RALEIGH -- On the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. on Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013, the state chapter of the NAACP and other advocates for the poor gathered at the Legislative Building to urge lawmakers to make addressing poverty a priority in the coming General Assembly session, which begins Jan. 30. The Rev. William Barber, president of the N.C. State Conference of the NAACP, said poverty is a “moral, social and political crisis” that lawmakers can no longer ignore. “The Legislature, now that they are elected, they did not swear to be Democrats. That’s nowhere in the oath. They did not swear to be Republicans,” Barber said. “But they did swear to do what is best for the good of the whole.” Barber said the 1.7 million North Carolinians living in poverty, including 600,000 children, shouldn’t be left out of policy debates in Raleigh.

To address poverty, Barber said, lawmakers must discuss unemployment, affordable housing, fair policies toward immigrants, minority access to contracts and tax reform that doesn’t favor the wealthy. The Legislature, he said, also must make quality public education and community college and university education available to all state residents, protect the environment, remedy inequalities in the criminal justice system and reject proposals to require photo identification to vote. Rep. Larry Hall, D-Durham and the House Democratic leader, said he believes the NAACP’s message will be heard by Republican General Assembly leaders. Whether Gov. Pat McCrory and Republican lawmakers act on the message will determine whether poverty increases or declines in the state, he said. “We’ll certainly give them a proposed solution that will work for North Carolina,” Hall said.

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CAPITOL VIEWS is a multimedia column of the Insider State Government News Service. For more information, visit ncinsider.com

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