Impeachment clouds final week of Trump presidency, divides NC delegation

The final full week of the Trump presidency comes with the U.S. House advancing plans that could impeach President Trump following last week’s deadly assault on the Capitol.

House members will start with a resolution calling on Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment. If Pence and the Cabinet fail to act, the House will vote on impeachment as early as Tuesday.

Congresswoman Kathy Manning (NC-06) of Greensboro shared her account of the attack on the platform Medium:

…there was noise from outside and Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Hoyer and Majority Whip Clyburn were rushed out of the House Chamber by security. The Chamber doors were locked and Capitol Police shouted that the Capitol had been breached and there was tear gas being released in the rotunda. They shouted to take out the gas masks that were in cases under our chairs. We struggled to open the packages and tried to figure out how to use the masks and whether to put them on. I heard a hum as many masks were activated. We were told to stay seated and be ready to take cover.

All at once the Capitol Police told the members on the House floor to evacuate the Chamber quickly. I watched as people rushed to the exits on the far side of the Chamber, some carrying their masks, others wearing them, as the police shouted to breath normally when we put the masks on so we wouldn’t hyperventilate.

In the gallery, the doors remained locked and we stayed in our seats, watching the people on the House floor below evacuate. There we were, probably 40 of us in the gallery, with Capitol Police, waiting, listening, occasionally hearing pounding on the outside of the doors. The police were shouting to each other and into their radios, trying to discern what was happening. One member showed me an article on her phone with pictures of the rioters who had breached the Capitol. The police told us to be ready to take cover behind our chairs because the marauders had guns. More pounding on the outside of the doors, followed by silence and waiting. Finally, the police told us to evacuate by running through the gallery to the other side, and take our gas masks. So we moved, stepping over discarded gas mask cases, ducking under handrails and trying to stay low.

There was no panic — people helped each other and made sure no one was left behind. As we reached the far side of the gallery we were told to stop, duck down on the floor and take cover. And we did — crouching on the floor behind the gallery knee wall, which seemed like the safest place because of the marble façade. Then we were told to take our pins off so no one could identify which of us were members in case the doors were breached. We all stayed in place on the floor, silent, for what seemed like 15 minutes.

I watched the Capitol Police with their guns drawn, standing at the doors, deciding whether it was safe to evacuate. Suddenly they opened to doors and told us to move quickly down the many flights of stairs to the basement of the building. Down we ran.

We made it to the basement, then were directed to a large room where we were to wait till the Capitol was secured.

We waited for hours. Finally, Speaker Pelosi and Leader Hoyer came into the room. They spoke eloquently about the gravity of what had occurred and announced that as soon as the Capitol was secured, we would return to the House Chamber and resume our work. We would not let the incitement of a violent mob by an irresponsible and unhinged president prevent us from performing our Constitutional duty to certify the free and fair election of Joe Biden.

Many questions remain about the security preparations made before, and treatment of rioters by law enforcement during, the insurrection. But thanks to the work of the Capitol Police, the Capitol was secured. Late in the night, I returned to the House floor to perform my Constitutional duty on behalf of the people who sent me to Washington. I was honored to cast my vote to continue our remarkable Democracy.

Manning is among a growing members in Congress who believe Trump’s remarks leading up to the riot and his  response afterwards makes him unfit to hold office.

Rep. Greg Murphy (NC-03) has vowed to oppose any effort to remove Trump from office before January 20th:

Cooper extends statewide curfew and urges people to stay home as the COVID-19 pandemic worsens

As North Carolina hospital beds fill and spread of the coronavirus gets worse, Gov. Roy Cooper extended the statewide curfew and told residents they should stay at home when possible.

State leaders are trying to contain a virus that is sweeping through the state – with critical community spread in nearly every county – and direct the logistics of COVID-19 vaccinations.

The 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew that started Dec. 11 and was set to end this Friday is extended another three weeks, Cooper said at a news conference Wednesday.  The statewide mask mandate remains in place.

A secretarial directive from Dr. Mandy Cohen at the state Department of Health and Human Services recommends more stringent actions:

  • Leave home only for work, school, for health care, or to buy food.
  • People over 65 or who are at high risk of developing severe illness should avoid leaving home at all and should have groceries delivered if possible.
  • Public spaces where people are not wearing masks should be avoided.
  • Stay away from crowds.

“This is the most worried I’ve been in this pandemic,” Cohen said.

On Tuesday, Cooper said he had mobilized the National Guard to help distribute the vaccine.

At the Wednesday news conference, National Guard Major General Todd Hunt said the Guard will be working in teams of six, and each will include two people who can give shots. “The rest are logistical support,” he said. “They can ramp up or down. They can go anywhere in the state based on the state’s needs.”

