NCDP Clips for November 20, 2013

MCCRORY ADMINISTRATION

Dome: Morning Memo: McCrory administration hire’s qualifications questioned

The naming of a political appointee to run North Carolina’s Clean Water Management Trust Fund is drawing criticism from environmentalists who say he doesn’t meet the minimum legal requirements for the job, AP reports. Bryan Gossage began work Nov. 5 as director of the state’s newly created Office of Land and Water Stewardship, which includes the clean water fund. Gossage’s hiring, which was not publicly announced by the agency, was first reported Monday by N.C. Policy Watch, a liberal advocacy group. He will be paid $78,000 a year. The taxpayer-supported fund, with a current budget of $10.4 million, buys environmentally sensitive land for conservation and supports other clean water initiatives. State law says the director must have "experience and training in conservation, protection, and management of surface water resources."

Winston-Salem Journal: Experience of water fund chief raises questions

The naming of a political appointee to run North Carolina’s Clean Water Management Trust Fund is drawing criticism from environmentalists who say he doesn’t meet the minimum legal requirements for the job. Bryan Gossage began work Nov. 5 as director of the state’s newly created Office of Land and Water Stewardship, which includes the clean water fund. Gossage’s hiring, which was not publicly announced by the agency, was first reported Monday by N.C. Policy Watch, a liberal advocacy group. He will be paid $78,000 a year. The taxpayer-supported fund, with a current budget of $10.4 million, buys environmentally sensitive land for conservation and supports other clean water initiatives. State law says the director must have “experience and training in conservation, protection, and management of surface water resources.”

News & Observer: McCrory travels to California, Arizona for job recruiting, political meetings

Gov. Pat McCrory took his first major job recruiting trip outside North Carolina this week, visiting California before traveling to Arizona for political meetings. McCrory scheduled the five-day trip to coincide with the Republican Governors Association annual meeting, which began Tuesday outside Phoenix. “Selling NC and getting a great response!!!!” McCrory posted Monday on his official Facebook page. The governor’s office said the state paid for the first two days of the trip to California but the RGA will pay expenses related to its meeting in Arizona. The association also paid for McCrory to attend a May meeting in New Orleans and a September meeting in Charleston, S.C., his office said.

News & Observer: For a few public employees, checks come with a bonus

Since 2005, Sean Ferreira has managed Cary’s 29-court tennis center for a salary that has now reached nearly $60,000, about the same as a veteran firefighter. He doesn’t risk his life in fires, but he does manage a staff of nine tennis teachers and administrators and a $1.8 million budget at one of the country’s top public tennis facilities. Unlike almost all of Cary’s 1,200 employees, however, Ferreira has an arrangement with the town that usually pays him more in bonuses than salary; in the last fiscal year, that bonus topped $71,000. His total pay of $131,377 nearly rivaled that of the town’s fire chief, and it was $22,000 more than the parks and recreation director. For many state employees, teachers and the vast majority of city and county workers, the past few years have been tough times, with small salary increases and spotty bonuses. Cary has fared better, maintaining annual raises for employees of 2.5 or 3 percent since the start of the recession.

DHHS

WRAL: NC’s Medicaid spending still uncertain, experts say

State lawmakers hoping for a report on this year’s Medicaid spending to date didn’t get many solid answers at Tuesday’s joint legislative Health and Human Services oversight hearing. Staff from the Fiscal Research Division and the Office of State Budget and Management said program spending so far appears to be in line with the certified 2013-14 budget for Medicaid, but one after another warned of higher than usual uncertainty and risk for the remainder of the fiscal year. One issue, explained Fiscal Research’s Susan Jacobs, is that the state’s new Medicaid billing program, NCTracks, is not providing the same claims data that has been used for forecasting in prior years.

