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Bi-weekly newsletter from the office of Representative Mary Belk.
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Thank you Precinct 221 and Chair Lisa Ellsworth for inviting me to your Oktoberfest Party! 

Governor Cooper Moves Forward
on LGBT Civil Rights

I'm proud to support the Executive Order Governor Roy Cooper signed last week, sending a clear message that his administration will do everything in its power to ensure and strengthen the rights and civil protections of our LGBT citizens. The order prohibits discrimination in state employment or services on the grounds of race, color, ethnicity, sex, National Guard or veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression. The order also requires more than 3000 contractors who do business with the State to have the same protections for their employees.          

During the HB2 debate, North Carolina’s reputation for fostering a welcoming and progressive business environment was damaged, and our economy lost hundreds of millions of dollars in investments. Governor Cooper's action brings the employment practices of North Carolina into line with similar employment rules for the Federal government as well as over 20 states, including Virginia and Montana. Hopefully, we can work together to restore our reputation and make clear to companies interested in North Carolina that we are “open for business.”
 
I share the commitment of the Democratic Legislative Caucus to extend true non-discrimination protections in public accommodations across our State, as we attempted to do with HB82. Unfortunately our efforts will continue to come up short as long as the current leadership is in place. 

For more information on Governor Cooper’s Executive Order, click HERE.

Please stay tuned to my official Twitter (@BelkRep) feed for updates and announcements.
Celebrating Diwali with Councilwoman Ajmera, Mayor Roberts, and the
BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir community.

Electoral Freedom Act of 2017

The Electoral Freedom Act of 2017 (SB656) is a prime example of how good policy for the people of North Carolina has been consistently damaged by hyper-partisanship. This bill began as an effort to lower the number of registered voter signatures required for Unaffiliated candidates. Initially, I supported the bill when it was in the House, although I felt that it should also loosen the rules for Unaffiliated candidates in legislative elections. At the last minute, however, the leadership added a provision that eliminated all judicial primaries for 2018. I voted to uphold Governor Cooper’s veto of this attack on our Judiciary, but, once again, the supermajority had the numbers to override his veto.

Taken alone, this is poor policy - but when combined with (i) the addition of partisan labels on all judicial candidates and (ii) a proposed Constitutional amendment to shorten all judicial terms to two years, it’s a recipe for chaos. We could be looking at a November 2018 ballot that lists every District, Superior, Appeals, and Supreme Court seat as well as every candidate who signs up to run for any of those seats. It appears legislative leaders think long ballots and confused voters will result in appellate judges more aligned with the leadership’s interests. 

Once again, we find ourselves needing protect our democratic institutions from these continued partisan attacks. to change the basic math of the supermajority before we can adequately .

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and I’d like to thank all of my friends, supporters, and constituents who have been so incredibly supportive during my own treatment process. I believe I’m healthy today, in part, because of your support and prayers. It has been an honor to visit a number of different groups and tell my story, and I hope I’ve encouraged people to educate themselves about best screening methods and how to approach their medical providers for advice.

I’m especially thankful to Laura Boniti from Spectum News, who invited me along with Marisa Jackson and her husband, Senator Jeff Jackson, as well as my colleague Representative Holly Grange, to speak about our experiences. If you’d like to see those segments, you can find them HERE.

The Pink House in Charlotte offers a wide range of services to patients and survivors of breast cancer. I always let people know they do not have to struggle with this illness alone. You can call 704-370-7773 or visit their website HERE for more information or to reach out.
NC Attorney General Josh Stein (Photo: Nelle Dunlap)

Public Safety Under Attack

Earlier this year the General Assembly cut Attorney General Josh Stein’s budget by $10 million, a devastating amount for a small but vitally important office. The Attorney General is the State’s top public safety and consumer protection official. The AG has responded as best he can by cutting 45 positions and shifting much of his office’s work to other state agencies. That has amounted to $7 million in cuts, but the final $3 million he cannot do responsibly.

The right thing to do would be to repeal the remaining $3 million cut. Instead, the leadership inserted language in SB582 that made it more difficult to serve the people of North Carolina. One of AG Stein’s responses to the cuts had been to ask local district attorneys to handle some of their own criminal appeals, because he was forced to fire appeals lawyers from his office. SB582 formally requires Attorney General Stein’s office to handle all criminal appeals, even though he does not have the staff or resources to do so. At best, this means some cases will drag on for months or years longer than necessary. The real danger is that overworked and understaffed legal teams may fail to block criminal appeals, leading to the release of criminals who belong in jail. 

Hamstringing our state’s capacity to handle criminal appeals is not only a public safety issue, but it also violates the NC Constitution.  Our state constitution gives the Attorney General the authority to assign appeals to local district attorneys if he does not have the capacity. SB582 is little more than a cheap partisan shot at professionals who are doing their best to protect our safety.
To borrow a phrase, 'the system works when you work it!'

Your City, Your Government

I’ve been encouraging everyone to use the Charlotte 311 service to interact with the City of Charlotte’s many different departments and services. 

Just up the street from my house, there was a broken water pipe that was causing the street to deform and buckle. I called 311 to let them know what was happening and that our street had experienced some pretty serious sinkholes in the past. They sent out work crews to examine the issue and plan a fix, but then in the next few weeks I didn’t notice any additional activity. 

One more call to 311 put me in touch with a very helpful person who found my initial report and the plan to correct the problem, but noticed that the project had not been scheduled. She contacted the department, fixed the oversight, and the work crew showed up inside of two weeks to fix the pipe and the street.      

The funniest thing about the experience was talking to my neighbors who live just in front of the repair. They had noticed the broken pipe weeks before I had, but weren’t sure what to do about it. Like many of us, they figured it was somebody’s job to keep up with those things, but I’m here to tell you, there’s no budget for that. There are hundreds of miles of sidewalks and thousands of miles of roads and pipes throughout our city. If everyone lets the city know when we notice something broken, we’ll probably be pleasantly surprised by how good they are at fixing it.
 
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.        
 
Don’t forget! Visit NCCash.com 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 mary.belk@ncleg.net with any questions or concerns
.

In the News

Deal on North Carolina Bathroom Law Would Expand Transgender Protections
NY Times

In North Carolina, Republicans Stung by Court Rulings Aim to Change the Judges
NY Times
 
Former GOP Supreme Court justice: 2 year terms amendment continued effort to ‘intimidate judiciary’
Progressive Pulse
 
Activists warn about North Carolina judicial redistricting scheme
The Chronicle
 
The worst proposal yet for our courts
News & Record (Doug Clark column)
 
Constitutional amendment would shrink judicial terms immediately
Carolina Journal
 
Editorial:  Republicans make another power grab -- this time, judicial seats
Wilmington Star-News

An Even More Insidious Kind of Gerrymandering
Slate

Editorial:  Legislature shakes judicial elections
News & Record

Trump's move prompts 14 percent rate increase on Blue Cross ACA plans
WRAL
 
Editorial:  Bullying in the Year of the Veto
Fayetteville Observer
 
Editorial:  Let Cooper do the job voters elected him to do
Capital Broadcasting Company
 
DEQ to test three Cumberland County schools for GenX
WRAL
 
Forum offers viewpoints on drilling off the NC coast
Wilmington Star News
 
Should NC double what the Lottery may spend on ads?
News & Observer
 
Confident Triangle task force submits Amazon HQ response
WRAL TechWire
 
Editorial:  Our deadly prisons
News & Record
 
UNC Center for Civil Rights attorneys are out of a job. Now what?
News & Observer
District 88 Map
Copyright © 2017 Representative Mary Belk, All rights reserved.


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