Commentary

The best editorial of the weekend

Prescription to apply for health insurance with personal computing tablet and stethoscope.

In case you missed it the Wilmington Star-News hit a home run with an editorial entitled “Top 12 reasons N.C. needs to expand Medicaid.” After explaining the current conflict between Gov. Cooper and the divided Republican caucus in the General Assembly (some of whom say “no way, no how” while others are looking to compromise) it provides the following list:

1. Too many North Carolinians fall in a coverage gap — they have jobs but don’t have access to or can’t afford employee-based or individual coverage, and earn too much to qualify for federal subsidies. You probably know some of these folks. This may be your own situation.

2. Medicaid expansion would give coverage to more than 500,000 uncovered Tar Heels.

3. Of the uncovered North Carolina residents, an estimated 30,000 are ex-military. Rep. Holly Grange, a Wilmington Republican, is one of the sponsors of House Bill 655. “One in four veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan in North Carolina have no health care coverage and no access to the Veterans Administration,” she noted. We agree with Rep. Grange — our veterans deserve better.

4. In expansion states, more babies lived to their first birthday.

5. In expansion states, fewer women died during pregnancy.

6. In expansion states, the percentage of people with uncontrolled diabetes and hypertension dropped.

7. Expansion was associated with earlier cancer diagnosis, improved access to cancer treatment and fewer deaths from cardiovascular disease.

8. We all are paying more for health care because people are uninsured. The uninsured often receive care in the most expensive way possible.

9. On average, Medicaid expansion states see private health insurance premiums 7-11 percent lower than in non-expansion states.

10. States that expanded Medicaid did not see any significant changes in employer offering of health insurance.

11. Expansion would require zero dollars in new state taxes. The federal government would pay 90% of costs, and the remaining 10% would be funded by hospitals and health plans.

12. There is energy on both sides of the aisle for expanding Medicaid. Now is the time to find a bipartisan way to expand Medicaid that is best for North Carolina.

One could easily come up with another dozen reasons, including the simple fact that it would, quite literally, prevent thousands of premature deaths, but this one ought to suffice.

As arch-conservative Republican state lawmaker and Third District congressional nominee Greg Murphy put it earlier this year:

“I’m not only a legislator but I still practice medicine. So I see on a daily basis individuals who are caught in that coverage gap – people who put off coming to see physicians, people who put off coming to our emergency department, with life-threatening conditions, often-times with cancer. Cancer doesn’t care if you have an insurance card or not.”

Click here to read the rest of the editorial.

Commentary

Weekend humor from Celia Rivenbark: The bromance that makes you lose sleep

Think of the Trump/Kim bromance as the updated version of “An Affair to Remember” and “Sleepless in Seattle.”

In “Trump and Kim: An Affair That Makes Us Lose Sleep,” Trump puts it all on the line. (The updated part is he does this via mushy tweet, of course.) He lets Kim know he will be at the top of the Empire State Building—no, wait, that’s not it—at the North Korea/South Korea border and if Kim doesn’t show up, well, he’ll never get to marry Meg Ryan and the kid’s going to be motherless forever.

You could cut the tension with a rusty spike of barbed wire made into a belt. Just to pick a random torture device favored by Trump’s “very good friend.”

The coy “meet me?” tweet by Trump was as impossible to fathom as the brutal chest beatings that only stop when you’re done vomiting blood in a typical Kim-sanctioned “interrogation.”

Very. Good. Friend.

Will he? Won’t he? It’s the stuff of Hollywood dramas. A meet- cute in arguably the most un-cute location on the planet.

Trump admitted if Kim had stood him up, it would’ve looked bad. Nobody wants to get stood up. Remember how we were twisting in the wind (another Kim torture go-to, by the way) wondering if Tom Hanks would make it to Meg Ryan in time? How we were elated to see Meg turn, slowly, from a corner of the observation deck and we knew at that moment, their love story was just beginning. Glory be!

And, so it was with Trump who didn’t even seem to mind Kim’s noticeable “resting dictator scowl” throughout much of their date. While Trump preened and posed, his hand gently resting on Kim’s middle back like the smitten suitor escorting his prom date into a gym transformed into “A Starry, Starry Night!” Kim looked, well, bored. As in, ‘When can I leave and resume drowning children in water tanks? The best part is when they stand on their tiptoes gasping for air…’ “

Kim’s glowing praise of Trump didn’t match his gloomy Gus face as Trump yakked about crossing into North Korea with the excitement of a second grader playing Red Rover.

