Christian Action League of North Carolina
North Carolina lawmakers returned to the Capitol Tuesday, May 14, and initiated the short-session of the 2007-2008 legislative biennium. The short-session is expected to be just that – short – as legislators plan to focus primarily on enacting the state’s budget for the 2008-2009 fiscal year, which begins on July 1. “Controversial legislation typically is not taken up during the short-session and lawmakers certainly don’t want to make any political mistakes in an election year. Furthermore, they need to get their work completed as quickly as possible so they can get back to their districts and campaign,” said Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League.” “Nevertheless, we must be ever vigilant, there are a lot of matters still hanging out there. You never really know what will happen,” he warned.
Some matters to watch for this session would include:
- State Marriage Amendment – Senators Jim Forrester (R-Gaston) and Fred Smith (R-Johnston) have once again filed legislation that would allow North Carolinians an opportunity to vote on a state marriage amendment that would define marriage as “the union of one man and one woman at one time.” The Senate leadership is expected to send the legislation to a committee where it will not be heard. Still the recent decision by judicial activists in California highlights the urgent need for a marriage amendment in North Carolina.
- Alcohol and Cigarette Tax Increases – Governor Mike Easley has recommend increases in both the alcohol and cigarette taxes in North Carolina. The following is a quote taken directly from the Governor’s proposed budget, which was unveiled on Monday.
“Alcohol Tax Increase – To fund various mental health initiatives, the Governor recommends increasing the North Carolina beer tax from 5 cents per can to 9 cents and increasing the spirituous liquor tax from 25% of wholesale price to 29%. The taxes on fortified and unfortified wine would also increase 4 cents to 28 cents and 25 cents per liter, respectively. These changes would take effect on September 1, 2008 and are expected to generate $66.0 million in 2008-09. Until February 2002, the excise tax rate on liquor had been 28%. The tax rate on beer and wine has not changed in over 25 years.
Cigarette Tax Increase – The Governor recommends increasing the cigarette tax from 35 cents per pack to 55 cents, effective September 1, 2008. This increase is expected to provide an additional 99.0 million in 2008-09 and help raise teacher pay to the national average. At 55 cents per pack, North Carolina would still only tie for 40th state ranking in cigarette tax rates (up from 45th currently) and would be less than half the national average cigarette tax rate of $1.14 per pack.”
The Christian Action League supports the Governor’s initiative to increase the taxes on alcohol and cigarettes. Higher prices on such products help curb their use and save lives. Moreover, seven in ten North Carolinians strongly support a tax on beer, wine, and other alcoholic beverages to generate money for health and long-term care services.
- Liquor Tastings at ABC Stores – Though no legislation has been introduced on this matter at this time. The Christian Action League has it on good authority that legislation will be introduced to this end in the short-session. Such a policy would significantly change the role of the State’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission (ABC) from one of control to that of the promotion of alcoholic beverages.
- Repeal of the State’s AUM Curriculum – In a recent article in the Fayetteville Observer, Rep. Rick Glazier (D-Cumberland) expressed his desire to see the current Abstinence Until Marriage (AUM) sex education curriculum repealed. Glazier’s use of the word “repeal” could mean an effort is afoot to place the “repeal” of the AUM curriculum in the state budget. Such a tactical move would make it difficult to defeat because lawmakers who support AUM would have to vote against the entire state budget to prevent AUM’s repeal.
- Embryonic Stem Cell Research – Sponsored by Rep. Earl Jones (D-Guilford) and Rep. Jim Gulley (R-Mecklenburg), House Bill 1837 initially called for $10 million to go directly to stem cell research grants. A modified version that would set up a committee to establish guidelines and provide grants (which wouldn’t be awarded until the General Assembly approved the guidelines) passed the House by five votes and landed in the Senate’s Committee on Health Care. The bill could be brought out for consideration this session.
- The Bullying-Bill – Introduced last session as House Bill 1366, the School Violence Prevention Act would force public schools to adopt a policy prohibiting bullying and harassment motivated by a variety of characteristics including special protections for “gender identity or expression” and “sexual orientation,” two undefined traits that are not a part of any state law.
- The Unborn Victims of Violence Act – Modeled after the Federal bill known as the Laci and Conner Peterson Act, House Bill 263, which is still eligible, says that a person who commits the crime of murder or manslaughter of a pregnant woman is guilty of a separate offense for the resulting death of the unborn child. It would also provide that in cases of domestic violence resulting in miscarriage or stillbirth, perpetrators could face charges punishable at the same class and level as the underlying offense. North Carolina remains one of only 14 U.S. States without a law to address fetal homicide.
The Christian Action League will be watching these and other pieces of legislation throughout the session. Concerned Citizen Christians are urged to be ready to respond to CAL’s reporting and action recommendations.