Dome: Poll finds Pat McCrory’s approval ratings fall
Republican Gov. Pat McCrory’s approval rating fell in January following three months of improving numbers, according to a new poll. His current approval rating of 37 percent is down from 42 percent in December. The percentage of voters who disapprove remained steady at 47 percent, according to a Public Policy Polling survey released Thursday. “North Carolinians aren’t particularly happy with any of their politicians though,” said pollster Tom Jensen. The Democratic firm’s poll has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 2.6 percentage points. It is also the first North Carolina poll conducted with new methods that use web surveys to reach those without land-line phones in addition to the traditional automated calls.
WRAL: Doctors file suit against NC, call Medicaid billing system ‘disaster’
North Carolina’s Medicaid billing system has been so dysfunctional that it costs doctors time, money and patients, according to a class-action lawsuit filed by a group of medical providers Thursday. The suit alleges the state Department of Health and Human Services and some of its computer services providers were negligent in developing and implementing a new Medicaid claims billing system, known as NCTracks. Doctors from Cumberland, Nash, New Hanover, Robeson and Wake counties are part of the suit and claim "NCTracks has been a disaster, inflicting millions of dollars in damages upon North Carolina’s Medicaid providers.”
Winston- Salem Journal: Seven physician practices sue DHHS over ineffective Medicaid claim-processing system
At a $484 million contract cost for development, implementation and continuing support, it represents the biggest IT project in state government history. The state Medicaid system processes about $13 billion in reimbursement claims for more than 70,000 providers who serve more than 1.5 million North Carolinians. The practices said NC Tracks “has been a disaster, inflicting millions of dollars in damages upon North Carolina’s Medicaid providers.” They are pursuing damages, declaratory relief and injunctive relief against the defendants. Also being sued are three information-technology groups: Computer Science Corp. (CSC), developer and operator of NC Tracks; Maximus Consulting Services Inc.; and Sli Global Solutions Inc. The latter two defendants were responsible for independently testing and validating the effectiveness of NC Tracks. Joe Cooper, DHHS’ chief information officer, said he could not comment specifically about the lawsuit complaints.
WFMY News: NC Attorney General: Every Child’s Credit Report Should Be Checked
The state spent thousands of dollars mailing out a second batch of Medicaid cards because the first batch got mailed to the wrong people. A computer glitch caused 49,000 cards with kid’s personal information to be mailed to strangers. Attorney General Roy Cooper warned the mix up could lead to ID theft and advised the Medicaid parents check their child’s credit report. In fact, the AG recommends ALL parents check their child’s report. A friend of mine did and was surprised to hear the bureaus don’t usually track minors and her child didn’t have a report. So 2WTK asked Cooper about it. "It’s a good thing if your child does not have a credit report because that means no one is using their information and trying to get credit cards and loans. It’s not unusual for a child to not have a credit report."
News and Observer: LaRoque wants a new attorney in federal loan fraud case
Former state Rep. Stephen LaRoque wants to change attorneys in his federal loan fraud case. In a motion submitted to U.S. District Court Judge Malcolm J. Howard on Wednesday, LaRoque’s attorneys – Joseph B. Cheshire V and Elliot S. Abrams – said there is “a significant and fundamental disagreement” between LaRoque and the lawyers over strategy. LaRoque wants to hire Greenville attorney Keith Williams, the motion says. Cheshire and his Raleigh law firm are one of the most prominent in the state. They say in the motion they have no problem with Williams taking over the case.
The Hill: Bill would revive the Voting Rights Act
The proposal is also taking some heat from the left, as some civil rights groups are already grumbling that the new coverage formula gives some states with tough new voting laws a free pass. Penda D. Hair, co-director of the Advancement Project, criticized the bill Thursday for excluding North Carolina, which erected several new hurdles to voting in recent years, including a strict voter ID law and the elimination of same-day registration. “The exclusion of North Carolina is especially egregious, considering the flood of harmful voting policies from the state,” Hair said.
Politico: Harry Reid: GOP jobless complaints ‘asinine’
Republican contentions that Senate Democrats wanted an unemployment benefit extension to fail so they can campaign against GOP obstruction are “asinine,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said. After a pair of failed votes on Tuesday on two separate proposals to extend benefits, the Senate GOP has suggested Democrats got exactly what they wanted: Another example of Republican obstructionism to run against in November, or “putting politics over struggling families,” as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has put it. “This is asinine that they would even suggest that,” Reid said Thursday.
Washington Post: Women are wielding notable influence in Congress
After decades of trying to amass power, several women have vaulted to the top of influential congressional committees, putting them in charge of some of the most consequential legislation being considered on Capitol Hill. The $1.1 trillion spending plan Congress approved this week was the handiwork of Senate Appropriations Com¬mittee Chairman Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) and her House counterpart, Harold Rogers (R-Ky.). In December, when lawmakers approved a budget deal with big majorities in both chambers, credit went to Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). Next month, when attention will turn to passing a farm bill, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), who has spent three years working on the measure with House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank D. Lucas (R-Okla.), will be at the center of the action. Leaders and aides in both chambers expect the bill to pass. And women’s influence extends beyond the marquee legislation to other policy areas.
