Commentary

Gov. Pat McCrory’s statements on so-called “sanctuary cities” are misleading, inaccurate and alarmist. While the Governor suggests that limiting participation in enforcement of federal immigration guidelines could protect violent criminals, the evidence is clear that the opposite is true.

Across the country, cities, counties, states and police departments have adopted policies that limit their participation in active enforcement of federal immigration laws. The reasoning behind these “limiting” policies is practical: Vigorous enforcement of immigration laws by local police became counterproductive. Victims or witnesses from the immigrant community are less willing to come forward and report crimes if they think their immigration status will be investigated.

The Columbia Journalism Review debunked concerns of sanctuary city critics effectively, noting that “such approaches — driven by concerns over local crime — hardly provide illegal immigrants with anything that could be reasonably called a ‘safe haven’ or sanctuary.'”

It is evident from his public pronouncements that Gov. McCrory is unclear on the meaning of the term “sanctuary city.” He loosely used the term to invoke fear of sanctuary cities when the term is used as a catch-all to describe different types of policies adopted in different cities.

One critical point: What it definitely does not mean is that people who are committing serious crimes such as drug trafficking cannot be arrested and put in jail. All observers agree on this point. All cities and states, whether sanctuary cities or not, have the right and duty to enforce state and local criminal laws and to keep their citizens safe. Gov. McCrory should cease using inaccurate and alarmist rhetoric that suggests otherwise.

As the Columbia Journalism Review put it, “‘Sanctuary city’ is … impossible to define in a meaningful way, and broadly inapplicable to what is happening with immigration in American cities. It is exactly the kind of rhetoric that we need the press to take apart and explain — clearly and repeatedly — all the ways it is misused.”

Regardless of definitions, however, policies that encourage victims of crime and witnesses to come forward and cooperate with the police in keeping their communities safe should be encouraged by reasonable parties on any side of the immigration debate. Ultimately, meaningful federal immigration reform is the best way to allow state and local officials to spend less time worrying about the immigration status of those they encounter, and more on the day-to-day work of investigating and prosecuting crimes. But until federal reform arrives, municipal policies that encourage all community members to feel comfortable communicating with the police are one way to improve community safety.

Uncategorized

Fifty years ago today President Lyndon B. Johnson created two of our most important safety net programs, Medicare and Medicaid. Medicare gave many seniors the health care access and financial security they lacked, and Medicaid gave many children a stable start in life. To help celebrate the occasion we decided to share several historical and policy-minded blog posts about these critical programs from some of our favorite national partners.

Community Catalyst says that we should celebrate the achievements of Medicare and Medicaid but notes that now is no time to rest:

At the time of enactment, roughly half of all older adults in the United States had no health insurance. Today, Medicare and Medicaid cover nearly 1 out of every 3 Americans – more than 100 million people. But there are still millions more without coverage of any kind, or with coverage, but inadequate access to care and services they vitally need.

While a pause for celebration is in order today, complacency is not.

The United States continues to spend almost twice as much per capita on health care as any other western democracy, with far less “bang for our buck,” in terms of health status and outcomes to show for it. Significant health disparities and unequal access to quality care continue to be hallmarks of our health system. These issues pose a threat to the sustainability of Medicare and Medicaid, as well as new programs established under the Affordable Care Act.

The Georgetown Center for Children and Families is celebrating because Medicaid has made a critical difference in the lives of so many kids (They even have a bonus video!):

With 50 years of experience serving growing numbers of America’s children, a new body of research is able to take a look at the long-term effects of childhood Medicaid coverage. Medicaid expansions in the 1980s and 1990s provided a natural experiment for researchers to evaluate how Medicaid eligibility affects children later in life. This longitudinal research tells us that children eligible for Medicaid grow up to be healthier, more academically successful, and financially secure adults than their non-Medicaid-eligible peers. We released a report that summarizes these findings earlier this week.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has a post with 10 facts about Medicaid and Medicare. You should read them all but for our purposes number 9 is especially important:

