Well, with thousands of North Carolinians out of work and/or income due to the Tea Party’s hostage taking in Washington, it’s good to know that North Carolina’s governor is right where he needs to be during the crisis…uh, that would be cavorting with oil and coal company execs and lobbyists at a swanky casino in Mississippi. No, we’re not making this up; a day after throwing some chump change at the suddenly destitute with his state budget director and DHHS Secretary, the Guv (according to a press release from his office) boarded a plane and winged his way to the “Governor’s (sic) Forum on Outer Continental Shelf Energy Development” at the “53rd Annual Meeting of Southern States Energy Board.” The Southern States Energy Board — read more by clicking here — is an energy industry-dominated group of southern politicians that, as best as can be determined, exists to promote fossil fuel development. Click here the agenda for the meeting.
Senate Democrats are using the recent fracas at the Department of Health and Human Services to raise money for the 2014 campaign. The fundraising email was pretty standard, pointing on the perceived misdeeds of the opposition, including questioning whether Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration’s handing of Medicaid reform and the massive computer system meant to pay health care providers, NCTracks, has been appropriate. It also takes aim at the administration’s refusal to expand who Medicaid would cover earlier this year. Then it goes for the rhetorical gusto: "While the rest of the nation has started to see health care reform under ObamaCare, North Carolina has found itself under a new system: ‘McCroryCare.’"
More needy families in North Carolina will begin feeling the pinch of the shutdown Monday, as the state suspends its Work First program, a federally funded program also known as Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF).State Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Julie Henry confirmed that, as of Monday, DHHS has instructed county offices that "no new approved applications for Work First should be processed because of the unavailability of federal funds."
Mecklenburg County commissioners passed a resolution Tuesday urging state lawmakers to reconsider turning down billions in federal money that would expand Medicaid coverage to 500,000 uninsured North Carolinians. The resolution, approved 6-3 along party lines, urges Gov. Pat McCrory to call the General Assembly into a special session to reverse its previous decision and expand the state’s Medicaid coverage as part of the Affordable Care Act. Sponsored by Democrats Dumont Clarke, George Dunlap and Trevor Fuller, all six Democrats voted for the resolution. The board’s three Republicans – Bill James, Karen Bentley and Matthew Ridenhour – voted against it
WINSTON-SALEM JOURNAL: 3 NC congressmen question Work First suspension
Three Democratic congressmen want Republican Gov. Pat McCrory to take a second look at halting North Carolina’s welfare-to-work program as the federal shutdown continues.U.S. Reps. David Price, G.K. Butterfield and Mel Watt wrote Tuesday to McCrory asking him to reverse course on the program, usually paid with federal block funds that weren’t reauthorized Oct. 1.The state said it suspended processing Work First applications Monday because there wasn’t enough assurance the federal government would reimburse the state for payments once the shutdown ends.The letter says 49 other states apparently felt good enough about their chances. A federal official said Tuesday she wasn’t aware of another state currently suspending its welfare-to-work program.The state says people could miss Work First benefits starting in November.
The Huffington Post: North Carolina: Threatening Fifty Years of Progress in Ten Months
Tax giveaways for the top 1 percent instead of real tax breaks for working North Carolina families. An end to childcare tax credits. Election law changes that make it harder for North Carolinians to register and vote. Overcrowded classrooms for public school teachers and layoffs for teacher assistants to fund private school voucher programs. University and community college funding slashed, leading to an exodus of talented faculty. A gutting of unemployment benefits when our economy is barely getting back on its feet. And a refusal to accept federal Medicaid dollars that would expand healthcare for working people, as well as for seniors in nursing homes and assisted living. This is not the North Carolina that any of us recognize. The harrowing economic times we live in require steadiness, innovative thought and a redoubling of commitment to bedrock principles like public education that have brought our state this far, not more pain inflicted on the middle class and those struggling to stay in it.
NC Attorney General Roy Cooper is sounding more and more like a Democratic candidate for governor in 2016. In an opinion article for The Huffington Post, he compares the leadership of former Democratic Gov. Terry Sanford with the “extremist fantasies” of the current GOP legislature.” From Terry Sanford’s vision, and the work of progressive leaders such as Governor Jim Hunt, grew a renowned public university system, acclaimed early childhood education, a vibrant high-tech economy, a national center of finance, a world-class tourism destination and a reputation for innovation that attracted waves of new residents and businesses large and small. … “But historical periods have a habit of both ending and repeating themselves. Today, the emphasis on economic growth, public education and innovative change that has distinguished North Carolina for fifty years has reached a sudden end. For the first time since Reconstruction, North Carolina has a General Assembly and governorship controlled by the extreme factions of the Republican Party, and their legislative super majority means their power is unchecked. In ten short months, they have set out to deliberately and systematically undo fifty years of progress. It’s as if the Tea Party created its own playground of extremist fantasies.
