The Senate recessed its work early last Saturday morning to return in July to focus on redistricting. Although the Session began in January, we have been on a fast track the past few weeks. Over 400 bills have been passed by the House and Senate but, at the time of this writing, many are still on the Governor’s desk awaiting her signature.
In summary, I must say that it has often been a frustrating experience for Democrats, as we have watched bill after bill pass the Senate along party line votes—31 to 19. There were a number of occasions when we joined with the Republicans and supported legislation that we believe is good for North Carolina.
The overall main issue that we could not support is the budget that the North Carolina Budget and Tax Center estimates will cost the state 32,022 jobs. Over 13,000 of these jobs will be lost because we are forfeiting federal matching money for the Children’s Health Insurance Program and Medicaid, money that will likely go to other states. Even if one considers the jobs that may be created by the budget tax cuts, it is estimated that by the fiscal year 2012-13 this budget will have killed a net of 29,782 jobs.
The budget cuts nearly $1 billion in funding from education, nearly a half billion from public schools alone. This will put North Carolina in 49th place in per pupil expenditure, behind Mississippi and South Carolina, and represents the largest cut to the University System and our Community Colleges in history.
There were a number of other issues that created dismay among us Democrats.
The Voter ID bill that many of us believe is a solution in search of a problem will add new barriers to voting for thousands of the elderly, students, and minorities. Add to this legislation that will prevent straight ticket voting and legislation that will shorten the period for early voting, and we have discouraged many more voters of both parties from coming out to vote at a time when we should want all eligible voters to participate.
“Women’s Right to Know” legislation that takes very personal difficult decision making from women and their physicians and gives it to big government.
Legislation to repeal the Affordable Healthcare Act, while over one and a half million North Carolinians have no health insurance coverage and often rely on expensive emergency room care that we all pay for.
Refusal to continue a Legislative Study Committee on Childhood Obesity, as we face an epidemic of childhood obesity with one out of every three of our young children being overweight or obese. Many obese children will remain obese in adulthood leading to diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and stroke, costing the state billions of dollars.
Holding hostage Federal unemployment benefits for 7 weeks to 47,000 North Carolinians, while trying to strong-arm the governor into signing a massive budget-cutting budget.