Loretta Boniti

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113th Congress: Howard Coble, 6th District

WASHINGTON — News 14 Carolina’s Senior Political Reporter Loretta Boniti talks with Howard Coble, the 6th District representative, as the 113th Congress is sworn into office.

113th Congress: George Holding, 13th District

WASHINGTON — News 14 Carolina’s Senior Political Reporter Loretta Boniti talks with the newly-elected representative from the 13th District, George Holding, as the 113th Congress is sworn into office.

113th Congress: David Price, 4th District

WASHINGTON — News 14 Carolina’s Senior Political Reporter Loretta Boniti talks with David Price, representative from the 4th District, as the 113th Congress is sworn into office.

McCrory names chief of staff, two cabinet selections in press conference

RALEIGH — Governor elect Pat McCrory has started to name the top officials who will be part of his administration.

McCrory has just under a month until he is sworn into office and he says he is working to get all the key roles filled before his inauguration.

“We’ve got a small window of opportunity to fill some very very important jobs,” said McCrory.

Some of the job openings have now been filled.

McCrory’s first announcement on Thursday will be his right hand man. Former Durham City Councilman and the current head of his transition team, Thomas Stith will be his chief of staff. Stith says this is an honor he does not take lightly.

“The Stith family came to this state as slaves, on the plantation in Tarboro, North Carolina. Each generation has built on the dream of prosperity and economic independence,” said Stith.

McCrory also has to find some to find people to fill his cabinet. One of the cabinet members who will be in the forefront facing tough issues right away is the Secretary of Health and Human Services. This person will deal with looming medicaid, affordable care act, and healthcare issues needing immediate attention.

Former US Ambassador to Estonia, now North Carolina resident, Aldona Wos is taking on that challenge.

“We need to bring excellence, availability, accountability and affordability to those who we serve,” said Wos.

For his second cabinet appointment, McCrory asked a private sector CEO to step into a public service role. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources will be headed by Raleigh businessman John Skvarla. He says he will take a customer friendly approach to the position.

“Living in an appealing environment and dealing with the environmental regulating agency should be both a positive living experience for everyone living in North Carolina, or those interested in re-locating to North Carolina,” said Skvarla.

McCrory said these appointments are just the beginning, but he is hoping the end is in sight.

“My goal is to get eight cabinet positions announced prior to my swearing in. Hopefully even earlier than that,” said McCrory.

McCrory will be sworn into office on January 5.

State group home residents worry with no funding resolution

RALEIGH — The Christmas decorations are laid out a home in the heart of Raleigh, but the Christmas cheer is on hold.

This house is one of many group homes scattered throughout the state. It’s a full-service home, providing a place to live for mentally challenged, disabled, or elderly North Carolina residents.

These folks who need help with everything from taking their medicine to daily hygiene.

“There is not another option,” said group home owner Mary Ann Crandell. “This is the only way.”

Because of the way the current state budget is written, many of Crandell’s residents could lose their Medicaid funding to live in these homes.

They said this means they could be out on the street as of Jan. 1, 2013.

“Most of the people who are here are the ones — as they say — that are born and bred here,” said Crandall, “and now they need North Carolina.”

At issue is about $7 million dollars of funding. That is just a very small percentage of the multi-billion dollar bottom line of state budget. But there are questions if lawmakers need to fix it or if the governor can find the money herself.

For his part, Speaker of the House Thom Tillis said the clock is ticking and he has asked the governor to call lawmakers back for a special session.

“Its a very simple fix,” said Tillis. “There is no question that the General Assembly believed that these patients were going to be covered. It’s a technical correction that we need to make and I would just like to go ahead and do that.”

But in the meantime the residents say they sit and wait- and worry.

“If I’m out there on the streets, I don’t know what would happen,” says group home resident Laura Starners. “I really don’t. I can imagine. But that’s about it.”

Gov. Bev Perdue’s office has indicated she will release a plan for a funding fix by the end of the week.

Fix the Debt group launched in North Carolina

RALEIGH — The national "Fix the Debt" campaign has launched an effort in North Carolina.

The bi-partisan group of business and political leaders is calling on folks in Washington to compromise and find a fix for the ballooning national debt.

Congress may be working through a lame duck session right now, but it has a big issue on the table before the end of the year.

“We’ve got to fix the debt,” said former Gov. Jim Hunt on Tuesday.

The campaign to “Fix the Debt” is a national initiative founded by former UNC President Erskine Bowles and former U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson. It has several key goals:

-Cut wasteful spending
-Reduce military spending while protecting national security
-Slow health care cost growth
-Fix social security for future generations
-Reform the tax code.

The national group is now bringing its message to the state level by launching an effort in North Carolina on Tuesday.

State business and political leader from both sides of the aisle came together in a press conference to say the fiscal cliff needs to be avoided and everyone needs to work together to do just that.

“Everyone in Washington worthy of representing the American people must be willing to compromise,” said Hunt, a Democrat.

Some advocates said the Fix The Debt campaign is not focused enough and held a demonstration outside the press conference. They said they believe the first step to fixing the problem is raising more revenue.

“The question is how are we going to do that,” said Justin Guillory with Progress NC, “and we think it is more appropriate for the top two percent to pay their fair share.”

Supporters of the effort said tax increases and spending reductions in many areas are going to have to happen, and everyone will have to compromise to fix the debt.

“It is hard, and its tough,” says former Gov. Jim Holshouser, a Republican. “But it’s the right thing to do. And all of us are counting on them to do it.”

North Carolina’s efforts on the “Fix the Debt” campaign are being headed by former GlaxoSmithKline CEO Bob Ingram and former Bank of America CEO Hugh McColl.

Lots of folks want to ‘Work for Pat’ McCrory in new administration

RALEIGH — Governor-elect Pat McCrory is looking for some fresh faces in state government.

