North Carolina 2014
Seven under-recognized bad decisions by the General Assembly
9/23/2014 by Chris Fitzsimon NC Policy Watch
...Most of the heated debate this fall about the decisions made by...the General Assembly for the last few years has focused on a handful of big issues, funding cuts to public schools, new restrictions on abortion services, lower benefits for unemployed workers, the refusal to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, the rush to allow fracking for natural gas in North Carolina, and tax cuts that primarily benefited the wealthy and large corporations... But there were also host of other, less publicized decisions made by the General Assembly and Governor Pat McCrory that directly affect people’s daily lives that have almost been forgotten in the blur of campaign commercials and propaganda about the education cuts...
1) Lawmakers abolished the nationally recognized N.C. Teaching Fellows program...
2) Lawmakers ended all state funding for the state’s drug treatment courts...
3) Lawmakers ended the tax deduction on January 1st for the state’s 529 college savings plan...
4) Lawmakers ended the state historic preservation tax credit...
5) Lawmakers ended a requirement that all community colleges participate in the federal student loan program...
6) Lawmakers also abolished the state Earned Income Tax Credit...
7) Pre-registration of 16 and 17 olds to vote.
see expanded list here
Lawmakers leave jobs bill, Medicaid reform behind
By Mark Binker Aug 20, 2014 WRAL
Lawmakers will end their session without providing a new job recruitment fund Gov. Pat McCrory had sought. The General Assembly adjourned sine die – Latin for "without day" – when the Senate ended its session at 7:43 p.m. Wednesday evening. Lawmakers will not return to work this year unless McCrory vetoes a bill or calls lawmakers back for a special session. The jobs catalyst fund sought by McCrory was part of House Bill 1224, a bill that was part of a complex trio of bills that would have changed economic development laws, sales taxes and funding for teaching assistants. Members of the state House defeated that bill this week... Aside from the economic development related measures, the biggest high-priority item left behind by lawmakers was a Medicaid reform bill... It now appears any Medicaid reform effort will have to wait until 2015. read article
General Assembly sends compromise coal ash bill to the governor
By Mark Binker Aug 20, 2014 WRAL
Both the House and Senate voted Wednesday to approve a measure that leaders are calling a "first in the nation" bill that manages the removal of coal ash from 33 unlined pits throughout the state, despite objections from some environmental groups that the measure leaves too much of the decision making to an appointed board... The bill now goes to Gov. Pat McCrory for his signature or veto.
...One thing the compromise ash bill does not do is say who will pay of the cleanup of the ponds. Duke Energy has committed to paying for the cost of cleaning up the Dan River spill, but company executives have said they may seek rate hikes in order to help pay the disposal costs. The measure does place a moratorium on Duke asking for any rate increases associated with coal ash cleanup, but it expires on Jan. 15. read detailed article
Lawmakers close deal on coal ash
July 19, 2014 By Mark Binker WRAL
House and Senate negotiators reached a compromise on coal ash cleanup legislation today despite publicly saying the measure was done for the year. "I am told that the House and the Senate may have reached consensus on the coal ash bill," House Speaker Thom Tillis told his chamber early Tuesday afternoon. He did not further elaborate, other than to warn House members they may be asked to review a bill Tuesday and vote on it Wednesday or Thursday. read article
Lawmakers return to work on
deal to leave
By Laura Leslie Aug 13, 2014 WRAL
State lawmakers are headed back to town Thursday to try to reach a deal on ending their 2014 legislative session. The Senate will hold a voting session at 7 p.m., shortly after the House’s voting session at 4 p.m. The House and Senate finished most of their work two weeks ago and agreed they would come back Aug. 14 to consider any potential veto overrides... Lawmakers hit an impasse over the final version of proposed legislation to clean up the state’s coal ash pits. That unfinished measure led to the logjam over adjournment... Senators meeting Wednesday said they’re hopeful the two chambers can reach a deal and adjourn soon.
...Amy Auth, spokeswoman for Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, said in a statement Wednesday, “We are hopeful the House of Representatives will agree...that we conclude all substantive business until a special session on both Medicaid reform and coal ash mitigation in November," Auth said. "We are waiting to see if they agree and will proceed from there."
...Lengthy session restricts campaign fundraisingIn the meantime, the delay could be costly for some lawmakers seeking re-election. Under state campaign finance law, as long as the legislature remains in session, lawmakers cannot accept contributions from political action committees or groups that employ lobbyists at the General Assembly. Their challengers, however, are not bound by that rule. With the election less than three months away, that could affect some vulnerable Republican incumbents, said Jane Pinsky, director of the North Carolina Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform. read article
McCrory signs $21.1B state budget deal
Aug 7, 2014 WRAL
Five weeks after the beginning of the fiscal year, Gov. Pat McCrory on Thursday signed into law the state's $21.1 billion budget bill that was approved by lawmakers last week. The 260-page measure includes a $1,000 raise for most rank-and-file state workers, and teachers will get a raise that legislative leaders say amounts, on average, to 7 percent. Actual raises will range from less than 1 percent to more than 18 percent, depending on how long a teacher has been in the profession...
The budget moves the State Bureau of Investigation from the Department of Justice, which is overseen by Attorney General Roy Cooper, to the Department of Public Safety, which is overseen by a McCrory appointee. However, Cooper will retain oversight of the State Crime Lab... "There are a lot of people who voted against this bill," [McCrory] said. "They thought a better job could be done, but the fact of the matter is, I asked the critics, 'Where has been your alternative budget?' I would have welcomed that alternative budget." read article
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Become Alabama in 12 easy steps
The Charlotte Observer
Sep. 17, 2014
Twelve Easy Steps to Becoming Alabama:
1) Slash taxes, as N.C. Republicans did last year when they cut both the corporate tax rate and the personal income tax rate, with the most significant benefits going to wealthy North Carolinians.
2) Tell citizens this is tax “reform,” not simply tax cuts... read the whole list
MCCrory threatens fight over coal ash commission
August 23, 2014 WRAL
Gov. Pat McCrory says he's likely to sign the coal ash cleanup bill lawmakers sent him on the last day of session, but he also suggested his administration could take state lawmakers to court over it. McCrory made the comments in an interview with Tom Campbell on NC Spin this week... "I'm going to have to fight them from a constitutional standpoint, including even the coal ash commission," he told Campbell. "I think this concept of creating commissions that are appointed by the legislature – or a majority by the legislature – is unconstitutional, regardless of the subject. Because that means the legislature is doing the operations of state government, which is not their responsibility. I think there's a constitutional issue there. If those commissions start doing a bad job," he added, "there's no one in control." read article
Reg reform package goes to Gov
By Laura Leslie Aug 15, 2014 WRAL
House and Senate lawmakers voted Friday to approve a compromise deal on a package of regulatory changes - over the protests of environmental advocates... Senate Bill 734 bans state regulators from passing any rules more stringent than federal minimum standards without the approval of state lawmakers, an extension of the so-called Hardison amendment.
It also eases the permitting process for coastal developers, slashes protections for isolated wetlands, cuts regulations for septic systems, and restricts the Coastal Management Commission from designating inlet hazards near some developments...
"This bill is not regulatory reform. It is regulatory repeal," protested Rep. Paul Luebke, D-Durham. “Our environment is hurt by the contents of this bill.” read article
Friday Wrap: Sine won't die
Aug 15, 2014 WRAL
The two-day addendum legislative session will stretch into at least four days – and into another week – after lawmakers couldn't agree on several measures Friday. A contentious House Republican caucus rebelled at the prospect of voting on a bill that affects local sales tax rates and includes various economic development provisions. The Senate tied that bill to a budget fix that would give school districts more flexibility in moving salary money around for teachers and teaching assistants. Meanwhile, House Speaker Thom Tillis said the chamber will adjourn for the year once these issues are settled and won't return in November for a proposed special session to debate Medicaid reform and a plan to clean up coal ash ponds around the state. It's unclear if lawmakers could move coal ash legislation next week while lawmakers remain in Raleigh. read article
McCrory scrambling to change the budget he was proud to sign
8/12/2014 by Chris Fitzsimon NC Policy Watch
The more days that pass since Governor Pat McCrory signed the state budget, the more confusing that budget becomes, especially when trying to figure out what it means for public schools in North Carolina. And McCrory is adding to the confusion with his private actions not matching his public words.
He said last week it was a budget he was proud to sign, citing the raises it provided for teachers and the fact that it fully funded teacher assistant positions at schools across the state. But not only are the widely varying raises confusing for teachers and school administrators, officials with several school systems have since pointed out that the budget actually reduces funding for teacher assistants and for larger systems the reduction is several million dollars.
That’s not a surprise. read article
Judge: NC vote can be held with GOP-backed changes
Aug 8, 2014 WRAL
A federal judge has ruled that North Carolina's November election can be held under new voting rules drafted last year by Republican lawmakers.
U.S. District Court Judge Thomas D. Schroeder on Friday denied a motion seeking to hold the November vote under old rules, pending a trial scheduled for next year. A coalition of groups, including the League of Women Voters and the NAACP, filed suit over more than two dozen changes to voting laws approved by the GOP-controlled state legislature in 2013. read article
Final budget puts North Carolina on fiscally irresponsible path as state falls further behind
Cedric Johnson August 7, 2014 NC Policy Watch
Governor McCrory signed a final budget into law for the current 2015 fiscal year... The $21.1 billion budget includes new spending initiatives – largely pay raises for teachers and state employees – but fails to include additional revenue to sustain this spending in the long-term. Contrary to fueling North Carolina’s economic comeback, as Governor McCrory claims, the final budget continues to fund core public services at diminished levels, well below pre-recession levels, and compromises the ability of the state to get ahead and prepare for the future. Moreover, it puts North Carolina on a fiscally irresponsible path that will continue to create budget challenges in the years ahead, largely as a result of the tax plan that was little debated and discussed in the final budget. read article
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The Walking Mayor's Powerful Speech for Rural Healthcare
- Woodbridge, VA 7/26/14
Zellner is the author of The Wrong Side of Murder Creek: A White Southerner in the Freedom Movement. The son and grandson of Klansmen, he became the first white southerner to serve as a field secretary of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Zellner was insulted, violently attacked, beaten unconscious and arrested many times.
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LEGISLATIVE REPORT CARD 2013
April 30, 2014 www.ncwu.org
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Art Pope steps down as state budget director
by Kevin Wuzzardo 08/06/2014 WWAY
Art Pope, who has been a lightning rod of criticism within state government's highest ranks, is stepping down as Gov. Pat McCrory's budget director...The governor lauded Pope with a special proclamation for his service to the state. "Art has been the the voice of reason and conservative common sense," McCrory said. The governor said Pope accepted his offer to serve as budget director under two conditions: He would work for just one year and be paid just $1. Pope, widely criticized for his conservative influence in the state, agreed to stay in the job when McCrory asked him to stay on through the General Assembly's Short Session, which just wrapped up. Pope today said he will stay in the position through Sept. 5... McCrory announced Raleigh banker Lee Roberts, the son of newswoman Cokie Roberts, will succeed Pope as state budget director. read article
House, Senate disagree on August session
Aug 6, 2014
By Laura Leslie WRAL
House leaders say they're planning to call their members back on Aug. 14 for a full session, but it's not clear yet what they'll be voting on. Meanwhile, Senate leaders say they're not coming back in August at all. The legislature finished up its work over the weekend but did not agree to an adjournment resolution. Since then, the body has been in limbo. read article
Budget writers reach agreement on framework
July 26, 2014 By Mark Binker WRAL
Top leaders in the House and Senate say they have agreed to the framework that will allow them to complete a budget deal in the coming week – a month behind schedule. According to multiple sources, the $21 billion spending plan will provide slightly more than a 7 percent pay raise for public school teachers... According to several people involved in the negotiations, that "framework" involves ...a top-level budget spreadsheet that provides a snapshot of the $21 billion budget – has been agreed to, but many of the details are still up in the air...
The legislature had been scheduled to work out a state budget by July 1, the start of the fiscal year. However, deep differences in several high-dollar areas – health care and education – stalled negotiations. State government kept functioning because lawmakers passed a two-year budget in 2013...
Late-week votes expected. Not only do budget negotiators have to work out final details, but House rules require budget deals to be publicly available two days before members can take a vote... Like Dollar, Brown said he expected a final budget to be worked out early in the week, with votes coming Wednesday or later.
After the House and Senate pass the budget, it would next go to Gov. Pat McCrory for his signature or veto. McCrory, too, has called for teacher pay raises. However, he said he would veto a budget that required cuts to teaching assistants or changes to who is eligible for Medicaid in order to pay for those raises. With the details available Saturday night, it's unclear whether the current budget outline would cross McCrory's redline and provoke a veto. read article
Missing Workers Update: June 2014
Wednesday, July 23, 2014
With the release last month of the latest labor market figures, the Budget & Tax Center has updated as well its estimate of the number of missing workers in North Carolina’s labor market. This measure estimates the number of workers who would be in the labor market, looking for work, if job opportunities were stronger. In June 2014, the number of missing workers remained elevated at 241,445. If these workers were counted in the unemployment rate, that rate would be 11.5 percent rather than the official 6.4 percent for that month. read more
Also read: Is this the most destructive act of NC's current state leadership?
