BlueNC's blog

Digging deep into healthcare

Few folks I know really take the time to understand what's really going on with Medicaid. Most just listen to the double-talk coming out of McCrory & Wos and roll their eyes in disbelief. Not Rose Hoban. She's digging into the substance with in-depth coverage that is well worth your time.

Interviews with Wos and Steckel, complete with transcript attached.

Monday/ Tuesday was a two part story. How "Broken" is NC Medicaid?

Check it out.

Daily dose

“I am the senator. You are the citizen. You need to be quiet.”

  • Tommy Tucker, official spokesperson for the North Carolina GOP

Much more insanity below.

State-sponsored bribery

Deputy Assistant Governor McCrory was all shits and giggles today when he announced he'd be giving a $100 million bribe to lure MetLife to North Carolina. Morals of this story:

  • If you're a private citizen in need, you're out of luck. No bribes for you.
  • If you're an insurance company already operating in North Carolina, your major competitor just added $100 million in unearned income to its bottom line.
  • If you're a taxpayer in North Carolina, a big chunk of your tax liability is being redistributed to a multinational company whose shareholders are laughing all the way to the bank.

Daily dose

Which story from North Carolina will grab the national spotlight for crazy this week?
Lots of good candidates below the fold.

Daily dose

Today we're frontpaging the full catastrophe so you can see it in all its gory detail.

Sequester hits Seymour Johnson, not Bragg schools (WRAL-TV) -- Federal budget cuts are grounding a squadron of F-15 Strike Eagles at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, but the cuts won't affect schools on Fort Bragg.

Filing frenzy produces hundreds of bills (Wilson Times) -- From limiting abortion and expanding gun rights to protecting religious student groups, Republican state lawmakers introduced a slew of socially conservative bills this week.

National Latino officials call for NC legislature not to pass voter ID (Raleigh News & Observer) -- The group representing 6,000 Latino elected and appointed officials across the country is urging North Carolina's legislature not to adopt a photo voter ID law. The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund wrote a letter to Tar Heel lawmakers saying the bill would likely have a disproportionate impact on Hispanic voters. "The voter ID mandate this legislation proposes would weaken democracy by preventing eligible North Carolina voters from participating in elections," said the letter signed by Arturo Vargas, the group's executive director.
N.C. immigrant advocates like proposed driving permits (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Immigration reform legislation filed this week would combine tough restrictions and enforcement measures with new permits allowing illegal residents to drive legally.

Ramsey bill would squelch mobile home site restrictions (Asheville Citizen-Times) -- A bill sponsored by state Rep. Nathan Ramsey would strip North Carolina counties of their ability to restrict where manufactured housing can be located.

Highways near Winston-Salem could get boost to 75-mph limit (Winston-Salem Journal) -- Two stretches of interstate highway near Winston-Salem could see a 75 mile-per-hour speed limit if a bill in the N.C. General Assembly becomes law, a highway engineer said Thursday.

Charter bill includes tax break for landlords (Greensboro News & Record) –Republican State Sen. Jerry Tillmans’ charter school governance bill cleared its second committee Wednesday. It includes a tax break for landlords who rent to the schools. Senate Bill 337 mainly changes the way charter schools are approved. But it also exempts the buildings and land charter schools use from property taxes, even if they don’t own that property and even if they rent from a landlord at full market rate.

JDIG Funding (the insider) -- The House’s top Democrat expressed concern last week that the state’s Job Development Investment Grants program was running out of money to offer incentives to “several employers” currently considering North Carolina.

McCrory's office: He supports liberal arts education (Triad Business Journal) – Republican Gov. Pat McCrory's office is busy batting down the notion, including as expressed in an article here earlier today, that he's a skeptic of the value of a liberal arts education. Not so, his spokesperson says. Kim Genardo, who took over as McCrory's communications director in February, called to say the comments he made to conservative radio talk show host Bill Bennett in January have been misreported. He wasn't making a dig at liberal arts education in general, she says, but rather responding to a specific statement by the host about UNC-Chapel Hill's department of women and gender studies. "The governor is a product of a liberal arts education, and he speaks highly of his education," she says. "He embraces liberal arts." The specific quote that caused the uproar back in January is indeed narrow in scope. McCrory told Bennett "if you want to take gender studies, that's fine, go to a private school and take it ... but I don't want to subsidize that if that's not going to get someone a job." What makes liberal arts supporters nervous about that kind of statement, fairly or not, is the inference that a college education's only value to the student or society is immediate post-graduation employment.

