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The Carolina Public Press has this piece up boiling down the ongoing issues media outlets in the state have with a new policy under the McCrory administration to charge “special services charges” for public records requests that take more than a half-hour for staff to compile.

From Carolina Public Press, a non-profit news organization based in Western North Carolina:

In the growing dispute over how much state and local government agencies should charge for providing public records, Gov. Pat McCrory‘s top attorney cited Asheville and Charlotte’s policies to justify a rise in fees. But according to staffers in both cities who handle records requests, the two municipalities rarely, if ever, levy extra charges.

At issue is how to interpret part of North Carolina’s public records law, which generally asserts that public records should be available for free or for the costs of duplicating them.

An exception in the law has sparked a debate between N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat who is expected to run for governor in 2016, and McCrory, a Republican.

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We first reported Thursday on U.S. Department of Agriculture’s warning that it may yank or suspend some of the funding North Carolina receives to distribute food stamps.

DHHS Sec. Aldona Wos

DHHS Sec. Aldona Wos

The agency wrote a previously-undisclosed letter (click here) in December to Health and Human Services Secretary Wos in December telling her the continual delay of food stamps was “unacceptable” and a “serious failure.” The federal agency has “grave concern for the low income people of North Carolina.”

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Ricky Diaz, the young former McCrory campaign staffer, is leaving his position as head of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services’ communications director.

Source: DHHS employee newsletter

Source: DHHS employee newsletter

Diaz received a $22,500 raise when he went to work for the state agency after leaving the governor’s press office and the 24-year-old’s $85,000 salary (which was first reported by N.C .Policy Watch) and questions about his qualifications became a frequent topic of criticism lodged at the McCrory administration.

The agency has been in the media spotlight frequently this year with the botched launches of two public benefits systems, NC TRACKS and NC FAST, which led to major delays in payment for Medicaid services and prevented many from receiving their federally-funded food stamps.

He is leaving to work for a private Washington, D.C.-based political consultanting firm FP1, and a press release from the agency says he will join the small firm as a vice-president in February.

“FP1 has assembled a strong team of some of the most talented and accomplished operatives in politics, and I am excited to join such a distinguished firm,” Diaz is quoted as saying in the FP1 press release.  “I look forward to working with the team to help develop winning ad campaigns for FP1?s clients.”

His resignation comes as DHHS deals with another public relations mishap, after nearly 50,000 Medicaid cards with the private medical information of children were sent to the wrong households.

Gov. Pat McCrory on his election night. Ricky Diaz is to the right of McCrory's shoulder, and Matthew McKillip in on the far right of the photo. Source: N.C. State Archives, Flickr photo stream

Gov. Pat McCrory on his election night. Ricky Diaz is to the right of McCrory’s shoulder, and Matthew McKillip in on the far right of the photo.
Source: N.C. State Archives, Flickr photo stream

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services is trying to clean up the mess created when nearly 50,000 Medicaid cards with children’s personal health information was sent out to the wrong households.

The agency admitted that the mistaken mailings violated federal  medical privacy laws and were a result of human error.

HHS Secretary Aldona Wos informed the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services about the release of private medical information.

Following press inquiries, the agency acknowledged  Friday evening the mailings went out to the wrong household, three days after DHHS staff first learned of the issues.

On Monday, Medicaid Interim Director Sandra Terrell released a statement indicating that after an initial review, the state agency believes human error was at fault while moving data from the N.C. Health Choice system to Medicaid.   Read More

When the N.C. General Assembly passed a controversial overhaul to the state’s taxing system last year, the promise out of the mouths of Republican sponsors was that it would put more money back in taxpayers’ pockets.

But that’s not the case, the Associated Press found today in a factcheck its reporters conducted on the state’s new tax plan.

“It’s true that the state’s income tax rate is going down for every taxpayer in 2014,” the news agency wrote in an article published today. “But that does not mean all taxpayers will actually pay less to the state government over the coming year.”

That premise of lower tax bills, which has been echoed and repeated by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, was scrutinized closely at the time of the bill’s passage and debate, with many calling foul on the claims including Cedric Johnson of the N.C. Justice Center’s Budget and Tax Center.

BTC data on N.C. tax increases under new plan

BTC data on N.C. tax increases under new plan

Johnson, in a report published in August, estimated that the bottom 80 percent of North Carolina residents will pay more in taxes under the new tax plan while needed services were slashed and the wealthiest in the state would see reductions in their tax bill. (Disclosure: N.C. Policy Watch is also a part of the N.C. Justice Center.)

The Associated Press took another look this week at the changes to the state’s tax code for 2014 and agreed that the tax breaks promised by lawmakers would not materialize for many people in the state.

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