Under the Dome

May 9, 2014

Morning Memo: Kay Hagan trying to walk middle on federal health care law

Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan is making a political calculation – one being made across the nation in battleground races this fall: support the federal health care law or distance yourself from it?

Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan is making a political calculation – one being made across the nation in battleground races this fall: support the federal health care law or distance yourself from it?

Hagan is trying to find a middle line, owning up to her vote and touting the law at the same time she wants to fix it.

In an interview Thursday, she told The N&O: “I voted for it. I think there are common sense fixes that must be made to this bill. But I also talked to people all across North Carolina who have seen the difference that that has made in their lives.”

She said the fact that enrollments in North Carolina are the fifth highest in the nation “shows the need for affordable health care for people in our state.”

Tillis, she said, “is not being up front about what it is that he wants. He says he likes some of the good things, but ... all he’s saying is repeal, repeal, repeal. That would take us back to a time where if an individual had a pre-existing condition, you would no longer have access to health care. A third of the people in North Carolina when they would sign up on the individual market prior to the Affordable Care Act were turned away. Women automatically paid more than men, and our seniors paid more for prescription drugs.”

In defending it, Hagan is also pressing Republican rival Thom Tillis to say where he stands not just on the law but the components of it. Tillis’ oblique view of the law proved an issue in the primary.

Tillis spokesman Jordan Shaw said the GOP Senate candidate has been clear that he wants to repeal the health care law first and then talk about solving health care problems with market-based ideas, such as allowing people to buy insurance across state lines and setting up high-risk pools.

Shaw also reiterated an earlier line of attack Republicans have used in ad campaigns, noting that Hagan had said often that people could keep their health care plans if they liked them, which proved not to be the case for many.

Expect to hear more about this in the months ahead. Republicans seem to think “Obamacare” is a winning issue and Democrats are starting to think it could work for them. And read more from the Hagan interview here.

*** Get one more political roundup from a busy week in North Carolina politics, below in the Dome Morning Memo. ***

TODAY IN POLITICS: Gov. Pat McCrory will attend the Pittsburgh Glass Works opening in Elkin at 10 a.m.

At the legislative building, the joint oversight committee looking at unemployment insurance will meet at 10 a.m. in rooom 544.

#NCSEN ---

THE ACA IN N.C. – Blue Cross enrollments fall short of expectations: Blue Cross and Blue Shield sold health insurance policies to 232,000 North Carolinians under the Affordable Care Act, the company said Thursday, noting that the enrollments fell far short of the insurer’s expectations required for stable insurance rates.

The new customers were skewed toward older, sicker residents who will drive up insurance costs and drive up rates for next year’s customers who buy subsidized coverage under the nation’s health care law, warned Barbara Morales Burke, Blue Cross’ chief compliance officer.

“Blue Cross’ ACA customers are older and have more chronic conditions than we anticipated when we set rates last year,” Burke said on a conference call with journalists. “This will have an impact on our future rates.” Read more here.

FORMER GOP HOPEFUL HUNTSMAN – N.C. SENATE DEBATE WAS LOW POINT IN CLIMATE CHANGE DISCUSSION: From an NYT op-ed – So obtuse has become the (Republican) party’s dialogue on climate change that it’s now been reduced to believing or not believing, as if it were a religious mantra.

This approach reached a new low last month during a North Carolina congressional debate at which all the Republican candidates chuckled at a question on climate change – as if they had been asked about their belief in the Tooth Fairy. Is climate change a fact, they were asked. All four answered no. This is a shortsighted strategy that is wrong for the party, wrong for the country and wrong for the next generation. It simply kicks a big problem farther down the field. And it’s a problem we – as solution-seeking Republicans – have the opportunity to solve. Read more here.

TILLIS SAYS PAY RAISES NOT ENOUGH: Speaker of the House Thom Tillis says a teacher pay raise alone isn’t going to keep educators in North Carolina. At the Lookout Capital annual meeting at the Carolina Country Club in Raleigh Thursday, he told investors the teacher exodus in the state is more complicated than a pay check.

“There are some fundamental issues with education that we have to address,” he says, adding that it can be a leadership problem with superintendents and administrators. “Get the right leaders and give them the flexibility to manage the situation on the ground. Measure their outcomes.” Read more here.

DUELING TILLIS VIDEOS: One from the National Republican Senatorial Committee. See it here. And one from Americans United, a Democratic group. See it here.

#NCPOL ---

JONES, ELLMERS WINS NO SURPRISE: From Eric Ostermeier at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs – It should not be surprising that all 10 members of the North Carolina delegation running for reelection made it to the general election ballot once again in 2014. In fact, it’s been 58 years since any Democratic or Republican incumbent U.S. Representative lost their renomination bid in the state.

A Smart Politics analysis finds that North Carolina U.S. House members have now won 299 consecutive renomination bids through Tuesday’s primary – a string that began 29 cycles ago in 1958. The last time a U.S. Representative from the Tar Heel State lost his or her party’s nomination bid was in 1956. Read more here.

McCRORY PUSHES LEGISLATURE TO ADOPT HIS COAL ASH PLAN: Gov. Pat McCrory expects his coal ash disposal plan to be the foundation of legislation that Republican leaders will file as the General Assembly convenes next week. “I’d be surprised if that’s not the main framework,” McCrory told the Observer after speaking Thursday at the Charlotte Business Journal’s annual energy conference.

