NCGA

The devil in the details: Trudy Wade's "stealth" earmark

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When your neutrality is just a flimsy facade:

High Point’s Library Plaza project also won’t have to compete with other towns and cities. Of the $2 million allocated for the Main Street Solutions fund, the budget bill requires $1 million to go to a city with a population between 105,000 and 110,000 located in a county that changed its state poverty ranking last year.

High Point is the only city that fits the bill.

Half of the entire budget going to one project. Which is probably why Wade felt the need to add an extra layer of obfuscation. It's exactly these kinds of "tailor-made" budget allocations that Republicans used to trumpet loudly about, when they complained about "Democrat corruption" in the General Assembly. But now it's just clever lawmaking.

NC's alarming trend toward temporary employment

Hat-tip to Chris Fitzsimon for breaking down the numbers:

39—percentage growth of temporary workers in the national economy from 2009-2014

52—percentage growth of temporary workers in North Carolina from 2009 to 2014

45,022—amount in dollars of average annual earnings of temporary workers in the United States

30,627—amount in dollars of average annual earnings of temporary workers in North Carolina

Yes, it's a national trend, but North Carolina is a leader in low wages and job insecurity. Which should come as no surprise, since our Labor Commissioner has pretty much abrogated her responsibility to monitor these things:

NC (DEQ) joins lawsuit against EPA Clean Power Plan

And immediately starts spewing industry propaganda:

"This federal overreach presents a clear choice: do you want Washington, D.C., or North Carolina to control energy generation in our state?" North Carolina Secretary of Environmental Quality Donald van der Vaart said in a statement. "We have shown that North Carolina's leadership, not federal intervention, has resulted in reduced emissions, cleaner air and affordable energy. This administration remains committed to protecting ratepayers from expensive and unnecessary federal regulations."

Under the Clean Power Plan, the average utility bill in North Carolina is expected to increase by $434 a year by 2020, state officials said.

They didn't get that number from their own calculations or the EPA, that dollar figure was derived from a painfully flawed industry-funded study:

Taking the "Medic" out of Medicaid

MBA preferable, health care experience not required:

"Dee’s knowledge of process standardization, system implementation, operations, finance and project management, coupled with her prior experiences as a COO across private and public sectors, will ensure a successful beginning for the Division of Health Benefits," Brajer wrote in a memo Thursday.

Jones is a former chief operating officer for the Department of Administration and will hold that title in the new Division of Health Benefits. Essentially, she will be the division second in command.

He left out her experience in real estate and cable telecommunications, which I'm sure will come in handy in administering a statewide program that can make the difference between life and death for a couple of million NC citizens, many of them children:

Coal Ash Wednesday: The EPA's lukewarm regulations finally arrive

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Leaving environmental orgs to foot the legal bills:

While the EPA’s coal ash regulation seems like a major step forward in protecting America’s environmental health and drinking water, the truth is that it’s more of a preferred practice than a law. That’s because it is ultimately up to citizen lawsuits, usually via environmental organizations, to make states enforce the law.

Nearly half a million people commented during the agency’s eight city public meeting tour in 2010, though it took another four and a half years and dilution from the White House before the regulation was finalized, and an additional four months before it was published in the Federal Register. It’s taken yet another six months to get us to this point.

And after the years of delay and diluting, mostly the result of fossil fuel industry lobbying and astro-turf economic scare tactics, Republicans still try to portray the EPA as a hateful oppressing arm of the government. The reality is, these spoiled rich polluters got nearly everything they wanted, but still aren't satisfied. And our waters continue to be contaminated on multiple fronts.

Legislative idiocy: Using a 35 year-old video game analogy

Taking oversimplification to a whole new level:

For many of the Republicans who control the state legislature, the reason for the change is simple: budget predictability.

"For years and years and years, Medicaid has been considered the budget Pac-Man that eats up all the dollars that people in this chamber would like to see spent on many, many other things," Rep. Bert Jones said during the North Carolina House's debate of the bill last month. Gov. Pat McCrory signed the overhaul into law on Sept. 23.

*sigh* What's even worse, this article was in the Kitsap Sun, a Washington (state) newspaper that gets dropped on my sister's driveway every day. I'm thinking about calling her, just to get the inevitable embarrassing yet accurate jokes out of the way.

NC GOP's attack on the poor: Hunger Games part 2

The myth of churches taking up the slack:

There are currently 24,394 individuals receiving food and nutritional services through the Cleveland County Department of Social Services. Of those recipients, only the able-bodied adults between ages 18 and 50 who have no children could potentially see a change in their benefits. Although the law will simply lift the waivers and reinstate the former policy, Ellis said the news was unexpected.

“I think it will increase the need for food pantries in the county,” Ellis said. “We’re very fortunate in that we have churches and the Greater Cleveland County Baptist Association that provides food assistance.”

And it's misleading statements just like the one above that provide cover for lawmakers when they unnecessarily punish the poor. Here's what that Greater Cleveland County Baptist Association is prepared to do in aid of the hungry:

Bergermeister blows hot air over Medicaid reform

A litany of pat responses:

Berger says the overhaul, which was approved after more than two years of deliberations, will allow a majority of the state’s 1.8 million Medicaid recipients to get an improved quality of care because organizations led by insurance companies and organizations led by local groups of medical providers will compete to manage care of patients.

“What we should see is some fairly healthy competition,” said Berger, a Republican from Rockingham County . “It's my belief that competition will assist in both the area of controlling cost and on the quality side.”

That's a steaming pile. A much better assessment came from one of Berger's fellow Republicans Nelson Dollar:

Joe Sam Queen's wrap of the 2015 NCGA Session

Rep. Joe Sam Queen (D-Haywood) sat down with Jeremy Loeb of Asheville's public radio station WCQS. This is a 45-minute or so summary from my state representative. It's worth listening to!

The summary quote:

It was a session without leadership....Where's the vision for our state moving forward? It's not in healthcare, it's not in education, it's not in economic development, it's not in resource management or thinking for the future....

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