[Update June 5, 2018–SB 486 passed a second and third reading in Monday night’s legislative session. No lawmakers offered to amend the portion of the law addressed in this article. ~ jd]
Jun 4, 2018 (Raleigh) — Tonight at the Legislature, North Carolina’s lower chamber will conduct a third vote on an election reform bill that’s full of surprises, but one quiet little $10 million nugget will effectively mandate a single source for our state’s election machines, forcing all 100 counties to buy the same brand of equipment at non-competitive prices.
Peeling back the bill’s hidden meaning.
While common sense says that companies selling election equipment should warranty their work, up to the cost of a new election. The bone of contention involves how big an election.
For decades, North Carolina has required competing companies to post a bond covering the cost of a “statewide” election, specifically $10 million. While that all seems fair at first blush, it’s a red herring designed to drive out all competition. The failure of a voting machine in any given county would never require a new statewide election. Such a failure usually results in a manual recount. At worst, it forces a new county-wide election.
Vendors [must post a] bond or letter of credit …in the amount determined by the State Board as sufficient for the cost of a new statewide election or in the amount of ten million dollars ($10,000,000),
whichever is greater.” (SECTION 3.6A. G.S. 163A-1115(a)(1))
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Raleigh, N.C. – Employment figures released by the state Department of Commerce this week show North Carolina added 85,879 jobs over the last year.
The number of people unemployed decreased by 20,263 over the year.
The employment growth data follows a positive revenue outlook released by the state legislature’s Fiscal Research Division in January showing tax collections on track and an economy in a stable growth pattern.
State House Speaker Tim Moore released a statement:
“The General Assembly kept a commitment to North Carolina families to put their needs first,” Moore said. “The result is sustained economic success and a state on solid financial footing.”
“It’s more good news that tens of thousands of new jobs opened across North Carolina over the last year. We will maintain our proven approach to building a state economy that benefits working people and businesses.”
The North Carolina General Assembly enacted historic tax relief this decade to save state taxpayers billions of dollars, encourage economic growth and spur job creation.
Since 2011 the General Assembly has levied a lower sales tax rate, income tax rate and corporate tax rate on North Carolina families and businesses, while raising the standard deduction for low-income earners.
Most every man, woman and child in North Carolina is impacted directly or indirectly by the Office of
State Treasurer so on this special edition of NC SPIN we asked State Treasurer Dale Folwell to come report
to the people of our state and discuss some of the relevant issues impacting North Carolina.
Topics: Overview, Investments, State Health Plan, State Retirement System, and Other Duties and Responsibilities.
State Health Plan Saves $35 Million through Medicare Advantage Enrollment
Treasurer Dale Folwell
“State Treasurer Dale R. Folwell, CPA, announced today that the State Health Plan (SHP) will generate $35 million in savings as a result of the increase in members enrolled in the UnitedHealthcare (UHC) Medicare Advantage plans. Treasurer Folwell released the numbers during his monthly “Ask Me Anything” conference call, part of his initiative to promote transparency. …
“In an effort to improve member satisfaction and generate additional savings, the State Health Plan automatically enrolled its Medicare-eligible members in a premium-free Medicare Advantage Base Plan during open enrollment in October 2017. …
“Approximately 86 percent of Medicare-eligible members remained enrolled in a UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage Base Plan for the 2018 benefit year. …
“‘The move to UHC’s Medicare Advantage products are a win-win for members and taxpayers,’ said Folwell. ‘Members love the simplicity and value offered by the UHC plans. They have one plan and one card for both medical and drug coverage as well as access to great programs like SilverSneakers, while providing substantial savings for taxpayers.’ …
“During open enrollment, members were given the opportunity to opt out if they preferred another health plan option. This effort aligns with a 2015 report from the North Carolina General Assembly’s Program Evaluation Division, which suggested that the plan require Medicare-eligible members to enroll in Medicare Advantage plans in order to reduce costs. …
“The $35 million in savings follows the renegotiation of the contract between the SHP and UHC to provide Medicare-eligible retirees with Medicare Advantage health insurance plans in 2018. The rate for the basic plan decreased to $120 a month for 2018, down from $120.65 a month in 2017, despite increasing health care costs. …
“In 2017 approximately 125,000 of 166,000 Medicare-eligible members (75 percent) were enrolled in one of the two fully insured Medicare Advantage plans offered by UHC. The other 41,000 Medicare-eligible members were enrolled in a different plan option, where the plan is responsible for claims costs after Medicare has paid its share. …
“The State Health Plan, a division of the N.C. Department of State Treasurer, is the largest purchaser of health care in North Carolina. The plan provides coverage to nearly 730,000 teachers, state employees, retirees, current and former lawmakers, state university and community college personnel, and their dependents.”
