Newsletter from the office of Representative Mary Belk.
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Christina Adeleke, Esq., Ryan Morrice and a dedicated group of activists from Mecklenburg County NCAAN spoke with me on AIDS Awareness Day at the legislature.

Town Hall this Saturday, June 23rd!

All are welcome to my Town Hall this Saturday, June 23rd. As the Short Session comes to a close, I will present information on the 2018 budget, as well as the latest updates regarding legislative and judicial redistricting.

Assistant District Attorney Robyn Withrow and Maria Macon from the Council of Elders will be on hand to let us know how to qualify for the Council’s expunction clinics to erase criminal records. They will update us on the District Attorney’s plan to set up a permanent expunction clinic through his office. 

We'll also have a representative from the District 26 court talk to us about the new SelfServe Center that allows you to take care of routine legal matters without hiring a lawyer. 

Most importantly, I hope to hear from my constituents about the issues that matter most to them and what I can do to carry their message to Raleigh. Please plan to join us at my town hall meeting and have your voices heard!

    Rep. Mary Belk’s Town Hall     
    Date: Saturday, June 23rd, 2018
    Time: 1:00pm - 3:00pm
    Place: Goodwill Opportunity Campus
              5301 Wilkinson Blvd.
              Charlotte, NC 28208
The current deadline for getting your REAL ID is October 1, 2020. MORE INFO

The “REAL ID” Deadline is Coming

Do you remember that a regular North Carolina drivers license will no longer be accepted for boarding airline flights or entering Federal and military facilities, starting on October 1, 2020? Neither did I before this past Tuesday morning! Due to passage of the REAL ID Act in 2005, you will need to get your standard ID upgraded to a “REAL ID” before the deadline. Otherwise, you’ll need a passport or valid military ID to quickly pass through security to board commercial flights.

The difference between the old and the new ID is basically the type of documentation required to prove your identity at the DMV. You may recall that you can get a NC drivers license with a birth certificate (or proof of legal status) and proof of residence, plus one other form of ID from a long list. The new “REAL ID” essentially requires all of that documentation PLUS (i) proof of your Social Security Number with full name and (ii) an additional proof of residence. What also makes it difficult is that the list of acceptable additional identification is much shorter.

The Department of Motor Vehicles has set up a website and published a brochure that takes you through each requirement and the acceptable forms of identification you can use to satisfy them. Unfortunately, they have not been given a budget for a public information campaign, so we need to spread the word on their behalf. 

North Carolina does not require people to get a REAL ID, so if you don’t have the proper documentation they’ll just give you an ID that says ‘NOT FOR FEDERAL IDENTIFICATION.’ If anyone has ever waited in line for two hours only to find out that you have the wrong form, you’ll realize how frustrating this could become for people as the deadline approaches. Please take the time to review the documentation lists before you go to the DMV and save yourself the stress!
Pamela Hemphill, Tammy Polk Hinson, and Delta Sigma Thetas from across NC advocated for meaningful gun safety reform, and against gerrymandering. 

Early Voting Under Attack (Again)

Last Thursday was a marathon session of the House with many bills brought up for debate that we did not expect, because the language had been kept under wraps until the night before. One of these was SB325, which is another attempt to curtail Early Voting, this time in the name of ‘standardization and efficiency.’ Here’s what the bill does: 

First, the bill cancels early voting on the Saturday before Election Day and replaces it with the third Wednesday before the election. Saturday typically features the heaviest voting of the early vote period, particularly for working class people who have hourly jobs and childcare obligations that make it difficult to vote on a weekday .

Second, SB325 ends local discretion to have staggered early voting hours at multiple sites.  Right now, a county has the option to have some sites open the full period and some sites open for just part of the time. This helps with staffing issues and allows local officials the flexibility to balance voter convenience with the efficient use of tax dollars. You see it play it out in cities where downtown sites may not be open on weekends or in rural areas where more remote sites may be open for only a few days because few residents live nearby.

SB325 would require localities to keep all sites open, if they want to keep one site open. The result will likely be fewer sites as there is no funding to pay to keep all sites open.

Third, SB325 further mandates that any open site must operate from 7am to 7pm. Some areas may have difficulty staffing 12-hour sites and thus will have to cut back on open sites.

Here is the problem with the whole stated rationale for these new rules - during debates on education, transportation, and economic investment incentives, legislators from rural and suburban areas will go on at length about why their counties should be treated differently than the large urban counties. Suddenly, when the debate turns to administering elections, they turn around and solemnly state that all counties should be treated equally for the sake of ‘standardization and efficiency.’ More than anything, this frankly hypocritical argument exposes the blatant partisan intentions of their continued attempts at voter suppression.

Once again, Governor Cooper’s veto is not going to be enough to stop the Supermajority from having its way, no matter how thin their arguments are. Only the voters of North Carolina will really be able to change the math on issues like these.
CJ Short and his mentor (& my husband), Ralph Belk visited us last week. 

Partisan Policy for Our NC Constitution?

It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that there are some issues where Republicans and Democrats just fundamentally disagree. Anyone who has been following politics for any amount of time knows that issues like voting rights, immigration, taxation, and government spending are considered ‘hot button’ issues that create intense partisan debate between the parties. This makes sense, because these issues are very important to the people who elect us and expect us to represent their views. 

