Gov. McCrory Signs Unemployment Bill

unemploymentGASTON COUNTY — A controversial unemployment bill is now law.

Gov. McCrory signed the bill in Gaston County on Thursday morning. It requires people who receive unemployment benefits to increase their contacts with potential employers from two to five times a week.

McCrory says this new bill will make North Carolina more competitive.

He also says the whole point is “helping people who can’t help themselves, while encouraging those who can.”

McCrory said this is a game-changer when it comes to unemployment benefits

“Getting a job is a job, and you should treat it as a job,” said McCrory.

Senate Bill 15 is an unemployment legislation that changes a lot, like requiring people to show a valid federal ID when collecting unemployment benefits

“A photo ID will ensure the person who deserves and qualifies for the benefits is the same person getting the checks.”

It also allows them to check criminal justice databases to make sure inmates aren’t applying for unemployment benefits, which happened two years ago in the state.

“In 2012, three Swane County jail inmates were collecting unemployment benefits while they were locked up. That’s not acceptable.”

One big change: people getting unemployment benefits now have to make five job contacts a week, up from the previously required two.

“The five contact can also be done via the Internet.”

But most importantly, McCrory says it’ll help people find jobs quicker, so they can get back on their feet.

“I care for the people trying to find employment, and we want to help you, but we also want you to help yourself,” said McCrory.

– Christina Watkins

Gov. McCrory Signs Ride-Sharing Services Bill

UBER_billCHARLOTTE—New regulations for ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft are now in place.

Gov. Pat McCrory was at the Charlotte Chamber Friday morning to sign the so-called “Uber bill” into law. The legislation imposes restrictions on drivers and requires the services to pay a licensing fee to the state. Drivers will need to undergo background checks and maintain liability insurance on their vehicles.

Law details:

·         Mandatory county, federal, and multi-state background checks

·         $1.5 Million primary insurance coverage on every trip

McCrory Behind Cooper in 2015 Fundraising for NC Governor

mccrory_28_jpgRALEIGH—Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper has outpaced incumbent Republican Gov. Pat McCrory in fundraising this year as the two gear up for the 2016 North Carolina gubernatorial race.

According to campaign finance reports released Friday, Cooper raised more than $2 million in the first six months of 2015, and had more than $3 million in cash on hand. McCrory raised more than a $1 million in that same period, and has a little less than $2.5 million in campaign coffers.

McCrory began the year with about $100,000 more cash-on-hand than Cooper, who is planning to run but has not formally declared as a candidate.

Durham lawyer Ken Spaulding is also running for the Democratic nomination, having raised a little less than $45,000, with more than $50,000 cash on hand.

– Associated Press

McCrory Ups Security at N.C. National Guard Facilities

NationalGuardSecurityRALEIGH, N.C. — Governor Pat McCrory has ordered increased security at North Carolina National Guard facilities following the deadly shooting last week in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

The order calls for heightened security at recruiting centers, armories and readiness centers statewide.

In a statement, McCrory said: “We will be vigilant in protecting those who protect us. These men and women are putting their lives on the line to serve our country and it’s our responsibility to ensure everything that is within our power to do for their safety is done.”

Gov. McCrory Orders State Flag to Fly at Half-Staff

NC_flag_half_staffRALEIGH — The governor also ordered the state flag to be flown at half-staff today in honor of the five servicemen killed last week.

The flag will be lowered from sunrise to sunset. One of the victims, Sgt. David Wyatt, was born in Morganton and was stationed at Camp Lejeurne during his 11-year career with the Marine Corps.

Other Marines killed in the shooting include Gunner Sgt. Thomas Sullivan, Sgt. Carson Lolmquist and Lance Cpl. Squire Wells.

Navy Petty Officer Randall Smith died Saturday from wounds sustained in the shooting.

Eyes Focus on Medicaid Expansion Following Supreme Court Ruling

magistrate_vetoRALEIGH—Many people in North Carolina have been watching and waiting for the Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act subsidies.

The governor had indicated earlier this year, that the ruling could have an impact on whether or not he would recommend expanding the state’s Medicaid program.

However, the ruling may not move that Medicaid issue any closer to resolution.

With the Supreme Court ruling saying all citizens can get subsidies for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, states who were bracing for potential chaos if the ruling had gone the other way can now move on to other issues associated with the law.

President Barack Obama said he wants that effort to be on Medicaid expansion.

“I’m going to work as hard as I can to convince more governors and state legislatures to take advantage of the law, put politics aside and expand Medicaid and cover their citizens,” said President Obama.

North Carolina is one of those states that did not accept federal dollars through the Affordable Care Act to expand Medicaid. Earlier this year, Gov. Pat McCrory said he was holding making his recommendation on expansion until after this ruling.

“It is a very complex issue. You can’t just say are you for it or against it,” said Gov. McCrory.

On Thursday, he was not ready to make a decision. The governor said he is studying how successful expansion has been in other states, and if he believes it could work in North Carolina.