Transportation Funding (the insider) -- There has been much talk among lawmakers and lobbyists in recent weeks about Gov. Pat McCrory’s plans to dramatically change the way new roads are funded in North Carolina. That plan is expected to be unveiled in the near future, perhaps as soon as late next week.

NC-20 symposium organizers push for lower insurance rates (New Bern Sun Journal) -- A symposium by NC-20 on coastal issues was halted Friday just before lunch after Terry Frank, a Carteret County commissioner, suffered an apparent heart attack. Two people at New Bern Riverfront Convention Center were able to revive him with CPR just as emergency personnel arrived.

Gun measures put moderate Senate Dems in bind (AP) — President Barack Obama's push for tougher gun measures and expanded background checks has placed several moderate Senate Democrats facing re-election next year in a bind, forcing them to take sides on a deeply personal issue for rural voters. Five Senate Democrats — Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mark Begich of Alaska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Max Baucus of Montana — are seeking another term in states carried by Republican Mitt Romney last fall. For the next few weeks, at least, the spotlight will be on how they maneuver as the Senate debates gun-control legislation pushed by Democrats in response to the deadly Newtown, Conn., elementary school shooting. The choice: Either they stick with Obama and gun control advocates — and give an opening to campaign challengers and the National Rifle Association to assail them — or they stand with conservative and moderate gun owners back home worried about a possible infringement on their rights.

Burr defends vote on Senate gun bill (Charlotte Observer) -- U.S. Sen. Richard Burr on Friday explained his reasoning for threatening to block debate on gun legislation but then backing off to allow the Senate to consider sweeping gun-control measures. The Winston-Salem Republican was originally part of a group of conservative senators who threatened to filibuster the legislation aimed at increasing firearms protections. Burr assured supporters he opposes the two proposals that include strengthening background checks for all gun sales and greater penalties on gun traffickers. “The vote yesterday (Thursday) was not on the specifics of these bills or whether they should be filibustered; rather, the vote was solely about whether we should begin a debate in the Senate on the issue,” he said. “Since the leadership of the Senate agreed to unlimited debate and amendments, I believed it was important that the Senate at least have an open discussion.”

McIntyre on 2014: ‘Premature to start campaigning’ before redistricting case settled (Port City Daily) -- For U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre, a Lumberton Democrat serving his ninth term representing North Carolina’s 7th District in the U.S. House of Representatives, it’s “premature to start campaigning”

Republicans pledge to change tone, not positions (LA Times) -- With an eye on the White House in 2016, Republicans spent this week in Hollywood mapping a path to a resurgence — determining how to streamline the primary process and close their deficit with Democrats among key voter blocs such as single women and Latinos. But members of the Republican National Committee largely tiptoed around the greater challenge facing their party: The GOP's stance on issues such as marriage, reproductive rights and President Obama's healthcare plan are diametrically at odds with some of the very voters the party is trying to win over. And many members at the four-day gathering rejected any suggestion that Republican positions in 2012 alienated voters in those key groups — insisting that the party lost because of a weak presidential candidate and that all that is needed is a change in tone. Though the party's recently released "autopsy" report prescribed changes to the primaries — sparking a lively debate this week about the party rules — it largely sidestepped questions about how far, if at all, the party will bend on issues. One answer came at the RNC's general session on Friday, as members approved by voice vote a resolution defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. It urged the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold Proposition 8, which forbids gay marriage in California, and the federal Defense of Marriage Act; the court recently heard arguments on both measures and is expected to rule by June.,0,467950.story

Judge dismisses lawsuit alleging SBI misconduct in Clemmons dentist case (Winston-Salem Journal) -- A Forsyth County judge dismissed a lawsuit that was filed by a Clemmons dentist alleging that two agents with the State Bureau of Investigation framed him for killing his wife by manipulating evidence.

