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-145 – 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 HB184 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 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 2013, 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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Jeffrey Moore: Government’s Obligation to Secure the Border and Enforce Immigration Laws

JEFF MOORE - with family by waterfront

by Jeffrey K. Moore, II

How does a nation truly exist if it lacks effective borders? A porous, ineffective border, threatens our nation’s very sovereignty, and thus the inherent sovereignty of every individual citizen of the United States. We MUST secure our border and finish building the wall

The federal government’s core purpose is to secure the God-given rights of each one of its citizens, but it fails to do that on a very fundamental level if it cannot account for, and confidently regulate, entry across our national borders.

This is not an intangible problem; it is very real, with sometimes horrible consequences. Organized criminal gangs, murderers, even child predators, have been taking advantage of our insecure border to illegally enter our country and subsequently commit crimes against our own citizens. Crimes that would never have befallen those citizens had our border been properly secured. North Carolina has an estimated 325,000 unauthorized illegal immigrants. If even one half of one percent of those are criminals inclined to violate the rights of us or our children, it means that 1,500+ criminals could commit crimes that are 100 percent preventable through proper border security.

As such, it is of the utmost importance that the federal government act immediately to secure and reinforce our border to reestablish our sovereignty and fulfill its core purpose – to secure our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That is why I find merit in President Donald Trump’s decision to declare a national emergency in order to better protect the border from illegal and unaccounted for immigration. As chief executive of our nation the president doesn’t just have the authority to enforce laws, he has a duty to do everything within his power to ensure national security. National security doesn’t always mean military attacks from foreign enemies; our national security is made up of the collective security of the citizens of our nation. If citizens are not secure due to unchecked illegal immigration, and congress repeatedly fails to fund security measures due to partisan acrimony, the president has an obligation to act.

Just this week it appears there are enough votes in congress to challenge President Trump’s declaration and, however frustrating that may be to some, it’s okay. Congressional challenges to unilateral presidential actions, (redirection of allocated funds in this case) are part of a checks and balances system designed by our founders. So is the presidential veto.

What is altogether more frustrating is the fact that a split congress can muster the votes to oppose a bold executive action from a controversial president, but they cannot unite behind putting a stop to the human and fiscal costs that result from unfettered illegal immigration. It’s disheartening, really, to see them so committed to handing President Trump a political loss, yet apathetic to the plight of those families that have lost loved ones to evil actors that never would have been in this country if it weren’t for congress’ collective lack of a spine.

It matters not that a great many of those crossing our borders illegally are doing so merely to make a better life for themselves and their families. The United States government, and we, the people, are under no obligation to blindly accept immigrants if it means risking the safety of our own citizens. There is a clear distinction between legal, and illegal, immigration; the former actually allows us to honor that duty to protect citizens rights. We are a nation of laws, and so we must never reward those that knowingly violate the laws with amnesty, and least of all citizenship. To do so would incentivize more illegal immigration, and represents the ultimate insult to those that followed proper procedures to enter and reside in our country legally.

If we have organized a government to protect the rights of the men, women and children of our nation, and illegal immigration demonstrably threatens those rights,  then it is only proper that the federal government should make every effort to secure the border and immediately. As Eastern North Carolina’s congressman I will not hesitate in the least to vote for funding to build the wall, augmenting that wall with cutting edge security measures, thoroughly enforcing immigration laws through out the union, and I would never support any form of amnesty as a part of immigration reform. The Third District cannot afford a representative that will simply bow to the powerful lobbies that helped this problem fester in the first place, or buckle to the pressure of a social justice campaign when the Left turns up the heat. This issue is not about politics; it is about principles. The way forward is clear.

 

***  Jeffrey K. Moore, II is a candidate for the US Congress, currently running in a special election to fill the seat left vacated by Congressman Walter Jones’ untimely passing on February 10. 
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How the Left Operates (How it has consistently used “race” to invalidate NC Voter ID initiatives)

VOTER FRAUD - I only got to vote once (Daily Haymaker)

(Photo Credit:  Daily Haymaker)

by Diane Rufino, March 2, 2019

North Carolina voters have tried for a long time now to enact a common-sense voter identification law. For years, they have suspected voter and election fraud, and so when groups like the NC Voter Integrity Project (founded by Jay Delancy, its president) and Project Veritas, and data analysts like Major David Goetze presented verified instances of such fraud (which the NC state Board of Elections refused to investigate and prosecute, and in fact, began to enact policies to prevent such groups and individuals from accessing public data to find the fraud), they went to the polls in great numbers to elect representatives who would finally once and for all, legislate on their behalf and address their legitimate concerns about the integrity and transparency of our elections.

North Carolina was the only state in the southeast not to have a Voter ID law.

In 2013, the Republican-majority NC General Assembly passed a strict Voter ID law (Act. 2013-381, HB 589, Part 2), to go into effect for the 2016 presidential election. It included a strict photo requirement to vote. In 2015, the law was challenged by the NC NAACP and other minority groups alleging that it was discriminatory to African-Americans. In anticipation of the lawsuit, the legislature met in an urgent session to revise the bill, making it a “non-strict” photo identification law (HB 836).

