NC General Assembly

A shopper examines produce at Deep Roots grocery.
Deep Roots Coop

A committee from the North Carolina House of Representatives spent four months looking into how to address food deserts across the state.  Monday afternoon they made their proposals: to expand education about healthy eating and exercising habits across the state and to start a joint committee with members of the senate to continue looking at how to address the problem.

Image of NC General Assembly where lawmakers are considering two controversial bills.
Credit NC General Assembly

Officials with the state Department of Health and Human Services say they still expect a Medicaid shortfall of between $120- and $140-million this year. They spoke before state lawmakers today in a committee meeting at the General Assembly.

They first predicted a shortfall of this size about three weeks ago, and it's less than budget overruns of previous years. Republican Representative Nelson Dollar of Cary says that's good news.

Katie Short (far left in purple), mother Mary next to her.
Jessica Jones

Every month, state lawmakers on the General Assembly’s Health and Human Services Oversight Committee hold meetings to talk about health policy in North Carolina. Legislators sit at the front of the room to discuss their agenda, as staff members, reporters, and lobbyists listen. But in the back of the room, a mother and daughter, Mary and Katie Short, who attend every single meeting keep their eye on things too.

Photo: A drilling site in northeastern Louisiana.
Daniel Foster via Flickr

The commission that’s been writing North Carolina’s policies on hydraulic fracturing for natural gas rushed on Wednesday to complete a set of rules that are necessary for drilling to start in the state next year.

Photo: A farm in Lee County
Donald Lee Pardue via Flickr

North Carolina’s economy could gain more from off-shore gas and oil drilling than from drilling on land, and the financial cost of drilling on land could outweigh the benefit, according to a report state lawmakers received on Tuesday.

Off-shore drilling could represent $1.9 billion in economic activity in the state per year for 30 years, according to a report from N.C. State University, which looked at economic benefits like jobs created and drawbacks like environmental risks.  

North Carolina legislative building
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

State officials say they expect a funding shortfall for the state’s Medicaid program this fiscal year.

Pam Kilpatrick is with the Office of State Budget and Management. She told state lawmakers what her office’s estimate was at a Health and Human Services oversight meeting this morning:

“The 120 to 140 million dollars would be the sum total of all the moving parts. That will be attributed as the department walks through the specifics,  and their methodologies, and they’re using more than one methodology to come up with this shortfall range.”

NC General Assembly

Members of the General Assembly’s Health and Human Services committee are scheduled to meet today in Raleigh. One of the biggest tasks the committee faces is reforming Medicaid- the program that provides health care for people in poverty.

Earlier this year, state officials seemed to be advocating for a move to managed care. But a new proposal recently put forth by state health officials would build on the state’s current system of treating Medicaid patients.

North Carolina legislative building
Wikimedia Commons

Some state lawmakers met today to learn more about how the Affordable Care Act may affect North Carolina.

Speaker of the House Thom Tillis and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger- both Republicans- created the Joint Study Committee on the Affordable Care Act and Implementation Issues back in January. Its purpose is to discuss the impact of the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

Today marked the first meeting of the committee.

Picture of marijuana plant
Colleen Danger, via flickr, Creative Commons

A state lawmaker says she plans to introduce a bill to legalize a marijuana oil that could help treat childhood seizures.

Rep. Pat McElraft (R-Carteret) says she's in the process of drafting the proposal.  It would allow physicians to get an oil that contains a substance called cannabidiol (CBD), which is extracted from marijuana.  Researchers say the substance, which is not psychoactive, could help children with Dravet Syndrome.  The disorder can cause several seizures a day in young children. 

The cleanup for the 2008 Tennessee coal ash disaster. Image taken March 2012.
Appalachian Voices / via Creative Commons/Flickr

A group of elected Democrats will detail their plans for the clean-up of coal ash Thursday afternoon in Raleigh. Democrat Pricey Harrison of Guilford County has introduced legislation a half dozen times to require the clean up of the potentially toxic coal ash at 14 Duke Energy-owned sites around the state. Her efforts have never advanced through the legislature.

Remembering Senator Martin Nesbitt

Mar 11, 2014
Sen. Martin Nesbitt
NCGA

State Senator Martin Nesbitt will be laid to rest today near his hometown of Asheville.  The Democratic leader of the Senate died last week of stomach cancer after more than three decades in the legislature. WUNC's Capitol Bureau Chief Jessica Jones and WCQS news director David Hurrand joined Eric Hodge to talk about Sen. Nesbitt's legacy.

Sen. Martin Nesbitt
NCGA

North Carolina state senator Martin Nesbitt died Thursday of stomach cancer just days after stepping down as the Senate's minority leader.  He was 67 years old. Nesbitt was first appointed to the state House in 1979 to finish the term for his mother, Mary Nesbitt, after her passing.  He rose to appropriations chairman and top budget writer in the 1990’s and began serving in the Senate in 2004. Nesbitt's peers elected him Senate Majority Leader in 2009.  After the Republican takeover in 2010, he was elected Minority Leader. 

