Commentary, News

Five things to have on your radar – none of which are #alternativefacts

#1 The fate of Obamacare &  the new HHS Secretary – Tom Price, President Trump’s nominee for Health and Human Service Secretary, faces more questions today from the Senate Finance Committee as he looks to be confirmed. Many are hoping to hear from Price on his interpretation of Trump’s executive order to rollback Obamacare.

If you missed it last week, Senator Thom Tillis pledged in his Facebook town hall meeting that Republicans would have a replacement plan in place before repeal, and not leave 20 million Americans uninsured.

So what’s in the replacement proposal?

Tillis listed two of the most popular provisions in the Affordable Care Act — coverage for pre-existing conditions and the ability for adult children to stay on their parent’s plan until age 26:

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#2 Protesting corporate fundraisers – Triangle-area concerned citizens will join Progress NC Action and the NC State AFL-CIO outside a Senate Republican fundraiser on Blount Street this evening to tell legislative leaders to stop raising funds from lobbyists and get to work fixing the state.

“It’s time to get to work repealing HB2 and redrawing their racially gerrymandered district maps, not schmoozing at another fundraiser,”said Gerrick Brenner, executive director of Progress NC Action.

Protest organizers say time is running out to repeal HB2 and avoid a five-year boycott of North Carolina by the NCAA basketball tournament. If not repealed by the time the NCAA releases its five-year schedule this Spring, HB2 could cost Raleigh, Greensboro, and Charlotte millions more in lost revenue.

#3 Top Education Issues of 2017 – Wednesday’s 2017 Eggs & Issues Breakfast will include the release of the Public School Forum’s Top 10 Education Issues and a special taping of the Public School Forum’s weekly TV show “Education Matters” hosted by Keith Poston featuring a one-on-one interview with Governor Roy Cooper.

The program begins at 8:00 a.m. at Marbles Kids Museum, 201 East Hargett Street, Raleigh, NC.

For those who can’t make the Forum’s breakfast, Poston joins NC Policy Watch this weekend to discuss the state’s most pressing education issues with Chris Fitzsimon.

#4 General Assembly returns to Raleigh – House and Senate members return to Raleigh Wednesday for the so-called “long” session. Members will focus on passing a two-year budget and tax reform. Governor Roy Cooper and legislative Democrats will be making the case for repealing the anti-LGBT law known as HB2.

What’s on tap for the environment this session?

Be sure to listen to our radio interview with reporter Lisa Sorg, who covers everything from coal ash, to renewable energy to the new Secretary for the Department of Environmental Quality:

#5 Medicaid expansion case back in court – Finally, a federal judge in New Bern will hear arguments Friday surrounding Governor Roy Cooper’s efforts to expand the state’s Medicaid program.

House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger won a temporary restraining order last week blocking expansion. Moore and Berger will be seeking a more permanent solution this week. The Cooper administration says expansion could benefit more than 500,000 North Carolinians.

The case is being heard in the U.S. Eastern District  of North Carolina, 413 Middle Street, New Bern at 8:00 a.m. Policy Watch’s Courts and Law reporter Melissa Boughton will provide coverage of Friday’s hearing.

News

North Carolina politicos remember former state Rep. Ruth Samuelson

Two days ahead of the 2017 legislative session, Republicans and Democrats in the General Assembly are coming together to honor former state Rep. Ruth Samuelson, who died of ovarian cancer Monday.

Samuelson, a Republican, served as a Mecklenburg County Commissioner from 2000-2004 before serving four terms in the NC House.

The Charlotte Observer notes “she became known for her stands against abortion and for the environment, and for an ability to forge agreements between warring sides. She was endorsed by both the Sierra Club and the National Rifle Association.”

Governor Roy Cooper described Samuelson on social media as a “dedicated leader and champion for our state.”

Funeral services will be held Friday at 2:30 p.m. at First Baptist Church in Charlotte.

Here’s how others are remembering Samuelson:

U.S. Senator Thom Tillis:
“Her devotion to her faith and her family served her well in the halls of the North Carolina legislature, where she worked with both sides of the aisle to become one of the most influential leaders in the state. As Speaker of the House, there was no one I counted on more than Ruth Samuelson.

“Ruth bravely fought this disease with the same strength, grace and dignity that have defined her life’s work.  In doing so, she left a final legacy of unshakable faith and unwavering hope that should inspire us all.  As we mourn her loss and pray for her family, we rejoice in knowing that the faith that guided Ruth’s life has now carried her home.”

News

The week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

Logo for NC Policy Watch series 1. Hopeful signs for the path forward
Trump lights a fire under the American progressive movement; you can keep up and help

Well, this is it. The week that a sizable majority of Americans have been dreading is here and, come Friday at high noon, a morally bankrupt and utterly unqualified snake oil salesman will occupy the office of Washington, Lincoln, the Roosevelts and Obama.

Add the hard truth that this character has been and will be abetted in his contemptible mission by an unholy confederation of reactionary plutocrats, hypocritical preachers and conservative politicians willing to turn a blind eye to treacherous acts of a hostile foreign dictator (and that the President-elect is empaneling a coterie of advisors and cabinet officials that resembles nothing so much as a Third World junta), and it’s enough to make a caring and thinking person fear for the republic. [Read more…]

***Bonus reads:

2.  Wake County urged to remove school police officers following violent ordeal with teen

Ramiyah Robinson bristles at the idea that this—the shocking video of a violent altercation between a school resource officer and a teenage girl at Wake County’s Rolesville High School—is an “isolated incident.”