Everyone is working hard to ramp up, Cohen said. Some local health departments need people to give the shots, enter data, answer phones, or help with IT, she said.

“Everyone shares that sense of urgency. We want to make sure we can get vaccines to folks as quickly as possible. ‘’

Vaccines are still in limited supply, Cohen said. Beyond hospitals and local health departments, the state will look to federally qualified heath centers to start giving shots.

The vaccine rollout has been slow nationwide.

In a separate Q&A session with reporters Wednesday,  Dr. Mark McClellan, director of the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy and a former FDA commissioner, said he would like to see the National Guard focus on getting vaccines to high risk groups that are hard to reach.

“A lot of governors have started calling on National Guard assistance to help with this last-mile problem,” he said.

“There are a lot of people who want to get the vaccine now, who will stand in a line or call repeatedly until they get through,” McClellan said. “I’m also worried about reaching front-line workers who may not have the time, bringing the vaccines to them.”

Plans for vaccinating more people should include pharmacies, medical practices and other community sites beyond hospitals, McClellan said.

The most recent federal COVID relief bill includes about $8 billion to help states with vaccine distribution.

The money should be used to help states ramp up use of the National Guard and on targeted efforts to get vaccines to high-risk populations, he said.

UNC-Chapel Hill launches COVID-19 dashboard, shows 173 infections as students return to dorms this week

UNC-Chapel Hill, the flagship school of the UNC System, has launched its own COVID-19 data dashboard as students have begun moving back to campus.

Similar to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services dashboard, UNC-Chapel Hill’s shows the number of tests conducted, the number of positives, the capacity at the school for isolation and quarantine as well as the number and percentage of courses being taught face-to-face, online-only and in a “hyflex” model. The percentage of student tests and positives by week is also provided in the dashboard.

 

 

Last updated on July 31, the  dashboard now shows 173 total infections among UNC community members — 137 of them students. That cumulative number includes the previously discloses 37 positive tests that led the school to temporarily suspend workouts among student athletes who returned to campus early.

Thirteen of those infections were recorded in the last week of July, before most students moved in to dorms. Students are scheduled to arrive from Aug. 3-10 in appointed time windows.

The university is not doing mass-testing of students, faculty or staff who do not show symptoms, saying that negative tests could give people a false sense of security. That could lead to them taking fewer precautions, administrators have said, and community spread is the greatest danger.

According to the dashboard, the university had tested 1,289 students as of July 31.

The cumulative percentage of student positives is 10.6 percent. The positive percentage for the week of 7/19 is 11.1 percent, 8.6 percent for the week of 7/26 — the last week before most students return to campus.  The current statewide total positive rate is 8 percent.

 

Facing a ‘snowballing’ of uninsured patients, Waynesville presses for Medicaid expansion

State legislators do not return to Raleigh until late April, but leaders in one Haywood County community are going on record now urging the General Assembly to take action to pass Medicaid expansion.

The Waynesville town board unanimously passed a resolution last week calling for Medicaid expansion, desperately needed by the region’s medical community.

Here’s how reporter Becky Johnson reported that meeting in The Mountaineer:

Republican lawmakers who have resisted Medicaid expansion claim it would cost too much. But the irony is that failing to expand Medicaid has actually cost the state more, according to those who spoke at the hearing.

People without health insurance don’t get the early, preventative care they need, and instead wait until they are in dire straits before ending up in the emergency room.

“It’s snowballing and they are showing up in the ER on the tail end of their illness,” said Rod Harkleroad, the CEO of Haywood Regional Medical Center, who was one of those who spoke at the public hearing.

By then, they need far more expensive treatment, and society ends up picking up the tab for anyway, Harkleroad said. The unpaid medical bills are ultimately passed down in the form of higher insurance premiums and medical costs to everyone else.

Haywood Regional Medical Center has to write off $24 million a year in charity care for patients who can’t pay their medical bills. Of the 50,000 patients who come through the ER at Haywood Regional, around one-third don’t have insurance. Those stats demonstrate the pattern of the uninsured waiting until their health is in crisis before getting care.

It’s estimated that there are 3,400 residents in Haywood County without insurance who could benefit from expansion.

Read the full story here.

Conservative lawmakers in the state Senate have blocked any effort to expand Medicaid coverage, making North Carolina one of just 14 states to reject expansion and additional federal funds.

The week’s top stories on NC Policy Watch

1. An infant‘s gravesite, environmental concerns could put proposed Caswell County mining operation on the rocks


In addition to historic cemeteries and archaeological resources, state is concerned about asbestos, drinking water pollution 

Rubbie Francis Wade entered this world in 1921. She left it eight months later, in the summer of 1922.

