McCrory fighting to change lawmakers’ minds on vetoes

RALEIGH — After a flurry of activity by state lawmakers to wrap up the legislative session in July, by mid-August, Gov. Pat McCrory had handed down two vetoes on proposed laws. This was a move that some fellow Republicans said was not unexpected.

“I would call it a disagreement among friends,” said Republican strategist Marc Rotterman. “You are obviously going to have a little tension between the legislature and the governor’s office, even if they are both of the same parties.”

Legislative leaders have indicated that when they get back to Raleigh, they will have the votes to override the vetoes. But McCory is fighting to change some minds.

“Even though I think if these vetoes are overridden, it is not going to damage his reputation,” said Kenneth Fernandez with Elon University. “No governor wants his vetoes overridden.”

McCrory is using modern amenities to his advantage. On Twitter, he is making his case to sustain the vetoes. He is blasting editorials in his favor to media, and he’s taken to Facebook to encourage grassroots action to change some legislative minds.

“Usually, it is more of a tactic for the out party to go the outside and try to lobby the party that is in power,” said Chris Cooper with Western Carolina University. “I can’t recall this sort of tactic being used against one’s own party.”

But strategists said this is a smart move by the governor because even though all indication is that he is going to suffer a defeat when the votes are counted, he is making sure voters are paying attention to why he took this stand.

“I think he is taking advantage to what is available to him today, and what is available for the technology that is available for campaigns for governor’s,” says Rotterman. “I think it is very wise.”

Members of the House and Senate both plan to be in Raleigh to take votes on the vetoes on Tuesday.

– Loretta Boniti

McCrory in USA Today: Election overhaul brings NC into mainstream

Gov. Pat McCrory

Gov. Pat McCrory wrote an editorial in the USA Today defending voter ID and election overhaul in North Carolina, and he has some words for The New York Times, which recently criticized state government. Here is the editorial:

Imagine if the Transportation Security Administration decided airline passengers no longer need a photo ID. Providing a name and destination would be good enough to board an airplane. No doubt, the public and our national elected representatives wouldn’t stand for such lax protection.

Similar concern has been expressed by new residents of North Carolina when they discover a photo ID isn’t required at the polls. They’re amazed that providing a name and address is all it takes to get inside the voting booth.

Newcomers aren’t the only ones concerned. The vast majority of North Carolinians believe that photo ID should be required to cast a vote.

In 2016, photo ID will be required to vote in North Carolina, just as it is today when citizens cash a check, apply for government benefits or even when buying cold remedies such as Sudafed.

The need for photo ID has been questioned by those who say voter fraud isn’t a problem in North Carolina. However, assuming fraud isn’t a threat when multimillion dollar campaigns are trying to win in a state where millions of votes are cast is like believing oversight isn’t needed against Wall Street insider trading.

The changes we’re making in early voting have been called restrictive by liberals and the news media. That’s not true. While the early voting calendar has been shortened, the actual number of hours a voter has to cast an early ballot is unchanged.

Going forward, early voting sites will now be open longer, and uniform days of operation will guarantee every voter has an equal opportunity to cast an early ballot.

When our reforms are fully implemented, North Carolina will remain a national leader in ballot access, a fact you might find surprising given the hypocritical national reporting.

The New York Times characterized North Carolina as a leader in voter suppression. Yet, North Carolina has 10 days of early voting. New York offers none. North Carolina has no-excuse absentee voting. New York does not.

In reality, the legislation I signed into law keeps North Carolina in the mainstream of election law, not the fringes.

Photo ID has made flying safer and prevents fraud in government programs. Photo ID has become a part of everyday life in America, and our individual vote deserves the same protection.

AP: Jobs for highly-paid McCrory staffers never posted

RALEIGH — Gov. Pat McCrory says two 24-year-old campaign staffers landed senior-level jobs in his administration because they were the most qualified applicants, beating out older candidates.

But the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, where Matthew McKillip and Ricky Diaz got big promotions and raises, has been unable to provide any evidence their positions were advertised or that other applicants were considered. The agency also says there are no written descriptions or requirements for their jobs.

McKillip is paid $87,500 a years as a chief policy adviser. Diaz makes $85,000 annually as the agency’s communications director.

A review of descriptions for similar government positions shows McKillip and Diaz do not meet the academic or experience requirements to qualify for even entry level positions in the areas they oversee.

UPDATE: The Governor’s Office disputes the story. Communications Director Kim Genardo released this statement:

“This story is overblown and is not serving either AP members or readers or state employees well. Every personnel law and policy was adhered to in the hiring of Diaz and McKillip. State government has nearly 90,000 employees and the press has singled out two workers. Keep in mind, no one has quibbled with their performance, work ethic and dedication to their department and the state of North Carolina.”

– Michael Biesecker

Copyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

McCrory pushing legislature to sustain vetoes

RALEIGH — Gov. Pat McCrory is attempting to lobby legislators through social media to sustain his two vetoes.

The governor called for the General Assembly to reconvene for a Sept. 3 session, but lawmakers have the option of letting the governor’s decision stand on the the immigration bill and another bill that that would require selective drug testing for public assistance.

