North Carolina’s new Medicaid billing system is down for doctors, hospitals and other medical providers. The vendor that build and operates the system said it went offline shortly after 8 a.m. Tuesday. It was still down Tuesday evening. This was the first time there’s been an outage since it came online in July, and the state DHHS says the outage shouldn’t affect Medicaid consumers. This comes after a group of doctors sued over reimbursement delays last month.
When you’ve got bad news, get it out. It only gets worse with age. Pat McCrory’s new-look DENR failed that test last week, at a time when people were watching closely how the administration would react to its first environmental crisis. When three million-plus gallons of untreated sewage spewed into the Haw River, DENR told the city it could delay public notification until the spill was stopped and the actual extent of the spill was known. Didn’t thirsty citizens downstream have a right to know a river of sewage was heading their way? Pipes break, spills happen, and no governor can prevent them all. But governors are judged by how they react to breaks and spills. DENR’s delay was a missed opportunity for McCrory’s team to show they are serious about protecting the environment and serving every citizen.
After several days of talks with their members, House Republican leaders have not been able to identify a debt ceiling package that could pass with only GOP support, according to multiple senior aides. In fact, they’re nowhere close. Time is running short: The Obama administration says the ceiling needs to be lifted this month. GOP leadership’s goal was to use this week to craft a package that could pass without the help of Democrats. But the party isn’t rallying around a single proposal to lift the borrowing limit. Instead of coalescing around a unified strategy, groups of rank-and-file Republicans have expressed support for at least four different options: language to encourage the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, another provision that would change a part of Obamacare, reforms to Congress’s budgeting process and — in one of the most recent suggestions — reversing recent changes to the cost-of-living formula for the military.
House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) said Tuesday that it would be "immoral" to extend benefits to the longterm unemployed. "I believe it is immoral for this country to have as a policy extending long-term unemployments [benefits] to people rather than us working on creation of jobs." At the time, about 1.3 million people who have been unable to find work lost their federal benefits, which kick in once they run out of state benefits. That number grows by more than 70,000 people each week, and it is around 1.6 million now. He went on to say that “Too much time we have been hung up on” the long term unemployed.
Waxman called the first hearing on this outbreak and the need for a federal response in April 1982. The extent of the disease was unknown, its causes unknown, its means of transmission unknown. There were 300 reported cases and 100 deaths. Over the decade, he held hearing after hearing as it became clear that this was an epidemic and not a one-time outbreak. This was AIDS, and it was the disaster we had feared. New symptoms were outlined, new sub-populations were identified and new theories were advanced. Thousands of Americans died, most of them gay men. The Reagan administration’s budgets stayed stubbornly static. It took five years for the president even to acknowledge that an epidemic existed. By the time he did, about 2,000 new cases were reported a month, and the rate was accelerating.
The Republican front-runner to face Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) has been ducking the GOP base, subsequently angering some conservative activists whose support he’ll need to win a crowded primary election to even face the Democrat this fall. The current state Speaker of the House has skipped four candidate forums with his primary opponents, infuriating Tea Party activists as well as some more establishment Republicans, who simply want to get to know the candidate. “He has high negatives with the primary voters, and they get higher every time we see an empty chair at these forums. It shows he’s not willing to take the time to talk to us and explain his views,” said Sharon Hudson, a co-founder of the Lake Norman Conservatives, whose candidate forum Tillis skipped on Thursday.
Winston Salem Journal: Brannon defendant in tech lawsuit
Greg Brannon, a republican primary candidate for Kay Hagan’s Senate seat was recently sued for misleading investors. Two investors are suing for $250,000 they believe should be returned to them after Brannon, allegedly, misled them about opportunities in the mobile phone industry. The lawsuit details how Brannon’s company would integrate their technology into Verizon smartphones, however Verizon never made the agreement with Brannon.
In an interview with the News & Observer, former American Idol contestant Clay Aiken made his bid for Congress official. The story capsulizes why this is going to be a fascinating race to watch, as the Democrat recasts himself as a special education teacher and uses the education theme to undercut Republican incumbent Renee Ellmers. So far, Aiken is off to a clean start. His campaign even convinced another Democratic primary challenger, Houston Barnes, to drop out. And unlike some congressional candidates, Aiken lives in the district, albeit in a $2 million home with his partner and young child. (Aiken publicly declared he was gay in 2008.)
