News

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. has vacated a July ruling by a three-judge panel of that court striking down Obamacare subsidies issued through the federal exchange.

The full panel of the court will instead review that challenge in arguments expected in December.

Democratic appointees on the full court outnumber Republicans, and as Elise Viebeck notes in this post at The Hill, the ruling for a review by the full court is a victory for the Obama administration.

In July, the three-judge panel had ruled in Halbig v. Burwell  that tax credits under the Affordable Care Act can only be available to people who enrolled in new exchanges set up in states — not those who enrolled in the default federal program.

Hours later, though, the Fourth Circuit issued a contrary decision in King v. Burwell, upholding the availability of Affordable Care Act tax credits to health insurance purchasers on both state exchanges and the federal exchange.

In North Carolina, which did not set up a state exchange, more than 350,000 residents purchased health insurance on the federal exchange — and more than 90 percent did so with the assistance of subsidies.

 

Commentary

Just because House Speaker Thom Tillis couldn’t stop talking in the debate last night about the alleged 7% percent teacher pay raise the General Assembly passed this year doesn’t mean all the Republicans in the General Assembly are happy with it. Rowan County legislators in particular don’t seem thrilled with the 7% or 5% percent or 0.29% percent salary increase according to a story in a Salisbury Post over the weekend.

Rep. Harry Warren, a Republican who represents Rowan County, said the budget and, subsequently, the teacher pay raise, weren’t fiscally responsible.

“By making a commitment to fund everything that we funded, it’s going to cause some very tight fiscal maneuvering,” he said. “Money was pulled from a lot of different pots to fund the teacher raises. It was more than we can afford.”

Then there is Senator Andrew Brock who doesn’t seem to understand why there’s such a fuss about low teacher pay anyway.

Sen. Andrew Brock, a Republican who represents Rowan, Iredell and Davie counties, said teacher pay may seem low, but ultimately depends on the area’s cost of living.

“When you move away from those large cities, your dollar goes further,” Brock said.

So remember that teachers. Just because you had to work 16 years to make a $40,000 salary, it’s not really a big deal, especially if you live outside the cities. And the state can’t really afford the raise that some of you received this year anyway, so there’s not likely to be another one any time soon, what with the exploding cost of those tax cuts.

With friends like these in power in Raleigh, teachers really have it made.

News

Last night’s debate between Sen. Kay Hagan and former state speaker Thom Tillis included plenty of bantering about who cares more about women’s health issues — most of which concerned access to contraception after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case.

Sen. Hagan called the decision as she saw it — a blatant effort to restrict access to contraception, while Tillis defended the rights of small businesses with a professed religious affiliation and announced a new-found affection for the expansion of contraception by a variety of means — making birth control pills available over-the-counter as opposed to through a prescription, for example.

Of course, contraception is only one piece of the women’s health pie, and a decision out of Texas late last week reminds us that the fight over restrictive state abortion laws continues to percolate in the federal courts.

In that decision, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel — a George W. Bush appointee — ruled that the state’s requirement that abortion facilities be outfitted as ambulatory surgical centers unduly burdened women without any countervailing legitimate state interest.

Read More

Falling Behind in NC, NC Budget and Tax Center

As North Carolina continues to recover from the Great Recession, most of the jobs that have been added pay low wages, making affording even basic necessities difficult for many hard-working North Carolinians. Raising the state minimum wage and reinstating a state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) are two policy tools that North Carolina state lawmakers can use to help boost wages, widen the path out of poverty, and reduce income inequality, a report released this week by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) highlights.

Wages for the least paid workers are no higher than they were 40 years ago, the CBPP report highlights. Yet evidence shows that lifting the income of families earning low wages provides a range of benefits, including improved learning and educational attainment and higher future earnings in adulthood for low-income young children. Furthermore, raising the minimum wage and an enhanced state EITC together works to put families and individuals on a path to financial stability and self-sufficiency. Read More

Commentary
Bob Hall

Democracy NC Executive Director Bob Hall

Be sure to check out the op-ed authored by Democracy North Carolina’s Bob Hall in the Winston-Salem Journal this morning about one of the less-well-publicized (but most cynical and manipulative) provisions buried in the state’s infamous “monster voting law.”

As Hall explains, the decision to do away with straight-ticket voting was clearly the result of one thing: the determination by Republican officials that it would reduce Democratic votes:

In 2012, a solid majority – 56 percent – of North Carolina voters marked one box on their ballots to indicate their choices in more than a dozen different races, from governor to county commissioner. It’s called straight-ticket voting and in 2012, it involved 1.4 million ballots for Democratic candidates and 1.1 million for Republicans. African Americans were about 60 percent more likely than whites to use this voting method.

In an ideal world, our schools, TV stations and other media would teach people about civics and citizenship, the importance of voting, the candidates and offices on the ballot, and how to determine who’s a goat, not just a donkey or elephant. Instead, voting is discounted and election contests are covered like a horse race – who’s ahead in the polls and who’s got the most money behind them.

Given that reality, the straight-ticket option gives voters a handy way to participate in many contests with a single mark for a party’s slate of candidates. That’s especially helpful with North Carolina’s notoriously long ballot, which extends to partisan races for clerk of court, even coroner. Straight-ticket voting allows voters to efficiently, effectively show support for candidates of the party that best shares their values. It makes the voting process less intimidating, more accessible and it reduces the waiting time for everybody.

Why get rid of it? Because Republican leaders decided it hurts their chances to win more elections. The change has nothing to do with preventing fraud or improving integrity; it’s all about analyzing the voting behavior of supporters and opponents for a party’s self-serving gain. Read More