There is a Public School Crisis Alright – But it Has Nothing to Do with Unacceptable Teacher Pay

TEACHER PROTEST DAY in RALEIGH - Pic

by Diane Rufino, May 3, 2019

On Wednesday, May 1 (“May Day”), teachers all across the state ignored their responsibility to educate our children and met in Raleigh at the state legislature buildings to pressure the General Assembly for a list of demands. Under the guise of addressing a crisis in education or wanting to provide a better education for North Carolina children, the teachers, dressed in red shirts, descended on the legislative buildings to speak with legislators, to walk around simply to make their presence known, and to congregate outside on the commons to listen to speakers convince them that they continue to be neglected and mistreated.

In an article he wrote in Real Clear Education, Terry Stoops wrote:

For a second year, those aligned with the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE) insist on creating school-day hardship for hundreds of thousands of parents and kids. They’re taking delight in their disruption, keeping a tally of closed public school districts for the aptly named “All Out for Public Education” demonstration. Each new addition is cheered. “So why shut down the schools?” asks an activist in an April 21 letter to the editor of the Raleigh News & Observer. “To tell the state and the nation that there is a public school crisis right now in our state.”

That’s true. But our crisis has little to do with the list of demands union officials have published in advance of the walkout. Those who think so have sadly missed the point of being an educator. Look into the eyes of a child who can’t read her book or solve her math equation, and you will come face to face with North Carolina’s education crisis. Student achievement is dismal and has been for years. NCAE/NEA demands for money and power will do little to improve the achievement prospects for these fragile kids.   [Terry Stoops, “Teacher Walkout Ignores North Carolina’s Crisis of Student Achievement,” April 29, 2019]

Mr. Stoops is correct. The North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE), the state affiliate of the National Education Association (NEA) which is the country’s largest teacher union, together with Progress North Carolina, organized the Teacher Rally Day to push for a set of issues, including their progressive socialist agenda. Note that May 1 (again “May Day”) was the date chosen in the late 19th century for International Workers’ Day by the Socialists and Communists, and then chosen as Workers’ Day in the US.

The priority issues being pushed by the NCAE, teachers, and Progress North Carolina are as follows (word-for-word from a memo sent to legislators):

  • Provide enough school librarians, psychologists, social workers, counselors, nurses, and other health professionals to meet national professional-to-student standards.
  • Provide $15 minimum wage for all school personnel, 5% raise for all ESP’s (non-certified staff), teachers, administrators, and a 5% cost-of-living adjustment for retirees;
  • Expand Medicaid to improve the health of our students and families;
  • Reinstate state retiree health benefits eliminated by the General Assembly in 2017;
  • Restore advanced degree compensation stripped by the General Assembly in 2013.

NOTE: In MY day, when public education was still a huge success, there was one nurse per high school, one librarian, and a few academic/college counselors. That was it! Also, it should be noted that an analyst from the John Locke Society was at the rally and found the Medicaid expansion demand to be disingenuine. He said it is not likely at all that any student or family will benefit from Medicaid expansion.

And let’s look at the demand for increased compensation for a Master’s Degree in Education… I can speak to this with experience for I have such a Master’s Degree. The degree is a joke and what I learned to earn the degree was mostly progressive nonsense, crap, and more crap. There was nothing I learned that would have made me a better teacher or that would have benefitted any student in any of my classes. In fact, often I thought the lessons were intentionally seeking to make me a worse teacher, to dumb down my lessons, and to lessen my expectations from students with respect to academics. I thought it a joke that a teacher with such a useless degree should expect to receive higher pay. Here is what Mr. Stoops wrote about it:

The NCAE also demands the state legislature restore advanced degree compensation discontinued in 2013, a reform supported by decades of empirical research that consistently found teachers with master’s degrees were no more effective than those without. Rather than reward a select group of teachers with the credential, lawmakers in the Republican legislative majority redirected that funding to boost teacher pay for all teachers. After five consecutive years of base salary increases, North Carolina’s average teacher salary reached nearly $54,000 this year, a 20 percent increase over that period. At the same time, state-funded health insurance and pension contributions have surged. A sixth consecutive teacher pay hike is almost guaranteed.  [Ibid]

Republican legislators were prepared for the teachers and for the union demands. Most were not going to take them seriously, and for good reason. First, they disapproved of their tactic. Why would they plan a day of action during the school year, on a school day, when most schools are already behind in calendar school days on account of last fall’s hurricane Florence? Some schools were closed up to a full month. If they were planning a day to pressure the legislature for items that benefit THEM (not a single one would benefit students or improve the education of a single student), why didn’t they pick a day on THEIR time – say in June or July when the legislature would still be in session?

For the luxury of going to Raleigh on Wednesday to pressure the General Assembly for more money, over 1 million children, two-thirds of the public school students in North Carolina, were told to stay home, creating untold hardships for parents that had to forgo hourly wages to care for their children on what SHOULD have been a typical instructional day.

Second of all, the Republican-majority legislature has been very good to the teachers over the years, giving them a pay increase six times. A seventh pay increase is being proposed for this legislative session as well.

And so this was the approach that these Republican legislators took:

(1) On every floor of the legislative buildings, and at every corner and sitting area, there were very large boards propped up on easels, that reminded teachers that the legislature has already given them 6 pay increases (while the Democrat-controlled legislature not only did NOT increase their pay, but reduced their pay three times).

(2) On the tables in every single sitting area, and in the cafeteria, and on the chairs out in the halls, there were colored hand-out sheets titled “TEACHER PAY FACTS” to remind teachers of the TRUTH about North Carolina’s raising of teacher salaries and WHICH PARTY was responsible for it. (the facts, by the way, come from: www.ncteacherraise.com)

(3) Some legislators took the position that if the schools were closed in their district so teachers could travel to Raleigh, thus denying students an opportunity to be in school to learn, then they would absolutely REFUSE to support any of their issues and would vote against a seventh pay increase.

Here is the list of schools (public and charter schools) that closed on Wednesday for the Teacher Rally (aka, “teacher work day”).

▪ Alamance-Burlington Schools: 22,734 students

▪ Asheville City Schools: 4,317 students

▪ Bertie County: 2,104 students

▪ Brunswick County: 12,471 students

▪ Cabarrus County: 33,008 students

▪ Carter Community (charter school): 251 students

▪ Central Park School For Children (charter school): 629 students

▪ Chapel Hill-Carrboro: 12,307 students

▪ Charlotte-Mecklenburg: 147,406 students

▪ Chatham County: 8,833 students

▪ Cumberland County: 50,073 students

▪ Davie County: 6,110 students

▪ Durham County: 32,356 students

▪ Exploris Charter School: 454 students

▪ Franklin County: 8,119 students

▪ Global Scholars Academy (charter school): 215 students

▪ Guilford County: 71,413 students

▪ Hertford County: 2,725 students

▪ Hickory City: 4,077 students

▪ Hoke County: 8,758 students

▪ Iredell-Statesville Schools: 20,236 students

▪ IC imagine (charter school): 1,034 students

▪ Johnston County: 36,360 students

▪ Kannapolis City Schools: 5,438 students

▪ Lee County: 9.855 students

▪ Lexington City Schools: 2,983 students

▪ Maureen Joy Charter: 638 students

▪ Mooresville Graded School District: 5,980 students

▪ Nash Rocky Mount Schools: 14,801 students

▪ New Hanover County: 25,719 students

▪ Orange County Schools: 7,300 students

▪ PAVE Southeast Raleigh (charter school): 380 students

▪ Pitt County: 23,358 students

▪ Raleigh Charter High School: 563 students

▪ Robeson County: 21,673 students

▪ Rolesville Charter Academy: 578 students

▪ Thomasville City Schools: 2,273 students

▪ Vance County: 5,515 students

▪ Wake Forest Charter Academy: 767 students

▪ Wake County: 160,471 students

▪ Wayne County: 18,223 students

▪ Weldon City Schools: 794 students

▪ Wilson County: 9,041 students

▪ Winston Salem/Forsyth: 53,805 students

***  That’s a lot of students being denied a opportunity to learn and denied a rightful expectation of being educated.

Here are some facts about NC Teacher Pay that most people don’t know (including the teachers):

  • The average teacher salary in 2018-2019 is $53,975
  • North Carolina is ranked second highest in teacher pay in the southeast
  • There have been 6 pay increases, but 5 of them were consecutive increases.
  • North Carolina has the third fastest-rising teacher pay raises in the country
  • The average pay raise for teachers since 2013 is $8,600
  • The average percentage pay increase since 2013 is 19%
  • The average pay increase that Governor Cooper vetoed is 9.5%
  • The increase in the lifetime earning potential of a North Carolina teacher since 2013 is $237,200

People would support teachers in their appeals to the General Assembly if those appeals actually had anything to do with the real crisis in education, which is substandard academic performance (probably related to substandard teaching, or poor curriculum standards). The crisis is not in the state’s treatment of teachers or its funding of teachers. Terry Stoops breaks down the problem in clear terms:

Results from state achievement tests administered last year show that only 56% of elementary and middle school students were proficient in math, and just 57% were proficient in reading. Since 2014, math proficiency has increased by just over 5 percentage points, but reading has gained only a single percentage point. And that’s not the worst of it. A mere 42% of economically disadvantaged elementary and middle school students are proficient in reading, and around the same percentage reached math proficiency. Shockingly, only around four of 10 African-American students in elementary and middle school grades are proficient in reading and math. Within both these subgroups, far fewer earn scores that equate to college and career readiness. Think of what’s ahead – and not ahead — for these boys and girls as they become men and women. [Ibid]

The teachers assembled in Raleigh in red shirts and adopted as their rally logo the iconic “clenched fist.” Is there some hidden meaning? Or maybe it’s simply quite clear. They combined the color red (the color of communism) with the favorite symbol of revolution (resistance!) and communism.

Conservative organizations are urging teachers to “walk-away” from the union – from the NCAE. Parents just want their kids to be taught successfully and to have teachers who put kids and education first rather than their own agenda.

 

References:

List of schools closed for Teacher Rally in Raleigh – https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article229063454.html#storylink=cpy

Terry Stoops, “Teacher Walkout Ignores North Carolina’s Crisis of Student Achievement,” Real Clear Education, April 29, 2019. Referenced at: https://www.realcleareducation.com/articles/2019/04/29/teacher_walkout_ignores_north_carolinas_crisis_of_student_achievement__110324.html?blm_aid=35853&blm_aid=41423

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BOOK REVIEW: “And the Band Played On” (A Comprehensive Look at the AIDS Epidemic in the 1980’s) by Randy Shilts

BOOK - And The Band Played On, by Randy Shilts (#2)

Review by Diane Rufino, April 28, 2019

I just finished reading a truly wonderful book – AND THE BAND PLAYED ON, by Randy Shilts. The book chronicles the AIDS epidemic of the 1980’s, focusing on the cases, the symptoms, the mystery, the epidemiology, the panic, the politics, and ultimately the scientific breakthrough in identifying the causative agent, HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) and its mode of infection and spread.

I remember living through that frightening era in North Jersey and watching it unfold on TV and in the news, and seeing the many billboards on the highways into New York City announcing how many lives the yet unknown disease had claimed. As a student thinking of going into the field of science, it presented a most compelling reason why research scientists are so badly needed in this country and around the world. Each week that scientists are unable to unravel the causes of new diseases, or to figure out how individuals are infected or how it is spread, or to understand how to treat those who suffer, the more lives are claimed.

In the case of AIDS, if only officials had listened to scientists rather than pander to politics and especially, identity politics, the lives of many thousands of young men and women, and children too, would have been spared. I hope the story of the AIDS epidemic will enlighten those when the next deadly or potentially-deadly disease hits. In fact, the author opens the book by explaining: “I would not have been able to write this book if I had not been a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, the only daily newspaper in the United States that did not need a movie star to come down with AIDS before it considered the epidemic a legitimate news story deserving thorough coverage.”

The first documented case of a man dying from an opportunistic infection (pneumocystis carinii) due to a diminished immune system was in 1981. Cases followed of gay men presenting with a very rare skin cancer (Kaposi’s sarcoma, which previously only affected elder Italian and Jewish men). They too were found to have a severely diminished immune system. It wasn’t until two years later that the virus that killed off the critical Helper T cells (that mounts a person’s immune response) was isolated and characterized. French scientist Luc Montagne published his findings in May 1983. Due to a rivalry with the American research team, Dr. Robert Gallo of the National Cancer Institute (NCI), treatment in the United States ignored the French discovery, allowing thousands to become infected and die. AIDS was a death sentence back then. Dr. Gallo would isolate and characterize the virus a year later (although he characterized it incorrectly; the French got it right), and with utmost arrogance and an ego unmatched in the field of research, would insist and assert that it was he who identified the AIDS virus. President Ronald Reagan chose to remain silent about the disease for most of his time in the White House, but in 1987, he finally addressed the epidemic. On April 2, he appeared before the College of Physicians in Philadelphia to deliver what would be his first “major speech” on AIDS, calling it “public enemy number one.” And then the following month, on May 31, he agreed to speak at a dinner honoring the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR), which was founded by Rock Hudson shortly before he passed away (on Oct. 2, 1985). The president had been invited by actress Elizabeth Taylor, who was named by Hudson to be the chairman, to offer a few remarks.

By the time Reagan finally agreed to address the epidemic at amfAR, 36,058 Americans had been diagnosed that year with the disease and 20,849 had already died.

By 1984, it was estimated that approximately 33-40% of all gay men in San Francisco and New York City were HIV-positive. The virus had a long latency period – approximately 5 years (that is, once infected, full-blown AIDS would set in about 5 years later). Consequently, the chances of contracting the disease, for those who hadn’t already, were increasing rapidly and dangerously. As of 1986, after 5 years of seeing the epidemic unfold and trying to understand it, the cumulative number of AIDS cases in the United States reached 270,000 of which 179,000 died. By the spring of 1987, the disease had been reported in 113 countries (more than doubled the number of countries from just a year prior), with 51,000 persons infected outside the US. Most of those infected had visited the United States – New York City or San Francisco in particular. Others had visited Africa – the equatorial regions, such as Zaire. It was projected (correctly) that there would be over 3 million cases by 1991.

