AROUND THE DISTRICT & MORE
· THE 10th Annual Educational Forum – Issues Affecting Our Community. Honorable Carol Allen White & Staff will be hosting an educational forum on September 17, 2011. For more information contact Kim Harrell, Zee Powell, Samantha Eason, England Dancy, Fay Smith at 252-824-3200. Free to the public.
· The North Carolina Justice Center and AARP North Carolina will host a FREE Luncheon for Older Adults and Caregivers On Health Care Issues, Wednesday, September 21, 2011 at 11:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at OIC Community Health Education Center, 1060 Pinehurst Drive, Rocky Mount, NC 27801. *** Come early at 10:30 to get a quick medical screening in OIC’s Mobile Medical Unit. * To reserve your space, contact OIC at 252-212-3461 or Nicole Dozier at firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-856-2146.
· The NC State Conference of the NAACP Education, Expectations and Incarceration: A Look at How Resegregation, High-Stakes Testing and the School-to-Prison Pipeline Marginalize Our Children. The Fifth Annual Romallus O. Murphy CLE, Wednesday, October 12, 2011, at 11:30am High Point, NC. Four (4.0) hours of CLE credit have been requested from the North Carolina State Bar For Details and Registration information call NC NAACP at 1-866-626-2227.
DISASTER UNEMPLOYMENT ASSISTANCE
Survivors in all of the 35 federally declared counties for the Individual Assistance program (see list in Summary section) who became unemployed as a direct result of Hurricane Irene, may be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits under the Disaster Unemployment Assistance program. Business owners affected by the storm may also qualify for benefits.
Workers or business owners meeting the following criteria may be eligible for benefits:
• Individuals who are unemployed due to the disaster and do not qualify for regular unemployment insurance benefits
• Self-employed individuals and small business owners who lost income due to the disaster
• Individuals who were prevented from working due to an injury caused by the disaster
• Individuals who have become the major supplier of household income due to the disaster-related death or injury of the previous major supplier of household income
• Individuals who are unable to reach their job or self-employment location because they must travel through the affected area and are prevented from doing so by the disaster
• Individuals who were to commence employment or self-employment but were prevented by the disaster
There is no waiting week period to file for benefits. Affected workers can receive benefits dated back to the week ending Sept. 3. DUA is funded entirely by the federal government.
Individuals may contact the North Carolina Employment Security Commission by calling 866-795-8877 to apply for DUA benefits. Individuals are encouraged to file as soon as possible. The deadline for filing an initial claim for DUA is Oct. 6.
COUNTIES DESIGNATED FOR INDIVIDUAL ASSISTANCE
Beaufort, Bertie, Brunswick, Camden, Carteret, Chowan, Craven, Currituck, Dare, Duplin, Edgecombe, Gates, Greene, Halifax, Hertford, Hyde, Johnston, Jones, Lenoir, Martin, Nash, New Hanover, Northampton, Onslow, Pamlico, Pasquotank, Pender, Perquimans, Pitt, Tyrrell, Vance, Warren, Washington, Wayne and Wilson.
VISITING DISASTER RECOVERY CENTERS
Disaster recovery centers are open in designated counties. Disaster survivors are encouraged to visit the centers to get information on state and federal programs that can help them recover. While survivors are encouraged to register with FEMA before they visit a center, people can get help registering at the recovery center or visit with FEMA or U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) representatives. For more information on recovery centers near you, visit the DRC locator.
FEMA REGISTRATION AND SBA DISASTER LOAN APPLICATION ARE KEY TO HURRICANE RECOVERY
For many North Carolinians who need help recovering from Hurricane Irene, registering with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and completing a disaster loan application from the Small Business Administration are essential.
Even if they don’t want a loan or don’t expect to qualify for a loan, homeowners and renters should complete and return the SBA application. A completed SBA loan application is needed in order to qualify for state and FEMA grants that cover personal property, vehicle repair or replacement, moving and storage expenses and other help.
There are three ways to register with FEMA:
1. Call 800-621-FEMA (3362). Help is available in most languages. People who have a speech disability or are deaf or hard of hearing may call (TTY) 800-462-7585; users of 711 or Video Relay Service can call 800-621-3362.
2. Register online at http://www.DisasterAssistance.gov.
3. Register using your tablet or Smartphone by visiting m.fema.gov.
For homeowners, renters, businesses of all sizes and nonprofit organizations in impacted counties who qualify, SBA loans can be used to pay for disaster-related damages. People with home-based businesses or rental property who have been affected by the storm may also be eligible for SBA loans.
Please follow these links for more information on SBA disaster loans, economic injury disaster loans or to view full story.
With three legislative sessions now completed for the year, I wanted this week to share with you a review of the legislative session thus far. There is another session scheduled to start Sept. 12 for the discussion of proposed constitutional amendments and now there are hints that there may be a fourth session to again discuss redistricting. I am troubled that very little of the legislature’s time and attention has been focused on jobs and the economy. My colleagues and I constantly fought to redirect attention to the economy and jobs, but for the most part we were ignored in favor of an extreme social agenda.