“We’ve got to make sure that in order to make sure those people falling through the cracks that we don’t break the entire system for those who currently have insurance. And that’s the balance at this point in time,” said Gov. McCrory.

But the final decision for expansion, would need to pass through the legislature. For his part, the leader of the Senate is clear that he is against it.

“We continue to have a Medicaid system that grows at rates far greater than inflation. We cannot contemplate adding more people to the Medicaid rolls at a time when we are having difficulty sustaining the Medicaid system that we currently have. That situation is exactly what it was before this decision,” said Sen. Phil Berger, President Pro-tem.

The House, Senate and governor are all currently working on Medicaid reform for the state which does not include expansion.

Statement from NC Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin:

The case did not rule anything further on Medicaid expansion but it will provide some growing interest in states that haven’t expanded Medicaid to consider to do so. This is a long standing, controversial matter. I do not expect this particular ruling to end the controversy, but it does provide some level of comfort for 450,000 North Carolinians.

Statement from Speaker Tim Moore:

“The Affordable Care Act has forced many North Carolinians to pay higher premiums, has limited personal choice of doctors and coverage, and has cornered businesses of all shapes and sizes. Today’s Supreme Court ruling is disappointing, but does not change the fact that this flawed policy is doing more harm than good for our State.

This week, the House passed the 2015 Medicaid Modernization Act in an effort to transition the government-run program to patient-centered, provider-led healthcare. This reform will allow the State to fully fund enrollment growth and eliminate wasteful spending of taxpayer dollars. Medicaid Reform, not expansion, will remain the priority, and today’s Court ruling will not directly impact North Carolina’s final decision.”

– Loretta Boniti

Division Within Republican Party Disputed

NC_house_newRALEIGH—With Republicans controlling all of the top elected offices in the state, there is some question about how big the divide is within the party.

With the next election never far away, some Republicans are facing the question of if they are conservative enough for the party  or in some cases to conservative  for the masses.

Conservative advocacy groups have not been mincing any words. When it comes to how the state House handled a spending plan proposal,  they don’t approve.

“The governor’s proposed budget was 2.3 percent.  The House’s budget was 6.3 percent, which is astronomical and ridiculous,” said Donald Bryson, with Americans for Prosperity.

When Gov. Pat McCrory vetoed Senate Bill 2, a piece of legislation carried by Senate President pro-tem Phil Berger meant to allow those with sincere religious objections to opt of same-sex marriage, traditional marriage advocates were quick to respond. The NC Values Coalition released this statement: It is unacceptable for any Governor who calls himself ‘conservative’ to veto legislation like SB 2.

The Senate has been quick to say they hold the conservative values  that some House members are being accused of abandoning, again pointing to the budget.

“It is excessive and more in line with what the democrats did when we started with a deficit in 2011,” said aid Sen. Bob Rucho, a Mecklenburg County Republican.

But for House members, they say there is no loss of conservative values, even when it comes to the budget.

“On this issue maybe, on other issues, maybe not.  We sent them an energy bill that was extremely conservative.  So we’ll see what happens with that.  We sent them a budget that they might not consider conservative. I consider vast parts of that budget conservative.  We’ll see what they do with that. I don’t think you can say consistently any one body is more conservative than the other,” said Majority Leader Rep. Mike Hager.

Analysts say this battle over who is and is not conservative enough is important because the interest and advocacy groups have a strong hand in the election process.

“Themselves and through their own links have great access to lots and lots of money and could be conceivably be very troublesome to a lawmaker trying to get re-elected, especially in a primary,” said Mac McCorkle, with Duke University.

However analysts say this is a very different concern for lawmakers, who are in safer districts more drawn in their favor than for someone like the governor—who has to appeal to the state as a whole- while also not losing his base.

“On a statewide level, it will be interesting to see how candidates are positioning themselves. And that’s why I think we see Pat McCrory trying position himself more toward the middle on the gay marriage issue for example,” said Stephen Greene, with NC State University.

Analysts say these battles are common with a party who holds this much power in the state and say we can expect to see it continue, especially as the budget work continues in the legislature.

– Loretta Boniti

McCrory Vetoes ‘Ag-Gag’ Bill

mccrory_budgetRALEIGH – Gov. Pat McCrory has vetoed House Bill 405, the so-called Ag-Gag Bill.

Among its provisions, the measure allows employers to sue an employee who secretly records images or audio in non-public areas of a business.

Bill supporters say it protects business from harm but opponents say it cracks down on whistleblowers who are trying to expose wrongdoing.

Governor Pat McCrory released the following statement on House Bill 405:

“This bill is intended to address a valid concern of our state’s businesses—how to discourage those bad actors who seek employment with the intent to engage in corporate espionage or act as an undercover investigator. This practice is unethical and unfair to employers, and is a particular problem for our agricultural industry. It needs to be stopped.

