By Rusty Jacobs & Laura Pellicer
North Carolina Democrats have found strength in numbers, and they are using if to push for an ambitious – if lofty – agenda.
Last week, Democratic Senator Terry Van Duyn brought forward a slate of bills aimed at protecting members of the LGBTQ community from discrimination.
The Buncombe County Democrat and 2020 candidate for lieutenant governor told a gathering of reporters that the bills would end LGBTQ discrimination in lending, housing, and employment, and ban the practice of conversion therapy in North Carolina.
“It is time that we turn the page on discrimination in North Carolina and it is time to make it clear that we welcome everyone.”
Democrats also want to expand Medicaid, a move they say will increase access to health care coverage for half a million more North Carolinians.
Republican lawmakers offered their own health care-related bill last week. The GOP measure would take $41 million in state funds over two years to add 2,000 slots to North Carolina’s Innovations Waiver, a Medicaid program that serves people with intellectual disabilities.
Republican Senator Dan Bishop, who is running in a GOP primary for North Carolina’s new 9th Congressional District race, told reporters the Democratic proposal for Medicaid expansion relies too heavily on the future availability of federal matching money.
“It is the kind of management of state government that we in the Republican majority have eschewed, have avoided since taking over. We believe proceeding in a way that is disciplined and focuses on the highest priority need is the right way to proceed.”
Democratic state Representative Graig Meyer says that approach is a diservice to North Carolinians living with disabilities.
“They’re creating a false either or choice to say that we can only take care of people with disabilities or expand Medicaid.”
Meyer acknowledges Democrats aren’t likely to get their most ambitious agenda items past the Republican majority. But he says Democrats can improve their prospects at the polls in 2020 by telling voters what they’d do if they were in charge:
“Increasing support for public schools, both in pay for teachers and funding for public school facilities and resources like textbooks, investment in long-term, clean energy infrastructure.”
Where, then, can Democrats and Republicans agree as they work on a two-year budget plan?
Meyer says the parties can likely come together on such issues as rural broadband access and, perhaps, reinstating master’s degree pay to lure more qualified teachers to North Carolina.
As published on WUNC.Org. Click here for original.