I voted against the proposed state budget for a number of reasons, but primarily because I felt it did substantial damage to public education. Let me share with you a few things that have already happened since this budget has gone into place.
_ North Carolina now ranks 49th in the nation in per pupil education spending.
_ We have lost 7,600 state government jobs with many more expected to be announced this month. Many of these newly unemployed people are teachers and teacher assistants, and our local school system will certainly suffer long-term harm as a result.
_ The budget cut college financial aid in North Carolina at a time when we should be trying to make college more attainable for more students. As a result, 6,000 college students who were eligible for financial aid from the state will now be cut off.
_ The budget eliminates all funding for Governor’s School, which was a nearly 50-year old summer enrichment program for the best and brightest high-school students in this state.
_ They have also shut down the Teaching Fellows program, which for more than 20 years awarded college scholarships in exchange for a commitment to teaching in North Carolina. The program is has ensured that many promising students became teachers in North Carolina schools. One study found that 60 percent of the students from the first graduating class of Teaching Fellows remain in our public schools.
This is not the time to go backwards on education in our state. Decades of making public education a priority has resulted in tremendous gains. We learned recently that North Carolina’s high-school graduation rate showed the second-most improvement in the nation from 1998-2008 and continues to climb. We are now above the national average for the first time and we have the nation’s third-highest graduation rate for African-Americans. Our SAT scores showed the most improvement among those states that primarily use the test and our ACT scores rank in the top quarter in the nation.
Protecting and improving public education must continue to be our goal in North Carolina. Education is the key to long-term improvement in our economy and will give our children and grandchildren the tools needed to compete in the global economy. For decades, North Carolina has been a model of excellence in public education that many states have envied and copied. I am committed to continuing to fight to ensure public education is a priority in our state.
In addition to the deep damage done by the budget, a number of troubling education policies were pushed through by the majority.
_ Local disputes in Wake and Burke counties resulted in legislation that prevents the state’s universities and community colleges from considering whether high schools are properly accredited. The possible loss of accreditation for our schools could make it more difficult for students to gain admission to some out-of-state universities or receive scholarships and financial aid.
_ At the same time, the majority passed a bill that prevents some community colleges from offering more low-interest student loans. This comes at time when community colleges are playing a key role in training and retraining our work force, providing citizens with an opportunity to adjust to a changing economy. These workers and students should have wider access to low-interest loans. Our community colleges have been successful because they have been affordable. Restricting access to low-interest loans while so many families are struggling to make ends meet simply makes no sense. The governor wisely vetoed this bill, but the majority evaded her veto by running local bills to exempt some community colleges and state law does not allow her to veto local bills.
_ The majority also attempted to divert money from public education by needlessly taking money from public schools and giving it to new charter schools. The bill would have allowed these charter schools to take money from public schools to pay for transportation and nutrition programs, even if those very same schools provided neither transportation nor school lunches to their students. It was clearly an overreach and the threat of a veto by the governor and the hard line I and others took to protect our schools resulted in a compromise to simply lift the 100-school cap on charter schools. The compromise bill allows for positive charter school growth in North Carolina while ensuring they have proper oversight from the State Board of Education and that funding for traditional public schools is not sacrificed.
_ The legislature considered several bills this session to suppress voting rights in North Carolina. We have seen bills to shorten the time for early voting, require partisan judicial races again and stop straight ticket voting. They want to end voter registration drives, stop people from driving others to the polls, and allowing same day voter registration. Most offensively, they have tried to require voters to present photo identification at the polls. There are at least a half-million registered voters in this state without photo identification. They are mostly older, minority and Democratic. Voter fraud is all ready a felony in North Carolina and there is no evidence it is a real problem. This bill was simply an attempt to suppress voting in North Carolina. The governor vetoed the bill and her veto was sustained.
_ A bright spot in our new elections laws is legislation that would create a nonpartisan redistricting commission following the 2020 census. I supported this bill and hope such a change will keep redistricting from being such a time-consuming, political process.
We also seem to have spent an inordinate amount of time this session talking about guns. Like most people in this state, I respect and support the Second Amendment. People have a right to bear arms. People also have a right to feel safe in their communities and some of the bills passed this past session are too extreme for North Carolina families. In particular, one bill passed by the House would allow people with permits to carry concealed weapons to bring those guns on school grounds. The bill also reduces the penalty for those who illegally carry guns onto school property from a felony to a misdemeanor. A separate bill would allow concealed weapons into bars and restaurants where alcohol is served. It’s simply wrong to mix guns and children. It’s wrong to mix guns and alcohol. I support responsible gun ownership but these bills do not fit in with the values of most people in the state of North Carolina.
The majority passed a bill requiring doctors to read a state-approved script to patients who come to them to discuss abortions. I remain concerned about state government involving themselves in a decision that should be between a woman and her doctor. The bill also requires the patient to wait at least 24 hours for the procedure. Most alarmingly, there is no exception for victims of rape or incest or for women whose health may be endangered by carrying the child. This bill treats women as if they are incapable of making decisions about their own health and their own families. These decisions are difficult and should be left to a woman, her family and her doctor. This extreme social policy comes on the heels of the state cutting off funding for Planned Parenthood and other pregnancy prevention, counseling and health care screening programs. North Carolina should ensure our women have the tools to make safe and responsible health care decisions.
