NCDP Clips September 27, 2013

DHHS

Dome: Morning Memo: Hagan Gets Opponent;Records Show Deeper DHHS Troubles
The state agency overseeing the new computer system that sends money to health professionals treating poor patients downplayed problems with the software even as complaints rolled in to Gov. Pat McCrory’s office from doctors, dentists and medical equipment companies. Correspondence obtained by The News & Observer from McCrory’s office show that complaints were flowing in from frustrated health care providers, with some appealing directly to his chief of staff and his lawyer, by the end of July. Those complaints were passed on to the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the system. On Aug. 5, DHHS sent out the news release “NCTracks is on Track."

WNCN: DHHS Still Using NC Fast Contractor with Troubled Past
The company tasked with streamlining the state’s food stamps program has a history of complaints nationwide, WNCN learned Thursday. NC Fast is a statewide computer system aimed at quickly getting food stamps to people in need. But the program has proven to be anything but quick as an application backlog has meant that people are going hungry. Food bank organizations in Raleigh, Nashville, Wilson and Fayetteville have all previously told WNCN that food stamp recipients are turning to them because they are not getting what they need through NC Fast. In fact, at the Helping Hand Mission in Raleigh, the situation has become so dire that the NC Fast program is nicknamed "NC Fasting.

WRAL: Merritt Roles On Ethics Commission, Work For DHHS Conflict
Les Merritt, a former state auditor, says he will step down from the North Carolina State Ethics Commission on Friday after WRAL News raised questions about whether his service as a contractor at the Department of Health and Human Services creates a conflict with his duties as a government watchdog. Merritt said Thursday afternoon he did not know if he had a legal conflict of interest, but he said the dual appointments could create "a perception problem" for the commission."I am going to resign from the commission. I should have my letter to them tomorrow," Merritt said. Merritt took his seat as an ethics commission member on Jan. 1. Under Merritt’s DHHS contract, he reports directly to Secretary of Health and Human Services Aldona Wos. The contract sets his pay at $312,000 through May 12, 2014, and includes two one-year renewal options.

NCDP

Billumaye BlogSpot: Randy Voller on Leading the N.C. Democratic Party (MP3 FILE)
Topics: 2014, #NCGA and Local Control

Q Notes: UNC-Charlotte student elected to national College Democrats post
A junior political science major at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte was appointed last weekend as national LGBT caucus chair for the College Democrats of America (CDA).Asgod Barrantes, 20, will head up the national group’s LGBT student outreach and coordinate with other LGBT caucuses and organizations both within and outside the Democratic Party. “This is my first appointment with CDA,” says Barrantes, excited to begin his work with student leaders across the country. “Whether those students are from California or New York or Florida…our efforts are basically to expand the outreach of the Democratic Party within American campuses and making sure those voices are represented and making sure the youth vote and college student interests are heard by elected officials.”

NCGA

News and Record: PPP sees GOP vulnerability in 8 NCGA Senate districts
I’d stop somewhere short of having hope if I were you, North Carolina Democrats, but Public Policy Polling released some polling data today from eight N.C. senate districts where it believes Democrats stand a good chance next year. Conveniently, winning all of them while everything else stays the same would turn a 33-17 GOP Senate majority into a 25-25 split. I’m going to paste PPP’s analysis below. I don’t usually go in for polls, particularly this far out. But I think this stuff’s interesting because it’s likely to help mold Democrat strategy as party leaders pick races to target next year in an effort to at least chip away at Republican margins in the House and Senate. You can download the full results here.

WHITE HOUSE

USA TODAY: Obama denounces ‘irresponsible’ health care critics
President Obama denounced "irresponsible" Republican critics of his health care law Thursday, saying efforts to "blackmail" him into changing the plan could trigger a government shutdown and a U.S. credit default."Now they’re threatening steps that actually would badly hurt our entire economy," Obama said during a health care speech in Largo, Md. The speech came on the same day the administration announced a change in the online rules for small businesses: Some small-business owners wishing to enroll in new health care exchanges opening Oct. 1 will not be able to do so online at first. Instead, they will have to mail or fax information in order to join exchanges, at least until Nov. 1.