Politics NC: Cooper Comin’
Roy Cooper is running for governor. More importantly, though, he’s filling a void that Democrats have felt for too long. He’s providing the party faithful a champion, somebody they can rally around. Over the past few weeks, Cooper has been moving around the state making noises and headlines. But yesterday in a Huffington Post piece, he laid out the case for Democrats while giving people a solid reason to reject Republicans. In a single move, he fired a shot across the bow of the Republican Party and defined the values of the Democratic Party. Cooper didn’t hold back. His language was combative and his disdain for the actions of Pat McCrory and the Republican legislature was clear. Essentially, Cooper launched his campaign, three years ahead of the next election, by going on the attack. It was a smart move
According to the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll 74 percent of Americans disapprove of how the Republicans are handling the budget negotiations. That’s three-out-of-four Americans. Numbers like that shouldn’t happen on highly visible issues in a competitive, two-party system. But when they do happen they can’t go on for very long. Republicans know they need a way out. In the Senate, Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell may have found one. Their deal would fund the government until January 15th and raise the debt ceiling until February 7th. The deal would also create a bicameral budget committee that will report back by December 13th, and it delays Obamacare’s reinsurance fee (more on that here) and strengthens the law’s income verification procedures. The thing about these concessions is that none of them is actually a concession — for either party. Democrats have been begging for a budget conference for six months, and in recent weeks, Republicans began begging for one too. The reinsurance fee doesn’t matter much to Obamacare and organized labor has been begging Democrats to get rid of it. The income verification is already in Obamacare, but the Obama administration was lagging on it.
U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers is getting pressured by groups using her own words to help end the government shutdown. Protect Your Care NC, a nonprofit that supports implementation of the Affordable Care Act, notes that in August, the Ellmers warned that “any threat to shut down the federal government over funding Obmacare in the Continuing Resolution is a political game and a distraction.” “Renee Ellmers knew better all along but she was scared to buck the Tea Party,” Candice Davies of Protect Your Care NC said in a statement. Tom Doheny, Ellmers’ communications director, said in an email that the congresswoman was working “tirelessly to bring an immediate end to this shutdown, just as she did in the weeks and months leading up to it.”
Gov. Pat McCrory said Tuesday that North Carolina and Tennessee have agreed to pick up the $380,000 tab to open Great Smoky Mountains National Park for the rest of this week – the height of leaf-watching season in the park. North Carolina will spend $75,000 from its tourism advertising budget, while Tennessee and two counties will spend the remaining $305,000 to reopen the park that straddles the state line from Wednesday through Sunday. Like other national parks, Great Smoky Mountains National Park has been closed since Oct. 1 during the federal government shutdown. About 10 million people visit the park annually, including 4 million who enter through North Carolina.
Politico: Nancy Pelosi wants to make a deal
Nancy Pelosi wants to make a deal. But every time it appears she could deliver the votes for important legislation, the House minority leader is left standing with no one to negotiate with. In the run-up to the shutdown, some observers believed that eventually House Speaker John Boehner would have to turn to Pelosi (D-Calif.) to cobble together a bipartisan coalition to avert government closure. And in doing so, Pelosi would gain leverage to negotiate something for House Democrats. But just two days before a possible U.S. debt default and more than two weeks into the shutdown, Boehner’s request has yet to come. Instead, Pelosi has reached out to the speaker nearly every day for weeks, according to Democratic aides, either talking to the Republican leader on the floor or calling him to the point of pestering.
Business Insider: House Republicans Show Themselves To Be Dangerously Incompetent, Again
House Republican leaders canceled plans to call a vote Tuesday evening on a Republican plan to raise the debt limit and reopen the government. They couldn’t round up enough Republican votes to pass it. The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza is stunned, for some reason. In fact, this is the least stunning event ever. The bill would have raised the debt ceiling. It would have changed Obamacare, Republicans’ white whale, in only the most trivial ways. The powerful conservative pressure group Heritage Action opposed it. Of course Speaker John Boehner couldn’t get the votes. The only stunning thing is that anyone still looks at House Republicans and says: "You know what would be great? Giving these people more power over public policy." Roughly one-third of this caucus thinks hitting the debt ceiling and shutting down the government are great strategies to try to stop Obamacare. The other two-thirds of the party has realized all along that this strategy sucks, but they could not find any way to stop their party from implementing it — even though these "reasonable" Republicans outnumber the crazies.
