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North Carolina Legislative Report - August 17, 2012

August 6 - August 17, 2012

On the Floor

The NC General Assembly completed the short legislative session on July 3 and has adjourned sine die until January 30, 2013.  The MVA Public Affairs Legislative Report on North Carolina will be distributed bi-weekly while the North Carolina Legislature is not in session.

 

Committee Highlights

To view more information about each committee meeting, please click on the relevant committee below.

Joint Legislative Oversight Committee of Health and Human Services

State legislators grilled leaders of the  Department of Health and Human Services, as well as the interim head of Western Highlands Network, at a legislative oversight hearing. The discussion was held in response to WHN’s recent revelation that the mental health agency had come up $3 million short in the six months since converting to a managed care organization in January. Legislators also learned that consultants had warned DHHS officials last fall of problems at WHN as the organization prepared for making the transition, but state health leaders allowed the changes to go forward anyway.

Joint Legislative Program Evaluation Oversight Committee

Vaunted computer programs that the state Department of Health and Human Services and Gov. Bev Perdue promised would help expose Medicaid fraud and save the state money have fallen far short of expectations, according to a state auditor’s report. The audit highlighted four contracts, including ones the state awarded to Cary-based SAS and IBM. Contracts with those companies, signed in 2010, have not yielded the promised returns.  “This is just one in a series of audits that we’ve done over my term where we’ve identified the state of North Carolina does not monitor the terms of a contract to make sure the other side is delivering” the services promised, said state Auditor Beth Wood.  

In The News

Deaths (August 17, 2012)

Rep. Larry Brown died of a heart attack in Pinehurst. The 69-year-old Kernersville Republican was serving his fourth term representing parts of Forsyth and Davidson counties. Public life for Brown started with his election to the town Board of Aldermen in 1976. He went on to be the town mayor before getting elected to the House. Legislative redistricting pushed Brown out of his 73rd District for this year's elections, and he lost his bid to take another seat to Forsyth County Commissioner Debra Conrad.

Live Dealers (August 17, 2012)

Live dealers made their debut at Harrah's Cherokee Casino. The 15-year-old casino opened with slot machines and electronic versions of games such as poker. The live games, approved earlier this year by the General Assembly and the federal government, also comes near the end of an eight-year, $650 million expansion that has transformed the casino into a resort complete with upscale restaurants and shops, a new event center, hundreds of new on-site hotel rooms and a soon-to-be complete spa.

Medicare Debate (August 16, 2012)

Speaking in Charlotte, Republican Mitt Romney accused President Barack Obama of cutting Medicare – as each campaign charged the other with attempting to dismantle the federal health care program. The Medicare debate has raged since Romney named as his running mate U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the architect of a plan that would dramatically change the system. 

Health Plan (August 15, 2012)

The State Health Plan expects to save $22.4 million a year after awarding new contracts to administer the plan, which is currently handled solely by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, to three different providers. Blue Cross, the state's largest insurer, retained the biggest piece of the state's business. The State Health Plan covers 663,000 state employees, teachers and retirees and their dependents. The new contracts announced by the state Treasurer's office, which assumed oversight of the health plan as of Jan. 1, don't affect the benefits of members.

State Health Plan (August 13, 2012)

Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina has been chosen to continue as the claims processor for the state health plan. State Treasurer Janet Cowell’s office announced the award, but did not provide a breakdown on what the contract award is worth. The health plan, which covers 663,000 state employees teachers and others, paid BCBS about $110 million to process over $2.5 billion in claims in 2010. BCBS submitted a competitive bid to win the renewal, beating out Edina, Minn.-based United Healthcare for the job. The contract is expected to run out in 2016.

Film Incentives (August 11, 2012)

Movie-making in North Carolina is in the midst of an unprecedented surge, in part due to film incentives that face an uncertain future if lawmakers follow through on plans to overhaul the state tax structure next year. Jason Rosin, a member of the N.C. Film Council, said any industry that relies on the state for some sort of tax incentive should be concerned about the tax-reform effort that Republican legislative leaders promise to undertake in the next session.

Fracking Rights (August 11, 2012)

State authorities are pressuring Texas homebuilder D.R. Horton to return underground mineral rights to hundreds of homeowners in North Carolina. Their concerns have gained urgency after the legislature legalized a controversial form of natural gas extraction known as fracking. Under pressure from state Attorney General Roy Cooper and the N.C. Real Estate Commission, D.R. Horton had previously agreed to stop keeping fracking rights for itself from homes the Texas company sold in this state. The company in April also agreed to return those rights to homebuyers – as long as the buyer took the initiative to make the request. That left hundreds of homeowners in limbo who have not contacted D.R. Horton to get their fracking rights back.