The district court upheld the revised Voter ID law, convinced that it was passed in furtherance of reasonable state interests in fraud-free elections. The NC NAACP and other groups appealed the ruling to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals which struck the law down alleging that it was intentionally drafted and passed to target African-Americans and to diminish their voice at the ballot box.

In 2018, the Republican-dominated NC General Assembly passed a ballot initiative (HB 1092) to add a strict photo identification requirement to vote to the North Carolina state constitution. Voters would vote on the initiative (along with five other initiatives to amend the state constitution) in the November election. Despite a very strong campaign by the left, by the NAACP, by the Democratic Party, by the NC Bar Association, by the media (“North Carolina against tries to pass a Voter ID requirement to disenfranchise black voters), and others, including a scheme to confuse uninformed and ignorant Democratic voters who hadn’t even heard of any of the proposed amendments (“You must vote NO for all the amendments; they are the product of an illegal General Assembly!), the Voter ID amendment was approved by the voters.

In order to give life to the amendment, the General Assembly would need to enact legislation requiring verifiable forms of a photo ID in order to vote (a “strict photo ID” law). It would legislatively accomplish what the constitution now required. And so, on December 5-6, the General Assembly voted to approve Senate Bill 824 (SB 824), which listed the types of voter identification that would be accepted at the polls. [SL 2018-144 (2017-2018 session)]. The NC NAACP, headed by extreme race-baiter Rev. Anthony Spearman, held several press conferences articulating his delusion that North Carolina is like Alabama and Mississippi at the height of the civil rights era. They even held a rally outside the legislative building the first day of the vote.

On December 14, Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed SB 824 and House Speaker Tim Moore responded in a press statement by saying, “We are disappointed that Gov. Cooper chose to ignore the will of the people and reject a commonsense election integrity measure that is common in most states, but the North Carolina House will override his veto as soon as possible.”

And over-ride the veto they did. Before the new legislature was inaugurated (late January), and while Republicans still held a super-majority, they met and voted to over-ride Governor Cooper’s veto.

North Carolina finally… FINALLY had a Voter ID law. And not only that, they had a strict photo identification requirement to vote enshrined now in their state constitution.

The question was: How long before Democrats and liberals would challenge them and try to invalidate them. It was the question that almost every single person asked on election night and then when the General Assembly met in special session to pass the Voter ID law.

As it turned out, the first lawsuit was filed within hours after the General Assembly over-rode Governor Cooper’s veto of the Voter ID law, on December 19, 2018. The NC NAACP filed that lawsuit and Clean Air Carolina then joined in. The suit was filed against Speaker of the House Tim Moore, Senate Pro Tempore Phil Berger, and the State Board of Elections in Wake County Superior Court. [NAACP and Clean Air Carolina v. Moore and Berger (2018)]. The parties challenged two of the amendments (2 out of 4) that were adopted in November – the Voter ID amendment and the amendment capping the state income tax rate at 7% (lowering it from 10%).

In that lawsuit, the NCNAACP alleged that the NC general Assembly was improperly constituted in 2016, being the product of racially-gerrymandered state house and state districts, and therefore the amendment proposals adopted by that legislature for the November ballot were themselves tainted, were not the product of legitimate popular sovereignty, and therefore invalid acts. The NCNAACP asked the court to strike the amendments

Democrats have become all too predictable. As long as anything could be related to race, the race card would be used.

On Friday, February 22, Wake County Superior Court Judge G. Bryan Collins invalidated the amendments, The Voter ID amendment was passed by 55.49 % of NC voters and the amendment to limit the state income tax rate was passed by 57.35% of voters. In his ruling, Judge Collins agreed with the NCNAACP that the proposed amendments were passed by an “illegally constituted General Assembly” that was “not empowered to pass legislation that would amend the state’s Constitution.”

Collins further wrote the “unconstitutional racial gerrymander tainted” the three-fifth majorities in each chamber necessary to submit the amendments to voters. He said that amounted to “breaking the requisite chain of popular sovereignty between North Carolina citizens and their representatives….. An illegally constituted General Assembly does not represent the people of North Carolina and is therefore not empowered to pass legislation that would amend the state’s constitution.”

He struck down the two amendments. He declared them to be void.

The judge based his opinion on previous court rulings finding that the General Assembly had been elected using “illegally gerrymandered” district maps. What he conveniently ignored was the federal court ruling that ultimately allowed the maps to be used for the 2016 elections.

Rev. Spearman issued this press release following the ruling: “We are delighted that the acts of the previous majority, which came to power through the use of racially discriminatory maps, have been checked. The prior General Assembly’s attempt to use its ill-gotten power to enshrine a racist photo voter ID requirement in the state constitution was particularly egregious, and we applaud the court for invalidating these attempts at unconstitutional overreach.”