"Republicans have to understand we have lost this battle, as I predicted weeks ago, that we would not be able to win because we were demanding something that was not achievable." — Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), quoted by the New York Times, on the debt ceiling standoff.
Rep. John Fleming (R-LA) told reporters Tuesday that part of the House Republican calculus in its plan to re-open the government and raise the debt limit was trying to leverage the Thursday default deadline to their advantage in their back-and-forth with the Senate. "We want to make a deal that they can’t refuse, and we’re running out of time," Fleming said after a two-hour GOP conference meeting Tuesday morning. "Timing is very important here. They’re going to be more motivated to take this up. Otherwise, they miss the Thursday deadline." Fleming’s remarks came before the House GOP’s new plan appeared to dissolve amid conservative objections. He portrayed that initial proposal as the start of a new set of negotiations between the chambers, even with default only two days away. "This is a first step toward really a whole new negotiation," Fleming said. "The problem that we have, and this is really more tactics than anything, not ideological, is the more we lard down an offer, the more likely it’s going to be ignored, and we’re going to get something back that’s less." Previously, Fleming had downplayed the consequences of default in comments last month to Politico.
If you followed every turn of the 2013 shutdown fight closely, it’s hard to think of a policy that House Republicans forced into the discussion by dragging this out. Obamacare defunding? Not just doomed but discredited. Mandate delay? Also set back, because the party wasted two weeks on a shutdown when it could have been campaigning against HealthCare.gov’s crippling site errors. (They can join that program already in progress when this shutdown fight is over.) The Vitter Amendment? They were talking about that before the shutdown, and it was small beer to start with. If you were awake in 2011 during the last debt limit fight, or the end of 2012 for the collapse of John Boehner’s "Plan B" face-saving measure, it’s hard to believe that the party repeated the exact same debacle.
U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan raised $1.8 million during the past three months, her campaign announced Tuesday as the Democratic incumbent continued to squirrel away money for an expected fierce re-election fight against a Republican challenger next year. Hagan’s campaign released federal campaign documents due Tuesday that show her with $5.4 million in the bank as of Sept. 30. Unlikely to face any challenger with high name recognition in next May’s primary, Hagan can keep most of her money for the general election. Hagan raised $1.6 million in the first three months of 2013 and $2 million in the second quarter. Hagan campaign manager Preston Elliott said the third-quarter figures show North Carolina residents "support her bipartisan work to boost our economy, protect our seniors and service members, and represent commonsense North Carolina values in the Senate." On the Republican side, state House Speaker Thom Tillis appeared to lead other GOP hopefuls in finances. He told supporters in an email he’ll report having more than $800,000 on hand when he files campaign finance documents. Tillis, who announced his decision to enter the race in late May, also said he has surpassed $1 million in overall fundraising, but his campaign hadn’t released his actual report late Tuesday or provided specific third-quarter numbers. His campaign reported raising $277,000 in an abbreviated second quarter.
Last week I observed that I hadn’t yet seen “compelling evidence” that a Democratic political wave could be developing. I can no longer say that after seeing the recently released NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. That highly regarded poll showed Republican numbers have taken a considerable hit because of the shutdown and the media coverage around it. The GOP’s 24 percent positive/53 percent negative image obviously is a red flag, especially compared with image numbers for the Democratic Party (39 percent positive/40 percent negative) and President Barack Obama (47 percent positive/41 percent negative). The NBC/WSJ poll’s version of the generic ballot, which asks respondents about their “preference for the outcome of next year’s congressional elections,” shows a substantial shift from an insignificant 3-point Democratic edge (46 percent to 43 percent) to an 8-point Democratic advantage (47 percent to 39 percent). Respondents split evenly in June on the role of the government, with 48 percent saying that government “should do more to solve problems” and 48 percent saying that government “is doing too many things.” That has also changed, with 52 percent now saying that government should do more and only 44 percent saying that it is doing too much.
Politico: Democrats recruit women to compete in red states
This time last year, the handicappers expected Heidi Heitkamp to lose her Senate bid in North Dakota. Instead, voters sent the folksy former prosecutor with a centrist profile to a surprising 1-percentage-point win. Democrats hope that success story — of a moderate female candidate with a compelling biography running in a red state — can serve as a template for a handful of tough races in 2014. The party has turned to a trio of women — Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky, Michelle Nunn in Georgia and Natalie Tennant in West Virginia — to try and pull off Heitkamp-like upsets in states where Republicans have the upper hand. Democratic strategists believe the candidates will be able to raise money and draw independents as they reprise the “war on women” playbook that worked effectively in 2012.
