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A SESSION FOR THE AGES

The 2013 session of the North Carolina General Assembly has adjourned, meaning we can look forward to 290 blessed days of no damaging legislation being passed (assuming no special sessions). Still, it’s important not to forget some of Republicans’ most egregious work, much of which captured the nation’s attention.

Unemployment benefits

What they did: Imposed large, permanent cuts on benefits and small, temporary tax hikes on companies.

What we think: The system needed changes, but these were unbalanced. And by not delaying the move for just six months, legislators cut off benefits for 70,000 long-term unemployed – becoming the only state to lose federally funded benefits.

No Medicaid expansion

What they did: Blocked health care for 500,000, paid for almost entirely by the federal government.

What we think: While other Republican-led states recognized the bargain they were being offered, North Carolina tried to send a message about Obamacare. Poor North Carolinians will have worse health outcomes, and we’ll all pay for it.

Voting changes

What they did: What didn’t they do? Besides requiring photo ID, they shortened the early voting period and made numerous other changes to make voting more difficult.

What we think: An obvious ploy to suppress votes. This will backfire on Republicans, as people don’t like confusion and long lines, regardless of their party.

The airport debacle

What they did: Seized one of the nation’s best-run airports from the city that had been running it for 70 years.

What we think: Nothing said amateur hour in Raleigh this year like the Rucho-Brawley-Samuelson airport effort. They’ve left a trail of chaos, uncertainty and legal challenges.

Abortion restrictions

What they did: Approved an array of requirements that may force most of the state’s abortion clinics to close.

What we think: Abortion is the law of the land, so legislators should ensure safety. If this bill closes reputable clinics, women’s health could be endangered. And so much for the governor’s campaign promise.

Stand By Your Ad

What they did: Repealed the law that makes candidates appear in their own campaign ads to say they approved the message.

What we think: The law was a national model and tempered attack ads. Who opposes standing by your own ad? Look for gloves to come off in 2014 ads.

Campaign finance

What they did: Ended public financing for appellate court races, increased campaign contribution maximums, limited disclosure of independent campaign expenditures.

What we think: Judicial candidates will have every incentive to take money from lawyers who could appear before them. Special interest money will flow in other races too.

Teachers

What they did: Crafted a budget that gives teachers no state pay raise and cuts back on teacher assistants.

What we think: North Carolina ranks 46th nationally in teacher pay and will probably fall even further under this budget. Expect the best and brightest to get out of teaching, or move to a state that values teachers more.

Guns

What they did: Allowed guns in bars, playgrounds and in locked cars on school grounds.

What we think: Allowing guns where there are kids and where alcohol is served? What could possibly go wrong? Maybe we ought to listen to police. The police chiefs of each of the 16 UNC system campuses opposed the measure.

Tax reform

What they did: Cut taxes pretty much across the board.

What we think: Cutting taxes is not the same as overhauling an 80-year- old tax code. The basic structure is the same, and most loopholes remain. So the state will have $600 million less for schools and other needs, but no more stability through the economy’s ups and downs.

Judicial appointments

What they did: Let the governor ignore local bar recommendations in filling district court vacancies.

What we think: It’s believed to be a way to get a legislator’s buddies into a judgeship. A community’s lawyers know who would make a qualified district judge better than any far-removed governor. This brings more politics into what should be a non-political setting.

The environment

What they did: Fired the Environmental Management Commission and most of the Coastal Resources Commission; relaxed rules governing landfills; allowed billboard owners to cut down more foliage; and expanded the area Duke Energy and other utilities can let their coal ash ponds seep poisonous chemicals into surrounding groundwater.

What we think: Is this an episode of The Simpsons?

Earned Income Tax Credit

What they did: Killed it.

What we think: Ronald Reagan called the EITC “the best anti-poverty, the best pro-family, the best job creation measure to come out of Congress.” It rewards work. North Carolina’s elimination of it will hurt more than 900,000 low-wage workers, including 64,000 veterans.

Drug testing

What they did: Required drug testing for certain applicants for public assistance.

What we think: Counties could also fingerprint applicants as they search for felony suspects. Gov. Pat McCrory said he’s considering vetoing the bill because it does not provide “implementation in a fair and equitable way across counties in North Carolina.”

Protester arrests

What they did: Arrested about 930 “Moral Monday” protesters.

What we think: McCrory and legislative leaders mishandled the protests badly. McCrory wrongly dismissed them as “outsiders” and then misled the public by suggesting he was out in the Moral Monday crowds regularly. GOP leaders could have met with the crowds and, at worst, agreed to disagree.

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