Raleigh, N.C. — The state chapter of the NAACP wants North Carolina lawmakers to focus on issues surrounding poverty and economic justice in the legislative session that begins in earnest at the end of the month.
The civil rights group used Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday to unveil a documentary they made on poverty in North Carolina. Each member of the General Assembly received a copy of the documentary.
The state's poverty rate is 12th highest in the U.S., with one of every four children living in poverty. The rate is much higher for black and Latino children.
The NAACP says 1.7 million North Carolinians live in poverty – about the same number as in 1968.
Rev. William Barber, the group's state president, called on Republican House and Senate leaders and new Republican Gov. Pat McCrory to work on finding ways to address poverty, such as promoting living wages and labor rights, equality in the education and justice systems and expanded voting rights.
"We beg the General Assembly – let's don't start with division," Barber said, noting that lawmakers already plan to cut unemployment benefits and are backing legislation to require voter identification at the polls. "Let's start with unity. Let's start focusing on economic justice and poverty."
Legislative leaders haven't yet spelled out their specific agendas, but they have said their top issues this year will be tax reform and unemployment reform.
A spokesman for House Speaker Thom Tillis said Republican leaders plan to address poverty by reforming education, controlling spending and encouraging economic development, especially in the state's poorest areas.