Now that it looks like the 2018 election in November might actually change the balance of power in one or both chambers of the NC General Assembly, Republicans are attempting to secure their positions on a couple of big issues by amending the North Carolina Constitution.   

Voter Photo ID Requirement: It was apparently not made clear enough when the Federal courts struck down our last Voter ID bill as unconstitutional, so the supermajority has decided to attempt to change the NC Constitution, as an end run around the courts. 

If any of you are reading this thinking, “well, I have to show my ID to do a lot of things,” then please read this very insightful post from Gerry Cohen, a former Special Counsel to the General Assembly: The upshot of his post is that in almost all instances where you are asked to produce ID, that is simply the most efficient way to prove your identity, but not technically required by law.

Gerry makes some great points about ID requirements, but let’s focus on some basic numbers. In 2013, the NC Board of Elections did a study of all registered voters to determine if they had a form of identification that would qualify under the proposed Voter ID law. They found over 600,000 registered voters didn’t have the required ID, or has discrepancies between the databases that would disqualify the voter. That was nearly 1 in 10 voters.

After multiple false allegations of voter fraud in 2016, the Board of Elections & Ethics Enforcement did an exhaustive audit and were only able to find one (2) examples of ‘in person’ voter fraud out of 4.8 million votes cast. To date, no one has been able to explain to me why we need to make it harder for 1 in 10 voters to cast their votes in order to ‘fix’ a problem created by 1 in 2.25 million voters. Just on the face of it, the arguments make no sense.

Income Tax Cap: Of all the issues we discuss, perhaps none is more fundamental than the amount and methods we use to collect money to fund the many operations of our State government. Since the 1980’s, Republicans have placed tax cuts above almost all else, and it has led to some very damaging public policy at the state level. 

You need look no further than Kansas from 2012 to 2017 to see what happens when that position reaches its logical conclusion. They actually cut the school week to four days in some districts in Kansas, before recent elections brought a bit more sanity and compromise back to their state.  

Policies like government funding should be debated on a regular basis, especially when our State is growing by tens of thousands of people per year. The answers that are suitable today may not be suitable tomorrow, and that’s why the Constitution is designed to lay out founding principles of government, not the narrow policy preferences of any political party.

Your Community, Your Summer

It’s hot out there! There are municipal pools and public swimming access at parks all over Mecklenburg County. Check out these links to find a place to beat the heat this Summer:

Swimming Lessons for Everyone!

Charlotte Mecklenburg Pools

Lake Wylie Public Access Facilities

Lake Norman Public Access Facilities & Boat Ramps

Mountain Island Lake Public Access Facilities

Domestic Violence Hotline: If you or someone you know is trapped in a domestic violence or partner abuse situation, please call Safe Alliance at 704-332-2513 and they can help you.

Mecklenburg Compost & Mulch are now available for purchase from the new Compost Central Recycling Disposal Center. Visit their web page for details and pricing.

Property Tax values and histories in Mecklenburg County can be searched on this site that includes links to Polaris and information about the reassessments that occurred in 2011. You can find more detailed information on real estate values on the Mecklenburg Modria site. 

Charlotte 311 is your connection to city services, including Animal Control, Street Maintenance, Bulky Trash Pick-up, Parking Enforcement, and all other non-police related matters. Dial 311 or visit their website to fill out a form and have your issue addressed as soon as possible.    

Voter Information: You can find your current information on the NC Voter Lookup page. You can also find interactive versions of the new House & Senate maps HERE.   
Don’t forget! Visit today to see if you have unclaimed property under the supervision of the NC Treasurer’s office.

My office is here to help you navigate any issues you may have with state services. Please call myself or my legislative assistant, Ralph Belk, at 919-733-5607 or email me at with any questions or concerns

In the News

Gov. Cooper: 'The I-77 contract is a bad contract'
Charlotte Business Journal

Cooper calls Republican offshore drilling proposal 'ransom'
The News & Observer
Constitution should favor all, not one political party
Greenville Daily Reflector
Cooper vetoes judicial district, election bills
Associated Press
Editorial:  Filing for judges opens Monday. 'Katie, bar the door.'
The Charlotte Observer
Editorial:  Another opportunity has been missed to build community trust in Raleigh
Asheville Citizen-Times
North Carolina passes charter school law that critics say is intended to promote segregation
Washington Post
NC lawmakers pass amendment to better protect victims of date rape
Police access to prescription database approved in the NC legislature
The News & Observer
Report: Superior court judge finds out via text of his seat elimination
NC Policy Watch
State budget now law after House overrides veto
Some state employees are discovering they're left out of the new $15 minimum wage
The News & Observer
Republicans resurrect the battle over Voter ID in NC
Our view: Voter ID is still a bad idea
Winston-Salem Journal
Our View: Voter ID plan best taken with a grain of suspicion
The Fayetteville Observer
North Carolina Could Ban Labeling of Plant-based Drinks As Milk
Daily Herd Management
Mecklenburg County NC House Districts Effective for the 2018 Election 
Copyright © 2018 Representative Mary Belk, All rights reserved.

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