News

As Gov. Cooper presses for HB2 repeal, McCrory acknowledges the law is making it difficult to find work (video)

Governor Roy Cooper opened his State of the State address Monday night by appealing again to the Republican-controlled General Assembly to fully repeal HB2. Click below to watch a segment of Cooper’s remarks:

At the same time, former Governor Pat McCrory acknowledged in an interview that his signature on the anti-LGBT law (known to many as the “bathroom bill”) has prevented him from securing the ideal job since leaving the governor’s office.

The Raleigh News & Observer reports:

McCrory has been appearing frequently in interviews with national media outlets to defend the controversial LGBT law, but he hasn’t announced what’s next for his career. In a podcast interview recently with WORLD, an Asheville-based evangelical Christian news website, McCrory talked about his challenges on the job market.

The former Republican governor says HB2 “has impacted me to this day, even after I left office. People are reluctant to hire me, because, ‘oh my gosh, he’s a bigot’ – which is the last thing I am.”

McCrory explained more about his current situation in an interview Monday evening with The News & Observer.

“I’ve currently accepted several opportunities in business to do work that I’d done prior to becoming governor in consulting and advisory board positions, and I’ve also been exploring other opportunities in academia, nonprofits and government,” he said. “And I’ll hopefully be making some of those decisions in the near future.”

McCrory declined to name the companies he’s working for. But the former governor said that he’s been considered for part-time university teaching positions – he wouldn’t say where – but that academic leaders “have shown reluctance because of student protests.”

Read reporter Colin Campbell’s full story on McCrory here in the N&O.

Watch Gov. Cooper’s entire State of the State here.

News, public health

What you need to know about the Republican plan for replacing the Affordable Care Act (Audio)

If you missed it over the weekend, be sure to check out Chris Fitzsimon’s radio interview with health policy analyst Brendan Riley of the NC Justice Center. Riley discusses the Republican plan for replacing the Affordable Care Act, what subsidies could look like, and how many people could lose coverage under the new Republican proposal.

Also take time to read Health Advocacy Project analyst Ciara Zachary’s take on the replacement plan for the ACA over on Policy Watch’s main site.

Commentary, News

The Week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

1. Unaccountable school vouchers at a crossroads

Unless things change soon, North Carolina taxpayers will be on the hook for at least $145 million a year for a voucher scheme that funds private, mostly religious schools with no idea about what the schools teach or how most of the students are doing academically, not to mention that the publicly funded schools can openly discriminate against gay students or kids with gay parents.

Increasingly we are also learning that the voucher schemes are not producing the gains in student achievement that proponents claim. In many cases, students using vouchers to attend private schools and religious academies are doing worse than their counterparts in public schools.

The latest report comes from the Children’s Law Clinic at Duke Law School and calls the North Carolina voucher program poorly designed with one of the weakest accountability systems in the nation. [Read more…]

2. Senate Republicans look to “Trumpify” NC’s tax code
Latest crude, simplistic and shortsighted proposal would wreak havoc for years to come

Donald Trump has always been well known for his “act first, worry about the mess later” approach to the world around him. Long before he became President, the blustering billionaire fashioned a notorious career predicated upon some crude and simplistic tactics familiar to any schoolyard bully – yell the loudest and grab what you can for yourself, intimidate opponents, deny the existence of complexity and gray areas and dumb things down as much as possible, appeal to people’s baser instincts like fear and selfishness and always, always, always, elevate the present over the future.

Trump’s “me-first-and-right-now” style of operating has been on full display in Washington in recent weeks and now, tragically, it appears to be influencing conservative politicians all over the country. A classic case in point is a proposed constitutional amendment scheduled to be discussed in the Finance Committee of the North Carolina Senate this week. It ought to be called the “Damn the future and any notion that we’ll ever improve education or strengthen any other essential public services and structures amendment.” Perhaps “Trump Amendment” might be an apt shorthand reference. [Read more…]

3. Duke Energy, NC WARN in power struggle over the right to sell solar energy

Faith Community Church lies over the railroad tracks south of downtown Greensboro, an area with few trees to shade it from the sun. That makes for a hot walk in the summertime, but the neighborhood, and specifically, the 11,839-square-foot church and community center, is an ideal place for NC WARN to install a solar energy system on a roof.

“We deeply believe that solar energy is a gift from God from which all can and should benefit,” Faith Community’s Rev. Nelson Johnson and other members of Concerned African-American clergy, wrote to the state legislature in 2015.

But who is allowed to install and charge for that heavenly gift has prompted a protracted legal battle between one of the nation’s largest utilities, Duke Energy, and NC WARN, an environmental nonprofit based in Durham. [Read more…]

4. Cooper-legislature power struggle unfolds at trial addressing constitutional questions

The leadership battle between North Carolina’s executive and legislative branches came to a head Tuesday in what one judge described as a historic separation of powers case.