The book makes abundantly clear why the AIDS epidemic claimed so many lives, and needlessly so:

(1) Because it only affected gay men (at least in the first years). The 1980’s was still an era of extreme homophobia. Gay men were considered perverts, freaks, and disease-carriers. The unspoken sentiment was that as long as the disease was contained and limited to the gay community, that was good. It was a good thing, the homophobic community believed, to get rid of the freaks. This sentiment, by the way, clearly drove public policy at the time, resulting in a lack of funding for the epidemic.

(2) Because it predominantly affected gay men. The gay community was fiercely protective of its civil rights and the advances they had made in being able to live their promiscuous, detached, sex-charged lifestyle. Bath houses (centers for mass anonymous sex, orgies, drugs, etc) and other gay sex clubs and bars catered to this promiscuous sex-obsessed lifestyle. When health officials advised first that public notices be posted to reduce the number of partners, refrain from risky gay sex, and to engage in safe-sex, and then that bath houses be shut down, the gay community flew into absolute outrage, threatening to sue officials and to obtain injunctions on any and all such actions. The fierce resistance to plans designed to educate the gay community and to help stem the spread of the deadly disease in order to save lives was the one thing that condemned thousands and thousands (maybe more) to a needless death. The gay community viewed such actions as public notices and closing bath houses as stigmatizing their kind, bringing more unwelcome discrimination upon them, un-doing the progress they had already made, and ultimately paving the way for society to round them up under the guise of being carriers for disease and segregating them from heterosexuals. They refused to allow any of such consequences. If they had to die for their rights, they would. And they did. The ironic thing is that the gay community to an overwhelmingly extent spread the disease as an identity group, through its lifestyle and its sexual practices, yet it didn’t want to be stigmatized as an identity group by the disease when it came time to address its deadly contagion. It was always about saving lives and not about discrimination.

I recommend this book wholeheartedly.

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MOVIE REVIEW: UNPLANNED (You Will Never Think the Same Way Again)

UNPLANNED - Abby sees ultrasound

by Diane Rufino, April 13, 2019

If anyone hasn’t seen the movie UNPLANNED, I urge you to do so. There are several take-home messages from the movie, as expressed by the woman not only who wrote the book on which the movie was based (Abby Johnson) but on whose experiences the story was based. Three of those messages are:

(1 Most abortions are carried out in the earlier part of a pregnancy (up to 12 weeks; the first trimester). Planned Parenthood does an ultrasound on each woman/girl seeking an abortion to determine as closely as possible how far along the pregnancy is. How far along determines the type of abortion the clinic will perform to terminate that pregnancy. Abby had two abortions (each in the first trimester; within the first 8 weeks, if I remember correctly). She had the first abortion in college when she found out she was pregnant. It was a bad time, she wasn’t married yet, and her boyfriend also didn’t want her to have it. The second was a bit more troublesome. She ended up marrying her college boyfriend but after she found out he cheated on her, she filed for divorce. Just after she filed, she found out she was pregnant. She said she didn’t want anything to connect her to the man she was divorcing and so she had an abortion. In short, each abortion was for one primary purpose – Convenience. Planned Parenthood took care of each abortion. She was told the fetus was just a mass of cells and not a baby yet and she shouldn’t think twice about aborting it. As the movie shows, she eventually went to work for Planned Parenthood, as a counselor. She counseled women/girls using the same logic that helped ease her conscience when she sought to terminate her pregnancies – It’s your right to control your fertility, an unwanted pregnancy is a crisis and abortion allows a woman to deal with that crisis, and the fetus is only a mass of cells and so no one is killing a baby. About 7 years into her employment at Planned Parenthood, she was promoted to its director. One day, they were short-staffed and she was called in by the abortion doctor to assist. It was the first time ever that she had been in a room during a procedure (other than when she was the patient). The doctor told her to keep an eye on the ultra-sound (as he was doing a procedure guided by ultrasound) to make sure he was directing his equipment to the fetus. At 8 weeks, she saw for the first time that the growing fetus was not a mass of cells but already had the full form of a baby, with 10 fingers and 10 toes, with a heartbeat, and already capable of moving. She was immediately touched by what she saw. It was a baby. She watched as the doctor aimed his needle and suction equipment at the baby and how the baby frantically tried to avoid them. It twisted and turned and tried very hard to move as far away from them. Abby realized that the 8-week old baby had already exhibited one of the essential characteristics of all life – the ability to respond to stimuli and especially the ability to protect and preserve its life from threats to it.   THOSE SEEKING AN ABORTION MUST SEE AN ULTRASOUND and must watch an observe how “human” and full of life” their yet unborn (yet fully-formed) baby is.

(2) Planned Parenthood DOES NOT SHOW the woman/girl the ultrasound. That is their policy. Why? First, because it is afraid that seeing the ultrasound will cause the patient to change her mind. After all, Planned Parenthood is in the business of performing abortions. Second of all, Planned Parenthood needs to perform abortions; after all, that’s how it makes its money. That is how it pays its employees, is able to provide them with benefits, and to have the money it needs to lobby for its continued existence. The more abortions it can provide, the better. That is why it doesn’t show those scared, confused, tormented women/girls seeking an abortion an ultrasound. That is why its counselors only counsel “for” an abortion and never the other way around. The numbers of abortions would drop considerably if only Planned Parenthood had the decency to show those women/girls who come through its doors the ultrasounds of the life growing inside them.

(3) What you believe in defines you. If you truly believe in something and are true to your convictions, then you will conduct your life in accordance to your beliefs. That is what Jack Phillips, the Christian cake artist from Colorado did. That is what Barronelle Stutzman, a creative florist from Washington state did. That is what Martin Luther King Jr did, and that is what Rosa Parks did on a Montgomery city bus (“I was tired of giving in”). John Winthrop, who led the Puritans to Massachusetts urged his followers to be the salt of the earth, as Jesus had spoken about in his Sermon on the Mount, so that their new community would be “as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us.” President Reagan referenced the “city on a hill” metaphor in one of his speeches hoping that the country would see a re-birth of those values on which many of her colonies were founded. The point is that if we believe strongly enough, we must DO something about it to show others what we stand for.

I urge everyone to see UNPLANNED. Take your children. Use it as a teaching moment. My friends and I were profoundly touched by the movie.

I offer that introduction, the movie review, for the specific reason that ACTION is what is needed to stop the insidious lobbying of Planned Parenthood, including to the point of undermining one of our most precious liberty rights – the right of religious freedom; the right to believe as we are celled to believe and to exercise those beliefs, both in our private lives and in the way we conduct our lives in the public arena. After all, how can we ever be that “shining city on a hill” if we can’t exercise our religious beliefs in the public arena.

The following is an article by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the legal organization which has represented (successfully) both Jack Phillips and Barronelle Stutzman. The article explains how evil Planned Parenthood is and how it must be stopped from continuing to erode our precious liberties.

The Article: “California Wasn’t Forcing Churches to Pay for Abortions… Until Planned Parenthood Stepped In”:

In 2014, the California Department of Managed Healthcare (DMHC) issued a mandate forcing churches and other religious organizations to pay for elective abortions in their healthcare plans. And if they were to sidestep the abortion mandate by not providing health insurance, they face crippling fines and penalties under Obamacare.

But it wasn’t always this way.

Previously, the DMHC had taken the constitutional route. It was allowing exemptions for Christian universities, churches, and other pro-life and religious organizations that morally object to paying for abortions – just as it (rightfully) allows for religious exemptions from the state’s contraceptive mandate.

Unfortunately, this was short lived. So what changed?

Planned Parenthood got involved. It could not tolerate these exemptions. They were cutting into their profit; cutting into their bottom line.

That much is clear from the emails that Planned Parenthood sent to officials at the DMHC and the California Health and Human Services Agency. In those emails, Planned Parenthood asked agency officials to “fix” the “issue” of religious organizations receiving exemptions from the abortion mandate. Planned Parenthood also threatened to promote a legislative “solution” if the administrative agency didn’t act. The abortion giant demanded that the DMHC:

(i)  Refuse to approve any further exemptions.

(ii)  Rescind the approval of healthcare plans that offer an exemption to the elective abortion mandate.

(iii)  “Find a solution to fix the already approved plans” that offer exemptions for religious organizations.

But forcing religious groups to act against their pro-life beliefs under the threat of government punishment violates federal law and is unconstitutional. That is why Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) has asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit to correct this on behalf of three churches in California.

Again, what you believe in is what defines you. What our country stands for defines her. And this issue of abortion is one that defines us as a people and as a nation. We need to stand up for what we know is right. Not only are the eyes of the country and the world on us, but God is watching as well.

 

[Alliance Defending Freedom, “California Wasn’t Forcing Churches to Pay for Abortions… Until Planned Parenthood Stepped In,” April 8, 2019. Referenced at: https://www.adflegal.org/detailspages/blog-details/allianceedge/2019/04/08/california-wasn-t-forcing-churches-to-pay-for-abortions-until-planned-parenthood-stepped-in?sourcecode=10004429&id=3 ]

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The NC House: Hospitals are Too Important to Fail, but Taxpayers are Unimportant to Save Them Money

CCTA - HB184 (put it where it belongs - the trash)

by Diane Rufino, April 7, 2019

This past week, NC house representatives in Raleigh addressed one of the biggest ideological battles of this legislative session – does government work for the taxpayer or for special interests, and the answer has come back to us loud and clear —- the NC House works for special interests, namely, such healthcare powerhouses as the North Carolina Healthcare Association (the state hospital) and Vidant Health.

On Wednesday, April 3, the NC House voted to pass the anti-Folwell bill, HB-184 – a bill crafted by the big healthcare players in the state and forced upon the lowly taxpayers by (many) bill sponsors who clearly have ties to the medical field in order to remove NC Treasurer Dale Folwell from his task of fixing the State Health Plan mess, saving the state, state employees and retirees, and taxpayers money, and preventing a financial crisis all so that they can continue over-billing the state through the Plan in order that their status and interests remain strong and well-funded.

HB-184 has one goal and one goal only, despite the title of the bill (“Study State Health Plan Design”), and that is to block implementation of Folwell’s plan and the reforms to State Health Plan.

We’ve all heard the phrases “Too big to fail” or “Too important to fail.” We heard these at the time of the federal bail-out bills, when the federal government stepped in to rescue specific banks and businesses from financial crises. In other words, the government was picking those who it deemed were most important; it was picking and making “winners.” It was this mentality and this action on the part of the federal government, with taxpayer money, that led to the start of the great Tea Party movement – a movement tasked and devoted to constitutionally limited government, fiscal responsibility, and oversight in government to identify abuse and over-reached. The Tea Party seeks nothing more than to ensure that government works as intended, and no more.

When a government becomes more concerned with special interests, then it ceases to be a government “for the people.” When a government is more concerned that hospitals, banks, car manufacturers, and other special interests are shielded from failure (despite their bad management decisions) than making sure the taxpayers are taxed only for those costs and services that touch on their lives and residency in the country or state and when government is more concerned with the financial solvency of those businesses and institutions rather than the financial well-being of its citizens, treating them like an endless source of revenue and nothing more, then it ceases to be a government “for the people.” Gradually, the people become an enslaved taxing class, with hard-earned money going down rat-holes that provide not a single benefit to them. And that’s the threat we are facing should the NC Senate pass HB-184 and this horribly bad bill be signed into law.

The first step, however, has been taken. The NC House has decided to remove Treasurer Dale Folwell completely from his responsibility of straightening out the State Health Plan mess. Reporters and commentators, and opponents of the bill have described the vote on Wednesday as “Dale Folwell losing to NC Healthcare and Vidant Health and other interested healthcare parties. But Folwell perhaps said it best to a reporter: “I didn’t lose anything today. It’s the taxpayers who lost. The taxpayers lost because every dollar that’s unnecessarily spent on health care is a dollar that cannot be spent on public safety, public education, or public roads.” House legislators who voted for the bill clearly did not see the issue in those terms. They cowered to the scare tactics that big healthcare monopolies like Vidant Health might have to close rural hospitals.

State employees, retirees, and taxpayers are not the only ones who have been opposed to this bill. State conservative policy organizations, conservative policy think-tank organizations, conservative talk-radio shows, and conservative journals are united against it as well – the Civitas Institute, the John Locke Society, the Carolina Journal, the County Compass, Wake Up Call (107.1), the Chad Adams Show, etc.

I.  BACKGROUND:

A.  DALE FOLWELL and the STATE HEALTH PLAN

Dale Folwell enjoys an outstanding reputation, and not only for being an all-around nice guy and a man of utmost integrity. He did an excellent job serving four terms in the NC General Assembly but an even more significant job when he served in Governor Pat McCrory’s administration (2013-2015). Serving as Assistant Secretary of Commerce with the Division of Employment Security​, he took the most “broke and broken” unemployment insurance system in the United States and turned it into a national leader in debt-repayment, quality and customer service. This outstanding accomplishment continues to save North Carolina’s employers significant sums annually.

Folwell is known, and rightfully so, as a problem solver.

In December 2015, he resigned from McCrory’s administration to run for the State Treasurer position. The State Treasurer is the keeper of the public purse. In North Carolina, the Treasurer over-sees such big ticket items as the State Pension Plan, from which one in every ten North Carolinians receive a check each month, and the State Health Plan, which for those who do not know, is the state-administered insurance plan used by state employees; it pays for the medical expenses of teachers, state troopers, firefighters, and other state and local employees, and retirees (retired state employees). There are more than 727,000 North Carolina employees alone on the Plan, not including dependents and retirees. The State Health Plan is equivalent in size to the domestic employment base of Amazon, Bircher-Hathaway, and JP Morgan combined.

