May 4, 2010
IMMIGRATION REFORM: Thousands rally for a better, fairer system
This weekend, hundreds of people in North Carolina joined tens of thousands around the nation who are furious about Arizona's new immigration law that promotes racial profiling. They attended numerous rallies commemorating May Day and calling for immigration reform.
Will it happen? Hard to say. Top Senate Democrats unveiled their proposal for immigration overhaul last week, but the pundits say reform will be hard to accomplish during this election year. Hopefully this weekend's rallies, and the stir caused by Arizona, will remind Congress that reasonable immigration policies need to be legislated from the federal level. It is time to find workable solutions that keep families together, protect all workers, and respect those who have contributed so much to this country.
RACIAL PROFILING: Groups launch investigation of police, deputies
People around North Carolina are rightly outraged that racial profiling has been established as law in Arizona, but there are some similar outrageous practices targeting immigrants and Latinos happening right here in the Tar Heel state.
Churches are supposed to be places of sanctuary. But congregants at the Iglesia de Dios "Catedral de Jesus" in Zebulon report that the town’s police officers, with alleged participation by Wake County sheriff's deputies, repeatedly posted traffic checkpoints outside the church before and after services. They say officers only stop those drivers who appear to be Latino.
Last week, the Justice Center, the American Civil Liberties Union of NC Legal Foundation, and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice launched an investigation. The groups filed a public records request asking police to provide all documents related to license checkpoints and to compliance with the NC Racial Profiling Act.
Using local police officers for immigration enforcement erodes public trust in law enforcement, systematizes racial profiling, creates incentives for illegal arrests, and prevents police from doing their job of keeping their communities safe.
UNEMPLOYMENT: What Local Jobs for America Act could mean for NC
With the state facing an unemployment rate of more than 11%, North Carolina’s congressional representatives should be aggressive supporters of the Local Jobs for America Act, which would provide money to states, local governments and community organizations to create and save jobs.
North Carolina could benefit from more than 18,000 jobs created or saved in the first year, according to a report on the legislation from the U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor. And separate funding for education in the same bill will create or save an additional 7,419 jobs in NC classrooms.
This is the type of measure that can prevent generations of public investments from deteriorating beyond repair during this slow economic rebound.
HEALTH CARE: What reform means for small business
Owners and employees of small businesses will get some of the greatest benefits from the new federal health reform law. The Justice Center’s NC Health Access Coalition lays out the details in a new issue brief.
The law offers significant tax breaks to many businesses with fewer than 25 full-time employees that offer insurance to their workers and pay at least 50 percent of the premium costs. Check out the brief for all the info, as well as an explanation of how insurance clearinghouses will work.
WAKE CO. SCHOOLS: Yeah, there's good reason to be nervous
Wake County recently got a first peek at what the new student assignment plan might look like. In general, students living close to a school will receive high priority if they prefer to go there, and there will be a so-called "promise zone" covering east Raleigh that will get extra resources. It all sounds pretty similar to Charlotte’s assignment system in many respects. The difference, school board member and plan architect John Tedesco insists, is that parental school choice will be within the context of "equity opportunities" and "achievement considerations." But Wake County will have to wait to find out what exactly those terms mean and what role they will play in the assignment plan.
It appears that the assignment mechanism will be designed with at least some consultation with Duke University Economics Associate Professor Atila Abdulkadiroglu, who has had a hand in several student assignment re-designs around the country. Abdulkadiroglu has consistently said that when school choice is not constrained by other factors it is a recipe for segregation. Whether he can influence the decisions of school board members who don’t fully support government-funded education remains to be seen.
One especially disheartening note about Wake County's recent budget-cutting measures -- last month the board cut funding for Project Enlightenment, a school system program that provides services to children from birth through kindergarten. This program helps parents, many of whom are considered low- or moderate-income, who need help with a variety of child-rearing issues. These are exactly the families Wake County's new board majority has said they want to look out for. But instead, they eliminated the parent counseling section of the program. The cut was effective immediately, so families who had signed up for classes or scheduled appointments were left with nowhere to turn. If this is a sign of things to come, everyone in Wake County should be worried.
CONSUMER PROTECTIONS: Advocates beat back move for more fees
Consumer advocates have beaten back an effort to add new fees to consumer finance loans -- high-interest loans of less than $10,000. The fees would have cost North Carolina's working families millions of dollars.
The consumer finance industry is pushing a bill that would remove a longstanding prohibition on late fees on finance company loans. When lawmakers passed the prohibition in the 1960s, they determined that interest rates of 30 percent or more on these loans would already compensate the lenders for late payments and defaults of risky borrowers. As of 2008, more than 70 percent of consumer finance companies are profitable, and today the majority of loans made in North Carolina come from subsidiaries of big out-of-state lenders Citi and AIG.
The legislature's Joint Legislative Study Commission on the Modernization of North Carolina Banking Laws and the Consumer Finance Act -- that's a mouthful -- considered the bill last week. But thanks to pressure from the public and advocates, committee members decided to kick the bill back to a banking commission for more study.