WRAL: Despite USDA threat, NC food stamps backlog got worse
The state Department of Health and Human Services acknowledged Friday afternoon that its problematic food stamps system is not improving, despite assurances to federal officials that it was taking steps to fix the massive backlog of overdue cases. Data released by DHHS to WRAL News show that, as of Dec. 31, more than 30,000 North Carolina families waited for longer than a month to receive food stamps benefits through the state’s new NC FAST system, which was designed to streamline the delivery of public assistance. More than 9,200 of those families waited three months or more.
WRAL: McCrory begins second year in office facing familiar challenges
From his left flank, McCrory has been pilloried by Democrats and those in the "Moral Monday" movement who see him shedding his skin as a business-oriented moderate and embracing a hard-right agenda that included going back on a pledge not to approve any new laws restricting abortion. Liberals paint him as the cheerleader for a legislature that has curbed spending on progressive priorities, such as public education, and pushed through a tax reform package that favored the wealthy.
Winston-Salem Journal: McCrory aides worked on SC tribe’s NC casino idea
Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration spent months discussing a South Carolina Indian tribe’s proposal to build a gambling casino in North Carolina, an idea that the governor’s office later downplayed as a "local initiative" after news of the plan surfaced, the News & Observer of Raleigh reported. Internal documents released under the state public records law show the talks about a proposed casino in Kings Mountain off Interstate 85 started in April, included two of the governor’s top economic advisers and covered revenue sharing that could have meant millions of dollars for the state treasury, the newspaper reported Sunday.
Watauga Watch: McCrory Blocks Traffic on All Bridges Going into CD12
Congressman Mel Watt of the 12th District resigned his seat in Congress on January 6 to take his new job as director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency. His resignation should have triggered a special election to fill his unexpired term in the U.S. House. But, no, Gov. McCrory decided that the seat could be filled on November 4, 2014, along with every other seat in Congress. In other words, citizens of the 12th Congressional District will have no representation in Congress for the next 300 days. Well, after all, those people are mainly black and didn’t vote for McCrory. Who the hell cares whether they have a congressman for 2014?
The Daily Tar Heel: Hagan inserts N.C. politics into unemployment debate
As the Senate debates unemployment benefits, Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., is including a provision to restore the state’s benefits. Federal unemployment insurance expired on Dec. 28 and the Senate is currently debating a bill to extend benefits. But North Carolina lost its federal unemployment benefits in July after the N.C. General Assembly reduced benefits from $535 per week to $350 per week. States receiving unemployment insurance were prohibited from making cuts to benefits. As a result, Hagan included a provision in the bill to allow unemployment benefits to return to North Carolina. “As we slowly regain jobs lost during the Great Recession, out-of-work North Carolinians should not suffer because of the General Assembly’s reckless actions,” Hagan said in a statement.
PBS: Doctors say food stamp cuts will result in higher healthcare costs
The government could be paying higher health bills over time if they cut food stamps, according to doctors lobbying the government, the Associated Press reports. The doctors say the results will not be apparent immediately, but with time, the poor will end up in doctor’s offices. As Congress looks for a compromise on a farm bill that’s expected to include food stamp cuts, known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, doctors warn that hunger will cause diabetes and developmental problems for young children. "If you’re interested in saving healthcare costs, the dumbest thing you can do is cut nutrition," Dr. Deborah Frank of Boston Medical Center, who founded the Children’s HealthWatch pediatric research institute, told the AP. "People don’t make the hunger-health connection."
Huffington Post: Congresswomen Pen Stinging Memo To House GOP
One of the sources of her irritation was our previous week’s editorial that took her to task for pushing the trust for action when, in our view, the design needed further revision to blend with the Presidio surroundings. "I know you said I’m coming late in the game, in the late innings, but at the same time you’re saying, ‘Don’t rush it,’ " she said with a laugh that did not suggest amusement. "Well, I’m either late or I’m rushing it. … I can’t be both." Pelosi also got rolling on the matter of Republican obstructionism in the House of Representatives. "They just have a thing about this president. They don’t want him to succeed," she said. "If you don’t believe in government and you don’t believe in science and you don’t believe inBarack Obama, it’s really easy. You don’t vote for anything." Pelosi wanted to dispel the conventional wisdom that 30 or 40 Tea Party Republicans are the problem. As always, she was ready with numbers. She pointed out the Republican bloc for food stamp cuts (97 percent), against Superstorm Sandy aid (more than 80 percent) and against the recent bipartisan budget deal (more than 100 members). "They are either afraid of the Tea Party or they share their views," she said. "They vote what they believe or they vote what they are fearing. But whatever it is, it’s a much bigger number than 30 or 40."
