NC Below National Average For Drop In Uninsured Workers

According to a report done by Families USA, the percentage of North Carolina workers without health insurance dropped 15 percent in 2014, which was below the national average of 19 percent.

Families USA Dee Mahan said top states saw their uninsured workers drop 36 percent.

“During the first full year of the ACA, virtually every state saw a decrease in uninsured workers,” she said. “However, the rate of that decrease was substantially higher, nearly twice as great, in states that expanded Medicaid that year.”

Under the Affordable Care Act, states can add people to their Medicaid program that make no more than 138 percent of the federal poverty rate.

The federal government will pay the entire cost of the expansion until next year, when it will start gradually dropping to 90 percent in 2020.

North Carolina was one of the 24 states that did not expand Medicaid in 2014, and remains one of the 16 states that have yet to expand.

All but two of the states that had their uninsured workers drop at a rate above the national average were expansion states.

Cara Stewart from Kentucky Equal Justice Center said expansion has gone well in her home state.

“We saw our uninsured rate plummet,” she said. “The most interesting thing I think we figured out was that the majority of people who became insured through Medicaid expansion were workers.”

Tennessee state senator Richard Briggs said his state is one of those that have not accepted the expansion.

Briggs is a cardiac surgeon and said he frequently sees patients come through the emergency room at his hospital with heart attacks because they could not afford their necessary medication.

“For a few dollars, maybe a couple of hundred dollars a month, they could’ve taken their medication,” he said. “Instead they build up a bill that somebody is going to have to pay for that could be anywhere from $25,000 to $100,000 depending on how sick they are after surgery.”

Over the summer Governor Pat McCrory said he would like to expand Medicaid, but would like a plan tailored to North Carolina.

However, an expansion would have to pass the state legislature before reaching the governor’s office.

To see the full report, click here.

Four Fatalities Occur Due To Winter Weather

Governor Pat McCrory continued to urge people to stay off the roads during this winter storm.

In a press conference held Friday morning,  McCrory announced that four fatalities have occurred this year due to car accidents related to winter weather.

“Early this morning we had a very serious wreck on I-95 where one person has died,” he said. “A major trucking accident with several trucks and a car. We’re having some very serious issues on I-95 at this time.”

Because of the accident, parts of I-95 were closed.

McCrory said accidents are occurring because people don’t see snow on the road and speed up because they assume it is clear.

He urged drivers to be cautious and be aware of black ice.

“A concern we have right now is some of the mixtures are going from snow to rain back to snow back to rain to freezing ice and you’ve got to recognize that when the rain comes it’s taking off the materials that DOT did such a good job putting on.”

He said when the black ice comes after the rain, the salt brine or sand that has been laid down won’t work.

From Thursday night into Friday morning, the State Highway Patrol responded to 571 calls for assistance and McCrory said they have identified about 25 to 30 abandoned cars.

“The issue across the state is very strong gusty winds, which could cause power outages and make it difficult for safety personnel” he said.

Do not call 911 in non-emergency situations.

If you want updates on the roads or the weather, call 511, visits or download the ReadyNC app for your smartphone.

“Something my wife reminded me of last night that I didn’t mention,” McCrory said. “Make sure to check with your neighbors and check if they’re okay, especially if the power goes out.”

Pat McCrory Issues State of Emergency

Governor Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency in anticipation of the winter storm that is expected to hit late Thursday night.

“As you know with weather there are certain predictions of weather but you never know what the end result will be,” he said. “That’s why we’re going to do everything we can to prepare our roads, public safety personnel and the general public to ensure we’re prepared for the worst of the worst, but hoping for the best.”

He said at the time of the press conference two North Carolinians had already lost their lives due to ice related car accidents.

“Stay off the roads when travel becomes dangerous,” McCrory said. “Unnecessary travel during a storm only puts people at risk. It also puts our emergency personnel at risk and if you must travel please slow down and leave room between you and other vehicles.”

This year North Carolina will be continuing a recent policy of checking all abandoned vehicles in case someone has been trapped in their car.

“This is very important for us is that we do not want to leave anyone abandoned on our highways and that’s going to be a major priority for the highway patrol,” McCrory said.”

North Carolina has also developed the ReadyNC app for smartphones, which will give users updates on the road conditions, shelter openings and the weather.

