RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - North Carolina lawmakers returned to work Wednesday, met by some interest groups calling for the GOP-controlled legislature to reverse course.
“We are not in the middle of a Carolina comeback, we are in the middle of a Carolina setback,” said the Rev. William Barber, the head of the state conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Barber called for a repeal of new laws on voter ID requirements, teacher salaries and unemployment insurance that were passed by the Republican-led body a year ago.
The legislature’s primary job for the next two months is to adjust the second year of a two-year state budget.
The NAACP, the North Carolina Association of Educators and Action NC held events Wednesday and vowed to fight changes to the teacher pay structure, Gov. Pat McCrory’s rejection of Medicaid expansion and a new voter registration law which requires a photo ID to vote.
April Lee, Angela Barbour and Bethany Meyers teach middle school in Johnston County. They took a personal day to attend the opening day protests, a show of support they say cost them each $50 in pay.
Lee said she was a Republican who has grown disenchanted. She hoped this year’s rallies will make parents particularly more aware of education funding shortfalls.
“We’ve got to have parent support, parent’s eyes have to be opened,” Lee said.
The North Carolina Association of Educators have petitioned McCrory, opposing a new pay law passed last year that offers bonuses to the top 25 percent of teachers deemed most effective, in exchange for their tenure status. The petition included the names of thousands of teachers from across the state who would not accept new pay contracts if offered them, according to NCAE spokeswoman Stephanie Bass.
The NAACP also announced plans for mass demonstrations similar to its “Moral Mondays” last session. Barber called on demonstrators to return to the legislature next week with placards to protest last year’s more than 900 arrests. The state NAACP is also working on a voter mobilization effort this year to build on their movement heading to the November elections.
“We’re believing that we can have a tremendous influence in voter registration,” Barber said.
The group has not yet calculated its new registrations, though, he said.
Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, reached out to Barber weeks ago to attempt to “begin a productive dialogue on policy,” Berger spokeswoman Amy Auth said in an email.
House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, said at a news conference he’s willing to listen to “valid recommendations” from Democrats, but said he does not anticipate many changes this year.
Wednesday’s daily session was largely ceremonial, with the House and Senate seating six new lawmakers and listening to written messages from the governor. They also celebrated the newest inductions into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, including Rusty Wallace, Dale and Ned Jarrett, and Junior Johnson, each of whom visited the Legislative Building.
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