Seattle Pi: Leaked GOP memo: How to spin delay for unemployment benefits
The U.S. Senate voted Tuesday to move ahead with legislation restoring — for three months — unemployment benefits to 1.3 million Americans that expired on Dec. 28. In the House, however, Republican leaders are telling the rank and file how to “spin” a delay. A leaked memo from the House Republican Conference, chaired by Washington’s Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, surfaced in the Washington Post and other news outlets, giving “talking points” on unemployment insurance as well as suggested answers to questions on why benefits aren’t being extended. The chief advice: Express sympathy in soft focus. Or as the suggested talking point puts it: “For every American out of work, it’s a personal crisis for them and their family. That’s why House Republicans remain focused on creating jobs and growing the economy.”
Dome: Obama to visit NCSU on Wednesday
President Obama will visit NCSU on Wednesday during his trip to North Carolina, the university said on Saturday. The White House announced earlier in the week that he would be coming to the Triangle, where he would begin to lay out his administrations agenda for the year, in a warm-up to his Jan. 28 State of the Union address. Specifics weren’t announced until Saturday. "We are honored to welcome President Obama and look forward to demonstrating how NC State is a pre-eminent research enterprise that excels in driving economic growth and educating the workforce of the future,” N.C. State Chancellor Randy Woodson said in a statement NCSU released.
New York Times: U.S. to Recognize 1,300 Marriages Disputed by Utah
The Obama administration on Friday made the latest contribution to a fast-moving legal battle over same-sex marriage rights as the Justice Department said that the federal government would recognize as lawful the marriages of some 1,300 same-sex couples in Utah even though the state government is largely refusing to do so. The announcement furthered President Obama’s self-described evolution on same-sex marriage rights. He was once a politician who said he was “not in favor of gay marriage” and repeatedly invoked the rights of states to decide how marriage should be defined. More recently, he said “I think same-sex couples should be able to get married,” and now his administration appears to be edging closer to confronting a state government over its refusal to recognize such rights.
Wilmington Star News: Goolsby won’t seek re-election
The state Democratic Party was harsh in its assessment of Goolsby. "Thom Goolsby represents everything that is wrong with the reckless Republican agenda, from gutting public education to his cold-hearted support of ending benefits for thousands of jobless North Carolinians. Rather than face the voters in his district, Sen. Goolsby chose to retire, instead," said Micah Beasley, a spokesman for the North Carolina Democratic Party. Goolsby famously called the Moral Monday protests led by the NAACP and others outside the General Assembly "Moron Mondays."
WRAL: 2 NC state senators say they won’t run in 2014
Two North Carolina state senators announced Friday they are not seeking re-election in November. Sens. Thom Goolsby, R-New Hanover, and Michael Walters, D-Robeson, made separate announcements. In a statement on his website, Goolsby said his two young daughters need him more at home than service in the Senate allows. He said he also plans to focus on his law practice. Goolsby arrived at the General Assembly in 2011 after Republicans claimed majorities at the legislature. He had significant roles on legislation related to the death penalty, medical malpractice and other issues. "I will look for other opportunities to serve in the future," Goolsby said. "For now, I’m pleased someone else will have the opportunity to build on our successes and keep New Hanover County moving in a positive direction." Walters, who joined the Senate in 2009 when he was appointed to succeed David Weinstein, said his decision was for personal and business reasons. He’s president of a logging company.
Star News: Candidates prepare for tough race to fill McIntyre’s seat
With U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre stepping aside at the end of this term, political strategists are putting the 7th Congressional District in the win column for Republicans. But that primary was already setting up to be a bloodbath. Woody White, chairman of the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners, threw a wrench in former state senator David Rouzer’s plans to sail through the GOP primary – even before McIntyre announced last week that he was retiring at the end of 2014. Just a few weeks ago, Rouzer sat down at a coffee shop in Raleigh and talked about how he expected to be the only candidate in the race, as it was getting a little late for anyone else to chime in. But in comes White, who said he’ll officially kick off his campaign Monday. “I’ve lived here 44 years. I’m a lifelong resident of the district,” White said, noting many have encouraged him to run. The narrative by White’s camp is that he’s a local boy with deep roots in the heart of the district battling a career politician.
