NCGA

Dinner-Party Wos hands out more golden tickets

The contracts just keep getting juicier:

The firm Alvarez & Marsal is best known for being tapped in 2008 to manage the bankruptcy of financial giant Lehman Brothers at a cost of nearly a half-billion dollars. Critics of the financial bailout said that bill was too high.

The contract calls for work to be done by eight people with salaries ranging from $242 to $473 per hour and an “intern” earning $84 per hour. One of the consultants, a “director,” is slated for 2,040 hours of work for total earnings over the year of $803,760.

Republicans love to crow about how government should be run like a business, but you know what? If any private-sector manager had made as many mistakes as Aldona Wos, who now apparently feels the need to bring in blue-chip consultants to untangle her mess, that manager would have been fired a long time ago. The word "inept" doesn't even cover it. And like dog poop on the carpet, that ineptitude is transferring to both McCrory and the NCGA, who are responsible for her continued employment.

IAFT: DHHS warns of health risks associated with coal ash spill

And it's only a week and a half late:

Ten days after a massive spill of coal ash into the Dan River in Rockingham County, state health officials on Wednesday warned people against swimming in the river or eating fish from it.

Health officials warned against "recreational contact" with the river or sediment, including contacting any ash that washed up along the river banks. Because contact with the ash can cause skin irritation, people should wash exposed areas with soap and water, officials said.

Also, people should avoid eating fish or shellfish from the river downstream of the spill, they said.

No shit, Sherlock. In other news, you shouldn't try to lick a frozen pole.

More costly and deceptive incompetence from Aldona Wos

Several million more reasons to get rid of her:

The General Assembly had passed a law in July requiring legislative approval before the department asked the federal government for a significant change in Medicaid policy, known as a waiver.

Two weeks later, the department requested a waiver without informing the General Assembly as required by law, the News & Observer first reported Tuesday.

DHHS said the cost could be $2.8 million to state taxpayers. But Rep. Nelson Dollar, a Cary Republican, and a chief budget writer, expressed his concern that the department’s $2.8 million estimate could grow to as much as $45 million.

This one might be the straw that broke the Wos' back. Breaking the law is bad enough, but how many DHHS oversight hearings have they had since last Summer? 5? 7? How many times did Wos sit there with a complacent smile on her face without mentioning this? Friday news dump coming up...

Tuesday Twitter roundup

And...what is that vision? To keep everybody guessing as to what may happen next?

And so it begins: candidate filing period starts today

Time to step up to the plate:

The State Board of Elections and county elections offices begin accepting candidate forms at noon Monday. The filing deadline is Feb. 28.

Voters this year will decide whether to re-elect U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan or one of her rivals. They'll choose members of the U.S. House delegation, all 170 members of the General Assembly and dozens of judgeships. There will also be scores of county commissioner and school board elections.

The primary is May 6, with runoffs July 15 if needed. The general election is Nov. 4.

If you are planning to run, go ahead and file now. It will narrow down the list of races in which a candidate may need to be found, and it will help potential donors decide where best to dedicate their resources.

Election year politics: GOP desperately tries to repair image with teachers

Not unlike an abusive husband bringing home a dozen roses:

Gov. Pat McCrory and other Republican leaders will propose Monday a higher minimum salary for North Carolina's least experienced public school teachers as part of a long-awaited proposal designed to improve morale and retention.

The plan, detailed in a document obtained by The Associated Press, would in part ensure all public school teachers make a base salary of at least $33,000 during the 2014-15 school year and at least $35,000 the following year.

Another attempt to divide teachers, by giving entry-level educators a raise while the more experienced ones lose tenure and have to sign short-term contracts. This is not leadership, it's divide and conquer politics. And considering these new teachers will be drawing a bigger paycheck for a few months running up to the election, it might just work.

Will Duke Energy try to force customers to pay for its coal ash spill?

The Magic 8-ball says, "Well, duh."

The Tennessee Valley Authority’s customers are paying for part of the clean-up of the 2008 coal fly ash slurry spill at TVA’s Kingston Fossil Plant. They are getting hit with 67 cents per month over a decade to pay for it, said Gabriel Wisniewski, energy campaign director for Greenpeace USA.

Meghan Musgrave, Duke spokeswoman, would not say whether the company’s ratepayers — including customers in Rockingham County, N.C. — would face higher monthly rates to help cover the costs of cleaning up the incident at Duke’s old Dan River Steam Station. “At this point, we’re just focused on fixing the repair at the plant and doing the right thing,” Musgrave said Friday.

If you had done "the right thing" at some earlier point, like maybe using a liner on this coal ash pond, which has been a recommended best practice for decades, we wouldn't be having this particular conversation. And at some later point, when you're trying to figure out how to recoup the x million dollars this preventable fiasco cost the utility, you need to do "the right thing" at that time by not charging us for your negligence and incompetence.

The power of the purse: NC's food stamp backlog magically disappears

Whatever it takes to fix the problem:

Data released Friday by the state Department of Health and Human Services show the state needs to resolve 559 more cases to meet its Feb. 10 mandate. That's down about 96 percent from Jan. 23, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture told the state it could lose $88 million in administrative funding for the food stamp program if it didn't make significant progress toward clearing delayed cases.

"I am extremely proud of the work performed by our state and county workers to meet the federal deadlines," DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos said in a press release Friday. "Our top priority continues to be getting these important benefits to eligible North Carolina families in a timely manner."

Her use of the word "continues" is nothing more than a lame attempt to protect herself from the overriding truth of this development: this problem could have been solved at any time during the last six months, but only the potential loss of millions in administrative funding provided the motivation to fix it. All those families struggling to put food on the table? Not important enough. And now this truth is obvious to everybody in the state.

HKonJ and Moral March tomorrow morning

That voice you hear in your head is the future calling:

What: Mass Moral March in conjunction with the Historic Thousands on Jones St. (HKonJ) People’s Assembly, which is being billed as the “most massive moral rally in the South since Selma”

When: 9:30 a.m., Saturday, at Shaw University on Wilmington Street in Raleigh. The march to Fayetteville Street will begin at 10:30 a.m. An assembly will follow at the Capitol.

If you find yourself doubting what demonstrations of solidarity can accomplish, just remember what happened in Poland and the former Soviet Union and more recently during the Arab Spring. Change begins with a thought, and then that thought is voiced, and if that voice is loud enough, change will come.

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