Under the Dome

Dome: Groups plead to save extended unemployment benefits

June 25, 2013 

Nearly two dozen advocacy organizations – representing labor, churches, senior citizens, immigrants and assorted liberal social groups and individuals – on Tuesday again pleaded with the governor and legislators to extend unemployment benefits.

Gov. Pat McCrory signed a bill earlier this year cutting the amount of unemployment money people can collect and reducing the length of time they can receive it. That action made the state ineligible for federal emergency funds, and as a result, some 70,000 people now receiving extended benefits will be cut off July 1.

“This will almost certainly undermine any ongoing economic recovery efforts in North Carolina with hundreds of millions of dollars in benefits being lost,” reads a letter by the coalition.

The letter asks the cutoff be delayed until January. This was the third time the groups have made the request.

Some of the groups signing the letter: N.C. Justice Center, N.C. AFL-CIO, N.C. Council of Churches, American Association of Retired Persons, Disability Rights N.C., Teamsters Local 391, American Association of University Women and the N.C. Association of Women Attorneys.

Earlier Tuesday, state House Republicans defeated a Democratic attempt to extend the benefits. Republicans say they want to speed up paying off more than $2 billion the state borrowed from the federal government to pay for unemployment benefits.

Fourth psychiatric hospital

The proposal to build a fourth state psychiatric hospital went nowhere this session, but the legislator pushing for it says the idea is not dead.

Rep. Justin Burr, an Albemarle Republican, gave the usual GOP explanation for why the state can’t spend much money – Medicaid costs too much – but said he still wants to work on getting a hospital to serve Mecklenburg and about a dozen other counties.

“It will live to fight another day,” Burr said.

He plans to work on it in the months between the long and short sessions.

Strategic switching

Brian Nick, a former strategist for Gov. Pat McCrory, is leaving his job at a Charlotte law firm to return to the political media company where he formerly worked.

Earlier this year, Nick went to work for Moore & Van Allen, the law firm that had employed McCrory until his inauguration. Nick said he’s returning to Strategic Perception to “pursue some projects that are more political in nature.” Strategic Perception was a key player in McCrory’s 2012 election.

Nick was part of the public affairs division at the law firm, fielding repeated questions in recent weeks about the firm’s role in funneling money to political candidates on behalf of Chase Burns, president of a company that makes the software used by Internet sweepstakes cafes. Burns has been charged in Florida with money laundering and racketeering.

Preterm birth

The House Health and Human Services Committee approved a Senate bill Tuesday that would require that students be taught preventable causes of preterm birth, including induced abortion, smoking and alcohol consumption.

Before Senate Bill 132 passed 13-7, some legislators disputed its accuracy.

Rep. Jean Farmer-Butterfield, a Democrat from Wilson County, said groups such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Public Health Association don’t recognize abortion as a cause of preterm birth.

Bill sponsor Sen. Warren Daniel, a Burke County Republican, said the bill was built with solid backing from studies and two medical experts from UNC-Chapel Hill, Drs. John Thorp and Martin McCaffrey.

The committee struck down two proposed amendments to broaden the language to give more flexibility to health teachers.

The bill is scheduled to be heard Wednesday on the House floor.

Staff writers Craig Jarvis, Lynn Bonner, Annalise Frank and Charlotte Observer staff writer Jim Morrill

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