Don’t miss the next N.C. Policy Watch Crucial Conversation luncheon:

Closing the health coverage gap for North Carolinians living with substance use disorders
Featuring Dr. Lonise Bias of the Len and Jay Bias Association and Jeff Matkins of Insight Human Services.

Click here to register

North Carolina, along with every other state, has an unprecedented opportunity to expand health coverage to its most vulnerable residents. Currently, 30 states plus the District of Columbia have broadened Medicaid eligibility with financing available from the Affordable Care Act. So far, legislators in North Carolina, along with the Governor, have blocked these federal funds from expanding access to health care, boosting the state’s economy and bolstering rural hospitals.

Closing the health insurance coverage gap in North Carolina would provide better access to medical services and treatment for 500,000 working poor families. Many of the people locked out of the system have treatable, chronic diseases. An estimated 150,000 are living with substance use disorders. Millions in our state are in long-term recovery from addictions and need ongoing support to remain healthy.

Join us as we discuss these and related issues with two very special experts on the subject:

Dr. Lonise Bias

Dr. Lonise Bias is the Founder and President of the Len and Jay Bias Foundation. Through her pain at the loss of two sons, Dr. Bias has created youth and family programs to reclaim the community and has inspired thousands. She will share her story with us about her son, Len Bias’ tragic death of cocaine intoxication in June 1986 just two days after being drafted by the Boston Celtics.

Jeff Matkins

Jeff Matkins, Chief Operating Officer of Insight Human Services (formerly known as the Partnership for a Drug Free NC), works with colleagues in 60 counties to provide substance use prevention, intervention and treatment. Jeff will discuss how sound policy decisions such as Medicaid expansion would help provide access to care and improve the lives of thousands of North Carolinians.

Click here to register

When: Monday, November 30, at noon — Box lunches will be available at 11:45 a.m.

Where: Center for Community Leadership Training Room at the Junior League of Raleigh Building, 711 Hillsborough St. (At the corner of Hillsborough and St. Mary’s streets)

Space is limited – pre-registration required.

Cost: Thanks to a generous donor, admission is FREE and includes a box lunch. Donations, however, are welcome.

Questions?? Contact Rob Schofield at 919-861-2065 or

Click here to register


Here’s some shocking news: the big eggbeaters that North Carolina’s political leaders had touted as an alternative to the costly and time consuming (but proven) pollution control methods that had been planned at one time to clean up the Triangle’s Jordan Lake are, in a word, a “bust.”

This is from the Department of Environmental Quality’s preliminary report after a year of solar powered water churning:

“There were no statistically significant differences in pH and Chl a values at all three project treatment versus control site comparisons during SolarBee deployment, with the exception of significantly higher Chl a concentrations at the Haw River project site compared to its control site. Morgan Creek project area sites had the same or lower percent exceedances for both pH and Chl a than their control sites in New Hope Creek, but all were above water quality impairment criteria. The Haw River project area site had higher percent exceedances for both pH and Chl a than its control site. These preliminary results indicate that nutrient related water quality conditions did not significantly improve in areas of the lake where SolarBees were deployed.”

Who would have guessed?

No word yet on whether the report will cause state officials to reconsider their harebrained delaying tactic toward what needs to be done. If the response of conservative politicians to any number of far more dire environmental problems plaguing the state and the world are any indication, there’s reason for concern.

Syrian refugee

Image: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

The common sense responses to the irrational fear-mongering taking place over Syrian refugees in recent days are so numerous and compelling as to leave any caring and thinking person shaking his or her head in embarrassment at the performance of public officials of both parties.

As one friend of NC Policy Watch wrote to us this week:

About one million people arrive in the US every day, by land, sea and air. (Yes, many are Americans; but many are foreigners who just show a passport and get waved through.)

Last year, for instance, there were 95,000 international arrivals among the 4.8 million people ‘deplaning’ at RDU.”

Meanwhile, our friend noted:

“The Governor is trying to create a national panic over a few thousand Syrian refugees, mostly women and children, who undergo several levels of vetting to be admitted to the US while also adamantly insisting that many thousands of persons be allowed to buy guns at gun shows with NO background checks. A terrorist’s dream!

In keeping with our friend’s take, here are some more actual details of the process that refugees must endure. As reporter Alicia Caldwell explains at Talking Points Memo, it is lengthy and thorough. This is from her article:

“Refugees who spent years waiting for approval to come to the United States said authorities asked detailed questions repeatedly in multiple interviews, including pressing them about their backgrounds and reasons for fleeing Syria. Nedal Al-Hayk, who was resettled in suburban Detroit with his family after a three-year wait, said officials interviewed him and his wife in separate rooms, asking repeatedly and in different ways where they were born, where their parents were born, what they did before and during the war or whether they were armed, part of a rebel group, supportive of the government or even politically outspoken.

