New Meredith College poll looks at views on discrimination, Equal Rights Amendment

New polling from Meredith College examines North Carolinians’ views of discrimination and the Equal Rights Amendment, which seeks to provide protections for those experiencing it.

The full report on the poll, produced in partnership with the ERA-NC Alliance, was published Monday. It delves into how different North Carolinians see discrimination against an array of different groups – from Black and Hispanic people to LGBTQ people and religious groups like Jews and Evangelical Christians.

“The issue of discrimination and what can be done about it is as old as the United States,” the report reads. “Protecting voting rights for all citizens, the fight for equal pay for equal work, and for being treated equally in criminal matters have a long history in this country. Recently, prominent hate crimes against many groups, such as the mass shooting of Black persons in Buffalo or attacks against synagogues and their congregants, have raised additional concerns about how laws grounded in the United States Constitution can protect the country’s citizens.”

“In addition, many politicians have attacked the issue of  ‘wokeness’ as a way of targeting marginalized groups, such as the LGBTQ+ community, making it more acceptable to discriminate against members of these groups,” the report reads. “It is within this cultural and political context that we decided to survey North Carolinians about their perceptions of discrimination against traditionally marginalized groups in society, such as
women and Black people. We also decided to ask citizens about their perceptions of groups not
considered to be historically marginalized groups—men and White people—to determine
similarities and differences between perceptions of discrimination between historically
marginalized and historically elevated groups.”

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NC Senate Republicans continue to push for health policy changes as part of a Medicaid expansion bill

DonnaMarie Woodson

DonnaMarie Woodson

DonnaMarie Woodson was without health insurance for about a year after her husband was laid off from his job during the recession.

When she was able to sign up for insurance again through the Affordable Care Act, Woodson said she went right away for a cancer screening. “Before I had even left the building, my doctor said he was 99.9% sure that I had cancer. I didn’t have any symptoms. It was silently growing in me and I didn’t even know it.”

Woodson is now recovered, and on Tuesday she led a group of American Cancer Society volunteers to legislators’ offices to encourage lawmakers to vote for Medicaid expansion. Woodson empathizes with people who are uninsured and may put off seeing doctors or delay treatment because they can’t afford it.

About 600,000 people in North Carolina fall into what’s called the coverage gap, where they make too much money to qualify for regular Medicaid and too little to qualify for subsidized insurance through the ACA marketplace.

The federal government will pay 90% of the cost for people who gain insurance through expansion. Legislators propose that hospitals and insurance companies will pick up the other 10%.

North Carolina is one of 11 states that has not acted on Medicaid expansion.

Democrats have pushed the state to expand Medicaid for years. After opposing it for about as long, Republican legislative leaders now support it.

However, House and Senate Republicans disagree on what should be included in a Medicaid expansion bill.

Last year, the Senate passed an expansion bill with policy components that included significant changes to the Certificate of Need law that regulates where health care facilities can build, expand, and offer new services. It also included provisions that would allow advanced practice registered nurses to work without supervision from doctors.

Hospitals don’t want changes to Certificate of Need and doctors don’t want changes to the advanced practice nurse supervision requirements.

The state House earlier this month passed a Medicaid expansion bill without those policy changes.

Senate Republicans still want those in the bill, said Sen. Ralph Hise, a Spruce Pine Republican.

“I’m excited the state has finally reached the point that we can offer coverage for another 600,000 individuals through Medicaid. But simply expanding coverage won’t solve all the problems we have in access to care,” Hise told the volunteers.

He continued by talking about Certificate of Need and expanding the role of nurse practitioners.

Negotiations will result in a bill by the end of March, Hise said.

The American Cancer Society is one of many organizations advocating for Medicaid expansion.  Woodson came to Raleigh from her home in Charlotte last year to urge legislators to pass it.

For Woodson, Medicaid expansion in North Carolina is long overdue.

“Why we didn’t do that to begin with is beyond my comprehension,” she said.

Berger, Moore seek to defend state’s abortion pill laws in federal court

Birth control abortion drug, morning after pill

Republican legislators want to defend state laws in a federal suit that challenges the legality of North Carolina’s restrictions on prescribing the abortion pill. This comes after the Attorney General’s office said the objection to state restrictions the lawsuit raises is on point.