9. Health reform’s Medicaid expansion is saving states money. The federal government will pay the entire cost of health care for newly eligible beneficiaries through 2016, and many states that have expanded Medicaid have found that it has produced net savings for their budgets. States will spend just 1.6 percent more on Medicaid and CHIP with the expansion than they would have without health reform, CBO estimates. Hospitals in expansion states are treating fewer uninsured patients, and the amount of uncompensated care they are providing is declining steeply. Meanwhile, hospitals in the states that have not expanded Medicaid continue to provide large amounts of uncompensated care, and the states are missing the opportunity to leverage billions of dollars in new federal funding through the expansion.

And, to commemorate the occasion, FamiliesUSA posted its many resources on Medicaid expansion with a reminder that Medicaid protects people from every walk of life.

Medicare and Medicaid were signature health care and anti-poverty achievements that we must work everyday to protect and strengthen. In our state that means pushing to expand the benefits of health care access to 500,000 more of our neighbors to give them a fair shot at living full, productive lives. Fifty years of experience tells us that’s the right thing to do.

News

This post has been updated with reaction from SEANC, the State Employees Association of North Carolina.

The former head of North Carolina’s public-private economic development group received a $30,000 “stay” bonus in January, an enticement that only kept him at the new endeavor for three months.

Richard Lindenmuth

Richard Lindenmuth

Richard Lindenmuth, a Raleigh business executive, was selected in January 2014 to get the largely publicly-funded Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina off the ground. He had specialized in helping troubled companies but had no prior economic development experience.

The public-private partnership, which received $17.5 million in state funding last year, has been a central piece of Gov. Pat McCrory’s economic development strategy, after state lawmakers granted the McCrory administration’s request to move Commerce’s job recruitment, tourism and marketing arms out of state government. The privatization of the state’s job recruitment strategies, which proponents say allow for more aggressive and effective job recruitment, has encountered accountability issues in some states that have taken similar approaches.

Here in North Carolina, Lindenmuth was in the interim chief executive officer role for the partnership until December 2014, when McCrory administration officials announced that an experienced economic developer from Missouri, Christopher Chung, would take over the organization.

Lindenmuth would be staying on a consultant, McCrory administration officials said at the time.

Records (scroll down to view) recently obtained by N.C. Policy Watch through a public records request show that the public-private partnership also opted to pay Lindenmuth a $30,000 “stay” bonus to continue as a contractor while also receiving the same pay he got as an interim director – $10,000 a month, or $120,000 a year.

 

The stay bonus didn’t manage to keep Lindenmuth at the organization for very long.

He submitted a resignation that was effective as of March 31, less than three months after he received the $30,000 stay bonus, according to Mary Wilson, a spokeswoman for the agency.

When asked for the date when Lindenmuth submitted his resignation for the contract position, Wilson responded on Thursday that the public-private partnership had no comment.

N.C. Policy Watch requested a copy of his resignation letter, which was not immediately released.

In all, Lindenmuth received $71,770 for his three months of consulting work in 2015 – the $30,000 stay bonus, $35,538 in regular pay and $6,231 for accrued time off.

Lindenmuth declined to comment for this article, and hung up on an N.C. Policy Watch reporter who reached him by telephone this week.

Read More

News

“Protect the People”:
Open Letter to Gov. Pat McCrory

Dear Governor McCrory:

I recently read a news story that reported the following:

“‘Governor Pat McCrory has sworn to uphold the constitution. He will not assume powers not provided to him by law and it is clear he does not have the authority to unilaterally stop the issuance of license plates granted to civic organizations such as the Sons of the Confederacy,’ said Graham Wilson, the governor’s press secretary. ‘Governor McCrory will stop the issuance of the Confederate battle flag license plates once the General Assembly provides the legal authority through statute. If the NAACP and the liberal groups are truly interested in stopping these plates from being issued, they will petition the General Assembly. Once Governor McCrory is given the legal authority, he will resolve this issue once and for all.’”