“Red Rover, Red Rover, send Kim Jong Un, who has not only lied about reducing nuclear weapons but there’s evidence nukes are actually being manufactured with startling rapidity despite what he tells me…over.”

When Kim and the Supreme Simpleton stepped together over the Korean Demilitarized Zone into North Korea, Trump must have wanted to tweet the Nobel Committee. (“Hashtag “Waiting for phone call from you.” Hashtag “Obama who?”)

Afterward Trump explained his “pop over” to the media: “Hey, I was in Japan already, so I’m thinking why not?”

Celia Rivenbark

Why indeed? I suppose Kim read the impromptu invitation and thought to himself: “What part of ‘I randomly starve to death my countrymen, forcing them to live only on rats they catch with their hands does this guy not get?’ ”

That’s easy. All of it.

Celia Rivenbark is a New York Times bestselling author and columnist. Visit www.celiarivenbark.com.

 

Courts & the Law, News

Court allows some Hofeller files to be used at gerrymandering trial, temporarily makes the rest confidential

The 35 files from deceased mapmaker Thomas Hofeller’s digital documents related to North Carolina redistricting can be used at the highly-anticipated partisan gerrymandering trial next week, according to a set of court orders released late Friday afternoon.

The rest of the 75,000-plus “Hofeller files,” however, will be designated as confidential for 60 days so the political consulting firm Hofeller co-founded can sort through them and determine which documents they can claim ownership of or some other claim of right. The firm, Geographic Strategies, had initially asked the court to mark the entirety of the Hofeller files as “highly confidential” or to destroy all the documents.

“The court is aware that many of the documents contained in the Hofeller files are public and non-privileged,” the Friday order states. “It’s objected through this order is not to shield the public documents but rather to craft a solution that respects potentially legitimate property rights of Geographic Strategies in the subset of the Hofeller files that are demonstrably proprietary.”

The order states that the plaintiffs in Common Cause v. Lewis must turn the Hofeller files over to Geographic Strategies within three business days. During the 60 days the court has designated the files as confidential, none of the parties to the gerrymandering case can disseminate any of the Hofeller files to third parties without petitioning the court for permission.

The order does not apply to the 35 documents the plaintiffs asked to use at the two-week trial, which will begin at 10 a.m. Monday at Campbell Law School. The plaintiffs also do not have to turn over the personal documents within the Hofeller files — those are confidential to everyone involved in the case.

Other courts can still exercise discretion to compel inspection of the Hofeller files, a notable stipulation in the Friday order since many of the documents likely have to do with other litigation across the country. Some of the files have already been introduced in litigation over the 2020 Census citizenship question.

While plaintiffs can’t share further information about the Hofeller files, the new court order does not appear to apply to any third parties who may have already gotten access to them. The three-judge panel in another order also denied a request from the legislative defendants in Common Cause to force the plaintiffs to turn over a list of everyone who has had access to the files.

In that same order, the court also denied the plaintiffs request to force the legislative defendants to stop purporting to designate the entirety of the Hofeller files as highly confidential and to stop demanding that they destroy all the documents.

“The Court’s primary objective at this stage in the litigation is to ensure that documents necessary for the administration of justice in this case are made available,” the order states. “The court is satisfied that such documents have been identified, that all parties have agreed that those documents are not subject to any assertions of privilege, and that the documents likely fall under the public record designation.”

In their motion allowing the 35 already identified Hofeller files to be used at the trial next week, the court said it was satisfied the plaintiffs properly authenticated the documents and that chain of custody issues were not relevant because none of the files had been altered. There could still be other types of evidentiary objections at trial, but for now, those select Hofeller files are admitted.

Finally, the court granted and denied several motions by several parties to the case regarding specific evidence and testimony that could be presented next week. Notably, it denied the plaintiffs request to preclude the legislative defendants from offering evidence or argument related to their use of information in the redistricting process to comply with the Voting Rights Act.

Read the court motions in full below:



18 CVS 14001 Order on GeoStrat Motion Re Hofeller Files (Text)



18 CVS 14001 Order on Motions in Limine Re Hofeller Files (Text)



18 CVS 14001 Order on Plts Motion for Direction (Text)



18 CVS 14001 Summary of Rulings From 7 10 2019 (002) (Text)

Education

Retired teachers can return to work in ‘high-needs’ schools without financial penalty

Gov. Roy Cooper signed into law this week Senate Bill 399, which allows retired teachers to return to work in “high needs” schools without financial penalty.

Educators can now earn $35,000 to $41,000 a year and continue to collect state pensions if reemployed to teach at a Title I school or one that has received a school performance grade of “D” or “F.”

