Key Issues Leader Blue Says Blacks Should Focus On
By CASH MICHAELS
As the Long Session of the 2019 NC General Assembly rolls on, NC Senate Minority Dan Blue (D-Wake) says there are, indeed, important issues that African Americans should be paying closer attention to, and be prepared to add their voices to – Medicaid expansion for the poor; funding for college voter photo IDs; and more funding for historically black colleges and universities.
MEDICAID EXPANSION – Despite the state’s eligibility, and Gov. Roy Cooper’s vow to make it happen, the Republican-led General Assembly continue to block Medicaid expansion to approximately 626,000 poor people in the state. It is estimated by Heath Insurance.org that 208,000 North Carolinians “…have no realistic access to health insurance without Medicaid expansion.”
“You’re talking about working people,” says Sen. Blue, “...working people who don’t make the big bucks, people who really need access to quality healthcare. Yet there is all of the [Republican] opposition to expanding it as the other 38 states have. There’s a big fight going on that.”
VOTER ID FUNDING FOR COLLEGE STUDENTS - As of March 19th, only five of 17 UNC System campuses across the state has their student photo identification cards approved as appropriate ID for voting during North Carolina elections. State lawmakers are still haggling about such details as student photos being officially taken, and the schools verifying official information like Social Security numbers. Sen. Blue says lawmakers need to decide on funding efforts to ensure that student photo IDs are in uniform compliance with voting requirements. “There has been no money available to issue acceptable IDs, and we need to make sure that all of these students have an opportunity to vote, using reliable identification.”
The new Voter ID law passed last December is still in force, even though the Voter ID amendment, which authorized it, passed last November, was struck down in February by a Wake County Superior Court judge. That ruling is being appealed.
INCREASED FUNDING FOR HBCU’s – On February 20th student representatives from all of North Carolina’s historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) went to the legislature, telling state lawmakers that their schools deserve more funding in the coming budgets.
“Throughout their history HBCUs have received significantly less funding than their white counterparts,” Surrayyah Chestnut of North Carolina Central University said during the “HBCU Day of Advocacy.” “Decades of chronic underfunding have made our institutions more subject to the dangers of accreditation issues and unpredictable housing crises.”
Senate Minority Leader Blue agrees.
“HBCU funding...that’s a critical matter, and the UNC [System] Board of Governors has not been responsive to many of the needs of the HBCUs, especially on capital funding. Some schools have equipment that is outdated, buildings that are outdated…there’s no real push to correct a majority of these [budget shortcomings].
Blue adds that Fayetteville State now wants to be a part of the $500 tuition program, which has boosted student enrollment at the three pilot UNC System schools it was implemented in.
Sen. Blue recommends that, in addition to the critical need for affordable housing statewide in the face of increasing gentrification, North Carolinians need to call or write their legislators, and register their concerns about these issues and more, whether they’re Republican or Democrat.
“These are some of the issues that are critical to the African-American community,” says Sen. Blue.