Last week, the House and Senate gave final approval to Senate Bill 4, designed to block a state-sponsored insurance exchange and the expansion of Medicaid coverage to low-income residents. Despite our best efforts, the legislature didn’t provide us with the ability to move forward with the Medicaid expansion.
As previously discussed, I voted against this bill due to the fact that it serves as a major disadvantage to the uninsured and restricts affordable healthcare access to North Carolinians. One person without healthcare is one too many, and currently, 1.5 million people in North Carolina are uninsured – which is more than the national average. Allowing the expansion of Medicaid to 500,000 eligible residents would have possibly saved 3,000 lives a year. Next to education and job creation, ensuring individuals have access to healthcare remains a focus that I, along with my fellow House Democrats, continue to diligently work on.
The House and Senate also unanimously agreed on a temporary solution for HB 5. The bill will provide financial aid to group home operators as some residents will not qualify for certain Medicaid services. The measure also allows the money – set aside by legislators last summer – to supplement payments to special dementia facilities where patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease reside.
SB 4: House and Senate vote to send Medicaid bill to McCrory’s desk
On Tuesday, the state of North Carolina rejected two central tenants of the federal Affordable Care Act under a bill that was approved by the House and Senate.
The House voted 74-40, while the Senate voted 31-16. Gov. Pat McCrory also supported the bill and signed off on a proposal to prohibit Medicaid expansion in North Carolina.
The governor and Republican leaders in the House and Senate have remained firm in support of the measure, despite some GOP administrations around the country embracing Medicaid expansion. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is the latest Republican leader to embrace Medicaid expansion.
Group Home Bill
HB 5: Group home, Alzheimer’s fix leaves NC legislature
The House and Senate unanimously voted to approve a group home fix designed to ensure thousands of North Carolina residents – who live with mental health illnesses – will receive funding and prevent removal from group homes and special care units.
State lawmakers gave a final okay to the bill on Tuesday that will correct a glitch in last year’s budget law that kept individuals from accessing nearly $40 million to compensate for the loss of funding regarding personal care services, and daily assistance with activities such as eating, bathing or chores.
SB 76: NC Senate approves fracking bill, sends to House
The Senate gave key approval Tuesday to legislation rolling back some of the safeguards in the state’s natural gas drilling law. A final Senate vote is expected Wednesday, after which, the bill will head to the House. The bill makes many changes to Senate Bill 820, the 2012 law opening the state to gas drilling. Most notably, it removes the requirement that state lawmakers must approve rules before the first well can be drilled. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources the authority to start issuing permits on March 1, 2015, without the legislature’s say-so.
NC Redistricting maps
Attorneys wrap up arguments in NC redistricting (Associated Press)
After two days of legal sparring over North Carolina’s political maps, a panel of judges now must decide whether dozens of districts drawn by Republicans amounted to racial discrimination, or if they have more to do with partisanship and following redistricting rules than race. The Plantiffs’ lawyers argue the maps re-segregate North Carolina and split more counties and precincts than needed.
A panel of three Superior Court judges heard about 10 hours of testimony in Raleigh over lawsuits filed by Democratic voters and civil rights and election advocacy groups seeking to declare unconstitutional the maps approved in 2011 and used in last year’s elections for the first time.
Principals united on matters of merit pay, testing and school grading system
On Wednesday, House Speaker Thom Tillis led the second day of “Education Week,” hearing from school principals across North Carolina who voiced their concerns about proposals related to merit pay, student assessment, funding and school grading, among other topics.
End of grade tests have been notoriously unpopular among educators who complain that high-stakes testing narrows curricula. In preparation for these tests, teachers tend to avoid inquiry-based projects utilizing critical thinking and employ “skill-n-drill” techniques that prepare students only for the test. The A-F grading system has also become a growing concern. The system measures schools’ success based on student test scores and graduation rates, among other “snapshot” measures. However, student growth over time does not factor into a school’s grade.