Energy and Mining (August 12, 2012)

A panel created this year to oversee natural gas exploration in the state will begin its work without first receiving scrutiny from the State Ethics Commission. The 15-member Energy and Mining Commission is scheduled to begin meeting in September. The Ethics Commission met for several hours, but didn’t take up the issue of the board and its membership. The Ethics Commission isn’t set to meet again until November. Citing a potential conflict of interest, various environmental groups have criticized the selection of Ray Covington to the panel, which will oversee a controversial form of natural gas drilling known as hydraulic fracturing or “fracking.” 

Dix Hospital (August 12, 2012)

The state's first hospital for the mentally ill is slated to close its doors to patients  after 156 years of operation. The remaining patients at Dorothea Dix Hospital in Raleigh are being transferred to Central Regional Hospital in Butner, a new facility that critics say doesn’t have nearly enough beds to treat those with the most severe mental illnesses. “Dix has been just a critical part of keeping people with mental illness safe and out of jails,” said Ann Akland, former president of the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Wake County.

Mental Health (August 14, 2012)

North Carolina lawmakers are displeased over how a regional mental health administrator has operated since it was converted to a new kind of managed care agency that's supposed to be imitated statewide. The state Department of Health and Human Services told a General Assembly oversight committee the Western Highlands Network faced a roughly $4.5 million shortfall halfway through the year.

Dalton on Taxes (August 16, 2012)

Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Walter Dalton said that the first budget plan he proposes if elected won’t include a sales tax hike to fund education. However, he declined to rule out such a proposal in future years. Earlier this year, as he campaigned for the Democratic nomination, Dalton backed a proposal pushed by Gov. Beverly Perdue and legislative Democrats to increase the sales tax to provide more money to schools hit hard by state budget cuts.

Governor's Race (August 14, 2012)

Walter Dalton and Pat McCrory have agreed to three statewide debates this fall. One will be produced by WRAL-TV, and the others will be organized by the North Carolina Association of Broadcasters. The third debate is scheduled for Oct. 24 at 7 p.m. and will be held at North Carolina Wesleyan College in Rocky Mount. WRAL-TV, the college and the local chamber of commerce will host the debate. The North Carolina Association of Broadcasters has announced the gubernatorial candidates will first face off on Oct. 3 and again Oct. 16 at the University of North Carolina Television Studios.

Biden Visit (August 14, 2012)

Vice President Joe Biden followed the Republican presidential ticket into North Carolina, warning that their prescriptions might help the rich, but were the wrong medicine for the struggling middle class. Appearing at a Democratic rally, Biden said the addition of Paul Ryan, the architect of the House budget, to the GOP ticket only broadened the differences in the November election on a range of issues including Medicare, student loans and veterans programs. "He is a good, decent guy," Biden told about 900 people at the old Durham armory, referring to Ryan, the Wisconsin congressman. "But the differences could not be more clearly laid out. 

Romney Campaign (August 13, 2012)

A group supporting Mitt Romney is spending more than $10 million on a new television advertisement attacking President Barack Obama's handling of the economy. The ad from the so-called Super PAC, Restore Our Future, tells viewers that there are even more Americans without work this month. And it criticizes Obama for joking about the economy and suggesting that his plans have worked. The spot will air for more than a week across 11 presidential battleground states, including Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.  Read more.                       

Romney and Ryan (August 12, 2012)

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney introduced his vice presidential pick to a crowd of party faithful in Charlotte. Standing in front of a race car with his name on it, Romney offered a broad vision of his potential presidency but offered few specifics about how he would accomplish his promise of 12 million jobs. “I don’t want to be like Europe; I want to be like America.” The presence of Ryan, a seven-term Wisconsin congressman picked Saturday as the GOP vice presidential nominee, added a layer of hype to Romney’s first significant campaign tour in North Carolina.

Appointed (August 10, 2012)

Gov. Beverly Perdue has appointed former New Bern alderman Barbar Lee to fill the term of Rep. William Wainright, who died last month. However, she won't be on the ballot this fall. The local Democrats who chose Lee decided to pick Lenoir County Commissioner George Graham over Lee as the party's nominee for the 12th District seat in November. Wainwright had been the nominee. Graham has served on the county commission for 30 years. He'll take on Republican Jim Dancy in a strong Democratic district. The Legislature has no floor sessions scheduled for the rest of 2012.

Energy Merger (August 14, 2012)

The N.C. Utilities Commission ordered that some provisions of the 20 confidential settlement agreements filed as part of the Duke Energy-Progress Energy merger be made public. Agreements between the utilities and industrial customer groups, electric cooperatives, municipal power agencies and individual towns and cities removed potential opposition to the merger, which the commission approved June 29.

Safety Violations (August 17, 2012)

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission will meet with Duke Energy officials to discuss two apparent safety violations at the Harris nuclear power plant in New Hill that have been corrected. The NRC says the meeting will be held Aug. 24 at the commission's office in Atlanta. The apparent violations involve the plant's emergency operations facility and its technical support center.

