The 900,000 poorest working families in North Carolina just got another tax hike from the conservatives who swept state legislature elections in 2010. The change took effect at the beginning of 2014, meaning that the taxes those families file this spring will be the last to feature the state’s tax break for the working poor. The provision, known as the Earned Income Tax Credit or EITC, will also be 10 percent less generous in its final year.
State Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos apologized to lawmakers Tuesday for an incident in which the department mailed Medicaid cards to the wrong families and expressed frustration with a backlog of food stamps cases. But under questioning from lawmakers, Wos said many of the department’s high-profile problems were prompted by federal rules, especially requirements handed down as part of the Affordable Care Act. "My expectation when it comes to the department is that we get things right 100 percent of the time," she told lawmakers. "When we do our job well, you probably never hear about it." Lawmakers have been hearing a lot about troubles at the department over the past year, and 2014 started with a pair of troubling disclosures.
The head of the state’s health agency apologized Tuesday for errors that resulted in violations of federal privacy rights of nearly 50,000 children. “I deeply apologize for the impact this has caused to the citizens of this state,” said Dr. Aldona Wos, state Department of Health and Human Services secretary, at a legislative committee meeting that once again focused on the agency’s shortcomings. The department has been juggling crises in the last month. In December, the agency mailed 48,752 children’s Medicaid insurance cards, which include their names, dates of birth and Medicaid identification numbers, to the wrong addresses. A few weeks earlier, the U.S. Department of Agriculture threatened to sanction the state for lengthy delays in processing thousands of food stamp applications. Legislators were surprised by the federal warning because just two months before, DHHS officials delivered an upbeat report on the food stamp system’s progress. Democratic legislators have called for Gov. Pat McCrory to replace Wos. McCrory and legislative Republicans support her.
Think Progress: Governor: We Cut Unemployment Benefits To Stop People From Moving To North Carolina
Gov. Pat McCrory (R-NC) claimed this weekend that gutting the state’s unemployment benefits has sent people back to where “they came from,” presumably because they moved to the state only to collect “very generous benefits” for unemployment. Asked by NC Spin why North Carolina’s employment numbers have dropped dramatically since signing the unemployment bill, McCrory pointed to the state disqualifying itself from long-term federal benefits for the unemployed last year:
McCrory has said the special election for the remainder of Watt’s term will be held on the regular Election Day, Nov. 4, with the winner serving until the 114th Congress is sworn in early January. Democrats note that, since Watt resigned from the House on Jan. 6, this would leave his heavily African-American seat vacant for more than 300 days. According to a Washington Post review, it would also be the longest period between a House vacancy and a special election in at least 50 years.
Pat McCrory is serious trouble because he is no longer taken seriously. After a year of breaking campaign promises, making stuff up, blaming other people and shirking responsibilities, the media no longer believes what he says or takes him at his word. His reset button is not resetting. Earlier this week at a retreat for legislators, McCrory praised former governor Jim Hunt by calling him a “mentor” and “adviser.” Today, the N&O responded by mocking him. Yesterday, Gary Pearce, Hunt’s long-time political adviser and friend, in a somewhat tongue-in-cheek blog post called on the former governor to reject “this slander,” saying, “You don’t want people thinking McCrory has been taking your advice.”
At some point since 2000, 1 in 6 North Carolinians has not had enough nutritious food to eat. Now that figure is closer to 1 in 5, ranking North Carolina sixth among the most food-insecure states in the country. As a result, the state House of Representatives has assembled a study committee to address our problem of food insecurity. "The mission of the committee is to look at the situation and analyze North Carolina’s food issues through the lens of the Departments of Health and Human Services, Commerce and Agriculture," said Rep. Yvonne Holley, D-Wake. "We can look at what everybody is doing about food insecurity and see what we can come up with to comprehensively solve our food problems." Food insecurity refers to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s measurement of access to food sufficient for an active, healthy life for all household members. It is characterized by limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate foods, according to the website of Feeding America, a national hunger-relief charity. The site notes that food-insecure households are not necessarily food-insecure all the time; food insecurity may reflect the household having to make trade-offs between basic needs, such as housing and medical bills, and buying nutritionally adequate foods.
A $1.1 trillion compromise spending bill that funds the government through September won approval Wednesday from the Republican-led U.S. House and now goes to the Senate for consideration. The appropriations measure, approved 359-to-67, would roll back some past spending cuts, raise federal worker pay and touch the everyday life of all Americans. Compromise on the fiscal year 2014 spending bill is a break from years of congressional funding fights that included a government shutdown last October.
U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre of Lumberton will be aboard Air Force One as President Barack Obama travels to Raleigh today for an announcement at N.C. State University. McIntyre, the longtime Democratic congressman who recently announced he would retire from the House at the end of the year, accepted the White House’s invitation to travel with the president, his office said in a news release. McIntyre has shied away from public appearances with the president in the past, as that wouldn’t sit well with some voters in the conservative 7th Congressional District. The president is announcing that N.C. State will be home to a $140 million consortium of companies and universities that will develop the next generation of energy-efficient electronic chips and devices.
