Commentary, News

Conservative NC lawmakers boost controversial King Day gun rally

Concerns continue to grow about a gun rights rally that has been planned for Richmond, Virginia on the upcoming January 20 King holiday.

Click here to read a Virginia Mercury story about how a state court judge recently upheld a temporary ban on bringing firearms onto the site of the rally and here to read about how the FBI has arrested three suspected members of a white supremacist group who planned on attending.

The state’s governor has declared a state of emergency in anticipation of the event, which has been endorsed by some of the same actors that participated in the infamous 2017 Unite the Right white supremacist rally in Charlottesville.

Meanwhile, despite these many troubling aspects to the event and its obvious overtones of racism and violence, it appears numerous North Carolina lawmakers have signed on to a letter in support of the rally’s goal of promoting so-called “Second Amendment sanctuary” cities and counties.

The following Facebook post by North Carolina State Rep. Steve Jarvis of Davidson County indicates that at least three North Carolina lawmakers will attend the rally and deliver a letter signed by 50 House members (see page one above — Raleigh’s News & Observer has the full letter here), including House Speaker Tim Moore. The

Today as your State House Representative I signed a letter in Support of the 2nd Amendment counties and cities in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
This letter states that the North Carolina House Republican Caucus supports the counties and cities that have self-declared themselves as “2nd Amendment Sanctuaries”.
The signers of the letter include Speaker Tim Moore and Majority Leader John Bell Freshman Majority Leader Steve Jarvis as well as 47 other members. Representative Kidwell will attend a rally on January 20th where he and several other members of the North Carolina House of Representatives including Rep Michael Speciale (Craven) and Rep Bobby Hanig (Currituck) will present the letter to the members of the Virginia legislature. “It is our hope that we can impress upon the Virginia legislature the importance of protecting the rights of the people they represent”. Said Rep. Kidwell. As stated in the letter, North Carolina and Virginia have stood together beginning with the revolution, and it is the hope of the signers of this letter of support that we will continue to stand with the citizens as their rights are being attacked in much the same way they were under colonial rule.
All in all, this is pretty scary stuff. It’s one thing to hold strong views on gun rights, but it’s quite another to play footsy with avowed white supremacists and some of the other characters involved in this event. The North Carolina lawmakers should take a step back and rethink their implicit endorsement of the event.

Virginia lawmakers vote to become pivotal 38th state to ratify ERA

In case you missed it, the newly Democratic Virginia legislature has voted to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. The measure passed, however, with the support of 11 Republicans. Reporter Ned Oliver of the Virginia Mercury reports:

Advocates erupted in cheers as the Virginia House of Delegates adopted the Equal Rights Amendment on Wednesday. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

Cheers erupted at the Capitol as the Equal Rights Amendment cleared both chambers of the General Assembly on Wednesday, making Virginia the 38th and final state needed to ratify the amendment enshrining gender equality in the Constitution.

Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy, D-Prince William, who sponsored the ERA resolution as one of the first women to attend the previously all-male Virginia Military Institute, spoke about the uneven history of equality in Virginia, a state that fought against women’s suffrage, desegregation and interracial marriage. The ERA vote, she said, was “the vote of a lifetime.”

“It’s Virginia again on the battleground of equality,” Carroll Foy said. “I don’t know about you, but I think it’s right on time for Virginians to finally be on the right side of history.”

For now, the vote remains largely symbolic. The National Archives and Records Administration, which is responsible for certifying the ratification of constitutional amendments, said it will abide by a legal opinion issued by the Justice Department last week that said the ERA is no longer a valid amendment because a deadline imposed by Congress has expired, according to the Associated Press.

Advocates plan to challenge the deadline in court. Meanwhile, Democrats in Congress are pursuing legislation to remove the deadline

The uncertainty did not dampen celebration at the Capitol.

Click here to read the rest of the story.

ERA proponents in North Carolina welcomed the news. This is from the League of Women Voters of Wake County:

League of Women Voters Applauds Virginia for Ratification of ERA

RALEIGH, NC, January 15, 2020 – The League of Women Voters of Wake County (LWV-Wake) applauds the state of Virginia upon its ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). Virginia is now the 38th state to have ratified the ERA, which meets the threshold for adoption of an amendment under Article V of the US Constitution. Read more


Kansas…Kansas! strikes bipartisan compromise to expand Medicaid

The list of hard core reactionary states refusing to close their health insurance coverage gaps by expanding Medicaid continues to shrink.

This is from the lead editorial in today’s Kansas City Star:

Kansas has taken an enormous step toward providing quality health care for all of its residents.

In a joint news conference Thursday, Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, and Kansas Sen. Jim Denning, a Republican, announced a compromise that could lead to expanded Medicaid insurance coverage in the state.

