Monday, August 4, 2014 - 10:57am

Taking the "assisted" out of assisted living:

The current budget will limit special assistance eligibility to people who earn below 100 percent of the federal poverty level ($11,670 for an individual annually, or $972 per month). Anyone looking to receive special assistance after Nov. 1 who earns more than that amount will no longer qualify.

“That could be extremely problematic,” said Jenny Gadd, the group home manager for Alberta Professional Services, which runs several group homes for people with mental health issues in the Triangle and Triad. “It’s hard to tell what the eligibility really is going to look like, but that could really affect people in group homes."

Once again, the people who would have been included in a Medicaid expansion are suffering unnecessarily at the hands of those navel-gazers who can afford premium care. Every legislator who supported this provision should have to take care of an Alzheimer's patient in their home for a couple of weeks, just to see what that entails. It's an eye-opener, believe me.

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Sunday, August 3, 2014 - 10:19am

From ag-gag to ag-shield:

A provision in the N.C. Farm Act of 2014 passed by the legislature last week will shield complaints made against farming operations from public view, effectively exempting them from state open records laws. This is wrong. We appreciate farmers and the food they provide for us. But, especially as large farming operations edge out small family farms, environmental protections are needed. And the public has a right to know how those protections are faring.

Supporters of the provision say it will deter frivolous complaints. But Justin Quinlivan, an investigator with the Yadkin Riverkeeper, told the Journal that the provision would protect the agriculture industry from scrutiny, leave the public in the dark, and decrease citizen complaints about violations that may threaten public health and safety. He voiced another concern: The provision would give investigating agencies unfettered discretion on whether complaints even should be investigated.

I'd like to see some stats on just how many "frivolous" complaints are actually filed. If a farm is polluting, but not as much as the person filing the complaint thinks it is, that is not "frivolous." And numerous investigations have shown these big operations inevitably pollute to a certain degree, even the ones who make a genuine effort to scale it down.

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Friday, August 1, 2014 - 10:17am

Maybe we'll see something after all the election campaign contributions have been pocketed:

The General Assembly will not pass a bill governing the clean up of 33 coal ash pits at 14 locations across North Carolina after House and Senate negotiators failed to reach a consensus late Thursday night and early Friday morning.

"Up until about eight hours ago, I thought we could reach an agreement," Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson, said early Friday. "Then things took an odd turn ... and I'm just going to leave it at that."

As some environmental groups have put forward, it would be better to have no legislation (right now) than bad legislation. But considering coal ash was the first issue on the docket at the beginning of this session, they've definitely had time to work out the kinks. If the leadership wanted to, that is. And apparently they're having some difficulty keeping their troops in line:

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Thursday, July 31, 2014 - 11:42am

A monumental waste of time:

AN ACT to disapprove the mitigation program requirements for protection and maintenance of riparian buffers rule adopted by THE ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT COMMISSION, DIRECT THE ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT COMMISSION TO ADOPT A NEW MITIGATION PROGRAM REQUIREMENTS FOR PROTECTION AND MAINTENANCE OF RIPARIAN BUFFERS RULE, and amend wastewater disposal system requirements.

SECTION 1. Pursuant to G.S. 150B‑21.3(b1), 15A NCAC 02B .0295 (Mitigation Program Requirements for Protection and Maintenance of Riparian Buffers), as adopted by the Environmental Management Commission on May 9, 2013, and approved by the Rules Review Commission on July 18, 2013, is disapproved.

Bolding mine. Five years of work, done by a Commission that already had more industry input than it should have, tossed aside because a small yet clever group of people saw an opportunity to take advantage of a failsafe that was put in place to keep a small yet clever group from abusing the rulemaking process. We are impressed by such guile, but many lawmakers are not:

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Wednesday, July 30, 2014 - 10:44am

And they're not happy with the Legislature's half-measures on cleanup:

Three-quarters of North Carolinians -- of all political affiliations -- don't think the state legislature has done enough to address Duke Energy's recent coal ash spill into the Dan River.

* Duke Energy should clean up the coal ash left in the Dan. A solid 80 percent of voters surveyed say Duke Energy should have to clean up the 36,000 tons of toxic ash that remain in the Dan River out of the approximately 39,000 tons spilled. That includes 89 percent of Democrats, 76 percent of Republicans, and 72 percent of independents. Only 13 percent of voters surveyed think the spill cleanup has been adequate. The state has lifted a ban on swimming in the river, but environmentalists have raised concerns about potential health threats from the remaining coal ash, which contains potent toxins including arsenic, lead and mercury.

And that 13% are probably Tea Partiers who think this whole thing is a plot by tree-huggers to push us closer to Agenda 21, or some such nonsense. But the rest of us, the ones who live in the real world, are deeply concerned about lawmakers being beholden to Duke Energy:

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014 - 9:28am

Never one to miss an opportunity for sour grapes:

If you had read the decision, you'd know that very issue (majority rule) was addressed and discarded, at least as it bears on equality. Which you demagogues should have known from the start.

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Monday, July 28, 2014 - 10:40am

The difference between "profitable" and "for the public good":

Instead, O’Neal welcomed the North Carolina NAACP to assist him in painting Vidant as a corporate bully more interested in huge profits than providing quick access to emergency care for the rural, mostly poor residents in and around Belhaven. That narrative simply is not supported by the political and economic realities that led to the closing of Pungo Hospital earlier this month.

The hospital has seen $5.7 million in operating losses since 2011. Federal grants designed to sustain health care services in poor, rural areas have been cut back. That, combined with North Carolina’s refusal to accept Medicaid expansion dollars, contributes largely to an unsustainable business model for a traditional hospital in Belhaven.

Proving that even though all your facts may be in order, you can still be wrong. The hospital was originally constructed to make sure low income folks could receive proper health care, regardless of whether or not said care would be profitable for whoever had the keys to the place. Vidant was well aware of the financial challenges when it purchased the hospital, and so were the people behind the sale:

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Sunday, July 27, 2014 - 3:40pm

Opening the floodgates of taxpayer dollars:

(H) Transportation Funding
390
391 (1) The state department of education shall disburse state transportation funding to an
392 authorizer for each of its public charter school students on the same basis and in the same
393 manner as it is paid to school districts. An authorizer shall disburse state transportation
394 funding to a public charter school in proportion to the amount generated by the school’s
395 students.

396 (2) A public charter school may enter into a contract with a school district or private provider
397 to provide transportation to the school’s students.

Bolding mine. There's nothing in the language of this (or any other) cookie cutter model legislation requiring charters to actually provide transportation in lieu of said transportation funding, and North Carolina currently doesn't require charters to provide transportation for students:

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Sunday, July 27, 2014 - 11:03am

Taking country club exclusivity on the road:

A group of vintage sports car buffs wants use of the park for a daylong “hill climb” on Sept. 11, a Thursday. State officials appear ready to grant the request, assuming the legislation passes, for a $10,000 fee. Key figures in the Pilot Mountain event were heavy donors to the campaign that got McCrory elected in 2012.

“If we see the opportunity to do something for economic development in a rural part of the state, we’re going to listen to that,” said Brad Ives, an assistant environment secretary who oversees parks. “We’re going to expose some well-heeled people to a beautiful part of North Carolina.”

Here's a thought: repeal the tax breaks for those "well-heeled" citizens so we can once again afford to keep the parks open every day. As it stands right now, tourists better do their research before traveling to North Carolina, or they're liable to run into a "Closed" sign at the entrance to a park. That's bad enough, but if they find out they can't get in because some rich folks have "reserved" the park for themselves that day, those tourists will never come back. Those rich folks might not care about that, but our government should.

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