A bill to allow the creation of a “Choose Life” specialty license plate resurfaced Monday in the North Carolina Senate. The bill has been filed in previous legislative sessions as far back as 2008, though it’s never advanced. Democratic leaders in the House and Senate wouldn’t touch the bill with a 10-foot pole, but now, under Republican leadership, pro-choice advocates should be concerned with the bill’s possible success.

“But it’s just a specialty plate,” you say. “They aren’t requiring people to buy them. What’s the big deal?”

Never before has the state sanctioned a specialty plate with a decidedly political message or aim. The bill would also shuffle the money generated by each sale to the Carolina Pregnancy Care Fellowship, a network of religiously-affiliated pregnancy crisis centers that, as the bill requires, denies women information about all of their legal and medical options. Continue reading this post…

Week three of the North Carolina General Assembly’s 2011 session is coming to a close. Though GOP leadership has allowed plenty of attacks on the poor, communities of color and immigrant communities, they’ve not yet touched the LGBT community.

GOP legislators were ushered into the General Assembly last November with the promise of creating new jobs and balancing the budget. So far, no jobs and it seems the only person doing much of anything to solve our $3.7 $2.7 billion budget shortfall is Gov. Perdue.

By all means, I’m not happy about the GOP’s unfulfilled promises on jobs (I just wonder how many of those voters who chose them are even paying attention), but I’m phenomenally thankful we haven’t yet been forced to deal with any anti-LGBT legislation. That doesn’t mean it’s not coming, and we have only the good and hard work of groups like Equality North Carolina and their allies to thank.

We’ll see what next week brings.

P.S. — Have you signed up to attend Equality North Carolina’s Day of Action? If not, unfortunately, the registration deadline has already passed. But, I’m sure they wouldn’t mind if you still decided to show up. Learn more: equalitync.org/events2/day-of-action-2011

On Monday, both the North Carolina House and Senate adopted resolutions honoring the Boy Scouts of America in recognition of their 101st anniversary yesterday.

Unsurprisingly, neither resolution (House, Senate) mentions the Scouts’ anti-gay and religious discrimination against youth members and adult leaders.¬†And, unsurprisingly yet again, not a single member of the legislature had the courage or conviction to vote against the resolution.

Dear state lawmakers, do you actually care about children — all children — or just the straight and religious ones?

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Baby steps: GOP taking a stab at jobs?

[Ed. Note — In the original version of this post, we incorrectly identified Josh Stein has a Republican. As testified to in the comments, Stein is not a Republican and has, in fact, been a great ally to many communities in this state, including LGBT people. We regret the error, and wish’d we’d had, perhaps, another cup or two of coffee before writing this morning. Thanks.]

Hey, at least it’s a start.

N.C. Sen. Pete Brunstetter (R-Forsyth) and Josh Stein (D-Wake) filed a bill yesterday to expand the duties and purpose of the (soon-to-be renamed?) Economic Development and Global Engagement Oversight Committee. (They also want to create a global engagement study committee.)

It’s nice to know that GOP legislators like Brunstetter have decided to take a stab at this jobs and economy thing. Though with such a simple bill, you have to wonder why it wasn’t filed last week (especially for a committee that’s yet to have been appointed members and hasn’t had a substantial meeting since last April). I don’t know about you, but I’m still waiting to see exactly what the GOP’s priorities are this session. It’s not looking good, so far.

Dear GOP: Surprise me, please, by doing the job you sold to Tar Heel voters last fall.

UNC System President Tom Ross spoke to Charlotte’s WFAE in a story posted online today. In it, Ross (pictured right) says elimination of duplicated programs might be key to saving system funds in the face of the state’s $3.7 billion budget shortfall:

But what we want to look for is unnecessary duplication; that is places where there is there’s a duplication of programs, and perhaps that may lead to the elimination of some programs, or it may also lead to better collaboration among programs that could end up being more efficient and more effective. And so we hope that we’ll be able to save some dollars, and I should point out that looking for unnecessary duplication is not a short-term fix for our current budget crisis. This is really more of a long-term analysis that will help us plan for the universities’ futures

I agree. There’s tons of duplication. The system could save hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars by centralizing and consolidating their information technology systems. Why on earth does each separate campus operate on entirely different IT systems for holding student records like health and immunization forms, transcripts and high school records. Consolidating systems like these and eliminating staff at each of the 16 university institutions overseeing these disparate systems seems a no-brainer.