New York Times: A First Lady at 50, Finding Her Own Path
She has perfected a mean forehand, is working on her yoga poses, dishes with girlfriends over brussels sprouts and dirty martinis (one olive) at the Mediterranean hotspot Zaytinya, pushes her two daughters to play two sports — one of her choosing and one of theirs — and said this week that the wonders of modern dermatology, like Botox, are in the realm of possibility for her. Michelle Obama is in many ways the embodiment of the contemporary, urban, well-heeled middle-aged American woman. She likes to take “me time,” as she did during an extra vacation week this month without family in Hawaii, setting off a tabloid furor over the state of her marriage. She frets that her older daughter, 15-year-old Malia, hangs out with the boys a grade above her. She gardens, although unlike the rest of us, she has significant weeding help.
Dome: Morning Memo: A different look at NC’s Senate race
Davis tries to give the race an independent eye but he obviously puts stock in the current GOP power structure. His bold prediction counters many Washington prognosticators. And he sees another dynamic that defies the conventional wisdom: Hagan cannot count on a divided Republican Party. “Of course, the great hope of Brannon/Harris/Flynn/Grant is to force a primary runoff by ganging up on Tillis with enough outside super PAC attack ads that keep his vote below 40 percent,” he writes. “However, the odds are greater that they will splinter the hard right conservatives and Tillis will parlay a sizable cash and organizational advantage into a primary victory on May 6, 2014.
WRAL: McIntyre undecided on how to spend campaign cash
Democratic 7th District Congressman Mike McIntyre’s recent decision not to run for re-election this year leaves him with a decision of how to dispose of the money remaining in his campaign account. According to its latest filing with the Federal Election Commission, Mike McIntyre for Congress had $633,021 cash on hand at the end of December. More than $184,000 of that came from contributions in the last three months of 2013. Under FEC rules, he can donate any leftover campaign funds to a nonprofit, refund it to donors or give it to a national political party or other candidates. Spokesman Andrew Simpson said McIntyre hasn’t yet decided how to disburse the funds. One thing he won’t be doing is giving it to other candidates, Simpson said. "The congressman has traditionally stayed out of other races because he has friends on both sides of the aisle, and he does not plan to change that practice," he said in an email to WRAL News.
Winston Salem Chronicle: 12th District rep won’t be seated soon
The North Carolina Democratic Party also disagreed with the move. Spokesman Micah Beasley said that it means that there will be less representation for the state’s diverse population in Congress. “We’re disappointed in the decision,” said Beasley, “This is a reflection of the governor’s priorities. He has money for big tax cuts for the wealthiest North Carolinians and out-of-state corporations, but then says we can’t have an election to allow Congressional District 12 to have representation for almost an entire year.” N.C. Rep. Marcus Brandon, a Guilford County second-termer who says he is also running for the seat, sees things differently. He says the campaign should be a long one, since it will elect someone who may hold the seat for decades to come. The election schedule will result in higher voter turnout, he said.
Charlotte Observer: Mike Huckabee endorses Mark Harris for U.S. Senate
Former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has endorsed Charlotte pastor Mark Harris in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate. Both Huckabee and Harris are Baptist ministers. Harris is pastor of Charlotte’s First Baptist Church. Huckabee is expected to campaign in North Carolina for Harris ahead of the May 6 primary. He could help Harris energize support among social conservatives in the six-way primary.
National Journal: Koch Brothers Are Outspending Everyone for a GOP Senate Takeover
President Obama’s health care law has reshaped the political environment for 2014, endangering Senate Democrats and expanding the field of competitive elections. But one group has brought the prospect of a Republican Senate takeover closer to reality, even before the midterm campaigns get under way. Look no further than Americans for Prosperity, the conservative outside group funded in part by the wealthy industrialists Charles and David Koch. AFP has spent a whopping $22 million on TV ads so far this election, part of a multistate campaign that uses Obamacare’s troubled rollout to attack vulnerable Democrats. AFP’s barrage has knocked several incumbents off-balance just as their reelection campaigns begin—especially senators representing Republican-leaning states. Their early efforts have helped send Democratic senators’ approval ratings plumetting in the states where they’ve spent big bucks. It’s the kind of precise, preemptive strike normally expected from traditional GOP heavyweights like the Karl Rove-backed American Crossroads or the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. But while they have remained almost silent in the midterm election’s early going, AFP has singlehandedly taken the fight to Democrats.
Talking Points Memo: GOPers Are Bringing Back Post-Reconstruction-Era Voting In N.C.
Five years ago, North Carolina was making great strides in voter participation. More and more young, low-income, and minority voters were going to the polls. But in 2010, Republicans gained control of the legislature for the first time in a century, and rewrote district lines to ensure even more gains in 2012. Last summer North Carolina’s newly-elected general assembly, led by conservative Republicans, passed a comprehensive voter suppression law in a series of party-line votes, effectively turning back the clock on voting rights. The seeds had been planted long before. North Carolina’s conservative advocacy network, including Civitas and the John Locke Foundation, spent over five years calling for stricter voting laws. Civitas and John Locke both receive major funding from Art Pope, a wealthy businessman who is North Carolina’s local version of the Koch brothers. Since 2007, the network has published over 40 articles, news reports, and blog posts supporting an end to same-day registration, a smaller window for early voting, and a photo ID law. Each plank in this platform appeared in the voter suppression law, and comes right out of the conservative playbook.
NC Policy Watch: Public hearing on controversial teacher contracts scheduled during school day
A grand total of three teachers and two public education advocates attended the NC Department of Public Instruction’s public hearing on the proposed model teacher contract, which local school districts will use to award the top 25 percent of teachers with 4-year contracts that may come with $500 bonuses for each of those four years—as long as those teachers give up their tenure. The public hearing was held during regular school hours at DPI’s offices in Raleigh. “If this meeting had taken place during a time that wasn’t the regular school day, you’d see a lot more teachers here,” said Mike Albert, an English teacher at Grimsley Senior High School in Greensboro. “We’re dedicated teachers, so a lot of us weren’t able to come and represent the way a lot of us are feeling,” said Albert. Those feelings are not positive, said Albert and the two other educators who spoke at the half-hour hearing on Wednesday afternoon.
The Progressive Pulse: Editor to McCrory: Hire a grown-up next time
“McCrory has repeatedly insisted Diaz was worth every penny, that he’s one of the smartest, most capable people the governor has ever come across and that he was completely qualified for the job. The kindest spin is that the governor is remarkably naive. A young man at 24, no matter how brilliant, still doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. He still hasn’t had the experience to understand all the consequences of his own decisions, let alone those of the people running the state’s largest bureaucracy. When I was 24, I was learning the fundamentals of my business. I was two years out of college; five years out of being a teenager. I wasn’t any more ready for a top leadership position than Diaz was…. His boss, Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos (who is old enough to know what she doesn’t know but took a job in which she had little experience anyway), said, ‘His work will leave a lasting impression on the department.’ She must be a student of irony .Diaz is off to a new job in Washington, working for a company that does communications strategy work for Republican candidates. ‘It was an opportunity that presented itself and one that I can’t pass up,’ he said.
Politics NC: Steal this message
As we begin the 2014 election cycle, North Carolina Democrats need to find a message. Luckily, there’s one available that’s been working pretty well for the last few election cycles: “North Carolina state government is broken.” It helped Republicans capture the general assembly in 2010 and took Pat McCrory to the governor’s mansion in 2012. Democrats just need to add the caveat “and the GOP broke it.” In a blog earlier this week, I said that a message for a candidate answers the question, “Why me? Why now?” The party message should answer the same question, “Why us? Why now?”
The Harnett Dispatch: RENEE ELLMERS BLASTS OBAMA COMING TO NORTH CAROLINA, EDITORIAL
The question must be asked if Rep. Ellmers is so dismayed by the President, what she has done for the district that she represents in Congress. I think we all can agree that Ellmers has had plenty of camera time to talk about what people are not doing but she has not done anything to help the school situation in Harnett and the growth and development of our district. There has been one thing on her agenda and that is to repeal Obama Care. I think that we may see the same thought process in the election process; people on Main Street want change and help. The last 3 years of Ellmers in Washington has not brought that to the district. If anything she is inaccessible to the general public of the 2nd district. Now many people may disagree with this but remember I am not talking about an event such as a GOP meeting or fundraiser, I am talking about the streets of our community. She is nowhere to be found…
WRAL: Poverty in North Carolina
Who’s poor in North Carolina? The answers might surprise you. According to the federal government, poverty level was defined in 2012 as an annual income of $23,283 or less for a family of four, or $11,945 for an individual. The overall poverty rate for North Carolina in 2012 was 17.2 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.
Washington Post: America is Becoming More Liberal
Not too long ago, everyone was declaring American politics a lost cause for progressives. The religious right supposedly had a stranglehold on elections. Then it was the tea party that had the political establishment — initially Democrats and Republicans — quaking. The media and the general public took hold of a narrative parroted by conservative candidates and opinion leaders: The United States was a “center-right” nation. But after two consecutive elections in which the Democratic candidate for president garnered more than 50 percent of the vote — a one-two punch last achieved by Franklin Roosevelt — it is worth questioning that assumption. The country is getting more diverse, and as the proportion of white voters shrinks, so, too, does the conservative base. As demographics shift, so do political preferences — in this case, toward the left. A close examination of U.S. attitudes in the past decade-plus reveals that the United States is steadily becoming more progressive.
Micah Beasley, Communications Director
North Carolina Democratic Party
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