Go to our Unemployment Page
Today @NCCapitol WRAL (7/31):
The deal apparently is a deal
...Here's what's going on at the legislature and around state government today.
THE BUDGET: Formal drafts of the state budget bill and accompanying money report were published online Wednesday night. The state Senate is scheduled to vote on the measure today and Friday. The state House is poised to vote on the bill Friday and Saturday.
TEACHER PAY: Even before the budget bill came out, a document outlining how the proposed teacher pay raises would work circulated through the legislative building Wednesday.
Document outlines teacher pay raises in budget deal Backers of the plan say it represents a big teacher pay raise and restructures the teacher pay system into six broad bands rather than 47 steps. Some teachers and the N.C. Association of Educators were skeptical of the plan, saying it counted what has been "longevity pay" as part of the raise. And some teachers, they said, would have fared better under the old system than the new. read more
@NCCapitol WRAL(7/24): The next verse is the same as the first
By @NCCapitol Staff
Here's what's going on at the legislature and around state government today. THE BUDGET: There's nothing concrete to hang our hats on here, but @NCCapitol has been told by several players in the budget negotiations between the House and Senate that the two sides are making progress on a deal... CALENDAR: The General Assembly posts a full listing of legislative meetings online. Here is what @NCCapitol will be keeping an eye on today. Senate ...Members will take a final vote on a sales tax bill and tackle the chamber's Medicaid reform measure. WRAL.com plans to carry this meeting live. Please check the Video Central box on our home page. There are no Senate committee meetings scheduled today. read more
Today @NCCapitol (7/17): WRAL
Health care and rhyme schemes in the spotlight
By @NCCapitol Staff
The Senate Rules Committee takes another look at the chamber's Medicaid reform bill in the morning, while the full Senate takes up a complex sales tax bill. The House took Thursday off, but not before dropping a Sine Die resolution in the hopper. read more
Down on the NC budget bridge...
July 12, 2014 N&O editorial cartoonist Dwane Powell
The fine print: lesser known details from the state’s budget
8/6/2014 by Sarah Ovaska NC Policy Watch
...Some of the biggest news coming out of the 260-page document (click here to read) were teacher pay raises and corresponding drops in other areas of the public education budget, as well as the backing off of previous threats to cull thousands of low-income aged, blind and elderly off of Medicaid rolls...
Democrats in the legislature spoke out Wednesday morning against some of these budget items... “Now we have this budget that is really a 90-day Band-Aid to keep the public confused and misinformed until after the election,” said state Rep. Larry Hall, a Durham Democrat and House Minority Leader.
Buried in the budget language are some fairly significant policy and funding changes that haven’t gotten a lot of attention during the mid-summer rush to pass the budget. Far from an exhaustive list, here are some of the changes that went through that you may not have heard about... read
House passes budget, leaves session running
By Mark Binker Aug 2, 2014 WRAL
The state House gave final legislative approval Saturday to the $21.1 billion state budget, but instead of formally closing the session, lawmakers have left it in limbo. Gov. Pat McCrory has said he will sign the budget bill... Republicans by and large backed the measures, but Democrats universally voted against it, pointing to places where they say programs have been sacrificed. "We talked a lot about teachers during this session, but we didn't talk a lot about students," said Rep. Greg Meyer, D-Orange. "The one cut in this budget that bothers me the most is the $9 million cut to our at-risk student fund..."
When senators ended their work for the year in the pre-dawn hours of Friday morning, they filed an adjournment resolution that would allow lawmakers to return on Aug. 14, mainly to handle any vetoes by the governor. That resolution anticipated returning after the November general election to handle Medicaid and coal ash. However, House leaders want to push forward with several matters, including coal ash, before the end of August. They drafted new adjournment resolutions that would allow lawmakers to take up coal ash, insurance coverage for autism treatment, regulatory reform measures and changes to environmental laws at the Aug. 14 session. Senators have declined to take up either of those resolutions.
Instead, the Senate will hold a session on Tuesday and the House on Wednesday. In theory, the two chambers could work out an adjournment agreement and pass it with only a handful of members on hand. Or they could simple walk away from the discussions and leave the session idle, holding skeleton sessions every three days in order to meet constitutional requirements, until Aug. 14. While this half-adjourned status is confusing, it leaves a sliver of hope open that some bills as yet unfinished could see further action this year. read article
A stark reminder of misplaced priorities
7/24/2014 by Chris Fitzsimon NC Policy Watch
...a new national report provided a stark reminder of just how out of touch the negotiators in the corner rooms of the Legislative Building are with many of the people they represent. The 2014 Kids Count Data Book from the Annie E. Casey Foundation released this week ranks North Carolina 34th in the overall well-being of its children and 38th in their economic well-being, with 26 percent of kids living in poverty in the state in 2012.
It’s a startling number— more than one in four children in North Carolina live in families who can’t make ends meet—and it should have shaken the walls of the General Assembly, but it didn’t even prompt a comment from the folks running the House and Senate... news that 26 percent of children are living in poverty several years into the alleged economic recovery in North Carolina and well into what Governor McCrory calls the “Carolina Comeback” should have caused at least a reassessment of the priorities at the General Assembly, but nobody blinked an eye. Instead, the question now is how much the final budget will slash from education funding to give teachers a raise, how many vulnerable seniors will lose Medicaid coverage, and how long the waiting list will be for pre-kindergarten programs and day care subsidies.
And the folks currently running things in Raleigh are not only standing still while children and families suffer, they are making things worse... It’s too bad that no one publishes a comparison of how legislative leaders treat the low-income children in their state. That would be a ranking that the folks currently in charge in Raleigh would probably not circulate too widely, but it would speak volumes. read article
Today @NCCapitol WRAL (7/28):
White smoke rises over Jones Street
Here's what's going on at the legislature and around state government today... Nearly a month after the new fiscal year began on July 1, House and Senate budget negotiators said they had reached agreement Saturday on the outlines of a budget deal. Although details were yet to be worked out, top negotiators said that the $21 billion budget would offer 7 percent average raises to teachers, while preserving teaching assistant positions in lower grades. Medicaid spending will be cut by $135 million, but it's unclear where those cuts will come from...
Leaders in both chambers said they expected a completed budget to be made public early in the week, in time for votes on Thursday and Friday if all goes as planned. read article
State tax cut costs ballooning
July 25, 2014 By Laura Leslie WRAL
New figures from legislative analysts confirm the 2013 cut to individual income tax rates is costing the state far more than originally projected. Last year, Republican leaders authored a plan to cut income taxes from a three-tiered marginal system of 6 percent, 7 percent and 7.75 percent to a flat rate of 5.8 percent for 2014 tax year. According to a memo Thursday from legislative analyst Brian Slivka and chief economist Barry Boardman, the updated cost of the tax cut is $680 million for the current tax year. That's $205 million, or 43 percent, higher than the original projection of $475 million... read article
Godot has the budget
By @NCCapitol Staff
Here's what's going on at the legislature and around state government today. THE BUDGET: [waiting] for a budget deal that shows no signs of showing up... There were rumblings Monday that House leaders may have been ready to make a counter-offer, but it never materialized – at least not in public. THE HOUSE: Although negotiators on several big pieces of legislation may be at work this week, House members are not scheduled to hold committee hearings or a full floor session until Thursday... THE SENATE: Senators continue to push toward wrapping up their work for the year, but have slowed down their committee schedule considerably. read more
House Dems accuse Tillis of abuse of power
By Laura Leslie July 15, 2014 WRAL
House Democrats are accusing Republican Speaker Thom Tillis of abuse of power for refusing to release funds for caucus staff and using parliamentary maneuvers to cut off debate. Minority Leader Larry Hall said Tuesday that Tillis "has decided to defund the House Democratic caucus." ..."It's a disturbing and destructive pattern of persecuting those who don't agree with whatever the leadership says they want to have done," he said.
Leaders of both the majority and minority caucuses are traditionally allowed at least one full-time staffer to coordinate meetings, communicate with members and help with research and bill drafting. The money for those staffers is allocated in the state budget. Hall told WRAL News that he, Tillis and other leaders had agreed on a 2014 budget of $85,000 for staff for the Democratic caucus.
However, Hall said, the speaker changed his mind and refused to release the money or approve the caucus' request to hire a chief of staff because of Hall's outspoken opposition to new legislative building rules... "I was told that, unless I apologized to the members of the Legislative Services Commission for objecting to the new rules, we would not be funded," he said. "...I was not going to apologize for saying what I thought was right – and what the court ultimately concluded was right," Hall said.
...The Speaker's office budget, although staffing varies, has fluctuated between $800,000 and $900,000 in annualized salaries since 2013. In contrast, Hall said, "The total we've had for the whole year is $8,000." ..."Traditionally, the party in power has funded the other party and provided a minimum level at least of staffing support," Hall said. "We're being persecuted for not agreeing with and going along quietly with whatever's being done."
"Using petty threats to cut off staff that enables the minority party to advance its voice, that is a step away from a democratic system," Martin added. read article
Today @NCCapitol WRAL (7/11):
Veto threats and budget gimmicks
... Here's what's going on at the state legislature and around state government today.
WAS THAT A THREAT? Yes, yes it was.
Budget battle sharpens with veto threat "I will veto the latest Senate plan or any plan that resembles it..." Gov. Pat McCrory said in a statement Thursday. Senate leaders are sticking by their plain to raise teacher salaries by 11 percent next year. McCrory and House leaders say that would require unacceptable cuts to Medicaid and laying off roughly half of the state's teaching assistants in early grades....
Meanwhile, the legislature's black caucus called this week's contentious budget back-and-fort a "sideshow," and Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue described the discord among Republicans as "unhelpful bravado." And he was not impressed with McCrory's veto threat either. "Now Governor McCrory has added another meaningless gesture to their stalemate. The House hasn’t agreed to the Senate budget. So the Governor is threatening to veto a bill that he knows he will never see.," Blue said. "Political theatre didn’t cause our teacher pay crisis; Governor McCrory, Thom Tillis and Phil Berger’s handouts to the wealthy and special interests did. And more empty rhetoric and political theatre now won’t solve this crisis. It’s time for these folks to tone down the bluster, acknowledge their failed priorities and pass a plan that puts teachers and students first." read more
Senate walkout, anger mark budget meeting
By Laura Leslie and Matthew Burns
July 9, 2014 WRAL
A day of scheduled budget negotiations got off to a rocky start Wednesday morning after House leaders insisted on hearing from outside experts on education spending... The two chambers had agreed to share control of the budget meeting time... Dollar, R-Wake, opened the meeting by noting that the House had invited educators and other outside experts to speak on the importance of teacher assistants in the classroom.
[Sen. Harry Brown, R-Onslow] objected, saying that conference committees are not open to testimony from anyone who isn't on the committee... Dollar responded that the inclusion of witnesses would not violate the conference committee rules the House and Senate had agreed to... "We are controlling our hour," said Dollar, calling Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Heath Morrison as the first witness. "Well, I think this meeting's adjourned," Brown said angrily, prompting Senate conferees to pick up their materials and walk out of the room. read article
The lesson for NC progressives from Hobby Lobby
7/1/2014 by Rob Schofield NC Policy Watch
...As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in a scathing dissent to the Court’s ruling, the implications for individual Americans as they relate to corporations is extremely worrisome. Ginsburg said the decision is one “of startling breadth” and that it will allow corporations to opt out of almost any law that they find “incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs.”
So, what to do? The most important answer to that question is for progressives to acknowledge the power of the courts and commit themselves to changing their composition going forward. Ultimately, the Hobby Lobby decision and others like it – e.g. Citizens United, McCutcheon v. FEC and Town of Greece v. Galloway – are the byproducts of the judges who make up the judiciary.
And, on this front, there’s no getting around the fact that... [f]or decades, progressives have devoted precious little political energy and capital to the composition of the courts. ...for the most part, it is conservatives who have made influencing judicial nominations a top priority. ...the right’s efforts have, unfortunately, had an impact. Whenever a person is nominated to the federal bench anywhere in the country, one can count on the fact that business lobbies, the religious right and gun advocates will weigh in regularly and loudly. And while, obviously, the most important factor in all judicial nominations remains the identity and philosophy of the president making them, it’s important not to underestimate the cumulative effect of loud and persistent advocacy. ...it’s also worth noting that recent and concerted efforts by the U.S. civil rights community and other progressives to push for solid and fair-minded judges have started to have an impact. read article
Today @NCCapitol WRAL (7/16):
Back on speaking terms
Here's what's going on at the legislature and around state government today:
After trading barbs much of last week, and a one-sided House-only conference committee Monday, Senate and House leaders were back together Tuesday and the Senate had a few concessions to make. "The Senate is willing to take the lead to come to a compromise," Sen. Harry Brown, R-Onslow, said as he unveiled the Senate's latest offer, which would narrow, but not eliminate, the gap between the two chambers on Medicaid and would cut a proposed 11 percent teacher salary increase to 8 percent. more
Today @NCCapitol (7/15): All roads lead to Rules Committee
By @NCCapitol Staff WRAL
Here's what's going on at the legislature and around state government today. At a House conference committee meeting Monday, negotiators reported no progress on the biggest issues dividing the House and Senate budget plans. Senior Budget Chairman Nelson Dollar said House and Senate subcommittees have made substantial progress in resolving differences in several budget areas, but not in Education and Health and Human Services - the two most critical areas of dispute.