Most are attacking the ruling as an act of clear judicial activism. NCGOP chairman Robin Hayes told the News & Observer: “This unprecedented and absurd ruling by a liberal judge is the very definition of judicial activism.” And Sen. Ralph Hise commented that the judge clearly had “an axe to grind.” And in a statement issued to NC voters, Senate leader (Senate President Pro Tempore) Phil Berger wrote: “It’s yet another example of activist judges taking away your political power to suit their own liberal agenda.”

After the ruling was handed down, Berger posted his disgust on his Facebook page: “Your vote to add a Voter ID amendment to the state constitution was overturned on Friday by one Democratic judge in Wake County. One Democratic judge overruled two million voters—a majority—to toss out Voter ID in North Carolina. He absurdly argued that a voter ID constitutional amendment is unconstitutional.

He continued: “A single Democratic Wake County trial judge ruled that the entire North Carolina General Assembly was an unconstitutional usurper body for approximately 1 ½ years. The millions of votes cast by citizens and certified by the North Carolina Board of Elections could potentially be thrown out by one Democratic judge.”

In other words, the people of North Carolina essentially were without a government for almost two years. That is what the ruling essentially states.

Bryan Collins is a registered Democrat who has clear partisan leanings. He donated to the Kay Hagan campaign and has attended NAACP conventions. It’s hard to imagine he could be impartial in a case brought by the very group he saw fit to publicly support.

My first issue with the ruling is why Judge Collins concluded that the district maps (gerrymandering) had to have been drawn up based on the racial make-up of the voters. Why did he conclude “Race” when the district maps could have just as rationally been drawn up on account of “political identity”? Was it just because a racial minority group made the allegation? [I’m sorry, but I don’t buy the rationale in the Supreme Court decision Cooper v. Harris (2017); See Reference section].

This was the same question I asked when the 4th Circuit concluded that the changes to North Carolina’s voter laws were motivated primarily and overwhelmingly by racial animus – to intentionally suppress the African-American vote. Why did the court assume the General Assembly targeted them on account of skin color rather than on account of political identity? The Supreme Court has said that if a particular race happens to be impacted more than others by a voter ID law that is neutral on its face, than it would be permitted. It concluded that requiring photo identification to vote poses no reasonable burden to an individual right to vote.

Here are some statistics about North Carolina voters in that the NC General Assembly was able to consider in their re-districting plan: In 2016, 22% of all registered (active) voters in North Carolina were African-Americans. (That matches exactly the demographics in the state, with 22.1% of the population being African-American). Furthermore, exactly half of all registered Democrats in 2016 in North Carolina were African-American.

If you take these statistics together, it is seems quite obvious that almost all African-Americans identify as Democrats. It also seems quite obvious that the Democratic Party in North Carolina relies very heavily on the African-American community for votes.

So, if African-Americans identify almost exclusively (certainly overwhelmingly, well over 90%) with the Democratic Party, how does a judge in all honesty, conclude that district maps were drawn based on skin color and not on political identity. Isn’t “political identity” or “party affiliation” the more pertinent identifier ?

In 2016, the General Assembly drew up new district maps. A federal court (the US District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina), found the 28 of the 170 legislative districts (house and senate) and 2 of the congressional districts were improperly racially gerrymandered (black voters were drawn together in districts). The General Assembly addressed the concerns but they didn’t quite overcome the deficiencies. The 3-judge panel of judges, however, acknowledged that “there is insufficient time, at this late date, for: the General Assembly to draw and enact remedial districts; this Court to review the remedial plan,” and so, they allowed the maps to remain in place for the 2016 election. (The legislature would have to amend the maps in the 2017 session).

At some point during or after 2017, the maps would no longer be struck down by the courts as “racially” gerrymandering but rather as “partisan” gerrymandering. When the state legislature’s district maps could no longer be challenged as “racial” gerrymandering, they then began to challenge them as “partisan gerrymandering. That is, the districts were drawn to favored Republicans. Mind you, the courts are well-aware that the Supreme Court has never struck down a districting plan because it is partisan in design. But precedent has never stopped the liberal North Carolina courts. (See the Appendix at the end of the article).

The maps drawn up in 2016 and used in the 2016 election continued to provide a possible legal angle for disgruntled and racially-obsessed Democrats. The courts have been their friend in the past and they would use them again.

To understand why the NC NAACP brought its lawsuit against the Republican-majority General Assembly based on a racial allegation, we need to look at districting authority, federal law, and court precedent. We will see that the lawsuit was pure political strategy, taking advantage of outdated federal law and court decisions that still believe the United States and southern states in particular are still obsessed with white supremacy and motivated by animus and discriminatory intent when it comes to its African-American population. We will see that this is the favored approach of progressives who use the liberal courts to achieve what it can’t with duly-enacted legislatures and other governing bodies.

