News

Cooper and McCrory find common ground – both disagree with GOP legislative power grab (with video)

It’s rare these days to find Republicans and Democrats in agreement on much of anything, so it’s well worth your time to read Jim Morrill’s weekend article in The Charlotte Observer that finds Gov. Roy Cooper and former Republican governors Pat McCrory and Jim Martin all on the same page.

The men, who have all occupied the Executive Mansion, are united in their opposition to the controversial constitutional amendment that strips appointment powers from North Carolina’s governor and turns that duty over to the legislature.  As Morrill explains :

…if passed by voters, the amendment also would give the legislature power to make appointments to nearly 400 boards that oversee everything from the environment to public health to economic development. Those boards shape policies that affect virtually everyone in the state.

“It’s a blatant power grab from the executive branch,” said former GOP Gov. Pat McCrory.

Martin, the former GOP governor, said legislators would be happy with a weaker governor.

“He’d be a nice figurehead, which is what the General Assembly wants,” Martin said. “They’d be very happy to have a governor who would go around making speeches, cutting ribbons and staying out of the way.”

In issuing his latest veto on Friday, Gov. Cooper explained:

Republican legislators are shamefully attempting to mislead voters in order to undermine our state’s constitution and weaken the separation of powers between the branches of government,” said Governor Cooper.

House Minority Leader Darren Jackson joined NC Policy Watch’s Rob Schofield last week to further criticized the deceptive constitutional amendment (HB 913) to create a new Bipartisan State Board of Ethics and Elections Enforcement.

The House and Senate are expected to vote to override Cooper’s vetoes later this week, sending six constitutional amendments and their own wording for the proposals to the voters in November.

Read Jim Morrill’s full article in The Charlotte Observer.

Uncategorized

The week’s top stories on NC Policy Watch

1. North Carolina lawmakers remind us yet again why they’ve earned our distrust

In the first two paragraphs of state Rep. David Lewis’ ludicrous and lamentable plea for a special session this week, ostensibly to rescue the GOP-approved constitutional amendments from liberal “gamesmanship and politics,” the Harnett County Republican mentions the word “maneuverings” twice.
If you’re having difficulty processing Lewis’ use of the word, you’re not alone. After all, Lewis is the overseer of a decade of nakedly partisan gerrymandering, a divisive figure and Karl Rove-style political strategist who’s adept at manipulating process and voters to Republican advantage.[Read more…]

2. PW exclusive: Beach nourishment bingo?
NC lawmakers bypass DEQ, allot $5 million coastal research grant to politically connected Winston-Salem nonprofit

A North Carolina nonprofit with deep political connections received $5 million in the state budget for a beach nourishment study and design project, even though it has never done that type of work and is headquartered more than 250 miles from the coast.
Lawmakers appropriated the funding to the Resource Institute, based in Winston-Salem, through a one-time “grant-in-aid” – pass-through money – from the state Division of Water Resources. The amount is the largest grant-in-aid from the Department of Environmental Quality since at least 2005, according to state budget documents.

Yet, DEQ said it did not request the earmark; in fact, lawmakers appropriated just $1.8 million to DEQ to conduct its own work related to GenX and emerging contaminants.[Read more…]
Bonus reads:

Go Backstage: How I got the Resource Institute story, plus a guide to documents for budding sleuths, citizen journalists
Concerned about methyl bromide, DEQ puts log fumigation permits on hold

3. Expect anything different?
The lawless leaders of the General Assembly prepare to do once again the thing they do best
It’s always tempting to open each and every commentary about the North Carolina General Assembly in 2018 with that most ubiquitous of modern pop culture phrases: “You can’t make this s[tuff] up.” After all, when it comes to brazen, autocratic assaults on traditional American notions of democratic government, no one does it better than Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and his always ready and willing sidekick, House Speaker Tim Moore.

