North Carolina is challenging South Carolina for the Crazy title. Yesterday the Senate tacked a package of abortion restrictions onto a Sharia law bill. That does strike me as the quintessential Republican bill these days.
The state Senate was poised to consider a foolish measure, predicated on a common far-right conspiracy theory, intended to undermine Sharia law in North Carolina courts. Late in the afternoon, however, Republican state senators launched a legislative ambush, quickly amending the Sharia law bill to include sweeping new anti-abortion measures, intended to close clinics and prevent Planned Parenthood from providing legal abortion services in the state. . . .
. . . And let’s also not brush past the ideological irony too quickly. Republican state senators are so terrified by the prospect of religious law being considered in North Carolina that they’re pushing a legislative fix — which just so happens to include a provision shaped by Republican state senators’ religious beliefs.
But that’s not even the craziest thing North Carolina has done lately.
With changes to its unemployment law taking effect this weekend, North Carolina not only is cutting benefits for those who file new claims, it will become the first state disqualified from a federal compensation program for the long-term jobless.
State officials adopted the package of benefit cuts and increased taxes for businesses in February, a plan designed to accelerate repayment of a $2.5 billion federal debt. Like many states, North Carolina had racked up the debt by borrowing from Washington after its unemployment fund was drained by jobless benefits during the Great Recession.
The changes go into effect Sunday for North Carolina, which has the countryâ€™s fifth-worst jobless rate. The cuts on those who make unemployment claims on or after that day will disqualify the state from receiving federally funded Emergency Unemployment Compensation. That money kicks in after the stateâ€™s period of unemployment compensation â€” now shortened from up to six months to no more than five â€” runs out. The EUC program is available to long-term jobless in all states. But keeping the money flowing includes a requirement that states canâ€™t cut average weekly benefits.
Because North Carolina leaders cut average weekly benefits for new claims, about 170,000 workers whose state benefits expire this year will lose more than $700 million in EUC payments, the U.S. Labor Department said.
How does this make any sense at all? This was a Southern state that prided itself on its technology sector, its colleges and universities, and the fact that it really wasn’t very much like its neighbor to the South. Now, it’s behaving like Mississippi on a bad day.
David Graham explains “How North Carolina Became the Wisconsin of 2013.” Other brilliant moves:
- The state legislature is trying to lower corporate and individual income tax and flatten the tax code.
A Senate bill would not only open the state to fracking, but would also allow the frackers to keep their fracking fluid secret.
- The state legislature is trying to repeal a bill intended to provide some protection against racially biased juries for African Americans accused of capital crimes.
- North Carolina is one of the states shooting itself in the foot by rejecting Medicaid expansion and the federal dollars attached to it.
- The state legislature also is busily passing voter restriction laws.
- But they are loosening already lose guns laws. They even intend to allow concealed carry in bars.
- The state is pushing a school voucher plan and cutting preschool funding.
- And the state wants to end public financing for judicial elections, because when corporations can buy judicial elections, corporations get better judgments.
Graham also says,
While much of North Carolina remains conservative — as the 2012 election showed — there is a strong concentration of much more left-leaning voters in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area, and they’ve reacted angrily to the push. In a series of weekly demonstrations named “Moral Mondays,” protestors have descended on the state legislature to show their displeasure and, often, be arrested: nearly 500 people have been arrested since the first such rally on April 29. (Last week on The Atlantic, Win Bassett followed the Rev. Tuck Taylor as she was arrested at the June 17 Moral Monday.)
In other news — today is the 150th anniversary of Pickett’s Charge.