This week, North Carolina legislators passed a budget for the biennium that begins on July 1st. We commend the North Carolina legislature for coming up with funding priorities that not only give millions of middle-class families and job-creating small businesses $530 million in tax relief, pay raises for teachers, school principals, and state employees, $100 million in disaster relief assistance to victims of Hurricane Matthew, and increases the state’s rainy day fund, but also makes family values a priority so that North Carolina continues to be one of the best states in the country in which to raise a family, as well as to live and work.
Included among the provisions of the $23-Billion, 438-page budget are some positive signs that legislators are making family values a priority. You probably haven’t heard about these funding priorities in the news, so we wanted to make you aware of them:
$2.6 Million to Fund Crisis Pregnancy Centers
The budget includes $1.3 Million for each of the next two years for crisis pregnancy centers, up from $300,000. To the Carolina Pregnancy Care Fellowship, an organization that serves crisis pregnancy centers, the budget appropriates $1 Million each year to purchase “durable medical equipment,” which could include ultrasound machines, and provide training to clinics. An additional $300,000 each year was given to the Human Coalition, a national crisis pregnancy care group with clinics in NC, for a pilot program to provide “a continuum of care and support to assist women experiencing crisis pregnancies to continue their pregnancies to full term.” We applaud the legislature’s focus on pro-life policy that recognizes the humanness of unborn babies and their right to life, as well as the needs of women experiencing unplanned pregnancies.
Display of Hotline Number for Human Trafficking
The budget requires that the National Human Trafficking Resource Hotline Number— 1-888-373-7888 — be prominently displayed on signs in adult entertainment businesses, businesses that sell alcohol, hospitals, and highway rest stops. The requirement helps victims of sex trafficking, who may frequent the places where the signs must be posted. This is one of the provisions in SB 548, sponsored by Senator Shirley Randleman (a Wilkesboro Republican) and championed by Lt. Governor Dan Forest. The bill would also make human trafficking a higher-level felony, meaning convictions would result in longer prison sentences, and institute new regulations for massage therapy businesses to prevent them from being used by human traffickers. NC Values Coalition supports SB 548 and lobbied for it on our Legislative Day of Action, conducted jointly with CWA on June 7th. SB 548 was passed this week by the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Rules Committee, and is scheduled for a vote by the full Senate on Monday, June 26th.
Expansion of School Choice
Legislators continued to expand Opportunity Scholarships both for children whose families can't afford private school and children with disabilities. This budget appropriates $44.8 million for 10,700 scholarships during the 2018-2019 school year and $54.8 million for 13,100 scholarships during the 2019-2020 school year. According to Parents for Educational Freedom (PFEF), “Lawmakers have remained steadfast in their support of expansion, despite the governor’s proposed budget seeking to shrink the Program. Demand from North Carolina families for these private school scholarships is at an all-time high this year, as nearly 10,000 new applications have been submitted in just four months. In total, North Carolina families have submitted over 33,000 applications since the Program was established.”
In addition to the two Opportunity Scholarships program, the budget includes a new school choice initiative—Educational Savings Accounts, which are funded at $3,450,000 to expand support for special needs families.
The budget is on the Governor’s desk now, so the pressure is on him to sign this budget into law before the end of the fiscal year on June 30th.