North Carolina’s Senator Burr used to be a fan of NC’s Medicaid program.  In fact, he presented NC Medicaid with a national award for delivering great care and containing costs just last year.  Then came the Affordable Care Act and the decision NC has to make about expanding Medicaid coverage using federal dollars to low-income people.  Now Senator Burr thinks NC’s Medicaid program is just terrible – and he has a simple fix!  Just require people on Medicaid to have a primary care doctor and a medical home.  Whoops – Senator Burr, NC’s Medicaid program does that already and has for years assigned people on Medicaid to a primary care doc and printed the name and number on the back of each person’s Medicaid card.  I know the game in Washington DC is to just make up your own facts to fit your current argument, but please don’t try that back here at home.  Watch:

Over the weekend, the New York Times magazine had this article about pay-day lending, and how litigation efforts shaped up to shut down the industry that primarily feeds off of the working poor, in North Carolina.

The article prominetly featured Carlene McNulty, the director of litigation for the N.C. Justice Center, and her years of work of using the courts to shut down scrupulous lenders in the state. The payday industry is trying to get a foothold back in the state, with legislation introduced (but not passed) last year that would have allowed the high-interest loans back in the state.

From the article:

In 2003, Tonya Burke was living in North Carolina with her two children when she got into financial trouble. She had fallen $500 behind on her rent and utilities, and neither of her boys’ fathers was able to chip in. Then she needed to take time off from work when her younger son, who was only 8 months old, had to have emergency intestinal surgery. After his recovery, she started working for $11 an hour as a secretary, “but my paychecks weren’t enough to cover the back bills and the new ones too,” she says. “I was at a point in my life where I didn’t want to ask anyone else for help.” There was a payday lender across the street from her office. “It seemed like a good solution.”

Even though North Carolina made payday lending illegal in 2001, five lenders got around the law by affiliating with out-of-state banks to offer short-term, high-interest loans. So Burke was able to walk into a storefront owned by Nationwide Budget Finance and leave with a cashier’s check for $600. When the loan came due on her next payday, however, she couldn’t pay it and immediately began to fall behind on the fees. So she took out another loan to cover the first one. And then took out another to cover that one — and then another and another. Eventually she wound up with seven loans, each for only hundreds of dollars, but with annual interest rates of 300 to 500 percent. It wasn’t long before the lenders started calling, she says, threatening with jail if she couldn’t make her payments.

Worried for herself and her children, Burke eventually found her way to Carlene McNulty, a consumer rights lawyer at the North Carolina Justice Center. McNulty had heard about many cases of people who found themselves buried under the fees of payday loans. “Our Legislature said: ‘Payday lending is harmful to consumers. Get out of North Carolina!’ ” she told me. “But they were still here, just as if the law had never changed.”

Payday loans are often advertised as a short-term lift that helps keep the lights on or allows you to stay in school. But borrowers often become trapped in a debt spiral. According to a new report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the government’s financial watchdog, about 50 percent of initial payday loans play out into a string of 10 or more. “One could readily conclude that the business model of the payday industry depends on people becoming stuck in these loans for the long term,” the C.F.P.B.’s report said.

You can read the rest of the article here.

If you missed Tuesday night’s debate at Davidson College with the leading candidates in the Republican U.S. Senate primary, you missed Rev. Mark Harris, Heather Grant, Dr. Greg Brannon and House Speaker Thom Tillis all deny the existence of climate change.

Think Progress recounts the first debate of the primary season this way:

“Is climate change a fact?” the moderator asked in the video, which was posted by Buzzfeed. The questioned produced a brief flurry of laughter from the audience as well as several repressed snickers from the candidates. All four then followed with a curt “no” — though Brannon did append “God controls the climate” to his answer.

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Here’s how the News and Observer’s John Frank and the Charlotte Observer’s Jim Morrill and Ely Portillo summed up the hour-long face off:

‘Despite the need to differentiate themselves, the four candidates found more common ground. All oppose the Affordable Care Act. All oppose medical marijuana. All want to eliminate federal agencies. All believe Russia is the biggest foreign policy threat. And all believe climate change is not a fact.

Each named different federal departments they want to eliminate: Tillis said the Department of Education and Mark Harris said Education, Energy and Commerce, Grant said the Environmental Protection Agency and Greg Brannon named four departments, Health and Human Services, Education, the Federal Reserve and the Internal Revenue Service.’

WRAL hosts a second debate this evening at 7:00 p.m., again with Harris, Grant, Brannon, and Tillis.

Some of the less well-known candidates vying for a chance to take on U.S. Senator Kay Hagan will get their chance to share their platforms on Thursday evening.

Your final chance to hear from the GOP Senate hopefuls comes Monday when UNC-TV will host a one-hour debate at 7:00 p.m. in a statewide broadcast.

FF-coalAshNot that there isn’t good reason to doubt just about anything that Duke Energy spokespeople say when it comes to the recent coal ash disaster, but assuming that the claims advanced yesterday that full clean-up could cost $10 billion have any validity at all, here is one very obvious and concise response that those who care about the public interest might want to offer up:

“Yes, and your point?”

Seriously, did anyone think cleaning up the mess would be cheap or fast? We get it, Duke and we’ve gotten it for years. Your giant and massively profitable mega-corporation doesn’t want to spend any shareholder or fat cat executive dough on something as mundane and bothersome as cleaning up your own mess. Isn’t that special?

Well here’s the deal — or, at least what ought to be the deal: Read More

*Scroll to the bottom for a response from K12, Inc.

The National College Athletics Association (NCAA) has announced it will no longer accept coursework in its initial eligibilityK12 logo certification process from 24 virtual schools that are affiliated with K12, Inc., a Wall Street-traded company that runs online schools across the nation.

According to the college recruiting website athleticscholarships.net, all of the 24 schools that the NCAA has denounced are nontraditional high schools and their courses were found not to comply with the NCAA’s nontraditional course requirements. Other schools not included in that group of 24 but are also affiliated with K12 Inc. remain under “Extended Evaluation,” meaning that the NCAA will review coursework from those schools and accept credits on a case-by-case basis.

K12, Inc., a Virginia-based for-profit company that runs online schools in 32 states and attributes nearly 85 percent of its income to public dollars, has been trying to make its way into North Carolina to open a virtual charter school.

K12’s bid to open up shop in NC has been unsuccessful so far. N.C. Learns, a non-profit managed by K12, appealed its unsuccessful attempt to open up a virtual charter school to the state’s highest court earlier this year. K12. also put forth an application under a different non-profit, N.C. Virtual Academy, to open a virtual charter school in the fall of 2015 (that application did not make it past the first round of reviews, but another virtual charter school application did – one affiliated with education assessment giant Pearson).

But the fight is not yet over for K12, Inc. Earlier this month, the State Board of Education endorsed a report from a virtual schools study committee that calls for the state legislature to test up to three new virtual charter schools beginning in 2015 for four years – and K12, Inc. could be included in that test group.

K12 has run into numerous problems recently, with school districts dropping their partnerships with the company, news of teachers lacking certification, and instances of very low graduation rates.

Last fall, news surfaced of a K12 school outsourcing the grading of student essays to workers in Bangalore, India.

The company has also run into trouble on Wall Street, where its stock was recently downgraded on account of slow enrollments.

*A representative from K12, Inc. reached out to N.C. Policy Watch to highlight their response to the NCAA’s actions. K12 believes that their teachers and courses meet the NCAA eligibility standards, and that NCAA employs vague standards and an unclear review process with regard to eligibility certification, leaving schools to guess at what would pass NCAA’s eligibility test.

Read K12, Inc.’s full response here.