NC Medicaid: Another "independent" commission

The latest fad among the NC GOP pestilence is the disturbing trend of creating "independent" commissions to handle hot-potato political issues.

They created a commission to manage coal ash, and now they're talking about creating a commission to manage the state's Medicaid program.

A legislative panel on Thursday recommended draft legislation calling for taking oversight of the state Medicaid program away from the Department of Health and Human Services.

The legislation ... proposes creating a Health Benefits Authority to manage Medicaid

Trudy Wade's Greensboro gambit gets nod from Berger

And the stink of this plan just got unbearable:

When asked if he would favor legislative changes in the makeup or size of the Greensboro City Council — something Sen. Trudy Wade (R-Guilford) said she is considering — Berger said he would be interested to see what Wade proposes.

“There are some very good reasons to make some changes,” he said. “I think she may very well be on the right track.”

And what are some of those reasons, pray tell? Neither you nor Trudy Wade have revealed to the public anything more than vague mumblings, which means this is not a populist move, it's something else. And that something else needs to be revealed to the people of Greensboro, before you attempt to stifle their voices.

Another charter school circles the drain

And this one just might set a record for the fastest failure:

Another Charlotte Charter school is in trouble. Entrepreneur High School opened its doors August 2014 and less than a year later it could close. The state has cited the school for multiple violations. The school is more than $402,000 in debt, it doesn't meet the state enrollment standards for charter schools, and school leadership fired the school's founder and principal, Dr. Han Plotseneder.

"It's been a hot mess," NC Charter School Advisory Board member Becky Taylor said. "It's been really bad and it's embarrassing to see this situation get here this quickly."

What's missing from this story is how many taxpayer dollars got wasted in the process. I'm assuming that x number of children were enrolled for classes in the Fall, and the school received some state/local dollars per pupil as a result. Leaving that out of the story is a huge fail. If the reporter(s) asked and that information was withheld, that should be part of the story, too. If anybody reading this knows, post it in the comments, please. In the meantime, I'll grab my digging tools.

Coal Ash Wednesday: Local opposition to proposed dump grows

Following the toxic dust trail:

Strickland said anyone living near the railroad tracks between Charlotte and Wilmington would be affected by coal ash dust contaminating the air during transport, and anyone drinking water from the Cape Fear River would be affected by potentially contaminated water. “It's not just a Lee and Chatham County thing,” she said.

According to informational sheets distributed by BREDL and EnvironmentaLee members, the Cape Fear River runs through eight counties and passes by 12 towns and parks along the way. An additional 24 towns and universities are located along the railroad from Wilmington to Sanford, and 17 towns and parks are located along the railroad from Charlotte to Sanford.

Like many of these folks, I'm finding it hard to understand the need to transport this stuff halfway across the state. If they were moving it close to a facility where it could be reused for concrete or some other process, I could get that. But just for storage? Dig a new (lined) pit beside the old one and shift it over, then put a cap on it. Unless you're intentionally trying to generate horrendous costs during the process of cleanup/disposal of your first few projects, so you can convince lawmakers or commission members to back off. It also helps if you can get your money back from ratepayers with the help of the NC Utilities Commission.

Tillis and the looming destruction of the social safety net

It's not what you know, it's who you listen to:

Republican Sen. Richard Burr, the state’s senior senator, escorted him around, as did others who know the place well. Now Tillis is one of the 100 senators, talking to them all the time. “Not only about the senatorial process, but which hallways you can go down that don’t actually have a dead end,” he joked, at least in part. The Capitol is a labyrinth of marble stairways, long corridors, senators’ secret hideaways and underground passageways. It’s easy to get lost.

The desk of Tillis’ chief of staff, John Mashburn, is under a large state seal in the same room as the receptionist, directly opposite the office’s entrance. Mashburn is known as a very conservative Republican. He’s a North Carolina native with long experience on Capitol Hill, including work for the late Sen. Jesse Helms.

Mashburn is more than just another of Helms' old cronies. He's an anti-Welfare zealot, whose goal of punishing the poor has been blocked for decades by less radical elements in the GOP, not to mention Democrats. But he may finally get his wish by pulling Tillis' strings:

The NC GOP's bullheaded opposition to Federal programs

A mix of provincialism and plain old superstitious clap-trap:

State Rep. Joe Sam Queen, D-Haywood, told about 175 people attending the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce's legislative luncheon on the Biltmore Estate that accepting federal funds to extend Medicaid coverage would increase jobs in the state and address the imbalance between what North Carolinians send to Washington and what they get back.

But state Sen. Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell, said he and his colleagues "are not here to chase the federal dollar, the federal money that's coming forward" as Medicaid is currently structured.

Those "federal dollars" are our dollars too, Cletus. Even the people who now fall into that "donut hole" that idiots like you helped to create with your stubborn refusal to cooperate paid Federal taxes, but thanks to ideologues in the Republican Party those folks (and a whole lot of others) are simply not being represented in their own state government. Hise is more interested in helping insurance companies than the people who desperately need health care:

Chatham and Lee Counties' opposition to Duke Energy's coal ash dumping plans

Hat-tip to Facing South's Sue Sturgis for providing some numbers:

Tons of coal ash that Duke Energy, which has been under scrutiny since a spill last year from one of its storage ponds contaminated the Dan River, has said it plans to move from existing high-risk dumps to other sites over the next 15 years: 100 million

Responsibility Duke Energy will bear for the waste once it's dumped in the abandoned mines, thanks to a scheme in which ownership of the ash will be transferred to a subsidiary of Charah, the Kentucky-based company Duke is contracting with to handle the disposal: none

Frankly, this shuffling of responsibility for the "disposition" of toxic waste should be outlawed. It's in the best interests of not only local governments and the people they represent, but of state government as well. If this plan goes awry, with drinking water wells fouled and a massive, costly cleanup required, who do you think's going to pay for that? That's right, the taxpayers. Even if the EPA declared it a Superfund site and took Charah's subsidiary to court, history has shown that could take decades to resolve.

Coal Ash Wednesday: Duke Energy plays pre-emptive card, again

Trying to choose its legal opponents:

Duke says the Yadkin Riverkeeper Foundation and the Waterkeeper Alliance are barred from bringing the private suit, filed in September. It argues that the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources has filed suit over coal-ash issues at Buck, located in Rowan County, and taken other enforcement actions. It cites federal law that bars private suits involving the federal Clean Water Act when state agencies have acted.

John Suttles, a lawyer with the Southern Environmental Law Center, says Duke has made similar arguments unsuccessfully in other environmental cases. He says the suit is properly filed and that it addresses violations of the Clean Water Act not addressed by the state suit.

Hopefully the judge will let the suit proceed, because it's important to get the Riverkeepers' testimony on record. DENR is not likely to go into any details on potential environmental damage resulting from the leaks, as they have an unfortunate habit of waiting until there's a crisis before acting.


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