AG Josh Stein on North Carolina’s opioid epidemic, criminal justice reform and legislative lawsuits (audio)

North Carolina’s new Attorney General Josh Stein was gracious enough to join Policy Watch in studio over the weekend to discuss criminal justice reform, the repeal of HB2, and how to combat the state’s opioid epidemic.  If you missed Stein’s radio interview with Chris Fitzsimon on Sunday, make time to listen to the podcast below:


Raleigh full-time employees to see raise by end of summer

Raleigh City Council approved a living wage policy that will increase the pay of more than 200 full-time city employees beginning in July.

The News and Observer reports that the city currently pays its lowest-level employees a minimum of $12.01 an hour, which comes out to about $24,981 a year. Under the new policy, Raleigh will pay those employees $13.76 an hour – which is about $28,621 a year. That’s a 14.5 percent raise.

The council’s move will cost the city an estimated $500,000 and affect 215 of Raleigh’s 3,853 full-time positions, 72 of which are currently vacant. Mayor Pro-Tem Kay Crowder referred to the change as an act of compassion.

“We work hard as a large employer to offer rich and competitive pay and benefits that recognize how important our employees are,” Crowder said. She ran Tuesday’s meeting in Mayor Nancy McFarlane’s absence.

Raleigh becomes the latest in a growing number of U.S. cities to adopt a wage policy, as well as the 10th North Carolina municipality to do so.

Wake County raised its minimum wage for county employees in 2015 to $13.50 per hour; Durham enacted a $15 minimum wage policy for its city employees last summer; and Charlotte pays its low-level employees $13 an hour, according to the article.

Meanwhile, the state’s current minimum wage is identical to the nation’s wage at $7.25 an hour, which means that a full-time minimum-wage worker earns approximately $15,080 per year.

Advocates have been fighting to raise the minimum wage across the board for years, and while the living wage policies for city and county employees are applauded, there are still issues with House Bill 2, which prohibits local municipalities from enacting minimum wage standards for public-sector contractors.


Sen. Thom Tillis: Voters didn’t give GOP an ideological mandate

In case you missed it: Republican Sen. Thom Tillis penned a column for the Charlotte Observer yesterday in which he warns the GOP that voters didn’t deliver them a mandate to ram through a right wing ideological agenda.

From the piece:

During the election, Donald Trump seized on the nation’s discontent, convincing voters in swing states that he was the candidate who could drain the swamp while Hillary Clinton was the candidate of the status quo.

Republicans should remember that when Trump campaigned, he wasn’t holding up a conservative manifesto at every rally. Instead, his message was simple: cut deals and deliver results.

If Republicans now operate under the incorrect assumption that they have a broad mandate, they are doomed to repeat same mistakes made by Democrats over the last eight years. Democrats misinterpreted the mandate for change in 2008 as an ideological mandate to move the country sharply to the left. They rammed through policies like ObamaCare and Dodd-Frank with little, if any, bipartisan support. Democrats paid the price at the ballot box, and Republicans will meet that same fate if they misinterpret the results from November.

What the vast majority of Americans want now is for both parties to cast aside their petty partisan differences in order to deliver solutions that benefit the nation.

Unfortunately, the far-right and far-left are already mobilizing to prevent that from happening, ensuring that we keep the status quo: polarizing rhetoric, stalemate in Congress, and no meaningful results.

The far-left has vowed to stop Trump every step of the way, even though he hasn’t even been sworn in yet. These extreme voices already seem to be influencing the rhetoric of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who recently made the proclamation that the only way he would work with Trump is if the President-elect “moves completely in our direction and abandons his Republican colleagues.” If Schumer is sincere about closing the door shut on bipartisanship, then Democratic leaders want to maintain gridlock.

Meanwhile, the far-right is already creating their own definition of what “draining the swamp” means. They’re demanding Republican members to go on record supporting their agenda, which is certainly not the same agenda the American people voted for. This is nothing new. For years, so-called “conservative” for-profit special interest groups have attempted to turn every provision in every bill into a litmus test of ideological purity. They promise to primary any Republican who dares to even think about working in a bipartisan manner.

