News

Legislators will attempt to override Cooper’s veto of “The Electoral Freedom Act” on Tuesday (video)

Legislative leaders reportedly will attempt to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of Senate Bill 656 next week.

The so-called “Electoral Freedom Act” eases ballot access requirements for third party candidates, but also seeks to eliminates next year’s primary election for judicial races and district attorneys.

As Melissa Boughton explains in her story today, the move by lawmakers to redraw judicial and prosecutorial districts is drawing concern from national groups:

Anyone who has been following General Assembly news this year should not be surprised. Douglas Keith, counsel with the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, said the state has been “more effective than most” at getting bills passed in what appears to be a trend across the nation to manipulate state courts for partisan advantage.

The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law is a nonpartisan law and policy institute that seeks to improve our systems of democracy and justice. Its staff regularly studies and analyzes judicial changes across the nation, including in North Carolina.

“The courts’ role in our democracy is to protect rights and uphold the rule of law, particularly when it comes to the other political branches,” Keith said. “To do this, judges need to be able to act independently and without fear of retribution from the political branches, and the public needs to have confidence that courts are not just another political actor.”

Rep. Graig Meyer is also voicing criticism about the effort by Republican legislative leaders to manipulate the state court system for political advantage. Meyer tells NC Policy Watch that eliminating the primary, as SB 656 would do, is one of the ‘worst forms of government.’

Meyer appears this weekend on News & Views with Chris Fitzsimon. Click below for a preview of that radio interview:

Commentary

What you should know about Trump’s latest disastrous action on healthcare

A statement from the North Carolina Justice Center (the parent organization of NC Policy Watch) explains today’s potentially disastrous Trump administration effort to further undermine the Affordable care Act:

Trump Executive Order Jeopardizes Health Care Affordability and Access for North Carolinians with Pre-Existing Conditions
Order will bring back junk insurance plans, destabilizing health insurance markets, increasing premiums for older and sicker people, and weakening consumer protections

RALEIGH (October 12, 2017) — Today, the Trump administration announced an executive order that continues the pattern of previous efforts—including increasing premiums in 2018 by holding payments to insurers hostage, slashing funding for outreach and promotion by 90 percent, gutting funding for in-person enrollment assistance, and using taxpayer dollars to create pro-repeal ads, among others—to sabotage the Affordable Care Act.

The executive order itself instructs federal agencies to explore regulatory changes that could severely destabilize the insurance market; in particular, expanding the sale and use of short-term, limited-duration policies as year-round coverage options jeopardizes consumer protections.

By expanding the sale of loosely-regulated short-term plans, the order aims to pull out young and healthy enrollees from the Marketplace and put them into bare-bones policies with sky-high deductibles, dollar- and service-limits on coverage, and pre-existing condition discrimination. By trying to create a parallel health insurance market for the young and healthy, the Trump administration would make the ACA’s Marketplace look like a de facto high risk pool, as low-risk consumers are siphoned off into junk insurance markets.

“Even the young and healthy consumers who get lured into these junk plans will eventually suffer: after all, healthy people can become sick people,” said Brendan Riley, Policy Analyst for the NC Justice Center’s Health Advocacy Project. “The healthy eventually need health care, but they may be left without coverage for their new conditions or without protection against financial ruin when the unexpected—an illness or an accident—happens.”

Expanding access to association health plans could also destabilize and segment the health insurance market. Regulatory changes could allow these plans to play by different rules, undermining consumer protections, enabling discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions, and weakening the oversight authority of state regulators. In particular, if these plans can be sold to self-employed individuals, they will further segment and destabilize the individual insurance market.

This executive order comes less than a month before the Open Enrollment period for 2018 begins. Consumers may be confused by all the headlines and political attacks on health care, but they can still enroll during the shorter Open Enrollment period starting November 1 and ending December 15. More than 9 out of 10 North Carolinians who enroll qualify for financial help to reduce their costs, and North Carolinians can schedule a free in-person appointment with an expert by calling 1-855-733-3711 or logging on to www.NCNavigator.net

News

Who are the UNC Board of Governors task forces? We’d love to tell you.

If you’ve been following our coverage of the UNC Board of Governors the last few weeks, you’ll have seen us write about two task forces: one on how the board conducts its meetings and another on the purpose of UNC General Administration.

Yesterday, we also attended a sub-committee meeting on a “free expression” policy being drafted for the University system.

A simple question will have occurred to many readers of these stories:

Just which members of the Board of Governors make up these task forces and sub-committees?