Gov. Roy Cooper sued legislative leaders, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore, in response to new statutes enacted during a special session in December before he took office that reduce his powers.

Attorneys for both Cooper and the legislators have been in and out of court for months on issues related to the lawsuit, and the three-judge panel that will decide the case likely won’t be the last word, as either side can appeal if the ruling is not in their favor. [Read more…]


5. Senate Republicans move to address lagging school principal pay, infrastructure

Powerful Senate Republicans are moving to address a pair of looming issues for North Carolina public schools: principal pay and the state’s aging school facilities.

Acknowledging well-covered troubles in both categories, a trio of GOP senators—Jerry Tillman, Ralph Hise and Harry Brown—filed draft legislation Thursday diverting millions in state lottery funds to both issues.

Among its provisions, the bill would funnel $13.7 million in recurring lottery funds to a system of increased pay for school principals. In addition, the proposed legislation would create a principal bonus program that lawmakers say could be used by districts to reward principals for strong leadership or school performance.

As Policy Watch reported last year, principal pay in North Carolina is among the lowest in the nation, prompting calls from both Republicans and Democrats to reform administrators’ salary schedule. [Read more…]

Also don’t miss: *** NC Policy Watch captures six awards from NC Press Association ****

News

‘Dangerous’ constitutional amendment proposal would limit state’s ability to thrive (video)

Coming up this weekend on NC Policy Watch’s News & Views, we hear from NC Budget & Tax Center director Alexandra Sirota on Senate Bill 75, a constitutional amendment proposal that would seriously limit our state’s ability to build thriving communities.

SB 75, which could be voted on on the floor Tuesday, locks in an arbitrarily low income tax rate that has primarily benefited wealthy taxpayers. Sirota says this low income tax rate will mean moving forward the state cannot support public schools, public health and the programs that ensure the environment is protected at the necessary levels.

Click below to hear an excerpt of Chris Fitzsimon’s radio interview with Sirota on SB 75 and Gov. Cooper’s proposed budget:

Trump Administration

Older adults, Trump supporters worry about the Republican plan for replacing the Affordable Care Act

If you’re wondering how you might fare under the Republican’s plan to replace Obamacare, be sure to read today’s story in The New York Times.

The piece profiles two North Carolinians who are concerned the tax credits will be insufficient to cover the comprehensive care they need. Here’s an excerpt from the story by reporters Abby Goodnough and Reed Abelson:

Logan R. Cyrus for The New York Times

Martha Brawley of Monroe, N.C., said she voted for President Trump in the hope he could make insurance more affordable. But on Tuesday, Ms. Brawley, 55, was feeling increasingly nervous based on what she had heard about the new plan from television news reports. She pays about $260 per month for a Blue Cross plan and receives a subsidy of $724 per month to cover the rest of her premium. Under the House plan, she would receive $3,500 a year in tax credits — $5,188 less than she gets under the Affordable Care Act.

“I’m scared, I’ll tell you that right now, to think about not having insurance at my age,” said Ms. Brawley, who underwent a liver biopsy on Monday after her doctor found that she has an autoimmune liver disease. “If I didn’t have insurance, these doctors wouldn’t see me.”

The Congressional Budget Office has yet to release its official estimates of how many people would lose coverage under the proposal, but a report from Standard & Poor’s estimated that two million to four million people would drop out of the individual insurance market, largely because people in their 50s and early 60s — those too young to qualify for Medicare — would face higher costs. Other analysts, including those at the left-leaning Brookings Institution, have estimated larger coverage losses.

While the tax credits in the Republican proposal are the most generous for older people — $4,000 for a 60-year-old compared with $2,000 for a 25-year-old — they end up covering less of an older person’s costs. As soon as next year, the Republican plan would allow insurers to begin charging older individuals much more than younger individuals. Insurers are prohibited today from charging the older person more than three times as much as the youngest, but the Republican plan would allow them to charge five times as much. A 64-year-old could see annual premiums increase by almost 30 percent to $13,100 on average, according to the S.&P. analysis.

For people like Alan Lipsky, a self-employed consultant in Arden, N.C., the Republican plan could have a huge financial impact. Mr. Lipsky, who is 60 and whose wife is in her 50s, receives a tax credit of $2,097 a month for his family of four and pays $66 a month out of his own pocket. His family’s total annual tax credit of $25,164 would be reduced to $11,500 under the new plan, covering less than half of the total cost of his current coverage.

“I don’t think the Affordable Care Act is perfect,” said Mr. Lipsky, whose family deductible is $12,000 per year, “but at least for people like me it gives a baseline, and I’m worried I won’t have that baseline anymore. What they’re talking about is unaffordable for me.”

“I’m scared, I’ll tell you that right now, to think about not having insurance at my age...” Click To Tweet

Read the full story here.