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July 21, 2014

Budget Stalemate Drags On

While teachers, local officials, and other North Carolina citizens look toward Raleigh for the 2014-15 budget, Republican leaders appear hamstringed on making progress. Two weeks after both the Senate and House leadership predicted that legislators would be wrapped up the summer short session the General Assembly seems to take one step forward and two steps back, putting politics before priorities yet again. Despite insistence from the House and a veto threat from the Governor, the Senate has continued to push for drastic cuts and cynical budgetary gimmicks that would cost half of the state’s teacher assistants while putting the remaining half on the chopping block for next year’s legislative session. It’s time for North Carolina’s elected officials to put partisan politics aside and focus on delivering policies and priorities that reflect the needs and expectations of the citizens of North Carolina.

Failure to Expand Medicaid

Sen. Gladys Robinson (D, Guilford Co.), Rep. Garland Pierce (D, Scotland Co.) and I held a press conference last week on the opportunities – and lives - lost due to the failure of the Republicans to even consider Medicaid expansion this session.

No disadvantages exist for North Carolina with Medicaid expansion. Expansion brings only advantages and benefits – all on the upside. It would provide access to health care for up to 500,000 North Carolinians, save more than 1,000 lives a year, provide a budget surplus of $38 million this year and $120 million next year, create more than 2,500 jobs over the next 10 years and boost the state’s economy by $1 billion annually.

The only excuse offered up by the Governor was his fear that the federal government would not continue to pay 90% of the cost after the first 10 years. That’s a weak argument given that 27 states have already expanded Medicaid, including several states led by Republicans and other states are considering expansion.

Medicaid Reform

Medicaid: Senate Republicans put forth a privatization bill that would disproportionately harm thousands of elderly, pregnant, and mentally ill North Carolinians. Health care providers spoke out against the measure that appears on the Senate Calendar for Monday. House budget leaders have already called it insufficient.

New Senate Medicaid plan rankles docs, hospitals

When Senate leaders rolled out the latest in a series of long-term Medicaid reform efforts Wednesday morning, they opted for a bill that would create a new agency to oversee the state health insurance system for the poor and disabled, snubbing a House-drafted plan that had been endorsed by Gov. Pat McCrory.

Read more here: http://www.wral.com/new-senate-medicaid-plan-rankles-docs/13816271/

Medicaid Privatization Plan Would Pay Board Members $96,000 Annually

Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, proposed spending $4.9 million to create S new Medicaid department by July 1, 2017. The start time now could be pushed back another year to July 2018. A seven-member board of directors, made up of experienced business, health-care and health-insurance leaders – but no providers – appointed by the governor and General Assembly, would govern the proposed department. Each member of the board would draw an annual salary of $96,000.

Read more here: http://www.journalnow.com/news/state_region/senate-unveils-details-of-medicaid-privatization/article_1d965d26-1c44-57da-a916-af1c65fa4a0a.html

Coal Ash:

The Senate voted not to accept the House’s version of the Coal Ash Management bill. The House has yet to appoint a conference committee that would work out the differences. Democratic lawmakers remain concerned that neither the House nor Senate plans protect ratepayers from having to pay for the cost to clean up and close Duke Energy’s coal ponds.

Plenty of Blame to Go Around on Coal Ash

Just about everything anyone would need to know about this matter was covered in a March expose by Associated Press reporters Michael Biesecker and Mitch Weiss titled “Change to NC law protected Duke’s coal ash pits.” It outlines how Duke’s lobbyists prodded Republican legislators to include a provision in a regulatory reform bill. That clause made no mention of coal ash, yet it allowed Duke to avoid costly cleanup of contaminated groundwater leaching from unlined dumps toward rivers, lakes and the drinking water wells.

Read more here: http://www.blueridgenow.com/article/20140713/ARTICLES/407131007?p=2&tc=pg

CMS Superintendent Worried as Teachers Leave the State.

“We don’t have numbers right now. We are very concerned obviously. We have our teachers who want to be here, love teaching in NC, love teaching Charlotte-Mecklenburg. The salaries right now are more competitive in South Carolina and so they’re making a professional decision not biased on where they want to teach, but where the dollars are directing them. That’s why I’m in Raleigh all the time trying to make sure that the budget, whenever it is passed has a good pay increase for our teachers,”[Superintendent Heath] Morrison said.

Read more here: http://www.wcnc.com/news/politics/CMS-Teachers-moving-to-SC-has-superintendent-worried-266819951.html

Lawmakers Continue Fight Over Teacher Pay

[The Governor] is backing a plan in the state House that would give teachers a 6 percent raise. But the infighting that's surfacing over the budget may have broader implications for Republican leaders in Raleigh who control the Governor’s office, the House and the Senate. "I think this is a real tug-of-war within the Republican Party," said political expert Michael Bitzer. He said the disagreements between the governor and Senate leaders highlight ongoing tensions over who is really running state government.

Read more here: http://www.wsoctv.com/news/news/local/debates-teacher-pay-raises-coal-ash-cleanup-resume/ngfSg/

Common Core Repeal Raises Questions

Well, [the Governor] used to like it… last month, he said that doing away with Common Core was “not a smart move.” It was implemented by more than 40 states …before some of the states, like North Carolina, started repealing it. So, wait, it held every student in the country to a common standard? Chambers of commerce and private business executives kind of liked that concept. It meant that a student in North Carolina would be graded on the same material as a student in another state.

Read more here: http://www.rockymounttelegram.com/opinion/our-views/common-core-repeal-raises-questions-2537331

As always, thank you for your support of my work in Raleigh as your representative. Please let me know of your position on issues, your suggestions for legislation and your requests for help.

Verla Insko

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Verla Insko, NC House · 300 N. Salisbury Street, Room 502 LOB · Raleigh, NC 27603-5925 ·
Phone (919) 733-7208 · Mobile (919) 618-9889 · E-mail verla.insko@gmail.com or verla.insko@ncleg.net