News

The U.S. Senate on Thursday rejected (54 – 42) a proposed constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling. (The measure needed 60 votes to advance.)

S.J.RES.19 very simply would have granted Congress and the states the power to “regulate the raising and spending of money and in-kind equivalents in federal and state elections.”

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) argued the proposal would “restrict the most important speech the First Amendment protects, core political speech.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) called Thursday’s vote a defeat for democracy, adding that Americans must continue pushing at the grassroots level to overturn a decision which “creates an open door… to pour unlimited sums of money into the political process.”

North Carolina’s two U.S. Senators split on the constitutional amendment. Senator Richard Burr voted against the resolution, while Senator Kay Hagan voted for it.

Click below to hear Sen. Sanders during his recent appearance on NC Policy Watch’s News & Views with Chris Fitzsimon, in which he discusses the need to overturn Citizens United.

Click here for Thursday’s complete roll call vote.

For more on the influence of big money in our elections, be sure to check out this interactive graphic by the Center for Public Integrity.

YouTube Preview Image

 

News

Frack-2Members of the NC Mining and Energy Commission can expect a full house Friday when they hold their fourth and final public hearing on proposed draft fracking rules in Cullowhee.

Three previous hearings in Raleigh, Sanford, and Wentworth drew hundreds of North Carolinians wanting to have their say about the state’s guidelines to drill for oil and natural gas.

Hope Taylor, executive director with Clean Water for North Carolina, has attended all three of the previous public meetings. And Taylor recently joined us on NC Policy Watch’s News & Views with Chris Fitzsimon to discuss some of the concerns that have arisen from the proposed fracking rules.

Click below to hear our interview with Taylor:

Friday’s public hearing runs from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at the Liston B. Ramsey Regional Activity Center ( 92 Catamount Road) in Cullowhee.

Can’t make it? Written comments may be submitted to the MEC from now until September 30th. Here’s the mailing address:

Mining & Energy Commission
ATTN: Oil and Gas Program
1612 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-1612

News

Dr. Aldona Wos defended her agency’s decision to award a $6.8 million, no-bid contract to a Washington, D.C. firm to help the state agency better organize its Medicaid finance office.

Wos credited the outside consultants at Alvarez and Marsal with helping improve the predictability of the Medicaid program, which has been plagued for years with cost overruns. This year, the agency projects it will return $63 million to the state’s general fund.

Still some members of the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Health and Human Services were unhappy with the decision to pay the out-of-state firm a rate that amounts to about $473 an hour.

“We had an emergency in the department. We didn’t have enough people, and the right people, and we couldn’t get it right with the information, and the data, and the numbers and the budget, and everything else you’re asking us. That was an emergency,” explained Sec. Wos.

Wos pledged the department would be even stronger when they tackle Medicaid reform next year.

As Sarah Ovaska reported earlier on the Pulse, DHHS is opposed to a Senate proposal that would remove Medicaid from Health and Human Services, making it a stand-alone agency.

The oversight committee will look for another progress report from DHHS leaders when it meets again October 14th.

To hear some of Sec. Wos’ remarks from Tuesday’s meeting, click below:

YouTube Preview Image
Commentary

Art Pope officially departs the McCrory administration today, stepping down from the post of state budget director.

Last month, in announcing Pope’s decision to leave, Governor Pat McCrory called the budget director and former state lawmaker “an important voice and important mentor.”

Others outside the administration have suggested that the conservative donor had too much influence over state spending and policies advanced in the legislature.

Here’s how Pope’s influence has been portrayed by North Carolina’s best known editorial cartoonists:

NC Policy Watch’s John Cole:
Cole-Pope

The Charlotte Observer’s Kevin Siers:
Sier-Pope-1

The Raleigh News & Observer’s Dwayne Powell:
Powell-Pope

Succeeding Pope will be Lee Roberts, a Raleigh banking executive Governor McCrory appointed to the North Carolina Banking Commission last year.

News

The percentage of students graduating from North Carolina high schools now stands at 83.8 percent,
the highest in state history.

Since 2006, the first year the state reported a four-year cohort graduation rate, the percentage of students graduating from high school in four years or less has risen 15.5 percentage points.

The State Board of Education released the results on Thursday along with end of grade testing results.

“A top priority of the State Board of Education is to ensure that high school diplomas are meaningful and aligned with the skills and knowledge that students need in college and in careers,” said Board Chairman Bill Cobey. “It is good news that students are reaching higher standards and graduating in higher numbers as well.”

A closer look at the numbers finds that female students posted a higher graduation rate than male students. Asian students had the highest rate overall, while students considered to have limited English proficiency had the lowest rate.

Graduation rate 2014

Source: NCDPI