Daily Beast: Suddenly, Great Expectations for Iran-U.S. Relations
What was the venerable Brillo-haired boxing promoter Don King doing at a meeting between think-tankers and the president of Iran? We didn’t know until the end. There’d been a surprise announcement: a major breakthrough in nuclear negotiations with Iran over at the United Nations. A journalistic scrum suddenly surrounded the Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who’d delivered that news. But King, the man who once brought us the “Thrilla in Manila” and the “Rumble in the Jungle,” jostled past the reporters to tell Zarif, “I want to promote ‘A Fight for Peace in the Middle East!’” This weird scene was not the most important moment, I suppose, in a day fraught with what seemed to be breakthroughs, but in its way it was the most emblematic. The United Nations General Assembly (or “Hell Week,” as some call it) suddenly has turned into a circus of diplomacy, a riot of expectations. A “fight for peace in the Middle East”? That’s what we’re watching right now.

U.S CONGRESS

ABC 11: Sen. Hagan Weighing In On Budget (VIDEO)

Politico: How it ends
With only three days left until a possible government shutdown, nobody — not even those in charge — know how the budget battle will end. Or if it will end. The scenarios are all very messy and each would trigger either an immediate crisis or set the stage for an even more damaging showdown over the debt limit. House Republicans are in disarray as the leadership discards one strategy after another, unable to unify the conference. The Senate is likely to leave town Friday after sending a funding bill back to the House that Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has already said he can’t accept. For his part, President Barack Obama is waiting on the sidelines for the Republicans to figure out their next move.

The Daily Beast: End Days for the GOP
The gig may be about up. The odds are good that by the morning of October 18, one of two (correct) perceptions will be broadly held by the American public: one, that the Republican Party has collapsed into all-out ideological civil war; two, that the Republicans are a party not merely of obstructionists but destructionists, in ways that will be so evident that even those independents devoted to the idea that both sides are to blame will run up the white flag. All the Republicans’ madness of the last five years is finally going to catch up with them.

Bloomberg: Ted Cruz Republicans Listen Only to Themselves
The Republican Party, however, has focused like a laser on making the law fail. Congressional Republicans have withheld crucial implementation funds and sent letters to everyone from the National Football League to local health groups warning them against helping with the rollout. Republican governors have, for the most part, refused to set up health-care exchanges or participate in the Medicaid expansion authorized by the law. And now Republicans in Congress are considering shutting down the entire government or defaulting on the national debt in order to prevent Obamacare’s implementation. They’ve gone from trying to make Obamacare fail to threatening to make the country fail.

Politico: House GOP banking on Plan C
House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy is thinking about taking some of his members to see the new thriller “Prisoners” this weekend. But the California Republican, along with Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), might feel like the ones getting locked up after their attempt to tie a one-year debt-ceiling hike to a laundry list of popular conservative policies — including a delay of Obamacare — fell flat Thursday, victim to continuing skepticism over the leadership’s strategy within GOP ranks. Even when they hurled everything at the wall, it wasn’t enough for House Republicans. Boehner and his team have now cycled through three fiscal strategies in about as many weeks, as rank-and-file Republicans jump from one approach to another in a so-far losing effort to emerge victorious from a budget showdown with President Barack Obama and the Democrats. Now it’s on to “Plan C,” or whatever Republicans call this third iteration of government funding-debt ceiling strategy.

EDUCATION

NC POLICY WATCH: Is North Carolina a net exporter of teachers?
At a meeting of Governor McCrory’s education cabinet last week, Andre Peek, director of Global Technology Services at IBM and chair of the North Carolina Business Committee for Education asserted that North Carolina is now a “net exporter of teachers.”It’s an observation Peek has made from working groups in which he has participated and in his travels across the state. It’s not rooted in data–yet, he told N.C. Policy Watch. As teachers face another school year with no raises, fewer resources with which to teach their students, and the disappearance of tenure, the question looms. Will teachers come to teach—and will they stay—in North Carolina?