This is easily one of the worst sessions we have had for the environment in North Carolina in modern history. We all believe that North Carolina should audit and study regulations that are on the books and cut any that are simply burdening small businesses or slowing job growth. However, we must also be sure that we maintain vital oversight on issues and processes that impact our quality of life. Time and again we are reminded that businesses often locate here due to our exceptional quality of life and clean environment. They enjoy access to a clean coast and mostly undeveloped mountain ridges. They appreciate our efforts to keep our air and water clean. Some legislators are working to roll back nearly all of our state regulations to the minimum levels set by the federal government. The cleanup of Jordan Lake, a drinking water supply for some cities in the Piedmont, will be delayed, at best. State regulation of toxic chemicals such as ammonia and sulfuric acid that are released into the air by industry will be weakened. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources will lose a third of its funding in the next two years. That means there will be fewer experts looking out for our water and air quality and it means there will be fewer people to help correct problems that will inevitably surface. This is unacceptable and we can and must do better.
DID YOU KNOW…
NC county may stop asking about convictions
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. A North Carolina county may stop asking job-seekers about criminal convictions on its application form. Cumberland County spokeswoman Sally Shutt said Friday a committee has recommended that the county not ask job applicants about a criminal record until they are interviewed. That approach would give applicants with checkered histories a chance to explain. Shutt says the full board of commissioners is expected to consider the idea Tuesday. The county is increasing background checks on the job seekers it chooses to interview. Deputy county manager James Lawson says officials want to send the message that everyone is having their qualifications considered. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says asking about criminal histories on applications can discriminate against black applicants, who the agency says are convicted of crimes in disproportionate numbers. Information from: The Fayetteville Observer, http://www.fayobserver.com
Teen Vote Pre – Registration
September is the month local boards of elections in all 100 counties are required to conduct voter registration drives in high schools. Democracy NC is organizing volunteers in some counties to ask teenagers as young as 16 to pre-register or register. Many local elections boards could use the help! Ask your local board of elections how you can help – and, while you’re at it, ask about being a poll worker, too! For more info you can call our office: 919-286-6000.
Wedge Issue- Marriage Ban Amendment
The Republicans have voted to put Constitutional Amendment on ballot to ban marriage between couples of the same sex, which is already against state law. Even the ultra-conservative Shelby Star says this is just an effort by Republicans to increase turnout of their voters with a hot-button ballot proposal; the paper opposes the amendment as a stupid intrusion of government into a personal commitment between two people.
We believe the amendment is also a cynical abuse of the democratic process to distort election results in 2012, of the primary elections.
The Republican-drawn redistricting maps have been submitted to the DC federal court and US Justice Department for “pre-clearance” approval under the Voting Rights Act. A decision could come within 60 days. Opponents, including the NC NAACP and a coalition of progressive groups, will likely challenge the maps in state and/or federal court, even if the maps are pre-cleared. That could stretch out the process considerably. Click here to learn more. For more information on how to get involved, contact Southern Coalition for Social Justice, 115 Market Street, Ste. 470, Durham, N.C. 27701-3241, (919) 323-3380 or visit their website at www.southerncoalition.org. or Shaunee Morgan, with Democracy North, 1821 Green Street, Durham, NC, (919)-286-6000 ext. 14 27705
Housing Finance Awards Grant
The Board of Directors has awarded $150,000 to Choanoke Area Development Association of NC from the Housing Trust Fund’s Urgent Repair Program to make emergency repairs for 65 homes in Bertie, Halifax, Hertford, Northampton Counties. These loans will enable elderly and disabled North Carolinians and others with special needs to continue living safely in their own homes. In 2010 the average income of Urgent Repair Program beneficiaries was $12,253 and 77 percent had incomes less than 30 percent of the area median income. The 2011 awards totaled $2.25 million, and will finance emergency home repairs to 568 homes in 37 counties.
NC Military Business Center has awarded Babington Technology in Rocky Mount $26,786.50 for a 29-Pump Fuel, Electrical.
NC The Rural Center
The Rural Center has awarded the Town of Middlesex a grant of $23,823.78, under the Clean Water Partner’s Infrastructure Fund, to cover the costs of their well renovation and meter project.
Ethics Tips – Non Profit Information
The State Government Ethics Act does not prevent the exchange of gifts among legislators. Please remember that no legislator can accept anything of value in return for being influenced in the discharge of that legislator’s official responsibilities. G.S. 138A-32(a).
Contact: Representative Angela R. Bryant, House of Representatives, NC House District 7
North Carolina General Assembly • 542 Legislative Office Building • 300 N. Salisbury Street, Raleigh, NC 27603 919-733-5878-Phone • 919-754-3289-FAX • Angela.Bryant@ncleg.net
or Karon Hardy, Legislative Assistant at email@example.com