With crossover day gone and the legislature entering final budget negotiations, the window of opportunity to consider bills that grew from the state NAACP chapter's HK on J movement has all but passed. (See "HK on J 'teach-in' draws 2,000 to Raleigh," Feb. 14.) Earlier this year, the NAACP joined forces with other progressive groups in a march on Jones Street, the home of the General Assembly, where they presented a 14-point "multicultural, anti-racist, anti-poverty agenda" that they hoped would inspire new legislation. But their ambitious demands have gone largely unheard. "Not much has happened," says Irving Joyner, an N.C. Central University law professor who has observed the process. "The bills have basically been languishing."
A House bill that would raise the minimum wage to $7.25 died in the House commerce committee. The North Carolina Racial Justice Act, which would have established a process for capital defendants to challenge death sentences based on race, passed the House but died in a Senate judiciary committee, as did a bill that would assist homeowners facing foreclosure. Several others never made it out of committee.
There were success stories: Same-day voter registration will likely become law, and the death penalty is effectively on hold because of procedural hang-ups. But the HK on J movement fell far short of its goals, despite support from individual state representatives, including two Wake County Democrats.
"We had a lot of cooperation from the Legislative Black Caucus, Deborah Ross and Jennifer Weiss, but we aren't pleased by the overall progress," says Jarvis Hall, a political science professor at N.C. Central who shepherded much of the legislation.
"We are committed to every session until all of these bills are passed."