Each state legislature is tasked with drawing up district lines, or district maps. District lines for US congressional districts and for both state house and senate districts must be re-drawn every 10 years following the completion of the US census. The party holding the majority in the state legislature at the time re-districting maps are to be re-drawn has the benefit of drawing those district lines to its advantage. Nothing in the state constitution of North Carolina requires that re-districting be done on a non-partisan basis. In fact, for so many years, while Democrats have held the majority in both houses in the NC General Assembly, they have drawn maps to favor their party, including focusing on race since it is a strong indicator of Democratic support.

North Carolina has 13 US congressional districts (for its 13 representatives in the US Congress), it has 120 NC house districts, and 50 NC Senate districts. The NC General Assembly is alone responsible for drawing up all these maps/districts and they are NOT subject to approval by the Governor. In other words, the maps drawn up by the Redistricting Committee is not subject to being vetoed by the Governor.

In drawing up district maps, the federal government mandates that districts must have nearly equal populations to comport with the US Constitution and notions of democracy. The rule that election districts contain equal populations is the essence of the general idea of “One Person, One Vote,” which was emphasized by the Supreme Court in 1962 (Baker v. Carr). It means that a person’s vote counts equally no matter where he casts his vote. Civil Rights laws further mandate that district maps must not discriminate on the basis of race or ethnicity. It is OK to discriminate based on the white color of one’s skin, it is OK to discriminate based on affluence (or lack thereof), and it is OK to discriminate based on political affiliation. The courts have always tolerated partisan gerrymandering (even when district maps assume no reasonable shape at all) but they do not tolerate racial gerrymandering.

Hence we are starting to see why the allegation of “racial” gerrymandering was made. Partisan gerrymandering will not guarantee a favorable challenge and outcome. An allegation of “racial” gerrymandering will.

This is how the Democratic machine works.

Anyway, Senate leader Phil Berger has filed an appeal on behalf of the Republican legislative leaders, calling Judge Collin’s ruling an “absurd decision.” His full announcement read: “We are duty-bound to appeal this absurd decision. The prospect of invalidating 18 months of laws is the definition of chaos and confusion. Based on tonight’s opinion and others over the past several years, it appears the idea of judicial restraint has completely left the state of North Carolina. Rest assured, our lawyers will appeal this ridiculous ruling, but it’s yet another example of activist judges taking away your political power to suit their own liberal agenda.”

Republicans contend Collins’ reasoning jeopardizes dozens of laws.

Here is what the appeal by the Republican legislators argues: (i) Judge Collins disregarded the fact that a federal court had allowed the 2016 election to proceed using the challenged districting maps; (ii) If Collins’ ruling should stand, then essentially the state had no government for almost 2 years (2017-2018). Yet residents were still required to pay taxes to it; (iii) If Collin’s ruling should be permitted to stand, then it would invalidate all the laws of that “illegal legislative session – anarchy; and (iv) To allow Collins’ ruling to stand would create chaos and further litigation in North Carolina.

In the meantime, Sen. Berger appealed to Judge Collins to stay his order striking down the amendments (stay = “put on hold”) while he and fellow Republican leaders file their appeal with the state appellate court, but he refused. The case will most likely reach the state Supreme Court. Currently, the seven-member body is composed of at least five registered Democrats, but Governor Cooper will have the opportunity to appoint one more associate justice, to fill the vacancy on the court caused by his appointment of Associate Justice Cheri Beasley to Chief Justice. It will no doubt be another Democrat, bringing the total to 6 Democrat justices.

A statement by Sen. Berger after the ruling by Judge Collins perhaps describes it best: “All North Carolinians, regardless of party, should be concerned by this lawlessness, because it’s only a matter of time before a judge comes for their preferred legislative policies. Judge Collins is calling the legislature a usurper body while himself usurping the will of millions of North Carolinians who voted to amend their own constitution.”

The one redeeming quality about this ruling is that we can now see all so clearly how liberal-minded, overreaching judges tend to bend the Constitution for progressive purposes and how they use their positions on the bench to disregard the democratic process and un-do the will of the people.

So what does this mean for the honest and decent and well-meaning citizens of North Carolina who want transparent elections in their state? What does this mean for the honest and decent and well-meaning North Carolinians who, despite what Spearman says, do not live their lives seeing things in terms of black and white, who enjoy living side-by-side with persons who don’t look exactly like themselves, and who simply are concerned about the integrity of the NC election process? What does this mean for the majority of North Carolinians who have pressured their state government to address voter fraud and potential voter fraud since 2010?

The good news is that the Voter ID law (SB 2018-144) passed by the General Assembly in December is still good – at least for now. It is a stand-alone bill, not tied by language to the constitutional amendment, and passed by members of the General Assembly of both parties (with two Democrats joining Republicans in the House and one joining Republicans in the Senate). The equipment is not in place yet to provide a free photo ID to those who can’t afford one or who otherwise can’t obtain one, but should be in time for the next election cycle.

The appeal has been filed by Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore and we should soon find out if Judge Collins’ judicial order will stand or be overturned. If the order invalidating the amendments is upheld, there may be a lawsuit to challenge the Voter ID law as the product of an illegally-constituted General Assembly but to move forward under that theory would potentially mean that every single piece of legislation and every decision made could also be challenged in court. My guess is that such a lawsuit won’t be filed.