[To learn more about what the state Treasurer in NC does, check out Dale Folwell’s presentation, “The Price of Promises” – https://www.johnlocke.org/event/the-price-of-promises-2/. He begins talking about the State Health Plan at time 12:30]

When Folwell took office as North Carolina’s Treasurer, he was faced with a crisis concerning the State Health Plan and tasked with solving it. When he ran for the position of Treasurer in 2016, many voted for him expecting him to solve the Plan’s problems as its administration was in the Treasurer’s portfolio. And as soon as he won the election, he immediately went to work to reform the state’s Plan. The State Health Plan is seriously underfunded and currently burdens the state with unsustainable unfunded liabilities (obligations to employees and retirees), and therein lies the crisis. In fact, a recent report by the Pew Charitable Trusts confirmed that NC’s unfunded retirement and health care costs are among the worst in the country. The reality is that the Plan that Folwell inherited is only 5% funded, with $35 billion of the Plan’s liabilities being unfunded. Current spending projections estimate that the Plan will be insolvent by 2023, and unable to pay providers, unless action is taken. Without action, the state Treasurer estimates that every man, woman, and child in the state would have to pay almost $3,200 each to cover our current promises of health care for state and local government retirees.

Just a few days ago (April 4), Folwell gave even more troubling figures. He told the John Locke Foundation that the State Health Plan, which covers 720,000 state employees, retirees, and dependents, is less than 4% funded.

Back in December, Folwell proposed a possible solution – to restructure reimbursement rates for the State Health Plan. His intention was to tie State Health Plan rates to the federally-set Medicare rates, setting reimbursements at up to 235% of Medicare rates, which he calculated would save hundreds of millions of dollars annually. That sounds more than reasonable, yes? Bur for many providers, this would be less than what they currently charge the Plan for their services. A December 2018 NC Health News article on the issue explained, “Hospitals argue that governmental payers such as Medicare and Medicaid both pay less than what it costs to provide care, and so they often depend on commercial payers, such as the State Health Plan, to pay a little more and make up the difference.”

Healthcare prices for the privately-insured, as well as those on the State Health Plan, are higher due to the lower rates paid by Medicaid and Medicare. This essentially means that North Carolinians pay for those programs directly though their state and federal tax dollars, then additionally subsidize the programs through higher insurance prices that are passed on to them by their private or state health insurers. Yet Governor Roy Cooper and some legislators want to add an additional half a million enrollees to North Carolina’s Medicaid program through Medicaid expansion during this current legislative session. House Democratic leader Darren Jackson (D-Wake), for example, said too many patients use hospitals for routine care because they lack health insurance, and so his solution is Medicaid expansion.

Medicaid expansion would likely further compound the financial burden on our state regarding healthcare.

We can start to see what is coming down the road for taxpayers.

Folwell’s plan was/ is called the “Clear Pricing Project” (or “Clear Pricing Plan”) to highlight the fundamental and essential elements of his reform – transparency in the costs of services, procedures, tests, scans, etc and what hospitals charge and establishing a standard formula to use in paying hospitals. The plan, which he planned to launch in January 2020, would require health care providers to publish their prices and not alter or inflate them, thus providing health care consumers pricing information upfront and giving them the opportunity to shop around and compare. The plan would spark competition and ultimately reduce costs. Folwell understands the benefits of a free market type solution.

As Folwell moved forward with his reforms (again, the “Clear Pricing Project” or “Clear Pricing Plan”), NC Healthcare Association and Vidant Health began to push back. The big hospitals claim they will suffer if Folwell’s Clear Pricing Plan goes into effect; they have threatening that if their reimbursements are cut, they may very likely have to close rural hospitals. The scare tactics have been circulated and people are buying into this fake media. On social media and on their website, the Partnership for Innovation in Health Care (PIHC) makes arguments regarding a potential loss of health care jobs if the state implements Folwell’s plan, while claiming that the Treasurer already has transparency in hospital pricing. That last claim, of course, is patently false. In fact, it is the absolute lack of transparency by hospitals in their pricing that led Folwell to suspect that they were not dealing with the State Health Plan honestly and in good faith. And it was the absolute refusal of the hospitals to provide Folwell with pricing information that led the hospitals to seek to have his efforts thwarted and his inquiries stopped and his efforts thwarted. (See later, in the debate from the House floor). Meanwhile, the group that will be most directly affected by any change to the State Health Plan, the State Employees Association of North Carolina (SEANC) has endorsed Folwell’s plan.

The State Employees Association contends that hospitals and other providers have milked the State Health Plan for years by overcharging its members to pay for the health care costs of others – those who are uninsured. Furthermore, it believes the hospitals are being dishonest about their financial situations. SEANC spokeswoman Ardis Watkins doesn’t think hospitals are going to suffer despite their claims. Watkins says: “There’s the facade that nonprofit hospitals operate on a shoestring budget, and that every dollar that comes in for care is spent on care and reinvested in that community. The dark truth is that this razor thin margin they speak of is often the result of hiding their profits in offshore insurance plans and investments overseas, venture capital firms, ACOs, and for-profit telemedicine and software programs.”

The State Employees Association of North Carolina supports Folwell’s efforts. The organization contends hospitals and other providers have milked the State Health Plan for years by overcharging its members to pay for the health care costs of others.

And so, in the hospitals’ decision to frustrate rather than work with the Treasurer, House Bill 184 (HB-184) was born.

CCTA - HB184 (why it will cost NC)

BFOLWELL MODELS the NC STATE HEALTH PLAN AFTER MONTANA’S PLAN – To Save Money

Here is how the NC State Plan (the NC health insurance plan) works: Under the current system, North Carolina contracts with Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina and the company negotiates how much it pays hospitals and doctors for procedures. But those rates are considered confidential. Why? That can’t make sense, or be tolerated, when the Plan is of a contract nature which legally implies complete transparency and a “meeting of the minds.” Besides, when taxpayer money is at stake, there MUST be full disclosure and transparency. As a consequence of the hospitals believing their rates are confidential, Treasurer Dale Folwell doesn’t know how much the state health plan is paying for individual surgeries or doctors’ visits. And the hospitals, as it turns out, aren’t willing to deviate from their position to provide him with that information.

But he does know that the prices are high, inconsistent, and aren’t in line with costs charged by other hospitals. He believes the state is entitled to accountability but he has been unable to get the hospitals on the same page.

The State Health Plan, as mentioned in the previous section, will run out of money by 2023 at which time it will be forced to dip into the general fund. To avert this crisis, Folwell has studied possible solutions (including looking at how other states have dealt with a similar problem) and has come up with an approach which he believes will save the state (and taxpayers) money. Several conservative groups agree with him. This is the Clear Pricing Project, or Clear Pricing Plan, that was mentioned earlier.

According to Folwell, starting in 2020, the state will use Medicare rates as a starting point to decide how much to pay doctors and hospitals for care.

Where did he come up with this plan? Well, it turns out that Montana made a very similar change a few years ago and saved a lot of money.

Alex Olgin explained best, in his article “NC Makes Similar Changes to State Health Plan as Montana” (Oct. 25, 2018), how Treasurer Folwell assessed the State Health Plan problem and came to adopt the Montana solution. In that article, he wrote:

Because Treasurer Folwell doesn’t know how much the state health plan is paying for individual surgeries or doctors’ visits, he’s trying the same approach his counterpart in Montana took a few years ago. The plan sets the rates, and tells doctors and hospitals what it will pay them. Marilyn Bartlett led the change starting in 2014.

At the time, Montana lawmakers said the state health plan needed to get its spending under control for its 31,000 state employees or it would run out of money. Bartlett looked at the data and found the hospitals represented a large part of the spending. She knew she needed to get those costs under control, so she decided to use Medicare rates as a reference point. Bartlett said she offered to reimburse hospitals more than double that amount, which was still less than what some providers were getting paid before. “So we would say I’m not even going to get into the argument that you can’t make a profit or you can at Medicare. There are articles out there that say some hospitals do make a profit and most of them are not-for-profit hospitals,” Bartlett said. “I just said we’re offering more than double that and if that’s not going to work, tell us why. What’s the reasoning?”

Bartlett met a lot of resistance from hospitals, doctors, lobbyists and even some lawmakers. And there were a few holdout hospitals that hadn’t yet signed onto the plan by the time it launched in 2016. But she said all eventually agreed and signed on. That’s because state health plans are so large, they have significant market power.

Bartlett doesn’t know the current cost savings because she now works in a different part of state government, but she projected that within the first 18 months of the change, she saved the state about $16 million. She also said for three years, state employees didn’t have any rate increases.

Marilyn Bartlett was not the state Treasurer or even a state government official. She was brought in, as an insurance insider, to advise the state on how they could reform the state health plan and save money. In a conference room in Montana’s state capital of Helena, she laid out her plan. To her knowledge, no one had ever tried anything like this.

But Bartlett, and Montana’s state government, knew they would be taking on some of the state’s power players: hospitals and health insurers, and their politically-connected lobbyists. If her plan worked, it could create a model for other states and for employers everywhere.

Marshall Allen, in his article, “In Montana, a Tough Negotiator Proved Employers Don’t Have to Pay So Much for Health Care,” wrote:

Bartlett knew employers have negotiating power that few of them use. The health care system depends on the revenue produced by the surgeries, mammograms, lab tests and other services it provides, and it can ill afford to lose it. Bartlett got the job. She would call the industry’s bluff.

The conventional wisdom is that insurance companies want to reduce health care spending. In reality, insurers’ business plans hinge on keeping hospitals and other providers happy — and in their networks — often at the expense of employers and patients.

Employers often feel caught between rising costs and concern that changes they make will be bad for their employees, says Michael Thompson, president of the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions (NAHPC), which represents groups of employers who provide benefits to more than 45 million Americans. And, he says, they rely on the advice of industry experts instead of digging into the details.

Michael Thompson, president of NAHPC warns: “We have got to get control of this thing or it’s going to bring down the economy, our personal bankrolls and our wages,” he says. “It’ll cost jobs in the United States and it’ll bring down our public programs. This is not a small issue. It’s a huge issue.”

Mr. Allen also explained how entrenched healthcare benefit plans are in this country:

Employer-sponsored health benefits are almost as old as America itself. In 1798, John Adams, the second U.S. president, signed a law that took 20 cents per month from the paychecks of U.S. seamen to fund their medical care. After the Civil War, lumber, mining and railroad companies in the American West withheld money from employee paychecks to pay for doctors and hospitals.

After World War II, such plans became mainstream. Today, about 150 million Americans get their health benefits through their employers. The industry is dominated by what some call the “BUCAH” plans ­— Blue Cross Blue Shield, UnitedHealth Group, Cigna, Aetna and Humana. Half a dozen health insurers currently sit near the top of the Fortune 500, with combined annual revenue of about half a trillion dollars.

It is very clear why Dale Folwell looked to Montana as the model to fashion reforms to the NC State Health Plan. Not only was its plan going broke (like NC’s plan is), but the insurance carrier (Cigna) that managed the plan and the hospitals were refusing to cooperate with Montana’s state government (exactly as Blue Cross and Blue Shield of NC and NC Healthcare Association and Vidant Health are doing here).

Marshall Allen explains what Ms. Bartlett was up against:

Montana, like many large employers, self-funds its plan. That means it pays the bills and hires an insurance company or other firm to process the claims. More than half of American workers are covered by self-funded plans. As the boss in this arrangement, Bartlett assumed she’d have access to detailed information about how much the plan, which was managed by Cigna, paid for procedures at each hospital. But when she asked Cigna for its pricing terms with the hospitals, Cigna refused to provide them.

Its contracts with hospitals were secret, Cigna representatives told her. That didn’t sit well with Bartlett, she recalls. “The payer cannot see the contract,” she says, “but we agree to pay whatever the contract says we will pay.”

A cumbersome querying process set up by Cigna allowed her to get individual claims and other limited information. But the company would only give her aggregate data, with things lumped together, to show what she paid each hospital. It was like telling a family trying to reduce its grocery spending that it could only see what it spent in a year, not a breakdown of what bread and fruit and other items cost at each market.

When Bartlett continued to demand information, Cigna balked; it needed to balance what she wanted with keeping the hospitals happy. “I don’t see the need for a balance,” she recalls telling them. “I am representing the payer.”

Cigna declined to answer questions about its relationship with Montana’s plan, but it said in a statement that it had prioritized the plan’s preferences and needs.

Bartlett ultimately settled on a radical solution: The plan would set its own prices for the hospitals.

In the illusory world of hospital billing, the hospitals typically charge a high price for a procedure, then give insurers in-network discounts. These charges and discounts might be different for each procedure at each hospital, depending on who has more leverage during negotiations.

The discounts, however, are meaningless if the underlying charges aren’t capped. When Bartlett looked at a common knee replacement, with no complications and a one-night hospital stay, she saw that one hospital had charged the plan $25,000, then applied a 7 percent discount. So, the plan paid $23,250.

A different hospital gave a better discount, 10 percent, but on a sticker price of $115,000. So, the plan got billed $103,500 — more than four times the amount it paid the other hospital for the same operation. Bartlett recalled wondering why anyone would think this was okay.

Under Bartlett’s proposed new strategy, the plan would use the prices set by Medicare as a reference point. Medicare, the federal government’s insurance for the disabled and patients over 65, is a good benchmark because it makes its prices public and adjusts them for hospitals based on geography and other factors. Montana’s plan would pay hospitals a set percentage above the Medicare amount, a method known as “reference-based pricing,” making it impossible for the hospitals to arbitrarily raise their prices.

The situation in North Carolina, as Dale Folwell came to find out, was exactly the same.

Alex Olgin wrote how Treasurer Folwell contacted Ms. Bartlett (a feisty 64-year grandmother) to find out how she came up with Montana’s plan and how she was able to save her state money. The first thing she told Folwell was to “be prepared for pushback.” She was right. She also advised him to be open to hearing from the hospitals. He tried that.

The article explained:

That pushback has already started in North Carolina. The North Carolina Medical Society and the North Carolina Healthcare Association both oppose the plan and say they have other ideas about how to save money. The medical society said in a statement that “radical cost-cutting measures” could negatively impact access to care for state employees.