“It’s not something new,” says Robinson, a senior at Southeast Raleigh High. “It happens all the time. Just because this time was documented, doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.”

Robinson was one of a handful of rain-soaked protesters convening a small press conference at Wake County Public School System’s (WCPSS) Cary office Tuesday, demanding, among other reforms, that school leaders yank all police officers from the county’s schools. [Read more…]

3. Real lives at stake in the chaos in Washington

Never mind the bullying tweets that unnerve allied nations and reverberate through financial markets.

Put aside for moment the disturbing confirmation hearings that have revealed not only ethical conflicts of nominees, but people who either don’t understand the issues handled by the agency they will lead or have expressed open hostility toward the fundamental mission of the jobs they have been nominated to fill.

And for a moment try not to think about even the fact that every part of the U.S. intelligence infrastructure believes a foreign government interfered with the 2016 election to help one candidate win.

All those things are jaw dropping enough and deserve a lot more attention than they are getting.[Read more…]

4. The toxics in the water at Camp Lejeune can be found throughout North Carolina

There have been at least six major wars and nine smaller U.S. invasions since the drinking water became contaminated at Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville. Yet the cancer-causing contaminants are not limited to the military base. Benzene, which comes from petroleum and chemical industries; TCE, known as trichloroethylene, a metal degreaser; and PCE, short for perchloroethylene, a dry cleaning agent, have all been found at various concentrations in private drinking water wells throughout the state.

From 2000-2010, some drinking water wells in at least half the counties in North Carolina contain low levels of benzene, according to the UNC Gillings School of Public Health. However, there is no federal safe level of benzene in drinking water, only a the EPA’s “enforceable regulation” of 5 parts per billion. (States can enforce more stringent standards; North Carolina’s is the same as the EPA’s.) And there are wells in Edgecombe County that have tested twice that federal safe drinking water standard.[Read more…]

Margaret Spellings5. Just when conservatives thought the fallout from HB2 couldn’t get any worse…

At some point, you’ve got to think that Phil Berger, Tim Moore and their fellow conservative authors of HB2 will be saying to themselves, “What in the heck have we done and why? No matter how much the religious right fawns over us, this simply has not been worth it.”

Let’s hope both men moved another few inches closer to that moment yesterday when their own handpicked President of the University of North Carolina — an official who has her own history of dunder-headed stances toward LGBT equality — once again weighed in to remind them, politely but forcefully, of the need to repeal their discriminatory law.

In case you missed it, UNC boss Margaret Spellings told Emery Dalesio of the Associated Press that HB2 is driving away smart people who would have otherwise come to work for UNC. [Read more…]

News

Not headed to DC? Women’s Marches abound across North Carolina this weekend

No doubt the largest demonstration surrounding the Trump inauguration this weekend will be in our nation’s capital, but thousands of women will be gathering across our state to lead what organizers are describing as “a loving, beautiful and creative resistance to the backwards policies proposed by the incoming administration.”

Here’s a listing of some of Saturday’s events:

In Raleigh:

10:00 AM: Meet at City Plaza on Fayetteville Street (In Front of the Marriott)

Image: womensmarchonraleigh.org

10:30 AM:  March Step off
11:30 AM: Rally at Moore Square

The theme for the march is “Women Mobilize NC.”  Reverend Michelle Laws of the NAACP is a confirmed speaker as well as MaryBe McMillan of the NC AFL-CIO and Sarah Preston of Lillian’s List.

Learn more at: https://womensmarchonraleigh.org/

In Greensboro:

The Triad NC Women’s March begins at 10:00 a.m. at Governmental Plaza on Washington Street and ends at LeBauer park in Greensboro, NC.

From the event listing: We see this March, not as a protest but as our being PROactive: FOR rights for all people including all races, religions, sexual identities, the differently abled, the mentally ill; FOR superior public education; FOR equal pay for equal work; FOR paying a living wage; FOR health care for all; FOR Black Lives Matter; FOR women’s health including choice; FOR fair and equitable immigration reform; FOR voting rights; FOR reform of the justice system.

Learn more: https://www.facebook.com/events/106270443196035/

In Charlotte:

Route for Charlotte march.

The Women’s March on Charlotte will be held Saturday starting at 10:00 a.m.  The route will begin at First Ward Park in uptown Charlotte and conclude at Romare Bearden Park. Organizers say up to 5000 participants are expected to attend.

Learn more at: http://www.womensmarchoncharlotte.com/faq.html

In Asheville:

The Women’s March on Asheville begins with a host of speaker at 11:00 AM at the Pack Square / Vance Monument. Speakers include: State Senator Terry Van Duyn, Mayor Esther Manheimer, and Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, Executive Director of the Campaign for Southern Equality.

Learn more at: https://www.facebook.com/events/1074802899295384/

In Wilmington:

The Wilmington Women’s March runs from 10:00 AM to noon initiated from Wilmington City Hall. Organizers note this isn’t a protest. It’s a rally and a demonstration of unity and solidarity.

Learn more at: https://www.facebook.com/events/751925584955970/?active_tab=about