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Art Pope 3Phil BergerThe talk about Medicaid expansion for North Carolina in 2015 from political leaders without much power to do anything about it continues. Gov. McCrory and his HHS Secretary keep talking about expansion as does, rather amusingly, lame duck Speaker/U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis. Obviously, expansion would be a terrific thing and is horrifically overdue as the current absurd obstructionism is literally costing thousands of lives per year — all in the name of nothing but conservative ideology.

Sadly, however, neither of these stances by McCrory or Tillis will amount to a hill of beans come next legislative session unless the real conservative bosses in North Carolina politics give their assent. Those two bosses, of course, would be Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and the most important conservative power broker in state politics, Art Pope. After all, the General Assembly has already passed a law to prevent McCrory from doing the deed without their approval and, for all we know, Tillis could well be reduced to trolling the halls of the General Assembly next year as a lobbyist or McCrory lackey.

Meanwhile, there are few if any positive signals from Berger and Pope to be found. Berger says he’s still opposed and Pope…well, his hirelings continue to spout mean-spirited nonsense and gibberish on the subject.

Of course, all of this could change. The powers-that-be in the health care industry want expansion and understand the tremendous good it would do — both for people and in need and, perhaps even more importantly from the corporate perspective, their profits. Add to this the fact that conservative majorities in the General Assembly could be slightly smaller next year and there’s certainly reason to hope that the politics on the issue will continue to improve.

That said, when you’re dealing with true right-wing believers who don’t even bat an eye as their policies literally result in thousands of unnecessary deaths per year, it’s hard to see what’s going to bring about the change of heart. Moreover, at this point in his governorship, Pat McCrory gives literally no indication that he has the ability lead or shape the debate.

Commentary

Medicaid expansionConservative political support for one of the central components of Obamacare continues to grow. The latest conversion: North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis.

This is from a story by reporter Craig Jarvis in Raleigh’s News & Observer about Tillis’  televised appearance on Time Warner Cable’s “Capital Tonight” show last evening:

Medicaid: Asked if he thought it would be likely that the state legislature would expand Medicaid coverage after refusing to do so previously, Tillis said it might make sense once the state has better control of the financing of the program, which is notorious for its cost overruns.

He said he didn’t have an ideological objection to expanding the coverage. But he said when the state auditor told the previous governor that money was being wasted on it, the appropriate response would not have been to make it bigger and more costly.

“I would encourage the state legislature and governor to consider it if they’re completely convinced they now have the situation under control,” Tillis said.

In other words, the Speaker is echoing the McCrory administration’s imperfect but mostly encouraging line on the issue. Let’s fervently hope that Tillis’ successor as House Speaker and Senate President Pro Tem Berger adopt this same common-sense stance so that the matter can be disposed of as early in 2015 as possible.

Commentary
George Wallace attempts to block the integration of the University of Alabama - Source: Wikipedia

George Wallace attempts to block the integration of the University of Alabama – Photo: Wikipedia

If you haven’t already done so, be sure to check out today’s Fitzsimon File in which Chris explains the current state of the debate over marriage equality in North Carolina. The quick takeaways:

#1 – There is cause for joy and celebration that the end of this particular form of discrimination is finally coming to a richly-deserved end.

#2- That said, there is a very long way to go in a state in which LGBT people can still be summarily fired for who they are.

#3- Today’s last-ditch effort by Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Thom Tillis to block the inevitable is eerily reminiscent of George Wallace’s infamous effort to block the integration of the University of Alabama by standing in the “schoolhouse door.”

As Chris writes: Read More

Commentary

Phil Berger[This story has been updated — see below] There’s been a lot of confusion about North Carolina’s confusing and complicated “Monster Voting Law” — much of it resulting from the fact many of the law’s numerous changes designed to make voting more difficult go into effect at different times. Of course, when your overall objective is to suppress voter turnout — especially amongst already marginalized groups and individuals — confusion can be a useful tool.

Just ask state Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger. who’s running TV ads touting his role in passing the voter ID provision that was included in the monster law. As WUNC radio’s Jorge Valencia reports, voting rights advocates at the state NAACP are rightfully steamed over the fact that Berger’s ad implies that the voter ID requirement is already in effect for the November election, even though it actually doesn’t take effect until 2016.

The North Carolina NAACP is calling on state Senate Leader Phil Berger to stop broadcasting an ad about a new voting law. The civil rights organization says the ad is misleading and could keep some from voting.

It’s a political campaign spot airing on TV stations in the Triad. And it gives Sen. Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) credit for a 2013 law that changed many rules about voting in North Carolina.

“Now,” the narrator says, “thanks to Phil Berger, voters must show a valid ID to vote.”

Berger himself continues: “Voter ID prevents fraud and protects the integrity of our elections. It’s common sense.”

The NAACP says that is a misleading statement. Portions of this new law are in place — such as there no longer being a possibility to register on the same day as the election and the elimination of the option to vote for one party by checking one box. But the ID portion of the bill, which will compel voters to show identification at polling stations, will not be in effect until 2016. Attorney Al McSurely said at a press conference Tuesday that Berger’s ad is confusing.

A “misleading statement” to say the least. How about “an obvious untruth that’s just the latest wrinkle in the ongoing effort to suppress voter turnout amongst voters worried about long lines and getting hassled at the polls”?

Click here to read the WUNC story and listen to the ad.

UPDATE: Though apparently denying it was in response to the NAACP complaint, Senator Berger has now amended the ad in question to make clear that the voter ID requirement does not go into effect until 2016. Raleigh’s News & Observer has the story here.

Commentary

Coal ash clean upThere have been several noteworthy reactions to Governor Pat McCrory’s strange decision to simply let the General Assembly’s coal ash legislation become law without his signature last week. Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger came this close to accusing the Governor of – yikes! – improper bias toward his longtime employer when he said the following in a statement reported this morning by the Greensboro News & Record:

“The governor’s primary concern appears to be a desire to control the coal ash commission and avoid an independent barrier between his administration and former employer.”

Veteran environmental advocate and Winston-Salem city councilman Dan Besse got it just about right, however, when he authored the following for the weekly newsletter of N.C. League of Conservation Voters this morning: Read More