For now, North Carolina has a strict Voter ID law in place. The only thing the NCNAACP has done is to manufacture a crisis of racism that doesn’t exist and to be successful in convincing a lower state court judge to issue one of the grossest acts judicial activism in recent history. There should be no place in North Carolina for the NCNAACP.

 

References:

Voter ID law – SB 2018-144 (2017-2018) – https://www.ncleg.gov/BillLookup/2017/S824“NC Judge Invalidates Two Constitutional Amendments Passed by Voters Last Fall,” NC Family Policy Facts, February 25, 2019. Referenced at: http://my.ncfamily.org/site/MessageViewer?em_id=5207.0&dlv_id=9084

Gary Robertson, “Judge Strikes Down North Carolina Voter ID OK’ed by Voters,” The Washington Post, February 22, 2019. Referenced at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/judge-strikes-down-north-carolina-voter-id-okd-by-voters/2019/02/22/0cfd1a98-3708-11e9-8375-e3dcf6b68558_story.html?utm_term=.24d45d7283d2

”Voter ID History,” National Conference of State Legislatures. Referenced at: http://www.ncsl.org/research/elections-and-campaigns/voter-id-history.aspx

Rebecca Trippett, “NC in Focus: Who are NC’s Democratic Voters?” UNC Carolina Demography, October 2, 2016. Referenced at: https://demography.cpc.unc.edu/2016/10/07/nc-in-focus-who-are-ncs-democratic-voters/

“Federal Judges: Racially-Tainted General Assembly Districts Must Be Redrawn,” WRAL, August 11, 2016. Referenced at: https://www.wral.com/federal-judges-racially-tainted-general-assembly-districts-must-be-redrawn/15920846/

Adam Liptak, “Justices Reject 2 Gerrymandered North Carolina Districts, Citing Racial Bias,” The New York Times, May 22, 2017. Referenced at: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/22/us/politics/supreme-court-north-carolina-congressional-districts.html

VIDEO: “How Gerrymandering Got its Name.”   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8BWVDUpEaNM

VIDEO: “Crash Course on Re-districting.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MnhFm5QVVTo

NAACP and Clean Air Carolina v. Moore and Berger, COMPLAINT –

https://www.southernenvironment.org/uploads/words_docs/Complaint_-_Usurpers_FINAL_-_pdf.pdf [Notice how the NAACP refers to Republican leaders as “Usurpers”]

NAACP and Clean Air Carolina v. Moore and Berger (2018), OPINION – https://www.southernenvironment.org/uploads/words_docs/doc03389420190222171503.pdf

Ariane de Vogue, “Supreme Court Blocks Court Order to Redraw North Carolina Congressional Districts,” CNN, January 19, 2018. Referenced at: https://www.cnn.com/2018/01/18/politics/north-carolina-supreme-court-redistricting/index.html   [US Supreme Court voted 7-2 to freeze (ignore) a lower federal court ruling that struck down North Carolina’s congressional districts, holding that it amounted to an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. The order makes it likely, although not certain, that the controversial maps will be used for the 2020 election. In January 2018, a three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the lower district court and held that North Carolina’s 2016 plan was enacted “with the intent of discriminating against voters who favored non-Republican candidates” and that the plan violated the First Amendment by “unjustifiably discriminating against voters based on their previous political expression and affiliation.” Partisan gerrymandering had been permitted by the Supreme Court and lower courts in the past, assuming that politics was always involved in the drafting of maps. The lower district court had ordered the NC General Assembly to enact a remedial redistricting plan by January 24, 2019. The Supreme Court voted to freeze that court order and, at least for now, to allow the maps to remain in place for the next election. The order comes as the Supreme Court is also considering two other partisan gerrymander cases – one from Maryland and the other from Wisconsin. It is likely that should it take those cases, the NC case will be re-considered along with the other two. If the Supreme Court agrees to hear the cases, it will be the first time that the high court takes up the issue of “when is partisan gerrymandering too extreme” (so as to offend notions of fairness). The court will address the question of whether or not standards for partisan gerrymandering can be determined and applied].

Voter ID Laws by State, Ballotpedia. https://ballotpedia.org/Voter_identification_laws_by_state

“Redistricting and the Supreme Court: The Most Significant Cases,” National Commission of State Legislatures (NCSL), July 9, 2018. Referenced at: http://www.ncsl.org/research/redistricting/redistricting-and-the-supreme-court-the-most-significant-cases.aspx

Those cases:

Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186 (1962). For the first time, the court held that the federal courts had jurisdiction to consider constitutional challenges to state legislative redistricting plans. The Court held that a federal district court had jurisdiction to hear a claim that this inequality of representation violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Gray v. Sanders, 372 U.S. 368 (1963). The Court established the constitutional standard for equality of representation as “one person, one vote.”

Karcher v. Daggett, 462 U.S. 725 (1983). Congressional districts must be mathematically equal in population, unless necessary to achieve a legitimate state objective.