News & Record: N.C. funding cuts for dementia care concerns families

Families dealing with Alzheimer’s disease, and the care providers they hire, are sweating over proposed cuts to state Medicaid payments for elder care. The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services is looking for a $2.40 an hour decrease in what it pays for in-home and in-facility care. If the federal government approves the change it would be retroactive to Oct. 1, meaning some care centers would have to reimburse the state money they’ve already been paid. The new rate would be $13.12 an hour per person. This is one of several changes the state has proposed to rein in an ever-growing budget for Medicaid, the state and federally funded insurance program that primarily helps children in poor families and the elderly.

WRAL: DHHS staffers lay out progress on Medicaid billing system

State health officials tried to reassure lawmakers Tuesday that the much-maligned NC Tracks system that helps the state handle Medicaid billing is getting better and service providers are getting paid. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos began her remarks to the legislative oversight committee with a mention of the Medicaid Advisory Group, formed since her Oct. 8 grilling by lawmakers. That group includes industry experts and lawmakers working on recommendations to improve mental health care in the state. "We are moving forward," she said. Wos noted the continuing concerns, raised by doctors, hospitals, medical device providers and others, about NC Tracks. Providers have complained for four months that the system isn’t paying them as quickly as it should.

Citizen-Times: Almost 1,500 NC DHHS workers furloughed last month

North Carolina health agency officials say the state should examine whether it makes sense to use only discretionary federal dollars to fund critical programs in light of the last federal government shutdown. Leaders of the Department of Health and Human Services gave a General Assembly committee a recap Tuesday on how agency programs fared during the 2½-week shutdown that ended in mid-October. Agency Secretary Dr. Aldona Wos (vahsh) and Deputy Secretary Sherry Bradsher say relying so heavily on federal dollars for programs for children and families had state officials scrambling to keep them operating because federal funds dried up.

WRAL: DHHS: Federal shutdown rough on NC

State health officials said Tuesday that the federal shutdown’s impact on North Carolina was short-lived, but severe. Assistant Health and Human Services Secretary Sherry Bradsher told the Joint HHS Oversight committee that 1,473 workers at the Department of Health and Human Services were furloughed for part or all of October’s shutdown because they are paid with federal money. Bradsher said grants frozen by the shutdown totaled $583 million, which is 75 percent of the money the agency receives from the federal government for everything from child care to food stamps and services for people with disabilities.

NCGA

News and Observer: Records show taxpayers paying big money for GOP leaders’ attorneys

Days before House Republican leaders announced plans to introduce a controversial voter ID bill, they hired a lawyer. Now the same outside law firm that was paid $55,591 to help draft the bill is poised to make hundreds of thousands of dollars more defending the law in court.The arrangement, outlined in newly released documents, is fueling critics’ concerns about how much GOP leaders are paying outside attorneys to do work typically reserved for the legislature’s staff lawyers and the attorney general’s office. Attorney General Roy Cooper and Democratic lawmakers call the spending on outside attorneys to draft and defend the election law an unnecessary expense – one compounded by Gov. Pat McCrory, who hired his own outside attorney to fight the lawsuit.

Dome: Lawmakers to visit Arkansas to study fracking operations

A dozen state lawmakers and legislative staff are taking a three-day field trip to Arkansas this week to look at fracking operations outside Little Rock. Sen. Bob Rucho, a Charlotte Republican, is leading the trip as co-chairman of the Joint Legislative Commission on Energy Policy. He said the trip is important to give lawmakers a first-hand look at hydraulic fracturing operations as North Carolina drafts regulations to allow fracking. “We are trying to figure out and evaluate how other states are doing shale gas exploration,” he said. “I think it’s important that we get it right.”

Winston-Salem Journal: State honors Julius Chambers for his work

A Charlotte attorney who became a leader in the 1960s struggle for civil rights in North Carolina is being honored one more time after his death. Julius Chambers on Tuesday became the second recipient of the state’s Spirit of North Carolina Award. The award is given to high-achieving state employees who have mentored others in the pursuit of excellence. North Carolina State University women’s basketball coach Kay Yow was the award’s first recipient in 2007.