The Washington Post: Before the shutdown, Democrats were losing next year’s House race. Now they’re winning
Democrats are in striking distance of retaking the House. The shutdown helped. Polls averages via Huffington Post Pollster’s model 53 percent threshold calculated by Theodore Arrington.
State Rep. Ruth Samuelson announced late Tuesday she won’t seek re-election next year, widening the leadership and fundraising vacuum within the House Republican leadership after 2014.Samuelson, the House Republican Conference Leader from Charlotte, told GOP colleagues in an email of her decision not to seek a fifth two-year term. She will serve out her term through the end of next year. Samuelson has taken lead roles in passing legislation in 2011 and 2013 designed to regulate further abortion in North Carolina, as well as pushing a voter ID bill through the House this year. She also has been known by environmental groups as a conservation ally.
Former UNC official Laura Fjeld, a Democrat seeking to unseat Republican U.S. Rep. Howard Coble, has raised $130,000 since she began her campaign this summer. Fjeld reported having $96,148 on hand at the end of September. Until recently, she was vice president and general counsel for the University of North Carolina system. She expressed gratitude for the support she has received for the 6th District race. “Congressman Coble’s shutdown of our nation’s government is hurting North Carolinians at every level and delivering a self-inflicted wound to our economy that families and businesses cannot afford – but it’s also reinforcing just how out of touch Congressman Coble’s reckless Washington politics are with the values of North Carolina families,” Fjeld said in a statement.
A non-partisan group that wants fairness in government is holding a meeting to talk about how North Carolina can change its redistricting laws. The NC Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform is meeting Wednesday night at the Caldwell Presbyterian Church in Charlotte. The group is bringing together a panel to discuss how to make the drawing of districts fairer and presenting a copy of a bill it wants passed in the Legislature. The group says the current practice of letting the political party in power draw U.S. House and state legislative districts creates districts where candidates have to be extremely partisan to win primaries, shutting out more moderate voices. The panel will also meet in Wilmington on Oct. 30.
The NC Insider reports that groups challenging North Carolina legislative and congressional districts are again asking the state Supreme Court to have Justice Paul Newby step aside from hearing the case. From the Insider: “Lawyers representing the NAACP and other plaintiffs challenging the maps filed lengthy briefs on Friday as they appeal a lower court ruling that upheld the districts. The filings raise the issue of whether Newby should take part in hearing the case in light of campaign money that flowed from a Washington-based Republican Party group supporting his candidacy. The same group, the Republican State Leadership Committee, also employed a consultant, Tom Hofeller, that GOP lawmakers referred to as the chief architect of the congressional and legislative district plans. “Thus, unless Justice Newby recuses himself, he will rule on the validity of redistricting plans that were drawn, endorsed and embraced by the principal funder of a committee supporting his campaign for re-election,” the brief said.
NC Policy Watch: Justice Newby back on the redistricting hot seat
The appeal of the July ruling upholding the state’s 2011 redistricting plan moved forward on Friday as the North Carolina NAACP and other individuals and organizations challenging the plan filed their opening briefs in the Supreme Court. But before the court even hears argument on the appeal some months from now, the court must rule once again whether Justice Paul Newby can join his colleagues in hearing and ruling on the merits of the appeal. They say that the organization largely responsible for the drafting of the redistricting plans, the Republican State Leadership Committee, contributed more than a million dollars to support Newby during the waning days of the 2012 judicial elections to secure his re-election and his vote when the redistricting challenge reached the Supreme Court.
Advocates for poor school districts across North Carolina said Tuesday that state officials cannot ignore a promise they made nine years ago to provide pre-kindergarten classes to at-risk students statewide. The plea came during oral arguments before the North Carolina Supreme Court in a case that could require the state to open up its NC Pre-K program to every needy 4-year-old who applies, which some have estimated could cost the state $300 million a year – more than double what it now spends. Superior Court Judge Howard Manning, who has handled school funding cases for years, ruled in 2011 that the state couldn’t restrict access to NC Pre-K, which was known then as More at Four. The state Court of Appeals upheld that decision last year.
North Carolina’s Supreme Court started work Tuesday on deciding whether the state constitution’s guarantee that every child is entitled to a chance at a sound, basic education requires giving needy 4-year-olds extra help that one estimate said could cost up to $300 million a year. The state’s high court heard attorneys argue in the latest chapter in a 19-year-old dispute brought by poor school districts in Hoke, Halifax, Robeson, Cumberland and Vance counties. The court ruled in 2004 that the constitutional right to a sound, basic education includes helping young children who are at risk of falling behind their peers. Then-Gov. Mike Easley and legislative leaders committed to a program of pre-kindergarten services then named More at Four and told the court it would be gradually expanded to enroll 40,000 4-year-olds statewide at a cost of about $160 million.