The salaries will likely increase after Cooper and GOP lawmakers reach agreement on a state budget that includes pay raises for teachers.

Teachers who return to the classroom will be paid on the first step of the teacher salary scheduled.

If they teach Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (S.T.E.M.) and special education courses, they would be paid on the sixth step of the salary schedule.

The bill had bipartisan support. Its primary sponsors included Sen. Rick Horner, (R-Nash), Sen. Jay Chaudhuri, (D-Wake County) and Senate leader Phil Berger, (R-Rockingham County).

 

 

Commentary, News

This week’s top stories on NC Policy Watch

1. The budget chess match: Cooper offers compromise; Berger, Moore offer pork to woo Dems for veto override

Gov. Roy Cooper released a proposed budget compromise Tuesday as Republican legislative leaders continued to search for the votes to overturn his veto.

The proposal offers compromises on areas of disagreement from teacher raises and State Capital and Infrastructure Fund money to tax cuts and school vouchers. But on the conflict’s central issue – the expansion of Medicaid for as many as 600,000 North Carolinians without work requirements or premiums – Cooper is holding fast.

House Speaker Tim Moore and Senator President Pro Tem Phil Berger both declined Cooper’s invitation to meet Tuesday along with Democratic leaders, but took differing stances on Medicaid. [Read more…]

Bonus read: Governor Cooper’s budget compromise is a reasonable way forward

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2. Cooper offers revised teacher pay raises, hybrid approach to funding school infrastructure needs

Senate leader slams proposed budget compromise, appears to reject further negotiation

North Carolina teachers would see an average 8.5 percent pay raise by the second year of the biennium under a compromise budget proposal offered by Gov. Roy Cooper on Monday.

Cooper’s compromise would replace the 9.1 percent average increase he proposed in his initial spending plan released in March. His offer also tops the 3.8 percent average increase proposed in the conference budget passed by both legislative chambers. [Read more…]

Bonus reads:

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3. Latest GOP trial balloons confirm Cooper has been right to keep pushing for Medicaid expansion

It’s going to happen eventually. It may not be right away and it may not look exactly like it ought to look at first, but at some point in the not-too-distant future, North Carolina is going to expand its Medicaid program.

The momentum to move forward is too strong and the arguments against doing so are just too weak. Consider the following:

  • A growing and overwhelming majority of states – including many dominated by Republicans – have already taken the step and enjoyed extremely positive results. [Read more…]

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4. North Carolina partisan gerrymandering trial could provide roadmap for other states

All eyes will be on North Carolina next week as partisan gerrymandering takes center stage, once again.

The trial in the case of  Common Cause v. Lewis – the state constitutional partisan gerrymandering challenge – will begin at 10 a.m. Monday and could take up to two weeks to conclude. It’s the last chance before the 2020 redistricting cycle that partisan considerations in the mapmaking process can be reined in.

“Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has slammed the door on federal partisan gerrymandering cases, the battleground moves to the states,” said David Daley, the author of Ratf**ked: Why Your Vote Doesn’t Count. “North Carolina will be the very first test of whether a state-by-state strategy focused on state supreme courts might help curb this scourge on our democracy.” [Read more…]

Bonus read: Author: 2021 will bring ‘unfettered festival of partisan gerrymandering’ after SCOTUS ruling

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5. Environmentalists scoff as Burr joins conservation club

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) on Wednesday joined his GOP colleagues on Capitol Hill in announcing the formation of a new conservation caucus.

The kickoff of the Roosevelt Conservation Caucus comes after President Trump gave a speech this week touting his administration’s environmental record and as Republican lawmakers appear increasingly eager to herald their green credentials.

But environmentalists are accusing Burr and others in the group of attempting to “greenwash” their records. [Read more…]

Bonus read: PW exclusive: Neither Burr nor Tillis is calling for Acosta resignation

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6. Under pressure, superintendent agrees to second enviro study at Moore County school site

More than 10 pollution sources, including two Superfund sites, are within a mile of the new Aberdeen Elementary School

Moore County Schools Superintendent Robert Grimesey has ordered a Phase II environmental assessment of the new Aberdeen Elementary School site, but insists the area is safe.

“My decision to proceed is based solely on persistent and unsubstantiated assertions by some critics that the school board and its administration have failed to ensure the groundwater and soil composition meet standards that are safe for students and staff,” Grimesey said.

Grimesey announced his decision and offered the comments during his superintendent’s report at a public school board meeting July 8. [Read more…]

Bonus reads:

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7. Listen to our latest radio interviews and commentaries with Policy Watch’s Rob Schofield


 

Click here to listen

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8. Weekly editorial cartoon: