After ten years of advocating for more access to health coverage for average folks in NC’s General Assembly, the Jim Black plea is pretty disheartening for many reasons. One is pretty personal. My frequent opponents over the years are often who I call the “moneyed lobbyists” – those folks representing the health care special interests with seemingly bottomless pockets for enormous campaign contributions, fancy sporting event tickets and on a first-name basis with almost everyone. I’m used to getting beat up by this crowd and sometimes take solace from the thought of the truly staggering amounts of $300+ billable hours I’ve caused for their employers in the insurance industry and elsewhere over the years.
This can’t compensate for Black’s $29,000 payoff to pass a budget special provision for one of these special interests however. Last year I tried to get a special provision in the budget changed so the state wouldn’t confiscate and sell homes of low-income people to pay medical costs they or a family member had incurred. All I wanted was to exempt homes worth less than $60,000. I doubt any legislator lives in a home worth less than $60K, but the provision stayed in the budget (although with a delay). Now I learn if I had enough payoff money I could have written the budget provision to get whatever I wanted.
If the game is rigged there isn’t much point in playing. It makes me sick to think how hard I and others worked on that one provision while secretly passing cash in a restaurant bathroom after an expensive meal was the real way to get it done. Black’s actions were shameful in many ways, but I think this example is one that shows what an insult what he did is to the people in this state who can’t afford fancy houses, trips to the Bahamas, and millions in lake-front real estate. Black and the system need to be torn down and rebuilt – so the interest of the people is served. And especially the people who need our help the most.