Each week, staff at Carolina Journal looks back at the week in N.C. politics and chooses several interesting, relevant stories you may have missed.
Pro Act: Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Cal Cunningham has endorsed the Pro Act, federal legislation that would repeal all state right-to-work laws. Right to work protects employees from being forced to join unions. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the bill. If the Democratic Party takes control of the U.S. Senate, the Pro Act is likely to become law. A California law similar to the Pro Act has also forced thousands of gig-economy workers — including delivery drivers, truckers, and freelance writers — to be treated as employees, ending their freedom to take on part-time work or work several jobs at once. Repealing right to work would cost N.C. taxpayers millions and damage public services, Terry Stoops, vice president of research and director of education studies at the John Locke Foundation, wrote in a research brief. North Carolina is one of the least unionized states in the country. State law bans public employees from entering collective bargaining agreements. But Democratic lawmakers and left-leaning organizations are working to end the decades-long prohibition, Stoops wrote.
Comfort level: Bars, movie theaters, and indoor sporting events top the list of places people are extremely uncomfortable visiting right now, a new poll from Elon University found. Elon University surveyed 1,382 residents from Oct. 9-11. The credibility interval is plus or minus 2.9%. Of those surveyed, 40% said they were extremely uncomfortable going to a movie theater or indoor sporting event, while 43% shared similar sentiments about visiting a bar. Outdoor restaurants topped the list of places people were extremely comfortable visiting, but only at 22%. Businesses are slowly reopening in North Carolina, but for many industries — including restaurants and bars — the state requires strict limits on capacity.
So you’re going to vote early: The N.C. State Board of Elections has a few tips for early voters. Early voting in North Carolina began on Oct. 15 and runs through Oct. 31. The busiest days are usually the first and last days of early voting, so plan accordingly, the board recommends. Do not photograph or take video of voted ballots. It’s against the law. So is voter intimidation. Remember to respect the rights of others to participate in the election, the board said. Voters are strongly encouraged to wear a face mask, use hand sanitizer, and practice social distancing while at the polling sites. As of 9:30 a.m. Friday, Oct. 16, 362,000 ballots were cast at early voting sites — more than double the early votes cast on the first day of the 2016 cycle.
Revenue updates: Tax revenue is still on pace with last year, a General Fund Monthly Report found. Although tax revenue fell 19% in the final quarter of the 2019-20 fiscal year, money collected in July almost filled the gap, Joe Coletti, senior fellow at the John Locke Foundation, wrote in a blog post. Individual, corporate, and franchise tax collections grew more because the state extended the tax filing deadline in response to COVID-19, the report said. Spending has stayed more consistent thanks to a large unreserved fund balance, Coletti wrote, but it’s also down 1.6%.
Rejected: U.S. District Judge Max Cogburn rejected a request from political mega-donor Greg Lindberg to delay his prison term, the Associated Press reported. Lindberg, who was convicted after attempting to bribe N.C. Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey, is scheduled to begin his seven-year sentence next week. Lindberg asked the court to delay his sentence because of COVID-19 concerns and to appeal the conviction. Cogburn said no.