NCDP Clips for January 8, 2014

DHHS

JDNEWS: Protect Yourself From Medicaid Card Mix Up. AG Cooper Says
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services recently announced that it mailed 48,752 Medicaid cards for North Carolina children to the wrong addresses. According to DHHS, the cards include children’s names, Medicaid identification numbers, dates of birth and the names and addresses of their primary care physicians but do not contain Social Security Numbers. Misusing a Medicaid benefit card is a felony, and Cooper’s Medicaid Investigative Division has prosecuted people in the past for such crimes. “Parents of children whose health insurance cards wound up in the wrong hands are understandably concerned,” Cooper said. “Taking a few simple steps can give families peace of mind that their child’s information isn’t being misused.”

WRAL: DHHS mailing mistake could open NC up to fines, suits
A privacy breach involving the personal information ofdib thousands of Medicaid recipients could result in fines and lawsuits against the state Department of Health and Human Services, an attorney said Tuesday. DHHS was trying to issue new cards to 70,253 children who were switched from the N.C. Health Choice program to Medicaid under new eligibility rules, but nearly 70% of the cards – 48,752 – went to the wrong Medicaid recipients last week. The cards show a child’s name, Medicaid ID number, date of birth and primary care physician, but don’t include any Social Security numbers. Acting Medicaid Director Sandra Terrell blamed a computer programming error for the mix-up, saying that a program to extract information from a DHHS database used the wrong names and addresses of parents or guardians. DHHS acknowledged Monday that the error was a breach of federal health care privacy regulations under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA.

U.S. CONGRESS

News and Record: Senate bill allows jobless benefits for NC again
U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan helped insert the new provision. North Carolina government wouldn’t have to change its new benefit structure to re-enter the voluntary program. The federal government pays the emergency benefits. North Carolina had been the only state without the benefits _ a move the U.S. Labor Department said last year would affect 170,000 people.

The Hill: Reid begs GOP to allow 3-month UI extension
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) pleaded with Republicans Wednesday to help pass a three-month extension of long-term unemployment benefits. Republicans have complained that the $6.4 billion bill isn’t paid for with offsets. Several GOP senators have introduced amendments that would offset the cost, but Reid said those proposals aren’t serious because they would harm Americans by delaying the implementation of ObamaCare. Reid said the extension needed to be passed quickly without debate on pay-fors to help the 1.3 million who lost their unemployment benefits on Dec. 28. He said then lawmakers could work on a longer-term solution that is fully offset. “I’m oppose to offsetting emergency unemployment benefits,” Reid said on the Senate floor.

The Washington Post: House GOP leaders coach rank-and-file on discussing unemployment
House Republican leaders sent a memo this week to the entire GOP conference with talking points designed to help rank-and-file Republicans show compassion for the unemployed and explain the Republican position on unemployment benefits. In the memo, which was obtained by The Washington Post, House Republicans are urged to be empathetic toward the unemployed and understand how unemployment is a "personal crisis" for individuals and families. The memo also asks Republicans to reiterate that the House will give "proper consideration" to an extension of long-term insurance as long as Democrats are willing to support spending or regulatory reforms.

2014

News and Observer: GOP Senate candidates oppose unemployment bill
Six Republicans joined 54 Democratic U.S. senators Tuesday in clearing the way for a vote to extend federal unemployment benefits to 1.3 million Americans. The 60-37 procedural vote allows final consideration of the extension. U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, a Democrat, voted yes; U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, a Republican, voted no. The measure included a provision to restart long-term federal unemployment benefits for North Carolina jobless workers. Those workers were cut off when state lawmakers passed a bill to curtail the state’s program, violating a provision in federal law. Still, three of North Carolina’s five GOP Senate hopefuls would have voted no.