Only two Senators, both Democrats, showed up to the House-lead hearing Monday afternoon, although Republican Senate leaders did suggest they were working on a new proposal to offer the House. read more
Is the key to a budget deal bologna?
By Mark Binker WRAL July 14, 2014
Gov. Pat McCrory spoke for an hour Monday with WFAE, a Charlotte public radio station, covering a number of topics, including the current budget impasse. McCrory told host Mike Collins that he was looking for a middle ground.
More notes from McCrory's conversation:
All white and overwhelmingly male: Latest departure leaves NC federal courts among least diverse in the nation
7/10/2014 by Sharon McCloskey, NC Policy Watch
It’s been more than 3,000 days since U.S. District Judge Malcolm Howard announced that he would be stepping down from his position on the federal court in eastern North Carolina... Eight years later and Howard’s seat still remains vacant, due in part to Burr’s refusal to endorse Jennifer May-Parker, an African-American federal prosecutor in the Eastern District whom he’d approved years before and the President nominated last June...
And now the state has garnered another such distinction. James Beaty, the lone African-American judge on the state’s federal district court, stepped down from his position on the state’s Middle District – which covers the areas from Durham to Winston-Salem – moving to senior status at the end of June.
North Carolina has one of the whitest and least diverse groups of federal district court judges in the country. read article
North Carolina is home to fastest growth in share of people living in high-poverty areas
by Tazra Mitchell Monday, July 7, 2014
Among the nation’s 50 states, North Carolina experienced the biggest increase in the proportion of people living in high-poverty areas between 2000 and 2010, according to a new U.S. Census Bureau report.The growing number of North Carolinians living in disadvantaged neighborhoods is problematic because they face restricted access to the jobs, education, and networks that can improve their financial standing.The new report signals the need for policymakers to focus on the investments and policies that support ladders of opportunity, from Murphy to Manteo, to all North Carolinians. read article
Session’s end in sight
Posted by John Frank on July 3, 2014
The end is in sight... The House – following the Senate’s lead – shut down most of its committees this week and lawmakers are preparing to leave town today with a possible sine die adjournment in the not-too-distant future. That’s not to say the session is done. The budget remains contested as do a handful of key bills, including the coal ash measure the House will approve Thursday. The next week is all about compromise – or not.
Speaker Thom Tillis told his members that the House will not hold voting sessions next week to allow conference committees to complete their work. He told most lawmakers they don’t need to return to Raleigh next week and he would provide 48 hour notice before a vote is scheduled. The Senate left town Wednesday and will not hold its next full session until Tuesday. read where we are
Dems ask GOP leaders to open budget talks
By Laura Leslie July 1, 2014
On the first day of the fiscal year, with no budget deal in sight, House and Senate Democrats say GOP leaders could jump-start stalled negotiations by opening them to the public. House Minority Leader Larry Hall and Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue held a news conference Tuesday to blast the budget impasse, which they say is causing uncertainty for local governments and school districts trying to plan and hire teachers for the upcoming year. read article
Gov. McCrory vetoes unemployment bill
by David Ranii June 24, 2014
Gov. Pat McCrory has vetoed a wide-ranging unemployment bill because it would change the appointment process for an obscure board that rules on appeals of unemployment board decisions.
The bill, passed by lawmakers over McCrory’s objections, called for ending the governor’s sole authority to appoint the three members of the Board of Review, who are paid $120,000 a year. Instead, the bill would have allotted one appointment each to the leaders of the Senate and House and the governor. It also would have shortened the terms of existing board members appointed by McCrory in December. read article
Thursday Wrap: Speed bumps on way out of Raleigh
June 19, 2014 Laura Leslie and Mark Binker WRAL
Lawmakers worked hard Thursday morning and afternoon to clear the decks as much as possible of non-budget legislation, including passage of measures on moped registrations, marijuana oil as treatment for some childhood illnesses and criminalizing the theft of Venus flytraps. One major speed bump on their way out of Raleigh is Medicaid. The House and Senate have markedly different proposals on how to handle the health insurance program for the poor and disabled. The House's plan is closer to one proposed by Gov. Pat McCrory.. Another point of disagreement is the effort to replace the Common Core academic standards in public schools. watch video
House, Senate and governor's spending plans differ on key points
By Mark Binker June 13, 2014 WRAL
The state budget process entered its final leg Friday when the House approved a $21 billion spending plan. That bill will return to the Senate, where members will almost certainly reject it next week. That will trigger a conference committee through which a select group of lawmakers will try to reconcile the House and Senate plans, taking into account the governor's budget request as well. Although there are dozens, if not hundreds of small differences between the two bills, finding a compromise will likely hinge on some key differences – both large and small. see comparisons
No consensus among Governor, Senate and House on basic budget estimates
June 17, 2014 Progressive Pulse
It is normal in the budget process for the Governor, state Senate, and state House to each put forward budget proposals that lay out different visions for how best to educate our children, care for vulnerable populations, boost prosperity, and put North Carolina on more solid footing. The public expects those differences to be ironed out during what’s known as the “conference” process. What the public doesn’t expect is for the three budgets to use wildly different estimates on items that should be fairly consistent across budget proposals. But, that’s exactly what is going on in North Carolina. read article
A fiscally responsible way exists to address Moral Monday priorities
by Alexandra Sirota June 12, 2014
Earlier this week Senator Berger announced that he and his colleagues drafted an amendment that would meet the demands of Moral Monday protestors but couldn’t find any sponsors. That seems curious given that, barring two sections which have no basis in the Moral Monday agenda, the proposal is not only revenue neutral but provides for additional revenue to meet the state’s pressing needs that have been unaddressed since the start of the Great Recession. read complete analysis here
NC House budget overestimates lottery revenues, documents show
BY JOHN FRANK
June 13, 2014 N&O
The House budget that won approval Friday overestimates how much lottery money the state is expected to receive, documents show, jeopardizing Republicans’ plan to increase teacher pay. The N.C. Education Lottery warned legislative staffers that the House’s plan to boost lottery sales by doubling the advertising budget would generate only $59 million next year – far less than the $106 million designated in the budget...
The apparent hole in the House spending plan only complicates the difficult task ahead as lawmakers attempt to reconcile it with the version approved by the Senate. The two budgets represent fundamentally different visions for paying for the state’s priorities, and the disconnect puts teacher pay hikes, health care for low-income residents and a half-dozen major policy initiatives in limbo. It represents the widest gulf between House and Senate Republicans since the party took control of the legislature in 2011.
“I think they are about as far apart as the distance between Atlantic and Pacific oceans,” said Rep. Mickey Michaux, a Durham Democrat and former lead budget writer. “It’s going to be difficult for them to come together because the Senate is in an intransigent mood and the House is in an ameliorated mood and … it’s going to take some time for the two to come together.”
House Republicans downplay the differences, but Senate leaders are more matter-of-fact. “We are a long way apart from the House budget,” said Sen. Jerry Tillman, a leading Republican from Archdale. “They took a different approach. read article
House leaders unveil budget that bets on lottery
By Laura Leslie and Cullen Browder
June 10, 2014 WRAL
State House leaders on Tuesday unveiled their $21 billion budget plan for next year. It includes an average 5 percent pay raise for teachers, with starting salaries getting a bigger boost... Senior budget chairman Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake, said the teacher raise isn't funded by cuts elsewhere to education. Instead, it would be paid for in large part by growth in the North Carolina Education Lottery. The plan would double the amount of money – from 1 to 2 percent of net proceeds – that the lottery can spend on advertising. That's projected to yield an additional $425 million in ticket sales and $106 million in net proceeds....
Lottery director Alice Garland said ticket sales have risen steadily over the years, but never the 20 percent that lawmakers now expect. She said she doesn't know of any state lottery called on to increase revenue by that much... The lottery plans introduce new games to step up sales...
Chris Fitzsimon of the the left-leaning NC Policy Watch, called the plan "cynical, outrageous and ... hypocritical." "What they've done is they've counted on convincing people to throw their money away on a state lottery as the only way they can afford a teacher raise," Fitzsimon said, adding that he still prefers the House's proposed budget to the plan adopted last month by the Senate. The House plan does not link teacher raises to tenure. read article
At a minimum, stop making things worse
6/4/2014 by Rob Schofield
Unless lawmakers act, scheduled 2015 tax cuts will further deepen NC’s fiscal crisis
North Carolinians are coming to grips with the reality that the tax cuts enacted by lawmakers in 2013 are wreaking havoc with state government. If they had any doubts about this fact, they have certainly been dispelled by the new and disastrous litany of proposed cuts to essential structures and services that state leaders are currently proposing. read article
McCrory’s moment has arrived
6/3/2014 by Chris Fitzsimon NC Policy Watch
The people of North Carolina are about to find out if they have a governor with a mind and an agenda of his own or a weak and mostly ceremonial leader who is unwilling or unable to stand up to the legislative leaders of his own party... Governor Pat McCrory is clearly unhappy with the budget the Senate passed last week. He said publicly that he is worried that the additional cuts it makes to state agencies will make it difficult for government to do its job. He is right.
He is also not thrilled with the Senate teacher pay proposal... The Senate budget also includes no new funding to address the textbook crisis in the state. McCrory’s budget proposed $23 million in new funding... Senate leaders astonishingly slashed technology for funding for the courts too... McCrory proposed increased funding for the courts. Then there is Medicaid. Senate leaders want to kick thousands of people who are aged, blind, or disabled off the health care program. And the budget rejects McCrory’s painstakingly developed Medicaid reform efforts that expand Accountable Care Organizations to save money and improve patient care...
It’s not clear where the House leadership stands or how Speaker Thom Tillis’ candidacy for the U.S. Senate will affect budget negotiations, but his desire to end the session as soon as possible is not a position of strength when trying to resolve budget disputes. It’s likely that McCrory himself will have to play a prominent role in fending off the worst of the Senate proposals. But is he up to it? read article
Wednesday Wrap: Lobby extravaganza
Laura Leslie and Mark Binker
June 4, 2014
Groups swarmed over the Legislative Building on Wednesday to urge lawmakers to expand Medicaid to more low-income North Carolinians, extend the state tax credit for film and television productions and talk more with municipal officials before passing legislation that hurts their tax base. The state House and a Senate committee both approved bills to repeal and replace the national Common Core academic standards in public schools. read/watch video
Senate approves $21.1B spending plan
Updated May 31, 2014 WRAL
By Matthew Burns and Laura Leslie
After a long and contentious night, the state Senate approved its $21.1 billion spending plan for 2014-15 early Saturday. Votes were held Friday night and shortly after midnight Saturday. The first vote was 32-15; the second was 32-10. Sen. Gene McLaurin, D-Richmond, who backed the budget both times, was the only senator to cross party lines in the two votes.
The entire budget process in the Senate – from the first public roll-out of the bill and supporting documentation late Wednesday to final passage – lasted about 52 hours. Democrats complained about the speed of the process, saying it allowed little public input, negotiation or debate. read article
House, McCrory team up on new budget bid
By Laura Leslie June 25, 2014 WRAL
Gov. Pat McCrory and House leaders are joining forces to try to break a budget stalemate with the Senate. House leaders rolled out new legislation Wednesday that would essentially serve as a secondary budget proposal, dealing almost exclusively with education spending and teacher and employee pay raises. House Senior Budget Chairman Nelson Dollar said the measure "shows we value teachers."
...Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue blasted McCrory and Tillis for playing "political games" while the state's education system is in crisis. "Instead of solving this crisis and offering a serious plan to raise teacher pay to the national average, we've seen gimmicky proposals that range from the pathetically weak to the appallingly inhumane to the downright dishonest," Blue said in a statement. "Now, Gov. McCrory and Thom Tillis have offered a new plan without even consulting the Senate leaders required to pass it."
The measure passed House Appropriations easily and was expected to be debated on the House floor Thursday. read article
N.C.’s lottery still a big draw in poor areas
6/17/2014 by Sarah Ovaska
NC Policy Watch
Scratch-off and lottery tickets sold by North Carolina’s lottery continue to be most popular in some of the poorest parts of the state. N.C. Policy Watch found that per capita lottery sales were as high as $500 to $600 in 2013 for several struggling Eastern North Carolina counties, twice the state average. Statewide, the $1.8 billion in lottery sales amounted to $238 for every adult resident of the state. The 10 counties with the highest sales per adult resident are clustered in the northeastern part of the state and have populations where at least one out of every five residents lived in poverty, according to an N.C. Policy Watch analysis of 2013 lottery sales and U.S. Census population data...
