WSOC-TV: DHHS: Some officials knew of Medicaid card misfire
State Department of Health and Human Services spokesman Ricky Diaz told The Associated Press on Friday the agency first learned about the massive privacy breach the prior day. On Saturday, the agency issued a new statement saying some state employees had actually been aware of the issue days earlier. Officials said Diaz had earlier been referring only to when "senior leaders" including DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos learned of the problem, not the agency as a whole. The clarification was issued after the Asheville Citizen-Times obtained a copy of an email sent Tuesday by state Medicaid eligibility chief Carolyn McClanahan informing county social service officials of the problem.
WRAL: DHHS mailed nearly 49,000 Medicaid cards to wrong people
The state Department of Health and Human Services mailed nearly 49,000 Medicaid cards to the wrong people, the agency announced Friday evening. The cards show the child’s name, Medicaid ID number, date of birth and primary care physician. DHHS was trying to issue new cards to 70,253 children who were switched from the N.C. Health Choice program to Medicaid due to new eligibility rules. But more than half of the cards – 48,752 – went to the wrong Medicaid recipients.
News & Record: Don’t expect much tax relief
When Gov. Pat McCrory said in this video message that "North Carolinians will keep more of their hard-earned money, thanks to historic tax reform," he didn’t mean all North Carolinians, spokeswoman Kim Genardo explained to the Associated Press. “He didn’t say ‘every’ or ‘all,’” Genardo said. “You’re taking it literally that we mean every single citizen, and we did not say ‘everyone.’” Absolutely right. Some analysts even say most North Carolinians will pay more in taxes, AP reports, and that it’s really just wealthier North Carolinians who will keep more of their hard-earned money, thanks to historic tax reform — which grants the biggest income-tax cuts at the highest earning level, eliminates the earned-income tax credit that benefits the working poor and raises or adds sales taxes on various services and activities.
News & Observer: NC, US legislative openings a topic for lawmakers
Vacancies are getting attention as candidates and voters in portions of six Piedmont counties from Greensboro to Charlotte learn details about a special election to choose a successor to Democratic U.S. Rep. Mel Watt. He planned to resign Monday after more than 20 years in Congress and become chief of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Watt’s office said. The 170-member General Assembly also currently has two vacant seats that will be filled soon. State law gives the power to local leaders of the political party of the departing legislator to nominate a successor, and the governor is required to appoint them.
News & Observer: Hagan’s Senate measure on NC jobless benefits wins cheers, jeers
The Senate will immediately take up extension of federal jobless benefits when it gets back to work on Monday after its holiday break, and the vote will put Sen. Kay Hagan at the center of a new political fracas. The North Carolina Democrat, who faces a tough re-election fight this year, has convinced the Senate Democratic leadership to insert a provision into the jobless bill that would restore North Carolina’s eligibility for long-term federal unemployment benefits. The state lost the federal funds last summer when the legislature reduced state benefits. Hagan says she’s taking action to fix a problem caused by Republicans in the North Carolina legislature.
McClatchyDC: N.C.’s Burr proposes changes that small-business advocates don’t like
Sen. Richard Burr, a former businessman in North Carolina, says he wants the federal government to put the Small Business Administration inside a new agency that combines the departments of Commerce and Labor. Burr says the move would eliminate duplicative programs that cost the government “staggering amounts of money every year.” One critic of Burr’s pending legislation, the American Small Business League, has been asserting that the proposal would close the Small Business Association, leaving many businesses without federal help to secure loans and get federal contracts.
The Hill: Battle over unemployment insurance will consume start of 2014 on Capitol Hill
Senate Democratic leaders feel cautiously optimistic they have the 60 votes they need to advance unemployment benefits legislation on Monday, but that marks only the start of the congressional battle. Even if the legislation passes the Senate next week, it faces an uphill road in the House. Advocates for extended benefits say the fight could play out between the chambers for weeks. There is growing sentiment among Republicans that it’s time to stop extended federal unemployment benefits after nearly six years of recession and slow recovery.
Politico: Budget battle nears finish line
House-Senate negotiators are slated to meet Monday in hopes of narrowing their last differences over a $1 trillion-plus omnibus spending bill that attempts to fill in the blanks after December’s budget deal and avoid another shutdown next week. If last month’s agreement said how much Congress can spend this year, the giant appropriations measure now spells out where the dollars will go. Hundreds of pages long, it literally touches every corner of the government. But its very scope also invites conflict over everything from Wall Street’s banks to Appalachia’s coal industry — championed by House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.).
