While we were sleeping, July 28, 2013

Published 6:33 pm Saturday, July 27, 2013

The average person residing in North Carolina is probably not aware of the sweeping changes made by the N.C. General Assembly over the last little while. But you can rest assured that the rest of the country is.

We’re being watched. The bills our legislators have passed over the past few weeks are putting our state on the national stage.

For instance, the new Voter ID law, which calls for some of the strictest regulations in the Union, will likely be challenged by the U.S. Department of Justice. The law requires voters to have government-issued IDs (city- and school-issued are not applicable); eliminates a high school Civics class that allows teenagers to pre-register to vote, cuts early voting and eliminates same-day voter registration. You will also no longer be able to vote a straight-party ticket — that’s been eliminated too—so voters best know their candidates when they walk into the voting booth.

As far as teachers go, the budget passed cuts over 5,000 teachers from the payroll and provides no pay increases over the next two years for the ones still there. On the surface that may not mean much, but if you compare North Carolina teachers’ salaries to those of other states, it means much more. There are only five other states in the country that pay their teachers less than we do.

The legislature seized control of the state’s busiest airport. They did that at 12:15 a.m. Friday — literally, while most of us were sleeping.

Major changes have been made to campaign law: the cap on individual political donations has been raised to $5,000; corporate donations will be unlimited.

But interestingly enough, before our Senators and Representatives left for their break, another somewhat startling piece of legislation was passed: now, the North Carolina House speaker and the Senate leader can intervene if any lawsuit challenging new law is brought against the state, which essentially puts them on equal standing with the North Carolina Attorney General. Now, if the Attorney General, Roy Cooper, refuses to defend a law passed by legislature, they can step in and defend it themselves.

Monumental changes are happening at the state level. Let’s not sleep through them. Be sure to set your alarm.