The fact that the lottery sees some of its highest per capita sales in poor areas of Eastern North Carolina is worrisome, said Peter Gilbert, an attorney with the University of North Carolina law school’s Center for Civil Rights. It may be a sign that black and minority residents in impoverished areas are disproportionately shouldering the cost of the lottery. Several of the Eastern North Carolina counties with high per capita lottery sales also have black and minority populations of 40 to 50 percent, with fewer jobs and opportunities in those struggling areas than in some of state’s growing urban areas, he said... “It’s a very regressive form of taxation. ...You’re raising lottery money on the backs of people who are already struggling for funding in their local school districts,” read article
Judge: Lawmakers go too far in limiting legislative protests
By Matthew Burns June 13, 2014 WRAL
A Superior Court judge on Friday issued a restraining order against some of the rules lawmakers adopted regarding demonstrations in the Legislative Building, ruling they are too broad to be enforced... The state chapter of the NAACP and five protesters in the "Moral Monday" movement filed suit Wednesday to block enforcement of the building rules, which lawmakers hastily rewrote in May before the Moral Monday demonstrations resumed for a second year... Irving Joyner, an attorney for the protesters...and fellow attorney Scott Holmes pointed out the different standard between "disturbing" and "disruption." Anything that disrupts the legislature could legally be stopped, but it's left to the discretion of police as to whether something is disturbing, they said. "There was no measurable evidence there was any actual disruption," Holmes said of the protests... "These are unconstitutional rules promulgated by an unconstitutional entity."
...Judge Carl Fox...ruled that the rules prohibiting demonstrations that interfere with conversations or protests that "create any impediment to others' free movement" are too vague, and he issued a restraining order against them. He also barred enforcement of a rule that allowed police to confiscate signs "used to disturb or used in a manner that will imminently disturb the General Assembly." ...The restraining order will run out in two weeks, and Fox said more evidence is needed in another hearing before any decision is made on whether other sections of the rules, such as restricting the time, place and manner of demonstrations, can be enforced. read article
The less regressive but equally cynical and inadequate House budget
6/10/2014 by Chris Fitzsimon
The best thing you can say about the House budget released this week is that it’s not the same as the dreadful Senate budget released two weeks ago.
The House plan does not kick thousands of aged, blind and disabled people off Medicaid or fire 7,500 teacher assistants or slash funding for hospitals and medical providers. It does not give a raise of 11 percent only to teachers who agree to give up their career status protections.
The Senate budget does all those things and more and House leaders deserve something for not stooping to the Senate’s base level, though praise doesn’t exactly seem to fit. Not being awful is hardly worthy of a compliment. read article
Goodwin issues pre-emptive strike against auto insurance rate proposal
By Matthew Burns June 5, 2014 WRAL
Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin came out Thursday against an attempt to resurrect a change to North Carolina's auto insurance rate structure that lawmakers killed last year.
The proposal, which the Department of Insurance said could be heard in the General Assembly as early as next week, would dismantle the North Carolina Rate Bureau, which negotiates rates for insurers with the state and sets the maximum allowable rates. Under the proposal, which technically doesn't exist yet but has been shared with lawmakers in recent weeks, insurers would be allowed to opt out of the Rate Bureau and set rates beyond the cap...
Goodwin said Thursday that more than 2,000 discounts already are available in North Carolina, and he urged public opposition to what has been dubbed the "Good Driver Discount Bill. "If this proposal passes, I am certain that car insurance rates will go up, even for good drivers," he said in a statement. "Despite what profit-driven insurance companies will tell you, I will have little to no authority to stop rates from going through the roof." read article
Thursday Wrap: Mark your calendars
By Laura Leslie and Mark Binker
June 5, 2014 WRAL
The Senate calendar didn't list any legislation of note on its published calendar for Thursday, but that didn't stop senators from approving bills that would replace the Common Core academic standards for public schools and reorganize the state Department of Commerce by shifting marketing and job-recruitment functions to a public-private nonprofit. The Commerce bill also included a revamp of the state's tax credit program for film and television productions.
Meanwhile, the House gave preliminary approval to its own Commerce reorganization bill, which doesn't include any provisions on the film tax credit, and agreed with Senate changes to the Read to Achieve requirements for third-graders. A Senate committee also questioned Department of Environment and Natural Resources officials about Gov. Pat McCrory's plan to clean up coal ash ponds statewide. read/watch video
House OKs unemployment changes
June 5, 2014 By Laura Leslie WRAL
State House lawmakers on Thursday tentatively approved a package of changes to their 2013 overhaul of the unemployment insurance system.
House Bill 1061 requires job seekers to show proof they've sought five jobs per week, instead of two. It also codifies the agency's new requirement that benefit recipients show photo identification in a face-to-face meeting at a local unemployment office within four weeks of receiving their first check.
...House Democrats used the vote as an opportunity to criticize the 2013 unemployment overhaul. Rep. Ken Waddell, D-Columbus, tried unsuccessfully to amend the measure ... Because the statewide rate has dropped to 6.2 percent as of April, the maximum length of benefits is scheduled to drop again July 6. The new maximum will be 14 weeks – one of the shortest durations of any state in the country...
Rep. Paul Luebke, D-Durham, said the average weekly jobless benefit in North Carolina has dropped from $301 before the 2013 overhaul to $227 now. "Friends, you are hurting the working people of this state. You're also hurting your local economy," Luebke said.
"We’ve made it more difficult for people to qualify, we’ve reduced the amount they can receive, and we changed the way we count the numbers, so unemployment appears to be lower," said House Minority Leader Larry Hall. read article
Cooper, Perry weigh in on proposed SBI move
June 3, 2014 WRAL
State Attorney General Roy Cooper and state Department of Public Safety Secretary Frank Perry are on opposite sides of a controversial Senate budget provision that would move the State Bureau of Investigation from the state Department of Justice, which reports to Cooper, to being under Perry's department. Other statewide law enforcement agencies, including the State Highway Patrol and the Division of Alcohol Law Enforcement, already report to Perry. “(We'd like to) have that under one agency so they can share information and combat crime more effectively and efficiently,” Perry said of the SBI...
Cooper, a Democrat who is widely expected to run against Republican Gov. Pat McCrory in 2016, said he believes other motives are at play. "It's pretty clear that what they're doing is trying to take away the independence of the SBI and potentially protect themselves," he said. read article
Telling the cities what to do, again
by Doug Clark May 29, 2014
I just have to shake my head when a state senator from Monroe thinks he knows what's best for Durham, or any other city in the state. The senator was Tommy Tucker, but he could have been any member of the majority party in our state Senate.
The issue was a vote to prohibit cities from levying business privilege taxes, which they've been doing for about three-quarters of a century.
When a Durham senator objected that the loss of revenue would force cities to raise their property taxes, Tucker answered, according to Amanda Lehmert's report: “You have another choice besides raising taxes. You could reduce your budget accordingly or not offer incentives for hotels or whatever else they do in Durham or any other city.” As it happens, "whatever else they do in Durham" has produced a pretty vibrant city.
Senate gives spending plan initial OK
May 30, 2014 By Matthew Burns WRAL
The state Senate gave preliminary approval Friday evening to a $21.1 billion spending plan for 2014-15 by a 32-15 vote. A final vote was scheduled to take place shortly after midnight. If approved early Saturday, the budget will have made it through the Senate in about 50 hours – from the first public roll-out of the bill and supporting documentation late Wednesday to final passage. Democrats complained about the speed of the process, which allowed for little public input, negotiation or debate. read article
Justice suffers again in Senate budget
5/29/2014 by Sharon McCloskey
NC Policy Watch
There’s plenty to parse in the Senate budget proposal released last night, but when it comes to the fiscal concerns affecting justice and public safety, here are the themes looming large... Starve the courts: In February John Smith, the director of the Administrative Office of the Courts, made a modest request for appropriations, noting nonetheless that the courts had been stripped to the bone with personnel and crippled by outdated technology. That happened even though the courts collected more than $800 million distributed elsewhere — to the state’s General Fund and other state agencies, local and county governments, public schools, and citizens entitled to payments or restitution...
Strip the Attorney General: There’s no love lost between Attorney General Roy Cooper and members of the General Assembly. Cooper has publicly voiced his personal disapproval of certain state laws and lawmakers have responded by trying to usurp his authority in pending litigation. The Senate is now taking that turf war to another level, announcing with its budget the move of the State Bureau of Investigation and State Crime Lab out from under the auspices of the Attorney General and over to the Department of Public Safety, with a new director to be appointed by the Governor...
Command the judges: In an obvious response to the rash of lawsuits filed this past year challenging the constitutionality of laws enacted last summer – vouchers, teacher tenure, voting rights for example – the Senate has circled the wagons and drawn up new rules to be followed by litigants and judges alike... all constitutional challenges to state laws will be heard in Wake County by a panel of three judges selected from different parts of the state by the Chief Justice (similar to the process with redistricting challenges). Trial court orders temporarily blocking enforcement of a state law challenged as unconstitutional must be automatically stayed (meaning that the challenged law remains enforceable while appeals are pursued). And court orders holding that a state law is unconstitutional on its face will be directly appealable to the state Supreme Court – bypassing the Court of Appeals...
Punish the indigent: Assistance for the poor struggling through the justice and public safety systems and relief for those agencies and organizations trying to help is nowhere to be found in the Senate budget. read article
The math doesn’t add up with proposed tax law change
Cedric Johnson May 28, 2014
Yesterday evening, members of the Senate Finance Committee gathered to consider a modified version of House Bill 1050 (HB 1050) which includes repealing the local privilege tax. A repeated claim by proponents of the tax repeal is that additional revenue from the local sales tax – resulting from the tax plan passed last year – will make up for the revenue lost from repealing the local privilege tax.
A closer look at a fiscal note provided by the General Assembly’s Fiscal Research Division, however, highlights that the math simply doesn’t add up to support this claim.
Fiscal Research estimates that a full repeal of the local privilege would result in nearly $63 million in less revenue for cities and counties across the state. Revenue from an expanded local sales tax is projected to bring in an about $10.9 million in additional annual local revenue and sales taxes from online sales via Amazon is expected to bring in around $2.9 million – for a total of $13.8 million in local revenue from an expanded sales tax. read article
Also see WRAL: Senate gives tentative nod to tax changes
Sergeant-at-arms confiscates reporter's recorder
May 20, 2014 WRAL By Mark Binker
The Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Office confiscated the recorder of a reporter during an open Senate Commerce Committee meeting Tuesday, after the committee chairman made an announcement that runs counter to North Carolina's open meetings statute. "One other housekeeping (item), if I may. As a courtesy, all individuals with recording devices, whether audio or video, are required to be approved by the sergeant-at-arms," Sen. Rick Gunn, R-Alamance, said roughly 45 minutes into the two-hour meeting. A minute or so after that announcement, Rose Hoban, a reporter with North Carolina Health News, noticed that her recorder, which she had placed on a side table, was missing. "I've never been restricted from recording before," said Hoban, who was a reporter for WUNC Radio before starting N.C. Health News in 2011...
Later in the day, Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson, the Senate Rules chairman, confirmed there was no building rule or other legislative rule that would required reporters or members of the public to register their recording devices with the sergeant at arms staff. He confirmed King's statement that there had been concerns about people leaving recording devices and other equipment around the building, but no rule banned taping meeting. Apodaca said Gunn "misinterpreted" those concerns, leading to his actions Tuesday. read article
Rallies and protests as General Assembly kicks off short session
BY CRAIG JARVIS May 14, 2014 N&O
The state legislature returned to Raleigh on Wednesday to spend the next several weeks adjusting the budget, coming up with coal ash regulations and increasing teacher pay. Dozens of bills were filed on the first day, including ones dealing with coal ash, a public-private economic development partnership, and eliminating conflicts of interest. Democrats introduced a likely doomed bill to expand Medicaid and raise the minimum wage.
There were rallies at the legislative building by opposition groups, including those banging pots to drum up support for Moral Monday protests, and a visit to legislators by the teachers association. read article
Half Dozen Things You Didn’t Hear at Governor McCrory’s Tax Day Press Event but Should Know
by Alexandra Sirota April 16, 2014
If you listened to Governor McCrory’s press event on Tuesday, you might be a little confused about the tax plan that pasted last year and what it means for our state. Tax reform should be about modernizing the tax code in a way that ensures the system can continue to serve its fundamental purpose: providing enough revenue to support core public services. It should also be ensure greater revenue stability while not asking more from low- and middle income taxpayers as a share of their income than from wealthy taxpayers. But all three of these principles of a sound tax system will be compromised under the tax plan passed last year.
Here are half dozen things that you should know that you didn’t hear at Governor McCrory’s press event:
1. It won’t help our economy...
2. This experiment didn’t work in other states...
3. It will mean big cuts to services people care about...
4. Very few businesses will benefit under the plan and all will be hurt by the inability of the state to invest in the workforce and infrastructure that supports a strong business climate.
5. There was no sales tax cut in 2013...
6. Everyone is not going to have more money in their paycheck... read article
Governor McCrory Signs Bill Eliminating Privilege Taxes
By JESSICA JONES WUNC May 29, 2014
Governor Pat McCrory has signed a bill that will eliminate the privilege taxes municipalities can levy on businesses. On Thursday, the state House passed the Senate version of a far-reaching tax bill, which would completely eliminate privilege taxes beginning in July of 2015.
Normally, a bill that has been altered in both chambers would go to a conference committee, where lawmakers could hash out their differences and agree on a final version. But not this time, says Rep. Paul Luebke: "It is wrong to have a bill come back not go to a conference committee where we can debate the question of whether the cities should be able to have $100 per business or nothing per business as the Senate did. It's wrong not to go to conference committee," says Luebke. read article
Report: Gov. McCrory’s budget proposal hampered by last year’s tax plan
5/21/2014 NC Policy Watch
Governor McCrory’s 2015 budget proposal makes progress in certain areas but overall fails to meet the needs of North Carolinians, while also being hampered by the tax plan legislators passed last year, a new report finds.
