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ASHEVILLE - The North Carolina General Assembly introduces and passes several bills each year that impact the quality of life in Western North Carolina. A new tool, the nonpartisan websiteWNC Vote Tracker, provides information about important legislation in six categories: economic security; education; environment; health & safety; and women’s issues. The WNC Vote Tracker also offers an overview of the state budget—arguably the most important legislation passed each year.
“As an organization that has provided direct services to low-income children and their families for nearly 40 years, Children First/CIS witnesses every day the impact that legislation has on our community,” said Allison Jordan, executive director. “That’s why it was important to us to create the WNC Vote Tracker – a web-based tool that will give individuals the information they need to become civically engaged. WNC Vote Tracker is just one more tool for us to keep our policy makers accountable to those in our community who are most in need of just and equitable policies and programs.”
The sponsors and partners of this effort represent a diversity of issues such as education, health, environment, women, and children. They come together with this effort to strengthen our democracy through accountability and informed citizen participation. Lead partners of the WNC Vote Tracker include: Children First/ Communities In Schools, Just Economics, Pisgah Legal Services, Western North Carolina Alliance, and Women for Women.
“Just Economics works to help build a more just and sustainable local economy, and we understand how public policies impact our community's financial sustainability,” stated Vicki Meath, executive director of Just Economics. “As advocates we believe that civic engagement extends well beyond the ballot box, and it is important for all members of our community to be informed and participate in public decisions. The WNC Vote Tracker is a way for individuals to learn about state bills that affect our communities and offer feedback to their legislators about issues they care about.”
“Our state’s natural assets make it an ideal place for businesses and families to thrive,” said Julie Mayfield, co-director of the Western North Carolina Alliance, the region’s oldest environmental grassroots non-profit. “We want to make it easy for the public to understand how legislators voted on issues affecting WNC’s environment, which is so closely tied to our economy.”
“Legislation has the power to impact issues of economic security for women, including access to quality childcare and job creation and training,” stated Jennie Eblen, chair of Women for Women. “Since advocacy is one of Women for Women’s strategies to support women in Western North Carolina – along with grant-making – we are excited to partner on the WNC Vote Tracker.”
The guide will highlight a variety of bills related to the following:
• Economic Security: Bills addressing unemployment insurance eligibility, health insurance, housing security, access to public assistance, living wages, and the Earned Income Tax Credit.
• Education: Bills addressing issues of access to, and quality of, public education.
• Environment: Bills addressing issues of access to, and quality of, public education.
• Health and safety: Bills addressing health insurance, building safety, child safety, and reproductive health.
• Government and Democracy: Bills addressing local control of water resources, election and voting law changes, and repeal of the Racial Justice Act.
• Women: Bills chosen for the additional impact they have on women's health, economic opportunity, and rights.
WNC Vote Tracker is available at http://www.wncvotetracker.org.
Children First/Communities In Schools of Buncombe County is a local non-profit that provides programs to economically disadvantaged children & families. These include: Family Resource Center at Emma, Latino Outreach, Learning Centers, CIS Success Coordinators, Project POWER/AmeriCorps, and advocacy. Children First's mission is to empower children and their families to reach their full potential through advocacy, education and services. The mission of Communities In Schools is to surround students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life. To find out more go to http://www.childrenfirstbc.org.
Just Economics of Western North Carolina (JE) is a regional, membership organization based in Asheville, NC. Our mission is to educate, advocate, and organize for a just and sustainable economy that works for all in Western North Carolina. http://justeconomicswnc.org/
Pisgah Legal Services fights to bring justice to the most vulnerable people in Western North Carolina – disadvantaged children, senior citizens, families at risk of homelessness and victims of domestic violence. PLS provides free civil legal aid to help more than 13,000 low-income people annually access justice to meet urgent needs each year. http://www.pisgahlegal.org/
Western North Carolina Alliance: For more than 30 years, the Western North Carolina Alliance has been a trusted community partner, marshaling grassroots support to keep our forests healthy, our air and water clean, and our communities vibrant. Utilizing a combination of policy advocacy, scientific research, and community collaboration, the Alliance and its chapters throughout Western North Carolina unleash the power of citizens’ voices to protect the natural heritage of our region so that people and the environment can thrive. For more information, please visit http://www.wnca.org.
Women for Women is a giving circle that brings women together in an engaging and meaningful way. By combining financial resources and working with others, Women for Women makes high-impact grants to improve the lives of women and girls in our region. Since January 2005, Women for Women has given more than $2 million dollars to programs helping women and girls in our region.