Treasurer Dale Folwell said providers started receiving information about new reimbursement rates, which on average are 177% higher than Medicare rates. If providers don’t agree to the rates, Folwell said, they’ll no longer be considered in-network.

The state health plan spends over $3.3 billion a year and Folwell estimates these changes will save the plan about $300 million. He acknowledges that some providers will get less, but others — like primary care doctors and mental health practitioners — could see higher reimbursement rates.

The solution to the current State Health Plan problem is that hospitals cannot continue using the Plan as their “endless fund” to recoup the costs they think they are entitled to. The fund is for state employees, their dependents, and retirees ONLY. The hospitals cannot continue to submit rates (confidentially, secretly) in order to keep their institutions fat and happy. The hope is, for Treasurer Folwell, in their final analysis, the hospitals and Blue Cross and Blue Shield will decide it is the “lesser pain” to accept a new contract (the reforms) than to be left out of the deal entirely. 

References:  Alex Olgin, “NC Makes Similar Changes to State Health Plan as Montana,” WFAE, Oct. 25, 2019, and Marshall Allen, “In Montana, a Tough Negotiator Proved Employers Don’t Have to Pay So Much for Health Care,” ProPublica, October 2, 2018.

DALE FOLWELL - thumbnail     Dale Folwall, NC State Treasurer

C.  HOUSE BILL 184 (HB-184): “Study State Health Plan Design”

House Bill 184 (HB-184) has as its primary sponsors Reps. Josh Dobson (R-Avery, McDowell, Mitchell), Julia Howard (R-Davie, Rowan), William Brisson (R-Bladen, Sampson), and Gale Adcock (D-Wake). Harry Warren (R-Rowan) was a co-sponsor, and Rep. Greg Murphy (R-Pitt) not only voted to move the bill out of the Health Committee but also voted YES on the House floor. Rep. Donna McDowell White (R-Johnson) was also among the 75 who ultimately voted to pass the bill when it came to a House vote. I mention these representatives for a reason.

HB-184 is legislation essentially crafted by the hospital lobbyists that derails the reform process of the State Health Plan (SHP) and adds up to a billion in unnecessary financial liabilities. Officially titled “Study State Health Plan Design,” the bill deceptively purports to be a “study” bill. The reality is that it is a “stalling” bill, allowing the hospitals to enjoy its current status vis-à-vis the State Health Plan until the 2020 election.

The result of HB-184, as Treasurer Folwell and almost all conservative think-tanks and policy experts agree, would be to would force taxpayers, state agencies, and government employees to pay more to cover higher insurance costs.

The bill has two sections. The first section creates and authorizes the Joint Legislative Study Committee on the Sustainability of the North Carolina State Health Plan to consider how the Plan (the SHP) can be restructured to promote long-term financial health. Clearly, reform is needed: If it continues its current path, the State Health Plan will be unable to pay its debts (ie, “liabilities”) as soon as 2023, which is only four short years away. This insolvency would be catastrophic to the state budget.

Section 1(b) dictates how the Study Committee will be comprised. The Committee is to be comprised of the following ‘voting’ members: four members of the House of Representatives (appointed by the Speaker of the House, who happens to be pro-hospital and against the taxpayer); four members of the Senate (appointed by the President Pro Tempore); the Executive Administrator of the State Health Plan; one member appointed by the North Carolina Medical Society; one member appointed by the North Carolina Healthcare Association; one member appointed by the North Carolina Nurses Association; one member appointed by the State Employees Association of North Carolina; one member appointed by the Retired Government Employees Association of North Carolina; one member appointed by the North Carolina Association of Educators; and one member appointed by the North Carolina Psychiatry Association. The Committee will also include the State Treasurer (Folwell) but he is only an ex officio and has no vote. If it chooses, the Committee may increase its voting membership in any way it thinks best.

Section 2 of the bill prevents the Treasurer and the Board of Trustees for the State Health Plan from making any changes to the provider network or reimbursement rate fee schedule until December 31, 2020. In other words, this section mandates that the current arrangement with third party administrator Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina continues (unchanged) until that date. This prohibition extends 8 months after the study is concluded, and a full two years into the four-year timeline for the plan’s financial ruin.

Why is the date “December 31, 2020” important? Because that date is after the November election and will give the healthcare lobbyists the chance to get Folwell out of office This bill would block any reforms until the start of 2021, when there may be a new Treasurer – one more aligned with the hospitals and healthcare services.

As you will see below, Rep. Michael Speciale attempted to remove Section 2, but was countered by the bills’ sponsors, explaining that to do so would “gut the bill completely.” So we see the real purpose of the bill…. It’s not really a “study” bill after all. It’s really a stall tactic to maintain the status quo until after the 2020 election, when there may be a new Treasurer. Section 2, together with Section 1(b), is nothing more than a political hit on the office of the State Treasurer.

It should be noted that the actuarial note for the bill estimates that the prohibition on changes will add an additional $1 billion to the state’s $33 billion unfunded liability. Therefore, in addition to delaying a solution to the problem, the bill would add to the state’s liability, and cost by half a billion over the next three years.

As mentioned above, the State Employees Association of North Carolina (SEANC) is the group that will be most directly affected by any change to the State Health Plan. They put their faith in Dale Folwell. This is what the SEANC says about HB-184:

“The legislators [in the NC House] will vote on HB-184 – a bad bill that will cost taxpayers and the State Health Plan members more than $1 million per day if it is enacted. HB-184 was written at the behest of hospital lobbyists to stop Treasurer Dale Folwell from moving forward with SEANC-supported reforms to the State Health Plan. Our initiative – the Clear Pricing Project – will save Plan members $57 million every year in reduced out-of-pocket expenses. It will also save taxpayers more than $258 million annually. Hospitals want to delay these important reforms, and HB-184 would block Treasurer Folwell from implementing the Clear Pricing Project in 2020. Even though the State Health Plan Board of Trustees unanimously approved the Clear Pricing Project last year, hospitals want the General Assembly to ‘study’ the issue for two years. That’s code for ‘let the hospitals keep overcharging for care while we prevent the Treasurer from doing the job he was elected to do.’”

To summarize, HB-184 is a very bad bill. It is bad for state employees and retirees, and bad for North Carolina taxpayers. On the other hand, it is good for the hospitals, good for doctors and nurses, and good for state legislators who are in bed with the hospitals and their lobbyists.

This brings us to the conflicts of interest that surround this bill.

Primary sponsors of HB184 received notable political contributions from the North Carolina Healthcare Association in 2018: Rep. Josh Dobson (R-McDowell County) received $5,200, Rep. Julia Howard (R-Davie County) received $2,000, Rep. William Brisson (R-Bladen County) received $3,000, and Rep. Gale Adcock (D-Wake County) received $6,200. Partnership for Innovation in Healthcare publicly thanked them for sponsoring the bill. Oh, you’ve never heard of this group, Partnership for Innovation in Healthcare? Don’t feel bad… neither did anyone else. With all the new attention given to the State Health Plan and Folwell’s plans to reform it, a new special interest group arrived on Jones Street to peddle influence…. Yep, you got it – the Partnership for Innovation in Health Care (PIHC).

But that’s not all. Several legislators probably should have recused themselves from the vote, being incapable of not giving too much weight to the hospital’s interests. Among such conflicts, these are the more notable ones: Rep Josh Dobson’s wife works at a hospital, Rep. Greg Murphy does his surgeries at Vidant, Reps. Harry Warren and Gale Adcock work at a hospital, and Rep. Donna McDowell White worked in Home Heath.

The Civitas Institute has done some further digging into the conflicts and into the political incentives that may have helped legislators decide to support HB-184. According to an article written by Civitas president Donald Bryson on Friday, April 5 (“State Health Plan Fight: Follow the Money, Part 2”), the critical question to ask is this: Who is the Partnership for Innovation in Health Care ?

Bryon writes in that article:

A glance at the group’s website shows a post office box in Cary: Post Office Box 4449, Cary, NC 27519.

A bit of rummaging at the Federal Election Commission and the State Board of Elections reveals that this is the same post office box used by both the North Carolina Healthcare Association (formerly known as the North Carolina Hospital Association) and the North Carolina Hospital Association Political Action Committee (PAC). It seems that the hospital lobby has very close ties to Partnership for Innovation in Health Care (PIHC).

Bryson then asks the question: “Since PIHC and the North Carolina Hospital Association PAC share a post office box, is there a correlation between legislators that have sponsored HB-184 and political contributions made by the PAC?”

He concludes that there is.

Bryson continues in his article:

According to records from the North Carolina State Board of Elections, of the four primary sponsors on HB184, all four received contributions from the North Carolina Hospital Association PAC. The maximum contribution for state legislative races in 2018 was $5,200 per election. Of the four primary sponsors, which are listed below, two received maximum contributions while the average contribution for the primary sponsors was $3,280.

HBi184 - graph #1

Of the 21 co-sponsors on HB184, 12 received contributions from the North Carolina Hospital Association PAC. Two of the co-sponsors received the maximum contribution, and the average contribution for co-sponsors was $1,762.

HBi184 - graph #2

In all, the North Carolina Hospital Association PAC made $39,300 in political contributions to legislators that have signed on to HB184.

Admittedly, there are plenty of legislators who received contributions from the Hospital Association PAC and did not sign on to this legislation but zeroing in on that misses the larger point.

Bryson concludes that there is clear and ample evidence to show that the North Carolina hospital lobby has a great deal of interest in defeating Treasurer Folwell’s plan to reform the State Health Plan.

He then asks a few follow-up questions: (1) Why has the hospital lobby created a shell-organization (the Partnership for Innovation in Health Care, or PIHC) to advocate on its behalf? (2) Why is the hospital lobby opposed to having transparency in their pricing? (3) Why is the hospital lobby fighting pricing transparency on the state health plan while some at the same time lawmakers are proposing a new hospital tax to pay for Medicaid Expansion?

Civitas (Donald Bryson) has done some excellent investigative work and has uncovered some troubling activity on the part of the hospitals and some serious connections between their lobbyist and PAC organization and the legislators who are supposed to be working on behalf of the people. Bryson’s “connecting of the dots” should cause us all to be skeptical of the hospitals’ motives and to feel betrayed by those who sponsored and who voted in favor of HB-184.

Bryson ended his article with this comment: “The Treasurer’s plan is not necessarily a silver bullet, but the unfunded liability is at least 130% larger than our state government’s annual budget. Jones Street needs solutions before we bankrupt ourselves. Meanwhile, expect PIHC and the North Carolina Healthcare Association to retreat to the same tired boogeyman that they use to advocate for Medicaid Expansion and fight Certificate of Need reform – the impact on rural hospitals.”

Reference: Donald Bryson, “ State Health Plan Fight: Follow the Money, Part 2” – https://www.nccivitas.org/civitas-review/state-health-plan-fight-follow-money-part-2/

 

CCTA - HB184 (Operation Sell-Out)

 

II.  THE HOUSE FLOOR: DEBATE & VOTE (Wednesday, April 3)

It was clear from the start that House leadership, namely House Speaker Tim Moore, was intent on moving HB-184 along very quickly. It went to the Health Committee last Tuesday (March 26) where it passed easily, with only two opposing votes – one from Rep. Phil Shepard (R-Onslow) and the other from Rep. Michael Wray (D-Halifax, Northampton). During the discussion period, Rep. Shepard spoke in opposition to the bill, saying: “Constituent feedback is 2-1 against this bill. There’s a lot of unanswered questions for me and a lot of my constituents. Why the rush to move this bill? We need time to do a thorough analysis of both sides’ claims.”

After passing out of the Health Committee, HB-184 was then set for the Insurance Committee. But surprisingly it was told to skip Insurance and go straight to the House floor for a vote. It took a week for the bill to move forward from committee to a floor vote.

As mentioned earlier, HB-184 was debated on the floor of the House on Wednesday, April 3 Although it was obvious that the bill would pass in the House, there were some conservative representatives who tried to effectively kill the bill, and their attempts deserve mention.

First, Representative Michael Speciale (R-Craven) offered two amendments to the bill, one targeting Section 1(b) and the other targeting Section 2.

Rep. Speciale’s first amendment would alter the language of Section 1(b) two-fold: First, it would make the State Treasurer (Folwell) a “voting” member on the Study Committee and secondly, it would make it impossible to expand the size of the Committee (which is a tactic used when the “powers that be” don’t like the direction a committee seems to be taking).

This first amendment passed by a vote of 106 to 5.

Rep. Speciale’s second amendment would remove Section 2 completely from the bill. Recall that Section 2 prevents the Treasurer and the Board of Trustees for the State Health Plan from making any changes to the provider network or reimbursement rate fee schedule during “the study period” – ie, until December 31, 2020. In other words, this section mandates that the current arrangement with third party administrator Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina continues (remains unchanged) until that date. Section 2 also prevents the Treasurer from switching the Plan to using referenced based pricing for medical services to the Plan during the “study period.”

The sponsors of the bill opposed the amendment, asserting that removing Section 2 would “gut the bill.”

That amendment failed by a vote of 88 to 23.

During debate on HB-184, Rep. Larry Pittman (R-Cabarrus) cited a memo from the State Health Plan’s Board of Trustees that projects that the plan will be out of money in 2023, and warns that the State cannot wait on a two year study before it acts. The Memo urges action now. Rep. Pittman talked about how hospital groups were groaning about how burdensome the Treasurer’s planed payment changes would be on them [tie pricing of medical services to 172% over the average that Medicare pays for the same service], yet pointed out how well-funded many hospitals are. To support that claim, Rep. Pittman mentioned that the hospital at East Carolina has given $10 million dollars to fund a stadium.

He also addressed how the hospitals dealt with Treasurer Folwell in bad faith. When Folwell had requested payment schedules from the hospital groups, they sent them to him; however, page after page was blacked out. “They might as well have slapped him in the face and spit on him,” Rep. Pittman said.