The proposal leaves too many vital public services operating at diminished levels, said a new report from the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the NC Justice Center. read article
Lawmakers tighten Legislative Building access rules
May 15, 2014 WRAL By Laura Leslie
A hastily called committee voted Thursday to pass new rules for citizens' use of the Legislative Building – just in time for planned protests next week. The rules haven't been updated since 1987...
Democrats say the rule changes are a blatant attempt to keep protesters in the "Moral Monday" movement out of the building. Republicans say the update was needed because of recent court rulings in Moral Monday arrest cases from last year...
Under the new rules, any group making enough noise to interfere with conversation at normal conversational levels is creating a "disturbance." Singing, clapping, shouting and using a bullhorn are offered as examples of disturbing behavior. All were common during Moral Monday protests in the building last summer.
The new rules also allow police or staff to order people to leave the building if they think those people pose an "imminent threat" of a disturbance, even if they haven't done anything. If the visitors don't leave, they can be arrested and charged with a misdemeanor. The term "imminent threat" isn't defined in the rules. ...The changes take effect immediately. No public comment was allowed at the meeting.
Afterward, North Carolina Central University law professor Irving Joyner, a regular Moral Monday protester, called the rules "vague and over-broad."
...[Larry] Hall, the House minority leader, blasted the rule change as a partisan ploy. "Everybody knows what the rush is. Change this and try to limit people participating in petitioning their government this short session," he said. "This is limiting people’s ability to have their voices heard," ... "They elect us. We work for them. It’s not the other way around. This isn’t 'Our House,' it’s the 'People’s House.'" read article
Seven subplots of the 2014 General Assembly session
5/13/2014 by Chris Fitzsimon
NC Policy Watch
The previews of the summer General Assembly session are done, the pre-session fundraising events are winding down and the demonstrations and lobbying days are about to begin in what might be a legislative session as interesting for the subplots behind the scenes as for the bills lawmakers end up passing.
The issues themselves are not a secret. The state budget will dominate the session and it should. That’s why short legislative sessions in even-numbered years were created back in the 1970s, to allow state lawmakers to make adjustments to the two year budget they passed the year before. Among the other topics that lawmakers are likely to consider this summer are a pay hike for teachers and state employees, a response to the coal ash spill into the Dan River, Governor McCrory’s scaled down version of Medicaid reform, a move to repeal the Common Core education standards, McCrory’s ongoing effort to privatize the state’s economic development efforts, a push to repeal or weaken the state’s certificate of need laws and ongoing efforts to speed up fracking in the state.
That’s not all they should do of course... With that as a backdrop, here are seven subplots to watch as the session unfolds.
1) How will legislative leaders address the growing state budget shortfall for next year? ...
2) What effect will the House Speaker running for the U.S. Senate have on the session? ...
3) How will legislative leaders treat the newly “assertive” Governor McCrory?...
4) How will the Republicans keep the battle over Common Core from highlighting their internal divisions?...
5) Will anybody stand up to Duke Energy on coal ash?...
6) What happens to McCrory’s two big reform efforts this year?...
7) Can the House and Senate pass a budget and adjourn by July 4th? ... read it all
Watching the budget: Magical thinking led North Carolina to a $445 million shortfall
by Lisa Sorg May 7, 2104 INDY WEEK
Just when we were wondering what surprise the Republicans were going to hit us with, political observers and number crunchers discovered the state budget, tricked out by Gov. Pat McCrory and Budget Director Art Pope, has come up short—$445 million short—for the fiscal year that ends June 30. That could mean more cuts to state programs that are already lean.
Add an $140 million Medicaid funding gap and a projected $191 million revenue shortage next year, and North Carolina, under GOP financial stewardship, has a major money problem. read article
Who pays taxes in North Carolina?
by Cedric Johnson April 14, 2014 Progressive Pulse
This tax season marks the final year North Carolina taxpayers will file their income taxes under the state’s old tax code. By next year the increased tax load for many North Carolina taxpayers will be apparent as a result of the tax plan passed by state leaders last year. Today, the Budget & Tax Center released a report that highlights how the tax plan passed last year shifts the responsibility of paying for public investments to middle- and low- income taxpayers while providing generous tax cuts to the wealthy and profitable corporations. read
Editorial: Extend US benefits to help NC jobless
April 9, 2014
... the U.S. Senate has passed a measure that would extend federal benefits to about 2.8 million people nationwide, including North Carolinians if McCrory will go along with it. He’s not even taking a position, and his office says he won’t until the U.S. House passes the measure. U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, a Democrat, supported and advocated for the bill. Republican Sen. Richard Burr voted against it.
The Republicans’ logic in cutting benefits in North Carolina was just plain mean... It was no wonder that between cuts to unemployment and a refusal to extend Medicaid to hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians, many observers saw a “war on the poor” being staged in the General Assembly... McCrory has a chance to redeem himself and the party. But first, let’s hope the unemployment bill passes the House. The jobless need it, and the country needs it because it will stimulate the overall economy. This is important for everyone. read article
NC Supreme Court to review Racial Justice Act rulings
APRIL 14, 2014 BY LUCY BUTCHER
Two cases scheduled to be heard by the N.C. Supreme Court Monday morning may determine the fate of dozens of death row prisoners waiting to appeal their sentences under the now-defunct Racial Justice Act. The law, which allowed inmates to have their sentences commuted to life without parole if they could prove race played a significant role in the decision to seek the death penalty, was repealed last summer. The law permitted defendants to use statistical evidence to prove racial discrimination.
Prosecutors are challenging two 2012 decisions by Cumberland County Judge Greg Weeks to reduce the sentences of Marcus Robinson and, later, three other defendants.
Cases remain in queue, but DHHS says food stamp deadline met
April 1 WRAL
By Matthew Burns and Laura Leslie
State officials said Tuesday that they have erased all but 375 cases from a backlog of food stamp applications the imperiled federal funding to run the program... The state Department of Health and Human Services had a Monday deadline to clear the application backlog. Deputy Secretary Sherry Bradsher said officials are confident that the USDA will approve of the state's actions, even though some applications remain in the queue... Officials won't receive formal notice from the USDA for a few days. read article
State working up to deadline on food stamp backlog
March 31, 2014 By Matthew Burns WRAL
State Department of Health and Human Services officials were expected to release details Tuesday regarding whether the state met a federal deadline for clearing its backlog of food stamp applications.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has threatened to pull $88 million in administrative funding if the state can't get a handle on continuing delays that have left some needy families without food stamps for months.
Data released by DHHS showed that about 400 applications were still pending Monday, but spokesman Kevin Howell said those figures don't include a separate backlog in Guilford County... Guilford County officials called in extra county and state workers and contractors to process the estimated 8,100 cases. It was unclear Monday afternoon how many remained in the queue. read article
North Carolina Had More Job Losses Than Any Other State
By JONATHAN HOUSE Mar 28, 2014
Wall Street Journal
North Carolina led the U.S. in job losses last month, a sign of stress for a state scaling back its support for its jobless residents. The Tar Heel State shed a seasonally adjusted 11,300 jobs in February from the prior month as it continues to grapple with the decline of its traditional manufacturing, tobacco and textile industries, according to new Labor Department figures released Friday.
Employment increased in 33 states, while it decreased in 17 states and the District of Columbia. Nationwide, payrolls rose 175,000 in February.
North Carolina’s unemployment rate fell 0.3 percentage point to 6.4%, one the nation’s largest declines, though the fall was primarily the result of a shrinking labor force. The number of people either working or looking for work declined by 64,000 people from February 2013, according to data from the North Carolina Department of Commerce. Some economists attribute North Carolina’s workforce exodus to the expiration in July of long-term unemployment benefits that require the unemployed to continue searching for jobs. A year ago, its unemployment rate stood at 8.6%.
North Carolina’s employment data have been scrutinized closely since U.S. lawmakers let a federal program for long-term benefits expire Dec. 28. read article
Voter ID suit could open lawmaker emails to public for first time
By Laura Leslie WRAL March 28, 2014
A lawsuit challenging a sweeping elections law that the General Assembly passed last year could force open legislative emails to public inspection for the first time. North Carolina's public records law gives people the right to see emails and letters by government officials, but state lawmakers have claimed for years that they're exempt from that law.
Groups that oppose the law, including the state chapter of the NAACP, the League of Women Voters of North Carolina and the American Civil Liberties Union, contend that lawmakers are trying to make voting more difficult, especially for minority voters.
...The plaintiffs tried to subpoena lawmakers' emails to determine their motives, but the lawmakers refused, arguing that legislative privilege makes their emails confidential. U.S. Magistrate Judge Joi Elizabeth Peake ruled Thursday that..."The Court concludes that, while the judicially-created doctrine of 'legislative immunity' provides individual legislators with absolute immunity from liability for their legislative acts, that immunity does not preclude all discovery in the context of this case," Peake wrote. The judge also ruled that additional categories of documents may be released after further hearings in the coming weeks. read article
To seem rather than to be
The disconnect between words and deeds when it comes to lifting up communities of color
3/25/2014 by Rob Schofield
NC Policy Watch
Gov. Pat McCrory is far from the first politician to contradict North Carolina’s state motto (“esse quam videri” — “to be rather than to seem”) when it comes to questions of race and government’s badly flawed efforts down through the years to heal the wounds stemming from the state’s original sins of slavery and racism. ...we are already well into the 21st Century and it is now long past the point in history during which public proclamations and symbolic acts in support of equal opportunity are enough to mark political leaders as “progressive” or “forward-thinking” on matters of race...
The treatment dished out to UNC and the HBCU’s is...just one of many current state policies that seek to roll back even the modest progress of recent decades in combating the vestiges of racism. Some of the other most obvious examples include: Enacting the “monster” voter suppression law... Imposing huge and debilitating appropriation cuts...to nonprofits specializing in economic development in minority communities... Repealing the Racial Justice Act ... Gutting the already threadbare safety net – From unemployment insurance to Medicaid to SNAP/Food Stamps...
In other words…Occasional nice words, good intentions and sunny, superficial commitments (that, conveniently, come with no requirement of meaningful sacrifice for people of wealth and power) are better than overt hate, but when it comes to improving the lives of people seeking to overcome hundreds of years of grinding, systemic racism, the difference is minimal. This is especially true when the happy words help to cloak policies that the haters, themselves, endorse. That Pat McCrory seems to remain blissfully oblivious to this hard reality is one of the most maddening and destructive aspects of his governorship. read article
Three decades of battling injustice
3/24/2014 by Ken Rose
NC Policy Watch
I have spent the past three decades advocating for convicted murderers. They are people whose lives have been deemed worthless by the vast majority of society. They have killed and so they deserve to die, the standard reasoning goes.
However, my career has taught me that executions say less about the criminals than they do about us, the society that carries them out. The system reflects our biases and blind spots. Just like us, it is susceptible to error and prejudice and, sometimes, an indiscriminate desire for revenge. Like our country, it favors the privileged and takes the heaviest toll on the poor and mentally ill. read article
Friday Follies: The misfire of the anti-ACA committee, Press release fever in McCroryland, The myth of high corporate taxes
3/21/2014 by Chris Fitzsimon NC Policy Watch
The folks at the think tanks on the Right are upset that the absurd anti-Affordable Care Act show at the General Assembly this week didn’t garner the one-sided stories they had hoped for about the health care law. But they only have themselves to blame. Legislative leaders created a committee allegedly to discuss the effects of the ACA on North Carolina. One of the committee chairs said the hearings were designed to “gather information about the law.”
But it was clear from the outset of the group’s first meeting Tuesday that it was all simply a thinly-veiled attempt to bash the ACA as part of a larger political strategy in an election year... Republicans clearly think they can gain politically by bashing the Affordable Care Act and distorting what it does. The creation of the committee—and presentations from “experts”— is just another part of that overall strategy, one they hoped to couch in less blatantly partisan rhetoric. But their star expert Tuesday, Chris Conover from Duke University and the American Enterprise Institute, began his remarks by referring to the health care law as the “Abominable Care Act,” not exactly a scholarly beginning.
Conover has also made widely inflated claims about the ACA on Fox News and other media outlets and used the word “fascist” to describe President Obama. Those statements were noted in many of the media accounts of Tuesday’s meeting, calling into question the credibility of Conover’s analysis and claims about the law. more
Public policies undermine the ability of average North Carolinians to pay the rent
3/17/2014 by Tazra Mitchell NC Policy Watch
...Is the traditional American belief that “hard work will pay off” just another fairy tale that we’re taught at a young age? Sadly...hard work and a full-time job just isn’t enough to climb out of poverty, make ends meet, or achieve economic security.
...the share of North Carolina workers earning poverty-level wages is growing rapidly... the ability of the minimum wage to deliver even the most basic standard of living has eroded considerably over the last few decades... Public investments in the safety net—such as food assistance and tax credits for working families—and economic development programs...lift hundreds-of-thousands of Tar Heel workers out of poverty while also helping those living just-above the poverty line too...
Unfortunately... Over the past three years, lawmakers have fallen short of what’s needed to adequately fund schools, colleges, and job training, while simultaneously eliminating the state Earned Income Tax Credit. At the federal level, policymakers have allowed federal emergency benefits to expire for the long-term unemployed and agreed to cut $8.6 billion from food assistance over the next decade...
