Sunday, April 02, 2023

Passing Obamacare in NC: A Republican Bug Zapper


People treated Republican leaders in the state's General Assembly like Moses down from the Mount when they finally agreed to pass Medicaid expansion to cover an additional 600,000 citizens who haven't had health insurance. The governor signed that law, and front pages everywhere celebrated with photos and headlines, and many people who don't actually read newspaper articles, or don't read to the end, thought the people had won one. Done. Delivered.

But hold on there. The Republicans had not suddenly gone soft on poor people. They were simply coiling themselves into a tighter fist, because they tied the implementation of their Medicaid expansion to the passage of the state's $30 billion budget. Their plan all along was to force Governor Cooper to accept a budget full of pain and grief for progressives, using the lives of 600,000 poor people as their pawns. So cool. So totally Phil Berger.

The state House of Reps published their proposed budget last week and plans to pass it this coming week. Some Democrats will help them, more's the pity. Then it will be the Senate's turn to fiddle with the House's brave new world, stuff such as this (indebted to WRAL's Travis Fain and Will Doran and to Jane Porter at IndyWeek):

** The initial budget draft includes language banning pro-environmental policies. 
Remember when the new Republican majority in the General Assembly passed a law (in 2012) that banned the state from basing coastal policies on the latest scientific predictions of how much the sea level will rise? Remember that, sports fans? It's about to get worse. And more directly spiteful.

The House budget specifically forbids Governor Cooper from entering a multistate agreement to cap the amount of carbon dioxide power companies emit. Governor Cooper has been working toward it for months, carbon reduction being one of his highest priorities.

Would also ban the North Carolina Utilities Commission, a body appointed by the governor that regulates Duke Energy and other utility companies, from ordering any cap-and-trade rules. That's a particularly egregious pay-off.

**Let's give millions of dollars to antiabortion groups like the crisis pregnancy centers, who use folklore in place of medicine. 

New language in the budget this year would ban the state from hiring any outside groups to help mount teen pregnancy prevention programs, if those outside groups also offer abortions. (They're talking about you, Planned Parenthood.) So we can expect plenty of "abstinence only" preaching and lots of new pregnancies.

**Continue the assault on public school teachers and further enable the know-nothing book banners.
The House's budget will require all public schools to post nearly all classroom materials to the internet -- not just books but prepared "hand-outs" and most particularly, day-to-day lesson plans that might be suspected of slipping a piece of historic reality into the fragile minds of school children. Huge addition to the workload of teachers. Because conservative ideology sorta demands the demonization of "liberal arts."

Funnels more money to private school vouchers for K-8 kids already enrolled in private schools; strips the state board of education of basic powers to set academic standards and decide on approval, renewal, or revocation of charter schools; extends and expands funding for low-performing virtual charters. (Jane Porter quoted Kristopher Nordstrom, senior policy analyst for the NC Justice Center's Education Law Project)

The House budget would also take the banning of printed materials from schools away from local boards and superintendents and give it to a new state mechanism, "media advisory committees," established to cover districts composed of multiple school systems; each regional committee to be composed of a principal, teacher, library coordinator, and parent each from a high school, middle school and elementary school in the district. Who will select these personnel?

Does not include the $300 million to boost teacher pay in daycares and preschools, which the state’s "business community" had pushed for. The money would have replaced pandemic-era federal subsidies that run out later this year, "and which are used now to boost salaries in an industry struggling to find workers." They say that more and more teachers are defecting to retail jobs, as that job sector raises pay for the same reason: the scarcity of workers.

**Would establish the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) as its own cabinet-level agency.

Taking the SBI away from the attorney general (vendetta much?). But the governor would still get to appoint the director and would still be able to fire that person, so maybe this is no big woop.

** Raises the mandatory retirement age for Supreme Court and Court of Appeals judges from 72 to 76.

So? Fain and Doran explain:

"That would allow Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul Newby to stay on the court past his 72nd birthday, which is in 2027. And since court vacancies created by retirements are filled by the governor, the change would keep a Democratic governor — or whoever wins the 2024 election to replace a term-limited Cooper — from appointing Newby’s replacement. That would help Republicans defend the 5-2 majority they won on the state’s highest court in the November elections...."


Anonymous said...

Things sound pretty bad for NC progressives.

Wait until Mark Robinson is Governor, you will think these were the good ol' days.

Anonymous said...

Robinson won't get past the primary now that Folwell has announced.

Wolf's Head said...

There aren't enough RINOs in the state to put Folwell in office.

But they might help to elect a democrat, again.