- Photo ID to Vote
- Attack on national health care reform
- The state’s budget and maintaining adequate revenues
- Contacting your State Legislators
- To Contact the Governor
The 2011 General Assembly convened Wednesday for its long session. The politics of this session will be unlike any we have ever known because Republicans are now in the majority in both the House and Senate, and the Governor – with a veto – is a Democrat. We’ve not been here before.
Raleigh Report will begin regular publication next week, but for today, there are three items needing your attention right away. (You will see “right away” as a recurring theme in what follows.) It is clear that the new Republican majorities in the General Assembly do not intend to dally in moving their agenda.
Photo ID to Vote
Speculation is running high that legislative leaders will propose and quickly adopt legislation requiring anyone who wants to vote to prove his/her identity by producing a photo ID at the polling place. Supporters claim that it would help prevent voter fraud, though there has been almost no voter fraud alleged in NC. What the requirement would really do is make it harder for some people to vote. I think of my now-departed parents. My mom never drove, so she never had a driver’s license, and she never traveled out of the country, so she had no need for a passport. My dad did drive for most of his life, but in his declining years, we had to separate him from his car and let his license expire. People like them are among those who would be impacted by a photo ID requirement. (In one of my favorite examples, a group of elderly nuns in Indiana, living across the street from the University of Notre Dame, were not allowed to vote because they didn’t have the required ID, even though their voting precinct was on the first floor of their convent and there wasn’t really any concern that they were not who they said they were.)
While one can go to a DMV office and get a photo ID (not a driver’s license), doing so involves time, expense, and hassle, conditions which will discourage elderly people and working people (who would have to take time off from hourly jobs). One of the requirements is that you produce a valid Social Security card. Do you know where your SS card is? If you have an aging parent, do you think they know where theirs is?
Democracy is predicated on participation by the maximum number of voters, and there is frequent moaning about low voter turnout. While proponents of photo IDs will say that it’s a small price to pay for the benefits of democracy, why would we want to put any discouraging roadblocks in the way of those who do want to vote?
Your members of the House and the Senate need to hear from you right away, letting them know that there is actually some opposition to the rush for photo IDs in order to vote. If you don’t know who your Senator and Representative are (and many of you have new ones this session) or if you don’t know how to contact them, use the information below.
Attack on national health care reform
House Republicans are moving with lightning speed to pass a bill which purports to remove North Carolinians from the mandatory coverage parts of health care reform legislation enacted by Congress last year. Since this is a federal constitutional issue and is being resolved in the federal courts, such action by the General Assembly would be of no legal effect. Still, members of the General Assembly, including those who will be voting for this misguided bill, need to hear from constituents who favor health care reform, who are already benefiting from its provisions, and who will benefit when its additional access provisions kick in (including access to health care for many of tens of millions who are now uninsured nationally). Among the provisions already benefiting us:
- children can’t be denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions
- young adults up to age 26 can remain on their parents’ policies
- tax credits encourage small businesses and non-profits to provide health insurance to employees
- people cannot be dropped from coverage because of illness
- lifetime limits on insurance payouts are eliminated
- women have direct access to OB/GYNs
No one has yet suggested how to have all of these benefits without the mandatory coverage provision, something that was central to the trailblazing health insurance reform adopted by Massachusetts in 2006 with the strong support of then-governor (and Republican) Mitt Romney.
H 2, Protect Health Care Freedom, has already been passed by the House Judiciary Committee, which (as reported by Chris Fitzsimon in NC Policy Watch) voted about 45 minutes after the Committee’s membership had been named so there wasn’t a whole lot of opportunity for citizen input. It could be voted on by the full House next week. Because of the speed with which it is moving, you need to contact members of the House and Senate right away and also ask Gov. Perdue to veto this bill if/when it arrives at her desk.
The state’s budget and maintaining adequate revenues
More details about the budget later, but as you probably know from your local news media, the state is facing a projected budget deficit of $3.7 billion. Since the total budget is about $20 billion, this deficit is a significant percentage of the whole budget. About $1.3 billion of that deficit is because of two temporary emergency tax increases which were adopted in previous years and are scheduled to expire this year. They include an additional 1% in sales tax and a surcharge on the state income tax for the wealthiest North Carolinians. House and Senate majorities 1) are committed to not raising taxes, 2) interpret continuing a tax that is scheduled to expire as a tax increase, and 3) say that the deficit must be dealt with entirely by cuts to the budget, a solution which many believe would do grave harm to education at all levels and to programs helping vulnerable people.
The North Carolina Council of Churches is part of a broad coalition of people and organizations concerned about the impact of budget cuts on the state. We are calling on Governor Perdue to take a balanced approach to balancing the budget by not doing it entirely through reductions in spending. The NC Council of Churches would prefer to see the continuation of the emergency tax increases since the budget is still clearly in emergency mode. Even though we don’t like the regressive nature of the sales tax, we believe it to be preferable to further cuts to education, health and human services, and the environment.
A second option for the Governor is increasing the tobacco tax, a move which would not only increase revenue in the short term but also discourage young people from starting to smoke and help adult smokers to quit. An increase of $1 per pack in the cigarette tax would raise NC to the national average. A comparable increase in all tobacco taxes would generate almost $400 million at the start. Some opponents of the increase will point out that discouraging smoking will lead to a reduction in tobacco tax revenues in the future. For those of us concerned about health, that would be a fine “problem” to have and, in terms of revenue, a bridge which can be crossed when we get to it.
Governor Perdue this week signaled an openness to these two tax measures. Please take a moment right away to contact her office and encourage her to present the General Assembly with a budget which is balanced through an appropriate mix of adequate revenues and reductions in spending and to support the continuation of emergency tax provisions and an increase in the tobacco tax. Contact info for her office is below.
Contacting your State Legislators
By telephone: All legislative offices can be reached through the legislative switchboard – (919) 733-4111.
By e-mail: Legislative e-mail addresses follow the pattern of <first name dot last email@example.com>. (Example: Speaker Thom Tillis’ address is Thom.Tillis@ncleg.net.) If you have any question about the spelling of your legislator’s name or whether your legislator’s e-mail address uses a nickname, you can confirm addresses at the General Assembly’s web site: www.ncleg.net. Click on “House” or “Senate” and look for Member Lists.
By postal service mail: All legislators can be addressed at: North Carolina General Assembly, Raleigh, NC 27601-1096.
To find out who your legislators are, go to the General Assembly’s web site: www.ncleg.net. Look for “Who Represents Me?” near the top of the homepage. You will find a variety of ways to search, including through your nine-digit ZIP Code. (And there’s a link to the Postal Service if you don’t know yours.) For those without Internet access, local Boards of Elections can be asked for assistance.
For legislative information:
- A wealth of information is available at the General Assembly’s web site: www.ncleg.net. Look for bill information, texts of all bills, current status and legislative history for bills, information on all members (including e-mail addresses, office telephone numbers, etc.), committee memberships, calendars for the next legislative day, legislative districts, and links to state government agencies. You can even listen in on floor sessions.
- You can get the current status of a bill by calling (919) 733-7779. This is not a toll-free call.
To Contact the Governor
By phone: (919) 733-4240
By Fax: (919) 733-2120
By mail: Governor Bev Perdue
Office of the Governor
20301 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-0301
By e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org