Daily Tarheel: Gov. Hunt Calls For Education Focus
Hunt, a Democrat and the longest-serving North Carolina governor who held the position from 1977 to 1985 and 1993 to 2001, used the 45-minute lecture to emphasize the necessity of education funding in the state. “Public education is at the very center — it’s not a piece of policy to be debated with the legislature or an interest group, it’s at the center of things for us,” Hunt said in his speech. Hunt said he made K-12 and UNC-system funding a priority during his four-term stint in the governor’s mansion — including Smart Start, an initiative that supports early education throughout the state. “We did many things for education in our state, but I would say the accomplishment I’m most proud of came at the end of my last term — we increased teacher’s pay to the national average,” he said in the speech. The N.C. General Assembly has faced criticism from state public education leaders in recent legislative sessions for education funding cuts, including a nearly $500 million reduction to the UNC system since 2011. Throughout the speech, Hunt tied better education to an increase in the number of high-paying jobs in an area.

WNCN: Wake Co. Teacher Plans Statewide Walkout
A group of teachers are hoping to gain assistance from the state government and parents through a planned walkout on Nov. 4. The November 4th NC Teacher Walkout is about unifying the voice of teachers to initiate change, according to the walkout’s website. Josh Hartman, a technology teacher in Wake County and an organizer of the event, said he is still earning a starting salary after working as a teacher in the county for six years. Currently, one out of every nine teachers earns the lowest annual salary of $30,800. They’re eligible for their first built-in raise after five years, which bumps their salary to $31,220. North Carolina’s average teacher last year made nearly $10,000 less than the national average of $55,418. Five years ago, N.C. ranked in the middle for teacher pay. Within the last five years, the state has lost more than 4,000 teachers with up to three years of experience. "Teachers are leaving to do other things. I am one of them of those teachers," Hartman said.

2013/2014

Dome: Berger and Tillis not exactly best buddies
The coolness between Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Thom Tillis was on full display in this interview with News 14’s Tim Boyum. Berger, who this week announced he would not run for the U.S. Senate, was asked if he would support Tillis. Berger said he would support the nominee, and spoke highly of fellow Sen. Pete Brunsettter, who is considering the race.

Dome: Pete Brunstetter says he won’t seek U.S. Senate seat
State Sen. Pete Brunstetter announced Thursday he will not seek the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Kay Hagan. The Winston-Salem Republican’s announcement comes days after Senate leader Phil Berger decided against a bid. It could mean the Republican field is set but some GOP operatives still see room for a vibrant challenge from the party’s right wing.
In a statement, Brunstetter did not go into detail about his reasoning, saying the "task must fall to someone else."

Politico: Wendy Davis tells Democrats she’s in
Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis and her advisers have begun informing influential Democrats that she intends to run for governor in 2014, according to multiple sources familiar with Davis’s conversations. The Fort Worth legislator made a national name for herself in June when she mounted a filibuster against new proposed abortion clinic regulations. Texas Republicans ultimately passed those restrictions into law in a special session called by outgoing Republican Gov. Rick Perry. Davis advisers declined to confirm that she will enter the governor’s race, but Davis consultant Hector Nieto said the senator has made up her mind about 2014 and will unveil her plans next week.

Politico: Abortion is a winning issue for Wendy Davis
As Wendy Davis prepares to announce her bid to be Texas’s next governor, Republicans can barely contain their glee. Attorney General Greg Abbott, their likely gubernatorial nominee, will get to match up against the woman conservative blogger Erick Erickson called “Abortion Barbie.” For Davis, the issue that made her famous is widely considered here to be the very one she will have to spend the entire campaign running from. But a funny thing is happening on the way to this red-state rout: Abbott is the one trying to avoid talking about his position on abortion. By taking a position on abortion that is extreme even in Texas — he’s against exceptions for rape and incest and oddly obscure on the life of the mother — Abbott makes Davis look moderate in comparison and could give her an opening to court the white suburban women who hold the key to victory.