Last week, during an endless dispute with the pundits who keep arguing that gerrymandering is not THE factor in the House Republicans’ intransigence (as if anyone is saying it is), I asked a reader to come up with a pretty map explaining just what happened in North Carolina. Jon White obliged me. Thanks, Jon! In other news, Nate Cohn has responded to my post by calling it "obnoxious" (true) and completely conceding my point that gerrymandering is a factor in our current crisis. "Weigel himself wrote a whole post about gerrymandering and the shutdown!" writes Cohn. This is true, and anyone who reads that piece will notice that I call gerrymandering a factor that complements the GOP’s natural advantage in population distribution. More importantly, Cohn fundamentally misunderstands the political calculations that go into gerrymandering when he argues (truthfully) that in 2012 it made some districts less Republican.
It’s been less than four months since the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act and put an end to California’s marriage amendment, but advocates have been busy over the summer — setting the stage for a very busy two weeks that could rock the marriage equality landscape and change the country. The calendar for the rest of the month is packed with a dizzying array of potential developments: decisions and movement in lawsuits that are multiplying by the week, possible votes from lawmakers being prodded to action by governors in their states, and — for the state of New Mexico — a hearing at the state Supreme Court to resolve once and for all whether same-sex couples can marry in a state that doesn’t specifically ban or allow such marriages. The coming weeks also will feature the first action in the federal appellate courts since the Supreme Court rulings, with a filing in the Ninth Circuit in a challenge to Nevada’s marriage law. The quick reemergence of a marriage case at the appellate level is notable because that’s the path back to the Supreme Court, where marriage equality advocates are still seeking a ruling that would bring marriage equality to all 50 states.
A North Carolina county official has stated he will accept marriage license applications from same-sex couples, and he is also seeking the advice of the state’s top lawyer, reports the Associated Press. Although North Carolina’s constitution was amended in 2012 to ban same-sex couples from marrying in the state, Buncombe County register of deeds Drew Reisinger said Monday that the law is unfair and that he is upset he has been forced to deny licenses to gay and lesbian couples. Rather than turn away “upstanding citizens,” Reisinger plans to hold marriage applications from same-sex couples while awaiting the advice of state attorney general Roy Cooper.
A North Carolina official accepted marriage license applications on Tuesday from 12 same-sex couples – an unprecedented move in the U.S. South that advocates hoped would spur others to challenge state bans on such weddings. Drew Reisinger, the elected register of deeds for Buncombe County, which includes Asheville, did not immediately issue the licenses as two local officials in New Mexico and Pennsylvania have done. But he questioned the legality of North Carolina’s prohibition against same-sex marriages in light of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in June that struck down a key part of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act denying benefits to same-sex married couples. "Why are we denying same-sex couples in North Carolina the dignity and the legal acknowledgement granted to heterosexual couples here or same-sex couples in other states?" Reisinger said in a letter seeking a formal opinion from the state attorney general. "Marriage rights are civil rights and should not vary based on where you live," he added. North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat, said this week that he personally supports gay marriage but is committed to defending the state ban in a pending lawsuit. Gay marriage opponents see local officials who issue licenses to same-sex couples residing outside the 13 states and District of Columbia that have legalized gay marriage as trying to make an end-run around the law.
It was an appropriate choice, for the House GOP is practicing its own form of mortuary science: It is burying both the Republican brand and America’s standing in the world. On Monday night, Washington was finally moving toward an agreement — albeit a temporary solution — to end the government shutdown and avoid a default on the national debt. The agreement in principle, negotiated by Senate Democratic and Republican leaders, probably would have sailed through the House. But then House Speaker John Boehner preempted the bipartisan agreement with a new plan of his own that had no Democratic support. It was difficult to see any reason for the proposal other than blocking progress on an agreement — and it succeeded at that. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called off a meeting in which he was to have unveiled the agreement, and Democrats lined up to denounce the new tactic, which emerged just two days before the Treasury runs out of room to maneuver on the nation’s bills. Yet even that nasty piece of work didn’t have enough support from Boehner’s GOP caucus, because tea party Republicans were still holding out for an assault on Obama¬care. After a two-hour caucus meeting — twice the usual length — Boehner emerged admitting there were “a lot of opinions” but “no decisions.”
Micah Beasley, Press Secretary
North Carolina Democratic Party
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