WECT: Elizabeth Redenbaugh announces run for state senate
Saturday morning, Elizabeth Redenbaugh (D) announced that she will be running for the 9th District seat in the North Carolina State Senate. The former New Hanover County School Board Member said that one of the reasons she decided to run is to help fight for changes in the state’s education system. "What’s been happening in the General Assembly and Raleigh, they have been dismantling the education system piece by piece and I want to get up there and fight for public education," explained Redenbaugh. "Fight not only for my children and grandchildren, but also fight for everyone else’s." One of her goals is to raise the salaries of teachers. She says that if elected she plans to work with former Governor Jim Hunt to raise teacher pay to the national average. During her speech to supporters Saturday, Redenbaugh pointed out that teacher pay in North Carolina ranks 46 out of all 50 states.
Black Mountain News: GOP state senators face challengers
Sen. Jim Davis, R-Franklin, an orthodontist, faces Sylva Democrat Ron Robinson, a business management consultant, in Senate District 50 race. Chris Cooper, a political scientist at Western Carolina University, said the legislative campaign season is starting out as a referendum on the General Assembly’s work last year. “The Republicans claim that they have a mandate and that the vast majority of North Carolinians support the aggressive 2013 state legislative agenda,” he said. “They point to the improving North Carolina economy as a primary indicator of their success. The Democrats, on the other hand, argue that the Republican legislature overstepped its bounds, that they never had a mandate, and that public opinion data suggest widespread dissatisfaction with the Republican legislative agenda. The next 10 months will be a battle between these two positions.” Of the two, Apodaca’s seat is the safest.
Salisbury Post: Local Republicans back McCrory on filling Watt’s seat; Democrats don’t
Local reaction has been mixed to news that Rep. Mel Watt’s seat will not be filled until a special election 10 months from now. Watt, the Democrat who has held the 12th District seat since 1993, resigned Monday to take over the Federal Housing Finance Agency. Also Monday, Gov. Pat McCrory announced that a special election to fill Watt’s seat would be held in November, following the established primary and general election schedule. Rowan County Republican Party Chair John Leatherman said he backs the governor’s decision. About a third of Rowan County, including Salisbury, falls within the district.
Politics NC: Just another politician
Phil Berger, Jr. sure is fond of signing pledges and pandering to special interests. I realize he’s chasing money and trying to establish his conservative credentials in his bid to replace Howard Coble in Congress, but he could use a little subtlety. Right now, he looks just like any other politician. The trend started early when Berger tweeted that he had signed Grover Norquist’s so-called “Taxpayer Protection Pledge.” At a time whenRepublicans of all stripes are moving away from Grover and his heavy-handed, deficit-inducing tactics, Berger is embracing them. The Taxpayer Protection Pledge and Norquist’s pledge to primary GOP incumbents who cross him have been a major impediment to reaching a Grand Bargain to restore fiscal responsibility.
Huffington Post: Anti-Gay Group Endorses Mark Harris In North Carolina GOP Senate Primary
Concerned Women for America, a D.C.-based conservative Christian nonprofit, has jumped into North Carolina’s competitive Republican primary for U.S. Senate, endorsing Rev. Mark Harris, a Baptist preacher. Harris is vying against several other candidates for the chance to challenge Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.). The Southern Poverty Law Center has classified CWA as a hate group, citing various anti-LGBT statements its founder, Beverly LaHaye, has made. LaHaye has equated homosexuality with pedophilia and has accused "homosexual activists" of fabricating hate crime reports.
Talking Points Memo: Georgia GOPer Attacking Free School Lunch Expensed $4,200 In Meals
Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) warned that there’s "no such thing as free lunch" for school children in Georgia, but he seems to have enjoyed a few. An investigation by Georgia’s WSAV channel 3 found that Kingston, who is currently running for Senate and recently suggested students work cleaning cafeterias in exchange for lunch, had expensed as much as $4,182 worth of lunches for his office over the past three years. "Kingston and his staff expensed nearly $4200 in meals for business purposes to his congressional office, paid for by the American taxpayer," WSAV 3’s Dan Kartunen reported. The amount could have purchased nearly 2,000 Georgia school lunches. WSAV also found that Kingston also racked up $4,289 of free meals paid for by third-party groups like the Georgia Bankers Association and the Congressional Institute. Kingston has also travelled to a handful of continents on congressional business racking up $24,313 in costs. Those expenses include more than just meals. What’s more, Kingston also expensed $145,391 worth of meals for campaign events.
Politico: The GOP’s tarnished golden boys
For a while, Chris Christie and Bob McDonnell were untouchable. The first major Republicans elected after the 2008 Obama landslide, the tough-as-nails Garden Stater and the straight-edged Virginian heralded the conservative resurgence in 2010 and pointed the way toward sweeping victories for small-government candidates on the state level. A year ago, both seemed like plausible and even probable 2016 presidential candidates, two representatives of a fresher GOP, anchored in fiscal discipline, support for states’ rights and opposition to public labor. Now, clouds hang over both the GOP golden boys of 2009. McDonnell’s situation is far graver: as he leaves office this weekend, the governor’s Boy Scout-image is in tatters amid an ongoing criminal investigation of huge, undisclosed gifts that his family accepted from a political contributor.