Think Progress: Why A Majority-Minority Congressional District May Go Unrepresented For An Entire Year
A quirk of North Carolina’s election law may leave voters in the state’s 12th Congressional district without representation until 2015. Though Rep. Mel Watt (D) resigned his seat on the first day of the legislative year to become director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Governor Pat McCrory (R) announced Monday that his replacement will not be elected until November 4. The 12th District, which includes a long swath of central North Carolina running from Charlotte to Greensboro, has a majority of voters who are minorities. McCrory ordered a primary be held on May 6, 2014, the regularly scheduled date for North Carolina primary elections. If none of the candidates receives more than 40 percent of the vote, the second place candidate can request a runoff, which would be held on July 15 (the same day reserved for any regularly scheduled primary runoffs). This situation is quite possible, given that several candidates are reportedly seeking the Democratic nomination in this heavily Democratic district.

NC Policy Watch: In redistricting appeal, larger issues loom
Plenty of questions have swirled around the State Supreme Court’s handling of the redistricting appeal. Will conservative justices fall in line with their legislative brethren and find a way to uphold a plan that resulted in districts depicted by many as the epitome of a racial gerrymander? Many believe that’s a foregone conclusion and that the Republican State Leadership Committee will get what it paid for when it dumped millions into Justice Paul Newby’s reelection campaign, betting that he’d ensure a win by voting to uphold the Republican plan. Should Newby refrain from participating in the case because of that money? And what will follow? Will the groups challenging the 2011 plan get a ruling that leads to review by the U.S. Supreme Court? Under what plan will voting continue while the courts review the challenged one? Here the court appeared poised to act quickly on the appeal when it scheduled argument just two short weeks after briefing had completed.

The Hill: Economy will save their majority, say Senate Democrats
“If the economy continues to improve at the rate it’s improving by or more, we will hold the Senate, plain and simple,” said a senior Senate Democratic aide. Democratic senators speaking on the record are more cautious, but believe that the economy will boost their party’s chances of holding the upper chamber. Sen. Mark Pryor (Ark.), one of the Democratic Party’s most vulnerable incumbents, said an improving economy “probably” will help him. “I think the overall economy is resilient,” he said. “Sometimes the gridlock and bickering up here in Washington hurts the economy, but I think the economy will continue to get a little stronger over the course of the year.

The Hill: Drama roils race to replace Rep. Bill Young
The GOP race to replace the late Rep. Bill Young (R-Fla.) has become a political soap opera that could jeopardize Republicans’ hold on the seat. It has all the makings of a daytime drama: a widow disavowing her son due to opposing primary allegiances and a secret family kept hidden for decades only to surface a week before the contentious primary. And with an important swing district at stake, it’s the messy, public family feud that’s another added worry for the party ahead of Tuesday’s Republican primary, for which GOP leaders, and the Young family, are far from unified. Democrats quickly cleared the field for former Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, but Republicans have endured weeks of infighting between lobbyist David Jolly, a former Young staffer, and state Rep. Kathleen Peters that will culminate when primary voters head to the polls on Jan. 14.

2016

Politico: $4 million for Ready for Hillary
Ready for Hillary, a super PAC that supports a possible Hillary Clinton presidential run, announced Tuesday that it raked in more than $4 million in 2013 from more than 33,000 donors. The grassroots-focused group saw activity pick up significantly in the latter part of 2013, with more than 25,000 new contributors chipping in during the second half of the year. Clinton, the former secretary of state, has indicated that she could make a decision about a 2016 presidential bid by the end of this year.

North Jersey: Emails link top Christie aide to GWB lane-closing
Private messages between Governor’s Christie’s deputy chief of staff and two of his top executives at the Port Authority reveal a vindictive effort to create “traffic problems in Fort Lee” by shutting lanes to the George Washington Bridge and apparent pleasure at the resulting gridlock. The messages are replete with references and insults to Fort Lee’s mayor, who had failed to endorse Christie for re-election and they chronicle how they tried to reach Port Authority officials in a vain effort to eliminate the paralyzing gridlock that overwhelmed his town of 35,000 which sits in the shadow of the bridge, the world’s busiest.