Immediately following his election earlier this month, his transition team launched www.workforpat.com.

“What I’m doing is seeking talent,” McCrory told News 14 Carolina in an interview earlier this month. “I don’t care whether they are Republican or Democrat or independent. I’m looking for talent to run the government in the most effective way possible.”

The website covers a broad spectrum of jobs from typical gubernatorial appointments, like cabinet secretary positions, to some not as commonly discussed administration openings, like state dentists or museum directors.

“I think each department is going to have a review and take a look at each position and see how it is working and see what is best for North Carolina in the process,” said Chris Walker, the communications director for the McCrory transition team.

In the brief time since the site was launched, more than 4,000 people have submitted their resume looking for a job.

What’s different this administration change as opposed to previous ones is that, last summer, the General Assembly approved an adjustment to established law which said McCrory can hire up to 1,000 people under his new administration.

That number used to be just 400.

“People who are willing to serve the administration for a few years take some time out from their careers and their goals and help Governor-elect McCrory help the state, help North Carolina,” said Walker.

The McCrory team said it is still in its beginning phases of deciding who to bring on, but the governor-elect says he knows what type of folks he is looking for.

“I’m looking for problem solvers,” said McCrory. “I’m looking for visionaries. I’m looking for people who can work with a team.”

Recount begins in 7th District race

RALEIGH — The race to be the next congressman from North Carolina’s 7th Congressional District will be decided this week. With just 655 votes separating the two candidates, Republican David Rouzer, who is currently trailing, asked for a recount of the votes. That recount begins Monday.

The race between incumbent Democrat Mike McIntyre and Rouzer is one of the most expensive congressional races in the country and is now the race with the closest outcome on Election Day.

With well over 300,000 votes cast, the 655-vote difference was well within the margin for Rouzer to ask for a recount. On Tuesday he did just that, saying he was concerned about irregularities in Bladen County during the initial vote count.

Each county within District 7 will begin their recount Monday in hopes of completing the process by Tuesday.

"By statute you do it the same way as Election Day," said Gary Bartlett with the NC Board of Elections. "That is you place the optical scan ballot through the tabulator and you recount the ballots, the provisionals, any mail absentees and canvass just like you would for the Election Day.

It is unusual for a recount to swing a race by as many votes as separates these two candidates but political observers say it was expected that Rouzer would want this double check to make sure the final vote count is correct.

Concerns over group home funding spark protests at Legislative Building

RALEIGH — Disabled North Carolinians who live in supervised group homes throughout the state, could soon no longer qualify for their state personal care funding.

For those residents who need help with day to day tasks like cooking and getting to appointments this is concerning.

“I really don’t know, where I would go,” said Jennie Lisi, who lives in a group home in Raleigh. “Because my main problem is managing my medication. I am not able to do that.”

But under the current state budget, there was not any transitional money set aside to help fund personal care services for disabled North Carolinians living in group homes.

That means as of Jan. 1, residents could be looking for a new place to call home.

So residents who live in group homes took to the streets, holding a rally at the Legislative Building in Raleigh to let state leaders know, they want this funding problem fixed.

The residents currently have 24 hours of care available to them. If they have to leave the home, advocates said there may be no where to turn.

“There’s going to be a big crisis,” said Ann Akland with the National Alliance for Mental Illness, “with lots of people who will be on the streets because there are no option.”

Lawmakers acknowledge this was an unintended consequence, but say even though they aren’t in session, they believe a financial hole can be filled.

“One option is certainly for the governor to come up with some funds within the Department of Health and Human Services,” said Rep. Nelson Dollar, a Wake County Republican.

Dollar also suggests the residents can appeal the decision to stop their care if it happens.

He said by the time the appeal is considered, lawmakers will be back in session and fixing the problem.

In the meantime, the residents said they are hoping for the best.

“I’ve never been on my own,” said Lisi, “so I have no idea how I would survive on my own.”

Decision looming on state health care exchange program

RALEIGH – By Friday, North Carolina needs to decide how it wants to handle health exchanges under the Affordable Care Act.

Lawmakers said they want the state to create their own, but it is up to Gov. Bev Perdue to decide.

The deadline is coming as no surprise, but that didn’t stop state after state — including North Carolina — from procrastinating.

“Folks wanted to see what the outcome of the Supreme Court case was going to be,” said Rep. Nelson Dollar, a Wake County Republican. “As well, frankly, as the outcome of the elections.”

But President Barack Obama won and the Affordable Care Act is safe from a repeal.

This means a Friday, Nov. 16 deadline to announce intent and details of any plans for a State Health Exchange are quickly approaching.

Last week, the administration gave a slight reprieve which included an extension on providing details until December However, intent still needs to be declared by Friday.

In a letter to governors across the country, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wrote: "We are committed to providing you with the flexibility, resources, and technical assistance necessary to help you achieve successful implementation of your state’s exchange and look forward to continuing to work with you as we implement the health care law."

The decision now falls in the lap of Perdue, whose communications director, Chris Mackey said in a statement: "We are determining which option would serve in the best interest of North Carolina families and taxpayers. Gov. Perdue understands all of the options provided to us under federal law. Ultimately, the final implementation of the law will involve the executive branch, DOI and the legislative branch. "

Members of the legislative Health and Human Services Committee say since they are not in session right now, they don’t get a say. But, the lawmakers do have an opinion on what they are hopeful the governor will do.

“I’d rather the state of North Carolina to establish a health exchange than have the federal government do it for us,” said Sen. Bill Purcell, a Scotland County Democrat.

For his part, Governor-elect Pat McCrory continues to study this issue.

He has already spoken once to other Republican governors from across the country and his staff said he will continue to do that as he evaluates how he believes North Carolina should move forward.