Expanding Medicaid has been an issue for almost a decade. The state came close to approving a plan in 2017, but lawmakers fell just short of overriding former Gov. Sam Brownback’s veto.

Here’s the plan:

  • Medicaid insurance coverage would be available for Kansans earning up to 138% of the federal poverty level. For a family of four, that’s $35,535 a year in 2020. It could make up to 150,000 Kansans eligible.
  • The federal government would pay 90% of the cost; any less, and the program ends. Kansas’ 10% contribution would come from a charge to hospitals, up to $35 million a year.
  • The program would start no later than January 2021. Kansas would also adopt a proposal aimed at reducing private health insurance premiums, which could lower the cost of expanding Medicaid by keeping some people on private insurance.
  • There is no work requirement. There would be a more robust work referral program for those on expanded Medicaid. Clients would be asked to pay a $25 monthly premium.
In addition to being wonderful, life-saving, economy-boosting news for the people of the Sunflower State, the breakthrough ought to send another loud and clear signal to obstructionists in the North Carolina General Assembly that the days of their years-long Medicaid blockade here are numbered. If politicians in Kansas, a rock-ribbed conservative state that has served as a battleground in the national ideological wars for decades, can take such a step then surely North Carolina leaders will soon find themselves compelled to do likewise.

Editorial lays out five excellent priorities for state government in 2020

Image: Adobe Stock

In case you missed it, be sure to check out the lead Sunday editorial in Raleigh’s News & Observer and the Charlotte Observer. In “Five goals, perhaps wishful, for North Carolina to pursue in 2020,” the joint editorial board for the McClatchy twins identify five excellent priorities that North Carolina state leaders out to follow in 2020: 1) expand Medicaid, 2) fund public education, 3) step up on climate change, 40 shrink the rural-urban divide and 5) reform the UNC Board of Governors.

Here’s a brief excerpt:

In an important sense, the political new year won’t start in North Carolina until November. The General Assembly’s Republican majority can’t be expected to turn over a new leaf. It’ll follow the now tattered and discredited plan it has executed since taking control in 2011 — pushing tax cuts that favor the wealthy and big corporations, resisting Medicaid expansion, reducing environmental protections and business regulations and conducting public education on the cheap.

But, as North Carolina is becoming painfully aware, ignoring needs doesn’t make them go away. Despite the tunnel-vision of the legislature’s leaders, it’s worth taking a broader look at what North Carolina should do in 2020.

No. 1: Expand Medicaid. When the history of this era in state politics is written, the Republican lawmakers’ refusal to take the federal government’s offer to pay 90 percent of the cost of expanding Medicaid may be remembered as their cruelest and most financially reckless act. Thirty six states and the District of Columbia have taken the offer. One health care finance expert estimates that with Medicaid expansion 634,000 more North Carolinians would gain medical coverage, and by 2022 the state could add 37,220 more expansion-related jobs and $2.9 billion to the gross state product.

Click here to read the rest of the editorial.


Stein joins other attorneys general in asking SCOTUS to resolve Affordable Care Act controversy

NC the only non-Medicaid expansion state included

As the Nevada Current’s Dana Gentry reports, a group of 20 state attorneys general, including North Carolina’s Josh Stein, has filed a motion with the U.S. Supreme Court asking it to quickly resolve judicial uncertainty surrounding the Affordable Care Act.

This is from Gentry’s story:

The Fifth Circuit’s ruling that the ACA’s individual mandate is unconstitutional “causes uncertainty that may harm the health of millions of Americans, as well as doctors, clinics, patients and the healthcare market,” [Nevada Attorney General Aaron] Ford said in a statement. 

The court remanded the case to District Court Judge Reed O’Connor to decide the severability issue — whether the law can stand without the individual mandate. O’Connor is the judge who ruled the individual mandate is unconstitutional.

“The actions of the lower courts have cast doubt on hundreds of other statutory provisions that together regulate a substantial portion of the Nation’s economy,” the attorneys general wrote in the writ asking the high court to hear the case. “States, health insurers, and millions of Americans rely on those provisions when making important—indeed, life-changing—decisions. The remand proceedings contemplated by the panel majority would only prolong and exacerbate the uncertainty already caused by this litigation.”

Last month, Stein issued the following statement in response to the 5th Circuit ruling:

“I strongly disagree with the court’s ruling. I am gravely concerned that this lawsuit may deprive people of their access to affordable healthcare. I have talked to a number of the millions of North Carolinians whose healthcare is at risk. I want to assure them that this fight is not over. I will continue the fight in court to protect lifesaving healthcare for North Carolinians.”

States represented in the action are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington and the District of Columbia.

Interestingly, North Carolina is the only one from the group that has yet to expand Medicaid under the ACA.