Syrians initially file refugee claims with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which then refers them to the U.S. government. The process has no guarantee of approval and takes so long — Syrians wait nearly three years for approval to come to the U.S. — that experts said it would be a longshot for an extremist group to rely on the refugee program as a way to sneak someone into the United States. The Islamic State group has had far more success appealing to people already living inside the United States to commit or conspire to commit violence. Attorney General Loretta Lynch told lawmakers this week that roughly 70 people have been charged with crimes related to foreign-fighter activity and homegrown violent extremism since 2013.”

The bottom line: Of all the threats to domestic peace and tranquility in modern America, refugees are way, way down near the bottom of the list. Would that our quick-to-demagogue politicians were as concerned about the real threats (gun violence for example) as they are about the illusory ones. Read more on the vetting process that refugees must endure and who they are by clicking here.

Roy Cooper 3

N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper

Since Gov. McCrory was too busy winging his way to Las Vegas for a GOP governors’ confab on Tuesday to make a White House phone briefing on the Syrian refugee crisis, it’s too bad that he didn’t arrange for Attorney General Roy Cooper to sit in on the call for him. If Cooper had been able to join, he would have learned why his apparent echoing of McCrory’s call for a “pause” in the settlement of the refugees was just as ill-conceived and disappointing as the Governor’s.

As WRAL reported last night, Cooper said the following yesterday on the subject:

“As chief law enforcement officer of North Carolina, I support asking the federal government to pause refugee entries to make sure we have the most effective screening process possible so our humanitarian efforts are not hijacked. At the same time, we must not let political fear-mongering on this issue divert our attention and resources from stopping terrorists who may already be here or who are trying to get into our country in other ways.”

While Cooper deserves some credit for calling out the fear-mongering that’s been rampant in so many quarters in recent days, his statement ultimately smacks of a politician trying to have things both ways. As multiple experts have explained, there are no good reasons to stop admitting Syrian refugees into North Carolina. Attorney Kate Woomer-Deters of the Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project at the North Carolina Justice Center (the parent organization of NC Policy Watch) put it this way in a fine op-ed in Raleigh’s News & Observer:

“Refugees, by definition, are people who enter the United States already having been vetted and allowed to arrive legally within our borders. Under current law, refugees must prove to the U.S. government that they have faced persecution themselves and that they have not persecuted others. In other words, these are the very people fleeing the oppressive conditions and violence in their home countries that terrorist groups like ISIS and al-Qaida have created.”

In other words, if politicians want to call for a “pause” in accepting refugees so that they can appear virile and appease ill-informed public opinion, we may have to live with it, but no one should harbor the illusion that such a pause will have any real impact on the ground other than to enhance human suffering.

Commentary, News
Koch brothers

Charles and David Koch – Image:

As multiple news outlets have reported of late, the controversial and conservative fossil fuel magnates Charles and David Koch have spurred a rising tide of controversy in recent years with dozens of gifts to universities around the nation. Moreover, as The Atlantic reported last month in “Spreading the Free-Market Gospel: What’s new and interesting about the Koch brothers’ approach to funding academics” there is clearly a method to their largess:

“Last year, a staffer for Charles and David Koch’s network of philanthropic institutions laid out the billionaire brothers’ strategy to spread their views on economic freedom.

Political success, Kevin Gentry told a crowd of elite supporters attending the annual Koch meeting in Dana Point, California, begins with reaching young minds in college lecture halls, thereby preparing bright, libertarian-leaning students to one day occupy the halls of political power.

‘The [Koch] network is fully integrated, so it’s not just work at the universities with the students, but it’s also building state-based capabilities and election capabilities and integrating this talent pipeline,’ he said.”

Click here to check out a database that demonstrates just how broadly their tentacles have already spread.

Edward Lopez

Prof. Edward Lopez

Now, comes word that the Kochs have offered to make a UNC system school — Western Carolina University in Cullowhee — one of their largest university gift recipients. Under a proposal currently under consideration by WCU administrators, the Charles Koch Foundation would give $2 million to the university to establish the WCU “Center for Study of Free Enterprise.” The faculty member driving the process appears to be Economics Department Professor Edward Lopez, who also boasts the title of “BB&T Distinguished Professor of Capitalism.” Lopez, who gave the “Friedman Legacy Lecture” this summer at the John Locke Foundation, is a graduate of the Kochs’ largest university grantee, George Mason University, and an energetic proponent of “free market” economic theories.

While accepting one of the Kochs’ largest gifts in the country to promote conservative economic theory is, for some, controversial in and of itself, what has added extra impetus to the debate at WCU in recent weeks is the fact that the grant is contingent upon the university kicking in another $1.4 million of its own. Read More