A descendant of the enslaved, Rubbie was not considered by whites important enough to document. Neither her birth nor her death were officially lodged with the Caswell County Register of Deeds. But we know from her delicately carved gravestone that she was the daughter of Robert and Norah Wade. [Read more…]

2. Critics vow to combat UNC’s “Silent Sam” deal with Confederate group

Students, faculty and legal experts are all questioning last week’s legal settlement in which the UNC System gave the “Silent Sam” Confederate monument to the Sons of Confederate Veterans – along with $2.5 million.

And some are vowing to fight it.

“We’re doing our best to figure out possibly what legal action we can take,” said Ashton Martin, undergraduate student body president at UNC-Chapel Hill.

“We definitely don’t see this as a satisfactory conclusion and we don’t want it to be the conclusion,” Martin said. “We’re going to do everything we can to make sure this isn’t the final decision.” [Read more…]

3. State court cites time constraints in approving congressional maps that are “not perfect”

North Carolina Republicans officially ran out the clock – at least legally – when they enacted a new Congressional map just weeks before candidate filing.

A three-judge state Superior Court panel ruled unanimously Monday that the map can go forward, setting aside a prior injunction postponing congressional candidate filing.

“As a practical matter, in the court’s view, there is simply not sufficient time to fully evaluate the factual record necessary to decide the constitutional challenges of the congressional districts without significantly delaying the primary elections,” said Judge Paul Ridgeway, who read the panel’s decision. “It is time for the citizens to vote.”

The court declined to take up constitutional issues raised about the new map, and it did not rule on the constitutionality of the 2016 congressional map, which was challenged in the partisan gerrymandering case Harper v. Lewis. [Read more…]

4. After Republicans’ latest gerrymandering low, now is the time for your outrage

It may be difficult to say how you are feeling this morning, two mornings after a Superior Court panel — facing the impending launch of the 2020 election cycle — choked down another GOP-manipulated map for North Carolina congressional districts.

But because there are not, in this moment, 10,000 people on the steps of the Legislative Building frothing over the latest malpractice in Raleigh, it is safe to assume there are many in this state who are not simply angry enough.

Perhaps this reflects that roughly half of North Carolina is willing to acquiesce to gerrymandering as a necessary evil because, in this instance, it favors the candidate or the political party of their choosing. [Read more…]

5. Eight errors and omissions of the 2019 legislative session


Well, that appears to be a wrap.

The 2019 legislative session that commenced way back in January and dragged on in desultory fashion for months past its usual adjournment date finally petered out a couple of weeks back. Now, barring some new and unforeseen holiday season power grab – something that’s always a possibility for legislative leaders who maintain only a passing interest in quaint concepts like notice, public input and process – the honorables have absented themselves from the state capital until mid-January. [Read more…]

6. State Board of Ed examines decline in teacher licensure exam pass rates

The percentage of teachers passing state licensure exams has fallen to 80 percent, leaving some members of the State Board of Education (SBE) to wonder if students are being shortchanged by ill-prepared teachers.

A report shared with SBE members this week showed the passing rate on state teacher exams falling from 96% percent in 2014 to 80.2% in 2018.

“I know there are other pathways to teaching, but if you spent four years at a university in an EPP [Education Preparation Program] and can’t pass the content test and the pedagogy test, then we have a problem and it’s showing up in our test scores, SBE member Amy White said during the board’s monthly meeting this week. [Read more…]

7. Sen. Phil Berger sidesteps an inconvenient truth about NC teacher pay

 

Despite having voted to expand the economics and personal finance curriculum in the state’s high schools, North Carolina Senate leader Phil Berger fails to apply basic principles of these subjects when touting supposed accomplishments in teacher pay in his Nov. 25 op-ed in Raleigh’s News & Observer, “Yes, Republican tax policies are working in North Carolina.”

Perhaps most notably, he conveniently forgets to apply a rather basic concept called “inflation.” Ignoring inflation in GOP efforts to convince North Carolinians that teachers have experienced windfalls under their tenure is an irresponsible representation of the reality of teacher wage growth, or lack thereof. While corporate income taxes have been cut by more than 50%, many teachers are, when one adjusts for inflation, out tens of thousands of dollars in lost wages.

Instead of touting “average” teacher pay (in the op-ed, Berger brags that “Since 2014, average teacher pay shot up by more than $9,000”) let’s look at actual teachers’ pay across the salary schedule. Consider the following real-world examples:[Read more…]

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