You should read our earlier post about Rep. Nelson Dollar’s excellent objections to Medicaid reform. Dollar deserves kudos for pointing out that our system is not broken.

Despite these objections the legislature is charging ahead. If we want reform, however, the state needs to expand Medicaid at the same time. Why? Because to reform Medicaid we need permission from the federal government. According to the bill passed by the General Assembly we will officially seek this permission from the federal government by June of 2016. The Obama Administration is unlikely to make privatizing our Medicaid program a major priority in its last few months of office. That is not the sort of legacy he is interested in leaving.

If we do not get approval from the current leadership at Health & Human Services then North Carolina will need to wait until a new President takes office. Then the new President will have to nominate an HHS Secretary and we will have to wait for the Secretary to be confirmed. At some point after that HHS will begin to review our reform proposal.

Alternatively, North Carolina could include expansion in the reform plan. Then the Obama Administration would act quickly to approve our waiver. Certainly HHS is not excited about dismantling our model Medicaid system, but they could live with legislative changes if it meant covering 500,000 more people in our state.

With expansion reform will move quickly and our proposed changes will be accepted by HHS. Without expansion reform will be a long, long road to an uncertain destination.


It’s been a very cold week in North Carolina, and many families are likely going a bit stir crazy now that school has been out for nearly a week in most locales thanks to an ice storm and record-breaking cold weather.

So, you might be thinking: when can we get the kids to the park?!

President Obama also had that thought on his mind when he launched his “Let’s Get Every Kid in a Park” initiative yesterday in Chicago.

The program offers the nation’s fourth grade students and their families free admission to any National Park as well as other federal lands and waters for a year, beginning with the start of the 2015-16 school year.

From the White House:

In the lead up to the 100th birthday of the National Park Service in 2016, the President’s Every Kid in a Park initiative is a call to action to get all children to visit and enjoy America’s unparalleled outdoors. Today, more than 80 percent of American families live in urban areas, and many lack easy access to safe outdoor spaces.  At the same time, kids are spending more time than ever in front of screens instead of outside.  A 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation study found that young people now devote an average of more than seven hours a day to electronic media use, or about 53 hours a week – more than a full time job.

America’s public lands and waters offer space to get outside and get active, and are living classrooms that provide opportunities to build critical skills through hands-on activities.  To inspire the next generation to discover all that America’s public lands and waters have to offer, the Obama Administration will provide all 4th grade students and their families free admission to all National Parks and other federal lands and waters for a full year, starting with the 2015-2016 school year.

Something to look forward to as we huddle together, hoping the mercury climbs high enough to get our heat pumps working again!

For more information on the Let’s Get Every Kid in a Park initiative, click here.


A federal judge in Texas has temporarily blocked implementation of President Obama’s executive actions on immigration, saying that the president failed to adhere to basic administrative procedures when issuing orders that would have provided sweeping relief to as many as five million undocumented immigrants.

The order, which came a little before midnight from U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen in Brownsville, came as little surprise to many following the legal challenge to the president’s plan. Hanen, appointed to the bench in 2002 by President George W. Bush,  has been an outspoken critic of Obama’s immigration’s policies.

“The court finds that the government’s failure to secure the border has exacerbated illegal immigration into this country,” he wrote in his 123-page opinion. “Further, the record supports the finding that this lack of enforcement, combined with the country’s high rate of illegal immigration, significantly drains the states’ resources.”

As pointed out in the New York Times, the programs announced by the president in November would have offered three-year deportation deferrals and work permits to undocumented immigrants who have not committed serious crimes, have been here at least five years and have children who are American citizens or legal residents.

The first of those programs was scheduled to open the application process on Wednesday.

In December, Texas and 25 other states, including North Carolina, filed suit opposing the programs, saying that they were adopted without adequate notice and provisions for comment and that they would impose huge burdens on state budgets.

But the state of Washington and 11 others, the District of Columbia, and the mayors of 33 cities including New York, Los Angeles and Brownsville — where the case was filed — supported the president’s actions, saying that they would benefit financially if undocumented workers obtained the relief offered.

In a statement released early this morning, the White House  said that the president had acted properly and consistent with decades of legal precedent.

“The Department of Justice, legal scholars, immigration experts and the district court in Washington, D.C., have determined that the president’s actions are well within his legal authority,” the White House said. “The district court’s decision wrongly prevents these lawful, common sense policies from taking effect, and the Department of Justice has indicated that it will appeal that decision.”

The case is expected to quickly ascend to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where many legal experts project Hanen’s order will be reversed on standing grounds.

“Federal supremacy with respect to immigration matters makes the states a kind of interloper in disputes between the president and Congress,” Laurence H. Tribe, a professor of constitutional law at Harvard, told the New York Times. “They don’t have any right of their own.”

Read Hanen’s full decision here.


Teacher education programs, take note: today U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will announce a program designed to leverage federal financial aid to reward teacher training programs that produce teachers who consistently raise student test scores and have a high number of graduates who land teaching jobs and stay in the profession.

From Stephanie Simon over at Politico:

The Obama administration plans to use tens of millions in federal financial aid as leverage to reward teacher training programs that produce teachers who routinely raise student test scores — and to drive the rest out of business.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan will announce the revival of a push to regulate hundreds of teacher preparation programs Friday at a town hall meeting with White House policy director Cecilia Muñoz. He plans to release a draft regulation by summer and aims to enact it within a year.

The goal: To ensure that every state evaluates its teacher education programs by several key metrics, such as how many graduates land teaching jobs, how long they stay in the profession and whether they boost their students’ scores on standardized tests. The administration will then steer financial aid, including nearly $100 million a year in federal grants to aspiring teachers, to those programs that score the highest. The rest, Duncan said, will need to improve or “go out of business.

Simon reports that the proposal is sure to draw heavy amounts of criticism.

Many traditional education schools are especially uneasy about the drive to hold them accountable for how well their graduates’ students perform on standardized exams. “It’s not that [such measures] shouldn’t be used at all, it’s the relative weight of it, compared with other metrics that might be really informative,” said Mary Harrill, senior policy director for the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.

The formulas for measuring how much “value” a teacher adds to a student’s test scores are complex and often carry a sizable margin of error.

Read the full story by clicking here.


As Jeffrey Toobin points out in the New Yorker today, it was one of North Carolina’s own who wrote the recent D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals decision invalidating the President’s recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board.

Who wrote this judicial atrocity? No surprise—it was David Sentelle, who has a long and disgraceful reputation as a partisan hack on the bench. A protégé of Jesse Helms, his fellow North Carolinian, Sentelle is most famous for engineering, in 1994, the dismissal of Robert Fiske as the Whitewater Independent Counsel and replacing him with Kenneth Starr. (How’d that work out?) As a judge, Sentelle has been a thoroughgoing reactionary for thirty years.

It was a decision, Toobin says, that “serves as a useful reminder of where power resides in Washington. Presidents come and go, but the judges are there forever. And they know it.”

Thankfully though, as Toobin adds, judges also go on senior status, as Sentelle has announced he will do in February.

Read more here.