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Senate President Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore made it clear on day one of the 2015 legislative session that they were not in favor of Medicaid expansion this year.

Sen. Berger told reporters his position has not changed.

“There is in my view no good case that can be made that Medicaid expansion is the right thing for us to do in North Carolina.”

Newly-elected House Speaker Tim Moore said he’s concerned that federal funding could vanish in a few years, leaving the state in the lurch.

“I just don’t see that as a good long-term play for us to make,” Moore told reporters.

Governor Pat McCrory said last week that he would be open to the idea of Medicaid expansion, if the Obama administration allows North Carolina to craft its own state-specific plan under the Affordable Care Act.

Click below to watch an excerpt of Wednesday’s press conference with the leaders of the NC House and Senate:

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One day after Governor Pat McCrory announced the state would sell the Dorothea Dix campus to Raleigh, at least two state Senators voiced reservations about the deal.

Mitchell County Senator Ralph Hise told WRAL-TV the $52 million transaction was “on the lower end” of what would be acceptable.

Senator Louis Pate told the Raleigh News & Observer he has his own concerns:

“I don’t know that the state is in a better position or not, the way this agreement reads,” said Pate, who represents parts of Lenoir, Pitt and Wayne counties. “I think we need to sit back and take a long look at it before we put our stamp on it.”

Legislators won’t need to put their stamp on the deal, that will be up to the NC Council of State. However Senators could intervene, as they did when then-Governor Beverly Perdue first sold the Dix property to Raleigh.

As the N&O reports:

…legislators could file a bill seeking to amend or revoke the deal, much as they did in 2013. Pate said he “can’t say” what legislative leaders might do, and it’s too soon to speculate on any action. Senate leader Phil Berger’s spokeswoman said he was still reviewing the deal Tuesday and had no comment.

Pate said his biggest concern is the price. While Gov. Pat McCrory said the $52 million will go toward mental health services, Pate says that amount “can be spent in a heartbeat around here .”

Sen. Hise says a decision to get involved in the deal really comes down to the Governor’s plans for relocating the state Health and Human Service workers, who are currently working on the Dix property.

For her part, Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane is optimistic this is a done deal, and the city can begin the planning process for the 308-acre “destination” park.

McFarlane is our guest this weekend on NC Policy Watch’s News & Views with Chris Fitzsimon. For a preview of that radio interview, click below:

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The Academic Standards Review Commission – that’s the state commission charged with reviewing and replacing the Common Core State Standards – meets again this Friday.

With the commission now adequately funded, members should be able to begin hearing from experts and assessing what benchmarks students should master.

But whether the commission decides to tweak the current standards or scrap them altogether is anyone’s guess.

NPR’s Claudio Sanchez took a closer look at the state’s efforts in his report this morning, which aired locally on WUNC.org:

Andre Peek (L) and Jeannie Metcalf (R)  co-chair the Academic Standards Review Commission.

Andre Peek (L) and Jeannie Metcalf (R) co-chair the Academic Standards Review Commission.

State lawmakers say they’ve been besieged by parents who are unhappy with, or confused by, the homework they’re seeing. Other critics see the Common Core as a Faustian bargain with Washington, which gave North Carolina $44 million to help implement the Core.

‘Review And Replace’

“North Carolina sold her soul,” says Jeannie Metcalf, a school board member from Salem, N.C. She co-chairs an 11-member commission that legislators created last July to “review and replace” the Common Core. That’s what the legislation — Senate Bill 812 — says. But now there’s a debate about what “review and replace” actually means.

To supporters of the core, it means the standards may need a tweak here and there. To opponents, it means they must be scrapped.

“That’s clearly what we are charged with and the intent of the legislation and of the commission,” says Metcalf.

The commission’s co-chair, Andre Peek, disagrees.

“Do I believe that the Common Core standards need to be replaced? Are not good? No. I don’t believe that at all,” he says.

Peek, a retired IBM marketing executive, was appointed by Governor Pat McCrory, a Republican and Common Core supporter. Peek says the commission’s mandate is not to repeal the new standards but to answer some basic questions before schools move forward with them.

Questions like: Is the Common Core rigorous enough? Can people understand it? And, has it been implemented in a way that’s going to lead to the desired outcomes?

The review commission has all year to answer these questions and to hear from all kinds of experts, for and against the Common Core. A couple of surveys are also in the works to gauge teachers’ and parents’ views. In December, the commission will deliver its recommendations to the legislature and state board of education. But in the meantime, the Common Core will remain firmly in place.

Peek says he’s confident that the commission will reach a consensus if, and only if, it’s based on the educational merits of the standards.

“And I can tell you right now that we’re not going to be used as a tool for some political outcome,” he says.

Peek’s co-chair, Jeannie Metcalf, does not see a consensus brewing: “There’s a chance anything can happen.”

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Dorothea Dix Property and Raleigh Skyline

Dorothea Dix Property and Raleigh Skyline

Governor Pat McCrory and Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane announced Monday that the state and municipal leaders have tentatively agreed to a deal that would sell the Dorothea Dix property to the City of Raleigh.

“This agreement allows the creation of a destination park in our state capital,  protects state taxpayers and continues to honor the legacy of Dorothea Dix,” said Governor McCrory.

The proposed price for the 308-acre property will be $52 million.

“A centrally located urban park in Downtown Raleigh will spur economic development and provide open space and recreational opportunities for residents and visitors but more importantly, this acquisition secures and preserves property that has historic significance not only for the city but the entire state of North Carolina,” said Mayor McFarlane

The City of Raleigh will have until December 31, 2015 to identify a definitive source for funding the purchase. The NC Council of State will also have to give its blessing to the final contract.

Governor McCrory says proceeds from the sale will be used to improve mental health services across the state.

Click here to read the terms of the Dix park deal.  For more on the history of the Dorothea Dix hospital, click here.

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Governor Pat McCrory said this week he’d be open to the idea of Medicaid expansion, if the Obama administration will allow North Carolina to craft its own state-specific plan under the Affordable Care Act.

Legislative leaders in House and Senate have been far more skeptical.

Sen. Ralph Hise, co-chair of the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Health and Human Services, has called expansion “impossible” at this point.

But Sen. Josh Stein says it would be “incomprehensible” for the Republican-controlled legislature to turn its back on Medicaid expansion dollars again.

“Six billion dollars and 30,000 jobs we would have had if we had taken it two years ago,” explained Stein. “Well, we didn’t. We are where we are today. They made the bad decision, but they can rectify that tomorrow.”

Earlier this week, Brad Wilson, President and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield, also made the case for expansion at 13th Annual Economic Forecast Forum. Wilson told the audience the state has lost $1.1 billion by not expanding Medicaid.

Sen. Stein appears this weekend on NC Policy Watch’s News & Views to discuss the chances for expansion in a tight budget year, as we preview the upcoming “long” legislative session. Click below for a preview of Stein’s radio interview with Chris Fitzsimon.

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