EDUCATION

Fayetteville Observer: Cumberland schools deciding which teachers eligible for contracts, raises in exchange for tenure
Cumberland County school administrators will receive a preliminary list today of teachers who could be eligible for a four-year contract and raises in exchange for their tenure.The General Assembly passed legislation in July that phases out tenure and establishes a system that supporters say will reward the best teachers. The bill requires school boards to offer four-year contracts with raises to 25 percent of teachers who were rated as "proficient" under the state evaluation system. Teachers must have taught in their school districts for three years. Officials will review employees’ evaluations for the past three year. Superintendent Frank Till told the school board’s personnel committee on Tuesday that the list will be checked for accuracy.

OPINION/COMMENTARY

Charlotte Observer: The Word You’re Looking for, Governor, is ‘Sorry’
It’s hard to admit you’re wrong. Even harder when doing so means admitting your critics may be right. It’s a challenge for any of us, but especially politicians, as evidenced again Monday night by Gov. Pat McCrory’s response to the revelation that the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services mailed 49,000 children’s Medicaid cards to the wrong households. Instead of emphasizing how sorry he was about an inadvertent disclosure of personal information, McCrory blamed the error on "10 years of operational neglect" at the department under previous governors Bev Perdue and Mike Easley, both Democrats. "You can’t fix that in one year," McCrory said defiantly. It’s no great revelation that public officials tend to see issues as potential political wins and losses – and mistakes as therefore something to be minimized, not acknowledged.

Politics NC: The Gospel of Antoinette
The fight over extending unemployment benefits is a good one for Kay Hagan. While special interests groups are pounding her over Obamacare, she’s able to make the case that she’s the candidate who cares about Americans who still need help recovering from the Great Recession. And polling says she’s on the right side of the issue. Republicans are taking the ideological approach, applying a broad stroke to all of the long term unemployed. They say that offering them benefits discourages them from looking for work. However, surveys show that there aren’t jobs to be had even if people wanted them. In North Carolina, the issue is especially good for Hagan if her opponent turns out to be Thom Tillis. In a rare instance, Tillis and Hagan have votes on the same issue even though they serve in different levels of government. Last year, Tillis voted to end benefits to long-term unemployed in a vote in the legislature. Hagan, in contrast, will vote to extend them in a vote likely taken this week.

Politico: Gabrielle Giffords op-ed: ‘We’re not daunted’
On the third anniversary of the shooting that left six dead and that critically wounded her, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords has written an op-ed appearing in The New York Times encouraging persistence in the fight for gun control reform.“Our fight is a lot more like my rehab. Every day, we must wake up resolved and determined,” Giffords writes. Giffords compares her recovery and struggles to the disappointment she said she and her husband, Mark Kelly, felt after the Senate failed to pass a background check law following the Sandy Hook school shooting. Nevertheless, Giffords writes, their efforts will prevail. “We’re not daunted. We know that the gun lobby, which makes money by preventing sensible change, relies on dramatic disappointments to wound us, reduce our power, push us back on our heels,” she writes. Giffords also discloses for the first time that she has gained new movement in her right arm, a feat that she hadn’t thought would be possible three years ago.

Salon: GOP is losing on unemployment insurance — and running scared
It’s way too early to declare victory on extending unemployment insurance benefits to the long-term jobless. Yes, six Republicans joined Democrats to let the measure come up for debate and a vote. That shouldn’t even make headlines, but given the filibuster-happy GOP Senate minority in the age of Barack Obama, it’s news. Still, not all of the six are likely to support the bill, though it will almost certainly pass the Senate. It faces real trouble in John Boehner’s House, where the tanned and rested speaker returned from his long vacation telling Democrats they’ll have to cut other safety-net programs to pay for it. But it’s worth noting how much Democrats have already changed the UI debate. Republicans have gone from flat refusals to extend long-term unemployment to insisting they’ll consider an extension, as long as it’s paid for. That’s progress worth acknowledging.

###

Micah Beasley, Communications Director
North Carolina Democratic Party
MBeasley
@Micah4NC

Paid for by North Carolina Democratic Party. Not authorized by any candidate or candidate committee.