Commentary, News

This Week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

McCrory-Medicaid1. Misleading Medicaid rhetoric instead of expansion

One of the most frustrating things about this General Assembly session was once again what lawmakers did not do.

They actively chose not to join the 31 other states that have expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, not to provide health care coverage for several hundred thousand low-income adults who are currently uninsured, not to create thousands of jobs over the next ten years and not to help struggling local hospitals stay open.

Gov. Pat McCrory has waffled some about expanding Medicaid but never come up with a plan. Legislative leaders have remained steadfastly opposed, putting their dislike of President Obama above access to health care for people they represent and the jobs expansion could create.

That doesn’t mean legislative leaders didn’t talk about Medicaid this year. They talked about it plenty, repeatedly touting the merits of the “reform” plan they passed last year and boasting of an unprecedented surplus in the Medicaid budget thanks of course to the decisions they made and the stellar management of McCrory’s Department of Health and Human Services. [Continue reading…]

wb-flag7192. Making our state and nation “safe again”
Despite claims in some corners, big talk, limiting rights and ever more killing machines are not the answer

The recent horrific episodes of murder and violence that have struck the western world have clearly sent shockwaves through the body politic. Whether it’s in the United States, France or any number of other nations, millions of people are rightfully horrified at the senseless killing and understandably fearful that they or someone they love might somehow fall victim – be it to a law enforcement officer with a racial or ethnic bias or a suicidal killer with a twisted worldview. Add in the festering divisions of race, religion and politics that afflict our society these days (and that the killings have helped accentuate) and it’s no surprise that so many people feel a profound sense of anger and sadness and a deep desire for normalcy and “safety.”

Given this backdrop, it’s also no surprise that elected leaders and politicians have been seeking to address the matter – some helpfully and some not so much. Lately, speaking at tragedies and comforting victims seems to be the main vehicle by which President Obama addresses the nation. In Congress, the mostly powerless Democrats got more publicity for their recent effort to force votes on the passage of gun safety legislation than just about anything else they’ve done in months. Meanwhile, politicians of both parties have been rattling sabers in an effort to appear tough vis-a-vis perceived threats – both real and imagined, foreign and domestic. [Continue reading…]

Secretary Donald van der Vaart3. Dissecting the McCrory administration’s defense of the new state coal ash law
A detailed look at what DEQ officials claim and what they leave out in their new video

The state’s coal ash crisis is under control.

That’s what the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality wants viewers to believe, in a recently released a five-and-a-half minute video on the agency’s website and YouTube channel.

In the video, Secretary Donald van der Vaart and Assistant Secretary Tom Reeder tout what they view as protective provisions in the new coal ash law that Governor McCrory signed earlier this month. However, while the presentation is in many ways factual, it’s not necessarily truthful. Omissions of fact, slippery language, and industry jargon combine for misleading reassurances that North Carolinians are protected by the full force of the law.

Van der Vaart plays the good cop, telling viewers that the law establishes firm deadlines for providing water connections to households and businesses with wells contaminated by chemicals and compounds found in coal ash. What van der Vaart doesn’t say is that Duke Energy has as late as the fall of 2019 to connect those households, and that he, as Secretary, has the power to extend deadlines to the utility. [Continue reading…]

Budget-squeeze1-4004. North Carolina’s incredible shrinking state budget

Short-changing public investments is no way to grow a state

[Editor’s note: North Carolina’s conservative elected leaders have changed their tune in recent months. After railing for years about “runaway spending” and having slashed state budget appropriations in virtually every area of government service, this year – an important election year – officials have suddenly started bragging about teacher pay raises and other efforts to boost essential services like mental health programs. Unfortunately, while the change in rhetoric is a welcome one, the hard reality is that it is only that – rhetorical. A look at the actual budget numbers reveals that appropriations for essential public services and structures will continue to slide in North Carolina.

In the coming days, fiscal policy experts at the North Carolina Budget and Tax Center will release a detailed report on the Fiscal Year 2017 budget that was approved by state lawmakers last month and signed into law by Governor McCrory last week. [Continue reading…]

education-budget-4005. Why I won’t be accepting my teacher bonus

Dear Gov. McCrory and members of the North Carolina General Assembly:

This may not be a popular opinion, but it is one that is a matter of principle to me.

I will be receiving $2,000 in bonuses this year for having a certain number of students pass the AP English Language and Composition Exam for the 2015-2016. Many of you may think that it will somewhat ameliorate tensions with public school teachers like me. I do not think it will at all. I feel that it just exacerbates the real problem: lack of respect for all public school teachers.

I am not going to keep my bonus. To me it’s just academic “blood money.”

I have read about this provision of bonus money frequently in the summer. It’s in the budget that the governor is expected to sign this week, a provision adding bonus pay for teachers of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, CTE, and 3rd grade. As the News and Observer reported last week: [Continue reading…]*** Upcoming event on Wednesday, July 28th ***

Crucial Conversation — Predatory payday lenders: Is North Carolina rid of them for good or will they make a comeback?

Predatory payday lenders: Is North Carolina rid of them for good or will they make a comeback?

Featuring Tom Feltner of the Consumer Federation of America [Register today…]

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