- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:


Oct. 3

The Greensboro (North Carolina) News & Record on why new identification card law will negatively impact the state:

An identification card tells who a person is. And a state’s laws tell what that state is.

North Carolina should be better than what would be indicated if House Bill 318 is signed by Gov. Pat McCrory and becomes law. Such a law would say that North Carolina believes some people who live within its borders aren’t worth recognizing, aren’t worth helping.

The bill, which the legislature passed Tuesday along party lines, will have a negative impact in Greensboro. It will weaken an innovative and successful program by FaithAction International House to provide identification cards to people who can’t get them otherwise.

Some of these people are illegal immigrants, who are among the targets of this legislation. But some are elderly Americans whose birth information was lost long ago. They could be anyone. The FaithAction ID cards were initiated in cooperation with the Greensboro Police Department two years ago because they help officers know the residents of their city. The City Council agreed to accept these cards from residents who want to sign up for utilities, obtain library cards or participate in parks and recreation programs. It is a convenience and a courtesy.

But the legislature believes North Carolina is “overrun” by illegal immigrants. It wants them to know they don’t deserve courtesies and conveniences. Its bill prohibits cities like Greensboro from recognizing such unofficial forms of identification and even official identification cards issued by a foreign consulate - never mind that the city of Greensboro doesn’t feel like it’s being overrun by anyone.

Such an attitude in Texas - a state that seems to serve as a social policy guide for North Carolina Republicans - has led to a quandary. Because women who are illegal immigrants can’t obtain identification accepted by the state, many who give birth to children in Texas haven’t been issued birth certificates for them. The children are U.S. citizens by birth yet will have difficulty proving it. This is the subject of a lawsuit in federal court, which Texas is bound to lose. North Carolina should not go down that thorny path.

This same bill contains a provision that drew a protest from U.S. Rep. Alma Adams, a Greensboro Democrat. It prohibits the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services from applying for a federal waiver to time limits for food and nutrition benefits for able-bodied unemployed adults without dependents. Such adults are limited to three months’ food stamp benefits during a three-year period. States can request waivers at times when unemployment is high - as it is in many parts of North Carolina.

“The 12th District of North Carolina has an unemployment rate of 13.8 percent, more than any other district in the state,” Adams wrote in a letter to McCrory urging his veto. “Two of the counties I represent, Guilford and Mecklenburg, also have the largest populations of people receiving SNAP benefits in North Carolina.” She noted that the state doesn’t pay for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits. On the contrary, food stamps bring federal dollars to local grocery stores and generate sales taxes for the state.

Imposing hunger on people who can’t find work in a tough economy and telling cities they can’t recognize some of their residents is poor policy. North Carolina ought to be kinder and smarter than that.Online:



Oct. 6

The Winston-Salem (North Carolina) Journal on a local school system’s success in educating the public about vaccinations:

The health department and school-system nurses deserve praise for their excellent job of making families aware of health requirements for school attendance. Their work has dramatically lowered the number of students suspended for not having the requisite physicals or vaccinations.

Health-related suspensions in Winston-Salem/Forsyth County schools are down 50 percent from the previous year because of their efforts, the Journal’s Arika Herron reported recently.

The improvement is the result of a targeted, coordinated effort between school nurses and the Forsyth County Health Department. They educated more families about the state requirements by making phone calls, sending out mailings and performing home visits.

This is important because students who have not had the required physicals or vaccinations are suspended after the first 30 days of school.

In 2014, 299 students were suspended for not having physical or vaccinations. This year, a total of 85 kindergarteners were suspended for not having their mandatory physical and another 61 students, primarily kindergartners, for not receiving all of their required immunizations. There was some overlap in the two groups, school spokesman Theo Helm told the Journal.

“Vaccinations and physicals are important because of the health implications and being protected against diseases,” Helm told the Journal. “From an educational standpoint, kids need to be in school, especially when we’re talking about kindergartners who are just learning the routines, learning how to be in school and getting used to that whole experience. The less we can interrupt, the better.”

The vaccinations not only protect the health of the students, but also that of the larger community.

Caren Jenkins, supervisor of the school health program for the health department, told the Journal that the goal for this year was a 10-percent reduction in suspensions. Considering the actual results, the health workers have really outdone themselves.

Students may attend school without the required immunizations if they have received a medical or religious exemption, the Journal reported, but that’s a different matter than awareness of the schools’ requirements.

Obviously, some discussion and planning were required for the collaboration to be effective. Perhaps other organizations should study their methods and try to follow suit.




Oct. 6

The News & Observer of Raleigh on a why rushed votes in General Assembly can produce bad laws:

It is a not-so-glorious tradition practiced for many years by Democrats when they controlled the General Assembly. Dilly-dally for months, drag out the legislative session and, then, in the final hours, rush through legislation you’d just as soon not get much scrutiny from special interests or the public.

Congratulations, Republican leaders of the General Assembly. You’ve done a dead-on impersonation of what you’ve long claimed were Democratic abuses of power.

Consider this little story of the final hours before adjournment in the state House: An education proposal comes up, and a Department of Public Instruction official is asked to comment. But she had to ask for a copy of the proposal and for five minutes to read it. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said at one point.

Then there was a measure to restrict powers of local governments. A bill to bar local governments from passing ordinances banning discrimination and requiring a living wage was moved along by Wake Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam and Sen. Chad Barefoot with virtually no public notice. Fortunately, it failed.

Even their fellow Republican Rep. John Blust of Greensboro criticized the process. Blust rightly said the maneuver would set a precedent. “Someday,” he said, “it’s going to be something that you think is horrible, that you think someone else is doing the wrong way, and you’ll feel helpless to prevent it.”

Also flummoxed in the rush: a bill removing a cap on state funding for light rail projects. Lawmakers agreed the cap, which would have killed a project in Orange and Durham counties, should be removed from the state budget. The House acted, but the lifting of the cap was put in a Senate committee. It can be acted upon during next year’s short session.

Jane Pinsky of the N.C. Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform says it would be no hindrance for the legislature to require bills to be posted online 24 hours before a vote. Lawmakers could do business in a timely fashion rather than go on to the early morning hours when mischief is more likely to happen.

Yes, the image of members of the General Assembly tossing footballs and playing music to pass the time until negotiators quickly order up a vote isn’t exactly what North Carolinians have in mind for the mission of their elected representatives.

Doing the public’s business in a hurry, particularly when laws that affect people’s lives are involved, is a bad idea, and it can lead to really bad laws.



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