Charlotte (August 13, 2012)

Much was made about Charlotte emerging on the big stage when Democrats awarded their 2012 national convention to the city last year. Charlotte is certainly New South, traditionally progressive on civil rights and a place where religion and government and business can all mingle without stepping on each other's toes. But Charlotte isn't a utopia. One in six residents lives below the poverty level. Its unemployment rate is one of the highest among the 50 biggest cities in the U.S. as those banks shed thousands of high-paying jobs.  

Interim Meeting Schedule

Wed, August 22, 2012 

  • Surplus Property Subcommittee of HSC on State Owned Assets 1228/1327 LB 
    • 10:00 AM   

Thu, August 23, 2012 

  • Joint Legislative Research Commission 1228/1327 LB
    • 10:00 AM 
  • Underground Utilities Working Group 415 LOB 
    • 2:00 PM 

Mon, August 27, 2012 

  • Program Evaluation Division 544 LOB 
    • 9:00 AM   
  • Child Fatality Task Force 1027/1128 LB 
    • 10:00 AM   

Wed, August 29, 2012 

  • Justice Warren Legislature Committee 1027/1128 LB
    • 10:00 AM   

Wed, September 05, 2012 

  • Perinatal Health Committee of Child Fatality Task Force 1027/1128 LB
    • 10:00 AM   
  • Blue Ribbon Commission 544 LOB
    • 10:00 AM   

Fri, September 07, 2012 

  • Joint Legislative Transportation Oversight Committee 1228/1327 LB 
    • 9:00 AM   

Mon, September 10, 2012 

  • Intentional Death Committee of Child Fatality Task Force 1027/1128 LB 
    • 10:00 AM   
  • Joint Mental Health Subcommittee 544 LOB
    • 1:00 PM   

Tue, September 11, 2012 

  • Leg Oversight Comm on Health and Human Services 643 LOB 
    • 10:00 AM   

Wed, September 12, 2012 

  • Blue Ribbon Commission - Sub-Com on Housing 415 LOB 
    • 10:00 AM   
  • Blue Ribbon Commission Sub-Com on Adult Care Transitions 544 LOB
    • 10:00 AM   

Thu, September 13, 2012 

  • Information Technology, Jt Leg Oversight Comm. 1027/1128 LB 
    • 10:00 AM   

Sat, September 15, 2012 

  • Unintentional Death Committee of Child Fatality Task Force 1027/1128 LB
    • 10:00 AM   

Mon, September 17, 2012 

  • Unintentional Death Committee of Child Fatality Task Force 1027/1128 LB
    • 10:00 AM   

Mon, September 24, 2012 

  • Child Fatality Task Force 1027/1128 LB
    • 10:00 AM   

Mon, October 08, 2012 

  • Intentional Death Committee of Child Fatality Task Force 1027/1128 LB
    • 10:00 AM   
  • Joint Mental Health Subcommittee 544 LOB
    • 1:00 PM   

Tue, October 09, 2012 

  • Leg Oversight Comm on Health and Human Services 643 LOB
    • 10:00 AM   

Wed, October 10, 2012 

  • Perinatal Health Committee of Child Fatality Task ForceContact: Elizabeth Hudgins 919-707-5626 1027/1128 LB
    • 10:00 AM   
  • Blue Ribbon Commission - Sub-Com on Housing 415 LOB
    • 10:00 AM   
  • Blue Ribbon Commission Sub-Com on Adult Care Transitions 544 LOB
    • 10:00 AM   

Mon, October 15, 2012 

  • Unintentional Death Committee of Child Fatality Task Force 1027/1128 LB
    • 10:00 AM   

Tue, October 16, 2012 

  • Legacy Costs from the State Health Plan, Pensions and ESC, House Select Committee on 605 LOB
    • 12:00 PM   

Mon, October 22, 2012 

  • Child Fatality Task Force 1027/1128 LB
    • 10:00 AM   

Wed, November 07, 2012 

  • House Redistricting 643 LOB
    • 1:00 PM   

Tue, November 13, 2012 

  • Leg Oversight Comm on Health and Human Services 643 LOB
    • 10:00 AM  
  • Legacy Costs from the State Health Plan, Pensions and ESC, House Select Committee on 605 LOB
    • 12:00 PM   

Wed, November 14, 2012 

  • Perinatal Heath Committee of Child Fatality Task Force 1027/1128 LB
    • 10:00 AM   
  • Blue Ribbon Commission - Sub-Com on Housing 415 LOB
    • 10:00 AM   
  • Blue Ribbon Commission Sub-Com on Adult Care Transitions 544 LOB
    • 10:00 AM   

Mon, November 19, 2012 

  • Unintentional Death Committee of Child Fatality Task Force 1027/1128 LB
    • 11:00 AM 
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