Under the Dome

Morning Memo: WIC returns and Wood refutes Wos

The Department of Health and Human Services reversed course late Thursday night and told local health departments to resume issuing vouchers for the WIC program which provides food to mothers and their children. The announcement came after The N&O inquired Thursday afternooon about DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos’ comments that the federal money had dried up. State budget director Art Pope had told The N&O that there was money available. NC was the only state that ended its WIC program. Read the full story.

*** Welcome to Dome Morning Memo, a daily roundup of North Carolina political news and yes, there’s more about DHHS below. ***

FOLLOW THE LEADER: Gov. Pat McCrory will be getting a tour of the Deere-Hitachi Construction Machinery plant in Kernersville today.

MORAL MONDAY REVISITED: The second day of the annual NC NAAACP State Convention will feature a discussion of the 2013 NC General Assembly and the current state of NC politics. If you can’t travel to Rocky Mount where the convention is being held, you can watch here. The panel discussion starts at 9:45 a.m. and the keynote is at 11:30 a.m.

WOOD TAKES ON WOS: From AP – State auditor Beth Wood said Thursday that Wos was wrong earlier this week when she told lawmakers that her agency had received no warnings that the state’s new Medicaid billing system would not be ready to go live on July 1. NCTracks was a disaster from the get-go, according to doctors and other health care providers who let their legislators know just how unhappy they were. Wood disputes that in a letter sent to legislator leaders. She wrote that her office’s May 22 audit of the new billing system warned it had serious flaws and that DHHS should re-evaluate its decision to go live on July 1. She also said she met with Wos to talk about her concerns with the system. In a second letter, she said she stood by data in a January audit that asserted that administrative costs for North Carolina’s Medicaid system were 38 percent higher than nine similarly-sized states.

The nonprofit web site North Carolina Health News reported this week that in January, McCrory’s then-Medicaid Director, Carol Steckel, edited out additional data provided by her agency staff for a proposed response to the audit that showed the state’s administrative costs were actually below average. Read the full story.

LESS HELP FOR THE JOBLESS: The state has laid off 353 people who work in the NC Divisions of Workforce solutions – a k a the unemployment office. The layoffs are part of an extensive overhaul of the agency designed to do more with less. Dome wonders how that works with the governor’s “look what I’ve accomplished” ad, the one in which he says the state has stopped writing people checks and is instead helping them find jobs. Read more here.

TROOPERS DISCIPLINED, WE GUESS: The State Highway Patrol says its has “taken appropriate action” against three state troopers who were caught speeding in Raleigh on camera and with radar guns by members of the ABC network news magazine show “20/20.”

But we don’t know if they were given tickets, reassigned or just had their donuts taken away as Patrol spokesman 1st Sgt. Jeff Gordon would not disclose whether or how the troopers were disciplined or provide other details, such as their names.

The “20/20” segment, which aired last week, looked at speeding troopers around the country but focused on Raleigh, including one trooper who got off the interstate and traveled 80 mph en route to a Dunkin’ Donuts. Read the full story.

HARRIS LIKES TEA PARTIES: Republican Senate candidate Mark Harris made it clear Thursday that he would fit right in with tea party conservatives in Congress. Read the full story.

RESEARCH SLOWED: Federal dollars fuel the research that drives much of the Triangle’s economy so as Jane Stancill writes in today’s N&O “when the U.S. government closes for business, people in the Triangle tend to get a little nervous.” So far the work has continued but the longer the shutdown, the more that’s at stake. Read more here.

ERIC IS WATCHING: From AP –More than half of all states are working in broad alliances to scrub voter rolls of questionable registrations. About 25 states are part of a consortium that compiles voter registration lists at the end of each year to look for duplicates. Another seven are working on another project that does the assessments more frequently. The newer project – the Electronic Registration Information Center or ERIC – identified hundreds of thousands of registrations that needed updating. Leaders of the project say the effort is needed in a society where people move frequently. They say many of the registration problems are innocent but could be a “precursor to potential fraud.” Read more here.

TELL THEM WHAT YOU THINK: Dome has never endorsed drinking and dialing (or texting) but some may find merit in Drunk Dial Congress, a web site that encourages you to “call and yell at a random member of Congress” whether you’re “a furloughed worker, being forced to work for free, or just fed up at Capitol Hill. Type in your phone number, then click call and you’ll apparently be connected to a random member of Congress. It also offers talking points: “Why don’t you make yourself useful and at least mow the lawn” and “If you can yell at a Park Ranger after forcing the Government to shut down then I get to yell at you.”

Dome prefers the drink recipe, including the Sleepy Senator (1 oz absinthe liqueur, 1 oz tonic water, 1 oz sugar syrup and 2 tsp lime juice) and the Southern Congressman (2 oz Jack Daniel's Tennessee whiskey, 1 tsp lime juice, 5 oz sour mix)