Leading from the Left

Sunday, May 27, 2007

We got Parity!

Good news this week from the General Assembly.

The State House approved the mental health parity bill...finally....on Thursday. The bill had been watered down in committee by removing substance abuse parity and was further watered down on the floor by with an amendment that exempts employers with fewer than 25 employees. Estimates are that, due to the exemption for small employers, the parity bill will now only apply to about 1/6 of NC's citizens. Passage of these amendments are very disappointing, and the bill's future in the Senate is unclear. There's more work to be done.

In other news, the State House gave final approval to HB 1366 "School Violence Prevention Act," commonly referred to as the anti-bullying bill. This bill was constroversial mainly because it included protections for gay and lesbian kids. Just including the words "sexual orientation" in the General Assembly is enough to kill a bill. The right-wing tried to strip out sexual orientation twice in committee, failing both times in party line votes. And their efforts to amend the bill continued on the floor of the state house on Wednesday. Minority Leader Paul "Skip" Stam offered the amendment again to strip out the "offending" words but it failed in a very close vote, 58-59. Several Republicans voted with a majority of Democrats to keep the inclusive language.

This is the first time in North Carolina history that a bill that includes protections for LGBT folks has passed either chamber. it's about damn time. As with the parity bill, this bill's chances are unclear in the Senate.