To recap, an Ob/Gyn who practices in Orange County sued the state, the NC Medical Board and others over the hurdles patients must navigate before they can take mifepristone.

State law says only doctors can prescribe it, and as in surgical abortions people must wait 72 hours after receiving counseling before they can take the pill. Patients must take the pill in the presence of a doctor. Telehealth appointments are prohibited.

The FDA approved the drug for use through the 10th week of pregnancy, allows telehealth appointments, and allows some pharmacies to dispense it.

Dr. Amy Bryant filed a lawsuit in federal court in late January, saying that the FDA rejected the restrictions North Carolina put into place. North Carolina’s restrictions impose “significant cost and burdens” on Bryant and her patients, the lawsuit says.

Bryant’s lawsuit is one of several being heard in federal courts around the country.

A federal judge in Texas with anti-abortion views is set to rule in a lawsuit brought by anti-abortion activists that seeks to revoke FDA approval of mifepristone. Attorneys general from Republican states are backing that suit.

Last week, a group of attorneys general from Democratic states sued the FDA, saying the agency imposes unnecessary restrictions on mifepristone.

A pharmaceutical company sued West Virginia over that state’s restrictions on the abortion pill.

The FDA approved mifepristone in 2000. Abortion pills now account for more than half of the country’s abortions.

In a letter to Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore’s offices a few weeks ago, Stein’s office said it agreed with the lawsuit’s contention that states cannot impose restrictions more stringent than the FDA’s and that its filings in the case would reflect that analysis.

In their motion to intervene in the suit, Berger and Moore said they should be allowed to defend state laws since Stein will not.


ReBuild NC’s modular home program still faltering; hurricane survivors now receiving different housing types

A modular home being elevated as part of the ReBuild program. This photo was taken last summer. (Photo: Lisa Sorg)

ReBuild NC’s highly touted modular home program, which state officials have claimed would be the fastest way to get hurricane survivors out of motels and into permanent housing, continues to falter, according to state data.

Numbers provided by ReBuild NC to Policy Watch this week show that Rescue Construction Solutions has built 20 modular homes since winning a $52 million contract in August 2021. 

That is less than 10 percent of the 226 modulars in the bid package.

Rescue, based in Raleigh, has been paid $32 million so far, which includes the modulars and 177 new or renovated stick-built houses, state data shows.

However, the recent figures are an improvement over December, when ReBuild NC Director Laura Hogshead told state lawmakers that just 11 modulars had been built. She has attributed the low numbers to backlogs at the modular factories and county permitting issues.

Several homeowners have told Policy Watch, and posted on the ReBuild NC Applicant Facebook page, that they were no longer receiving modulars, ostensibly because of ongoing delays. Instead, their contracts were being converted to traditional “stick-built” homes.

There are 55 facilities that build modular homes in the Southeast, according to the Manufactured Housing Institute. Of those, five North Carolina factories built 4,496 homes in 2021, MHI data shows. 

According to federal census data, 6,129 modulars were shipped to North Carolina in 2021, the year Rescue won the contract.

ReBuild NC, also known as the Office of Recovery and Resiliency, has been awarded $800 million in federal funding to help survivors of the 2016 disaster, Hurricane Matthew, and the historic 2018 storm, Hurricane Florence, return home. An estimated 4,100 households have applied for new or repaired homes under the ReBuild NC program.

Instead hundreds of households, equivalent to thousands of people, still live in motels or in their dilapidated houses, years after the funding became available.

ReBuild NC is under legislative and public scrutiny over mismanagement of its disaster recovery program. An investigative series by Policy Watch about the program’s failures spurred state lawmakers last fall to form a special oversight committee to monitor ReBuild NC’s performance. There have been several shakeups within the agency since then. Last November, Ivan Duncan, chief program delivery officer and a subject of Policy Watch’s investigation, abruptly resigned.

