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Saturday News: Folwell flinches

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STANDOFF OVER NEW STATE EMPLOYEE HEALTH PLAN IS OVER, FOR NOW: The State Treasurer announced a new move Thursday to ensure that the health insurance plan covering more than 720,000 teachers and other state employees will include major N.C. hospital systems as in-network facilities. Two big providers for the Charlotte area, Atrium Health and Novant Health, said the new deal means they will remain in-network for state employees next year. Duke Health also said it will be in-network. The new plan will let those health care systems and other providers that didn’t sign on to State Treasurer Dale Folwell’s proposal of state-set prices for medical service to keep their existing agreements with Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina. Blue Cross Blue Shield administers the state insurance plan.
https://www.newsobserver.com/news/business/article233673197.html

Friday News: Tainted money magnet

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DAN FOREST FORCED TO RETURN $15,000 IN CAMPAIGN DONATIONS: N.C. Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, a Republican who plans to run for governor in 2020 against Democrat Roy Cooper, has been forced to forfeit thousands of dollars due to campaign finance violations. An audit of Forest’s campaign by the North Carolina State Board of Elections found numerous violations. In all, Forest resolved the audit by giving up more than $15,000. Most of the money the Forest campaign had to forfeit came from conservative groups that operate in federal politics but weren’t properly registered to get involved in state politics. That included $5,000 from a group whose name appears to have been listed as a misspelling of the EnergySolutions Inc. Fund For Effective Government, which supports electric utility companies, $2,500 from the Susan B. Anthony List, which opposes abortion, and $500 from a group called Citizens for Constitutional Liberties.
https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article233652187.html

Thursday News: It's what they do

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CLUB FOR GROWTH RUNS FALSE AD AGAINST MCCREADY OVER REPS: The Club for Growth ad says McCready backed regulations that would cost consumers $149 million a year in their electric bills. While it is true that the clean-energy group pushed to keep a renewable portfolio standard in North Carolina, the standard had already been established for close to a decade at the time McCready joined the group’s board. It is misleading to say that NCSEA lobbied for “costly state regulations” when RPS had already been in the law for years before the House put forward legislation that would have watered it down. The ad gives an exact figure for the costs of the standard, but experts told us that estimates on the effects of RPS vary widely, ranging from savings to costs. What’s more, the ad fails to mention that renewable energy decreases toxic and costly carbon dioxide emissions. Therefore, we rate this statement Mostly False.
https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/election/article233572392.html

Wednesday News: Health care train wreck

BILL THAT WOULD POSTPONE AND STUDY FOLWELL'S FOLLY STUCK IN NC SENATE: The original deadline for health care providers to sign a contract with the State Health Plan – agreeing to the state-set payment rates – was July 1. Folwell reopened that deadline, to Monday night. Since neither of Charlotte’s major hospital systems, Atrium Health and Novant Health, signed on to Folwell’s “Clear Pricing Plan,” they would be considered out of network for state employees in 2020. State-owned hospital system UNC Health didn’t sign on to the plan either, even after a Monday meeting with Folwell. A bill calling for a financial study of the proposed State Health Plan passed the North Carolina House of Representatives in April, the Winston-Salem Journal reported. House Bill 184 would create a committee to study the sustainability of the plan and delay its implementation. But the bill has been stuck in a Senate committee since April.
https://www.newsobserver.com/news/state/north-carolina/article233531127.html

Tuesday News: Fun, sun, and fecal matter?

NC'S BEACHES CONTAMINATED BY SEWER RUNOFF: More than 100 North Carolina beaches and waterways were potentially unsafe for swimming at least one day last year because they were contaminated with bacteria that makes people sick. A report by Environment North Carolina Research and Policy Center released Monday said 127 of 213 areas in the state had levels of fecal contamination that made swimming unsafe on at least one day in 2018. Fecal contamination comes from runoff, sewer overflows and leaks, and industrial farms, the report said. The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality tests water at 204 coastal beaches weekly or every other week between April and September, twice a month in October, and monthly from November through March, and posts advisories on its website. Four of the top 10 sites in North Carolina with potentially unsafe swimming days were in Beaufort County. A Pamlico Sound access point in Belhaven had 11 potentially unsafe days, the most recorded in the state, according to the report.
https://www.newsobserver.com/news/state/north-carolina/article233545667.html