Shaw v. Reno, 509 U.S. 630 (1993). Legislative and congressional districts will be struck down by courts for violating the Equal Protection Clause if they cannot be explained on grounds other than race. (While not dispositive, “bizarrely shaped” districts are strongly indicative of racial intent).

Cooper v. Harris, (2017). Partisanship cannot be used to justify a racial gerrymander.

**** I always thought that it was odd the Courts did so, since: (i) it is the manipulation of district maps for partisan purposes that is the real concern in elections, and (ii) all too often, racial identity and political identity are the same.

 

APPENDIX I: Gerrymandering in North Carolina (since 2016)

In November 2010, the Republican party gained control of both houses of the North Carolina General Assembly. Republicans hadn’t had control of both houses since 1896, when the party successfully fused with the Populist Party. Republicans first gained control of the state house in 1998 but they have been unable to gain control of the state senate since 1896. Prior to the 2010 election, corrupt Democratic Senate leader Marc Basnight and corrupt House Speaker Joe Hackney controlled the state’s government. Basnight led the Senate for a record 18 years. The mandate for the newly-elected Republican majority was to end the corruption, to set a priority to live within a smaller more responsible budget (the state faced an estimated $3 billion deficit), and to enact a Voter ID bill.

Elections have consequences. Obama said this many times after he won, and in fact, the Supreme Court has recognized this common-sense truth in reviewing election matters.

The push-back against Republicans began immediately.

The following is taken directly from the “FACTS” section of the Complaint filed by the NCNAACP. It lays out the series of lawsuits against the North Carolina General Assembly (N.C.G.A.) with respect to the district maps.

The Unconstitutional N.C.G.A:

(1) The N.C.G.A. is comprised of 50 Senate seats and 120 House of Representative seats pursuant to the Constitution of the State of North Carolina, Art. II, §§ 2, 4.

(2) In 2011, following the decennial census, the N.C.G.A. redrew the boundaries of North Carolina legislative districts for both the NC Senate and the NC House of Representatives. The districts were enacted in July 2011.

(3) The N.C.G.A. unconstitutionally and impermissibly considered race in drawing the 2011 legislative maps, resulting in legislative districts that unlawfully packed black voters into election districts in concentrations not authorized or compelled under the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

(4) On November 4, 2011, the NC NAACP joined by three organizations and forty six individual plaintiffs filed a state court action that raised state and federal claims challenging the districts as unconstitutionally based on race. Dickson v. Rucho, 766 S.E.2d 238 (N.C. 2014), vacated, 135 S. Ct. 1843 (2015) (mem.), remanded to 781 S.E.2d 404 (N.C. 2015); vacated and remanded, 198 L. Ed. 2d 252 (U.S. 2017) (mem.), remanded 813 S.E.3d 230 (N.C. 2017).

(5) On May 19, 2015, plaintiffs Sandra Little Covington et al, filed a parallel challenge in federal court alleging that twenty-eight districts, nine (9) Senate districts and nineteen (19) House of Representative districts, were unlawful racial gerrymanders in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteen Amendment of the United States Constitution. Covington v. North Carolina, 316 F.R.D. 117 (M.D.N.C. 2016).

(6) In August 2016, the three-judge federal district court panel unanimously ruled for plaintiffs, holding that “race was the predominant factor motivating the drawing of all challenged districts,” and struck down the twenty-eight (28) challenged districts (nine Senate districts and nineteen House districts) as the result of an unconstitutional racial gerrymander. See Covington v. North Carolina, 316 F.R.D. 117, 124, 176 (M.D.N.C. 2016), aff’d, 581 U.S. ––––, 137 S.Ct. 2211 (2017) (per curiam).

(7) On June 5, 2017, the United States Supreme Court summarily affirmed the lower court’s ruling that the twenty-eight (28) challenged districts were the result of an unconstitutional racial gerrymander, North Carolina v. Covington, 581 U.S. ––––, 137 S.Ct. 2211, (2017) (per curiam). On June 30, 2017, a mandate was issued as to the U.S. Supreme Court’s order affirming the lower court’s judgment.

(8) The United States Supreme Court, however, vacated and remanded the lower court’s remedial order for a special election, ordering the lower court to provide a fuller explanation of its reasoning for the U.S. Supreme Court’s review. North Carolina v. Covington, — U.S. —, 137 S. Ct. 1624 (2017) (per curiam).

(9) On remand, the three-judge panel granted the N.C.G.A. an opportunity to propose a new redistricting plan to remedy the unconstitutional racial gerrymander. Covington v. North Carolina, 283 F.Supp.3d 410, 417–18 (M.D.N.C. 2018). In August 2017, the N.C.G.A. submitted a proposed remedial map, drawn by Dr. Thomas Hofeller, the same mapmaker the General Assembly had hired to draw the 2011 invalidated maps. Dr. Thomas redrew a total of 11 of the 170 state House and Senate districts from the 2011 unconstitutionally racially-gerrymandered maps. Id. at 418.