Pittman also emphasized that the bill would hurt taxpayers but would hit members of the Plan (state employees and retirees) especially hard in that they would have to pay increased premiums and also pay the costs for the unfunded liabilities thru increased taxation. “They would get hit two ways,” he said.

Rep. Pittman called Dale Folwell and “honest” and “competent” man and urged his fellow legislators to “Defeat this bill.”

Rep. Michael Speciale got up to speak again, this time to give his reasons why the bill should be voted down. He said, “We’re told that if we don’t pass this bill, the sky will fall; we’ll lose our rural hospitals.” He said that they’d heard the same thing when he was trying to get rid of the CON [Certificate of Need] laws. “That effort to get rid of the CON laws failed, but nevertheless, shortly thereafter, Vidant closed one of the hospitals in my district anyway.”

“I hear fake news ads” [on the topic of rural hospitals closing if HB-184 doesn’t pass] when I drive in my district,” he said.

Rep. Speciale, as Rep. Pittman before him did, went on to explain how the hospitals dealt with Treasurer Folwell dishonestly and in bad faith. Folwell met with those who are opposing him [mainly large hospital groups] and asked them ‘How much waste, fraud, and abuse is there is in the system?’ The answers they give him ran from 12% to 25%, and so he asked them to figure out how they could reduce costs by 15% (the number he chose from the range they gave him, deliberately intending for there to be as little waste, fraud, and abuse as possible) and said that they needed to get together again as soon as that was done. After that meeting, Treasurer Folwell tried to set follow-up meetings with the hospitals, and time after time he was given excuses why they could not meet with him.

Rep. Speciale continued, “Now we’re faced with $33 to $36 billion dollars in unfunded liabilities. If we don’t allow him to cut costs, how are we going to cut costs because it’ll be on us!”

As to the fears that rural hospitals would be closed if Folwell were allowed to go forward with his reforms, Rep. Speciale said: “Dale Folwell has increased what would be going into rural hospitals. He’s compromised, but they won’t budge an inch. If we do not pass this bill, then the hospital lobby will sit down and talk to him. Let the state Treasurer do what he was elected to do. Throw the politics aside and vote NO !”

Rep. Keith Kidwell (R-Beaufort) also got up to speak in opposition to the bill. He said, “For the last 10 years, health care costs have gone up and up. We asked Treasurer Folwell to handle it. Let’s not bobble him, or we’ll be faced with taking $235 million to $509 million [dollars] from the general fund to deal with the problem AND $1.1 billion will be added to the unfunded liability. HB-184 will cost us a ton of money. We need to cut through partisanship and look at the numbers. We HAVE to block this bill !”

In spite of the arguments and some inconvenient truths, HB-184 (as amended by Rep. Speciale) passed 75 to 36, and it will now be sent to the NC Senate where it is hoped that the bill will be defeated.

The Republican members of the NC House who voted IN FAVOR of the bill are:

Lisa Stone Barnes; John Bell (Greene, Wayne, Johnston), James Boles Jr., William Brisson, Jerry Carter, Kevin Corbin, Ted Davis Jr. (New Hanover), Jimmy Dixon (Duplin, Onslow), Josh Dobson, Jeffrey Elmore, John Faircloth, John Fraley, Holly Grange (New Hanover), Bobby Hanig (Currituck, Dare, Hyde, Pamlico), Cody Henson, Craig Horn, Julia Howard, Chris Humphrey (Pitt, Lenoir), Frank Iler (Brunswick), Steve Jarvis, Donny Lambeth, David Lewis, Chuck McGrady, Greg Murphy (Pitt), Larry Potts, Wayne Sasser, Mitchell Setzer, Carson Smith, Sarah Stevens, John Szoka, John Torbett, Rena Turner, Harry Warren, and Donna McDowell White.

Those who voted AGAINST the bill (Republican and Democrat) are:

Democrats: Reps Terence Everitt, Elmer Floyd, Charles Graham, Joe John, Carolyn Logan, Nasif Majeed, William Richardson, Raymond Smith, and Michael Wray.

Republicans: Jay Adams, Hugh Blackwell, Mark Brody, Dana Bumgardner, George Cleveland (Onslow), Debra Conrad, Ed Goodwin (Bertie, Camden, Chowan, Perquimans, Tyrrell, Washington), Destin Hall, Kyle Hall, Jon Hardister, Pat Hurley, Brenden Jones, Keith Kidwell (Beaufort), Pat McElraft (Carteret, Jones), Allen McNeill, Larry Pittman (Cabarrus), Michelle Presnell, Dennis Riddell, David Rogers, Stephen Ross, Jason Saine, John Sauls, Phil Shepard (Onslow), Michael Speciale (Craven), Larry Strickland; Larry Yarborough, Lee Zachary

House Speaker Tim Moore did not vote.

[If you’d like to hear the whole debate, you can go to the NC General Assembly website (www.ncleg.gov). NC House sessions are archived].

If you are OPPOSED to this bill and do NOT want the NC General Assembly to pass it, make sure you CONTACT YOUR STATE SENATOR ASAP !!

Contact information is available from the NC General Assembly website – www.ncleg.gov.

 

III.  CONSERVATIVE POLICY THINK-TANK GROUPS and OTHER CONSERVATIVE GROUPS STRONGLY OPPPOSE HB-184

As mentioned earlier, state employees, retirees, and taxpayers are not the only ones who have been opposed to this bill. State conservative policy organizations, conservative policy think-tank organizations, conservative talk-radio shows, conservative journals, conservative bloggers, and grassroots conservative groups are united against it as well. They are doing their best to counter the lies, deceptions, and scare tactics being told by the big wealthy hospitals, the Partnership for Innovation in Healthcare, other lobbyists and interested groups and present the truth and the reality to those who will ultimately be burdened with HB-184 and the increased costs incurred by not allowing Treasurer Folwell to enact meaningful changes and reforms to the system.

The Civitas Institute, for one, thought the bill so bad and so burdensome to the inherent right of the people to keep as much of the money they earn as possible (News flash, folks – this is called “fiscal conservatism.” Allowing people to keep the money they earn, reducing taxes, being fiscally responsible – these are essential and core principles of conservatism) that it decided to take as strong a public stand as it could. Besides the many articles it has written outing HB-184 for the bad bill it is, and besides the comments and advice its policy experts have given to those around the state about it, Civitas decided to include the bill in its “grading system.” Civitas grades each North Carolina legislator for “conservatism” in his or her voting record and makes their results available to the public. Conservative organizations, church groups, and voters rely on Civitas’ ratings when they consider which candidate to help promote, or to vote for, and those legislators who seek to hold on to their seats often are conscientious of their rating in order to win re-election. How Civitas rates a legislator matters. The grading will either bolster or detract from their overall “conservative” rating.

Here is Civitas’ position on HB-184 (per president Donald Bryon’s statement):

Elected by the citizens of North Carolina, the State Treasurer SHOULD be allowed to explore solutions to current problems with the State Health Plan, consistent with his statutory and constitutional authority. Instead, HB 184 gives power to a study committee that primarily consists of special interest groups with monied interests in maintaining a lucrative State Health Plan at the expense of taxpayers – namely the North Carolina Healthcare Association (formerly the North Carolina Hospital Association).

The State Health Plan, as currently structured is unsustainable. Years of inaction cannot be rectified through continued inaction. The General Assembly may wish to study an issue on which it may desire to take future action. It is fiscally irresponsible, however, to waste two years with no corrective action when there are only four years until the State Health Plan is fiscally insolvent.

As long as the reform process is derailed, and corrective actions are prohibited by HB-184, the vote to defend freedom is NO.

Civitas Action intends to grade any vote regarding HB-184 in the House or Senate.

Just as Civitas is holding House legislators accountable for their votes on HB-184, it will do the same for NC Senator as well.

While Civitas and John Locke are doing their part in getting the truth out, while talk-radio personalities are doing their best on air to get the truth out, and while conservative writers and bloggers are using their pens to get the truth out, some of the most vocal and powerful commentary is coming from taxpayers and from those who are state employees. For example, Jonathan Merritt, a state employee and activist in Onslow County put a post on social media that is getting a lot of attention. He wrote:

Unlike many who are posting in favor of HB-184 and claim to know what they are talking about, I really DO understand how insurance works. But what everyone seems to be overlooking is that insurance thru the State Health Plan is a benefit that is offered to STATE EMPLOYEES only – as part of a package that allows them to accept positions of employment at a much lower salary than in the private sector. I will give you an example: I work for the state for just over $60,000/year. I left the private sector for this particular state job for reasons that include my age, family concerns, work environment, schedule, and benefits (including healthcare). If I left to go back to the private sector, I would be paid $80,000 – easily, or if I chose to be self-employed, I might be able to earn over $100,000. But in the private sector I wouldn’t get the same excellent healthcare plan and as a self-employed family man, I’d have to pay handsomely for such a plan.

If, as those legislators who support HB-184 would have it, I am being hit to provide others a lower premium or less out-of-pocket costs, at what point does it become more feasible to leave state employment and go back into private or self-employment?

These benefits to state employees are contracted. They aren’t contracted to the uninsured. If the State Health Plan is being raided to compensate for other insurers and/or to compensate for non-payment, or to cover the expenses of those not insured, then the state will quickly lose its resources. Otherwise, individuals will no longer see being a state employee as beneficial.

Again, check out Dale Folwell’s presentation on the State Health Plan and the State Pension Plan, “The Price of Promises” – https://www.johnlocke.org/event/the-price-of-promises-2/ . He begins talking about the State Health Plan at time 12:30 ]

IV.  CONCLUSION

HB-184 is a bad bill. It is bad for North Carolina. It is bad for state employees and retirees (including current and retired teachers, firefighters, state troopers, and many more). And it is bad for taxpayers. It is not only bad in what it seeks to achieve (to put big hospitals in a position of power in addressing the State Health Plan) but it is bad in what it does to achieve that goal (removing the office in charge of the Plan, the State Treasurer – Dale Folwell, completely from that task). We shouldn’t put up with such duplicity.

To summarize the situation in a nutshell: State Treasurer Dale Folwell has come up with a plan, the Clear Pricing Plan, to control costs in the State Health Plan. Taking effect in 2020, it would change reimbursement rates on the State Health Plan and implement a reference-based pricing model. In other words, there will be no more price gauging and no more inflating costs to the Plan by hospitals to make up for losses incurred by non-state employees (ie, those receiving healthcare without insurance, including illegals). New legislation, HB-184, was quickly introduced in the NC General Assembly for one purpose only – to block implementation of Folwell’s plan. It passed the NC House on Wednesday, April 3 and has already been sent to the NC Senate.

By trying to take authority away from Dale Folwell, the duly-elected state Treasurer tasked with managing the State Health Plan (and the State Pension Plan), for purely political and self-interested reasons, the powers that be (the big state hospitals, their lobbyist groups, and the legislators in bed with them) are attempting a political coup, with free access to everyone’s pocketbook as the goal. Make no mistake, HB-184 is all about picking “winners and losers” in North Carolina. The hospitals are determined to be the winners and we the taxpayers and state employees and retirees will be the losers.

The State Employees Association of North Carolina does not understand why the hospitals and why state legislators are so opposed to the rightful and reasonable expectation of transparency and accountability in how taxpayer money is spent with respect to the State Health Plan. Why are they so opposed to Treasurer Folwell continuing in his effort (a responsibility specifically tasked to the State Treasurer) to reform the failing Plan and to saving everyone money? SEANC spokeswoman Ardis Watkins commented: “It seems like the most traditionally American thing there is to demand that our government not be irresponsible with tax dollars or support monopolies that hurt the working people of this country.”

I want to end this article by re-emphasizing what Donald Bryson, president of Civitas wrote in his article “State Health Plan Fight: Follow the Money, Part 2.” He wrote: “The Treasurer’s plan is not necessarily a silver bullet, but the unfunded liability is at least 130% larger than our state government’s annual budget. Jones Street needs solutions before we bankrupt ourselves.”

We have to nip this bad bill in this bud. We must take back the control we have over our purses and the finances of our state and not buy into the argument that big business/ big hospitals and special interests should substitute themselves for our places at the table. We MUST share this information with our friends and family. We must get the word out about HB-184. We MUST contact our state senators and tell them to vote NO on the bill. Because the next fight in the General Assembly this session is going to be about Medicaid expansion about how we will have to pay for that.

CONTACT YOUR STATE SENATOR & TELL HIM OR HER TO VOTE “NO” ON HB-184.

