Taking Back North Carolina
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
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
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 administrationBy 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
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
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
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
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
Also see NCGA coverage on these other
Education, Preventing Gun Violence, Women's Rights, Unemployment,
Voter Protection, Healthcare
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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
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
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
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
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
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Next Business for the NCGA
The General Assembly finished up its work for the 2013 Long Session on Friday July 26.
The adjournment resolution states
the convening date for the 2014 session as May 14 at noon.
The resolution also established the local bill deadlines for the 2014 session as Wednesday, May 21, 2014, at 4 p.m. for the House of Representatives, and at 4 p.m. Wednesday, May 28 for the Senate.
Five things to know about the legislative adjournment
By Mark Binker WRAL July 26, 2013
Click Here to See All of Our Coverage of NAACP, Moral Mondays and the Forward Together Movement
NC Policy Watch is a progressive, nonprofit and non-partisan public policy organization,... an independent project of the NC Justice Center, North Carolina’s leading private, nonprofit anti-poverty organization. The two organizations share the same guiding objective--to bring about social, political and economic justice in North Carolina.
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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
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.
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
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