AG Josh Stein on North Carolina’s opioid epidemic, criminal justice reform and legislative lawsuits (audio)

North Carolina’s new Attorney General Josh Stein was gracious enough to join Policy Watch in studio over the weekend to discuss criminal justice reform, the repeal of HB2, and how to combat the state’s opioid epidemic.  If you missed Stein’s radio interview with Chris Fitzsimon on Sunday, make time to listen to the podcast below:

News, Trump Administration

Reps. Butterfield, Adams to skip Trump’s inauguration, Price will attend

The three Democratic members of North Carolina’s congressional delegation are divided on their plans to attend Donald Trump’s Inauguration.

Congressman G.K. Butterfield (NC-01) issued three tweets Tuesday spelling out his decision not to be in the audience:

Congresswoman Alma Adams (NC-12) bowed out of Friday’s big event this way:

Congressman David Price (NC-04) took Trump to task in his own release, but explained his decision to attend the inauguration of America’s 45th president.

“I will attend the Inauguration on January 20 with pride — pride in our country and the values we must uphold, pride in the rule of law — and determined to make certain that no one, including our president, places himself above the law.

“This is not about Donald Trump. Like many of my colleagues, I am appalled by Donald Trump — his evident disregard for democratic values and his willingness to stoke bigotry and the politics of hatred and exclusion. Grave questions about how he got elected and his ties to a foreign power are currently under investigation. I have serious doubts about his intention or willingness to govern within the bounds of our laws and Constitution, and I anticipate that Congress may well need to carry out our constitutional duty to call him to account. That is my main reason for affirming democracy and the rule of law on Friday.”

The Washington Post reports that nearly 60 Democratic lawmakers will skip the Trump inauguration.


Senator Jeff Jackson: Medicaid expansion efforts should proceed (audio)

If you missed it over the holiday weekend, state Senator Jeff Jackson joined NC Policy Watch’s Chris Fitzsimon to discuss the need for Medicaid expansion in North Carolina, despite the efforts by legislative leaders to block Gov. Cooper every step of the way.  Jackson also shared his thoughts on what repeal of the Affordable Care Act could mean for his constituents in Mecklenburg County.

Click below for an excerpt from our radio interview. The full 10-minute podcast is available here.

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Statement from NC Justice Center Executive Director Rick Glazier: Lawsuit against Medicaid expansion proposal should be dismissed

This evening, Republican state legislative leadership filed a federal lawsuit seeking to halt any attempt to increase access to health care for hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians.
The lawsuit should be summarily dismissed for a number of reasons. First, it turns a solely state law dispute over the power of the Governor — one fully capable of being decided, and one that must be decided, by state judges under state law — into a federal case. This diminishes state authority and the rights of our state courts. Second, the lawsuit is entirely premature as the federal government has made no decision to be litigated.
Finally, the lawsuit invokes federal law and constitutional provisions that are not at issue here in any way. Put bluntly, this is a blatant attempt to place this issue, prematurely and without authority, into federal court because the Republican leadership does not want any state court involvement in the dispute. So now we have a lawsuit that has invented federal claims attempting to put a basic state law dispute into federal court. There may be a dispute, but there is no basis to make a federal case out of it.
The lawsuit should be called out for what it is — frivolous, groundless, and without merit, and it should be procedurally dismissed.

Commentary, News

This week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

1. Cooper’s correcting a colossal blunder on Medicaid, not making one

The folks on the Right are apoplectic these days that Governor Roy Cooper thinks it’s a good idea to follow the lead of Vice-President-elect Mike Pence, Chris Christie, John Kasich and 28 other governors and expand Medicaid to provide health care coverage to 500,000 people in North Carolina and help local hospitals while creating thousands of jobs in the process.

Last week Cooper told a business audience that he was pushing ahead with Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act despite the uncertainty of the future of the health care law in Washington and a state law passed by the Republican General Assembly in 2013 that sought to prohibit the state from expanding the program.[Read more…]

2. Will the GOP really sentence thousands of Americans to early death

The stunning impact that repeal of Obamacare would produce

At the dawn of the Trump era in American politics, it’s important for caring and thinking people to guard against the use of hyperbole and alarmist rhetoric and to avoid making too many “the sky is falling pronouncements.” As was noted in this space last November, there are plenty of reasons to think that some of the worst components of Trumpism can be blunted or even defeated with a little luck and a lot of hard work. And, as North Carolinians have learned during six years of aggressive right-wing rule, the conservative movement is often a fractious, divided and mistake-prone crusade that is fully capable of committing absurd and self-destructive blunders. It can and will be defeated in the months and years ahead. [Read more…]

3. 2017 legislative session convenes with glimpse of what’s to come; call for bipartisan effort among lawmakers

The North Carolina Senate unanimously passed its rules Wednesday for the 2017 legislative session, including how it will consider confirming gubernatorial nominations or appointments. The rule does not state any sort of timeline for the process.

For the first time in North Carolina history, the General Assembly passed a bill during one of the special sessions in December requiring Senate approval over Cabinet Secretary appointees.

You can find many of the appointees Gov. Roy Cooper has announced here.

There was no discussion from Senators about the new rule and it remains unclear when the process will get underway. The Senate adjourned until Jan. 25. [Read more…]

4. Raleigh-based charter school threatened students with expulsion in apparent violation of state law

Longleaf School of the Arts is less than four years old, but the charter school—housed in an old downtown Raleigh church, complete with stained-glass windows—has an air of antiquity about it.

Midterms are underway, and students pack the halls while Rachel Davis, head of school, ushers buzzing teens to their classrooms. Davis, an eminently cheerful woman, occupies a busy corner office crammed with boxed records.

“There are schools in this state that are cherry-picking,” Davis tells me. “Longleaf is not one of them. That’s not in our philosophy.” [Read more…]

5. Environmental Management Commission defies EPA over state’s polluted waters

The best way to experience the swamps and rivers of Brunswick County is by kayak. Enter the wide Cape Fear River via Lilliput Creek – you might see the Fort Fisher Ferry pass in the distance — and head north to Snow Cut. From there, if you keep paddling, you will eventually arrive at Wrightsville Beach and the Atlantic Ocean.

Unfortunately, this 12-square mile segment of the Cape Fear is also contaminated with arsenic and nickel, both heavy metals. The levels are high enough that the EPA has overruled state officials and placed this part of the river on a federal inventory of impaired waters, also known as a “303(d) list.”

This segment is just one of 72 waterbody-pollutant combinations statewide that the EPA has listed, or in some cases, re-listed, over the objections of the Environmental Management Commission and the NC Department of Environmental Quality. (The term “combination” is used because a segment of waterbody can be listed for more than one pollutant.) [Read more…]

****Upcoming event: Wednesday, Jan. 18 Crucial ConversationWhat is the true state of the economy and how do we make it work for everyone?  Featuring special guest, Dr. William Spriggs, Chief Economist for the national AFL-CIO. Register here.