Governor, I want to believe that these were not your own intentions but those of a misguided staff person. In light of the long history of the South and the recent tragedy in Charleston, surely you do not believe that the issue over the Confederate battle flag boils down to one of liberal versus conservative ideals. Certainly in South Carolina it does not.

Likewise I am sure you know that the NAACP is not liberal or conservative but a civil rights organization made up of people of all political persuasions. The long history of the Confederate battle flag shows that it has been used for considerably more than a century as a symbol of white supremacy and racist terror.
Like you, I get a lot of hate mail. Here is just one example among many of the kind of hateful emails that have come into our office since we challenged the Confederate monument bill that the legislature passed and you signed, despite your misgivings about its usurpation of local government:
Email to NAACP

 

 

 

This is the kind of hate that these things stir up, and which the Republican leadership in South Carolina declined to feed any further.

Governor, I am willing as always to meet with you and our team and support your taking the authority you do have to stop the issue of Confederate battle flag license tags and the moral authority you have to invalidate your signature on the bill that keeps local governments from deciding how to commemorate their own history. If lawyers can prove that you don’t have the authority to stop the issuance of the license tags, we will support you in putting forward a bill to do so. It is you, however, who must take leadership. Read More

News
pendleton

Rep. Gary Pendleton (R-Wake)
(photo from ncleg.net)

In a meeting Wednesday where House lawmakers discussed key differences between the two chambers’ 2015-17 budget proposals, Rep. Gary Pendleton (R-Raleigh) said he was all for eliminating retiree medical benefits for future teachers and state employees.

“That’s something that should have been done a long time ago,” said Pendleton after legislative staff outlined the differences between salaries and benefits in the House and Senate budgets.

Senate lawmakers have included in their budget proposal eliminating retiree health care for teachers and state employees who are hired after January 1, 2016.

Proponents of the idea cite an unfunded liability of $25.5 billion associated with the retiree health fund and the need to find ways to reduce that cost. But opponents say cutting retiree health benefits will make it much harder to attract and retain good teachers and state employees.

[Click here and here for more background on the Senate’s proposal to eliminate retiree health care for future state employees and teachers]

Some of the other key differences between the House and Senate budget proposals discussed Wednesday largely revolved around education.

Driver’s education. House lawmakers appeared to be unlikely to waver on their position of keeping driver’s ed fully funded. The Senate is proposing to abandon funding it altogether and eliminate the requirement for driver training in order to get a license.

Chief budget writer Rep. Nelson Dollar (R-Cary)  cited the Senate’s move as a “major concern” and Rep. John Torbett (R-Gaston)  noted that during the last session, House lawmakers came up with a new funding mechanism for driver’s ed that didn’t include using highway fund dollars, which seemed to please everyone. Now, said Torbett, the Senate is abandoning driver’s ed altogether.

Dr. Bob Shackleford, president of Randolph Community College, said they don’t have the infrastructure or funds to take on providing driver’s education, as the Senate is suggesting.

Teacher assistants. Superintendents, a principal, teacher and TA all spoke out against the Senate’s plan to cut TA jobs by more than 8,500 over the next two years, explaining their critical role in making sure that young students, especially those with special needs, get one-on-one learning time in order to succeed.

The Senate proposes taking some of the money associated with the eliminated TA jobs and putting that toward reducing class size—a move that they say would produce better academic outcomes for students.

But Rep. Pendleton pointed out that there’s an additional cost associated with building out the classrooms and schools that would be needed to accommodate the additional small classes.

Wake County Schools Superintendent Jim Merrill said that cost would be significant—about $100 million to accommodate 145 new teachers, in accordance with the Senate’s budget.

For more key differences, check out comparison documents discussed yesterday that are located on the General Assembly’s website here.

Rep. Mickey Michaux (D-Durham) interrupted budget discussions yesterday to ask the question that is on everyone’s mind: when is this thing [budget negotiations] gonna end?

“I don’t want to play Santa Claus here,” said Michaux. “You’ll be home for Christmas,” Dollar responded.