponsor said the legislation has the backing of the Hornets, the Hurricanes, the Panthers, the Courage, NASCAR, and the PGA tour.

“It’s a new amenity that teams can offer that will increase their advertising revenue and increase fan engagement and viewership,” explained Saine. [Read more…]

10. Weekly Radio Interviews:

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Clayton Henkel
Clayton Henkel

Communications Coordinator Clayton Henkel manages the NC Newsline website and daily newsletter, while also producing daily audio commentaries and the weekly News and Views radio program/podcast.