Protesters crowd the capitol for a Moral Mondays protest.
Matthew Lenard

Thousands of people are expected to march in downtown Raleigh on Saturday, some coming in buses from other states, to call on North Carolina legislators to reverse laws they’ve signed over the last year including requiring voters to show IDs in polling stations, reducing unemployment benefits and blocking Medicaid expansion.

NC NAACP leader Reverend William Barber speaks to Moral Monday protesters.
Matthew Lenard

Some Moral Monday protesters' legal cases are expected to be dismissed in Wake County district court.

Lawyer Scott Holmes represents some of the plaintiffs who were arrested on May 20th. Holmes believes the Wake County District Attorney has made the decision to dismiss the charges for everyone arrested on that date. Some cases in that group have already been dismissed. Holmes thinks the D.A. plans to dismiss the rest when those cases are heard on February 18th. He says so far, prosecutors have tried cases based on evidence specifically focused on individuals.

Image of NC General Assembly where lawmakers are considering two controversial bills.
Credit NC General Assembly

It's not clear whether Governor Pat McCrory would make extended unemployment benefits available to North Carolinians if Congress passes a law that would revive them nationwide. Governor McCrory would have final say on whether to accept those benefits.

A bill being debated in the U.S. Senate would give a three-month extension to those who've been unemployed for months. At a state legislative meeting, Democratic Representative Paul Tine of Kitty Hawk said he knows many of his constituents need help.

North Carolina Department of Revenue
North Carolina Department of Revenue

This month, most employees across North Carolina have been asked by their bosses to fill out forms that will dictate how much money the state withholds from every paycheck. Called NC-4 forms, they're the first real sign for many people that the state's tax code is set to change.

McKinney advertising agency in Durham is a place where employees spend long hours at work to meet deadlines for big clients from ESPN to Mentos mints.

Beth Wood
NC Auditor's Office

State lawmakers say they want to craft guidelines for state employees who oversee big contracts with private companies, but then leave to work for those institutions.

Back in the fall, lawmakers discovered that an IT manager with the Department of Health and Human Services who was overseeing the state’s troubled Medicaid reimbursement system left to work for that same company.

Deborah McManus
NC General Assembly

North Carolina Democrats are getting ready to nominate a replacement for former state representative Deborah McManus, who resigned yesterday.

A committee of members from McManuses district, which includes both Chatham and Lee counties, will meet soon to suggest someone who can replace her. That recommendation will be passed along to the state party chair and then to the governor, who has 7 days to accept it.

Protesters crowd the capitol for a Moral Mondays protest.
Matthew Lenard

More Moral Monday protesters will have their cases heard in court today.

Earlier this year, more than 900 people were arrested for protesting at the North Carolina legislature. The Wake County District Attorney’s office has given them the choice of paying a fine and performing community service or facing a judge. Many of them have chosen to go to court. And while they’ve been charged with the same crimes under similar circumstances, they’re getting different outcomes.

Gavel
SalFalko / Flickr Creative Commons

More than 40 new laws passed by state legislators earlier this year went into effect yesterday.

The laws that went on the books are primarily criminal. They include greater punishments for those who abuse or endanger children.

One of them would more than double the maximum prison terms for the most serious child abuse charge. It was inspired by the case of a three-year-old from Concord, who was severely beaten by her stepfather.

North Carolina legislative building
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

Contributors to 529 college savings plans will no longer qualify for a state tax credit. The elimination of the deduction is part of a larger overhaul to the state’s tax code that goes into effect January 1st.

Photo: A farm in Lee County
Donald Lee Pardue via Flickr

An energy company that’s exploring the potential for natural gas drilling in North Carolina is scaling back research efforts in Lee County. 

Beth Wood
NC Auditor's Office

State auditor Beth Wood went before lawmakers for a second day Wednesday to defend her office’s audit of the state’s Medicaid program.

A new computer system called NCTracks that allows health care providers to get reimbursed for Medicaid claims has been operating since July first. But many doctors and hospitals have reported they’re not getting the money they’re owned, and the system has numerous glitches.

NC General Assembly; State Legislature.
Dave Crosby / Flickr Share-Alike

Most of the money formerly under the oversight of the once-powerful Rural Center has officially reverted to the state. Until recently, the non-profit Rural Center handed out taxpayer-funded grants for economic development and infrastructure.

But an audit found the Center had earned 20 million dollars worth of interest off money given by the state over the years. Lawmakers disapproved, and expressed dismay at staff members’ high salaries. So they made plans to strip the Center of its power.

NC General Assembly

State health officials say glitches are being worked out in the new Medicaid claims processing system called NCTracks.

Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos and other health officials testified before lawmakers in a day-long oversight session Tuesday.

Health care providers have complained that they’re not being reimbursed for services rendered to Medicaid patients. Some state lawmakers said they think health officials are getting things back on track.

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