NC Unemployment Falls to 6.3 Percent

RALEIGH — North Carolina’s unemployment rate is down slightly from last month after falling to 6.3 percent.

The latest figure is 1.2 percent lower than the same time last year.

The number of people employed increased by more than 17,000 during the month of October.

U.S. unemployment also decreased to a six-year low of 5.8 percent.

McCrory ‘Extremely Concerned’ About Impact of Immigration Reform

RALEIGH — After President Barack Obama’s address on immigration reform, Gov. Pat McCrory issued a statement criticizing the move.

It reads:

“With this latest executive order, President Obama is making new law by bypassing Congress. I’m already discussing with other governors a long-term solution to immigration reform as well as an appropriate legal response to this unconstitutional overreach of the White House. North Carolina is not a border state, but it’s impacted by illegal immigration. I’m extremely concerned about the potentially negative impact of this executive order on our public schools, health services and public safety.”

 

President Obama Unveils New Immigration Plan

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama addressed the nation Thursday night to unveil his new immigration plan.

His immigration accountability executive action will crack down on illegal immigration at the border. It would also mean cracking down on companies that hire illegal immigrants as well.

Under the President’s plan, as many as 5 million people in the country illegally would be spared from deportation for three years and made eligible for work permits.

Undocumented immigrants who have been in the country for at least five years and have children who are American citizens will be allowed to stay once they pass a background check.

“You can come out of the shadows and get right to work,” said Obama.

The action would also streamline the deportation of criminals by moving them to the top of the deportation priority list, falling in line with his focus to deport felons and not families. The centerpiece of the president’s action; however, is the process for certain undocumented immigrants to gain temporary protection from being deported.

The plan does not include a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants or provide access to health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

“Even as we are a nation of immigrants, we are also a nation of laws. Undocumented workers broke our immigration laws, and I believe that they must be held accountable—especially those who may be dangerous,” said Obama.

The action would have those that qualify to start paying taxes, and they would be allowed to stay in the country for at least three years without fear of deportation.

The executive actions are sure to spark battle between the White House and GOP lawmakers, who say President Obama is acting beyond his authority. But the president said history is on his side.

“The actions I’m taking are not only lawful, they’re the kinds of actions taken by every single Republican President and every Democratic President for the past half century. And to those Members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better, or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: Pass a bill,” said Obama.

A bipartisan immigration reform bill did pass the Senate last year, but the Republican-led House never voted on it.

- Geoff Bennett

Capital Tonight Nov. 20: Tax Reform Plans

On Capital Tonight: Tax reform may show up again in the upcoming legislative session. We talk with Sens. Bob Rucho and Josh Stein about that and other priorities. We take a look at the influence of Congressional Black Caucus and the Legislative Black Caucus with Geoff Bennett and Loretta Boniti. Watch the program here.

Ban on Prayer Before Forsyth Co. Commissioners Meetings Lifted

WINSTON-SALEM—Both sides claimed victory in the less than one hour hearing in U.S. District Court in Winston-Salem.

“I think it was a great victory,’’ said Bill Whiteheart, a Forsyth County commissioner.

“As you recall, when the court was called in session, she said ‘God save the United States.’”

The county was sued in 2007 over ministers’ giving prayers before meetings.

A 2010 injunction barred the practice on constitutional grounds.

This year the U.S. Supreme Court ruled such prayers were legal in Greece, New York, because the town had an inclusive policy.

The American Civil Liberties Union of N.C. had sought to have the injunction modified.

“On the one hand, we’re disappointed that the injunction was dissolved today, but on the other hand, we are heartened that the judge was so very clear in warning the county that it could not discriminate,” said Chris Brook, the ACLU’s legal director in the state.

Saying the ruling in New York changed the law, county attorneys asked that the injunction be dissolved.

After hearing oral arguments, Judge James Beaty ruled that the injunction would be dissolved, but cautioned the county to be more inclusive.

“I think by the fact the judge lifted the injunction, he’s saying that our policy is a good policy the way it is and just be careful how we go forward,” said county commissioner Mark Baker.