North Carolina needs policies that enable equality of opportunity, rebuild entryways into the middle class, and ensure that prosperity is broadly shared so that all of can reach our economic potential. Living-wage jobs are a core piece of this policy solution. read article
Governor McCrory is just plain wrong about the jobs picture
4/1/2014 by Allan Freyer NC Policy Watch
Governor McCrory has been at it again lately—incorrectly claiming that his decision to dramatically cut unemployment benefits is responsible for turning around the state’s job market. During a visit to Morganton last week, the Governor stated:
“There’s nothing worse than if you have a job opening and someone decides to take a government check instead. So we had to bring the two together,” he said. “We made a decision [to cut unemployment benefits]. And that decision alone is the one lone factor, in comparison to any other state, which I think has helped North Carolina lower its unemployment rate drastically in the last five months.”
While the Governor is correct that the state’s unemployment rate has dropped over the last year...he couldn’t be more wrong about why the rate has dropped read article
The Senate’s Discourtesy to Judges
By THE EDITORIAL BOARD MARCH 30, 2014
The job of federal judge for the Eastern District of North Carolina has been vacant for more than eight years, one of the longest vacancies of 83 on the federal bench around the country. Last June, President Obama nominated Jennifer May-Parker, a federal prosecutor, for the position, but she hasn’t even received a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee because Richard Burr, the state’s Republican senator, is blocking her. The strange part is that Mr. Burr himself recommended her for the seat in 2009. But now he’s changed his mind and won’t say why, exploiting an archaic Senate tradition to make sure Mr. Obama can’t fill that vacancy. read editorial
End gerrymandered gridlock with nonpartisan panel, open primaries
BY CHARLES MEEKER March 27, 2014
...The best-known [odd-shaped district] in the country may be the 12th Congressional District of North Carolina, which straddles Interstate 85 from Charlotte to Greensboro. It is shaped like strands of dental floss. Deformities like these are an insult to the Constitution of North Carolina and our people...
Make no mistake: Democrats and Republicans are both at fault. After each decennial census, the party in power in the General Assembly redraws House, Senate and congressional districts to win as many seats as possible. Like-minded voters are “packed” into one district to reduce their overall voting power...
What has changed is that “packing” has been raised to a science by sophisticated software. This bare-knuckled political redistricting damages our democracy. This year in the 170 state Senate and House races, 78 districts will have just one candidate on the ballot in November. And only 15 to 20 of the remaining races can be considered competitive. The payoff from gerrymandering can be huge...
Two fundamental reforms are required. First, we need to professionalize the redistricting process to ensure that it is conducted on a strictly nonpartisan basis... Second, we should have broader use of the open primary system... read article
Tensions high between lawmakers, DHHS chief
By Laura Leslie March 27, 2014 WRAL
Tensions between state lawmakers and Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos reached a new high Thursday at a rocky meeting of the commission that oversees government operations. Lawmakers publicly aired their frustrations with a string of problems at Wos' agency, from difficulty getting budget data to IT problems affecting Medicaid providers and patients alike, and said it could jeopardize their willingness to move forward with the governor's Medicaid reform initiative.
Wos responded that her agency is being "micromanaged" by state lawmakers... [She] said federal and state requirements for reporting are onerous, and lawmakers' additional requests for information are an extra burden. "We beg – ask only what you need from us and not more. We have an incredible amount of reports that we have to present to you," Wos said... But lawmakers said they're getting too little information from the agency as is, especially in terms of budget forecasting data. Sen. Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenburg, said the information presented Wednesday should have been made available months ago, and he noted that it's still not detailed enough for a forecast. "When will we get the numbers that we need to have so that we can have a good budget number?" Rucho asked...
Other lawmakers pointed to ongoing problems with NCTracks and NC FAST, the troubled systems that handle Medicaid billing and social services delivery, respectively. "I still get calls. It's still a problem," said Sen. Harry Brown, R-Onslow. "Ernst & Young had a report saying (the Division of Medical Assistance) just can’t provide Medicaid forecasting." "Then we see a lot of people leaving – a lot of key people leaving has really put your department in a real tough position," Brown continued. "Now, we see a Medicaid reform bill coming out. How can we as a General Assembly feel safe or comfortable that you can implement a reform package when you have all these problems?"
Wos replied angrily, "It was us who had requested Ernst & Young to prove to the General Assembly and everyone else that yes, we are short-staffed, yes, we don’t have the talent, and yes, we do need reform...
Butterfield featured on 'Colbert Report'
By Corey Friedman
March 25, 2014 The Wilson Times
Comic pundit Stephen Colbert argued Obamacare and the Racial Justice Act with U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield while bashing North Carolina barbecue in a playful segment spotlighting Wilson’s congressional district.
Butterfield, a Democrat representing the state’s 1st District, appeared on Comedy Central’s "The Colbert Report” Monday night, the latest installment in a series of interviews with House members. Colbert asked Butterfield whether Obamacare was a "great train wreck or greatest train wreck.” read article
Video: Butterfield segment begins at 2:30
Pricey Harrison on MSNBC!
Spill, baby, spill
(Duke Energy piece starts at 2:45 on the video)
ALL IN 03/24/14 MSNBC
Chris Hayes talks to his panel about Duke Energy, a company caught dumping fossil fuel into a river. watch video
Driving Off the Rails
March 23, 2014
The North Carolinian with James Kotecki
Josh Stein, the Minority Whip in the North Carolina Senate, talks about the state of North Carolina, what we need to do now, and his aspirations for Attorny General in 2016. listen
Richard Burr blue slip watch: Day 274
March 20, 2014
NC Policy Watch
The insanity continues. It’s now been 274 days since President Obama nominated federal prosecutor Jennifer May-Parker to become the first African-American judge in the history of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina (74 days since he resubmitted her name in January). As we noted last week, the nomination remains frozen in suspended animation because one man, Senator Richard Burr, refuses to return his “blue slip” — the modest little document that, under Senate tradition, both Senators from the home state must return in order for such a nominee to receive a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee. read article
also see: The miseducation of Richard Burr
Different town, same inaccurate claims about the unemployment rate
Allan Freyer Monday, March 24, 2014
Governor McCrory is at it again—incorrectly claiming that his decision to dramatically cut unemployment benefits is responsible for turning around the state’s job market. During a visit to Morganton over the weekend, the Governor stated: “There’s nothing worse than if you have a job opening and someone decides to take a government check instead. So we had to bring the two together,” he said. “We made a decision [to cut unemployment benefits]. And that decision alone is the one lone factor, in comparison to any other state, which I think has helped North Carolina lower its unemployment rate drastically in the last five months.”
While the Governor is correct that the state’s unemployment rate has dropped over the last year ...he couldn’t be more wrong about why the rate has dropped—and what it means for the state’s economy. read article
Drop in unemployment rate due largely to shrinking labor force (video)
Posted by : Clayton HenkelMonday, March 17, 2014 The Progressive Pulse
North Carolina’s unemployment rate dropped to 6.7 percent in January, but the decline is largely because the labor force continues to shrink not because of significant gains in employment, according to the NC Budget & Tax Center. Over the last year, the state labor force contracted by 105,600 workers, more than 1.3 percent, to the lowest levels in three years.
“Only 4 out of every 10 unemployed workers found jobs in the last year,” said Allan Freyer, BTC Public Policy Analyst. “If North Carolina is going to see a healthy long-term recovery in employment growth, we need to see all jobless workers moving into jobs, rather than out of the labor force.” read article/watch video
New NC law shrouds judicial discipline process in secrecy
BY J. ANDREW CURLISS March 18, 2014
News and Observer
Late last summer, lawmakers and Gov. Pat McCrory agreed to shroud in secrecy the state’s process for disciplining judges. The result is apparent today at the online space where notices of pending judicial discipline were traditionally posted for the public to see. Now, that Web page is blank except for a disclaimer in bold: “All proceedings for judicial discipline are confidential,” it says, citing legislation McCrory signed into law on Aug. 23.
...Rep. Rick Glazier, a Fayetteville Democrat, had voiced opposition... Glazier said a broad cross-section of legal officials did not support the move toward secrecy. The bar and the bench were pretty outraged,” Glazier said. “It was terrible for transparency. And it created a situation that was creating a new law that was specifically opposed by all of the people who had created the original commission process.” read article
Some 5,000 public officials are required to file a Statement of Economic Interest that discloses sources of income, stock ownership and other potential conflicts of interest. Those forms are collected by the North Carolina State Ethics Commission and are a public record. WRAL has reviewed and digitized the information filed by members of the General Assembly and statewide officials elected in November of 2012. Click Here to Search by Representative name.
State Sen. Martin Nesbitt dies at 67
BY JOHN FRANK March 6, 2014
News & Observer
State Sen. Martin Nesbitt, a leading veteran lawmaker whose slow drawl belied his powerful Democratic voice, died Thursday at age 67. Nesbitt’s death came 10 days after he was diagnosed with stomach cancer, his aides confirmed.
The Asheville lawmaker stepped down from his post as Senate Democratic leader Tuesday, but the seriousness of his illness was not widely known. In a statement earlier this week, he said it “has become clear that I will need to take some time in the coming weeks and months to focus on my health.” read article
See MSNBC coverage of speech
Still the pits: Why cherry-picked jobs data are not a true reflection of NC economy
3/5/2014 by Allan Freyer NC Policy Watch
Over the past few months, Governor McCrory has been claiming his policies—especially cutting unemployment benefits—are responsible for reducing the state’s unemployment rate. He’s even branded this the “Carolina Comeback.” But as it turns out, the Governor’s claims largely rest on treating jobs numbers like fruit—like apples, oranges, and cherries. In fact, the evidence for a Carolina Comeback is just plain rotten, and we’re still waiting for a real recovery in the state’s jobs market.
Most economists prefer to compare apples to
apples by looking at job growth from year to year. And by any comparison of apples, the year stretching from December 2012 to December 2013 was worse than the year before. Specifically, the year between December 2011 and 2012 saw the creation of 89,900 jobs, while the same period in 2013 saw the creation of just 64,500 jobs. read article
As he files for US Senate, Tillis says he opposes minimum wage hike
by John Frank February 26, 2014 N&O
Speaker of the N.C. House Thom Tillis...as he files to run for the U.S. Senate on Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, at the N.C. State Board of Elections in Raleigh.
U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis on Wednesday said he opposes President Barack Obama’s plan to increase the federal minimum wage, calling it a “dangerous idea.” The Republican went even further to suggest government shouldn’t set a minimum wage, labeling it an “artificial threshold.”
“I have serious concerns with the discussion around minimum wage because it drives up costs and it could harm jobs,” Tillis said...
Obama has proposed increasing the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour by 2015. An estimated one in five North Carolina workers make the current minimum wage ($7.25 an hour)... Hagan supports the president’s plan and intends to make the minimum wage hike a central issue in her re-election bid. A recent survey from Public Policy Polling, a Raleigh-based Democratic firm, found 56 percent support for increasing the minimum wage to $10 a hour with 33 percent opposed. read article
Amid filing, an early look at top statehouse races
by Caitlin Owens February 20, 2014
News & Observer
With one week of filing left, some state legislative races are looking more interesting than others.
The N.C. Free Enterprise Foundation, a business-backed political group that analyzes state politics, identified a handful of Senate and House races to keep an eye on, predicting competitive primaries or general election contests because of incumbent departures. In its report, the foundation said the General Assembly is set to lose roughly 200 years of collective legislative experience. read article
Brannon verdict could impact US Senate race Feb.18, 2014 WRAL
The road to the Republican U.S. Senate nomination got rockier for Dr. Greg Brannon Tuesday when a Wake County jury found him liable for misleading investors in a civil securities fraud case... "It can't have an positive impact for Brannon," said Andrew Taylor, a political science professor at North Carolina State University. "What makes it especially problematic is that the Brannon campaign is based on fiscal policy – issues of fiscal prudence, a steady hand and care of the public purse...
Brannon is one of at least five Republicans who say they are running to take on Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan. The other candidates are state House Speaker Thom Tillis, Charlotte pastor Mark Harris, Wilkesboro nurse Heather Grant and former Shelby Mayor Ted Alexander... The North Carolina primary is May 6. In order to avoid a runoff, candidates must win with at least 40 percent of the vote. If a candidate doesn't hit that 40 percent mark, the second place finisher can call for a runoff. The conventional wisdom is that Tillis is hoping to make that 40 percent threshold, while Harris and Brannon have the best shot at having a good enough showing to force a runoff. read article
After 'herculean effort,' most late food stamp cases cleared
Feb. 11, 2014 WRAL
North Carolina has met a federal deadline to clear a massive backlog of food stamp applications, state Secretary of Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos told lawmakers Tuesday. In late January, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said failure to eliminate longstanding and emergency cases by Monday could prompt the agency to pull $88 million in federal administrative funding for the state's food stamp program.
At a legislative oversight meeting Tuesday morning, Wos credited a "herculean effort" by state and county social services workers, many of whom worked overtime and on weekends in the past few weeks to clear the backlog. She said only 25 cases covered by the USDA mandate remain unresolved, and those cases require additional information from clients. Wos reported the new numbers in a Feb. 10 letter to the USDA.