While I support the purpose of this bill, I believe it does not adequately protect or give clear guidance to honest employees who uncover criminal activity. I am concerned that subjecting these employees to potential civil penalties will create an environment that discourages them from reporting illegal activities.

Earlier this week, I was proud to sign Burt’s Law. It requires adult care home employees who witness sexual abuse of patients to report it to the proper authorities. I signed Burt’s Law because it protects a vulnerable population and gives clear direction to employees to report any abuse they witness. I don’t want to discourage good employees of any industry from reporting illegal activities to the proper authorities, which is why I am vetoing House Bill 405. In good conscience, I cannot sign Burt’s Law and then in the same week turnaround and sign contradictory legislation.

I encourage the General Assembly to reconsider this bill as soon as possible and add protections for those employees who report illegal activities directly and confidentially to the proper authorities. I stand ready to work with legislators during this process, and I am very optimistic that we can reach a solution that addresses the concerns of our North Carolina employers while still protecting honest employees.” 


Governor to Veto Same-Sex Marriage Opt Out Bill

SameSexMarriageRALEIGH — The state House gave final approval Thursday to an opt-out bill that allows magistrates to decline to perform any marriages, and the governor released a statement saying that he would veto the legislation.

After a federal appeals court overturned North Carolina’s ban on same-sex marriage last year, the Administrative Office of the Courts directed magistrates to perform marriages for same-sex couples or face disciplinary action.

Bill supporters say it creates a reasonable accommodation for public officials who feel performing a same-sex marriage is against their religious beliefs. But opponents say the bill is discriminatory and unconstitutional.

“That’s all this bill does. It applies the principles of Title VII and the principles of the government Employees Rights Act to a particular circumstance that we have here. I wish the bill wasn’t necessary. It is necessary. I encourage you to vote for it,” said Rep. Paul Stam, Wake County.

Both sides says it’s not the end if same sex couples want to get married. The bill has a provision saying a judge or another magistrate must be available to perform the marriage. State laws also allow an ordained minister or another recognized-religious figure to do the same.

“If a gay couple goes and asked to be married in front of this magistrate, are they being protected equally under the constitution when they are not getting treated the same as when a straight couple goes and tries to get married in front of a magistrate here in the state of North Carolina? That is the opposite of equal protection,” said Rep. Nathan Baskerville, Granville Co.

Statement from Gov. McCrory on Senate Bill 2:

“I recognize that for many North Carolinians, including myself, opinions on same-sex marriage come from sincerely held religious beliefs that marriage is between a man and a woman. However, we are a nation and a state of laws. Whether it is the president, governor, mayor, a law enforcement officer, or magistrate, no public official who voluntarily swears to support and defend the Constitution and to discharge all duties of their office should be exempt from upholding that oath; therefore, I will veto Senate Bill 2.”

The governor has 10 days to officially veto the bill. The question then becomes if there will be enough votes from state lawmakers to override his veto.

Governor Announces $400 Million Revenue Surplus

mccrory_budgetRALEIGH—Gov. Pat McCrory said North Carolina will have a revenue surplus of $400 million this fiscal year, and he already has ideas on how to use it.

He announced the surge in tax collections Wednesday at an event held by the NC Association of County Commissioners in Raleigh.

This is news that we were looking for. I was ready for the opposite news, but instead to get this news is very good for our growing economy,” said Gov. McCrory.

Gov. McCrory and his fellow Republican leaders are in part crediting the good economic report on tax reform they put in place in 2013. It is a move they have been criticized for by some opponents. They said ultimately it has helped the state’s economy get back on track.

“I’ve been more strategic for the long term, taking the short-term hits from critics  and others who wanted to keep the status quo policies that were not working for North Carolina,” said Gov. McCrory.

But state Democratic leaders were quick to respond. Minutes after the announcement, some Tweeted their concerns with the burden this surplus is putting on the middle class—later saying it is not surprising that the state has more money than before.

“What these revenues that were reported today show is that you did collect more money because you taxing people at a much higher level than you historically have taxed them,” said Sen. Dan Blue, a Wake County Democrat.

The state budget director, Lee Roberts, said these criticisms are unwarranted.

“It seems to me that a little while ago I was answering questions about we had cut taxes too much—now they are saying we didn’t cut taxes enough,” said Roberts.

Main Street Democrats, a group of centrist, pro-business Democrats, say they share concerns about the burdens and are not convinced that this surplus can do much to benefit the state.

“Supporting education, teacher raises would be a good place to put this money. State employees haven’t had any significant raises in a while. There are 100 places where we could put that money to work, but its not going to go very far,” said Rep. Ken Goodman, a Richmond County Democrat.

Gov. McCrory said he would like to see the money go toward building up reserve for the state, as well as reinstate the medical expense tax deductions for seniors and to give targeted salary increases to state employees.

The revenue numbers were important for legislators, who are currently working to write the next state spending plan. House members are hoping to use these projections to have their budget proposal ready within the next two weeks.

-Loretta Boniti