 

References:

Alex Olgin, “NC Makes Similar Changes To State Health Plan as Montana. How Did It Work There?,” WFAE, October 25, 2018. Referenced at: https://www.wfae.org/post/nc-makes-similar-changes-state-health-plan-montana-how-did-it-work-there#stream/0

Marshall Allen, “In Montana, a Tough Negotiator Proved Employers Don’t Have to Pay So Much for Health Care,” ProPublica, October 2, 2018. Referenced at: https://www.propublica.org/article/in-montana-a-tough-negotiator-proved-employers-do-not-have-to-pay-so-much-for-health-care 

Raynor James provided the information for the Section on “The House Floor Debate & Vote.” She listened to the audio of the debate on the House floor (I did not, although I spoke with Rep. Speciale, Rep. Pittman, and Rep. Kidwell the day before the vote)

“The Price of Promises,” The John Locke Foundation, February 11, 2019. Referenced at: https://www.johnlocke.org/event/the-price-of-promises-2/ [Dale Folwell gives a presentation here on the problems and liabilities presented by the State Health Plan]

Dan Way, “Bill Blocking State Health Plan Changes Passes 1st Committee Test,” Carolina Journal, March 27, 2019. Referenced at: https://www.carolinajournal.com/news-article/bill-blocking-state-health-plan-changes-passes-1st-committee-test/

Spencer Hardison, “Conservatives Rage Against NC House Republicans Handcuffing State Treasurer Folwell’s Transparency Reforms,” First in Freedom Daily, March 26, 2019. Referenced at: https://firstinfreedomdaily.com/conservatives-rage-against-nc-house-republicans-handcuffing-state-treasurer-folwell-transparency-reforms/

Donald Bryson, “The State Health Plan Fight: Follow the Money, Part I,” Civitas Institute, April 4, 2019. Referenced at: https://www.nccivitas.org/civitas-review/state-health-plan-fight-follow-money-part-1/

Donald Bryson, “The State Health Plan Fight: Follow the Money, Part 2,” Civitas Institute, April 5, 2019. Referenced at: https://www.nccivitas.org/civitas-review/state-health-plan-fight-follow-money-part-2/

Diane Rufino, “North Carolina’s “anti-Folwell” Bill, HB184, Causes Tempers to Flare on Both Sides,” forloveofgodandcountry blog, March 27, 2019. Referenced at: https://forloveofgodandcountry.com/2019/03/27/north-carolinas-anti-folwell-bill-hb-184-causes-tempers-to-flare-on-both-sides/

Diane Rufino, “To Support NC Treasurer Dale Folwell or Not to Support Him – That is the Question for the NC General Assembly,” forloveofgodandcountry blog, March 25, 2019. Referenced at: https://forloveofgodandcountry.com/2019/03/25/to-support-nc-treasurer-dale-folwell-or-not-to-support-him-that-is-the-question-for-the-nc-general-assembly/

Leah Byers, “State Health Plan Debate Shines Light on Medicaid Expansion,” Civitas Institute, December 13, 2019. Referenced at: https://www.nccivitas.org/2018/state-health-plan-debate-raises-concern-medicaid-expansion/

Brant Clifton, “#ncga: Anti- Folwell Lynch Mob Tried to Hide the Facts. (We Found Them!),” The Daily Haymaker, March 25, 2019. Referenced at: http://dailyhaymaker.com/?p=23074

 

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North Carolina’s “Anti-Folwell” Bill, HB-184, Causes Tempers to Flare on Both Sides

CCTA - HB184 (hospitals v. Taxapyers)

by Diane Rufino, March 27, 2019

Who fights for the state worker? Who fights for the taxpayer?

The “anti-Folwell” bill, HB184 made it out of the Health Committee yesterday, putting it on a course to possibly become law. It is a bill that 2 sides see very differently. On one hand, we have the taxpayers, the people who surrender their hard-earned money, the people who are forced to pay far too much for health insurance, the people who obey laws and contribute to society rather than burden it by the choices they make and have made in their lives. They are the ones who would have been HELPED and SERVED by allowing NC Treasurer Dale Folwell to sort the mess out that has become the state Health Plan with his Clear Pricing Plan. The other people who would have been served are the state employees who are the subject of the state health plan.

On another hand, we have the people who live at or below the poverty level, who are on Medicaid or not, and the people who have flooded into our state as illegal aliens. Over 42% of Hispanics in the state are here in the country and the state illegally. They often are served by our healthcare system without insurance and without an ability to pay. Yet North Carolina continues to attract illegals, to serve them, and to provide them with safe sanctuary, Yet North Carolina wants to elevate non-skilled jobs (the kind that SHOULD be filled by high school and college students to help buy a car or pay school expenses) to career jobs (by raising the minimum wage) and by lowering the academic standards for “passing” in high school to a grade of 41 – all in an effort to further entrench and encourage the growing poverty class in the state. In fact, too many individuals in the state are not able to provide adequately for themselves, are not intellectually competent, and not motivated to accept personal responsibility, and as a result, too many place too much of a strain on our hospitals and medical services.

And then on the other hand (very importantly), we have the hospitals, nurses, insurance companies, and other interested medical parties who want to make sure the hospitals get the money they believe they are owed (even if that means by gorging the state health plan). This is the group that is absurdly opposed to Folwell’s plan – so much so that they have taken the initiative, as a lobbyist group, to introduce legislation (HB184 – thanks to cooperating sponsors Reps. Josh Dobson (R-Avery, McDowell, Mitchell), Julia Howard (R-Davie, Rowan), William Brisson (R-Bladen, Sampson), and Gale Adcock (D-Wake) to completely strip Treasurer Folwell of any power and of having any part in solving this current state health plan crisis. North Carolina Healthcare Association and Vidant Health of Greenville are the interest groups that have taken the lead in this opposition to Folwell.

What is this crisis, you may ask? The State Health Plan is in serious trouble., burdening the state with unsustainable unfunded liabilities. In fact, a recent report by the Pew Charitable Trusts confirmed that NC’s unfunded retirement and health care costs are among the worst in the country. The reality is that the Plan that Folwell inherited is only 5% funded, with $35 billion of the Plan’s liabilities being unfunded. Current spending projections estimate that the Plan will be insolvent by 2023 unless action is taken. Without action, the state Treasurer estimates that every man, woman, and child in the state would have to pay almost $3,200 each to cover our current promises of health care for state and local government retirees. The first group (above) finds this unacceptable.

And so, Treasurer Dale Folwel decided to take action. His plan, the “Clear Pricing Project” or “Clear Pricing Plan,” which he planned to launch in January 2020, would require health care providers to publish their prices and not alter or inflate them. Providing health care consumers pricing information upfront gives them the opportunity to shop around and compare; it sparks competition and ultimately reduces costs. Folwell understands this and explains this in promoting his Clear Pricing Plan.

In trying to get the Plan under control, Folwell approached the hospitals and asked that they provide him with the prices they charge for procedures, tests, scans, etc. It was clear that they were grossly overcharging the state under the State Plan. The request for transparency was flatly denied. The hospitals did not feel they needed to provide such information to Folwell. And then the plan to get the state Treasurer out of the way was hatched.

NC Healthcare Association and Vidant Health allege that Folwell’s plan will hurt the hospitals financially and will ultimately help drive rural hospitals out of business. It’s a scare tactic that apparently has worked on the NC General Assembly. Treasurer Folwell says the ads, the allegations, the attacks, and the scare tactics are fluff and nonsense. He assures that he would never allow a hospital to be closed down because of reforms to the State Health Plan. His goal is to prevent insolvency.

The question to ask is why the hearing in the House Standing Committee on Health focused only on the concerns of the hospitals. Why were the discussions so completely one-sided. Not one person brought up the insolvency issue OR the costs that would likely be handed down to each North Carolina taxpayer to pay. Another question to ask is why the bill is being rushed along. Why is there no time, as Rep. Phil Shepard asked, to parse through all the information being flooded upon the legislators and being pushed in radio and TV ads that he believes to be false or otherwise embellished or sensationalized? He suggests that there is information to likely prove the NC Healthcare Association and Vidant Health to be misleading and disingenuous. Why are so many legislators taking the side of the hospitals rather than the side of the North Carolina taxpayer? Finally, there is this very important question: Why are the hospitals so strongly united on a plan (or scheme) to remove NC Treasurer Dale Folwell completely from any attempts going forward to reform the State Health Plan? HB184, which creates a Committee to study the issue of reforms, would have it comprised of the following “voting” members – 4 members from the NC House (appointed by Speaker Moore), 4 members of the NC Senate (appointed by the President Pro Tempore), the executive administrator of the State Health Plan, one member appointed by the NC Medical Society, one member appointed by the NC Healthcare Association, one member appointed by the NC Nurses Association, one member appointed by the State Employees Association of NC (SEANC), one member appointed by the Retired Government Employees Association of NC, one member appointed by the NC Association of Educators, and one member appointed by the NC Psychiatry Association. “The State Treasurer shall be an ex-officio, non-voting member.” WHY? Dale Folwell, by every single account, is a decent, honest, intelligent man who has the ability and the knowledge to solve our state health plan problem. Everyone has complete confidence in him — except the hospitals (who face having to explain why they, at times, submitted bills that are 800% over ordinary costs, and who face not getting all the money they want the state to give them) and except certain NC legislators. WHY?

Could it be because he has the ability to reign in the hospitals with respect to its (un-explained) costs?

In short, the hospital lobby group’s bill, HB184, doesn’t pass the “Smell Test.”

Taxpayers are tired of being taxed; they are tired of the unaccountability that comes from turning over their money and in return having a sub-standard public school education system, long waits at the hospital, dirty parks, crime-ridden communities, and finding out that their families do without so that others can be taken care of. Because they pay their state income taxes and are burdened in their ability to bring home a paycheck, they are entitled to expect government to work for THEM.

Typically, a legislator who heads a committee has the opportunity to “kill” a bill he or she does not support by not bringing it up for a committee vote (and hence moving it along the path to a floor vote). In extreme cases, the House Speaker (currently Tim Moore) will tell a Committee chair that he wants the bill to be voted on, and in such a case, the bill cannot be “killed.” [There are ways around this such as telling the House Speaker that if he wants it voted on, then he must move it to another committee]. In the case of HB184, House Speaker Moore instructed the Health Committee to move the bill along (ie, bring it up for a vote). And that is what happened yesterday.

The House Standing Committee on Health, of which Rep. Greg Murphy is the lead chair, brought the bill up yesterday morning for a vote. It was amended to shorten the length of time the Committee has to examine the State Health Plan situation, and then passed, without only two committee members voting against it. Dr. Murphy voted IN FAVOR OF the bill and fellow committee member Rep. Phil Shepard voted AGAINST it. (The other legislator who voted against it was Rep. Michael Wray, a Democrat).

There are 3 members of the NC House who are candidates for the US House from district 3. All 3 have taken a position on HB-184. Representative Greg Murphy, as mentioned above, SUPPORTS the bill and has helped it pass, while Rep. Phil Shepard OPPOSES it. Representative Michael Speciale, who is not on the Health Committee, says he attended the Committee’s hearing anyway and has vowed to fight HB184 if it reaches the floor of the House.

 

CCTA - Dale Folwell

References:

Raynor James, “NC Rep Greg Murphy Disappoints Conservatives, Advances HB-184,” The County Compass (March 27, 2019) – file:///C:/Users/diane/AppData/Local/Packages/Microsoft.MicrosoftEdge_8wekyb3d8bbwe/TempState/Downloads/CCTA%20County%20Compass–Mar%2026,%202019%20(1).pdf

Brant Clifton, “#ncga: Bill Tying Dale Folwell’s Hands on State Health Plan Slated for Committee Action on Tuesday,” The Daily Haymaker, March 24, 2019.  Referenced at: http://dailyhaymaker.com/?p=23062&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+dailyhaymaker%2FgjBo+%28The+Daily+Haymaker+%3A+A+Carolina-Flavored+Dose+of+Common+Sense+Conservativism%29

House Bill 184 (HB184) Text – https://www.ncleg.gov/Sessions/2019/Bills/House/PDF/H184v1.pdf

House Bill 184 (HB 184) Sponsors and history — https://www.ncleg.gov/BillLookUp/2019/HB184

House Standing Committee on Health – https://www.ncleg.gov/Committees/CommitteeInfo/HouseStanding/26

Dan Way, “Treasurer, Hospitals at Loggerheads Over State Health Plan Reforms,” Carolina Journal, March 25, 2019. Referenced at: https://www.carolinajournal.com/news-article/treasurer-hospitals-at-loggerheads-over-state-health-plan-reforms/

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To Support NC Treasurer Dale Folwell or Not to Support Him, That is the Question for the NC General Assembly

ACT NOW

by Diane Rufino, March 25, 2019

NORTH CAROLINIANS, WE NEED YOU IN RALEIGH TOMORROW MORNING !!

Tomorrow morning (Tuesday), legislators in the House Health Committee will vote on HB184 – a bad bill that will cost taxpayers and State Health Plan members more than $1 million per day if it’s enacted.

HB184 (“Study State Health Plan Design”) was drafted, proposed, and is supported by those who want to frustrate NC Treasury Secretary Dale Folwell in his ability to question exorbitant state health plan costs and to come up with a plan to meet state workers healthcare needs while cutting costs and saving the taxpayers money. More specifically,, the bill was written at the behest of hospital lobbyists to stop Treasurer Folwell from moving forward with reforms to the State Health Plan (the “Clear Pricing Plan”) – reforms that will save Plan members $57 million every year in reduced out-of-pocket expenses as well as save taxpayers more than $258 million annually.

The opposition to Folwell began when he dared to ask for transparency in the billing of services. He wanted to know how much hospitals were charging for procedures, tests, scans, services, etc. The response was blunt and clear – hospitals would not provide detailed information about their costs and they said they didn’t think they should have to. While hospitals are claiming they need to charge the costs that they do because they are financially strapped, what the taxpayer doesn’t know is that one of its CEO’s made $5.5 million in salary and received another $500,000. when he retired. They have extensive investments and have funds sitting in accounts in the Caribbean. AND they have plenty of funds to lobby. It does not sit well with taxpayers when a special interest group wants to continuing gauging their pockets because of claims of insolvency yet they appear to be cash-rich behind the scenes.

HB184 would create the Joint Legislative Study Committee on the Sustainability of the North Carolina State Health Plan (Committee) to usurp authority from Secretary Folwell. The bill reads: “The purpose of the Committee is to examine the needs and concerns of North Carolina teachers, State employees, and retirees participating in the North Carolina State Health Plan for Teachers and State Employees (State Health Plan) and to redesign the State Health Plan in a way that adopts new practices and payment methodologies that promote health while incentivizing participation from both enrollees and providers.”

Those who proposed the bill and are supporting it are those who have been coopted by the hospital lobbyists and who are taking the side of the healthcare industry. To be clear, this is legislation that puts special interests (hospitals, and by association, physicians) ahead of the taxpayers. The state has massive unfunded liabilities in the State Health Plan which will ultimately bleed North Carolinian taxpayers, and Folwell is trying hard to fix it. He has a track record of fixing such problems.The special interests want to kick the can down the road while those unfunded liabilities that the taxpayers are ultimately responsible for will just continue to balloon.

Hospitals want to delay these important reforms, and HB 184 would block Treasurer Folwell from implementing the Clear Pricing Project in 2020. Even though the State Health Plan Board of Trustees unanimously approved the Clear Pricing Project last year, hospitals want the General Assembly to “study” the issue for two years. That’s code for “let the hospitals keep overcharging for care while we prevent the Treasurer from doing the job he was elected to do.”

