The North Carolina General Assembly concluded its session Friday without approving a proposal to increase weekly unemployment benefits, among other unmet needs. Amid the pandemic, the legislature refused to address vital needs such as Medicaid expansion, increasing teacher pay, public school funding, unemployment benefits and systemic racism.
Rather than address long-standing issues, Republican lawmakers have pushed three bills focused on reopening and undermining safety measures imposed by Gov. Cooper that help prevent further transmission of the virus.
There is universal agreement among health care professionals along with federal and state health officials, that wearing masks is one of the most effective ways to thwart the spread of COVID-19. Legislators should be heeding the advice of experts who know what they’re talking about rather than yahoos on social media spreading deadly falsehoods. MASKS ARE NOT POLITICAL!
Remaining at the bottom of the barrel are concerns for the health and welfare of North Carolina’s citizens, particularly the 621,700 workers without jobs now; positioning our education system to provide the constitutionally-guaranteed quality education to every child; and addressing systemic racism.
hese are challenging times. The failures to do more and act in ways that help loom large.
One bill brings it in sharp focus:
The state Senate’s obstinate refusal to even bring up in committee, the House passed $3.1 billion bond issue for public school and road construction projects. This legislation is the definition of bipartisan consensus. The House passed it 113 to 5 (a lone Democrat and four Republicans voted against it).
This legislation creates jobs; pumps badly needed money into communities across the state; and meets critical needs of public schools not to mention the economic development benefits of a quality road system.
Despite nearly 1.1 million people in the state filing for unemployment benefits since the COVID-19 pandemic began, a proposal to increase the state’s weekly maximum on unemployment benefits was cut from the $1.57 million COVID-19 relief package.
Since 2012, the state’s Senate Republicans have held off Medicaid expansion, preventing more than 500,000 North Carolinians from receiving care for chronic conditions and illnesses, and many more that will not have the life-saving health care coverage they need during the outbreak.
The legislature has made bipartisan efforts to ensure safer voting, increased election funding, funding for universities and increased judicial discretion for low-level drug crimes, but these are the exceptions.
Instead of focusing on opportunities for cooperation and collaboration between both parties, the leaders of the GA took a page from Trump’s book and continue to sow division. Their actions in downplaying the outbreak and decisions to push for reopen, are jeopardizing our state’s recovery from the impact of the coronavirus.
Bipartisanship is sorely needed. North Carolinians are demanding systemic changes in policies, addressing unmet needs, and to have adequate leadership, not partisan posturing and bickering.