Dartmouth's Folt to become UNC-Chapel Hill leader (AP) — The UNC Board of Governors has elected Dartmouth College interim president to become the next chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

UNC-CH names first female chancellor (WRAL-TV) -- Carol Folt, provost and interim president at Dartmouth College, was named Friday as the 11th chancellor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – and its first female leader. The UNC Board of Governors voted unanimously after UNC President Tom Ross recommended Folt as someone who could ensure continued academic success at the nation's oldest public university. "I needed someone with sufficient life experience to manage and lead a large, complex institution, someone who understood how to operate with constrained resources while maintaining a vision for the future," Ross said.

Folt 'the fixer' gets warm UNC welcome (WRAL-TV) -- "She brings energy. She brings intellect. She brings the background experience. She can make tough decisions," UNC System President Tom Ross said of Dr. Carol Folt.

UNC-CH names Carol Folt first female chancellor (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Carol Folt said becoming UNC-Chapel Hill’s new chancellor is the dream of a lifetime. Wearing a Carolina blue blazer, she said she already has “Tar Heel fever.”

What people are saying about the selection of Carol Folt as UNC-CH chancellor (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Reaction to the selection of Carol Folt as the new chancellor at UNC-Chapel Hill

Folt Elected First Female Chancellor Of UNC- Chapel Hill (WUNC-FM) -- Carol Folt couldn’t’ stop smiling as she waited her turn to address the UNC Board of Governors.

N.C. divided on Obama approval, slightly warmer toward McCrory (Elon Poll) -- North Carolina residents are divided this spring on President Barack Obama’s job approval ratings as they continue to warm to newly elected Gov. Pat McCrory, according to the latest Elon University Poll. Forty-five percent of those surveyed said they approve of Obama’s job performance, a small drop from the president’s level of support in February. Forty-six percent of respondents disapprove of his performance. Gov. Pat McCrory saw an increase in his approval rating over the past two months with 46 percent of respondents saying they support his performance. The live-caller telephone poll of 770 residents was conducted April 5-9, 2013, and has a margin of error of 3.53 percentage points. The sample is of the population in general with numbers that included both landlines and cellular phones.

Group pushes gun legislation in Saturday rallies (Raleigh News & Observer) -- With the U.S. Senate allowing a gun bill to hit the floor, the group leading the grassroots advocacy campaign is making another push in North Carolina to rally support. Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a group led by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, will hold three events across the state Saturday. Click below for the details about the Charlotte, Greensboro and Raleigh events.

Employers look to hire at NCC job fair (Rocky Mount Telegram) --Job seekers and employers are invited to participate in a job fair Thursday morning at Nash Community College. The college is working with U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, D-NC.

Wos taking Medicaid overhaul on road to gather input (WRAL-TV) -- Secretary of Health and Human Services Aldona Wos and Carol Steckel, director of the state Medicaid program, plan to head across North Carolina in the coming weeks to hear people's concerns about the program and suggestions for change.

Goodall: Charter applicants unfairly eliminated by Advisory Council (NC Political News) -- According to former State Senator Eddie Goodall, now the founder and executive director of the N.C. Public Charter Schools Association, North Carolina students could miss incredible educational opportunities in high-quality charter schools because the state is tossing away charter applications without any evaluation.

NCDOT picks winners in bridge-building competition (AP) -- Exploris Middle School of Raleigh and Franklin Academy High School of Wake Forest are the winners in the state Department of Transportation's bridge-building contest.

Division of Tourism research provides closer look at N.C. resident travelers (NC Political News) — Recognizing most North Carolina travel industry partners devote the majority of their marketing budgets to reaching N.C. residents, the N.C. Department of Commerce’s Division of Tourism, Film & Sports Development recently commissioned a qualitative study to assist its partners in form and focus their marketing activities. Four focus groups were conducted in the state’s two largest markets of origin, Charlotte and Raleigh, to better understand resident travelers’ vacation planning and decision-making processes; identify key selection criteria and influences in determining leisure travel destinations; discuss the use of various travel related information sources including social and mobile; and explore potential motivators for increasing leisure travel in North Carolina.