The bill’s primary sponsors are: Reps Josh Dobson (R-Avery, McDowell, Mitchell), Julia Howard (R-Davie, Rowan), William Brisson (R-Bladen, Sampson), and Gale Adcock (D-Wake). Rep. Chris Humphrey (R-Pitt, Lenoir) is also supporting the bill. It is currently in the House Health Committee, where it’s fate will be determined. The chairman of that committee is Dr. Greg Murphy (R-Pitt). In general, if a committee chairman opposes a bill, he has the power to hold it indefinitely in committee, as has been done in the past by Senate committee chairmen on pro-gun bills. Steven Rader, in commenting on an article in The Daily Haymaker about the fight over the NC State Health Plan, noted: “Greg Murphy, in bringing this up for a vote as committee chairman, tells you a lot more about where he stands on Folwell than how he may ultimately cast his individual vote.” Note that Rep. Murphy still has time to remove it from the agenda if he backs our State Treasurer and what he is doing on behalf of taxpayers. We hope he will do so. Rader further commented:

“The 3rd Congressional District Republican Executive Committee unanimously passed a resolution supporting Treasurer Folwell against the special interests. I hope chairman Murphy can take a hint that grassroots Republicans are strongly behind Folwell and against the greedy special interests. The ball is in Murphy’s court and I hope in the end he will stand with the taxpayers and with grassroots Republicans and take this special interest bill off his committee agenda for the rest of this session. Whether he backs Folwell or helps strip his powers will be a big factor in whether he is worthy of consideration for Congress.”

We need conservatives to be CONSERVATIVE on this crucial issue. Contact your representatives ASAP and tell NOT to vote for the bill.

Tomorrow, interested parties will be traveling to Raleigh, hopefully to the House Health Committee Meeting at 10:00 am. at the Legislative Office Building (LOB), Room 643 and then to speak with representatives in person.

 

Reference:

Brant Clifton, “#ncga: Bill Tying Dale Folwell’s Hands on State Health Plan Slated for Committee Action on Tuesday,” The Daily Haymaker, March 24, 2019.  Referenced at: http://dailyhaymaker.com/?p=23062&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+dailyhaymaker%2FgjBo+%28The+Daily+Haymaker+%3A+A+Carolina-Flavored+Dose+of+Common+Sense+Conservativism%29

House Bill 184 (HB184) Text – https://www.ncleg.gov/Sessions/2019/Bills/House/PDF/H184v1.pdf

House Bill 184 (HB 184) Sponsors and history — https://www.ncleg.gov/BillLookUp/2019/HB184

House Standing Committee on Health – https://www.ncleg.gov/Committees/CommitteeInfo/HouseStanding/26

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MEET REP. MICHAEL SPECIALE – The Tested and Unwavering Constitutional Conservative Candidate for US Congress

MEME - Michael Speciale

by Diane Rufino, March 12, 2019

Meet Rep. Michael Speciale – the proven, tried and true constitutional conservative candidate for the US Congress from eastern North Carolina.

There are several candidates who are seeking the Congressional seat from the 3rd District that was held by the late great Walter B. Jones, but only one is a tried and true conservative. And that is Rep. Michael Speciale. Michael has served the people and the state faithfully and has supported and promoted conservative values unwaveringly as a representative in the NC General Assembly.

Many candidates play the game of politics and court political favor by campaigning on what they know the particular party or group of voters expects them to say and what they know voters want to hear. Sometimes it is necessary, for political purposes, for a candidate to seek the support of Tea Party groups and other groups like them. But as we have also seen, sometime being associated with such groups can hurt a candidate. Over the years, we in the Tea Party/constitutional conservative movement have been terribly disappointed in candidates who have openly mocked the movement or who have courted the Tea Party only to later feel embarrassed by the association.

Michael is unabashedly a Tea Party conservative. He serves his constituency and his state with a conscience and with strong principles.

Michael is a retired US Marine who lives in Craven County and is currently serving his fourth term in the NC House from NC house district 3. House district 3 now consists of Craven County, but previously it represented Beaufort and Pamlico Counties as well. Until he went to the NC House, the people of eastern NC had never been represented by anyone whose values were so well-aligned with their own. He ran on a simple platform – limited government, fiscal responsibility, lower taxes, less regulation of businesses, growing the economy by respecting free market principles, protection of the Second Amendment in NC, eminent domain (property rights), education reform, and opposition to government mandated healthcare.

For those who don’t recognize this platform, it is essentially a restatement of the Mission of the Tea Party movement. These aren’t principles that Michael threw out there at election time to impress voters or to curry favor with conservatives. These are principles that he believes in to his core and which he has a firm grasp of.

These also happen to be the principles and positions embraced by our founders as they struggled to ground them firmly in state constitutions and in our US Constitution. They were the principles and positions that were responsible for the greatest degree of individual and economic freedom in our country’s history and were responsible for the historic growth and success of the United States. We study history to know what works and what doesn’t. Michael knows his history.

While serving in the NC General Assembly, Michael has worked on many different levels to secure and even expand our Second Amendment rights, to secure our First Amendment guarantees to religious liberty and to free speech (requiring protection of free and equal speech on NC college and university campuses), to require Founding American History to be taught in the state’s public high schools, to get rid of Common Core once and for all (it is still alive in our public schools, cleverly re-named “Carolina Core”), to require parents to be notified and to give or withhold permission for their children to be given instruction on sex education and the practice of safe sex (brilliantly, his bill wouldn’t require parents to permit their child to opt out of such a class, but would be require them to give permission to allow them to opt in), to protect our commercial fishermen’s ability to earn a living, to fight sanctuary policies for illegal aliens, to amend the state constitution (to enlarge gun rights, to remove offending language, including the Literacy Test requirement for voting, which is an offensive remnant of Reconstruction, and to remove the stigmas of defeat imposed on NC by the post-Civil War US Congress), to remove unnecessary regulations and to reduce taxes for all businesses, to reduce the tax burden for citizens and to provide a favorable economic climate to attract businesses and other employment opportunities to NC, to reign in the once-irresponsible spending of state government and to apply fiscal restraint to its spending decisions and policies, to protect private property rights, and to secure and expand the rights and liberties of all North Carolinians in general.

Michael promised he would do those things when he was running for office, and when he was elected, he went right to work on them, never once equivocating on his position or changing his position when called to vote. Quickly, Rep. Speciale became known by those who serve with him, by the communities he serves, and by conservative policy and thinktank institutions such as NC Civitas and the John Locke Foundation as a strong and principled constitutional conservative. He has worn that distinction with honor.

This new session (Michael’s fourth term) of the NC General Assembly is no different. In just a month’s time, Michael has sponsored or co-sponsored legislation to: secure and strengthen Second Amendment rights, to allow certain teachers/school administrators to be trained and to carry a firearm on school campuses), to protect places of worship, to require all schools in NC to allow and respect diversity of opinion, thought, and religion (or lose state funding), to require NC to comply with immigration laws and to create a private cause of action when officials, towns, universities etc do not), to incentivize educational freedom (tax credits for those who operate a home schooler), to re-assert state Sovereignty (especially as it helps maintain the proper balance of government between the federal government and the States), and to protect the rights of the living yet unborn. He has opposed bills which spend recklessly and needlessly, which would create or enlarge social programs, which would place a financial burden on the state (such as the $2 billion bond issue), which would raise the minimum wage to $15 (which Democrats have introduced; which would cut jobs in the state), and which would dumb down our public school education system (such as he bill introduced again by Democrats to alter the grading system to a 15-point system thus allowing students to be considered passing as long as they score over a 40).

Michael founded the House FREEDOM CAUCUS and serves as its Chairman. He is also the Chairman of the Homeland Security, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee, Vice-Chairman of State and Local Government, and a member of the Transportation, Elections & Ethics Law, Appropriations and Appropriations Justice and Public Safety Committees.

The reason I write so passionately about Rep. Speciale is because he has been such a loyal and strong supporter of the Tea Party and such a treasured friend and servant to all who call themselves true constitutional conservatives. Again, Tea Party principles are principles that a candidate or representative firmly believes in and guide his words and his votes, and are not simply a campaign line. One can tell a true Tea Party conservative by his history of voting. One’s voting record is the best evidence of what principles guide him in deciding whether the particular bill is something government is entitled to legislate on or should legislate on. And Michael’s record tells that story. It gives us the assurances that he has the intuition to introduce proper legislation and to vote responsibly within a strict constitutional framework.

I like to think I know what I am talking about when it comes to principled politicians and constitutional conservatives. I started the Tea Party in Pitt County (including Lenoir and Greene counties) back in 2009 and have been running it faithfully ever since. We meet every month to be educated and to remind ourselves why and how conservative principles work. I am a member of the Coastal Carolina Taxpayers Association and I am the Legislative Action Committee Chair. I spend a lot of time in contact with my legislators, reviewing bills and committee meetings, writing in favor of bills and against others, and even writing model bills and resolutions. I’ve been active with my state legislature for many years. I have spent many years on the leadership committee of the Republican Women of Pitt County and also with the Pitt County GOP. I am a lawyer (conservative one; my Con Law professor was NJ Judge and Fox Senior Analyst Andrew Napolitano), writer of history and conservative topics, blogger, speaker, and I am a panelist on a weekly Talk Radio Show (WAKE UP CALL) serving eastern NC. I interact with hundreds of conservatives on an almost daily basis but reach far more.

But no one has to take my word. NC Civitas gives Michael the highest rating for conservativism and the John Locke Society applauds him for his principled leadership when it comes to fiscal responsibility. When I spoke recently to a board member of the John Locke Foundation about his positions with regard to spending bills that others have submitted (including fellow Republicans), he agreed with Michael. The gentleman, a fiscal conservative, told me he is right to oppose those bills. Civitas has recently written articles expressing concern over the positions that Republicans are now taking – seemingly becoming a more “recklessly spending” group, including one also running for the US Congress from District 3. Civitas policy analysts have spoken to conservative groups (including mine) and have spoken to me personally about this concern. They don’t understand what is going on.

We in the Tea Party movement and those of us who call ourselves true conservatives or constitutional conservatives know the Constitution, we understand what government can do and can’t do, we recognize abuse and over-reach and we especially see the widespread abuse and the utter ignorance and the willing disregard and the disgrace and dishonor by members of the federal government over the past few years. We know our history, we’ve studied the roots of our Constitution, our Bill of Rights, and even our common law. Twice a month we are educated, either on an issue, a history lesson, a civics or US government lesson, or a deep-dive into a court opinion. If we can be educated and informed, how much more of a responsibility do those elected to represent us have to also be educated and informed?

What is most important to us is that our representatives are so sufficiently informed on the Constitution they are sworn to support and uphold and principled and disciplined to do the right, the ethical, and the moral thing in passing and voting on laws that we can trust them to do the right thing by us and for the country (and for the “millions unborn and generations to come”) when we take our eyes off of them.

And that is what Michael does week after week and what he has done for over 6 years now as a state representative.

If you doubt Michael’s sincerity, just visit his office in Raleigh. It is full of books and articles that he uses to educate himself and to become fully informed on the many issues that he legislates on. For example, when he opposed a call for a Convention of States (and he was right to do so), the leading experts in the field (Publius Huldah, Don Fotheringham) were impressed by his breadth of knowledge and understanding of the topic.

When I spoke to him earlier this afternoon about some new bills that were introduced in the General Assembly, he talked to me a bit about his decision to leave the NC General Assembly and seek the seat in the US Congress. He said he looks forward bringing the same approach to government, to promoting constitutional conservative values, to respecting essential liberty rights such as free speech, religious liberty and the gun rights, to fiscal restraint as he took in Raleigh to DC, and he also looks forward to helping to educate fellow lawmakers on what the Constitution allows Congress to do and what the proper role of government is. He says the people need more representatives in Washington who have such knowledge rather than lack it.

In a flyer he recently put out, this is what he summarized as what he believes in and what his positions would be if elected to the US Congress:

Michael Speciale believes:

  • The number one purpose of government is to protect the rights of the citizens.
  • The right to life is not to be compromised.
  • America must remain a free market economy.
  • We must remain a Republic and Socialism must not be allowed to creep into our government.
  • We must BUILD THE WALL! Immigration laws currently on the books must be enforced and the wall along the border must be built to close the holes where human trafficking and drug running is coming through.
  • We must give the President the tools and the support that he needs to work with North Korea and other rogue nations to craft a lasting peace.
  • We must strengthen our military, and we must stop using our Armed Forces as a proving ground for social experiments. They are a war fighting force and must remain so!
  • Our religious freedoms must be maintained and strengthened, and that includes not being forced to do business that is against one’s religious beliefs.
  • The US Constitution is not a living, breathing document as the left believes, but a firm binding agreement between the people and the government.
  • Our rights are given to us by our Creator, not by government.
  • The 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms is not negotiable. Nowhere in the US Constitution does it give the federal government any authority over our rights under the 2nd

I write this article from personal knowledge; I’ve known Michael for many years and I have been following what he has been doing in Raleigh since the day he was first sworn in. He is humble and down-to-earth. He is not an ambitious politician type, does not take credit for anything he did not do, and does not say things just to make himself a more attractive candidate. No vote is worth him selling out his principles.

Finally, to emphasize a point I made earlier, the key to knowing the worth of a candidate and to predict how he will vote and serve in government is to look at his history of voting. One’s voting record is the best evidence of what principles guide him in deciding whether the particular bill is something government is entitled to legislate on or should legislate on.

Again, Michael’s record gives assurances to all Tea Party types, to constitutional conservatives, and to other conservatives that he has the intuition of a true conservative and that he is principled and disciplined enough to remain true to its values.

