It’s insulting to suggest that North Carolinians who lost their jobs through no fault of their own were choosing not to work because they were getting a few hundred dollars a week in unemployment benefits. Nonetheless, McCrory repeated this canard to The New York Times when the newspaper reported on the effects of North Carolina’s cuts in benefits. “Employers were telling me they had vacant jobs, but people would say, ‘Hold that job until my unemployment benefits end,’ ” McCrory said, “I heard that time and time again. Now, employers are telling us that people are coming in and filling out applications to accept jobs, not to meet the requirements of unemployment.” A closer look at the numbers shows that punishing the jobless and reducing taxes on the wealthy are not creating what McCrory is calling the “Carolina Comeback.” What the state is experiencing is a “Carolina Dropout.”
Job creation slowed in 2013, down nearly half from the 2012 rate. And some economists point out that there may be a correlation between the drop in the unemployment rate and the state’s diminished unemployment benefits. Collecting unemployment requires recipients to actively seek work. Without benefits, many have simply stopped looking and are no longer counted as unemployed. Last week, we learned about another measure of this state’s economic health, and it’s not encouraging. The Corporation for Enterprise Development, a national nonprofit that helps create business opportunities for lower-income workers, released its 2014 "Assets and Opportunity Scorecard." The study measures how many households have sufficient savings to cope with a three-month emergency, such as a job loss or a health crisis. The study found that 51.5 percent of this state’s families couldn’t do it. They’re living paycheck-to-paycheck and don’t have savings to cover 90 days of basic expenses at the federal poverty level. That news alone is worrisome. When it’s put in a national perspective, it gets worse: North Carolina ranks 46th in the nation. That’s not the only bad news. We rank 42nd in small-business ownership and in disparities in business ownership by race – white residents are more than twice as likely to own a business. We also rank 37th in percentage of uninsured residents.
Last week, N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper released a video announcing the creation of a group called Take Back North Carolina. In the video, Cooper criticized the policies of Republicans in the N.C. General Assembly and of Gov. Pat McCrory and the difficulty of challenging them. “With the power of a super majority, no one can stop them,” Cooper said. “Well that starts to change now.”
In an email sent out to legislative assistants on Thursday, Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam (R-NC37) has asked the same to volunteer to help the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services complete the work that must be done regarding pending applications and re-certifications for FNS benefits in order to meet a USDA deadline. If the work is not completed by February 10th, the USDA has indicated that they will continue with the next step of the formal process that will result in administrative funding for the FNS program being cut from the NCDHHS. Not only is this an admission that NCDHHS and its director Dr. Aldona Wos are so behind the ball that they cannot catch up- it also raises serious questions of applicant privacy and the accuracy of the work after it is completed.
The state Democratic Party’s executive committee scheduled their regular meeting Saturday afternoon, followed by the annual Sanford-Hunt Frye dinner at the Charlotte Convention Center. More than 450 people were expected to attend the evening event. It celebrates former four-term Gov. Jim Hunt, the first black state Supreme Court Chief Justice Henry Frye and the late governor and U.S. Sen. Terry Sanford. The dinner’s keynote speaker is Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
Democrats could use money to help whittle away at Republican super majorities in the state House and Senate. The party has watched GOP lawmakers make sweeping changes in laws on voting, taxes, abortion and education. Robert Dempsey, the party’s executive director, said Democrats plan to carefully target voters in an off-year election like this one. “You really try to whittle down the folks you know are going to come out,” he said. “If you know what’s going on in Raleigh, you’re likely to vote and you’re likely to vote Democrat.”
The North Carolina Democratic Party’s statewide leadership advanced a new transgender-inclusive measure over the weekend, with unanimous support from both the party’s executive council and larger statewide executive committee. The move will bring the state party in line with non-discrimination and inclusive standards set by the national Democratic Party. LGBT Democrats of North Carolina President Ralph Roland motioned to include the term “gender identity” in the party’s plan of organization’s preamble and “open party” sections during the executive council meeting at the Charlotte Convention Center. “We’ve gotten an affirmative vote from the executive council and they gave it a positive thumbs up,” said party Chairman Randy Voller. “I think the result was very positive for anyone who’s concerned about this issue.”
Barber has sparked criticism from the GOP, which labels him the leader of the state Democratic Party. The Democrats dispute that and say it’s meant to distract voters. The Democrats say the connection is meant to distract voters from the GOP’s record. “Whether raising taxes on working families, gutting public education or restricting women’s access to health care, N.C. GOP doesn’t have many folks left to alienate or offend,” said state party spokesman Micah Beasley.