Duke Marks 50 Years Since Integration (WUNC-FM) -- Duke University celebrates 50 years of black students on Saturday, with an address by North Carolina native and Sen. William "Mo" Cowan, D-Mass.

Activist Issues New Awakening for Voting Rights (Southern Pines Pilot) -- A reawakened civil rights movement is coming to North Carolina, a key member of the 1960s movement told an enthusiastic crowd in Pinehurst.

Luddy with Jeb Bush this week talking education (Raleigh News & Observer) – Wealthy Raleigh businessman and Republican activist Robert Luddy was in Florida Thursday talking about education. He took part in a panel discussion on education reform along with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and with Michael Holthouse, founder of Prepared 4Life in Texas. Luddy is founder of Franklin Academy Charter Schools. The conference at the exclusive Palm Beach Beach Gardens was put on the Job Creators Alliance, an ultra-conservative group launched by Home Depot founder Bernie Marcus and others that deal with economic, manufacturing and education issues.

DENR gets new head computer nerd (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Keith Warner has been named chief information officer of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, handling the IT for the 4,000 employees and their customers. Warner has been deputy director for the department's Information Technology Services since last year. Before that he worked for Gartner and for CIBER.

NC offers free nicotine replacement therapy to smokers who want to quit (Raleigh News & Observer) -- North Carolina residents who want to quit smoking have access to free nicotine patches and similar resources for a limited time through a program from the state health department.

Johnston County teens to hold teen driving summit in Smithfield (Raleigh News & Observer) -- In a county once plagued by teenage driving deaths, a group of teens will hold a safe driving seminar next week in hopes of preventing teen deaths across the state.

Lockdowns lifted at 2 North Carolina colleges (AP) — Lockdowns for two North Carolina college campuses – North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro and N.C. Central University in Durham, were lifted Friday after separate incidents involving reports of guns.

Man carrying umbrella triggers lockdown at N.C. A&T (Greensboro News & Record) -- A man carrying an umbrella at N.C. A&T on Friday morning may have triggered a nearly three-hour lockdown at the campus and eight nearby public schools, police said.

Market ifo company to open up shop in Triangle, create 250 jobs (NEWS14-TV) -- Hundreds of jobs will soon be available in the Triangle. This week a global market intelligence company called Ipreo announced they're opening an office in downtown Raleigh this Fall and creating about 250 positions. The Research Triangle has yet another accolade to boast about as a global market intelligence company, Ipreo, announced their plans to open a new office in downtown Raleigh. “We're really excited. I've been a North Carolina fan for a long time. We love the business community here,” said CEO of Ipreo Scott Ganeles.

Chile's Neruda bone remains to be analyzed at UNC Med School (AP) -- Bone remains of Chilean Nobel Laureate Pablo Neruda will be analyzed in the United States at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine as investigators seek to resolve a four-decade mystery about his death. Neruda's body was exhumed this week in an effort to discover if he died from prostate cancer or if he was poisoned by agents of Gen. Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship.

Furry friends find new homes after rescuer's death (WRAL-TV) -- Almost all of the cats and dogs once belonging to a Wake Forest woman who died of cancer have been adopted.

Restored Bodie Island Lighthouse beckons to tourists (WRAL-TV) -- The Bodie Island Lighthouse has stood guard on the North Carolina coast since 1872, and it remains an active navigation tool. After three years of repair-demanded darkness, the light will blink on April 19 and for the first time tourists will be invited to climb the 214 steps to the top.

NC man accused of falsifying odometer readings (AP) — The U.S. Department of Justice says a Raleigh man passed off used cars with false odometer readings in a scam covering four years.

NC Supreme Court overturns Duke Energy rate hike (AP) — North Carolina's highest court has overturned a substantial rate hike sought by Duke Energy and approved by state utilities regulators.

Supreme Court strikes down Duke Energy rate increase (WRAL-TV) -- The North Carolina Supreme Court on Friday struck down a 7.2 percent increase on electric rates that the state Utilities Commission awarded to Duke Energy Corp. last year. The court ordered the Utilities Commission to reopen the rate case and evaluate the impact on consumers to determine an appropriate rate. "This is great news for consumers who spoke loudly and clearly on how hard this rate increase would hit their wallets," Attorney General Roy Cooper said in a statement. "In a time of economic hardship, the effect on customers must be taken into consideration, not just profits. We’re glad the court agreed and hope rates will be set fairly."