President Barack Obama’s scheduled visit to Raleigh on Wednesday to discuss the economy is likely to include a push to extend emergency unemployment insurance benefits that could restore jobless benefits for some state residents. The GOP-led General Assembly last session voted to cut off benefits for the long-term jobless in late June to help pay down $2.8 billion in debt owed to the federal government resulting from benefit extensions through the Great Recession. There were more than 2,300 long-term unemployed in the Wilmington area – 70,000 statewide – who lost their federal benefits under the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Program on June 30. Therefore, residents of North Carolina were not affected several weeks ago when federal emergency unemployment insurance benefits expired for some 1.3 million Americans.
When federal emergency unemployment benefits expired last month, the effects ran deep in a Colorado county marked by two exit ramps off Interstate 25 — one leading to the conservative religious group Focus on the Family, the other to the Fort Carson Army post. Hardly a liberal bastion, El Paso County has the largest number of people in the state who lost unemployment benefits, and many aren’t happy about it. Plenty of Republicans, too, depend on jobless aid that Republicans in Congress are hesitant to prolong.
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-Mass.): You’re willing to do this over politics? You’re really willing to cut these people off, to leave them with no money to put food on the table, to put a roof over their heads, to take care of their children? The Republicans are so caught in playing political games at every single turn. This is about America saying to the Republican Party, you can’t keep blocking everything that moves this country forward. This has to stop.
A group of seventy-five leading economists signed a letter to President Obama and congressional leaders in support of raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour by 2016. The letter, released by the Economic Policy Institute, endorses a Democratic proposal to raise the minimum wage by ninety-five cents a year over the next three years, and then to tie further increases to inflation. The plan, which is sponsored by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Representative George Miller (D-CA), received the support of President Obama in November. The letter’s signees, including seven Nobel laureates, say the Miller-Harkin plan would increase the wages of close to 17 million low-wage workers. “The vast majority of employees who would benefit are adults in working families, disproportionately women, who work at least 20 hours a week and depend on these earnings to make ends meet,” the letter reads, “At a time when persistent high unemployment is putting enormous downward pressure on wages, such a minimum-wage increase would provide a much-needed boost to the earnings of low-wage workers.”
President Barack Obama traveled to North Carolina Wednesday to announce another bid to revive America’s manufacturing sector, a first step in his newly imposed "year of action" that avoids Congressional approval for measures to boost the economy. “The pieces are there to restore some of the ground that the middle class has lost in recent decades, start raising wages for middle class families – but it requires us to take action. This has to be a year of action,” reaffirmed Obama.
Frustrated by Washington gridlock, President Barack Obama on Wednesday promised a “year of action” designed to speed job creation by using his executive powers. “The challenge of making sure everyone who works hard can get ahead in today’s economy is so important that we can’t wait for Congress to solve it,” Obama told 2,000 people in a speech at N.C. State University. “Where I can act, on my own without Congress, I’m going to do so. And today I’m here to act.” Obama announced a $140 million consortium of companies and universities, led by NCSU, that will develop the next generation of energy-efficient electronic chips and devices. The effort – and other technology hubs like it expected to be announced soon – helps fulfill a pledge Obama made in his State of the Union address a year ago to develop high-tech jobs.
President Barack Obama returns to the Triangle on Wednesday, a trip that highlights the political might of North Carolina and a place that has been common ground for the nation’s 44th president. He’ll speak at the J.W. Isenhour Tennis Complex on the N.C. State campus Wednesday afternoon. WNCN will carry the speech live on television and online.
Obama used a decisive victory in the North Carolina primary to catapult him into the White House in 2008. As president, he has appeared at hallowed sports arenas like Reynolds Coliseum and Carmichael Arena to boost support for his policies. And he has stopped at high-tech North Carolina companies like Cree to push his programs as well.
As Sen. Kay Hagan prepares for what is likely to be a tough and competitive re-election campaign, she emphasized a populist message that would portray her as fighting for average North Carolinians against Republicans on the side of “outside special interest money.” The Tar Heel state Democrat hopes to gain an advantage by contrasting her work on Capitol Hill with the influence of undisclosed outsiders who are pouring in money to defeat her. "These individuals don’t know the people, don’t know the values, don’t know the problems,” Hagan said in an interview on Tuesday previewing her 2014 campaign. “They’re looking for any issues having to do with their corporations and their taxes.
Five Republican U.S. Senate candidates sat at the front of an auditorium Tuesday to make their case for why they were the best candidate to beat Democrat Sen. Kay Hagan in November. One chair at the front sat empty. Thom Tillis didn’t show. Again. It’s the third candidate forum that the state House speaker has skipped and the second this month. The two previous forums were hosted by county tea party groups – a population skeptical of Tillis’ candidacy – but the latest event was hosted by the county Republican Party in a part of the state where Tillis will need to run strong to win his party’s nomination.