Pop singer Clay Aiken officially announced on Wednesday that he will run for the Democratic nomination in the 2nd Congressional District. In a video announcing his candidacy, Aiken referenced his time on "American Idol," saying "for most Americans, there are no golden tickets. At least not the kind you see on TV." "More families are struggling today than at any time in our history. And here in North Carolina, we’ve suffered more than our share of pain," Aiken said.
The presidential duo will headline the Senate Democrats’ issues conference, an annual gathering that gives lawmakers a chance to strategize together. Mr. Obama and Clinton haven’t always been on the same page, but they mended their relationship during the 2012 election when Clinton delivered a blockbuster speech at the Democratic National Convention. They will join forces Wednesday to rev up Democrats as the party stares down a tough election year. Democrats are in a precarious position right now: Mr. Obama’s approval ratings are sagging, and Democrats are fighting to hold onto the Senate. Some insiders have already given up on winning back the House.
The state Senate’s top leader and the head of North Carolina’s school system are at odds over a new state law that requires all third-grade students to pass a standard reading test before moving on to fourth grade. State Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson, a Democrat, says she supports provisions of a 2012 state law that puts more resources toward helping struggling third-graders read. However, she says that parents, teachers and principals should be the ones ultimately making the decision as to whether students should advance. Lawmakers, she said, should make changes to the law to give school districts more flexibility. "That decision should be made closest to the child," Atkinson said, adding there were big downsides to "labeling a child as a failure."
Teachers are considering whether to turn down contract offers this summer as a show of solidarity with colleagues and to protest the state’s elimination of tenure rights for veteran educators. This comes after a provision in the state budget that will shift all public school teachers in North Carolina to employment contracts over the next five years, making it easier to dismiss them. The North Carolina Association of Educators has urged teachers to protest Wednesday against the state’s decision to scrap "career status." Senator Jerry Tillman, republican co-chair of the Senate Education committee said, "They can do it. They don’t want to do it because there may be a hurt feeling."
Superintendents in the state’s 10 largest school districts – that includes Wake and Charlotte-Mecklenburg – are weighing in on the hottest education issues of the day. The superintendents have a set of recommendations on Common Core standards, vouchers and teachers salaries for the legislature and the State Board of Education to consider. The quick summary on Common Core: keep it, but get the testing straight. They want the State Board of Education’s assurance that it’s committed to the new standards and won’t put districts through another change for at least seven years. Superintendents want nationally-normed tests and want the state board to let school districts help decide which to use.
Elizabeth Warren wants paying for college to be like paying for a car. No, she doesn’t want mandatory airbags in colleges or Presidents’ Day sales on tuition. Instead, the senator from Massachusetts wants students to be able to refinance federal student loans. Unlike a loan to pay for a house, a vehicle, or just about anything else your heart desires, you can’t refinance a student loan. The result is that student loans have become a rare way for the federal government to generate revenue, making $66 billion in profits off them between 2007-2012. Warren told The Daily Beast that she is discussing legislation with colleagues that would allow students to refinance their federal loans at rates currently offered to new borrowers. The legislation will be introduced in the coming weeks as Warren continues to work with other senators from both parties on the exact language.
The CBO’s estimate is an analysis of the impact of the law on the supply of labor, meaning how many people choose to participate in the work force. The report examines whether the law increases or decreases incentives for people to work. In other words, people might work longer and harder, but actually earn no more, or earn even less, money. That is a disincentive to work. The CBO, in its sober fashion, virtually screams that this is not about jobs. Essentially, “(more workers seeking but not finding jobs) or underemployment (such as part-time workers who would prefer to work more hours per week).” Some jobs will go away, but the actual number is unclear because of the unknown interaction between part-time and full-time work.
The CBO projects that the act will reduce the supply of labor, not the availability of jobs. There’s a big difference. In fact, it suggests that aggregate demand for labor (that is, the number of jobs) will increase, not decrease; but that many workers or would-be workers will be prompted by the ACA to leave the labor force, many of them voluntarily. As economist Dean Baker points out, this is, in fact, a beneficial effect of the law, and a sign that it will achieve an important goal. It helps "older workers with serious health conditions who are working now because this is the only way to get health insurance. And (one for the family-values crowd) many young mothers who return to work earlier than they would like because they need health insurance. This is a huge plus."
