News

BREAKING: Gov. Cooper announces he will expand Medicaid, calls for full repeal of HB2, raising teacher pay to national average

Roy Cooper at Economic Forecast forum

Gov. Roy Cooper addressing this morning’s Economic Forecast forum

In a startlingly decisive step that took place on just the fourth day of his term in office, Governor Roy Cooper announced this morning that he will take immediate action to expand Medicaid coverage to hundreds of thousands of uninsured North Carolinians under the terms of the Affordable Care Act. Cooper’s action, which has long been sought by health care advocates and important sectors in the health care industry, would make North Carolina the 33rd state (including the District of Columbia) to adopt Medicaid expansion. Click here to see the current list.

Cooper’s action seems certain to spur howls of protest from Republican lawmakers and conservative advocacy groups that have long derided Medicaid expansion and the Affordable Care Act (aka”Obamacare”) as “socialized medicine.” Four years ago, at the outset of the administration of Cooper’s predecessor, Pat McCrory, North Carolina legislators enacted a law that purports to prevent the Governor from acting unilaterally to expand Medicaid. Cooper, however, believes that he has authority to act in his role as the state official empowered to craft and negotiate the “Medicaid waiver” plan that North Carolina is currently negotiating with federal officials. It is known that McCrory engaged in conversations with the Obama administration on such a possible move.

In order to underscore his belief that Medicaid expansion will provide an enormous boost to the state economy — particularly in rural areas — Cooper made his announcement at an “economic forecast forum” sponsored by the state Chamber of Commerce and the North Carolina Bankers Association. In his remarks, he stated that expansion would bring $2-4 billion in new investment to the state, create between 20,000-40,000 jobs, lower health care costs for small businesses and public entities and “light a fire” under rural communities while stopping rural hospitals from being “bulldozed.” Cooper also cited the fact that Medicaid expansion has been embraced by a bevy of conservative Republican governors across the country, including Indiana Governor and Vice-President-elect Mike Pence, Ohio’s John Kasich and New Jersey’s Chris Christie. In response to expected criticisms from conservatives, Cooper also pointed out that North Carolinians are “already paying” for Medicaid expansion in those other states and that indigent care is happening now, but in the most expensive and inefficient way possible — i.e. via hospital emergency rooms.

While Cooper noted that 95% of the cost of expansion would come from the federal government, he acknowledged that North Carolina would need to come up with several million dollars in state funds to cover the other 5%. To do this, Cooper suggested the possibility of a straight state appropriation, but also touted the idea of “self-assessment” whereby hospitals — a group he noted would benefit enormously from expansion — contributed the necessary funds.

Cooper’s bold action comes, of course, at a highly confusing and fraught time for Medicaid expansion, and the Affordable Care Act itself. President-elect Trump is pledged to “repeal Obamacare” in the early days of his administration and the new Congress has already been taking steps in that direction as well. That said, there remains enormous uncertainty as to the form any such repeal might take and how it will impact states that have already expanded Medicaid. Add to all this the likelihood that state GOP lawmakers can be expected to challenge Cooper’s action — perhaps even in court — and it would not be an understatement to say that the final outcome of this story is very uncertain. All that said, Cooper’s action this morning was a striking departure from his predecessor and perhaps the strongest indication yet that the new governor intends to “give as well as he gets” in the impending battles with conservative leaders at the General Assembly.

In addition to announcing his bold action on Medicaid expansion, Read more

Commentary

National LGBT policy expert authors scathing takedown of Berger HB2 memo

Phil Berger

Sen. Phil Berger

Two weeks after reneging on a deal to fully repeal HB2 and being made to look foolish by Roy Cooper, who rightfully called out the attempted double-cross by Republican legislative leaders, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger issued a lengthy and downright bizarre memo last Friday in an attempt to deflect some of then national derision that continues to accumulate at his doorstep. The bottom line: According to Berger  (and whoever it was on his staff who actually wrote the memo), HB2 is still about keeping men out of women’s restrooms.

Happily, Zack Ford, a writer and LGBT policy expert at the Center for American Progress, has taken the time to dissect Berger’s blather and author a thorough and devastating critique. Here’s the opening to Ford’s post:

Last month, Republican lawmakers in North Carolina reneged on their promise to repeal HB2, a sweeping anti-LGBT law they forced through in a single day last March. In the immediate aftermath of the December debacle, they blamed everybody but themselves for not following through on repealing a law that has generated a massive economic backlash for the state. Since then, Senate leader Phil Berger (R) has constructed an entirely new version of reality to explain what happened.

Berger was largely responsible for introducing a “repeal” bill that didn’t actually fully repeal HB2, then failing to rally enough fellow Republicans to pass a clean bill after destroying any remaining trust with Democratic lawmakers. But the way he sees it, it’s entirely the Democrats’ fault, and of course, he expresses no awareness of the LGBT protections that are on the line or his responsibility for embracing discrimination.

On Friday, December 30, Berger published a rather long post called “Behind the Scenes: How Roy Cooper Blocked the Repeal of HB2,” explaining his perception of events. Here’s a sampling of Berger’s many claims that in no way jibe with reality.

1. Charlotte’s LGBT protections were “radical” and “new.”

According to Berger, when Charlotte passed an ordinance prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression last year, it was “radical” and “new.” Though the protections were technically new for the city, they weren’t novel?—?and hardly radical.