A frontrunner appears to be emerging in the Republican Senate primary race in North Carolina.
House Speaker Thom Tillis is widening his lead from the pack of other Republicans who want to unseat Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan in the fall. The liberal-leaning Public Policy Polling group found Tillis has 19 percent of voter support, which is up six percent since last month.
I’m going to take a point of privilege and rant for a minute. Phil Berger, Jr.’s campaign for Congress has sent me over the edge. In less than two short months, he’s managed to hit all of the points that make running for higher office so distasteful. He’s become a parody of the modern political campaign. Watching his twitter account is like fingernails on a chalkboard. His whole campaign is fake and contrived. As I mentioned earlier this week, he’s shamelessly pandering to special interests instead of talking to voters. Now, he’s posting staged photos with hokey slogans that say nothing.
David Jolly (R) has defeated two GOP rivals to win his party’s nomination in the race to replace the late Rep. C.W. Bill Young in Florida’s 13th District, Roll Call reports. "Jolly will face former state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink in the March 11 general election in this St. Petersburg-based district. This special election marks the first truly competitive special election of the cycle, and many political insiders view it as a bellwether for the cycle."
Democrat Wendy Davis, who rode to national prominence as she stood in the way of Texas Republicans’ new abortion restrictions, has raised more than $12 million for her gubernatorial campaign, her campaign announced Tuesday.
The state senator’s fundraising spans her campaign committees and affiliated committees. She raised $8.7 million of it for herself. Davis is still a significant underdog in her likely matchup with state Attorney General Greg Abbott (R). Abbott has also been a very strong fundraiser, and reportedly raised $11.5 million in the last six months of 2013. He has already banked about $27 million in total for the campaign.
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad is expected to kick off a historic, juggernaut campaign for re-election that many political analysts suspect will be a cakewalk, even though a majority of Iowans think the Republican has been in office long enough. Tonight, 10 months before the election, Branstad emailed supporters that “a major campaign announcement” will happen Wednesday night, followed by a tour across the state. If he wins an unprecedented sixth term, it would cement his place as the longest-serving governor in U.S. history. Iowa Democrats’ inability to produce a big-name challenger, and Branstad’s high popularity and job approval ratings, mean the governor’s in a strong position, strategists say.
Just before a panel of Republican men on the House Judiciary Committee debated a new anti-abortion bill on Wednesday, a group of their Democratic colleagues staged a rare protest in the hallway outside the committee room. “It’s increasingly evident that the only women’s agenda that the Republicans have put forward is to take away your health care rights and then tell you to get lost,” Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), co-chair of the House Pro-Choice Caucus, told the crowd of protesters. “Women are sick and tired of these constant attacks on our constitutionally-protected right to choose, while priorities like equal pay, fair wages and paid family leave go unaddressed."
Lawyers on both sides of a federal lawsuit over North Carolina’s 2012 prohibition of same-sex marriages say they are closely studying recent court rulings overturning similar bans in other states. A spokeswoman for Attorney General Roy Cooper said Wednesday his office is reviewing Tuesday’s ruling that Oklahoma’s ban is unconstitutional. A judge in Utah struck down that state’s ban last month. Both rulings are on appeal.
The apology on Tuesday of Dr. Aldona Wos, secretary of the state Department of Health and Human Services, for multiple problems in her agency was utterly sincere. But Wos didn’t exactly offer much confidence-building to state legislators on an oversight committee. The secretary, who prior to her appointment had never done anything close to supervising a state department with over 17,000 employees, seems simply overwhelmed and underqualified for the job. Gov. Pat McCrory, well aware of Wos’s mega-fundraising for Republicans, continues to stand by his ill-advised appointment, digging in against calls for Wos to resign even as the problems at DHHS have multiplied.
Advocates of a free and open Internet could see this coming, but today’s ruling from a Washington appeals court striking down the FCC’s rules protecting the open net was worse than the most dire forecasts. It was "even more emphatic and disastrous than anyone expected," in the words of one veteran advocate for network neutrality. The Court of Appeals for the D.C. circuit thoroughly eviscerated the Federal Communications Commission’s latest lame attempt to prevent Internet service providers from playing favorites among websites–awarding faster speeds to sites that pay a special fee, for example, or slowing or blocking sites and services that compete with favored affiliates. Big cable operators like Comcast and telecommunications firms like Verizon, which brought the lawsuit on which the court ruled, will be free to pick winners and losers among websites and services. Their judgment will most likely be based on cold hard cash–Netflix wants to keep your Internet provider from slowing its data so its films look like hash? It will have to pay your provider the big bucks. But the governing factor need not be money. (Comcast remains committed to adhere to the net neutrality rules overturned today until January 2018, a condition placed on its 2011 merger with NBC Universal; after that, all bets are off.)
Micah Beasley, Communications Director
North Carolina Democratic Party
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