Flanked by Hillary and Chelsea Clinton, Ban said, "We have seen a great deal of progress since 1995, but still too many women face far too much discrimination and violence. We have to change this phenomenon. I am very much committed to work together with you, and I really count on your continued leadership and engagement." Hillary Clinton said women’s rights and empowerment is an issue of "global importance" and that she looks forward to working with the United Nations in 2015 to mark two decades since the landmark Beijing conference. Clinton is leading a women’s project called "No Ceilings" at her family’s charitable foundation. She announced last September that she would lead a "full and clear-eyed" review in advance of the 2015 anniversary, called "Beijing Plus 20," of the advances made for women’s equality as well as the obstacles that remain.
For some reason, and no one intelligent knows why, far too many conservative men think that women talking about insured and covered birth control and available abortion means we are whores. Sluts. Loose women who cannot control our libidos. The most obvious question is just who IS it all these loose women are screwing, anyway? Because clearly, it isn’t the men who are screaming the loudest about keeping us virgins or pregnant against our will. They might be a little… calmer if that were the case. It really can’t be those men because research shows that sex can actually make you smarter. And the men like Limbaugh, Huckabee, Ron Paul, Akin and countless others are not only not getting any smarter; they clearly wish to keep themselves and women as dumb as possible. Which can only be done if they keep calling us sluts and loose women and assuming that there is no way in which we are intelligent enough to make choices concerning how we care for our bodies and whether we are able or willing to care for a child. And since available, accessible, affordable birth control reduces abortion one might think — if one were a sentient being — that that would be a good thing. But to too many men (and some women) it simply isn’t.
The Daily Reflector: Mooneyham: Defacto leader of Democrats
North Carolina Republican Party is trying to use William Barber, the state NAACP head, as a cudgel to beat on Democrats. Claude Pope added, “William Barber, the new leader of the North Carolina Democratic Party, has been promoting the failed far-left, big-government policies of the past that destroyed the state’s budget and led to record unemployment. It’s only fitting that liberal politicians like Kay Hagan and Roy Cooper have been following Rev. Barber’s lead by parroting his talking points to fire up their fringe liberal activists. The obvious rhetorical trick used by Pope et al was to substitute my “left” for their “Democratic Party.” GOP hopes that he scares away moderate, swing voters when it comes to supporting Democratic candidates.
Berger’s rise from humble beginnings — through hard work and perseverence — is impressive. I don’t agree, however, with a statement by Republican strategist Carter Wrenn: “People might be arguing for years whether he is right or wrong — but either way, you have to admit he’s got the rarest trait in politics: courage.” Finally, he represents a district that is absolutely safe. He need not have any concern about losing a run for re-election. When a politician has no reason to fear opposition from adversaries or even voters, he has no need for courage. Courage is what it would take for anyone to stand against such a leader.
Most North Carolinians have little idea just how much DHHS oversees. Over the years many in state government have questioned the wisdom of constantly adding programs, divisions and tasks to what once was an agency established primarily to be a safety net for the neediest. DHHS indeed has many complicated and sometimes competing roles. It interfaces with federal agencies, other North Carolina Cabinet and regulatory entities, local (county agencies) and others. Its customers range from pre-birth to the eldest among us. It isn’t coincidence that other states have considered these questions over the years and reacted by solving at least one piece of the puzzle: When it comes to children and families, consolidating and integrating family-centered services that focus on prevention, early childhood, assisting vulnerable families and effectively responding to crises makes great sense. In other words, a Children’s Cabinet (or Cabinet on Children and Families).
Doesn’t anyone remember that President Clinton left office with a balanced budget and a surplus? Why do all recent letter writers blame President Obama for our deficit? We became engaged in not one, but two, long wars during the Bush administration. Wars are expensive. The money has to come from somewhere, and it usually involves cutting needed programs and going into debt. Figure it out. Jan Butler, Fletcher
Micah Beasley, Communications Director
North Carolina Democratic Party
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