It’s unclear how lawmakers will act on McCrory’s vetoes when they return to Raleigh. On the governor’s official Facebook page, he urged lawmakers to sustain his vetoes.

Political analyst David McClennan believes the governor’s efforts will get his message out to the public at the very least.

“It gets his case out there as to why both bills he saw as flawed,” said McLennan, professor at William Peace University. “Former Gov. (Bev) Perdue would lobby legislators. But I think using the social media to do that is kind of interesting and unique. I’m not sure its going to have a whole lot of impact on legislators.”

If the governor vetoes any bill, he’s required to call lawmakers back here to the Legislative Building for a veto override session, but the House and Senate can always decline that invitation.

“Both bills are House bills so Speaker Tillis has really got all the responsibility now,” said McLennan.

For his part, House Speaker Thom Tillis released a statement that the House will convene at noon on Sept. 3, but no action will be taken immediately.

He said House leaders still need to decide whether to take action later that day or the next.

House Bills 786 and 392 passed by more than three-fifths majority during regular session, which is the what’s needed to override the governor’s veto.

“I don’t know how successful the governor has been in getting people to change their vote,” said House Majority Leader Rep. Edgar Starnes, R-Caldwell.

These bills both passed with bi-partisan support and the House majority leader expects at the very least, the super-majority of Republicans in the house to override the Republican governor vetoes.

“Those who voted for the bill will continue to vote yes and those who voted no will continue to vote no,” said Starnes.

The veto session would cost tax payers about $50,000 a day.

“Part of the provision of the law says that we need a session even if it is a special session to consider overrides. It is costly,” said Starnes.

The last veto override session was in January 2012 on an act to reform the Racial Justice Act. Lawmakers did not override Perdue’s veto, but took action on other legislation.

– Julie Fertig

McCrory cleans desk: Signs 33 bills, including judicial standing for legislative leaders

Gov. Pat McCrory

Gov. Pat McCrory signed 33 remaining bills on his desk after the legislative session.

Here’s a look:

Legal standing to defend the state: McCrory signed a bill to allow the House Speaker and Senate President Pro-Tem to make a motion in court to defend the state in a lawsuit. This raises questions about who speaks for the state in court. Usually, it’s the Attorney General, but legislative leaders added this provision at the last minute. They are concerned that Roy Cooper may decline to defend the state.

Cooper has spoken out against election overhaul, saying it would be challenged in court. The ACLU has filed a lawsuit challenging the recent election overhaul and added a challenge to the marriage amendment.

Cooper told Capital Tonight that his office would defend the state, despite his personal feelings. Watch the interview here.

​”I encourage the General Assembly not to use this law unless it is absolutely necessary. There should be mutual understanding and cooperation among the General Assembly, the Attorney General and the Governor,” McCrory said in a statement.

Watch an explainer about legal standing here.

Changing the judicial discipline process: This bill changed the procedure for complaints against judges, saying the Judicial Standards Commission can no longer issue public reprimands. It also repeals current law that puts complaints against Supreme Court justices in the hands of a panel of appeals court judges.

– Jordan Lake water quality: Keeps current rules in place; calls for a comprehensive study on mitigation strategies.

Treasurer investments: Gives the state treasurer flexibility in managing the state’s investments.

Foreign law in divorce courts: Republicans pushed this bill through to prevent  McCrory said he would let the bill banning Sharia law become enacted without his signature. He called the bill unnecessary.

Regulatory reform: This bill allows state government to review and repeal regulations deemed unnecessary. It also loosens regulations on landfills, but McCrory signed two executive orders to address two provisions of the bill. Read more about that here.

Read more about the signed bills here.

McCrory signs regulatory reform bill that loosens landfill rules

Gov. Pat McCrory

Gov. Pat McCrory signed a regulatory reform bill into law that, among other things, eases environmental regulations concerning landfills.

– The law says the Department of Environment and Natural Resources can’t require garbage trucks to be leak-proof, but can be leak resistant. McCrory issued an executive order saying law enforcement can cite leaky garbage trucks.

– The law allows landfills to be built closer to state parks and gameland and loosens regulations on how landfills must cover their garbage and prevent wastewater from seeping into nearby groundwater.

– The law allows for wider cut zones around outdoor advertising, but McCrory issued an executive order protecting against excessive clear cutting.

Regulatory reform was a big priority for Republicans, who said the state has too many rules that burden business.

“For decades, Democrats have stifled small businesses and job creators with undue bureaucratic burden and red tape. We have more than 22,000 rules on the books in state government and this is unacceptable,” McCrory said, in a statement. “This common sense legislation cuts government red tape, axes overly burdensome regulations, and puts job creation first here in North Carolina. Signing the Regulatory Reform Act into law today is another step toward making North Carolina more friendly to job creators.”

The law require state agencies to review their rules and categorize them based on if they are needed and controversial or not. The state will then keep or throw out those rules based on the designations.

Other provisions of the law include:

– UNC system students charged with an on-campus disciplinary infraction can retain an attorney during administrative hearings.

– Requires hotels to install carbon monoxide detectors in their rooms. This comes after three people died while staying in a Boone hotel, where carbon monoxide was determined to be the cause of death.

