Morning Memo: Healthcare panel gets partisan start; feisty debate in 7th District

Posted by John Frank on March 19, 2014 

Republican lawmakers only reinforced perceptions Wednesday as they launched a partisan look at President Barack Obama’s health care law.

Since its inception, the Joint Study Committee on the Affordable Care Act and Implementation Issues was considered a political maneuver, formed by the state’s Republican leaders – House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger – just as they bash Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan for supporting the law. Tillis’ bid for her seat only added ammunition.

But one of the first experts to make a presentation to state lawmakers left Democrats suggesting the committee was a charade.

From today’s story: “The lead speaker, Duke University health policy scholar Chris Conover, who has previously denounced President Barack Obama as a fascist, laid out his case against the health care law as a national disaster and called for the law’s repeal. The academician spoke for more than an hour and said the law’s provisions were concocted by government bureaucrats in Washington.

“Conover, who calls the law the Abominable Care Act, predicted that it would wipe out about 90,000 jobs from the state’s economy and would reduce 300,000 full-time jobs into part-time positions.”

Those two paragraphs summarize the meeting. For more, and the Democrats’ reaction, read here.

*** Get a roundup of political news from across the state below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

TODAY IN POLITICS: Gov. Pat McCrory will tour the Triangle Apprenticeship Program at 4:15 p.m. Wednesday at Buhler Aeroglide in Cary.

The legislative panel looking at how to clean up Jordan Lake will meet at 9 a.m. in room 544 of the legislative office building. The 10 a.m. meeting of the Program Evaluation Committee is in 643 LOB. The House committee studying education innovations will meet at noon in Plymouth. And back in Raleigh, the purchase and contract study committee will meet at 1 p.m. in 544 LOB.

TOP STORY – ROUZER, WHITE GET NEGATIVE IN CONGRESSIONAL DEBATE: From the Wilmington Star-News – David Rouzer, seemingly tired of hearing Woody White attack his lobbying career and time on Capitol Hill, borrowed a trick from the New Hanover County Republican’s playbook Tuesday night and tried to cast his opponent’s professional career in a negative light.

“I would think my opponent would have some idea what it’s like to represent a client,” Rouzer said after White said the Johnston County Republican’s history included lobbying for amnesty. “Do you agree with all the things that the clients you represent do?”

White dodged the attack, holding up a copy of the Constitution and saying that while it grants the right to an attorney, it does not grant the right to a lobbyist. “Lobbyists choose who they represent, folks,” White said. Read more here.

NEW YORK TIMES – PROTEST MOVEMENT BEGINS TO TAKE ROOT IN THE SOUTH, Dateline ATLANTA: By the end of the day, they were among the 39 people who were arrested Tuesday during choreographed waves of civil disobedience here at the state Capitol in protest of the state’s refusal to expand Medicaid as part of the Affordable Care Act.

They shouted slogans and unfurled banners from the Senate gallery, sang spirituals in the marble rotunda and held a sit-in blocking the entrance to the governor’s office.

The Moral Monday movement, which began last year in North Carolina, took firm root in Georgia on Tuesday, where the arrests at the Capitol were the group’s boldest action since it started protesting here in January. There were similar protests in South Carolina, where a smaller but persistent campaign of civil disobedience played out for the third week in a row. Read more here. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/19/us/protest-disrupts-georgia-senate-session-on-bill-to-block-medicaid-expansion.html?ref=us&_r=0

STORY TO WATCH – STATE EXECUTION PROTOCOL SENT BACK TO TRIAL COURT: Seven years have passed since North Carolina death row inmates filed a lawsuit in Wake County Superior Court challenging the state’s execution protocol as a basis for punishment so cruel and unusual that it was unconstitutional.

On Tuesday, a three-judge N.C. Court of Appeals panel sent the case back to the trial court where it started.

Much has changed since 2007, when the inmates argued that the three-drug cocktail used to execute North Carolina prisoners – a combination that was supposed to render the inmate unconscious first, then paralyze all muscles before inducing cardiac arrest – inflicted cruel and unusual punishment, especially if the first drug failed or the injection was administered improperly. ...

The N.C. General Assembly rewrote the law in 2013 so the public safety secretary had the authority to determine North Carolina’s lethal injection procedure. Read more here.

THE LAW THAT SHROUDS JUDICIAL DISCIPLINE: Late last summer, lawmakers and Gov. Pat McCrory agreed to shroud in secrecy the state’s process for disciplining judges.

The result is apparent today at the online space where notices of pending judicial discipline were traditionally posted for the public to see. Now, that Web page is blank except for a disclaimer in bold: “All proceedings for judicial discipline are confidential,” it says, citing legislation McCrory signed into law on Aug. 23.

Anyone interested in judicial discipline who had clicked on that page in, say, September 2011 would have seen pending cases against two judges and their answers to the charges. In 2008, charges were brought against six judges, with the public able to read the allegations and responses from the elected or appointed judges.

For decades, the state’s Judicial Standards Commission has led the work to investigate and recommend discipline of judges when questions arise about their professional conduct. That work, too, was largely conducted in secret until a committee, acting as a sort of grand jury, had determined that there was sufficient evidence against a judge to merit sanction or punishment. Then the charges became public. Read more here.

LT. GOV. DAN FOREST SAYS SELL STATE-OWNED HISTORIC HOUSES: Forest said the houses (the state owns) north of North Street, nearest Oakwood, should be sold as private residences, while other houses on Blount Street might be sold as private offices. Others south of North Street might be used for state offices, since the McCrory administration has expressed interest in them.

Forest has also floated the idea of a Consulate Row, similar to Washington’s Embassy Row, for countries with consulates in North Carolina, such as Mexico and Canada. Read more here.

ASHEVILLE MAYOR ON CITIES’ RELATIONSHIP WITH STATE LAWMAKERS: “It was a pretty chummy relationship with the legislature. What we’ve seen with this legislature is a lot of hostility,” she said. Read more here.

ASHEVILLE ABORTION CLINIC TARGETED BY LAWMAKERS TO CLOSE; NEW ONE TO OPEN SOON: From Carolina Public Press – Western North Carolina’s only provider of abortion services, Femcare, put its property up for sale last week. And a patient of the Asheville women’s clinic tells Carolina Public Press that she was told by a clinic staffer that it will close soon.

The Raleigh-based Planned Parenthood Health Systems plans to open a new clinic in Asheville this summer that will provide abortion services. Read more here.

PERSONNEL FILE: A belated personnel note – Beau Mills, the former district director for U.S. Rep. David Price, is now the director of the UNC-Chapel Hill’s office of federal affairs. In this capacity, Mills (who started Feb. 28) will lobby for the university’s interests in Washington.

QUICK HEADLINES –

Another candidate emerges for Sen. Martin Nesbitt’s seat. Read more here.

Records show new details on Duke Energy plan to move coal ash to Charlotte airport. Read more here.

Franklin Graham praises Putin on gay issues. Read more here.

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