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Two top Republican leaders announced the formation Monday of a joint legislative committee designed to scrutinize the effects of the federal Affordable Care Act in North Carolina.

The committee’s focus will be on negative aspects of the federal health care law, with a press release from State Senate President Phil Berger and N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis announcing it will examine  “disruptions in the insurance market place, dropped coverage for families and higher premiums without improved access to providers.”

Phil Berger

Phil Berger

Thom Tillis

Thom Tillis

“This committee will delve deeply into the problems Obamacare has caused to the health insurance marketplace and to our economy as businesses and individuals absorb the costs,” Berger and Tillis were quoted as saying in a written statement.

Tillis is also a U.S. Senate candidate facing a crowded Republican primary this spring.

North Carolina’s Republican-led legislature opted last year not to expand Medicaid. That decision made an estimated 500,000 low-income North Carolinians ineligible for the government-run health care system and also unable to receive subsidies that those with higher incomes can get to buy health insurance on the private marketplace.

The first meeting date as well as the committee members will be announced in coming weeks.

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‘Tis the season for every media outlet (include yours truly) to make end-of-the-year lists. No surprise here, but North Carolina popped up on several national lists tracking politics and policy.

Having that same journalistic drive to create an end-of-the-year list, I collected several lists floating around the Internet that involve North Carolina politics and policy. Take a look, and offer up any other lists of interest in the comments section. Read More

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Pat McCrory 2There was some confusion this week as to who was ultimately responsible for the appointment of Pope-Civitas Institute executive director Francis De Luca to the state Ethics Commission. De Luca’s own press release said the appointment was made by the Governor on the recommendation of Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger. At first blush, this statement seemed to conflict with the terms of the Ethics Act itself, which gives the Governor four appointments (all of which are already filled) and the General Assembly four (two each to the House Speaker and Senate President Pro Tem).  

The answer appears to lie in the fact that the General Assembly is not currently in session and therefore could not, technically, make a new appointment. In such circumstances, the Ethics Act references another state statute (G.S. 120-122) which vests the authority in the Governor to make the appointment upon the recommendation of the relevant legislative officer.

The bottom line: Things are even more depressing than they originally appeared. The head of a political attack group that produces malicious attack ads is now a member of the Board of the State Ethics Commission and both the Governor and the leader of the state Senate had a hand in making it happen.

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(Updated – See comment #1 below)The stories are coming so thick and fast that it’s getting harder and harder to shock caring and thinking North Carolinians with tales of laugh-out-loud malfeasance and the elevation of political operatives to positions of power and influence in North Carolina’s far-right state government.  

Francis De LucaStill, it’s fair to say that a lot of eyebrows had to have been raised in Raleigh yesterday with the appointment by state Senate Leader Phil Berger of Francis De Luca, the head of one of the state’s most aggressive conservative advocacy groups, the Pope-Civitas Institute, to, of all things, the Board of the State Ethics Commission. After all, as director of Pope-Civitas — a group funded almost exclusively by the family foundation of state Budget Director Art Pope — De Luca is paid to be a fire-breathing crusader for a very specific political agenda. What’s more, he also heads a 501(c)(4) political group — Civitas Action — that is dedicated to, among other things, producing slick (and in some cases, downright malicious) attack ads against disfavored political candidates. Click here to see some the group’s handiwork from 2010 and 2011. (To add to the irony of the whole thing, De Luca was appointed to take the place of another former Pope group employee, Les Merritt, who resigned because of a potential conflict of interest posed by his current $312,000 per year job in the McCrory administration).   

In addition to raising eyebrows, the appointment ought to raise legal questions as well. According to the State Government Ethics Act, Section 138A-7 (d)(3), Read More

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If you get a chance, check out this Charlotte Observer editorial on the state Supreme Court’s recent ruling on the North Carolina’s still badly inadequate pre-Kindergarten effort. As the editorial notes:

Berger pre-K“We’re a little puzzled by the fist-pumping from Republicans in Raleigh last week after the N.C. Supreme Court tossed out a case involving the legislature and the state’s pre-K program.

The court, in a six-page decision, dismissed an appeal of a 2011 lower-court ruling that said the Republican-led legislature had violated a constitutional mandate by making it harder for at-risk children to participate in pre-K. The court also vacated that lower-court ruling because Republicans undid the two things that landed them in court in the first place – capping pre-K enrollment and initiating a co-pay for some eligible families. Read More