...Wos noted that this was only the state's first milestone. The remainder of the backlog, which includes applications and recertifications that have been waiting 30 to 90 days, must be cleared by March 31. read article
Blue to replace ailing Nesbitt as leader of Senate Dems
Mar. 4, 2014 By Matthew Burns and Mark Binker WRAL
Senate Democrats on Tuesday selected Wake County Sen. Dan Blue as their new caucus leader, replacing Senate Minority Leader Martin Nesbitt. Nesbitt stepped down after receiving an undisclosed medical diagnosis that will require him to seek treatment and cut into his time on the Senate floor...
Nesbitt hasn't yet decided whether he will resign his seat representing the Asheville area, caucus director Ford Porter said. read article
Expert: Concerns about moving ash ponds 'pure speculation'
Feb. 19, 2014 WRAL
At Wednesday's press conference about the Dan River coal ash spill and state regulation, state Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary John Skvarla said requiring Duke Energy to excavate and relocate its coal ash ponds in North Carolina to lined landfills could pose a risk to the environment... WRAL News asked DENR for a citation or source for the alleged concerns about environmental risk, but DENR was unable to provide any citation.
A renowned national expert on coal ash ponds at Duke University says that's because there isn't one.
Avner Vengosh of Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment has published...several peer-reviewed studies on contamination from North Carolina coal ash sites in at least 11 lakes and rivers... Told about Skvarla's comments, Vengosh says there's no published study that casts any doubt on whether moving coal ash out of leaky landfills is the best move for the environment... "You should follow the EPA guidance," he said. "The state, with all due respect, doesn't have the experience or expertise on the matter." read article/watch video
Duke Energy's inside connections to the McCrory administration
By Sue Sturgis 02/18/2014 Facing South
Following Duke Energy's massive coal ash spill into the Dan River...the news broke that the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Charlotte, N.C.-based utility giant are the subjects of a federal criminal investigation for a "suspected felony." ...Adding to environmentalists' concern is the fact that Gov. Pat McCrory worked for Duke Energy for 28 years and received over $300,000 in direct campaign contributions from the company's political action committee and its employees, former employees, and their spouses. In all, McCrory's 2008 and 2012 gubernatorial campaigns benefited from a total of $1.1 million in political spending by Duke Energy, according to an analysis by Democracy North Carolina...In addition, McCrory still holds a substantial amount of stock in Duke Energy, though he has refused to say exactly how much... But McCrory is not the only member of his administration with close ties to Duke Energy and its Progress Energy subsidiary. Other former Duke/Progress employees who hold high-level positions in North Carolina state government... read article
Attorney general presses governor on open records
Feb 11, 2014 WRAL
Attorney General Roy Cooper is pressing Gov. Pat McCrory to roll back "special service charges" imposed on certain requests for public records.
Under the policy, such charges are incurred "for any requests that require agency personnel more than 30 minutes to locate, copy and refile," Cooper writes. The special charge includes both the physical costs of making copies and the cost of the salaries and benefits of the state workers involved in making the copies.
"I believe these policies violate the spirit and perhaps the legislative intent of the North Carolina Public Records Act,"Cooper wrote to McCroy on Jan. 28. Cooper also notes that some counties have begun charging similar fees, a practice his office is discouraging. read article
As federal deadline arrives, NC food stamp updates go dark
Feb 10, 2014 WRAL
The state's health agency says it will wait one more day to release information on whether it met Monday's federal deadline for clearing the majority of its backlogged food stamp cases.
For more than a week, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has provided daily updates about the status of the rapidly eroding mountain of delayed cases. The U.S. Department of Agriculture warned that failure to eliminate longstanding and emergency cases by Feb. 10 could cost the state $88 million in federal administrative funding. Data released over the weekend showed that, with only a few hundred cases left, the state appeared poised to make the deadline. But on Monday afternoon, DHHS spokeswoman Kirsti Clifford said state officials wouldn't release updated data or the department's response to the USDA until a legislative oversight meeting scheduled for Tuesday morning...
Since September, the USDA has noted several problems with the roll-out of the state's new NC FAST system...Among those issues was a backlog that, by the federal agency's best estimate, hit 70,000 over the summer, when a technical glitch slowed down processing.
Based on mid-November data from DHHS that put the backlog at about 26,000 cases, the USDA issued advance warning in December that it could withdraw administrative funding if the state didn't bring its program into compliance with federal rules. More than a month later, after figures showed the backlog got even worse, the federal agency issued an ultimatum: Show significant progress toward fixing the problem by Feb. 10, or risk losing funding in mid-March. In the ensuing weeks, state and county workers have focused on clearing the cases mandated by the USDA, reducing the backlog by more than 15,000 since Dec. 31.
As of 5:30 p.m. Monday, a USDA spokesperson said the agency was still awaiting a response from DHHS officials. read article/see graph
NCGOP slams NAACP's Barber, Moral Monday movement
Feb. 8, 2014 WRAL
North Carolina Republican Party Chairman Claude Pope said Friday that the so-called "Moral Monday" movement is "radical left-wing" activism and accused state NAACP president William Barber of seeking to "eviscerate" state Republican leaders.
Pope held a news conference in advance of a planned Saturday march, an annual event known as "Historic Thousands on Jones Street."...Pope denounced the Moral Monday marches as an “overtly partisan, left-wing political movement” and called Barber “a radical left-wing activist” with a “fringe liberal agenda.” “Make no mistake, tomorrow’s event is a political rally,” Pope said, “and the national left-wing groups like MoveOn.org and Planned Parenthood have been recruiting liberal activists from across the country to attend the rally.
read article/watch video
State Rep. and U.S. Senate hopeful Thom Tillis has released a new web ad that contains the exact same falsehood awarded “three Pinocchios” by the Washington Post. See the Post article here. The Post calls out Tillis specifically in this article.
Best of all, view and COMMENT on the new web ad here on the Thom Tillis campaign website:. Or comment on his Facebook page here.
You can also email and phone Tillis here: Thom.Tillis@ncleg.net / 919-733-3451.
Feb. 4, 2014
Clay Aiken to run for Congressional seat
Feb. 5, 2013 WRAL
Pop singer Clay Aiken announced on Wednesday that he will run for the Democratic nomination in the 2nd Congressional District.
In a video announcing his candidacy, Aiken referenced his time on "American Idol," saying "for most Americans, there are no golden tickets. At least not the kind you see on TV." "More families are struggling today than at any time in our history. And here in North Carolina, we've suffered more than our share of pain," Aiken said.
Former state Commerce Secretary Keith Crisco and Durham attorney Houston Barnes previously announced plans to seek the Democratic nomination in the 2nd District, but Barnes said Wednesday that he will step aside and put his support behind Aiken. The 2nd District seat is now held by Republican Congresswoman Renee Ellmers. read article
The Follies: McCrory needs to do more than issue a news release
2/7/2014 by Chris Fitzsimon NC Policy Watch
One of the silliest headlines of week came in a news release from Governor Pat McCrory’s press office—“Governor McCrory Directs Duke Energy to Bring Coal Ash Spill Under Control.” That ought to get things cleaned up immediately. It’s nice of McCrory to get involved but simply directing his former employer to do what they must do anyway doesn’t accomplish anything.
If McCrory really wants to help with the massive coal ash spill in the Dan River, he can launch an investigation into how the spill happened in the first place and how long it took for the company to notify the public. He can create a task force to take a serious look at the regulation of coal ash in North Carolina. And he can tell his Department of Environment and Natural Resources to take more samples of the river closer to where the 82,000 tons of toxic coal ash tumbled into the water. read article
Progress continues toward cutting food stamp backlog
Feb. 3, 2014
Under the gun of a federal ultimatum, state and county health officials cut a longstanding backlog of food stamp cases nearly in half over the weekend.
Data released by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Monday show about 3,600 cases remain for workers to process before a Feb. 10 deadline, down from about 7,700 on Jan. 30. Case managers must complete these applications before next week or risk losing about $88 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
For months, the USDA has warned DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos that the state was at risk of losing this funding, which the federal government contributes for administrative costs of North Carolina's food stamp program. At issue, federal officials say, are "continued delays [that] create undue hardship for the most vulnerable citizens of North Carolina." read article
More desperate spin about the “Carolina Comeback”
1/30/2014 by Chris Fitzsimon
NC Policy Watch
Here are two things you need to know about this week’s news that the state unemployment rate fell half a percentage point in December to 6.9 percent and is down 1.5 percent since December of 2012.
Fewer jobs were created in North Carolina in 2013 than in 2012. That’s right, fewer jobs. That’s despite Governor Pat McCrory’s constant boasting about the “Carolina Comeback” in his first year in office.
And more than 100,000 people dropped out of the state labor force last year, so discouraged in their fruitless search for a job that they gave up looking and are no longer counted when computing the unemployment rate.
That’s why the rate has gone down significantly, not because of massive job creation but because people can’t find jobs no matter how hard they look. read article
Feds: NC in danger of losing food stamp money
By MICHAEL BIESECKER January 24, 2014 AP/WSOC
(AP) — Federal officials are warning that North Carolina has about two weeks to make significant progress toward clearing its massive backlog of food stamp applications or face losing millions in funding.
In a sternly worded letter issued Thursday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture gave state Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos until Feb. 10 to meet three key milestones, including completing all benefits applications pending for more than 90 days. If the state fails, the $88 million in federal funding the state receives annually to manage its food stamp program could be terminated on March 12. read article/watch video
Supreme Court refuses to delay elections
January 24, 2014 WRAL
The state Supreme Court has refused to delay the filing period for this year's legislative and congressional elections to accommodate a long-running case over how voting districts were drawn.
In a one-sentence ruling Friday, the court denied a motion by a former Democratic lawmaker, the NAACP and others suing the state that asked that the filing period for this year's election not open until the court had reached a verdict. read article
The cynical celebration by Civitas and the NC Chamber
1/16/2014 by Chris Fitzsimon
NC Policy Watch
...A staff member of the Pope Civitas Institute in Raleigh recently penned a ridiculous column making the...point, that somehow the draconian cuts to unemployment benefits that Governor Pat McCrory and the General Assembly made last summer are responsible for the drop in the state unemployment rate.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
North Carolina’s unemployment rate has fallen two percentage points in the last year because so many laid off workers have become so discouraged they have stopped looking for a job, not because more people are working. The discouraged workers are not counted when the jobless rate is calculated. Harvard economist Lawrence Katz estimates that 95 percent of the drop in unemployment is due to workers dropping out of the workforce. An analysis by UNC-Greensboro Economist Andrew Brod found the unemployment rate would be 9.5 percent in North Carolina if the size of the labor force was the same as it was a year ago. read article
In DHHS’ latest crisis, McCrory defends Wos while food stamps funding in limbo
by Sarah Ovaska January 11, 2014
The Progressive Pulse
We first reported Thursday on U.S. Department of Agriculture’s warning that it may yank or suspend some of the funding North Carolina receives to distribute food stamps. The agency wrote a previously-undisclosed letter (click here) in December to Health and Human Services Secretary Wos in December telling her the continual delay of food stamps was “unacceptable” and a “serious failure.” The federal agency has “grave concern for the low income people of North Carolina.”
News of the letter went beyond North Carolina Friday, with the Washington Post picking up on it. Since then, the N.C. Legislative Black Caucus (who first discovered and revealed the Dec. 11 letter outlining the federal governments concerns) held press conferences around the state Friday calling for Wos to step down. read article/watch WBTV video
Washington Post: Federal funds at risk over ‘serious failure’ in N.C. food stamp program
Goolsby won't seek re-election
By Molly Parker January 10, 2014
One of the area's most conservative voices in the General Assembly, two-term state Sen. Thom Goolsby, announced Friday he won't seek re-election, opening up a seat that is neither decidedly Democrat nor Republican.
There has been much speculation that Goolsby, R-New Hanover, was eyeing a run for state attorney general as N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper prepares a challenge against Gov. Pat McCrory. Not so, said Goolsby. read article
Black lawmakers join call for Wos' ouster at DHHS
Jan. 10, 2014 WRAL
The North Carolina Legislative Black Caucus called on Gov. Pat McCrory Friday to replace Aldona Wos as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services... a day after a letter from the U.S. Department of Agriculture was made public, threatening to withhold administrative funding for the state's food stamps program because the state had failed to fix problems with its NC FAST benefits enrollment system. The Dec. 11 letter from USDA cites DHHS data showing thousands of families waiting months – sometimes three months or more – to receive benefits for which they qualified.
"These delays are completely unacceptable and a serious failure on the part of North Carolina," wrote the USDA's Food and Nutrition Services regional administrator Donald Arnette. "We have grave concern for the low-income people of North Carolina who are waiting for assistance."
Members of the Legislative Black Caucus echoed those concerns at their Raleigh event... House Minority Leader Larry Hall and Senate Minority Leader Martin Nesbitt called for Wos' ouster Monday. Reps. Beverly Earle, D-Mecklenburg, and Michael Wray, D-Northampton, members of the House HHS Oversight Committee, added their voices Thursday. read article
The reality behind McCrory’s misleading “Carolina Comeback”
1/7/2014 by Chris Fitzsimon NC Policy Watch
Governor Pat McCrory is spending a lot of time these days talking about what he calls the “Carolina Comeback,” his political slogan for what he describes as the state’s economic recovery created by his policy decisions in the last year. McCrory points to the drop in the state unemployment rate as the most prominent evidence that he has turned things around in North Carolina and he points to the “tax reform” passed last summer as a primary reason for the success in job creation.
