Today, the North Carolina House voted 68 to 39 to pass a $1 increase in the state's minimum wage. Also today, the state Senate also voted in favor of an identical increase in their 2006-2007 budget, although the measure was tied to cuts in sales taxes and income taxes for the wealthiest 2% of North Carolinians.

The campaign, led by North Carolinians for Fair Wages, isn't over. The House will do another reading of the bill next week, and the Senate will decide whether it will vote for the minimum wage bill on its own, or will include it in a budget package that the House and Senate must agree on later.

That leaves time for lobbying, as the NC Justice Center reports:

Small business associations were working hard to defeat the bill or at least to get tax cuts in return - and we may still see future bills which do this. But Many House members spoke in strong favor of the bill and the immediate need of low-wage workers to earn a better wage.

So much could still happen. But today's events send a strong signal that North Carolina may well join 20 other states in filling the vacuum of federal inaction, and give the state's lowest-paid workers a boost.