Huffington Post: GOP Primary Heats Up In North Carolina Senate Race
In a year-end fundraising email sent Tuesday, tea party candidate Greg Brannon launched into a lengthy attack against state House Speaker Thom Tillis, the most prominent Republican looking to unseat Hagan. Brannon, a North Carolina physician, used the email to drudge up Tillis’ controversial decision to pay two of his top staffers an extra month’s salary after they resigned for sharing intimate relationships with lobbyists in 2012. "His Chief of Staff¬ who shared an apartment with my opponent ¬¬and his Policy Analyst were forced to resign after it was revealed they were having ‘inappropriate’ relationships with lobbyists," Brannon writes of Tillis. "But my opponent still gave both of them ‘golden parachutes’ a full months pay after they resigned from their position."
Politico: Dems seize on income inequality for 2014
Democrats aren’t wasting any time tackling an issue they are convinced will help them this election year: income inequality. One of the Senate’s first votes upon returning to Washington from its holiday break Monday will be on a bill reviving emergency unemployment benefits that lapsed at the end of 2013. The vote marks the first concrete step by Democrats toward a populist economic platform ahead of the November elections. The inequality campaign will intensify later in the year with a push in the Senate to raise the federal minimum wage that will be synced with President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech, which is expected to dig heavily into the issue of economic disparity.
News & Observer: Candidates jockey for state’s highest courts in critical election year
The Republicans’ all-out effort to defeat U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, a Democrat from Greensboro, is the biggest political battle looming in North Carolina in 2014, but a handful of other campaigns will determine who become the most powerful judges in the state. With three of those four seats currently held by Democrats, the GOP momentum that has swept North Carolina over the past three years could increase the Republican majority if it continues. So far, Democrats haven’t yet come up with someone to run against Justice Mark Martin for the chief justice seat being vacated by Sarah Parker, who in August will reach the mandatory retirement age of 72.
The Hill: Nunn hauls in $1.6M in Ga. Senate race
Democrat Michelle Nunn has kept up her strong fundraising pace in the Georgia Senate race, raising $1.6 million in the final quarter of 2013. The haul brings her total to $3.3 million raised since she entered the contest five months ago–another sign she’ll be a formidable candidate with plenty of resources against whichever Republican emerges from the bitter GOP primary. Nunn’s campaign did not provide how much cash she has on hand.
RealClearPolitics: Liz Cheney Quits Wyoming Senate Race
As a first-time candidate, she struggled to gain traction in her campaign to knock out the well-liked, three-term Enzi. She faced several controversies right off the bat, including well-publicized divisions within her own family. Cheney’s July announcement launching her campaign riled Republicans hoping to minimize divisive primary fights with Senate control at stake in 2014. Enzi was easily re-elected in 2008, and was considered by colleagues and other observers to be among the most conservative lawmakers in the Senate and not someone susceptible to a challenge within the party.
WNCN: Perdue’s passion for education continues after leaving office (VIDEO)
Former Gov. Bev Perdue says she’s loving life outside the political bubble — focusing on what matters most to her: education. Perdue splits her time between the Triangle and the coast, and spent the fall semester as a distinguished visiting fellow at Duke University. Since leaving office, she founded DigiLEARN: Digital Learning Institute, a non-profit funded by two nationally renowned foundations to accelerate digital learning at all ages.
News & Observer: Former Gov. Jim Hunt: Here’s how to raise NC teacher pay
As North Carolina enters 2014, I have a New Year’s resolution for our state. In the next four years, let’s raise the pay of our public school teachers to the national average. Not talk about it, or vaguely promise it, but do it. Our hard-working teachers deserve it. Today their pay ranks 46 among the 50 states. They could make as much as $10,000 a year more just by moving to South Carolina, Virginia or Tennessee to teach. To reach this big, bold goal in four years, four things need to happen.
News & Observer: Christensen: Gov. McCrory seeks reset in year two
Few governors took office with greater promise than McCrory. He had won office in a landslide, and his party controlled three branches of government for the first time since the 1800s. Moreover, he inherited an economy that was slowly emerging from the Great Recession, with unemployment having declined from 11.3 percent in January 2010 to 9.4 percent by November 2012 when he was elected. But fed a layup, McCrory has managed to bobble the ball out of bounds.
New York Times: 50 Years Later, War on Poverty Is a Mixed Bag
To many Americans, the war on poverty declared 50 years ago by President Lyndon B. Johnson has largely failed. The poverty rate has fallen only to 15 percent from 19 percent in two generations, and 46 million Americans live in households where the government considers their income scarcely adequate. But look at a different way, the federal government has succeeded in preventing the poverty rate from climbing far higher. There is broad consensus that the social welfare programs created since the New Deal have hugely improved living conditions for low-income Americans. At the same time, in recent decades, most of the gains from the private economy have gone to those at the top of the income ladder.
Micah Beasley, Communications Director
North Carolina Democratic Party
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