On Wednesday lawmakers in the NC Senate advanced a bill that would allow cities and towns to delay their council elections until spring of 2022 if districts can’t be redrawn in time for November 2021 elections. SB 722 responds to the delay in census data that may make it impossible to complete redistricting in time to hold elections at the usual time. Not all municipalities would delay elections if the bill passes since some do not create districts based on population, but those that do would be required to hold public hearings before delaying their election.
The UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees chose this week to withhold tenure from Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones in response to pressure from conservatives over her work on “The 1619 Project.” The board’s approval of tenure appointments is generally pro forma, making this decision highly irregular, particularly given that the Knight Chair appointment in question has always included tenure in the past and that all previous steps in the tenure appointment process had gone smoothly. UNC faculty expressed outrage and concern over the decision.
Economic and Housing Policy
On Thursday Republicans in the NC House introduced a bill that would provide a $1,500 bonus to people currently receiving unemployment benefits if they take a job. The new HB 128 would use federal supplements to provide the incentive payment to people coming off unemployment, which would be reduced to $800 for those who take a job after July 1 (though that date could be changed). The bill would also strip benefits from recipients who turn down a job that pays at least 120% of their state benefit and would require those on unemployment to make at least three job contacts per week.
On Friday Governor Cooper issued an executive order that will require any North Carolinians receiving unemployment benefits to fulfill work search requirements beginning June 6. The order also directs the N.C. Department of Commerce to create a program using federal funding to create an incentive program for unemployed residents to find jobs, similar to the $1,500 benefit introduced by lawmakers in HB 128. The work search requirements mandated by the order include a requirement that each job seeker make contact with at least three employers per week and that they register an account on NCWorks.gov.
Health Care Policy
On Monday Governor Cooper signed into law a bill that would help more people with autism access applied behavioral analysis (ABA) therapy. HB 91 eliminates the requirement that licensed ABA therapists be supervised by a licensed psychologist, allowing more therapists to be licensed and practice ABA on their own. The bill’s passage was met with celebration from families of people with autism.