NCDP

News and Record: Hunt: N.C. Republicans would make Honest Abe cry

Former N.C. Gov. Jim Hunt predicted Tuesday night that Republicans in control at the general assembly would turn to university system cuts to find enough money for an election-year teachers raise. Of course Hunt, speaking at a local fundraiser for state Rep. Pricey Harrison, also told the crowd that Abraham Lincoln "would have cried if he’d seen what’s happening in North Carolina," so this could be a case of home team politicin’. Hunt fired up the crowd, as he so often does. He said he won’t run for governor in 2016, "but I’ll have a candidate." He didn’t get more specific, though Harrison did: She’s stoked about Attorney General Roy Cooper.

U.S. CONGRESS

Dome: Hagan will not vote for anti-abortion bill

U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan on Tuesday made it clear that she would not vote for a bill that would ban abortions beginning at 20 weeks. “Kay believes that women, not politicians, should be the ones to make these difficult and complex decisions in consultation with their doctor, their family and their faith,” Hagan’s spokeswoman Sadie Weiner said.“Women’s health should never be a political football, and Kay’s focus on strengthening the economy and creating jobs is a stark contrast to her opponents who chose to ram through an anti-women’s health bill in the legislature instead of concentrating on jobs,” she added.

The Washington Post: The Republican Party = the tea party. Basically.
Ever since the government shutdown (and well before it), folks like The Fix have been focused like a laser on the tea party’s influence on the Republican Party. All of which obscures one simple fact: Americans see them as basically the same thing. A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows an increasing number of Americans think the tea party has too much influence in today’s GOP. While 23 percent said the tea party had too much influence in a March 2010 WaPo-ABC poll, and 35 percent said the same in a Pew poll early last month, 43 percent now say it has too much sway. Among pivotal moderate voters, well more than half (56 percent) say the tea party has too much influence on the GOP, while just 22 percent say it has about the right amount.

Dome: Burr, Casey asking Senate budget negotiators to fund medical research

North Carolina Republican Sen. Richard Burr and Sen. Robert Casey, D-Penn., on Tuesday said they’ve written a letter to ask for strong federal funding for the National Institute of Health for medical research. Sen. Kay Hagan, the state’s Democratic senator, was among 33 senators who also signed the letter. The letter was sent to the lead Democratic and Republican Senate budget negotiators. The Senate negotiators and their House counterparts have until mid-December to reach a budget agreement. In the first year of the across-the-board cuts this year, NIH funds were cut by $1.55 billion, and that mean that 640 fewer research projects were funded, according to a news release from Casey’s office. Another big sequestration cut will take place in January if there’s no new federal budget.

2014

Dome: In Congressional bid, Phil Berger hopes his name carries weight

Berger Jr. will announce his bid at 11:30 a.m. inside the auditorium at Bethany Community Middle School, a charter school in Reidsville. He will call for more accountability in Washington, pointing to the federal health care law, and surely make the case that he’s his own man. But Dallas Woodhouse, the younger Berger’s campaign manager, acknowledges the name is an asset. “His dad is the best conservative political brand in North Carolina,” Woodhouse said, explaining why he joined the campaign. The elder Berger is a seven-term state senator who flirted with a bid for the U.S. Senate earlier this year. He has established himself as arguably the most powerful lawmaker in Raleigh, driving the Republican agenda in the 2013 session.

CNN: 7 keys to the 2014 midterms
Democratic and Republican leaders don’t see eye to eye on much these days.But political veterans on both sides of the aisle do agree on one point — the stakes are high in the rapidly approaching 2014 midterm races. For Democrats, the midterms are all about holding their slim Senate majority and, if possible, defying historical odds by retaking the House of Representatives. They want to give President Barack Obama a working congressional majority for his last two years in office to help secure his legacy and lay the best possible groundwork for the party’s standard bearer in 2016. For Republicans, it’s the polar opposite. 2014 is all about finally realizing their maddeningly elusive goal of recapturing the Senate while also boosting their House majority, ensuring Obama’s a powerless lame duck, and pounding away at presidential accomplishments like the Affordable Care Act in the run-up to 2016.