Politico: Hillary Clinton: Clock ‘turning back’ for women in U.S.
Hillary Clinton warns in a new book that the “clock is turning back” on women across America and offers a passionate argument for prioritizing the advancement of women and girls. Clinton, the former secretary of state and possible presidential contender, is one of a slew of high-profile contributors to a new report set to be released Sunday compiled by author and activist Maria Shriver and the liberal Center for American Progress.
Politico: GOP governors may still go for Medicaid expansion – and cash
Republicans counting on a year of nonstop Obamacare-bashing may be in for an unwelcome surprise: more red-state governors ditching the political script to take a second look at the law’s huge expansion of Medicaid. The party plans to make Obamacare and its early stumbles a central campaign issue in 2014; the House plans two anti-Obamacare votes Friday. But in the states, the Medicaid expansion — a giant, dangling carrot worth billions of federal dollars to states that sign up — has proved attractive to nearly a dozen GOP governors, and a handful more are on the fence. Governors like Rick Perry of Texas and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana remain firmly in the “no way” camp. But Pennsylvania and Tennessee are actively working with the Obama administration to expand Medicaid, although their efforts to squeeze policy concessions on the GOP wish list — like requiring enrollees to pay more — could be a dead end.
Reuters: McAuliffe sworn in as Virginia governor, as Clintons look on
Terry McAuliffe, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee and a major party fundraiser, was sworn in as governor of Virginia on Saturday, cheered on by his friends former President Bill Clinton and potential White House contender Hillary Clinton. McAuliffe, 56, who led a Democratic sweep of the three top offices in the swing state, took the oath at the state Capitol, which was designed by Thomas Jefferson. The governor, who has never before held public office, in November narrowly defeated Republican Ken Cuccinelli, the outgoing attorney general and a favorite of the party’s conservative Tea Party wing. For the first time in a quarter century Democrats hold the state’s top elective posts: governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general.
LBGT Nation: McAuliffe signs executive order prohibiting discrimination against LGBT state workers
Just moments after his inauguration on Saturday, Virgina governor Terry McAuliffe signed “Executive Order Number 1,” a directive prohibiting discrimination based on race, sex, color, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, political affiliation, or against otherwise qualified persons with disabilities in Virginia state government. The order fulfills a campaign promise by McAuliffe to reinstate previous orders by former governors Tim Kaine and Mark Warner that prohibited discrimination against state employees on the basis of sexual orientation. The is the first time gender identity has been included. McAuliffe’s predecessor, Bob McDonnell, had said there there was no need to ban discrimination against LGBT state employees because there was no evidence that there was any.
Star Tribune: Left behind: Job loss buries hopes, careers
Liz and Bob McLean are on the wrong side of an economic divide. Not so long ago, they would roar out on a motorcycle trip to Yellowstone, or ride a helicopter down the Colorado River. In 2007, Bob put half the money down on a new pickup and paid cash for a new motorcycle. Losing their jobs changed everything for the couple from Prior Lake. Bob now drives a school bus for $13 an hour, one-third what he earned when he designed tools to test hard drives for Seagate. Liz, who works in IT, has found new jobs, but she makes less than she did in 2008. “We don’t go out. We don’t travel,” she said. “We’re figuring out if I can even retire.” Millions of Americans have moved on from the recession with careers and finances mostly intact, but large groups have fallen behind, perhaps for good. The difference is whether they were able to hang on to their jobs.
The New York Times: Enemies of the Poor
Suddenly it’s O.K., even mandatory, for politicians with national ambitions to talk about helping the poor. This is easy for Democrats, who can go back to being the party of F.D.R. and L.B.J. It’s much more difficult for Republicans, who are having a hard time shaking their reputation for reverse Robin-Hoodism, for being the party that takes from the poor and gives to the rich. And the reason that reputation is so hard to shake is that it’s justified. It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that right now Republicans are doing all they can to hurt the poor, and they would have inflicted vast additional harm if they had won the 2012 election. Moreover, G.O.P. harshness toward the less fortunate isn’t just a matter of spite (although that’s part of it); it’s deeply rooted in the party’s ideology, which is why recent speeches by leading Republicans declaring that they do too care about the poor have been almost completely devoid of policy specifics. Let’s start with the recent Republican track record.