MICHAEL SPECIALE

VIDEO (Tax Day 2015)  Michael speaks about the “Con-Con” (Constitutional Convention) Movement – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOdzJ47uiug

 

APPENDIX: Legislation that NC Rep. Michael Speciale has Sponsored or Co-Sponsored:

2019 SESSION:

HB 22 – Woman’s Right to Know / Ashley’s Law.  (Speciale as Primary sponsor) —  This bill requires that women/girls seeking an abortion are informed about the possibility of reversing that abortion when using the high-dose hormone product, RU486. Hence, the bill is referred to as the “RU486 Reversal Bill.” RU486 is an abortion pill regimen that uses a 2-step process: The woman takes 2 pills – Mifepristone and then misopristone. RU486 can effectively terminate a pregnancy that is less than 10 weeks along (70 days) by sloughing off the uterine wall and the fetus with it. RU486 (mifepristone, a progesterone blocker; progresterone being essential for the uterus to sustain a pregnancy) basically causes the lining of your uterus to shed — so your pregnancy can no longer continue because the egg will have nothing to stay attached to. Then, the misoprostol will cause uterine contractions to allow the uterus to be emptied. According to the bill: The following information must be provided to a woman before a medical abortion: (A). Immediately prior to administering the drug mifepristone, the physician or qualified health professional shall inform the woman that: (i) it is still possible to discontinue a medical abortion by not taking the prescribed misoprostol (the second drug in the abortion protocol) and taking progesterone to reverse the effects of the mifepristone and (ii) information on how, where, and from whom women can obtain assistance in discontinuing a medical abortion is available on the Department of Health and Human Services’ Internet Web site. And (B) Immediately prior to administering the drug misoprostol, the physician or qualified professional shall provide medical proof to the woman that fetal death has occurred.”

HB 28 – Prohibit Abortions After 13 Weeks.  (Speciale as Primary sponsor) — This bill would prohibit abortions after 13 weeks, unless absolutely necessary to protect the life of the mother or for a verified medical emergency. (The current law prohibits abortion after 20 weeks). After 13 weeks, the physician or qualified health professional who recommends an abortion would have to explain that recommendation, as well as present his medical findings, to the state Department of Health and Human Services.

HB 53 (= SB 52) – A Second Chance for LIFE.  (Speciale as co-sponsor) —  HB 53 is the COMPANION BILL – S 52.   HB 53 (and S 52), would require a physician who prescribes an abortion-inducing drug to a pregnant woman to provide the woman with written information about the possibility of reversing the drug-induced abortion through the administration of progesterone. The bills direct the State Department of Health & Human Services to design the written materials including the phone number for the Abortion Pill Reversal Hotline. (Refer also to HB 22).

HB 54 (= SB 51) – Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment     (Speciale as co-sponsor) —  HB 54 is the COMPANION BILL to S 51.   HB54 would make it illegal for a physician to perform a “dismemberment abortion” in North Carolina. The bills define this gruesome procedure in the following manner: “With the intent to cause the death of an unborn child, to dismember a living unborn child and extract that child in pieces from the uterus through use of clamps, grasping forceps, tongs, scissors, or similar instruments that, through the convergence of two rigid levers, slice, crush, or grasp, or a combination of these, a portion of the unborn child’s body to cut or rip it off.”

The bills (S 51 and HB 54) make it unlawful “for any person to willfully perform a dismemberment abortion and thereby kill an unborn child, or attempt to perform a dismemberment abortion, unless it is necessary to prevent serious health risk to the unborn child’s mother.” The term “health risk” is narrowly defined to include circumstances necessary to avert the death of the mother or “serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function, not including psychological or emotional conditions.” Both bills would allow the mother or father of the unborn child to seek civil penalties, including monetary damages and attorneys fees, against an individual who performs a dismemberment abortion.

HB 61 – Omnibus Gun Changes (aka, Permittless Conceal Carry).  (Speciale as co-sponsor) —  HB 61 is nearly identical to HB746 (“Permittless Conceal Carry”) which the Republican leadership in the NC Senate failed to move forward last year (2017). HB 61 provides: PART I: Section 14-415.35 of HB 61 makes it lawful to carry a concealed handgun in North Carolina without obtaining a conceal handgun permit (ie, “Permitless Conceal Carry”). All citizens are allowed to carry a concealed firearm without obtaining a permit as long as they meet certain common-sense criteria (to ensure the safety of others).

HB 63 – Protect North Carolina Workers Act.  (Speciale as Primary sponsor) —  HB 63 would (1) increase the number of employers who are required to participate in the federal E-Verify program; (2) would repeal the E-Verify exemption for temporary employees; and (3) would exclude farm workers from the definition of “employee” under Article 2 of Chapter 64 of the General Statutes. HB63 would increase the number of employers required to comply with E-Verify by changing the definition of “employer” as “any person, business entity, or other organization that transacts business in this State and that employs five or more employees in this State.” (Originally, for an employer to be required to participate in E-Verify he/it was required to employ at least 25 employees). Furthermore, the definition of “employer” includes the following exclusions: “The term does not include a farm worker, an independent contractor, or an individual who provides domestic service in a private home that is sporadic, irregular, or intermittent.”

HB 65 – Marriage Re-Affirmation Act.  (Speciale as co-sponsor) —  The full title: “An Act to Reaffirm the Vote oif the People of North Carolina to Adopt Article XIV, Section 6 of the Constitution of the State of North Carolina, Known as the Marriage Amendment, to State Why the Amendment Should be Upheld, to Declare Null and Void for the State of North Carolina the Obergefell v. Hodges Decision of the US Supreme Court, and to Call on the US Supreme Court to Overturn the Obergefell v. Hodges Decision.” The bill would do the following: (1) Reaffirm the Marriage Amendment, which would be added to the state Constitution (Article XIV, Section 6); (2) Nullify the Obergefell decision in North Carolina (unenforceable in NC); (3) Call on the Supreme Court to overturn the opinion; and (4) No same-sex marriage would be recognized in the state.

HB 73 – Civic Responsibility in Education.  (Speciale as co-sponsor) —  HB 73 would require the State Board of Education to include instruction on civic responsibility in the standard course of study (course curriculum) in Elementary, Middle, and High School. In Elementary, civic responsibility would be taught in the course “North Carolina History” and in Middle School, it would be taught in the course “North Carolina Geography.” In High School, civic responsibility would be taught in the course on the Founding Principles of the United States of America and the State of North Carolina.

HB 76 – School Safety Omnibus Bill.  (Speciale as co-sponsor) —  HB 76 would establish school safety requirements for all public schools – to require Threat Assessment Teams be established at each school with duties clearly defined.

HB 110 (= SB 90) – Protect Religious Meeting Places.  (Speciale as co-sponsor) —  HB 110 would allow concealed carry on the premises when religious meetings are being held.

HB 131 (= SB 71) – Repeal Map Act.  (Speciale as co-sponsor) —  This bill would repeal the Transportation Corridor Official Map Act

HB 135 – Government Immigration Compliance.  (Speciale as Primary sponsor) —  HB 135 would do several things, including: (1) Repeal Law Enforcement authority to use prohibited forms of identification (ie, illegals can no longer present a matricula consular identification as an acceptable form of ID); (2) Create additional incentives for local governments to comply with state laws related to immigration; (3) Create a private cause of action to remedy local government non-compliance with state immigration laws; (4) Prohibit the institutions of the UNC university system from becoming sanctuary universities; and (5) Direct the Department of Public Safety to enter into a Memorandum of Agreement with the US Department of Homeland Security.

HB 136 – Concealed Carry Permit Relapse / Revise Law.  (Speciale as Primary sponsor) —  HB 136 would revise the Concealed Carry Law, Sect. 1. G.S. 14-415.16(e) to read: “If the permittee does not apply to renew the permit prior to its expiration date, but does apply to renew the permit within 180 days after the permit expires, the sheriff shall waive the requirement of taking another firearms safety and training course. course so long as the permittee (i) completes a refresher course on the laws governing the use or carry of firearms in this State that is certified or sponsored by at least one of the entities listed in G.S. 14-415.12(a and (ii) submits documentation to the sheriff confirming the permittee completed the refresher course.

HB 160 – Rescind Calls for Constitutional Convention.  (Speciale as Primary sponsor) — House Joint Resolution 160. This Resolution calls for the rescinding of all applications made by the NC General Assembly made during any session to the US Congress to call a Convention pursuant to Article V of the US Constitution for proposing one or more amendments to that Constitution and urging other states to do the same.

HB 172 – K-12 Academic Freedom Act.  (Speciale as Primary sponsor) —  This bill would REQUIRE the State Board of Education to adopt a policy of academic freedom. It would impart a DUTY to the SBOE to adopt a policy that SHALL include, at a minimum, the following elements:

(a) Students and educators are encouraged to respect the ideological, political, religious, or nonreligious viewpoints held by all persons in the classroom.

( b) Students and educators are permitted to engage in open dialogue, critical thinking, and the free exchange of ideas related to the content of the course.

(c) A student shall not be discriminated against or mocked for the student’s ideological, political, religious, or nonreligious viewpoints.

(d) An educator shall not take a student’s ideological, political, religious, or nonreligious viewpoints into account when evaluating the student’s performance.

(e) Educators may answer questions posed by students with openness and honesty.

HB 173 – Exempt Ocular Surgery from Certificate of Need (CON) Laws.  (Speciale as Primary sponsor) —  HB 172 would exempt ocular surgery and would provide limited exemption for limited exemption for gastrointestinal endoscopy procedures from the Certificate of Need requirement under NC law. The growing need of the elderly for ocular surgery requires this exemption.

HB 174 – Home School Tax Credit.  (Speciale as Primary sponsor) —  This bill would provide an income tax credit for those operating a home school.

HB 196 – Parental Consent for Sex Education.  (Speciale as Primary sponsor) —  HB 196 would require a student to have parental consent for any class that educates or attempts to education on reproductive health and safety. Each school year, before students may participate in any portion of (i) a program that pertains to or is intended to impart information or promote discussion or understanding in regard to the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS, or to the avoidance of out-of-wedlock pregnancy or (ii) a reproductive health and safety education program, whether developed by the State or by the local board of education, the parents and legal guardians of those students shall be given an opportunity to review the objectives and materials as provided in G.S. 115C-81.25(d). Local boards of education shall adopt policies to provide opportunities for parents and legal guardians to consent to their students’ participation in any or all of these programs. A student shall not participate in any program described in this subsection unless the student’s parent or legal guardian has consented to the student’s participation.

HB 215 – Justice for Rural Citizens Act.  (Speciale as Primary sponsor) —  HB 215 would remove the injustice of extra-extraterritorial planning jurisdiction by declaring that no city in the state may have or exercise planning jurisdiction outside its corporate limits. HB215 lists the reasons for removing such extra-territorial planning jurisdiction: “Whereas, under current State law, any city may exercise planning jurisdiction under Article 19 of Chapter 160A of the General Statutes within a defined area extending not more than one mile beyond its corporate limits; and Whereas, with the approval of the board of county commissioners with jurisdiction over the area, a city of 10,000 or more but less than 25,000 may exercise planning jurisdiction over an area extending not more than two miles beyond its corporate limits, and a city of 25,000 or more may exercise these powers over an area extending not more than three miles beyond its limits; and Whereas, the citizens who live in an area over which a city exercises extraterritorial planning jurisdiction are prohibited from voting in municipal elections; and Whereas, without the ability to vote in municipal elections to choose the persons who will make planning decisions about the areas in which they live, rural citizens do not have a say in some of the important matters that affect their lives and livelihoods.”

HB 216 – School Self-Defense Act.  (Speciale as Primary sponsor) — HB 216 would authorize certain members of a school’s faculty or staff to carry a handgun on the school grounds to respond to acts of violence of imminent threat of violence.

HB314 – Constitutional Amendment – Remove Literacy Test.  (Speciale as Primary sponsor – bipartisan bill) —  HB 314 is a bi-partisan bill that would amend the state constitution by repealing (removing) Section 4 of Article VI which requires a person to pass a literacy test in order to register to vote in North Carolina.

HB328 – Same Reqs/Officials/Early Vote & Election Day.  (Speciale as Primary Sponsor)  —  HB 328 would ensure that requirements for precinct officials (poll workers) will be the same for Early One-Stop Voting as they are on Election Day.

 

2017 – 2018 SESSION: (Bills Michael Speciale was the primary sponsor or co-sponsor)

HB 3 – Eminent Domain

HB 69 – Constitutional Carry Act   (to amendment the state constitution to prohibit condemnation of private property except for public use)

HB 76 – Increase Fire & Rescue Pension Benefits

HB 145 – Repeal Constitutional Regulation of Concealed Weapons   [this bill would remove the following language from Article I, Section 3 (“Militia & the Right to Bear Arms”): “nothing herein shall justify the practice of carrying concealed weapons, or prevent the General Assembly from enacting penal statutes against that practice”)

HB 146 – Citizens Allegiance to US Constitution     [this bill would amend Article I, Section 5 (“Allegiance to the United States”) to remove the offending language, as underlined: “Every citizen of this State owes paramount allegiance to the Constitution and government of the United States, and no law or ordinance of the State in contravention or subversion thereof can have any binding force”]

HB 147 – Amend the NC State Constitution to Remove Article I, Section 4 (“Secession Prohibited”)

HB 148 – Amend the NC State Constitution to Remove the Literacy Requirement to Vote   [this bill would remove Section 4 of Article VI (“Qualification for Registration”) of the state constitution which requires a person to pass a literacy test in order to register to vote – “Every person presenting himself for registration shall be able to read and write any section of the Constitution in the English language”]

HB 201 – NC Constitutional Carry Act (to protect a person’s right to carry a concealed weapon without a permit and to protect his right to purchase a handgun without a pistol purchase permit)

HB 266 – Terminate Agreement for Tolling of I-77

HB 306 – Require E-Verify for All Government Contracts

HB 417 – Actually Getting Rid of Common Core Act

HB 986 – Various Changes to Education Laws [passed and signed into law – SL 2018-32]

HB 1092 – Constitutional Amendment to Require Photo ID to Vote

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