Charlotte Observer: Rove to raise money for Tillis in NC this week

Karl Rove wants to help U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis raise money in North Carolina. The Republican strategist who worked closely with President George W. Bush was slated to attend three fundraisers in the state this week for the state House speaker, starting Tuesday night at a Cary hotel. Then he’ll go to a Fayetteville home Wednesday and to Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte on Thursday. Tickets are $1,000 or $2,600, the federal election maximum. Rove helped form the American Crossroads political committee that routinely seeks to influence federal elections.

The Week: Why the Cheneys’ gay marriage feud could burn the GOP

You can add "messy intra-family fight over the legitimacy of a sister’s same-sex marriage" to the long list of problems facing Liz Cheney’s quixotic Senate bid. More than that though, you can add it to the long list of woes facing the Republican Party’s halting rebrand. With a civil war for control of the party already underway, the spat underscores the emerging divide within the GOP over how to handle a politically explosive issue on which the party is increasingly on the wrong side of shifting public opinion. For all the national coverage of the imbroglio, it’s a comparative nothingburger back in Wyoming, where Cheney is trying to unseat three-term Sen. Mike Enzi in a primary fight. And even if the scuttlebutt were politically explosive, it wouldn’t necessarily matter much in the race given Cheney’s highly improbable odds of winning. Enzi has a comfortable 30-point lead, and a majority of Wyoming Republicans, in one poll, said Cheney was not even a true Wyomingite.

Political Wire: Hickenlooper Leads GOP Rivals

A new Quinnipiac poll in Colorado finds that voters say that Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) does not deserve re-election by a 49% to 42% margin. Nonetheless, Hickenlooper edges four possible GOP challengers: 46% to 41% over Tom Tancredo (R), 45% to 40% over Scott Gessler (R), 44% to 38% over Greg Brophy (R), and 44% to 40% over Mike Kopp (R).

Politico: DCCC has another big money month

Powered by the tea party-fueled government shutdown and debt ceiling fights, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee notched another big fundraising month in October, pulling in an impressive $7 million. The DCCC’s fundraising performance — the committee’s best for an October of an off-election year — follows the record-breaking $8.4 million it raised in September, as the shutdown battle got underway. Boosting the DCCC last month were two President Barack Obama-hosted fundraisers. DCCC Chairman Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) attributed the haul to backlash against the House GOP agenda, which he said “is not only driving their approval ratings to record lows – it’s rallying our support to record highs.”

EDUCATION

WECT: Teachers across NC encouraged to wear red to support New Hanover County

The state teacher’s association is calling for educators across North Carolina to wear red clothing to school Wednesday to support educators in New Hanover County. Last week, the New Hanover County Board of Education reminded educators they could not politick on the clock, including the "Red for Ed" t-shirts that some teachers are wearing to protest some recent moves by the General Assembly. An email went out this week from North Carolina Association of Educators’ President Rodney Ellis to all members asking for them to wear red to school Wednesday, take a picture with a sign saying "We Support New Hanover County’s Educators! #Red4NewHanover" and share on the NCAE Facebook page. The NCAE email says most school boards are being supportive of educators, but they feel New Hanover County is arbitrarily deeming the phrase "Red for Ed" a political statement.

HEALTHCARE

Roll Call: Stop Hyperventilating About Obamacare and Give it a Chance

Jonathan Chait asks us all to take a deep breath and exercise a little patience on the Obamacare rollout. Acknowledging that, “the most common fallacy of journalism, and one of the most common fallacies of the human brain in general, is the assumption that whatever is happening at the moment will continue to happen forever,” Chait provides an excellent analysis of why we should all give the rollout some time: Obamacare has existed for more than six weeks. Even the lessons of the last six weeks are more ambiguous than you might think. Medicaid is signing up customers rapidly [and] the victims of Obamacare — people in the individual market forced to buy more expensive plans — are almost certainly far fewer than widely believed. Democrats remain unified behind Obamacare. The website is kind of working already.