– Allows businesses to give preference to veterans in job employment searches.

Read the full law here.

Hospital pricing transparency law may not bring health care costs down

RALEIGH — On Wednesday, Gov. Pat McCrory signed what some people have dubbed the “hospital transparency” bill into law.

It requires hospitals to provide a list of its prices for certain medical procedures and services so the prices can be posted online.

“This is a sort of feel good bill,” said Adam Searing, health director for the N.C. Justice Center.

Starting next year, hospitals will have to list their prices for the 100 most common medical procedures, 20 most common surgical procedures and 20 most common imaging procedures.

Those prices will be posted on the Department of Health and Human Services website.

“For the average person, it does mean if you go to the hospital or you get a bill from the hospital, it’s going to be a little bit easier to figure out the prices and charges,” Searing said.

Earlier this year, the federal government released nationwide data on hospital prices, showing a wide range of charges for the same services here in North Carolina and across the country.

UNC Health Care released a statement supporting the new law, saying:

“The UNC Health Care system, which includes Rex Healthcare in Raleigh, UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill and other facilities, supports lawmakers’ effort to improve transparency in pricing and billing. UNC Health Care already takes many steps to help our patients understand what services, procedures and treatments cost, regardless of their ability to pay. Those steps include providing cost estimates before surgeries and other procedures, posting our generous charity care policies online and prominently in our facilities and more. We are working closely with the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services to comply with all aspects of the new law.”

But health experts say this new hospital transparency law is not as big a win for patients as it seems, because it doesn’t do anything to help bring those prices down.

“It’s nice the legislature did this,” Searing said. “It makes it easier for people to shop around. But by not expanding Medicaid, they took a huge chunk out of the budget of every hospital in the state and made it harder for the lowest income people to get care.”

A statement from the North Carolina Hospital Association agreed, saying:

“Hospitals have been moving in this direction for some time now. We also desire to see lower healthcare costs. Unfortunately, as long as the state continues to pay hospitals less than our costs of caring for Medicaid patients, reducing hospital payments by almost $150 million more this year, and does nothing to address those who have no insurance, costs will continue to rise on businesses and patients who fund health care.”

“Just having some transparency in prices can’t hurt,” Searing said. “A more easy-to-understand market is a better market for everyone.”

The law also makes changes to the State Personnel Act, now making it easier for the governor to hire or fire up to 1,500 state government positions no longer protected under personnel rules. The law also shortens the grievance process for employees.

– Heather Moore

McCrory names Perry as public safety secretary

Public Safety Secretary Frank Perry

Frank Perry is the new secretary of the Department of Public Safety.

Perry had been acting as interim secretary after Kieran Shanahan stepped down earlier in the summer. He previously was the commissioner of the Division of Law Enforcement.

Perry is a North Carolina native and served in the FBI for 22 years before being appointed to the commissioner post.

“Frank Perry has dedicated his life to public safety, primarily through his distinguished FBI career,” Gov. Pat McCrory said, in a statement. “He brings a wealth of real-world experience to the helm of DPS in addition to his dedication to public service.”

Shanahan left his post on July 31, after only seven months as public safety secretary, citing business and personal reasons.

McCrory signs hospital pricing, state personnel changes into law

Gov. Pat McCrory

Gov. Pat McCrory signed a bill into law that forces hospitals to advertise prices for procedures and makes changes to the State Personnel Act.

House Bill 834 requires hospitals and surgical centers to submit prices on the 100 most common procedures to the Department of Health and Human Services and prohibits state hospitals at UNC-Chapel Hill and East Carolina University to garnish wages to pay an unpaid debt.

“This new law gives patients and their doctors pricing information so they can make an informed financial decision with regard to their health care,” McCrory said, in a statement.

The bill also streamlines the State Personnel Act by changing the mediation process and adds 500 exempt positions — increasing the number of at-will positions from 1,000 to 1,500.

“This is a good first step in initiating performance management and employee evaluation for all state workers,” said McCrory. “The State Personnel Act promotes efficiency in state government and streamlines a wasteful grievance process that has averaged more than 450 days.”


Bloomberg: North Carolina channeling Alabama, lurching to the right

A columnist for Bloomberg News, Albert Hunt, said North Carolina “is channeling Alabama and South Carolina when it comes to the best economic, social and political model for a U.S. Southern state.”

Hunt wrote:

As Republicans took full control of the state government in Raleigh, there has been a shift to the right. Taxes for the wealthy have been slashed, and spending for education and programs that benefit the poor have been cut. Abortion has been restricted, and guns rights expanded.

At the end of the legislative session in July, in a state that has enjoyed relatively good race relations — which the business community both encouraged and benefited from — voting privileges for blacks were targeted.

Hunt interviewed Gov. Pat McCrory, who the state was off track and “needed to be shaken up.” He also talked with Jim Goodmon, owner of Capital Broadcasting, Ann Goodnight, wife of SAS founder Jim Goodnight, the Rev. William Barber and Ronnie Bryant, president of the Charlotte Regional Partnership — all of whom said Republicans are taking the state off the rails.

Read the full column here.