High court orders new look at Duke rate hike case (Charlotte Observer) -- The N.C. Supreme Court on Friday told the state Utilities Commission to take another look at the 7 percent rate hike granted to Duke Energy Carolinas more than a year ago.

Duke Energy could have $100M-plus riding on rate ruling (Charlotte Business Journal) -- The N.C. Supreme Court’s ruling against Duke Energy Carolinas’ 7.2% rate increase last year could mean hundreds of millions of dollars.

Supreme Court strikes down Duke's rate hike (Triangle Business Journal) -- The North Carolina Supreme Court has invalidated the rate increase that regulators approved for Duke Energy Carolinas.

NC Supreme Court overturns Duke Energy rate hike (Raleigh News & Observer) -- In a rare move, the N.C. Supreme Court overturned a Duke Energy rate increase approved last year. The court said the NC Utilities Commission failed to consider the effect on customers and the state's economy when approving a 7.2 percent increase.

N.C. group discusses environmental issues related to fracking (Fayetteville Observer) -- The state Mining and Energy Commission will look at how the state's open record laws apply to chemical mixtures that oil and gas companies consider trade secrets, the head of the commission said Friday.

State looking for volunteer weather watchers (WRAL-TV) -- For the price of a $30 rain gauge, North Carolina residents can become part of the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network. It's a group of volunteer weather observers that provide useful data to scientists with the State Climate Office.

EPA delays climate rule for new power plants (Washington Post) -- The EPA will not meet its deadline to impose the first-ever greenhouse gas limits on new power plants.

HE’S BACK!! Return of cartoonist Dwane Powell & the mastodon (Raleigh News &Observer) -- The N&O’s former cartoonist just couldn’t sit out this legislative session, not with all the fun things to draw. He’ll be offering his view every Sunday in The N&O during the session.

NC needs a freedom of religion refresher course (Raleigh News & Observer column) -- It is becoming increasingly clear that some members of the N.C. General Assembly are in critical need of a refresher course on the meaning of religious freedom.

What's 'Dangerous' About Transparency? (Southern Pines Pilot) -- Dr. Aldona Zofia Wos, a native of Poland and now an American citizen, has quite an impressive background. She served as the U.S. ambassador to Estonia from 2004 to 2006. Now she is secretary of health and human services under Republican Gov. Pat McCrory. Somewhere along the way, though, Wos may have lost sight of one of the principles of a democratic government, which is that of openness and responsiveness to the people it is supposed to serve.

Limit role of government in residents' lives (Wilson Times) -- State representatives filed a flurry of bills ahead of Thursday’s deadline for non-appropriations legislation. Lawmakers introduced a staggering 147 bills on Wednesday and added 94 on Thursday,

Welfare bills could increase, not cut, costs (Rocky Mount Telegram) -- A pair of bills in the N.C. General Assembly could wind up increasing the cost of welfare programs in the state.

Chancellor Folt (Raleigh News & Observer) -- The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has had more than its share of things go wrong in recent years, so it’s refreshing to see the hiring of a new chancellor go so right.

Mourning the death of the drawl, y’all (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Our language peculiarities seem as culturally interesting and important as any museum-housed artifact and any extinction among them worthy to be mourned.

Community colleges: where students and skills meet in NC (Raleigh News & Observer column) -- For every $1 spent in manufacturing, another $1.48 is added to the economy. What’s driving growth is no longer North Carolina’s traditional manufacturing of textiles, tobacco and furniture.

How voter ID laws violate the NC Constitution (Raleigh News & Observer column) -- The voter ID bill violates the NC Constitution, which deliberately puts the issue of voter qualifications beyond the reach of the General Assembly. To understand how and why requires some knowledge of the history of North Carolina, including the crucial role of voting rights.

Suppressing the voices of the impassioned young (Raleigh News & Observer column) -- Republicans, who are still undergoing an autopsy following their national death by out-of-touch policies in 2012, are trying to suppress voting by eliminating the early voting period that has opened the political process to more minorities and first-time voters.

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