“I anticipate some changes. Any improvements we’d welcome,” he said. “But I think we provided a very sound plan not only for North Carolina, but I wouldn’t be surprised if other states start copying the plan, because there really is no national plan on how to deal with coal ash.”

McCrory’s proposal, released April 16, is similar to what Duke Energy offered to do about its 33 ash ponds after a Feb. 2 spill into the Dan River. The proposal requires pond closure plans within 60 to 90 days for four plants, including Riverbend west of Charlotte. Other ash ponds would be evaluated individually, with options to remove ash or leave it covered in place. Read more here.

MORE #NCGOV – McCrory touts tourism – From the Virginian-Pilot: Gov. Pat McCrory rolled up his suit pants and stood barefoot in the sand in front of a microphone at the foot of the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge on Thursday to announce that North Carolina visitors spent a record $20.2 billion last year.

Dare County officials mixed with watermen and news reporters on the inlet shores, hoping to hear news about construction of a replacement bridge and of a permanent way to keep the inlet cleared from shoaling. Read more here.

THE BIG STORY – STATE ABANDONING ITS PROMISE, LAWYERS SAY: The state has abandoned its constitutional commitment to provide all North Carolina children with a sound, basic education, say lawyers for low-income school districts, who cite years of budget reductions, jettisoned programs and tens of thousands of low-scoring students.

In a new filing, attorneys in a landmark school quality lawsuit call for a hearing in August and a detailed plan from the state, with timetables, for complying with the basic education mandate from two previous Supreme Court rulings. They say North Carolina has discarded many of the planned remedies to the problem, leaving 800,000 poor students – 56 percent of all school children – at risk of academic failure.

“While the State has advanced some meritorious initiatives, many of those initiatives, since 2008, have been eliminated or substantially curtailed,” said the April 29 filing by the attorneys for five low-income counties in the lawsuit, known as Leandro for the original student plaintiff.

Meanwhile, the judge overseeing the case issued a stinging, 38-page report this week on “the reading problem” in North Carolina, calling educators to task for “way too many thousands of school children” who have not received an adequate education.

Wake County Superior Court Judge Howard E. Manning Jr., who has monitored schools’ progress for more than a decade, said he is awaiting the results of this year’s end-of-grade and end-of-course tests, along with the latest ACT scores of state students. He also issued a warning. Read more here.

UNC PRESIDENT, RICHARD BURR PUSH MILITARY IN-STATE TUITION PLAN: University of North Carolina President Thomas Ross said Thursday that extending in-state tuition to many student veterans would be a winning strategy for the state.

“It’s to our benefit because it allows us to keep them in North Carolina, and many of them end up staying and becoming part of the workforce,” Ross said in a meeting with Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., in the Capitol. “There are no better employees.”

Ross said he hoped the state legislature would approve of Gov. Pat McCrory’s proposal, announced earlier this week, to give in-state tuition to veterans who live in the state. The plan would apply to veterans who hadn’t lived in the state long enough to meet the one-year residency requirement for in-state tuition.

Burr and Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont, introduced a bill in December that would provide in-state tuition to many student veterans using GI Bill benefits at public colleges and universities nationwide, regardless of their state of residence. The students would be required to enroll within three years of leaving active duty and live in the state while attending school. Read more here.

7TH DISTRICT SHIFT: Larry Sabato at University of Virginia shifted North Carolina’s 7th Congressional District to “safe Republican” with the win of former state Sen. David Rouzer in the GOP primary this week. It was rated “likely Republican” after Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre announced his retirement. See it here.

CARTOON: Kevin Siers on Gov. Pat McCrory’s teacher pay plan. See it here.

BIPARTISAN GROUP PUSHES REDISTRICTING CHANGES: Two days after primary elections that left many North Carolina voters with no choice in November, two prominent former mayors launched a new effort to end partisan redistricting.

Former Mayors Richard Vinroot of Charlotte and Charles Meeker of Raleigh announced Thursday the creation of a coalition called “North Carolinians to End Gerrymandering Now.” “We tell our children to play fair,” Vinroot said at a Charlotte news conference. “This is about playing fair in elections.” Read more here.

MARRIAGE BAN SPURS ACTIVISM TWO YEARS LATER: The second anniversary of the passage of North Carolina’s constitutional amendment prohibiting gay marriage was marked Thursday with same-sex couples unsuccessfully seeking licenses to wed, and amendment supporters rallying to preserve the ban. Read more here.

FEDS STEER SWEEPSTAKES CRACKDOWN – From the Wilson Times: Federal authorities are behind this week’s N.C. Alcohol Law Enforcement raids of video sweepstakes businesses in Wilson and throughout eastern North Carolina, officials said Thursday.

U.S. attorney’s spokesman Don Connelly said federal prosecutors are involved in a regional operation aimed at seizing sweepstakes machines. ALE agents served search warrants at two Wilson convenience stores and at least one other Wilson County business on Wednesday. Read more here.


Washington Post tries to get clicks with a list about Clay Aiken. Read more here.

Indy’s legislative preview. Read it here.

N.C. Museum of Sciences wins national honor. Read more here.

Raleigh offers $51.26 million for Dorothea Dix property, Morehead School field. Read more here.

For state workers across the nation, a thaw in frozen wages. Read more here.

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