That would be the tax reform that McCrory and his supporters have claimed will allow North Carolinians to keep more of their “hard-earned money.” Well, not exactly. Wealthy taxpayers and out of state corporations will certainly pay less in taxes this year, but most people in the state will pay more, as will many small businesses who will lose a tax break lawmakers passed in 2011. read article
Redistricting opponents want high court to delay NC primary
Jan. 6, 2014 WRAL
Opponents of the legislative and congressional districts drawn by the Republican-dominated General Assembly in 2011 argued before the North Carolina Supreme Court Monday that the voting maps are unconstitutional. The group, led by the state NAACP chapter and Democracy North Carolina, want the court to push back the candidate filing period and the May 6 primary so that legal issues surrounding the maps can be settled. read article
Also see Women AdvanNCe: NC Redistriction Battlel Moves to State Supreme Court
State of Conflict: North Carolina
January 3, 2014 Moyers & Company
First it was Wisconsin. Now it’s North Carolina that is redefining the term “battleground state.” On one side: a right-wing government enacting laws that are changing the face of the state. On the other: citizen protesters who are fighting back against what they fear is a radical takeover. This crucible of conflict reflects how the battle for control of American politics is likely to be fought for the foreseeable future: not in Washington, DC, but state by state.
This week on Moyers & Company, “State of Conflict: North Carolina” offers a documentary report from a state that votes both blue and red and sometimes purple... Now, however, Republicans hold the governor’s mansion and both houses of the legislature and they are steering North Carolina far to the right: slashing taxes on corporations and the wealthy, providing vouchers to private schools, cutting unemployment benefits, refusing to expand Medicaid and rolling back electoral reforms, including voting rights... “State of Conflict” is more than a local story. It offers a case study of what may be the direction of American politics for years, perhaps decades, to come. read/watch video of full show
Candidates jockey for state's highest courts in critical election year
BY CRAIG JARVIS January 4, 2014
News & Observer
The Republicans’ all-out effort to defeat U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, a Democrat from Greensboro, is the biggest political battle looming in North Carolina in 2014, but a handful of other campaigns will determine who become the most powerful judges in the state.
The seven elections are in the appellate courts. Most significantly, four are on the seven-member N.C. Supreme Court, where registered Republican justices have long held a 4-3 majority. With three of those four seats currently held by Democrats, the GOP momentum that has swept North Carolina over the past three years could increase the Republican majority if it continues. read article
NC's five big political questions for 2014
By Mark Binker and Cullen Browder
Dec. 30, 2013
Lawmakers had long left town, and official Raleigh was winding down for the Christmas-to-New Year's stupor that annually settles over the city, but the Rev. William Barber's voice boomed over loud speakers Monday on the Halifax Mall behind the General Assembly building. "If you thought we fought in 2013, you ought to see how we fight in an election year," intoned the minister-turned-leader of North Carolina's most vocal liberal political movement...
As 2014 begins, political thinkers are making their list of political stories and government policies to watch in the new year. Truth be told, the items many people think will be critical in the coming months will be eclipsed by completely unexpected items by the time votes are counted from November's mid-term elections. With that said, the potential impact of the Moral Monday movement is among five big themes that appear to loom large on the North Carolina political horizon at New Year's turn. read the list
State to help Wake, others clear food stamp backlog
Jan. 30, 204 WRAL
With only weeks remaining before a U.S. Department of Agriculture deadline, state officials officials set up 11 centers this week to tackle North Carolina's massive statewide backlog of food stamps cases before the state loses federal administrative funding. One of those centers began work in Wake County, home to about a quarter of all backlogged cases, as the state continues its struggle to implement its new NC FAST claims system. But numbers released by the department show the backlog is falling rapidly after hovering for weeks above 20,000 cases.
During a news conference Thursday, Wake County officials said 17 state workers will help existing county staff tackle the backlog of applications, which now stands at about 3,000 in the county. That number hasn't changed much since the USDA first warned it could pull federal administrative funding from North Carolina's food stamps program in December. But Wake County officials say the extra help from the state, coupled with contributions from other extra county staffers, reduced the number by 400 cases on Wednesday alone....
"We feel very confident that, with the resources we're putting forward, that we'll be able to make this deadline," Wake County Assistant Human Services Assistant Director Liz Scott said. "We have made this our highest priority. It's an all-hands-on-deck approach." Scott cautioned, however, that the temporary influx of workers doesn't address deeper problems... read article
Hagan a top target for Americans for Prosperity
WRAL January 30, 2014
...Americans for Prosperity, a national conservative group linked to mega-donors like North Carolina's Art Pope and the billionaire Koch brothers, has spent more than any other group in North Carolina since the beginning of the 2014 campaign cycle, and it has poured more money into this state than any other where they are airing campaign style ads. But officials with the group will tell you they don't consider the [ads to be]campaign ads. "We don't tell people who to vote for," said Donald Bryson, North Carolina policy specialist for Americans for Prosperity. The ads are issue advocacy, Bryson said, designed to inform the public about policy, not affect election outcomes.
...Steve Greene, a professor of political science at North Carolina State University, laughed out loud at the assertion the AFP ad wasn't meant to influence a campaign. "They would probably laugh out loud themselves if they didn't have to say that legally," Greene said. "It's preposterous."
Preposterous or not, Americans for Prosperity occupies a murky and expanding gray area in modern American campaigning. Officially, the group's ads are aired by its 501(c)4 arm, what the IRS defines as a "social welfare" group. Federal regulators are exploring how to better get a handle on spending by the organizations, which are not supposed to spend more than half of their money and time on political activities... 501(c)4 groups do not have to disclose their donors and can take unlimited sums of money from businesses and individuals alike. read article
Business leaders give McCrory jobs road map
January 24, 2014 WRAL
North Carolina will focus its business recruiting efforts on 38 industries as part of a new economic development plan that a group of business, political and education leaders officially turned into Gov. Pat McCrory Friday... The board has spent the last six months developing the plan, which amounts to a blueprint for McCrory's strategy to bolster job creation in North Carolina.
...The report itself is a glossy 26-page manual full of bullet points and goals but short on directions. It will be up to the governor, the new nonprofit and the Commerce Department to follow through on the recommendations, said those who attended Friday's roll out. read article
McCrory's 2014 priorities: Energy, education, Medicaid
Jan 21, 2014 WRAL
The three E's on Gov. Pat McCrory's 2013 priority list have been replaced this year by two E's and an M.
During his State of the State address a year ago, McCrory said he would focus on improving North Carolina's economy and education system and promoting efficiency in state government. On Tuesday, he held an hour-long news conference at the Executive Mansion to outline his 2014 agenda, naming energy production, educational improvement and Medicaid reform as his top priorities.Beyond those three items, the governor laid out a sprawling list of goals for the coming year, from working with federal officials to secure the future of North Carolina's military bases to using public art to beautify state highways and bridges. read more
Obama picks NCSU to lead $140 million national research consortium
BY JOHN MURAWSKI Jan. 15, 2014 N&O
The $140 million research consortium announced at N.C. State University on Wednesday came with fanfare as a stimulus for U.S. manufacturing, but the federal grants don’t come with job creation targets and won’t prevent American companies from hiring cheap labor abroad. Instead, the consortium of five universities and 18 companies represents a bet by government and industry that electronic technology used in modern manufacturing is on the verge of a major scientific breakthrough and needs a governmental push to get it across the finish line...
The goal of the consortium is to scale up three fabrication facilities for the next-generation semiconductors, including one at RF Micro Devices in Greensboro. The program will also create a master’s degree at N.C. State in Wide Bandgap Power Electronics, as the technology is called. And it will develop intellectual property and help companies test different manufacturing approaches before they invest in mass production.
The ultimate goal is to create an entire domestic industry based on the new technology that will keep industry and manufacturing in the United States, said N.C. State’s Dennis Kekas, the interim executive director of the consortium. read article
Fact Check: Moving to NC to collect unemployment?
Jan. 13, 2014 WRAL
The claim: During a recent taping of NC Spin, Gov. Pat McCrory was asked to defend controversial changes to the state unemployment system. As part of that conversation, he said that, until those changes were put in place, people were moving to North Carolina because the state's benefits were among the most generous in the country.
"We had the ninth-most-generous unemployment compensation in the country," McCrory said. "We were having a lot of people move here, frankly, from other areas to get unemployment ... People were moving here because of our very generous benefits, and then, of course, we had more debt."
The question: Were people moving to North Carolina attracted by unemployment benefits?...
The call: North Carolina's own rules prohibit people who have not worked in the state from tapping the state's unemployment insurance system, and economists say there's scant evidence for people moving across state lines for any work-related reason, much less because they're comparison shopping for unemployment insurance. Given that McCrory can offer scant evidence for his claim, it would be hard not to rate his statement as false. read article
The Raleigh Experiment
by Paul Krugman, Jan. 11, 2014
New York Times
North Carolina is an interesting place these days, and I mean that in the worst possible way. It’s a southern state, but one with a major technology complex, growing foreign investment, and what seemed until recently to be a moderating, increasingly sophisticated political culture. But then came the Republican wave of 2010, and NC was taken over by right-wing radicals, who have — among other things — taken the nation’s hardest line in cutting benefits to the unemployed. So how’s it going? Not well... read column with graphs
Despite USDA threat, NC food stamps backlog got worse
Jan. 10, 2014 WRAL
The state Department of Health and Human Services acknowledged Friday afternoon that its problematic food stamps system is not improving, despite assurances to federal officials that it was taking steps to fix the massive backlog of overdue cases. Data released by DHHS to WRAL News show that, as of Dec. 31, more than 30,000 North Carolina families waited for longer than a month to receive food stamps benefits through the state's new NC FAST system...
This outpaces a U.S. Department of Agriculture estimate based on mid-November data that found 20,000 households were experiencing significant food stamps delays. On Dec. 11, the USDA warned it may soon withdraw federal funding from the food stamps program over the state's failure to comply with federal requirements.
Data released Friday by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services show that wait times for food stamp cases in North Carolina - both applications and recertifications - have gotten worse, not better. ...Friday, DHHS spokeswoman Julie Henry acknowledged the increased number of overdue cases, thousands of which have been pending for more than four months (Friday afternoon, Henry said the NC FAST team had discovered 2,300 duplicates among cases that had been pending for more than 120 days). "It's not getting better," Henry said. "We recognize it's not improving. That's why we are continuing to work with our county partners to offer some kind of relief so they can get these cases processed."
...Henry's statement runs contrary to comments Wos and her deputies have made about NC FAST in legislative oversight meetings and media interviews in the past few months. read article
NC lawmakers leery of accepting extended jobless money
By Laura Leslie Jan. 8, 2014 WRAL
A day after the U.S. Senate began debating a three-month extension to benefits for people who have been unemployed for months, North Carolina lawmakers met Wednesday to discuss the emergency benefits. Members of the Unemployment Insurance Oversight Committee expressed skepticism about accepting the added benefits, saying they feared it would encourage people to remain on the unemployment rolls looking for better opportunities instead of taking jobs.
"A lot of folks will say, 'Well, I'm in no rush. I can go ahead because I know I've got additional benefits to try find something,'" said Sen. Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenburg.... Gov. Pat McCrory hasn't decided whether to accept the extended benefits, which wouldn't have to be repaid to the government. A spokesman said McCrory is waiting to see if the Senate bill makes it through Congress before acting on it. read article/watch video
DHHS mailing mistake could open NC up to fines, suits
By Laura Leslie Jan. 7, 2014 WRAL
A privacy breach involving the personal information of thousands of Medicaid recipients could result in fines and lawsuits against the state Department of Health and Human Services, an attorney said Tuesday. DHHS was trying to issue new cards to 70,253 children who were switched from the N.C. Health Choice program to Medicaid under new eligibility rules, but nearly 70% of the cards – 48,752 – went to the wrong Medicaid recipients last week. The cards show a child's name, Medicaid ID number, date of birth and primary care physician, but don't include any Social Security numbers.
Acting Medicaid Director Sandra Terrell blamed a computer programming error for the mix-up...
DHHS acknowledged Monday that the error was a breach of federal health care privacy regulations under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA.
A message obtained by WRAL News shows DHHS warned county social services agencies about the mis-mailed cards a week ago, but the agency didn't tell the public about it for another three days – after some media had reported it. read article
Five things to know about the legislative adjournment
By Mark Binker WRAL July 26, 2013
Lawmakers are gone for the year, but they are not forgotten. The North Carolina General Assembly adjourned its 2013 legislative session on July 26. They are not scheduled to return to lawmaking until May 14, 2014.
But that doesn't mean the legislative branch won't be making news for nine months. Here are five things to keep in mind about this year's legislative adjournment: read article
By Mark Binker WRAL July 26, 2013
Lawmakers are gone for the year, but they are not forgotten. The North Carolina General Assembly adjourned its 2013 legislative session on July 26. They are not scheduled to return to lawmaking until May 14, 2014.
But that doesn't mean the legislative branch won't be making news for nine months. Here are five things to keep in mind about this year's legislative adjournment: read article
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