Even Vladimir Putin’s bumbling buddy in the White House – hemmed in as he is by a handful of federal and state judges, a semi-watchful news media, the prospect of criminal prosecution for any number of offenses, and an occasionally disagreeable Congress (except when it comes to packing the federal courts) – has yet to pull off the kind of raw, “because-I-said-so” power moves that are as common in Raleigh these days as a #MeToo complaint addressed to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. [Read more…] Read more

public health

Trump Administration reverses decision to freeze insurer payments, undermining ACA coverage

Just weeks after the Trump administration announced it would suspend a program that helps health insurers cover the costs of high-risk enrollees, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said it had adopted language that will now allow the agency to distribute more than $10 billion from a “risk adjustment” pool.

The national, nonpartisan Families USA said Wednesday it was relieved the Trump administration had reversed “its ill-conceived decision” to stop the risk adjustment payments, which help insurers cover people with pre-existing conditions.

While the risk adjustment program costs the government nothing, it is vital to the functioning of the market for people who buy coverage on their own because it facilitates the pooling of risk, keeping costs stable for consumers, including people with pre-existing conditions.

“The risk adjustment program prevents health insurance plans that happen to get a larger share of high-cost enrollees than other plans from being at a financial disadvantage. Without risk adjustment in place, plans will have a strong financial incentive to cherry-pick patients who cost less to insure and put up as many barriers as possible for people with preexisting conditions and others with high health care costs.

The New York Times explains the reversal was driven by both nervous Republicans and insurers:

If payments are not made, it said, “there is a serious risk” that insurers will substantially increase premiums in 2019 to make up for the loss. The higher premiums could make coverage unaffordable for some consumers, especially those who do not qualify for subsidies, it said.

Insurers are now deciding whether to participate in the marketplace in 2019 and setting the rates and benefits of the plans they intend to offer next year.

Republicans in Congress, afraid of being blamed in the midterm elections this year for even higher premiums, had urged the Trump administration to resume the payments to insurers.

Read the full NYT article here.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina is expected to file its rate request for 2019 later this summer.

Defending Democracy, News

Rep. Mickey Michaux talks race, civil rights as he retires after 4 decades in the General Assembly (video)

If you missed it on the closing day of the short session, be sure to take time to listen to the parting words of the dean of the NC General Assembly.

Rep. Mickey Michaux, who was first encouraged to run for political office by Martin Luther King Jr., has represented Durham County in the legislature for 20 terms.

The longest serving House member closed out his career this way:

For more on his career and legacy, read this profile that appeared earlier this year in the Herald-Sun.

Commentary, Defending Democracy, Legislature, News

The Week’s Top Stories on Policy Watch

1. Torrent of constitutional amendments provide exclamation points on a dreadful legislative session

A short-timer. In the military (and many civilian workplaces too) a short-timer is someone who is nearing the end of his or her term of service. Often, the term is used pejoratively to describe individuals who shirk new or difficult tasks as they cruise toward the exit door.

In the political realm, however, there are occasions in which short-timers pursue an opposite tack. Sometimes, when faced with the prospect of defeat in an upcoming election or, at least, a significant loss of power or status, short-timer politicians aim to enact as many new law and policy changes as they possibly can in the limited time they have remaining.

As the 2018 state legislative session careens this week toward what looks to be a wild and woolly conclusion, it’s hard not to see this latter scenario at work in Raleigh.

Simply put, if the predictions of most pollsters and pundits come true this fall, it’s extremely likely that Republicans will lose their supermajority control of the General Assembly in at least one, and quite possibly both, houses. If this happens, of course, their power to override gubernatorial vetoes and amend the constitution (both of which require 3/5 votes) will be dramatically reduced, along with their power to enact laws opposed by Democrats.[Read more…]

2. Voter ID amendment headed to ballot in November

Bonus reads:
* General Assembly passes two fixes to new early voting law

* Bad for North Carolina’s bottom line

3. Federal court hears challenge to HB2 successor law. Plaintiff: “We deserve safety”

4. PW exclusive: 25 years before SBI investigation, Duplin County was warned about Billy Houston’s consulting work

5. Federal authorities have yet to answer if families separated at border are in NC

6. Legislators wallow in special interest override of governor’s veto

This week’s editorial cartoon: