The state Democratic Party said McCrory’s vague statements on teacher pay don’t go far enough. “North Carolina teachers and concerned parents will see right through the governor’s attempt to use teacher pay as a political football in the lead up to an election,” said Patsy Keever, a party vice chairwoman. “The truth is this rhetoric falls far short of what our hardworking teachers need and shows that Republican leadership in this state simply refuse to take public education seriously.”
Seven Medical practices have now issued a lawsuit against the DHHS and companies that produced the NCTracks system and tested the software because of financial errors it caused. DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos claimed the Affordable Care Act is a main factor in the problems DHHS has been having, The N&O reported. However, members of the North Carolina Democratic Party are placing the blame elsewhere. “The governor has filled state government with overpriced, under-experienced people from his campaign and political donors and then refuses to take responsibility for unending errors created by his administration,” said Micah Beasley, the North Carolina Democratic Party press secretary.
SHOT: At a press conference today, Governor McCrory stated: “I welcome people who disagree with our policy stances to come up with ideas…I think one area we all need to improve on is dialogue and conversation.” CHASER: Last year, Gov. McCrory continually refused to meet with political opponents including, ducking out on students to play catch, snubbing a 12-year-old voting rights advocate and wrongly proclaiming he had ‘mingled’ with Moral Monday participants.
Heritage and community is something Marjorie Fields Harris, constituency outreach coordinator for the N.C. Democratic Party, feels is imperative in instilling in the upcoming generation. “One of the things I hope we can do as a nation is really to teach our children and our children’s children more about our history and our culture. More about how important the civil rights era was to us,” she said. A child of the ‘60s, Harris has “Negro” on her birth certificate. “I remember going from being a Negro child to being a black girl, and then to being an Afro-American teenager and later an African-American woman,” she said. “I’ve seen the incarnations, but the message is still the same. Our history is still the same. And each day I realize I have a responsibility to continue to celebrate and to share the history and legacy of our people with those around me.”
Democratic legislative leaders quickly jumped on McCrory’s agenda as empty rhetoric, noting that he declined giving teachers a raise last year in order to pass a tax reform plan that benefits the wealthy more than the working class. “We learned during Gov. McCrory’s first year that we should judge the governor by his actions and not his words,” House Minority Leader Larry Hall said in a statement. "Teachers, students and working families have seen Gov. McCrory’s true priorities, and until we see a meaningful plan that supports education and grows the middle class, the governor’s words will remain hollow,” Senate Minority Leader Martin Nesbitt said in a statement.
Gov. Pat McCrory talked to reporters Tuesday about his agenda for the "short" legislative session that begins in May and beyond. He spent nearly an hour laying out the broad strokes of his agenda and, along with members of his cabinet, answered questions from reporters. At times, he was crystal clear on agenda items he would pursue – for example, he will push for a puppy mill regulation bill this session. Other answers he gave raised or left open questions about the coming year. Teacher raises – yes. But what about state employees? McCrory was unequivocal talking about raising teacher salaries. "We will get teacher raises done this year," he said, even asking his chief education advisory Eric Guckian to talk about ongoing talks to craft a plan. McCrory called it "unacceptable" that teachers had been given only one raise during the past five years. But he did not mention rank-and-file state employees.
McCrory and fellow GOP legislative leaders have been criticized for approving no raise this school year, meaning there’s been only one annual increase since 2008, sending average pay toward the bottom of the states. "That is unacceptable to me, unacceptable to the legislature and unacceptable to the people of North Carolina," McCrory told reporters at the Executive Mansion. "And that’s why we will get teacher raises done this year." He didn’t commit to a certain pay increase, but said he wanted to unveil a plan getting finalized by his education adviser soon and have the backing of legislative leaders, who also have signaled teacher compensation as a top priority during its short budget-adjustment session.
Instead of a bold, focused stroke that seized public imagination and reshaped the political landscape, McCrory opted for a multi-themed “2014 PrioritiesPalooza!” He offered a laundry list of government-speak: teacher pay raises (for some teachers), fracking and offshore drilling (gee, what could go wrong there?), revamping Medicaid (ditto), fixing DHHS, reining in puppy mills, less drugs and alcohol on college campus (but more guns), nicer state government buildings and “art on the move” (paintings, not Pope). The choreography was odd. He, his Cabinet and senior team sat around a table in the ornate Executive Mansion, with an elaborate chandelier looming behind the Governor. From one camera angle, he was in front of a plush love seat that looked like a throne.
The courts will get to wrangle over the merits of the suit, but it is the latest black eye for a Department of Health and Human Services that has faced one mess after another during the first year of Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration. Chief Information Officer Joe Cooper oversees NCTracks and is responsible for addressing the public’s concerns. How’s he doing? Well, NCTracks doesn’t work correctly, but he says it’s "outperforming" the previous system. McCrory needs to stop the hemorrhaging under Secretary Aldona Wos and her team, so his administration’s credibility doesn’t bleed out entirely.
A date has been set for the president and the pope to meet at the end of March, the White House announced Tuesday. President Barack Obama will meet with Pope Francis when he travels to Vatican City on March 27 as part of a four-day trip to Europe, according to a release sent by the White House. The meeting between the two has been expected after Secretary of State John Kerry hinted at a visit by the president during his own trip to the Vatican last week. “I know that the Holy Father is anticipating the visit of President Obama here, and the president is looking forward to coming here to meet with him,” Kerry said last Tuesday.
On Jan. 10, the monthly jobs report showed that the U.S. economy added only 74,000 jobs in December—and that people were giving up on finding employment and leaving the work force in droves. (That’s why the unemployment rate fell to 6.7 percent; you have to be looking for a job to count as unemployed.) Then, last Tuesday, the Senate voted down two proposals to revive federal emergency employment compensation (EUC) for 1.3 million jobless workers that expired in late December. Cutting off these people, and the millions more who would have relied on the program this year, is almost certain to exacerbate the negative trend of people leaving the labor force that stood out in Friday’s jobs report. In fact, it’s already happening. Last June, North Carolina cut off federal unemployment benefits to its workers (for reasons I explained here). As the only state to do so, North Carolina is a harbinger of what could happen nationally, now that the program has ended and appears unlikely to be revived.
In North Carolina, the state’s General Assembly reduced unemployment insurance payments from a maximum of $500 to $350 each week. The bill also trimmed the length of time someone could receive unemployment benefits from 26 weeks to 12-20 weeks. This disqualified North Carolina from emergency unemployment insurance the federal government supplies states in need. Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., amended the Senate’s bill to extend federal benefits to reinstate North Carolina’s emergency unemployment insurance. “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. And even though our state’s unemployment rate continues to decrease, the long-term unemployment crisis – and the North Carolinians who cannot find work – should not be ignored,” Hagan said in a statement.
N.C. Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan says she raised more than $2 million for her 2014 re-election bid in North Carolina during the final three months of 2013. Hagan’s campaign office announced the amount Tuesday, more than a week before her fourth-quarter report is due to the Federal Election Commission. The campaign says it had more than 15,000 donors in the fourth quarter and $6.8 million on hand as of Dec. 31.
A retired physician is adding to the Republicans entering this year’s race for U.S. Senate in North Carolina. Dr. Edward Kryn of Clayton said late Tuesday he will seek the GOP nomination. At least seven Republicans have announced they’re running in the May primary. The winner is expected to take on Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan in November. Kryn was born in Canada and became an American citizen nine years ago. He said he’s in the race because he believes his medical background working in the U.S. and Canada gives him expertise on medical issues unlike the other candidates.
The Republican Party’s image has changed little in the year since GOP Chairman Reince Priebus published his prescription for broadening the party’s appeal despite its investment in outreach to the racial minorities, women and gay voters who backed Democrats decisively in 2012. "The issue that remains an open book for the Republicans is: What is the character of the party?" said Ari Fleischer, a top aide to President George W. Bush, who helped author the report of the "Growth and Opportunity Project. "Are we a more inclusive and welcoming party yet?"
Thom Tillis just BELONGS in DC – Here’s Why!
Democrats remained on course to take control of the Virginia Senate after winning a key special election Tuesday, as thousands of Northern Virginia voters braved snow and bitter winds to cast ballots in an unusual, three-way contest. In the race to fill the seat vacated by Attorney General Mark R. Herring (D), Democrat Jennifer Wexton prevailed over Republican John Whitbeck and independent Joe T. May, a former Republican delegate running as an independent, according to unofficial election results. The district encompasses a slice of Fairfax County and a hefty portion of eastern Loudoun County, a region that has leaned toward Democrats in recent elections but remains battleground territory.
At his State of the Union address four years ago, President Barack Obama lectured Supreme Court justices about their decision he said would let corporations — even foreign corporations — play an unprecedented new role in electoral politics. But America’s largest companies haven’t used the Citizens United v. FEC case to open up their checkbook. Instead, most still prefer the time-tested avenues of political influence-peddling: industry trade associations, politically active nonprofits and company PACs that are limited to giving just $5,000 per candidate.
In most localities, schools and churches are the places where people go to cast votes. Some recent studies suggest, however, that churches can cause voters to rethink their views on certain issues. In explaining their vote against using schools, Reece and Loy had concerns about voters wandering away from polling locations and into areas where there are students. A handful of people attended the meeting at the Board of Elections headquarters. Those who spoke opposed the idea of moving out of schools. The Rev. Clarence Johnson, president of the Reidsville chapter of the NAACP, was among them. He called the move “another act of suppression.” “There’s already voter suppression that’s taking place by our state legislators with the voter ID,” Johnson said. “I’ll believe we’ll lose voters who are already eligible to vote.
Do you need health care coverage? Are you too “rich” to qualify for Medicaid but too poor to receive subsidies under the Affordable Care Act? Do you live in a Republican-controlled state? If you answered yes to all of the above, then you’re out-of-luck. Here’s the Associated Press: About 5 million people will be without health care next year that they would have gotten simply if they lived somewhere else in America. The court effectively left it up to states to decide whether to open Medicaid, the federal-state program for the poor and disabled, to more people, primarily poor working adults without children. Twenty-five states declined. That leaves 4.8 million people in those states without the health care coverage that their peers elsewhere are getting through the expansion of Medicaid, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation estimate. More than one-fifth of them live in Texas alone, Kaiser’s analysis found.
The state has been drifting red for a while now, but it is still Democratic enough that the governor agreed to the Medicaid expansion in the ACA so many other GOP-led states have turned down. And that’s why it’s so fascinating as a test-case for the appeal of Obamacare throughout red-state America. So far, the results are quite striking: the number of uninsured West Virginians has dropped by a third since the ACA became operational. A third. And the sole reliable statistic we have as to the impact of that event is, appropriately at this early stage, mental health. To be free of terror that you won’t be able to pay your doctor, that you may be turned down for service when you’re sick, or that you have to alternate months between spending on food and on healthcare: wouldn’t that be an indescribable relief? Yes, of course it is, according to the NYT’s report today:
If there’s one thing likely to come out of the legislative session this year, it’s to figure out a way to improve teacher pay. A new 18-member panel that will help advise North Carolina lawmakers on the topic made its final appointees this week. The group includes representatives, senators, a principal, community members and teachers.
The new hot spot for solar energy in the US is North Carolina. The state was second in the nation in solar growth in 2013, behind only California. In fact, if US states were considered as countries, North Carolina would have been among the top 10 countries in the world for solar growth last year. All of that solar growth, driven by policies like the state’s renewable energy portfolio law, has been great for the NC economy, generating $1.7 billion in revenue for the state. At the end of 2012, 137 solar companies employed 1,400 people in NC – a number that increased during solar’s record 2013 year. But while North Carolina’s solar sector shines brighter, a cloud is approaching on the horizon that places all of the benefits of solar power at risk of disappearing: Duke Energy, the state’s monopoly utility and the largest power company in the country, is about to launch a major attack on solar energy.
Six gay couples have filed a lawsuit in South Florida seeking to overturn Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage. The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in Miami-Dade Circuit Court on behalf of the couples by Equality Florida Institute Inc. The lawsuit claims Florida’s gay marriage ban violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process. Similar claims have been made in other states, where judges in many cases have struck down gay marriage bans as discriminatory. Florida attorneys said there are about 40 lawsuits challenging same-sex marriage bans pending around the country.
Now the movement faces its greatest test as foes complain that the recent decisions have leapt ahead of the public in those deeply red states and risk creating another Roe v Wade, where courts settle a divisive social issue but sow the seeds for prolonged conflict. In both states, elected officials largely greeted the rulings with fury and gay rights groups are bracing for a series of proposals in the state legislature that could target their community.
Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and former Virginia first lady Maureen McDonnell were indicted in federal court Tuesday on 14 counts of fraud, conspiracy and obstructing federal investigators, all stemming from a gift-giving scandal that clouded the governor’s final months in office. McDonnell and his wife, who have acknowledged taking financial and material gifts from businessman Jonnie Williams, are each the target of 13 of the 14 counts in the indictment, issued in the Richmond division of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.
Whether it’s because President Obama recently highlighted the issue or because most Americans are really feeling the pain, the debate over income inequality is now part of the mainstream kitchen-table debate. That’s the conclusion to be drawn from a Gallup poll released Monday, on Martin Luther King Day. The survey finds that two-thirds of adults are somewhat or very dissatisfied with income and wealth distribution in the U.S. The poll was taken on Jan. 5-8, or about a month after the president’s speech about economic inequality. The partisan breakdown is about what you’d expect. Dissatisfaction is least pronounced, though still a majority view, among self-declared Republicans (54% total); more so among independents (70%), and greatest among Democrats (75%).
Two-thirds of Americans are dissatisfied with income and wealth distribution in the United States, according to a Gallup poll released Monday. Dissatisfaction was greatest among Democrats and Independents. While 67 percent overall were not satisfied with income distribution, 75 percent of Democrats and 54 percent of Republicans said they were dissatisfied. Fifty-four percent of Americans are satisfied with the opportunity in the country "to get ahead by working hard." According to Gallup, this number has been steady over the past three years, but remains much lower than before the recession in 2008, when about two thirds of Americans were satisfied with their ability to get ahead. Satisfaction with the ability to get ahead is split evenly among Democrats and Republicans, unlike with happiness with income and wealth distribution. Sixty percent of Democrats and 61 percent of Republicans were satisfied with ability to get ahead. Only 45 percent of Independents were satisfied.
CNN: Jobless benefits don’t cause unemployment
The Republicans appear to think North Carolina has the answer to their latest conundrum: how to sidestep growing calls for extending unemployment benefits for the 1.3 million Americans who depend on them without looking like uncompassionate conservatives. A measure to renew Emergency Unemployment Compensation died in this Senate last week and it’s unclear, given that Congress must now focus on a spending bill, when senators will revisit the bill. Last year, North Carolina’s jobless rate fell to a five-year low after Gov. Pat McCrory and the Republican-controlled legislature slashed unemployment benefits.
Fed up with the Democrats and Republicans who run Washington, growing numbers of people are calling themselves independents. The Republican Party stands to suffer the most from the movement away from staunch party loyalty, but Democrats also are affected. “This says both parties are dealing with wounded brands,” said Lee Miringoff, the director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion. As a result, he said, “there are more voters up for grabs.” Voters are increasingly wary of anyone with ties to the political establishment. A McClatchy-Marist poll last month found 41 percent of registered voters called themselves independent, a much higher percentage than either political party can claim.
Functional Human Being: What We Have Here Is a Failure to Communicate
This is after last month, when the Governor responded to my request to meet with him in an interview with WFMY by telling the lies that I am part of a publicity stunt, that I was outside his mansion gates hungry, and that my mom is "very strong activist" with MoveOn. Solutions? How about we don’t call young North Carolinians who are seeking the solutions and dialogue the Governor is such a big advocate of props. There’s a solution. I would love to hear the Governor’s solutions on encouraging young people to take part in our government, since pre-registering to vote is a "bureaucratic burden." In case the Governor needs any ideas, the non-partisan Commission on Youth Voting and Civic Knowledge issued a report with a lot of great ideas.
I’ve written recently about the difficulties one faces in getting a photo ID from the state of Tennessee. Senator Jim Kyle proposed legislation that would allow students at universities and colleges in Tennessee to use their student photo IDs to vote. The GOP legislators said, "Nah. Can’t have students voting, er, no, we mean, VOTER FRAUD, VOTER FRAUD." Here’s Kyle’s press release: REPUBLICANS REFUSE COLLEGE ID FOR VOTER IDENTIFICATION Sen. Kyle’s legislation would have allowed state-issued college IDs at polls.
Micah Beasley, Communications Director
North Carolina Democratic Party
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