GALLUP Politics: Record-High 42% of Americans Identify as Independents
Forty-two percent of Americans, on average, identified as political independents in 2013, the highest Gallup has measured since it began conducting interviews by telephone 25 years ago. Meanwhile, Republican identification fell to 25%, the lowest over that time span. At 31%, Democratic identification is unchanged from the last four years but down from 36% in 2008.
The Washington Post: No, we don’t spend $1 trillion on welfare each year
If you’ve read any conservative commentary on the war on poverty in the past week, you’ve likely seen this talking point: “We spend $1 trillion each year on welfare and there’s been no reduction in poverty.” That’s crazy! Then, a sentence later, you’ll probably see a line like this: “It’s true. According to a recent report, we spend a trillion dollars on means-test programs each year, yet the official census numbers show no reduction in poverty.” If you are reading that second line quickly, you probably think it bolsters the credibility of the first line. It’s an “official” number, and the census and the report probably quote accurate numbers too, night? They do, but the second sentence is actually used as an escape hatch to say something that isn’t true. We don’t spend anywhere near a trillion dollars on welfare unless you mangle the term “welfare” to be meaningless, and we do reduce poverty.
Constortium News: How GOP Gerrymanders Away Democracy
Amid America’s demographic changes, Republicans have exploited every trick they can think of to stave off actual democracy, where every vote is respected and equal. One scheme has been to modernize the old practice of “gerrymandering,” as Beverly Bandler explains. In Election 2012, Democrats received 1.4 million more votes for the U.S. House of Representatives, yet Republicans won control of the House by a 234-to-201 margin. Thus, the second-biggest GOP majority in 60 years was not the will of American voters. It was gerrymandered. Or, as Republican strategist Karl Rove has said, “He who controls redistricting can control Congress.”
The Denver Post: Robert Reich: Income inequality the defining issue for U.S.
The growing concentration of income and wealth in the hands of a few isn’t bad just for those losing ground but could jeopardize the country’s future if unchecked, warns Robert Reich, a former labor secretary in the Clinton administration. "It is a threat to our way of life," Reich told attendees Friday at the Colorado Fiscal Institute’s 2014 Fiscal Forum at the History Colorado Center. Reich, a professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, is a leading voice calling attention to income inequality — a chorus that recently added President Barack Obama and Pope Francis. Reich, who has released a documentary called "Inequality for All," said 95 percent of economic gains since the "so-called" recovery started in 2009 have gone to the top 1 percent by net worth. He criticized an anemic jobs report Friday that showed only 74,000 jobs added in December and the share of working adults at a 30-year low.
Cleveland News: Manipulating voting laws to win elections has long been a GOP game in Ohio: Thomas Suddes
Give Ohio Republicans this: They plan. That’s how they win elections. In 1949, Republicans feared so-called “straight-ticket” voting might unseat U.S. Sen Robert A. (“Mr. Republican”) Taft.In straight-ticket voting, an Ohioan, by marking just one “x,” could vote for all the Republicans or all the Democrats listed on November’s ballot. In 1950, Gov. Frank J. Lausche, a Cleveland Democrat, would run for re-election. Lots of Republicans liked him. The GOP machine feared Lausche’s Republican fans might mark an “x” in the straight-ticket box atop that list headed by Lausche’s name. Not only would that help him. It might replace GOP Sen. Robert A. Taft with Democrat Joseph T. (“Jumpin’ Joe”) Ferguson.
Huffington Post: How Fox News Chief Roger Ailes Tried To Win Republicans The White House
Around 5 p.m. on Election Day 2012, Fox News chief Roger Ailes realized that Mitt Romney would not make it to the White House. "Thank you, Chris Christie," Ailes groused. Ailes was frustrated that the New Jersey governor appeared alongside President Barack Obama days earlier to survey the damage of Hurricane Sandy. When Ailes was told polling data suggested the incident hadn’t hurt the Republican Party’s chances, he responded: "Well, hugging the guy couldn’t help people feel good about Romney, either." This wasn’t how the race was supposed to end. During an afternoon meeting before the 2010 midterm elections, Ailes told executives he wanted "to elect the next president." Fox News already ruled the ratings and boasts annual earnings of around $1 billion. Most network chiefs would be ecstatic. But Ailes isn’t like most –- or really, any -– other top cable news executives. A visionary in the world of political messaging on television, Ailes had advised three past Republican presidents on how to use the medium to their advantage. And now he planned to use his talents for the party once more.
Micah Beasley, Communications Director
North Carolina Democratic Party
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