News

The Independent, the alternative weekly newspaper in the Triangle, had an interesting piece this week about changes the N.C. Industrial Commission has faced under Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration.

The Industrial Commission serves as the decision-makers in workers compensation disputes and has become more hostile to injured workers and more friendly to business interests with matters before the commission, the article, “McCrory has been quietly skewing the workers’ comp system”claims.

It is worth pointing out that the Independent relined on anonymous sources for many of the political cronyism allegations raised in the article.

From the article:

[R]ecent appointments by Governor McCrory and changes by the General Assembly have left the independence of the commission in question. A number of sources that work in and around the commission—who preferred to remain unnamed because they feared retribution—described a political takeover and a deck that looked increasingly stacked in favor of employers and insurance companies. One source with business before the commission described an increasingly hostile judicial hearing environment for workers that will inevitably clog up the Court of Appeals, with the cost of treating injured workers shifting from employers to the taxpayers.

This summer, a small note in the General Assembly’s final budget bill reclassified the Industrial Commission’s 22 deputy commissioners, turning them from career civil servants into at-will employees who will either be reappointed or let go. The lives and careers of these administrative law judges were placed directly into the hands of the commission’s chair, a young McCrory appointee named Andrew T. Heath. The first group of deputy commissioners will be let go on Feb. 15, 2015, and have already begun to be replaced by more pro-business-minded Republicans. The deputy commissioners were the first line of recourse for workers with compensation disputes—the commissioners travel the state deciding cases between the injured worker plaintiffs and the insurance company and employers that don’t want to pay for their care. If the worker or employer appeals the deputy commissioner’s decision, the case is bumped up for a final decision by the six-commissioner Industrial Commission.

You can read the entire article here.

Commentary

Be sure to check out the newest lead stories on the main NCPW site today:

This morning, N.C. Justice Center Communication Director Jeff Shaw authored a personal and exceedingly rational commentary on the latest outbreak of gun madness in our gun-obsessed culture (which even discusses his own personal experience growing up with firearms).

Meanwhile, in this afternoon’s “lead,” Chris Fitzsimon dissects the misleading claims of a conservative national group with an innocuous-sounding name (i.e. the Tax Foundation) about North Carolina’s “business climate.” As Chris notes:

“It’s not an analysis of how our state is doing at all.

It has little to do with the economy and isn’t even an accurate picture of the taxes businesses and individuals actually pay. And it ignores a long list of factors that business leaders rely on when making their decision about where to locate, from transportation to workforce readiness to quality of life for employees.

The Tax Foundation ranking isn’t any way to evaluate the decisions our leaders have made. It’s a flawed mechanism designed to reinforce an ideological agenda. And it ought to be reported with a little more context.”

Bonus story: Check out yesterday’s “Progressive Voices” entry from NCPW contributor Chavi Koneru about the fast-growing Asian American vote and the perplexing failure of politicians to cultivate it — even in closely-divided states like North Carolina.

News

North Carolina’s tight Senate race earned a new distinction this week – topping $100 million spent in total advertising, according to the nonpartisan Sunlight Foundation.

The contest also brought former Massachusetts governor and 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney to Raleigh Wednesday stumping for Republican House Speaker Thom Tillis:

“There’s no question but that the president’s policies are on the ballot in November, even though the president himself is not,” Romney said. “And I don’t want to see President Obama’s policies furthered in this country any more than they already have been.”

Not to be outdone, incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan will have former President Bill Clinton by her side Friday rallying voters at Raleigh’s Broughton High School. You may recall, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton already appeared on Hagan’s behalf last week in Charlotte.

So will these political heavyweights make a difference for voters?

We put that question to NC State political scientist Andy Taylor, who appears on NC Policy Watch’s weekly radio show this weekend with Chris Fitzsimon:
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So, whether you have a fit for Mitt or a thrill when you see Bill, just remember that early voting draws to a close this Saturday. For a list of early voting times and locations, click here.

To find your polling place for Tuesday, November 4th, click here.

News
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As we reported yesterday, the Justice for All NC PAC is poised for a last-minute ad blitz supporting Republican-endorsed candidates for the state Supreme Court, after receiving a fresh infusion of $400,000 from the Republican State Leadership Committee this past week.

Now it appears that at least of some of that money is going toward a television ad from the Louisiana-based Innovative Advertising – which goes by the tagline “People Who Think” — supporting conservative Winston-Salem lawyer Mike Robinson, who’s challenging incumbent Justice Cheri Beasley.

The people who think didn’t have to dig too deep into the innovation barrel for this one, though.

Instead they’ve recycled the Paul Newby banjo ad (watch above) — also their creation — this time replacing the banjo with a guitar and the catch phrase from “Newby Tough but Fair” to “I Like Mike.”

Read more here from Chris Kromm at Facing South, and watch the Robinson video below.

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Commentary

NCGA folliesThe follies of the North Carolina General Assembly and its shortsighted attitudes toward public education (and public service in general) are neatly illustrated by two stories in this morning’s Winston-Salem Journal.

In “Who’s a teacher? The legislature wrongly decides,” reporter Scott Sexton tells the story of  veteran teacher named Patti Morrison who, because of the absurd, complex and bureaucratic new teacher pay plan and teacher redefinition laws adopted this year by the General Assembly and Governor McCrory, is now considered “a person who is employed to fill a full-time, permanent position.”

As Sexton reports:

“So for someone such as Morrison, who is teaching reading to elementary school kids on a part-time basis, or a certified teacher who is filling a temporary classroom position, that means they’re technically no longer considered teachers.

Instead, they’re lumped into a more disposable employment category. They’re now considered ‘at-will employees,’ those ‘not entitled to the employment protections provided a career employee or probationary teacher,’ according to House Bill 719.

That might seem like an exercise in semantics to you or me, but to Morrison it amounts to a body blow. To her, the state stripped her of a key part of her identity. She chose to become a teacher because she could see the profound impact she could have on young lives.”

Story two is this editorial entitled “Paying more than twice as much, thanks to legislature.”  In it, the Journal tells the ridiculous story of the Forsyth County school system which used to make use of a Department of Transportation crew to fix parking lots. Now, thanks to the General Assembly and the Governor and their never-ending commitment to the “genius of the free market,” the school system is paying twice as much to private contractors to do the same job:

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