Nineteen states and dozens of other cities have the exact same protections—and some have had them for decades.

2. Charlotte’s ordinance allows “men and women to use whichever locker room, changing facility, and bathroom they felt like using, without regard to their gender.”

This claim of Berger’s is untrue and is designed to erase the validity of transgender identities. Charlotte’s ordinance added “gender identity” and “gender expression” to the city’s nondiscrimination code, but it didn’t eliminate gendered facilities. Not discriminating on the basis of these categories simply means respecting that transgender people are the gender that they identify as.

Read more

Commentary

Editorial: Time for GOP to put up or shut up on “voter fraud” claims

This morning’s editorial in the Fayetteville Observer gets it right in its assessment of the repeated and perpetually unsubstantiated claims of state GOP leaders that new laws are necessary to attack “voter fraud” in North Carolina elections. As the editorial points out, if there’s any area to look at in this regard, it’s absentee voting — an area Republicans always ignore because their older and wealthier supporters tend to make use of it so much. Here’s the Observer:

“Here they come again. The election reformers in the General Assembly are getting ready to make another charge. Given the scant evidence they’re provided so far, they’re tilting at windmills.

But that apparently won’t stop the efforts that are to many people — including some federal judges — a clear attempt to disenfranchise Democrats rather than a move to protect the sanctity of the vote.

State Senate leader Phil Berger said last week that election laws will be examined again in the upcoming session, which opens next week. Berger says he sees a ‘potential for fraud.’

But when former Gov. Pat McCrory narrowly lost his re-election bid, his supporters filed wild claims of fraud all over the state. And every one of them was found bogus — by state and local boards of elections with Republican majorities that were appointed by McCrory himself.

We’re happy to see measures that target real voter fraud. Hint to Berger, et al: Make absentee voting more secure.

The length of early voting periods, the location of polling places and even voter ID aren’t measures needed to prevent fraud.

If there’s substantial evidence to disprove that point, then please bring it forward. But so far, those fraud charges have proved  — well, fraudulent. It’s really time to put up or shut up, don’t you think?”

News

Governor Cooper announces major appointees

News from the Guv’s office:

Governor Cooper Builds Team as Inauguration Approaches

RALEIGH — Governor Roy Cooper today named new members to his senior staff after taking office January 1, 2017.

To administer the state budget Cooper has appointed Charlie Perusse as State Budget Director.

Perusse has experience administering state budgets and writing them to lead Office of State Budget and Management. He leaves his job as Chief Operating Officer for the University of North Carolina system to join Cooper’s team. Previously he has worked as State Budget Director and as a lead fiscal analyst for the NC General Assembly.

Cooper has appointed Barbara Gibson to direct the Office of State Human Resources to work on behalf of the state’s thousands of employees. Gibson is one of the longest serving state personnel directors and has led the NC Department of Justice Human Resources Department for 16 years.

Cooper has appointed William McKinney to serve as his Legal Counsel and advise on legal affairs. McKinney served as Special Counsel to Cooper in the NC Attorney General’s office, and prior to that worked in private practice in South Carolina and for the US State Department.

Serving in the Governor’s press office is Noelle Talley, who brings years of state government communications experience to the job. Talley most recently was Public Information Officer for the NC Department of Justice.

“We are putting together a deeply talented team and I’m excited that these experienced leaders with proven results will help me move our state forward,” Cooper said.

Other Cooper Administration senior staff and cabinet officers will be announced. North Carolina’s inauguration ceremonies will be January 7, 2017 in downtown Raleigh.

 

Commentary

Predicting McCrory’s new job? The most amusing editorial of the weekend

The Greensboro News & Record had a fun lead editorial yesterday that offered several wild and wacky predictions for 2017. Consider the following:

“The General Assembly, alarmed by the appearance of governing in the dark, convenes a special session today to review the constitutionality of Gov. Roy Cooper’s midnight swearing-in.

The legislature remains in session for the next two years, so that it can immediately reverse everything Cooper does.

Charlotte votes to secede from North Carolina and take up residence in South Carolina. The rest of the state mourns the loss of the Panthers.

While the legislature refuses to rescind House Bill 2, Congress enacts a national law providing legal protections for discrimination against LGBT people. With nowhere else to go, the ACC and NCAA return championship events to North Carolina.”

And then there are these:

“North Carolina withdraws from the NCAA and announces it will form a new professional athletic association. Dozens of universities rush to join.

Sen. Trudy Wade runs for mayor of Greensboro. After the legislature extends the city limits to include Republican-leaning precincts in Guilford County, as well as all of Randolph and Rockingham counties, Wade narrowly defeats Nancy Vaughan. But now that Greensboro borders the state line, the City Council votes to secede from North Carolina and align with Virginia.

Former Gov. Pat McCrory, shunned in Charlotte, retreats to his boyhood home in Jamestown and becomes a teacher and bathroom monitor at Ragsdale High School.

New Attorney General Josh Stein, a Democrat, asks the legislature to triple his budget so he can defend the state from multiple lawsuits. The legislature refuses, then impeaches him for not doing his job of defending the state.”

Our take on the list: Given how 2016 concluded, we’re not willing to rule out any of these in 2017. Click here to read the entire list