LGBTQ Rights

  • Following the expiration of a statewide ban on local non-discrimination ordinances last month, multiple North Carolina towns, cities, and counties have passed non-discrimination ordinances that protect LGBTQ people. The Orange County Board of Commissioners passed a non-discrimination policy covering the entire county, and the municipalities of Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Hillsborough passed their own local ordinances last week. On Tuesday, both Greensboro and Durham passed non-discrimination ordinances that, in addition to LGBTQ identity, also protect people with natural hair styles associated with a race or culture. While it is not clear how Republican legislators will react to the new ordinances, NC Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) has suggested that those with complaints may be best served in the courts.


COVID-19

  • On January 14, Governor Cooperannounced a change to the state’s vaccination plan: in order to mesh with new federal guidelines, vaccination – already open to health care providers and people 75 and older - will now be available to people age 65+. This will add as many as a million more people to the priority list. However, there will be a delay of at least several weeks before vaccine supplies can meet the expected increase in demand.

  • North Carolina remains one of the slowest states to distribute the vaccine. Some Republican legislators, critical of the pace of vaccinations, have called for more centralized control, suggesting it was a mistake for the state to rely on local health departments to set up their own vaccination procedures. Dr. Mandy Cohen told legislators, “We needed to rely on the infrastructure we had,” and Sen. Mike Woodward, (D-Durham) reminded Republican colleagues that they are generally opposed to the state using centralized control.


Criminal Justice


2021 NC General Assembly Long Session: What to Expect


The NC General Assembly reconvened Jan 13 for the start to the legislature’s long session. After a largely ceremonial meeting, the legislature adjourned until January 27, when the opening of bill filing will start the process of lawmaking and budgeting. Governor Cooper will be looking to get approval from the NC Senate for four new Cabinet appointees, and some key legislative priorities have already been identified:

  • NCGA leaders have pointed to coronavirus issues, particularly those tied to education, as a top priority, and Governor Cooper has expressed hope for finding common ground with Republican leaders this session.

  • With the impending release of data from the 2020 Census, redistricting will again be on the agenda. The Republican-led legislature will be drawing new maps defining congressional and legislative voting districts. Governor Cooper indicated that while he expects more cooperation between Democrats and Republicans on some issues during this session, he does not think redistricting will be one of them. Public opinion polls have shown that most North Carolinians want to de-politicize the redistricting process.

  • There is some indication that Republicans are now willing to consider Governor Cooper’s request for issuing a major state infrastructure bond for school construction and other infrastructure needs.


COVID-19


Environmental Policy

  • On Wednesday the NC Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) approved a controversial air permit for a proposed biogas processing facility designed to convert swine waste from nineteen hog farms to energy. The facility, however, will not begin processing biogas until the participating hog farms receive required permits from the Department of Water Resources. The Southern Environmental Law Center issued a statement opposing the DEQ’s approval of the permit.

LGBTQ Rights/Criminal Justice

  • On December 31 the NC Court of Appeals struck down a state law that excludes people in same-sex relationships from obtaining certain protective orders against abusive domestic partners. The court ruled 2-1 that the law limiting 50B protective orders -- domestic violence protective orders that include provisions to strip the offender of access to firearms, among other provisions -- to opposite-sex couples violated the equal protection and due process rights of the plaintiff, a Wake County woman who had sought a 50B protective order against a former female partner. Prior to this ruling, North Carolina was the only state in the country that did not allow domestic violence protective orders for same-sex partners.

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