(10) After reviewing the General Assembly’s remedial plan, the three-judge panel determined that a number of the new districts put forward by the N.C.G.A. in its 2017 remedial plan were essentially continuations of the old, racially gerrymandered districts that had been previously rejected as unconstitutional and either failed to remedy the unconstitutional racial gerrymander or violated provisions of the North Carolina Constitution. Id. at 447-58. For those defective districts, the three-judge panel adopted remedial districts proposed by a court

appointed special master. Id. at 447-58. The United States Supreme Court affirmed the districts adopted by the three-judge panel, except for certain districts in Wake and Mecklenburg Counties that had not been found to be tainted by racial gerrymanders, but were drawn in alleged violation of the state constitutional prohibition against mid-decade redistricting.   North Carolina v. Covington, 138 S.Ct. 2548 (2018).

(11) In order to cure the 2011 unconstitutional racial gerrymander, the remedial maps redrew 117 legislative districts.

(12) In November of 2018, elections for all N.C.G.A. seats were held based on the redrawn districts, the first opportunity that voters had had since before 2011 to choose representatives in districts that have not been found to be the illegal product of an unconstitutional racial gerrymander.

(13) Since June 5, 2017, the N.C.G.A. has continued to act and pass laws.

Reference: NAACP and Clean Air Carolina v. Moore and Berger, COMPLAINT –https://www.southernenvironment.org/uploads/words_docs/Complaint_-_Usurpers_FINAL_-_pdf.pdf [Notice how the NAACP refers to Republican leaders as “Usurpers”]

Additional Gerrymandering History (Background of a Possible Upcoming Supreme Court case) –

In 2017, two congressional district maps, one for congressional district 1 and the other for congressional district 12, were challenged as being racially gerrymandered, and the district and appellate courts agreed. It was appealed to the US Supreme Court, which also affirmed on May 22, 2017. The high Court agreed that the districts in question were improperly racially gerrymandered and sent the case back to the district court for a suitable remedy. The district court ordered the General Assembly to draft remedial maps for use in the 2018 election cycle, which it did. And the court approved them. (So all is OK with the 2018 elections)

Those same district maps were then challenged as being improperly partisan gerrymandered. In 2017, a federal district court and held that North Carolina’s 2016 plan was enacted “with the intent of discriminating against voters who favored non-Republican candidates” and that the plan violated the First Amendment by “unjustifiably discriminating against voters based on their previous political expression and affiliation.” Partisan gerrymandering had been permitted by the Supreme Court and lower courts in the past, assuming that politics was always involved in the drafting of maps. The Supreme Court has always been of the understanding (the rightful expectation) that “elections have consequences.” The lower district court had ordered the NC General Assembly to enact a remedial redistricting plan by January 24, 2019. The ruling was appealed.

In January 2018, a panel of 3 federal judges affirmed the lower court ruling and declared the congressional district maps to be unconstitutional, being the product of partisan gerrymandering – that is, the maps were drawn to unfairly favor Republican candidates. (“The Republican-dominated state’s House map violated the First and 14th Amendments by unfairly giving one group of voters – Republicans – a bigger voice than others in choosing representatives”). The ruling was appealed to the Supreme Court.

On January 19, the US Supreme Court voted 7-2 to freeze (ignore) the lower federal court ruling,. The order makes it likely, although not certain, that the controversial maps will be used for the 2020 election. The order comes as the Supreme Court is also considering two other partisan gerrymander cases – one from Maryland and the other from Wisconsin. It is likely that should it take those cases, the NC case will be re-considered along with the other two. If the Supreme Court agrees to hear the cases, it will be the first time that the high court takes up the issue of “when is partisan gerrymandering too extreme” (so as to offend notions of fairness). The court will address the question of whether or not standards for partisan gerrymandering can be determined and applied].

In August 2018, the same three-member panel of judges reached essentially the same conclusion that it had in January – that NC’s district maps were unconstitutionally gerrymandered to favor Republicans. The Supreme Court had never struck down a state district map based on partisan gerrymandering. However, the ruling sets up a delicate tactical question for the Supreme Court, particularly since two other states have had their districting maps challenged as well as being improper partisan gerrymandering.

 

APPENDIX II: Why the NC NAACAP Filed the Lawsuit

In short, the NC NAACP is an extreme racist group, believing the white community has one interest only – in keeping the black community down, disadvantaged, poor, and suppressed at the ballot box. It believes that the primary object of white legislators is to plot and scheme on how to do all of the above, especially to suppress the black vote. Whites = bad. Blacks = victims. Whites = Republican. Blacks = Democrat. It’s president, T. Anthony Spearman, has spoken often, with racism dripping from his lips, about how white legislators still cling to the Jim Crow mentality of the post-Reconstruction era and “meet in their lily-white caucuses” to “enshrine racism” in the state’s laws and most recently, to enshrine it in the state’s constitution. His organization will do anything, and has done everything in its power (ie, to cry “racism” about everything that the legislature does), to prevent a voter ID law from being enforced in North Carolina and to keep the notion alive that it has no other purpose than to suppress the black vote.