The ACLU says it’ll continue to monitor the county’s meeting.

“We had been arguing that the county not discriminate against religious minorities, or non-believers in the invocation policy that they have,’’ said Brook.

Some spectators were on hand for personal reasons.

“Of course, our main concern was that Christians be able to pray in the name of Jesus Christ,’’ said Jeff Baity, with Berean Baptist Church.

Commissioners say the newly elected board will have to consider changes but still expect the majority of prayers to be Christian.

“Just by the sheer mathematical percentages of the cultural, religious makeup of Forsyth County, I think you could expect that to be the fact,’’ said Whiteheart.

The next scheduled full meeting of the commissioners is Monday.

The new board will be sworn in on Dec. 1.

- Bob Costner

Rep. G.K. Butterfield To Lead Congressional Black Caucus

Congressman G.K. Butterfield will be the next leader of the Congressional Black Caucus. Butterfield — who represents much of the eastern part of the state — was unanimously elected on Wednesday. Just after winning that leadership post, Butterfield sat down with Washington bureau reporter Geoff Bennett.

WASHINGTON—Beginning in January, Democratic Rep. G.K. Butterfield, who represents North Carolina’s first district, will lead the 45-member Congressional Black Caucus, also known as the CBC.

The group was established in 1971 to address the policy concerns of a growing number of African-Americans in Congress.

“It’s one of the highest honors of my lifetime to be elected unanimously as the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus for the 114th Congress, and I take this work very seriously,” said Butterfield.

Even though an African-American now occupies the Oval Office, Butterfield said the CBC is as relevant as ever.

“It’s the role of the Congressional Black Caucus legislatively to fight every day to protect those in our communities – not just Africa- Americans – but those who have been left out of the American dream and this new economy,” he said.

He said his chief task is to maintain the group’s reputation as the “conscience of the Congress,” while tackling issues such as unemployment, income inequality and access to quality education.

“The Republican party has taken control of the legislative branch of government and so our responsibility has increased,” said Butterfield. “We’ve got to get in there and fight.”

While the CBC is non-partisan, it’s dominated by Democrats. Butterfield said he welcomes black Republicans into the fold.

“What we would ask of them is that they embrace – if not totally – at least the core principles of the Congressional Black Caucus.”

And Butterfield, who recently celebrated his 10th year in Congress, said his new leadership position will give him a “louder voice” in representing the first district.

“The first district of North Carolina has a high incidence of unemployment,” he said. “We still have a great disparity in healthcare and access to healthcare. And so, while I lead these 45 men and women for the next two years in national issues, I’ve got to continue to focus on and be a part of solutions in the first congressional district. And so my work has been multiplied. But I’m up for the challenge, and I’m up for the job I’ve been assigned.”

- See more at: http://centralnc.twcnews.com/content/politics/714187/rep–g-k–butterfield-to-lead-the-congressional-black-caucus/#sthash.61m3E2Dn.dpuf

Black Caucus Poised to Make Their Voices Heard Again in 2015

RALEIGH — North Carolina’s Legislative Black Caucus is currently made up of all Democrats. Democrats are currently the minority party in the legislature. African American members make up a majority of that minority.

“There are about 35 of us,” said Rep. Garland Pierce, a Scotland County Democrat and the head of the Legislative Black Caucus. “So that is a large population that we cover the state of North Carolina, and we just try to keep it by emails and anything we can to keep our voice out there.”

The Black Caucus lists its mission as being organized to: “…operate as a vehicle through which blacks residing in the state of North Carolina will be able to exercise their political power in a unified manner; to ensure that the views and concerns of blacks are carried out by their elected representatives; and to work to develop the political consciousness of black people.”

“So I hope all that we do will benefit all of North Carolina, not just black people,” said Pierce. “We’re not that shallow to do anything like that. But issues we deal with usually effect people who are not well off, who are just struggling, and just trying to make ends meet and that’s a large population of minorities, but other people of North Carolina also.”