LGBT

Reuters: Illinois governor expected to sign gay marriage into law

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn is expected to sign same-sex marriage into law on Wednesday afternoon, which will make President Barack Obama’s home state the 16th to allow such unions. Illinois state senators voted to legalize gay marriage last February, and the state House followed suit by a slim margin earlier this month. Once signed by the Democratic governor, the law is due to take effect on June 1, 2014. The Illinois measure is the latest in a series of recent victories for gay rights, coming after Hawaii’s governor signed gay marriage into law last week and after New Jersey Governor Chris Christie dropped his legal opposition to such unions last month.

WOMEN

CBS News: Supreme Court allows Texas to keep enforcing abortion restrictions

A sharply divided Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed Texas to continue enforcing abortion restrictions that opponents say have led more than a third of the state’s clinics to stop providing abortions. The justices voted 5-4 to leave in effect a provision requiring doctors who perform abortions in clinics to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. The court’s conservative majority refused the plea of Planned Parenthood and several Texas abortion clinics to overturn a preliminary federal appeals court ruling that allowed the provision to take effect. The four liberal justices dissented. The case remains on appeal to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. That court is expected to hear arguments in January, and the law will remain in effect at least until then.

CNN: Voters reject ban on late-term abortions in Albuquerque

Voters rejected a ban on late-term abortions in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a proposal believed to be a first on a city level. Referenda putting abortion on the ballot have been tried on the state level. But what Albuquerque did Tuesday night makes it unique among cities. If the proposal had passed, it would have banned abortion after 20 weeks — with a few exceptions. It would also have opened a new frontier in abortion wars, which are traditionally tackled at the federal and state levels. With all 50 centers counted, 45% of voters were for it and 55% against it, according to the New Mexico secretary of state website. Despite the defeat, anti-abortion activists said the battle is far from over.

Washington Post: The abortion ban defeated Tuesday in Albuquerque has passed in 13 states

Pro-choice activists scored a victory on Tuesday, but it’s one in a war they’ve been losing in recent years. Voters in Albuquerque, N.M., defeated by a wide margin what could have been the nation’s first municipal abortion ban. The measure would have prohibited abortions past 20 weeks, a policy that’s been adopted in 13 states since 2010. In Albuquerque, it was defeated by a nearly ten-point margin with opposition just over 55 percent.“Today Albuquerque voters respected women — and sent a clear message here and across the country that voters reject callous attempts to take away complex, personal decisions from women, their families, and their faith,” Adriann Barboa, a member of Respect ABQ Women — a group active in the fight against the measure — said in a statement Tuesday night.

OPINION

Citizen-Times: Road map of Left/Right discussion

Regarding a recent Left/Right, once again we see a subject worthy of debate. The Left seems to present a position based on some fact and anecdotal evidence with a possible road map toward an improvement in the situation. We then begin following the highway in the Right lane when, oops, at the first exit, Non-Sequitur Boulevard, we enter a maze of surface streets. A right turn on Talking Point Lane meanders toward Personal Responsibility Avenue. At the next crossroad, Possible Logical Solution Street, continue straight without slowing to Circle Back Road leading again to Talking Point Lane heading in the other direction. We finally arrive at Trust Us We Have a Plan Junction, where a sharp right turn finds us at our final destination entering What Would Jesus Do Plaza. It is most reassuring to be reminded from time to time of the solid and vast idea bank awaiting us if we would only lift our liberal socialistic blinders. Perhaps a little more academic fact-based logical discussion would help us less enlightened individuals.

HENDERSON COUNTY COURTHOUSE

Blue Ridge Now: Mr. Jingles puts kibosh on courthouse rat problem

Starting in early May, Mr. Jingles made himself at home in the basement of the courthouse, where he has a bed, a litter box and toys donated by cat-lover Terry Wilson, clerk to the board of commissioners. During the day, he’s kept to non-public areas, but he roams at night. And the rats disappeared. “We believe Mr. Jingles is relocating them elsewhere,” Wyatt said. “I don’t know that he’s stacking them up, but I believe they’re seeking greener pastures. He’s the best employee I’ve got and I don’t have to pay his health insurance.”

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Micah Beasley, Press Secretary
North Carolina Democratic Party
MBeasley
Twitter: @Micah4NC

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