Charlotte Observer: Charlotte Mayoral Race
Charlotte Observer: Charlotte Mayoral Candidates Face Off In First Debate
The two men vying to be Charlotte’s next mayor squared off before city business leaders Wednesday, each positioning himself as the better choice to solve disputes over the airport, heal the rift with Republican lawmakers and boost economic prosperity. Debating during the Charlotte Chamber’s annual retreat, Democrat Patrick Cannon and Republican Edwin Peacock made their first debate a civil, restrained affair in which both touted their strengths without overtly attacking each other. Both men stressed the importance of Charlotte Douglas International Airport to the city’s economy and pledged to fight for the city to keep control of it, even as they decried the polarized politics that have swirled around it.

LGBT

The Daily Beast: What’s Next?
Meanwhile, we are speeding toward full marriage rights for same-sex couples throughout the country. This past June, the Supreme Court declared that the federal government must recognize all state-sanctioned marriages, including same-sex marriages, and in a procedural move, flung open marriage’s doors to California’s same-sex couples as well. Last fall, the citizens of three states passed laws making it possible for same-sex couples to marry, while another two rejected attempts to ban or undo marriage equality. The total number of marriage-equality states is now 13—or 14 if you include New Mexico, where the most populous counties are currently performing such marriages. Realistically, advocates believe they can win another 10 states by 2016. The marriage equality fight isn’t over, by any means. The rest of the states, including those most hostile to gay rights, have constitutional or statutory bans on recognizing same-sex pairs. But the momentum is clear to all. Roughly 55 percent of Americans now say they favor legal marriage rights for same-sex couples. Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry—the national group most involved in winning hearts, minds, legislation, and ballot measures (as opposed to court victories) on marriage equality—recently told me that he believes we will see full national marriage rights within a few years, “if we do the work,” as he always adds.

Bloomberg: Young Voters Backing Gay Rights 69% Is Republican Hurdle
Fifty-five percent of Americans and 7 out of 10 young people support allowing gay couples to marry. A majority of Republicans, 52 percent, oppose it. Forty percent of Republicans say state legislatures should continue pushing for laws curbing abortion rights. That’s almost double the 22 percent among all Americans who hold that position, according to a Bloomberg National Poll conducted Sept. 20-23. The findings reflect challenges for the Republican Party at a time when it’s working to boost its appeal with young people, women and minority voters to improve its national electoral prospects after 2012 losses. The April reaffirmation of the party’s opposition to gay marriage, passage of more than 200 anti-abortion-rights state bills in recent years, and the imposition of voter-identification rules by Republican-controlled legislatures may create even deeper wedges with those coveted constituencies.

Daily Tarheel: More applications add LGBT question
More prospective students are coming across a new question on their college admissions application: “Do you consider yourself to be a member of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community?” After Elmhurst College, a small liberal arts school in a Chicago suburb, added a similar question to its admissions application two years ago, more universities have followed suit. And LGBT advocates are working to add the question onto even more schools’ applications. Campus Pride Executive Director Shane Windmeyer said the question would hold colleges accountable for the welfare of LGBT students. Colleges will be able to track the retention rate of LGBT students and examine problems the group faces.

ENVIRONMENT

Huffington Post: IPCC Climate Change Report Expresses Extreme Confidence In Human Cause Of Global Warming
Scientists can now say with extreme confidence that human activity is the dominant cause of the global warming observed since the 1950s, a new report by an international scientific group said Friday. Calling man-made warming "extremely likely," the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change used the strongest words yet on the issue as it adopted its assessment on the state of the climate system.

OPINION

The New York Times: My State Needs Obamacare. Now.
SUNDAY morning news programs identify Kentucky as the red state with two high-profile Republican senators who claim their rhetoric represents an electorate that gave President Obama only about a third of its presidential vote in 2012. So why then is Kentucky — more quickly than almost any other state — moving to implement the Affordable Care Act? Because there’s a huge disconnect between the rank partisanship of national politics and the outlook of governors whose job it is to help beleaguered families, strengthen work forces, attract companies and create a balanced budget.

GERRYMANDERING JIGSAW PUZZLE

Slate: Can You Solve Slate’s Gerrymandering Jigsaw Puzzle?
Put the ridiculously gerrymandered congressional districts back together.

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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.