FEE – In any academic discipline, one can find two types of experts: those who are incapable of explaining complex ideas in a simple manner; and those capable of making the difficult look easy. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the death Henry Hazlitt, one of the few economists who belongs to the second group.
Born in Philadelphia in 1894, Hazlitt developed his career as a journalist in the most influential newspapers and magazines of the country, starting at The Wall Street Journal as a typographer in 1914. During the 1920s, he wrote for several printed media outlets, including The New York Evening Post and The Nation, of which he was appointed literary director.
Hazlitt pointed out that short-sighted economic policies aimed at satisfying the claims of particular groups end up reducing the welfare of the majority.
In 1934, Hazlitt became the chief editorial writer of The New York Times, where he gained a reputation for writing about economics and finance from a free-market perspective. His outspoken opposition to the Bretton Woods Agreement had him fired after 12 successful years at the most important newspaper of the Big Apple. Yet he continued to be dedicated to his passion for writing until his death in 1993.
Despite his lack of formal academic training, Hazlitt showed a deep interest in the field of economics, which led him to write several books on the topic. In 1946, he published one of the best introductory texts on economics ever written: Economics in One Lesson.
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Raleigh, NC — In an outrageous abuse of power, the North Carolina Democratic Party teamed up with Democrat State Attorney General Josh Stein to try and stop the Republican Party from recruiting candidates for public office. The shocking intimidation effort happens just days before the critical candidate filing period comes to a close. The complaint references an alleged phone call made from the NCGOP to recruit candidates for the state House, supposedly received by an anonymous individual.
Attempting to use the full police power of of the state by using its top law enforcement officer, the NCDP is attempting to seize the telephone records of the Republican Party, specifically phone calls made to candidates and potential candidates for public office. NCGOP called the claim “a blatant attack on the free speech and free association rights of North Carolina Republicans.” Party leaders said the move by Democrats was intended to have a “chilling effect on the very activities that are the essence of the Party’s reason for existence.”
“I have made hundreds of calls to potential candidates in the last few weeks. It is impossible to know which call the they are referring to without knowing who made the initial complaint. Democrats are asking us a question, knowing fully well that they haven’t given us enough information to answer it. They are attempting to use the full weight of police powers of the North Carolina Department of Justice to intimidate their rival political party, the Republican Party, from making calls to voters and asking them to run for office. This is a basic aspect of Party operation, and to seize the telephone records of the Republican Party is attempt to once again throw chaos into our election process.” – Dallas Woodhouse, NCGOP Executive Director
“This is a shocking complaint which constitutes a fundamental misuse of the statute alleged and effort to chill candidates into not filing for elected office, as well as trying to impose remedies that are clearly unavailable in the statute. Because the facts stated do not satisfy the requirement of the statute, the Attorney General should have rejected it. He should have seen for what it is– an attempt to chill constitutional protected political speech. Political speech and recruitment of candidates to run for political office is at the very core of the First Amendment. The overreaction by the Democratic Party in both the complaint and relief sought is a severe abuse of process, one that the Attorney General’s office participated in.” – Tom Stark, NCGOP General Counsel
The NCGOP is calling on Attorney General Josh Stein to rescind this letter immediately and indicate that his office will stop all candidate recruitment intimidation tactics. As the Governor of our state and the leader of the Democratic Party, Governor Cooper also needs to make clear that he supports the right of all people, regardless of party, to run for office. The NCGOP is also requesting the Democratic Party issue a letter of apology to voters and potential candidates. This was an egregious violation of rights and the appropriate steps must be followed to make up for it.