It’s a good question and we’d love to tell you. We’ve been asking over the last two weeks ourselves.

But so far, no list of the members of these task forces and sub-committees has been made publicly available and our request for their membership has not been answered.

Any member of the full board can attend the task force and sub-committee meetings – live or via tele-conference – and many who are not technically part of the smaller groups do, out of curiosity and to keep on top of the issues. But the question of just which members have been appointed to them remains…well, a question. Attending the meetings and noting every member there doesn’t properly answer it…and so far, no one else and nothing else does either.

A list of all Board of Governors members exists on the board’s section of the University system website – as does the membership of standing committees. But the task forces, which are doing important work that will make its way to the full board, have not gotten the same treatment.

The task forces were constituted at the board’s last full meeting, last month…but since the minutes of that meeting have not yet been approved and posted, no member of the public who wasn’t actually in the meeting currently has access to that information. The minutes of last month’s meeting won’t be approved and posted until after the board’s *next* meeting — which is in November.

We have some other outstanding requests for documents related to the board and the UNC system – things that may take a little while to compile and for which we understand having to wait a reasonable period.

But something as simple as the membership of task forces – which, incidentally, do not seem to be publishing their agendas or related meeting documents in any way that is accessible to the public – seems simple enough to provide as a matter of course. It’s the sort of thing small town boards of aldermen have no trouble getting up on publicly available websites before their task forces and sub-groups meet.

We’ll keep attending these meetings, keep informing you about them and – as soon as we can actually confirm their official membership – we’ll get that to you, too.

NC Budget and Tax Center

House GOP passes budget to slash Medicaid and Medicare by $1.5 Trillion over the next 10 years

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a federal budget for 2018 that calls for more than $5 trillion in cuts over the next 10 years to multiple important programs that help communities and working families all across America.

It also contains the latest in a series of backdoor approaches to reduce health insurance coverage for millions of Americans by proposing deep cuts to Medicaid and Medicare after the attempted repeal of the Affordable Healthcare Act was not successful. Instead of working on ways to stabilize health-insurance markets congressional leaders are now directly attempting to disrupt health care by cutting effective health care program budgets that have previously received bipartisan support and helped millions of Americans for over 50 years.

The House passed budget cuts Medicaid by $1 trillion and Medicare by more than $470 billion over the next 10 years. Medicaid provides health coverage to eligible low-income adults, children, pregnant women, elderly adults, and people with disabilities, while Medicare serves individuals 65 or older and people with End-Stage Renal Disease (permanent kidney failure requiring dialysis or a transplant).

These drastic budget cuts mean more than two million North Carolinians enrolled in Medicaid and the 1.2 million enrolled in Medicare, as well as those that could qualify in the coming years, would be affected by eliminated and reduced services. Additionally, North Carolina’s own budget would also be affected as Congress plans to shift massive costs to the states.

So what happens next? The U.S. Senate is planning to pass its own version of the federal budget as early as next week. In the meantime, it will be important for North Carolina’s congressional delegation to stand up for our health and well-being back home. Taken together, the House passed budget and the tax plan recently proposed by President Trump would do the very opposite by reducing federal revenue by $2.4 trillion, increasing the deficit by $1.5 trillion, and giving 67 percent of the tax cuts to the richest 1 percent of Americans in 2018.

Luis A. Toledo is a Public Policy Analyst for the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the North Carolina Justice Center.

News

UNC Board of Governors committee crafting “free expression” policy

A UNC Board of Governors committee has begun crafting a controversial “free expression policy” called for by a bill passed earlier this summer.

The bill, which initially stalled in the House before changes allowed it to become law in July, aims to “restore and preserve free speech” by having the UNC system create a uniform system for punishing any student, faculty or staff member who…

“..substantially disrupts the functioning of the constituent institution or substantially interferes with the protected free expression rights of others, including protests and demonstrations that infringe upon the rights of others to engage in and listen to expressive activity when the expressive activity has been scheduled pursuant to this policy or is located in a nonpublic forum.”

It is part of a wave of such bills in reaction to protests and violence on campuses like the University of California at Berkley and The University of Virginia. The movement has been largely driven by conservative lawmakers in reaction to protests against conservative speakers and organizations demonstrating on campuses.

The Committee on University Governance, Free Expression Policy Subcommittee met in Chapel Hill Wednesday to talk about how the policy should be crafted and implemented.

The consensus among sub-committee members: the current draft of the policy is too lenient.

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