In filing the lawsuit, Spearman commented: “The supermajority’s proposed amendments to the North Carolina constitution represent the greatest threat to our state’s democratic institutions since the Civil War.”

As usual, Spearman shows his utter ignorance of history and his willingness to distort history to further his ambitions. It was the Republicans in government (in power) that first gave blacks access to state democratic institutions and then to national democratic institutions. It was a Democrat, a slavery-supporter named Roger Taney (Chief Justice Roger Taney), who wrote the opinion in the infamous Dred Scott case (1857) that held that the United States never intended for persons of African descent to be included in the body politic (ie, to be considered as citizens) and hence, they could never be entitled to any protections under the US Constitution. In short, Mr. Dred Scott had no legal right even to bring his lawsuit.

It was the Democratic party and Democratic leaders who plotted and schemed to enshrine racism in laws, state constitutions, institutions, policies, and practices, and who engineered the social arraignment that was state-sponsored segregation (Jim Crow) to keep the races separated, implying that one race was superior to the other. It was Democratic Senators who filibustered in 1965 to prevent the passage of civil rights legislation. It was Republican Congressional leaders who banded together to break the filibuster and get the legislation passed.

If Spearman had any understanding or appreciation of history, he would know that Republicans aren’t the enemy of the black community. They aren’t the party that assumes that blacks are less intelligent, less capable, far less disadvantaged, incapable of making decisions on their own, incapable of competing in the workforce, incapable of supporting themselves, etc and hence government must take care of them. The Republican Party is the party of true equality, and all that it mean and all that it requires.

 

APPENDIX III: Why the NAACP Alleged the Income Tax Amendment to be Unconstitutional

The reason was provided in the Complaint filed by the NCNAACP:

“The income tax cap constitutional amendment harms the NCNAACP, its members, and the black community and its ability to advocate for tis priority issues. Because the amendment places a flat, artificial limit on income taxes, it prohibits the state from establishing graduated tax rates on higher-income taxpayers and, over time, will act as a tax cut only for the wealthy. This tends to favor white households and disadvantages people of color, reinforcing the accumulation of wealth for white taxpayers and undermining the financing of public structures (ie, public services) that benefit non-wealthy people, including people of color. For example, historically in North Carolina, decreased revenue produced by income tax cuts in the state has resulted in significant spending cuts that disproportionately hurt public schools, eliminated or significantly reduced funding for communities of color, and otherwise undermined the economic well-being of the non-wealthy.”

[In other words, the black community has nowhere achieved what the white community has achieved in NC, and because the black community has not achieved what the white community has achieved, the black community is entitled to what the white community earns. It makes no difference that the income tax cap amendment is absolutely neutral in its language and free from racial consideration. The black community is entitled to the wealth earned by others, which according to the NCNAACP, is earned almost exclusively by the white community].

Here is my question: Since the Reconstruction era, and especially after 1896, the NC state legislation has been in the hands of Democrats. Since blacks make up only about 22% of the population in the state, the only way that Democrats could have been elected and have continued to maintain control of the state government is if a large percent of voters were white. Democrats have held majorities and supermajorities for over 100 years, so if Spearman is complaining about the historic disadvantaged status of blacks in North Carolina, doesn’t it make sense that that’s because of the 100 years or so of Democratic government? Of Democratic policies? Republicans haven’t had the majority so it wasn’t their policies that have kept blacks so disadvantaged, so illiterate, so economically-depressed, etc. Maybe it was the white Democrats who are the real racists? In any case, it was Democrats, Democratic rule, and the long history of Democratic rule in North Carolina that have given rise to the status of blacks in the state.

Reference: NAACP and Clean Air Carolina v. Moore and Berger (2018), OPINION – https://www.southernenvironment.org/uploads/words_docs/doc03389420190222171503.pdf

 

APPENDIX IV. Why Clean Air Carolina joined the Lawsuit

Clean Air Carolina’s issue is not with the amendments at all. It is with having too many Republicans in government. This is what they said: “If the legislature is successful in its power grab it will have dire consequences for citizens in the voting booth, for our communities and the air we breathe, and for our basic democratic institutions. This is not our typical lawsuit but the proposed ballot measures would impact our ability to fulfill our mission by limiting the voice that North Carolinians have in state policy, particularly on urgent environmental issues.”   [Translation of “the voice that North Carolinians have in state policy”: They obviously mean that conservatives don’t count as North Carolinians. They are only concerned about Democratic residents of NC].

“This legislature has carried out extraordinary attacks to strip fundamental clean air and clean water protections that North Carolinians have been assured of for decades, breaking with our state’s long history of bipartisan support for environmental safeguards. At the moment we are poised to re-establish fair representation that will accurately reflect voters on environmental issues, they have attempted a desperate and unlawful power grab.”

In short, Clean Air Carolina honestly believes that Republicans have no interest in the environment. Hence, if they can help get rid of Republicans legislators, they would happily do so.

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