Monday News: Equality wins

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GOVERNOR COOPER ISSUES EXECUTIVE ORDER BANNING CONVERSION THERAPY: No taxpayer money should be used for “conversion therapy” practices that treat being gay as a mental illness, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said Friday when he signed a new executive order targeting the controversial therapy. “No child should be told that they must change their sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Kendra R. Johnson, executive director of the LGBT advocacy group Equality NC, in a press release. “We’re grateful that Gov. Cooper agrees. We are committed to ending this debunked practice and will work for statewide protections.” Conversion therapy is the process of trying to force LGBTQ people to change their sexual identity or preference. It can use techniques ranging from prayer to electrical shocks. The American Psychiatric Association considers it an unethical practice with “no credible evidence” to back it.
https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article233442222.html

Sunday News: From the Editorial pages

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LEGISLATORS-BRIBES DON'T WORK. STOP BUDGET SPIN. SINCERELY NEGOTIATE WITH GOV. COOPER: Rather than appealing to the angels of our better nature, the leaders of the General Assembly have gone whole-hog to override the governor’s veto. Touring the state, in statements for news reports as well as commentary and columns placed throughout the state, legislators are echoing the talking points coming out of Senate Leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore’s offices. They warn funding for $383.1 million in pet projects in home districts – known as pork barrel -- are in jeopardy because of Gov. Roy Cooper’s budget veto. Only an override will assure the projects are funded. These statements and commentaries fail to reveal that the same legislators had little or no interest in funding most of the projects – regardless of their worthiness – until they desperately needed a ploy to attack Gov. Roy Cooper.
https://www.wral.com/editorial-legislators-bribes-don-t-work-stop-budget-spin-sincerely-negotiate-wi...

Saturday News: Wheels are coming off the bus

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BATTLE CONTINUES OVER MARK JOHNSON'S ISTATION READING ASSESSMENT CONTRACT: The company that lost out on a new multi-million dollar contract to test the reading skills of North Carolina elementary school students is appealing the decision and asking that the new contract be put on hold. Amplify Education Inc. asked the state Department of Information Technology on Friday to throw out the three-year, $8.3 million contract that State Superintendent Mark Johnson awarded to Istation to test K-3 students. Last week, Johnson upheld his decision to pick Istation instead of continuing to use Amplify’s mClass program. “Today Amplify filed a Request for Administrative Hearing with the NC Department of Information Technology, which has the final agency authority to issue a decision on the DPI contract award,” Larry Berger, Amplify’s chief executive officer, said in a statement Friday. “Also, we asked DIT to stay, or pause, the contract award to Istation before the start of the school year, while the protest is under consideration.
https://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/education/article233457362.html

Friday News: Petty tyrants

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REPUBLICANS FORCE FRESHMAN DEMOCRAT OUT OF HIS OFFICE SPACE: Rep. Ray Russell, D-Watauga, found out Thursday that he's changing offices mid-session, moved by the Republican leadership to one of the legislature's many windowless, concrete-wall rooms. Russell was in his district Thursday but said House Rules Chairman David Lewis, R-Harnett, visited his legislative assistant at the General Assembly with the news. "(Lewis said) he's sorry to tell me, but they needed my office," Russell said. "They needed to move Cody Henson's replacement into my office." Henson, R-Transylvania, resigned last week after pleading guilty in a domestic cyberstalking case. With the ongoing budget standoff making every vote key, local Republicans moved quicker than usual to name a replacement, going with Polk County Commissioner Jake Johnson, according to local media.
https://www.wral.com/freshman-democrat-told-to-change-offices-mid-session/18545144/

Thursday News: Warehousing children

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ROBESON FACILITY WITH REVOKED LICENSE GETS $3.9 MILLION TO DETAIN MIGRANT CHILDREN: Within 45 days of the facility opening its doors, state officials gave its operator, New Horizon Group Home LLC, hours to shut them again, saying conditions presented “an imminent danger to the health, safety and welfare” of the boys housed there. Yet barely one year later, the federal government awarded New Horizon a $3.9 million grant to house up to 72 children – migrant kids navigating the Trump administration's border policy alone. The federal Administration for Children and Families, which oversees the Office of Refugee Resettlement, awarded the grant to New Horizon despite the fact that the company has gone months without a required state license to house any children. And if the state’s prior action against the facility holds up to an ongoing legal challenge, the group home operator will have gotten at least some of that federal grant money despite being prevented from housing any children for the next four years.
https://www.wral.com/unlicensed-nc-company-with-troubled-history-gets-4m-to-house-migrant-children/1...

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