Phil BergerWhat’s this? Did I read that right?

Yes here it is, dated  Monday, July 14: “Berger: Budget delay is incompetence”

And here’s Senator Berger’s lead quote:

“For the average person, when they have a deadline and they need to get something done, they are held accountable,” said Berger, an Eden Republican, at the weekly Republican news conference.

What the heck is going on? Has North Carolina’s Senate President Pro Tem had some kind of  revelation? Did he meet with a therapist or member of the clergy and decide to bare his soul? I mean, what could have possibly spurred such a powerful admission/confession?

Wait a minute. Oh, now I see; the article is dated Monday July 14, 2009. Berger was talking about the Democrats  — you know, the folks who were desperately trying to wend their way through the fallout from the worst economic crisis in 75 years.

Obviously, Berger wouldn’t use such language to describe the current situation — you know, the one in which state leaders are calling each other insulting names and just generally acting like children as they work diligently not to solve myriad problems – most notably an unnecessary budget shortfall – of their own creation.

Glad that’s cleared up.

Voting rightsThanks to the opinion editors of the Greenville Daily Reflector this morning for republishing an excellent Charlotte Observer editorial that may have gotten lost in the shuffle for a lot of folks when it ran originally over the Fourth of July weekend. The essay deserves to be reprinted repeatedly and, as they say down on Jones Street, “spread upon the record.”

This is what happens when politics and ideology overrule common sense. In their zeal to “reform” the voting system in North Carolina, Republican lawmakers pushed through a change that has created confusion, more work and wasted money.

That change was to end preregistration of teens so once they reached voting age, they would automatically be registered to vote. And they could do so at state driver’s license offices which would make it a one-stop convenience for newly licensed young drivers.

Not surprisingly, it was an effective voter registration move. More than 150,000 young people preregistered from the time the program went into effect in 2010 to September 2013. By the way, the policy was adopted in 2009 with bipartisan legislative support.

Read More

School vouchersSchool voucher money could be in the hands of families and schools one month earlier than planned for the upcoming school year—and prior to a court date that could rule the program unconstitutional.

According to an updated schedule published on June 20 on the N.C.  State Education Assistance Authority’s website, funds for the school vouchers, formally known as taxpayer-funded Opportunity Scholarships that are worth up to $4,200 per student annually to attend a private school, are now scheduled to be delivered to schools on August 15.

The money for school vouchers was previously scheduled for disbursement September 15, according an affidavit by Elizabeth McDuffie of the NC SEAA. But a court date that had been scheduled for August 22 could halt the program before school starts if Judge Robert H. Hobgood rules the voucher program unconstitutional.

Attorneys filed a motion late last week to block the early disbursement of funds, concerned about the harm that could result from providing families with potentially worthless vouchers just as they send their kids to private schools this fall. A hearing to consider delaying the disbursement of funds until after the court decides if the program should go forward will take place this Friday at 3:30p.m.

“If funds are distributed to parents and schools to support a program that is going to be declared unconstitutional in late August, then the state is put in the position of having to retrieve that money from hundreds of schools, and parents who are relying on these vouchers are going to find that the voucher is worthless,” said Burton Craige, attorney for plaintiffs who are challenging the constitutionality of the voucher program.

“So this disrupts parents, children, schools, and the state in its use of taxpayer funds.”

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Gov. Pat McCrory is facing scrutiny over his decision to name a fairly unknown Fuquay-Varina woman as the state’s top poet.

Valerie Macon was named Friday as North Carolina’s poet laureate, and has self-published two collections of poetry through a small Sylva-based publisher, Old Mountain Press. (Click here and here to read some of her poems).

The state poet laureate position is largely ceremonial but past poet laureates have received stipends of up to $15,000 from the N.C. Arts Council for proposed work over a two-year period.

N.C. Poet Laureate Valerie Macon (Provided by N.C. Arts Council)

N.C. Poet Laureate Valerie Macon (Provided by N.C. Arts Council)

As the Charlotte Observer’s Dannye Romine Powell first reported Sunday, McCrory bypassed a route favored by his predecessors to consult and seek recommendations from the N.C. Arts Council, a state-run group under the state’s cultural resources department.

The arts council, which consists of board members appointed by the governor, sent out a statement Monday backing McCrory.

“While past appointments included a selection committee, it is not required as part of the selection process,” the statement from the council states. “It is the Governor’s appointment and the prerogative of his office to select the state’s Poet Laureate. The North Carolina Arts Council is looking forward to working with Ms. Macon in her term.”

Past poet laureates told the Observer while they would support Macon in her new role, that  McCrory’s decision would hurt the state’s strong literary tradition.

Greensboro’s Fred Chappell, who was North Carolina’s poet laureate from 1997 to 2002,  described McCrory’s appointment of Macon to the Observer as an “arbitrary seizure of power that’s liable to result in unfortunate circumstances.”

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2014/07/14/5043559/former-poets-laureate-take-high.html#storylink=cpy

It’s unclear how McCrory came to select Macon, who also works for the N.C. Department of Heath and Human Services as a disability determination specialist.

Rick Martinez, a McCrory spokesman, said the governor generally asks for recommendations and input for appointments to boards and commissions. Martinez said he did not know how what happened in the poet laureate nomination.

McCrory was not required to consult the N.C. Arts Council, Martinez said.

“That’s the governor’s prerogative to make the appointment,” he said.

 

 

MedicaidThere’s new and compelling evidence that North Carolina’s model for delivering Medicaid (Community Care North Carolina -CCNC) is a winner — notwithstanding the often-bumbling oversight provided by embattled state DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos and the attempt by Senate leaders to sell the program off to a private managed care company. (It’s worth noting that the flawed sell-off idea was once also touted by Gov. McCrory and Sec. Wos as well until the two gradually came to their senses over the past year).

Today, in a letter to state Medicaid directors throughout the country, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services at the national DHHS announced today that they are launching a new national collaborative initiative called the “Medicaid Innovation Accleerator Program.” The goal of initiative is “to improve care and improve health for Medicaid beneficiaries and reduce costs by supporting states in accelerating new payment and service delivery reforms.”

The letter announcing the initiative holds up three examples of state innovation success in Ohio, Washington and North Carolina. Here’s what it has to say about North Carolina: Read More