The senior member of the Black Caucus is Representative Mickey Michaux of Durham County. When he started his tenure in the 1970s, he was one of just three African American members. He says he believes it is important that he stands shoulder to shoulder with his fellow black legislators to tackle issues today.

“It’s a situation that arises out of the past,” said Michaux. “Where we have been shut out so long and have not had the opportunity over the years. I am not talking about the immediate time, I’m talking about in the past when we have not had the opportunities that we have now to make a difference.”

From economic empowerment to education issues, the caucus says they are poised to make their voices heard again in 2015.

- Loretta Boniti

President Obama To Take Executive Action On Immigration

CHARLOTTE — President Obama is expected to announce plans to issue an executive action on immigration.

That will be during a prime time speech tonight.

The executive actions could spare as many as 5 million immigrants, who are here in the US illegally from deportation.

The White House released a photo of the president working on tonight’s address to the nation.

His plan to bypass Congress is a controversial move that has riled Republican leaders who say he is overstepping his constitutional bounds.

It’s also coming under fire from those who want a more extensive overhaul.

The president had this to say – in a video posted on Facebook – ultimately saying, congress is taking too long to act.

“What I’m going to be laying out is the things I can do with my lawful authority as president to make the system work better, even as I continue to work with Congress and encourage them to get a bipartisan comprehensive bill that can solve the entire problem.”

The president is expected to sign those executive orders Friday.

His speech begins at 8 p.m. tonight.

- Becky Bereiter

Capital Tonight Nov. 19: Religious Freedom and Same-Sex Marriage

On Capital Tonight: The debate over same-sex marriage has shifted to the religious freedom of magistrates. We ask legal experts Gregory Wallace and Chris Brook about the implications. Our Advocates Thomas Mills and Mitch Kokai debate the issues of the week. Watch the program here.

More Magistrates Quit Over Same-Sex Marriage Issue than Previously Reported

NORTH CAROLINA — The number of North Carolina magistrates who have resigned or retired early because of their opposition to performing same-sex marriages is higher than previously reported.

Last month, a federal judge cleared the way for same-sex marriages in North Carolina, prompting the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) to direct magistrates. They are required by law to perform the wedding ceremonies, if asked.

AOC reports between that ruling on Oct. 10 and the end of the month, 16 magistrates left their jobs, but the state wouldn’t release why they left.

“I explained to the judges that I could not continue to perform as a magistrate if it included doing something that was against my sincere religious beliefs,” Kallam said at a rally supporting his decision to quit his job.

“I felt like to perform same sex unions would be in violation of the Lord’s commands so I couldn’t do that,” said former Gaston Co. Magistrate Bill Stevenson after his resignation.

Time Warner Cable News has been able to determine at least 10 of the 16 magistrates who left last month, did so because they will not perform same-sex marriages.

“There were no offers to make any accommodations,” Kallam said. “I basically was told that you either do this or you will be suspended without pay and will then be dismissed.”

For a little perspective, the court system reports there are 672 magistrates across the state, so only about 1.5 percent have left because of the same-sex marriage ruling.

But that creates a new challenge for the magistrates still on the job.

The magistrate’s office must be staffed around the clock, every day of the year, and magistrates don’t get overtime pay or any paid time off; no sick days, vacation, or holidays. Anytime there’s a hole in the staffing schedule, the remaining magistrates must cover the shift, without getting paid for the extra hours.

That’s a particularly tall task in Hyde County along the coast, where two of the county’s four magistrates left in October, leaving the remaining two to cover the magistrate’s office 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year until replacements are hired.

AOC reports its vacancy rate for magistrates since July is 4.5 percent, the lowest it’s been for the past five years.

Time Warner Cable News reached out to AOC for comment on this story. They declined our request.

Many current and former magistrates also turned down our interview requests, some saying they feared losing their jobs, while others feared for their safety saying they have received personal threats because of this controversial issue.

For more information, visit, Administrative Office of the Courts information on same-sex marriage: http://www.nccourts.org/News/Marriage.asp.

- Heather Moore