On Feb. 1, Richard Trumper, who had led a successful disaster relief program for the state Office of State Budget and Management, became a senior advisor to help fix ReBuild NC. The agency is under the Department of Public Safety; Trumper reports directly to DPS Secretary Eddie Buffaloe.

Other data provided by ReBuild NC shows some progress in homebuilding and repairs since December.

The figures below show the number of homes built under the ReBuild NC program since May 2022.*

Homes completed as of Feb. 20 — 735
As of Dec. 14 — 688
Sept. 16 — 588
May 9 — 516

*Robeson County built another 201 homes in 2018 and 2019 with federal funding. ReBuild NC absorbed that county-led program in early 2020, and often takes credit for those homes even though it was uninvolved in the contracting and construction.

Below is a table of ReBuild contractors, the amount paid so far, and the total number of homes built or renovated. Three firms, indicated by an asterisk, don’t build homes; they are responsible for removing asbestos and lead contamination.

ContractorTotal Construction PaymentsNumber of Homes Built or Renovated
CRSC, LLC$8,783,905.78 102
Currituck Homes$231,630.80 1
DSW Homes$452,544.88 18
Ducky Recovery$3,839,830.99 65
Eastern Environmental*$62,518.25
Excel Contractors$7,836,082.55 94
Family Housing Center of NC$2,691,859.76 12
Fam-Lock Construction$1,042,092.46 28
First Time Around$39,952.53 2
Fuller Center Disaster ReBuilders$1,064,551.74 38
G&N Construction and Remodeling $444,587.83 6
Heath and Sons Management Services$64,405.63 4
Jeffery Locklear$180,411.71 17
Kevin K Jacobs General Contracting$114,482.93 9
L & E Management Services$34,179.69 2
Lady Built Construction$464,683.12 18
Opportunities Industrialization Center$47,772.63 2
Persons Service Company$7,892,103.17 121
Prevatte's Home Sales $845,501.69 13
Rescue Construction Solutions$32,653,596.65 197
RHD Property $270,860.76 6
Shepherd Response$16,391,001.01 54
Steven Stone Mobile Homes$1,297,943.62 16
Thompson Construction Group$8,565,282.27 104
Timberline Construction Group$3,101,501.87 7
Grand Total$99,019,197.24 936


Meanwhile, the House Disaster Recovery and Homeland Security committee will discuss a bill specific to ReBuild NC’s  contracting problems today at 1 p.m.

House Bill 119 would allow ReBuild NC, to use an informal bid process for projects costing up to $250,000. The previous figure was $30,000.

Lawmakers hope this will allow ReBuild NC to more quickly recruit contractors, and in turn more quickly build or repair hurricane-damaged homes. Late last year ReBuild NC had less than a half dozen contractors; it now has 27, including those that do asbestos and lead abatement, according to the most recent state data.

The informal bid process still requires that “all such contracts shall be awarded to the lowest responsible, responsive bidder, taking into consideration quality, performance, and the time specified in the bids for the performance of the contract.” 

“Change is coming”: Medical marijuana legislation advances in NC legislature

Supporters of medicinal marijuana are one step closer to seeing the measure legalized in North Carolina. Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee gave the green light to the NC Compassionate Care Act on Tuesday after approving a handful of new amendments.

Bill sponsors say their intent is prioritize the protection of public health and safety in creating a system for the cultivation, processing, and selling of medical cannabis. Patients with debilitating medical condition such as cancer, Epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, Crohn’s and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are among those who could gain access with a physician’s written certification.

An appointed 11 member Compassionate Use Advisory Board would meet at least twice a year to determine whether to approve additional qualifying medical conditions to the list that would be eligible for legal cannabis.

Chris Suttle, a long-time advocate for legalization, praised lawmakers for moving the bi-partisan bill forward, but urged them to go further, expanding the number of companies licensed to sell marijuana in North Carolina.

Under this current legislation, the state would allow just 10 companies to hold licenses.

The North Carolina Family Policy Council and the Christian Action League both spoke against the bill.

On a voice-vote, Senate Judiciary committee members approved the Compassionate Care Act, sending it on the the finance committee. That measure will be heard today (Wednesday) at 1:00pm. You can watch that meeting here.