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Pat McCrory press eventAt some point, it’s got to rankle Pat McCrory. The man has been Governor of the state and, effectively, the head of a party with huge legislative majorities for nearly two years now, but when it comes to making laws and policies, he might as well be, well, the Mayor of Charlotte.

Lest anyone think the recent election (in which McCrory’s ally Thom Tillis got elected to the U.S. Senate) did anything to change this situation, State Rep. Nelson Dollar spoke up yesterday to make sure that everyone knows it did not.

The subject was Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act — an urgent and life-saving proposition that the Guv has finally come around on and that makes eminent political, economic, moral and common sense. Conservative Republican governors in several states have already successfully led efforts to expand Medicaid in their states to large and beneficial effects.

Unfortunately, Rep. Dollar — an occasional voice of reason on Medicaid in recent months and, for now, chair of the House Appropriations Committee — is having nothing to do with expansion for the time being. Like the reactionaries in the state Senate, Dollar staked himself out yesterday as an opponent — at least until the state has “a better idea of what the lay of the land is.”

But, of course, mapping “the lay of the land” — both as to whether Medicaid will be sold off and privatized (a terrible idea that Dollar has rightfully opposed) and whether John Roberts will have a change of heart in the latest Supreme Court challenge to the ACA — will take several months at least. Thus to delay consideration of expansion until such matters have been clarified is to all but kill the whole idea (and doom several thousand more people to premature deaths for lack of health insurance) for 2015.

Which brings us back to the Mayor, er uh, the Governor. How will he respond to this broadside against what would clearly be his most important policy accomplishment and first successful effort to lead the General Assembly rather than serve as its affable and pliant rubber stamp?

Let’s hope this latest humiliation stirs up some anger and resolve in McCrory to take charge of the situation and become the one who’s giving the orders in Raleigh for a change.  Whatever happens will be a strong indicator as to whether McCrory really wants to become the Governor of North Carolina or remain in his current and mostly ceremonial role as the state’s chief ribbon cutter and the General Assembly’s errand boy.

News

The Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina released the names of the 17 board members Friday that will oversee the state’s new privatized job recruitment system.

The partnership officially launched in October when the state contracted out much of its job recruitment and tourism division to a private group. A central piece of Republican Gov. Pat McCrory’s jobs platform, the public-private partnership approach to economic development has had mixed results in a handful of other states.

Proponents of the structure say moving the job recruitment duties and $16.5 million in public funding out of state government allows for more flexible and faster responses to leads in recruiting jobs to the state. Critics of the partnership say that the privatized structure encourages a pay-to-play culture, where campaign supporters of political leaders are rewarded or successes amplified to boost the public profiles of governors.

Final decisions about financial incentives will rest with the state Commerce Secretary.

North Carolina’s economic development partnership had been operating under an interim board headed by John Lassiter, a Charlotte businessman and former city councilman close to the governor. Lassiter also used to be the chairman of Renew North Carolina, a political-action committee that can accept anonymous donations from corporate donors and individuals to trumpet McCrory’s successes. Lassiter resigned from the group in early 2014.

But Bob Singer, a Greensboro attorney appointed by McCrory to serve on the new economic development group, remains the head of Renew North Carolina, according to 2013 documents filed with the N.C. Secretary of State’s office.

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Commentary

Pat McCrory press eventGovernor Pat McCrory is reportedly considering calling the General Assembly into special session to put more money into one of the state’s primary business incentive schemes, the Job Development Incentive Grant program, or JDIG.

Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker says the state is pursuing several big economic development projects and is bumping up against the $22.5 million cap on JDIG grants.

If all this sounds familiar, it should. Decker was openly calling for special session two months ago. Here’s what she told the N.C. Economic Development Board in August.

Decker told board members that money in the popular JDIG incentives fund would run out by late October without legislative action to increase the cap. The state, she said, is pursuing a large project that would take 80 percent of the fund’s balance, leaving little cash for about 30 other projects – and roughly 10,000 jobs – that are “in the pipeline.”

“We won’t get all of those jobs even with the Job Development Investment Grant, but I can assure you we will get fewer of them if we don’t have it,” Decker said.

….Decker wants a special session to be called soon. “Several folks have said to me, ‘Can you wait until the (2015) long session?’ We can’t, in my opinion,” she said.

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Commentary

In case you missed it over the weekend, be sure to check out this this editorial in the Wilmington Star News: “Special interests invited to drilling meeting but not public.” As the paper rightfully explains, the McCrory administration’s latest gaffe when it comes to protecting our environment was as offensive as it was familiar.

The paper summarily dismisses and rebuts state Environment and Natural Resources Secretary John Skvarla’s disingenuous excuses for excluding environmental advocates from the meeting:

“His staff told reporters and representatives of environmental groups that they couldn’t come in because of concerns that their attendance might arouse allegations of conflict of interest in the permit process. And attendance by special-interest groups funded by the petroleum industry would not?

What is clear is that state officials seem very comfortable shutting out people who may have some pertinent questions about safety and environmental measures regarding oil and gas exploration. Thursday’s meeting seems to be part of a pattern of excluding people who have serious concerns about the potential for pollution, dangers to marine life and public health problems and even geological ramifications if North Carolina is opened to oil and gas exploration, as Gov. Pat McCrory and legislative leaders want.”

The authors conclude this way:

“North Carolinians of all political stripes are concerned about their natural surroundings and about their families’ health. Keeping secrets from them will not win their trust, or support for drilling.”

Read the entire editorial by clicking here.

Commentary

With massive majorities in both legislative houses and a governor who would poses little more than an occasional speed bump — if that — to their plans for reactionary change, North Carolina’s far right movement appears poised to roll back the clock a few more decades when the new General Assembly convenes next January. On virtually every issue — from taxes to health care to education to an array of social issues — North Carolinians should get ready for a new onslaught of reactionary laws.

School vouchers for every student? Constitutional spending caps to eviscerate public spending? An attempt to confer “personhood” on embryos? New efforts to merge church and state? Just name the extreme/outlandish idea and you can pretty much rest assured that there will be a proposal to implement it and that many such efforts will succeed.

Some, of course, depends on who the new House Speaker turns out to be and just how far he (it will almost assuredly be a “he”) wants to push things. If it’s a McCrory ally or someone like him, it’s conceivable that there could me some moderation. If, on the other hand, it’s a reactionary true believer like Paul Stam or someone of his ilk, things could get very grim very fast.

Observers looking for some inklings of hope in all of this might want to consider some of the ballot initiative results from other states last night in which even very conservative voters made clear that here not ready to go that far. In both Colorado and North Dakota, for instance, voters overwhelmingly rejected “personhood” amendments that would have  conferred constitutional rights on fertilized eggs. In other states, voters strongly supported increases in the minimum wage.

Perhaps these votes will be interpreted by the far right powers-that-be in North Carolina as demonstrations of the obvious truth that voters are not nearly as reactionary they are and that, as much as they’d like to, pushing the envelope with a truly extreme agenda could backfire. Unfortunately, when you’re dealing with true believers, it’s just as likely that they will see 2015 as their “big chance” to do what they’ve always wanted. Based on the performance during the last four years, the latter scenario seems the most likely.