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Legislative Wrap-Up for 2011

The Long Session
Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc.

RALEIGH — The Christian Action League had high hopes heading into the 2011 Legislative Session and was not disappointed. With the General Assembly under new leadership and an aggressive agenda on the table, the League had innumerable opportunities to advocate for family values and help lawmakers see proposed bills from a strong Christian worldview.

The passage of several vital pro-life measures, getting the marriage protection amendment on the ballot, and stemming the tide for more alcohol and gambling in North Carolina made this one of the best years yet for the lobbying organization that represents thousands of conservative evangelical Christians from across the state, according to the Dr. Mark Creech, CAL executive director.

The following is a roundup of some of the issues the League addressed:

Protecting the Unborn

H-854: Abortion – Woman’s Right to Know Act
The Woman’s Right to Know Bill, which ensures that women seeking an abortion get a chance to view an ultrasound and have a 24-hour waiting period to weigh their options, is expected to save as many as 3,000 unborn lives each year. Abortion forces fought the measure fiercely, as lawmakers voted to approve it and then voted again to override the Governor’s veto.

Just before the law was to take effect in late October, U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Eagles issued a ruling enjoining the law’s “Right to View” (Ultrasound) provision. Although a group of supporters of the new law including women harmed by abortion, medical experts and representatives from pregnancy care centers filed a motion asking to intervene in the case, Eagles ruled in late December that they could not be heard. It is unclear when the Court will take up the case. But the Christian Action League remains optimistic that the measure will survive its court challenges.

H-215: Unborn Victims of Violence Act/Ethen’s Law
During the Long Session, the Legislature also approved Ethen’s Law – legislation that acknowledges that when a pregnant woman is injured, there are two victims and not just one. The bill was modeled after the federal Unborn Victims of Violence Act and took effect Dec. 1. Before the end of January, the law was applied when a Charlotte ex-convict was charged with two counts of murder in the death of a pregnant woman and her unborn child.

H-289: Authorize Various Special Plates authorized the production of a ‘Choose Life’ specialty license plate to benefit crisis pregnancy centers was also passed. However, the plates have yet to be produced, because of a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). U.S. District Court Judge James Fox issued an oral order in November blocking the DMV from issuing the plates until the case goes forward in federal court.

Preserving Marriage and Parental Rights

S 514: Defense of Marriage
After nearly a decade of unsuccessful attempts to get a bill to the General Assembly floor, alas lawmakers got an opportunity to vote on a Marriage Protection Amendment measure that allowed for Tar Heel voters to decide whether to amend the state Constitution to affirm the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman. The CAL was instrumental in helping garner the needed 3/5 majority for the vote in both the House and Senate by, among its numerous lobbying activities, encouraging the ballot measure to be set for May rather than November 2012. At the time, North Carolina, was the only state in the Southeast without such protections for traditional marriage and was a target for the legalization of same-sex marriage by homosexual activism.

H 239: Grandparents Visitation Rights
Also in the family law arena, the CAL successfully held back efforts to pass a Grandparents Visitation Law that would have undermined the rights of parents to make decisions regarding their own children.

Keeping Alcohol under Control

As is the case each session, a number of bills were introduced in 2011 that would have significantly weakened control of the sale of alcoholic beverages.

S 277: ABC Board Sunday Sales/Local Option
This bill would have allowed ABC stores to open on Sunday. Thankfully, the CAL successfully lobbied against it.

S 276: Spirituous Liquor Tastings at ABC Stores
This bill would have allowed ABC stores to offer liquor tastings and advertise them via any type of media. Fortunately, it was defeated.

H-796: Breweries/Comm. Coll./Supp. Fund Clarified
This bill started out bad, but was much improved before it passed the Legislature. Initially, it would have extended the time that alcohol could be sold by about 13 hours per week and would have allowed alcohol sales at hotels, convention centers, food markets, restaurants or performing arts centers on a number of university campuses in the UNC system, regardless of whether local voters had approved such sales by referendum. The Christian Action League warned lawmakers that the bill would not only increase alcohol consumption but would also circumvent the will of the people. Several senators also spoke against the measure when it was debated on the Senate floor. Thankfully, the bill was gutted by the House and reintroduced later, primarily as a breweries bill that would allow breweries to sell their products onsite in areas where alcohol sales already have voter approval. At this point, the CAL withdrew its objections and remained neutral on the measure.

In other alcohol-related matters, the League helped battle a budget measure that would have eliminated the Alcohol Law Enforcement (ALE) agency.

“Your support was instrumental in minimizing the impact of the budget cuts affecting the Division,” wrote C. John Ledford, director of Alcohol Law Enforcement (ALE) in a July 5 letter to the CAL. “It is through vital partnership between law enforcement and community groups that a real difference is made in reducing youth access to illegal substances and age-restricted products.”

The CAL was also instrumental in helping community leaders in various locations defeat alcohol referendums.

The CAL took a lead role in informing the public about the growing abuse of alco-pops (liquor-laced sweet and fruity drinks sold in 12 to 24-ounce cans and bottles and particularly attractive to teens). Health and safety advocates and agencies battling underage drinking in the state want to have the beverages properly classified as spirits and sold only in ABC Stores.

Battling Drugs and Tobacco

S 7: Add Controlled Substances
A bill banning so-called Spice drugs, synthetic marijuana sold as incense but smoked by users, and mephedrone, marketed as bath salts but also used for a quick and dangerous high, won approval from lawmakers and took effect in June.

H 12: Stop Methamphetamine Labs
The CAL also supported this bill that tightened controls on medications containing pseudoephedrine, the main ingredient used in the production of methamphetamines.

On the tobacco forefront, the CAL kept watch on a pair of legal challenges to the state’s smoking ban in restaurants and also urged Major League Baseball to knock smokeless tobacco ‘Out of the Park’ – a national campaign that resulted in Major League Baseball agreeing to prohibit its ball players from using smokeless tobacco while playing.

Keeping the Odds against More Gambling

H 228: Video Lottery Entertainment
The CAL successfully battled against this bill for legalized video sweepstakes gaming.

Lawmakers considered, but didn’t pass a bill that would have tightened purported loopholes in the ban on video sweepstakes. Unfortunately, a Court of Appeals ruling in March opened the door to more video sweepstakes parlors. The split decision of the three-member court which struck down the ban has been appealed to the N.C. Supreme Court, and the CAL and many lawmakers are hoping the state’s High Court will expedite its hearing of the case.

S 621: Simulated Gaming Allowed/Certain ABC Outlets is legislation that would have allowed for full-fledged casino nights for charities. Dr. Mark Creech, CAL executive director, spoke against the measure in the Senate Rules Committee, and lawmakers decided not to act on the bill.

As for the issue of expanded gaming at Harrah’s, Casino on the Cherokee reservation, the Governor Beverly Perdue and the Eastern Band of Cherokees announced late in 2011 that they had reached an agreement that would throw wide the door to live dealers and virtually any and all table games, commonly known as Class III or Las Vegas style gaming.