Filing for moral bankruptcy

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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. reminded us that “budgets are moral documents.” If you believe that, as I do, then our state lawmakers are not only leading us toward financial bankruptcy, but moral bankruptcy as well.

For the past two years, we have watched our state gamble with our tax code as if were chips at a roulette wheel. And just like a casino, the odds are stacked against us.

As in the past, legislators have doubled-down on proven losers such as corporate and personal income tax cuts that have benefitted those at the very top, siphoned resources out of the economy, and weakened the building blocks of a strong economy like schools, community colleges and courts.

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King v Burwell in NC

burwell.jpgIf you haven’t already, you will likely be hearing a great deal about the possible effects of King v Burwell, the Supreme Court challenge to the Affordable Care Act that is likely to be handed down next week, as early as Monday Thursday morning. There are lots and lots of people saying lots and lots of things about the case, but we wanted to break things down a bit for you to see what the impact would be here in North Carolina.

While a finding for the Plaintiffs in the case would not destroy the Affordable Care Act as many have carelessly opined, this court decision does have the potential to significantly upend the health care system overall, and portions of the ACA in particular. In North Carolina alone, more than 492,000 people have coverage through its federal marketplace, and 93 percent of those enrollees have received financial assistance, and those folks would be directly impacted, almost right way. 

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Kansas? Bueller?

voodoo.jpgWho remembers the “Anyone, anyone?” scene from Ferris Bueller's Day Off, where the dry civics teacher, played by Ben Stein, walkes students through the history of supply-side economics? (If you’re drawing a blank, you can watch the clip here.) 

At the end of the scene, Stein asks the barely-conscious class what Vice President George H. Bush called the idea that if you cut taxes sharply enough, you can generate huge amounts of economic activity and thereby keep revenue rates steady. Do you remember the answer? The answer is “voodoo economics.”

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Medicaid reform, redux

healthcare_piggybank.jpgYes, it's June already, and the NCGA still doesn't know what they're doing about Medicaid reform. You might remember that they tried, and failed, to come to an agreement last year on the very same topic. 

This morning, we got a glimpse of the House's proposal. It isn't very different from what they proposed last year.

The House proposal would deliver Medicaid services through organizations created in-state, such as hospitals and physician groups that choose to manage a group of no less than 30,000 patients at a time. Those organizations, “provider-led entities”, or PLE's, would be given a set amount to cover services for all of those patients, putting the financial risk on these PLEs to meet patient care and quality goals without going over budget. (There would also be rewards and penalties for PLEs that meet or fail to meet performance and quality goals.) All of this would be overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services which would be authorized to “take all actions necessary to implement the Medicaid transformation” and be given a 5-year timeline to complete the process.

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The (real) case for universal voter registration

Register.jpgIn a major speech last week, Hillary Clinton called for a dramatic expansion of our country’s voter registration system. Her proposal? Automatic registration of every citizen at the age of 18.

I say it’s about time.

Lack of voter participation is a major problem in the United States. If that comes as a surprise, you’re not alone. We’re used to seeing voter participation rates in the 50 percent range, give or take, year after year. We have more participation in presidential elections years, less in off-years, but the average is right around 50 percent of eligible voters come to the polls to cast their ballots. But many countries – most, in fact - do far better. 

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The problem with sincerely held beliefs

LGBT_protest.jpg*** UPDATE (6/11/15): SB 2 passed the override vote in the NC House. It is now legal for state officials to deny marriage licenses based on "sincerely held religious beliefs" in NC. ***

I believe a lot of things. In fact, a lot of these beliefs are sincerely held. For example, I believe that Bigfoot lives in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I believe that my son will grow-up to be President of the United States. And I believe that the leadership of the North Carolina General Assembly are full of it. (That one is a very sincerely held belief. I even have some data to back that one up.)

When the NC General Assembly introduced Senate Bill 2, the intention was to allow magistrates to opt-out of officiating same-sex marriages in our state if doing so would run counter to the individual’s “sincerely held religious belief”. Legislators were well aware of the legal, moral, and political ramifications of these type of proposals. After all, nineteen states have so-called religious freedom laws. Indiana passed a similar law earlier this year, but the NC-version of the law goes further than any other law on the books anywhere. 

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What you don't know about the abortion bill

IMG_abortion-DISPLAY.jpg_2_1_I03TDB5M_L100728807.JPGThe NC Senate approved it’s version of HB 465 last night, the bill that would unnecessarily force North Carolina women to wait 72 hours before receiving an abortion. This is the provision of the bill that has garnered the most attention and that is causing most of the outrage. But believe it or not, it actually gets worse.

The original bill contained two central parts: the 72 hours waiting period, and a requirement that only doctors board certified as OB-GYN's would be able to provide abortions.  The waiting period is bad enough, but the doctor provision would have left roughly 40 of North Carolina's 100 counties without a doctor who could provide the service. Last night Senators changed that language to require a doctor be "sufficiently trained" based on existing medical standards to deal with complications from abortions. That’s good news.

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Calling out McCrory over DACA

11059664_975185015847276_896937876130325049_n.jpgLast week's action in Raleigh was amazing!

We decided we had to do something after months of attempting to contact McCrory's office to request a meeting to discuss our concerns regarding the DAPA lawsuit and being completely ignored without so much as a call to say the Governor's office could not meet with us. We felt that McCrory's office was disrespecting the community by ignoring us.

As you probably know by now, our Governor McCrory joined NC to a 26 state lawsuit challenging President Obama's completely legal and constitutional Executive Action on Immigration from November of 2014. These attorneys general and governors seek to put a stop to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parental Responsibility (DAPA) programs that would benefit close to 5 million undocumented immigrants living in the shadows in our country. Not only that, this lawsuit will hurt our country and our state.

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NC gets D+ for working women

NotEnoughHands.jpgA new report out from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research ranks North Carolina “D+” in policies and practices important to work and family. That places North Carolina 35th overall in the rankings. Nearly 30 percent of North Carolina women work at low-wage jobs, and at the current rate of pay, IWPR predicts women will not reach equal pay with men until 2064. 

 

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Statement on Obama's executive action

President Obama just announce an historic change to our country’s immigration system, achieved by executive action. The directives contained a number of components that will strengthen our border and national security, ensure that our enforcement resources are used to go after felons and not families, and give close to 5 million people the chance to come out of the shadows and gain temporary legal status in the United States, and keep families together, ensuring stronger communities.

 The main components of the plan include:

  • A new deferred action program for 4.1 million immigrants who have been in the country for at least 5 years and have citizen or permanent resident children;
  • An expansion of the DACA program to remove the age cap and move up the year of arrival for eligibility, which will cover 300,000 more Dreamers; and
  • Changes to our enforcement priorities to focus on terrorists, national security threats, and other serious offenders first and foremost. 
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