A consolidation of record-keeping systems would also speed up transfer processes for students seeking to shuffle from one campus to another, a process that should never have been as painstakingly difficult and long as it is now.

And, we shouldn’t forget: Stop spending money on ridiculous, unnecessary things like “clickers.”

Statesville attorney and Democratic National Committee member David Parker was elected Saturday the new chair of the North Carolina Democratic Party.

Parker takes the helm after abysmal performance by his predecessor David Young, especially on LGBT issues. In contrast, Young’s predecessor, Jerry Meek, often reached out, spoke with and worked together with LGBT constituents.

If Parker’s live-blog with Durham-based blogger Pam Spaulding is any indication, North Carolina Democrats have elected a fine leader who truly values the participation and contributions of LGBT party members:

Pam Spaulding:
Since PHB is a blog focusing on LGBT issues, there are huge ramifications for LGBT North Carolinians because of the outcome of the midterms in our Gen Assembly. A question from reader HunterC:What I’m most interested in is for political operators to recognize that in 2011 in North Carolina, embracing LGBT issues is not toxic. What will you do to get through to candidates and the political machinery that NC in 2011 has moved past LGBT items as wedge issues? Even US Senator Richard Burr — A NORTH CAROLINA REPUBLICAN — acknowledged the “generational change” after he voted to repeal DADT.

David Parker:
We are already seeing LGBT issues being used as a wedge: I got a mailing yesterday addressed to 5 million Senior Christians saying that Obama’s signing the Hate Crimes Bill was tantamount to criminalizing Christianity becuase the Bible speaks against homosexuality and is therefore outlawed.

This approach is just to arouse anti-gay passion and we have got to stand firmly against it and stand firmly for individual dignity also … it is my belief that sexual orientation is a gift from God. I will support the issues of personal dignity and the adoption of the Dallas Principles as well. They make sense across the board. LGBT issues are universal issues and should be treated as such.

Read Pam’s full interview with Parker…

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N.C. GOP, is this the week for jobs?

Despite all the high-minded, feel-good rhetoric last fall about creating new jobs and saving the state from a budget crisis, one would be hard-pressed to find any evidence last week that GOP leaders in the North Carolina House and Senate were gung-ho about tackling what they’ve described as the number one legislative agenda item.

Newly-elected House Speaker Thom Tillis even wore and passed out to other legislators rubber bracelets that read, “Think Jobs” on the opening day of the new legislation session last week. He told his colleagues to snap themselves with it if they found themselves thinking about anything other than the economy.

From the list of introduced bills in both the House and Senate last week, the North Carolina taxpayer is left wondering: Exactly who’s paying for the doctor visits resulting from the bruises and lacerations from too much bracelet-snapping?

Out of 26 bills introduced last week, not a single piece of House or Senate legislation dealt with jobs, the economy or the state budget, which, by the way, faces a $3.7 billion shortfall this year. What GOP leaders did have time to do, apparently, was start in earnest their attacks on the poor, undocumented young people, community college students and public education.

Republicans’ election into the majority was clearly prompted by economic issues; the people spoke firmly. Voters want legislators to deal with pressing issues like job creation, the reversal of a downtrodden economy and the creation of a state budget that solves gaps while maintaining much-needed human services.

For all their usual talk about “mandates” from voters, Republicans sure did prove themselves uncaring last week. Legislators return to Raleigh this evening and tomorrow to start a new week doing the people’s business. Perhaps this week will be their turn-around: Lay off the social agenda and get to work for the people.