Our military community endured a difficult year in 2013 as these indiscriminate spending cuts took effect, threatening tuition-assistance payments, hard-earned paychecks and the education of service members’ children. As I’ve sought a bipartisan solution to eliminate sequestration, the images of those buttons have stuck with me. And when bipartisan legislation that replaces the harmful sequestration cuts that threaten our military capabilities and the safety of our troops came up for a vote in the Senate last month, I listened closely to North Carolina’s top military leadership as they urged me to support the bill. However, the Murray-Ryan budget bill, which overwhelmingly passed the House and Senate, is far from perfect, and I strongly oppose the cuts it makes to the cost-of-living adjustment for service members, including future retirees still serving our country on active duty.
U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan is asking Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki for more information about a breach of personal information on the eBenefits site in North Carolina. WTVD reported last month that for a time people using the website got other veterans’ financial and medical information. The TV news station said the VA said it discovered a software defect that allowed users to see other people’s information as well as their own, and that the VA shut the system down until it could be fixed.
Brannon and Harris oppose abortion in all cases, including rape and incest. Tillis believes abortion should be permitted in situations where the mother’s health is at risk and in cases of rape and incest. The Republican candidates also say the state has the authority to ban contraception, but shouldn’t ban all forms of it. They also favor a “personhood” constitutional amendment that would grant legal protections to a fertilized human egg and possibly ban some forms of birth control. All the Republican candidates believe the state has the authority to ban contraception and favor a so-called “personhood” constitutional amendment that would grant legal protections to a fertilized human egg and possibly ban some forms of birth control.
A weekend of headlines focusing on the U.S. Senate race is pulling back the curtain — in particular on Republican Thom Tillis. After skipping his fourth candidate forum, the House speaker is facing questions about his tightrope walk through the GOP primary as he courts establishment Republicans in Washington and tries not to further anger a skeptical tea party.
No wonder Thom Tillis is avoiding all those forums. While he may be angering his base, he’s avoiding the crazy topics like whether or not to impeach Obama. Tillis understands that taking a stand to impeach the president makes him unelectable in the general election and taking a stand against impeachment in the primary could hurt him with GOP primary voters. It’s quite the conundrum.
There’s something puzzling about the first campaign ad by House Speaker Thom Tillis’ (R-NC), who is challenging Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC). The ad features Tillis bashing Obamacare while simultaneously wearing a pin of an autism advocacy group that highlighted the benefits of the new law, like prohibiting coverage denial for a pre-existing condition, which autism has sometimes been classified as.
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Greg Brannon is scheduled to defend himself in a civil court case next week against allegations he misled a pair of investors in a technology start-up, according to court documents. Brannon, a Cary ob-gyn, has been endorsed by both regional North Carolina tea party groups as well as tea party conservatives such as U.S. Sen. Rand Paul and Ann Coulter. Although he trails state House Speaker Thom Tillis in the money chase, he is one of the strongest challengers to the GOP front-runner. The winner of the May Republican primary will challenge incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan in the fall general election.
Congresswoman Renee Ellmers apparently isn’t worried about a potential challenge from Clay Aiken. In a recent radio interview on WMAL radio in Washington, Ellmers said of her Democratic rival’s bid in the 2nd Congressional District: “Apparently his performing career isn’t going so well and he’s bored.” (Audio below.) Aiken, who finished second on American Idol in 2003, is one of four candidates who are vying for a chance to run against Ellmers in November.
U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia will visit Wilmington Feb. 17 to attend two fundraisers for David Rouzer, who is campaigning for North Carolina’s 7th Congressional District. The first fundraiser will be in the early evening in the home of Wilmington residents Scott and Jane Sullivan. The second is an evening reception at the home of Wendy and Dell Murphy in Wallace.
State Sen. Phil Berger, the chamber’s president pro tem and one of the state’s most powerful politicians, made great show of backing a law to require most third-graders to demonstrate proficiency at reading at grade level before they can go to fourth grade. If they can’t, they would have to go to reading camps, take more tests and face retention. The bill, called Read to Achieve, sounded good as a way to reduce social promotion. But it lacked detail, and it added a tremendous testing burden for teachers and school systems. Naturally, it appears there was no consideration of the amount of time it would take, nor was there any additional funding provided to help teachers with the tests.
The law has other requirements, including a mandatory 24-hour waiting period and that women be given extensive information about birth, child care and alternatives to abortion. Sadly, leaders in the Republican-controlled N.C. legislature came out Monday staunchly in support of an appeal. Said House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate Leader Phil Berger in a joint statement: “We believe the provision struck down by an Obama-appointed federal judge is the most critical piece of the law. We expect the Attorney General to quickly move forward with an appeal of this provision. We remain confident that the state will prevail on the merits of the case through an appeal.”
Micah Beasley, Communications Director
North Carolina Democratic Party
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