Both the far-right and the far-left want to maintain the gridlock and dysfunction. Together, they represent the single greatest t to producing progress for the American people.


Some on the left saw the piece, shook their heads and wondered if this was the same Thom Tillis who didn’t seem to have a problem ramming through right wing ideological agendas when he was Speaker of the N.C. House.

Others on the right, who have been complaining about Tillis not being conservative enough since before he was actually elected to the U.S. Senate, are taking the piece as another slap in the face.

I always think it’s helpful when politicians from any party make this sort of proclamation publicly – and even better if they do it in print. If and when they then end up siding with the ideological hacks they deride, it makes the work of reporters, editorial writers and the architects of campaign ads – pointing out their hypocrisy – that much easier.

And on the off chance they actually mean it, it’d be refreshing to see them make this sort of statement and actually follow through.



The drumbeat against ACA repeal grows as new and disastrous numbers highlight the risk

Donald Trump speakingAt some point, you’ve got to think that Donald Trump and the members of Congress driving the ACA repeal bus are going to stop and ask themselves “what in the heck are we doing?” The latest numbers from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (remember, CBO serves a Congress that has been Republican-controlled for some time) provide a remarkable and dire warning signal. This is from the an article in yesterday’s New York Times:

“Repealing major provisions of the Affordable Care Act, while leaving other parts in place, would cost 18 million people their insurance in the first year, a report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said on Tuesday. A repeal could increase the number of uninsured Americans by 32 million in 10 years, the report said, while causing individual insurance premiums to double over that time.

The budget office analyzed the probable effects of a Republican bill repealing the law like the one approved in Congress, but vetoed early last year by President Obama.

The C.B.O. report, released after a weekend of protests against repeal, will only add to the headaches that President-elect Donald J. Trump and congressional Republicans face in their rush to gut President Obama’s signature domestic achievement as they try to replace it with a health insurance law more to their liking.”

Republicans panned the report and claimed that they plan to replace the ACA, but as the article also notes:

“But that replacement bill has yet to be produced, and existing Republican plans, such as one drafted by Representative Tom Price of Georgia, now selected to be Mr. Trump’s secretary of Health and Human Services, have yet to be scrutinized by the budget office, the official scorekeeper of legislation.”

In other words, on one of the most important and complex — if not, the most important and complex — domestic policy issues in 21st Century America, the GOP’s current plan is to run the risk of endangering the lives of millions of citizens, while offering up nothing more than  vague promise to do something else that they can’t explain and no one understands.

Come to think of it, that sounds pretty much like the Trump approach on just about every issue at this point. What could possibly go wrong?


Reps. Butterfield, Adams to skip Trump’s inauguration, Price will attend

The three Democratic members of North Carolina’s congressional delegation are divided on their plans to attend Donald Trump’s Inauguration.

Congressman G.K. Butterfield (NC-01) issued three tweets Tuesday spelling out his decision not to be in the audience:

Congresswoman Alma Adams (NC-12) bowed out of Friday’s big event this way:

Congressman David Price (NC-04) took Trump to task in his own release, but explained his decision to attend the inauguration of America’s 45th president.

“I will attend the Inauguration on January 20 with pride — pride in our country and the values we must uphold, pride in the rule of law — and determined to make certain that no one, including our president, places himself above the law.

“This is not about Donald Trump. Like many of my colleagues, I am appalled by Donald Trump — his evident disregard for democratic values and his willingness to stoke bigotry and the politics of hatred and exclusion. Grave questions about how he got elected and his ties to a foreign power are currently under investigation. I have serious doubts about his intention or willingness to govern within the bounds of our laws and Constitution, and I anticipate that Congress may well need to carry out our constitutional duty to call him to account. That is my main reason for affirming democracy and the rule of law on Friday.”

The Washington Post reports that nearly 60 Democratic lawmakers will skip the Trump inauguration.