Update (01/31/2011, 8:14 a.m.): Why even get my hopes up? Carolina Journal: “NCGA Preview: Week of January 31. Health care, property rights, and charter schools top agenda.”

(photo src)

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Anti-gay pol to step down in N.C.

North Carolina state Sen. David Hoyle (D-Gaston) announced Dec. 9 he’d step down at the end of his term in 2010. Hoyle, chairman of the Senate’s Finance Committee, had been considered the third most powerful member of the Senate’s leadership, after President Pro Tempore Marc Basnight and former Majority Leader Tony Rand.

One advocate thinks the senator’s consistent, conservative social views might have played a key role in the body’s slow progress on pro-equality issues.

Continue reading this post…

On Aug. 14, I posted briefly about the continuing controversy down in North Carolina’s coast. Democratic State Sen. RC Soles has been accused of molestation.

In the piece on Aug. 14, I incorrectly stated two young men had accused the senator of misconduct. Only one has. Twenty-seven-year-old Stacy Scott has claimed Soles attempted to fondle him when he was 15 years old, that he objected and that Soles paid him not to tell anyone. Seventeen-year-old Allen Strickland, whose house was paid for by Soles, denies a sexual relationship between him and Soles.

News channel WWAY has found that Soles has financial connections to several young men.

I’m not sold on the allegations. In fact, I’m starting to think RC Soles might be the possible victim of gay and pedophile baiting.

I’ll let you make up your own mind:

WWAY: Interview with Soles
Star-News: Allen Strickland interview
Star-News: Soles denies molesting teen

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N.C. state senator accused of molestation

rcsolesWhere in the hell have I been?

For a couple of weeks, TV news down on the North Carolina coast has been reporting of sexual misconduct allegations thrown toward 74-year-old Democratic N.C. State Sen. R.C. Soles.

It seems there are two men, a 17-year-old and a 27-year-old, who claim the senator had a sexual relationship with them. See updated Aug. 17 post.

The 17-year-old’s house just burnt down. The house, it seems, was bought and paid for by Sen. Soles, who says the teen was merely a “good friend,” and the house a part of an “agreement” the two had. The 27-year-old says Soles fondled him when he was 15.

News channel WWAY reports:

Seventeen-year-old Allen Strickland has been in the news for weeks, ever since his new house in Tabor City caught fire in an apparent arson. On July 1, a few weeks before that fire, Allen and a few of his friends, all clients of State Sen. R.C. Soles, sat down with WWAY’s Ann McAdams to discuss problems they were having with the Senator. They told Ann about being called to testify before the FBI, about possible misconduct on the part of the Senator. Ann asked Allen what they testified about. “About molestation, about prostitution,” Strickland said.

“I went to Raleigh and went before the grand jury and they questioned me for about six-and-a-half hours,” said Jackie Jordan, one of Soles’s clients.

This wasn’t the first time we’d heard stories like this. A year ago, another one of Sen. Soles’s clients named Stacey Scott talked to us about his testimony before the FBI. His recollection of the line of questioning was very similar.

“The FBI is investigating him, as far as I know, for embezzlement, arson, child molestation,” Scott said. “He (Soles) did try to molest me when I was 15 years old, and I have not told the feds that. He tried to grab by my genitalia and I backed off and I said, ‘You know my dad would kill you.’ He said, ‘Please don’t tell nobody,’ and he gave me a thousand dollars.”

Shortly after Scott testified for the grand jury, he says he was picked up by two private investigators for Soles, who spent hours asking him questions.

“‘Has R.C. Soles ever molested you?’ ‘Has he ever paid you to do certain things like burn down Dewey Hill’s grocery store and everything,’ which is what I was questioned about in federal court,” Scott said.

Sen. Soles is the state’s longest serving senator and permanent chair of the Democratic caucus.

I’m in Pittsburgh for the Netroots Nation conference, of course, so I really haven’t had the time to look at this in-depth more later.