Colonel William Gray of the State Highway Patrol urges people to avoid using 911 in non-emergency situations.

“Keep track of the road conditions in your area,” he said. “But I ask you to do that by going to or by calling 511. Don’t call 911 or *HP. Let’s keep those open for emergency communication.”

For anyone who is forced to abandon their vehicle on the side of the highway, the highway patrol has a link on their website to let people know where their cars have been taken.

Gov. McCrory Signs Common Core Changes Into Law

RALEIGH – Common Core curriculum standards for North Carolina schools will be rewritten under a bill signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory.

Gov. McCrory signed the bill Tuesday along with four others. He said the Common Core bill does not officially repeal the federal standards but will review and improve them.

North Carolina is now one of five states that have changed or removed the Common Core standards from schools and are creating new state-specific ones.

The law directs the State Board of Education to rewrite the Common Core standards for the North Carolina’s K-12 schools. A new 11-member standards advisory commission will be formed to make curriculum recommendations to the board. Common Core, which schools began testing two years ago, would remain in place until the new standards are completed.

Epic End To Raleigh Moral Mondays

Photo by Rachel Nash

RALEIGH – For thirteen weeks, people have gathered in Raleigh to rally against the policies of the Republican-led General Assembly, as part of a movement that’s come to be called the Moral Monday protests. Since late April when the first 17 protesters were arrested, the number has grown to a final tally of 925. The legislature adjourned its tumultuous session last week, but that didn’t stop protesters.

In the largest crowd yet, they marched on the State Capitol Building in their final Moral Monday in Raleigh, shutting down streets as their message echoed across down town.

More than a thousand gathered on Fayetteville Street, facing the building where N.C. Governor McCrory conducts his business. A smaller group gathered at the State Capitol earlier in the day to demand a meeting with McCrory. Police kept the demonstration outside the building but said they would deliver the protesters’ letter to the governor.

In the past 12 Moral Mondays, the protesters have gone into the General Assembly, where arrests where made outside chamber doors. This time, the crowd gathered on the lawn of Halifax Mall and then marched in unison to their destination, chanting along the way.

Teachers from across the state came in droves, wearing red to represent public education. Rodney Ellis, president of the North Carolina Teacher’s Association, was arrested at last week’s Moral Monday.

“Last week, the legislature passed a budget that will ultimately destroy public education in North Carolina,” Ellis said.


Ellis explained that this budget eliminates over 9,000 education positions, including teacher jobs, teacher’s assistants and education support personnel. It provides no raises for teachers and does away with a salary increase for those who earn master’s degrees. Perhaps the most controversial measure is the $20 million set aside for “opportunity scholarships,” which opponents have compared to a school voucher system.

UNC alum Rory Santaloci currently teaches in Efland and has attended many Moral Mondays. He said the budget, which McCrory signed last week, is an insult to teachers across the state.

“If the majority of our population is taught in public schools, a large portion of the budget should go to public schools as well. We’re talking about the future of our state and the future of our counties,” Santaloci said.

Santloci is going to grad school at NYU in the fall, but because of what has happened, he won’t be coming back to his home state.

“Before this law was passed, I was going to grad school with the hope of returning to North Carolina and getting a pay raise. I’m going to [grad] school in New York and the incentive to return and teach where I am from is no longer there,” Santaloci said.

UNC Alum Ashley Jones, who is in her third year of teaching, had plans to get her master’s degree this fall, but cancelled those plans.

“In the foreseeable future, I’ll always be paid as a first year teacher, and it is not very much. To know that it [teacher’s salary] won’t go up is really frustrating,” Jones said.

NAACP State Chapter President and protest leader Reverend William Barber said the Moral Monday protesters aren’t going anywhere just because the General Assembly has adjourned, exclaiming, “This state is our state!”

“We understand that we are not in some mere political movement. We’re not in some mere fight over 2014. We’re in a fight for the soul of this state, the soul of the South, and the soul of this nation. And when you are in a soul fight, you don’t give up easy,” Barber said.

Though this was the last Moral Monday in Raleigh, the NAACP will continue the rallies but move to different locations around the state. The next will be in Asheville on August 5, and there are plans to hold demonstrations in all 13 of North Carolina’s congressional districts.

“What would have divided us years ago has brought us together like never before. We know where we are. Anytime in the South, you see this many black folk, brown folk, white folk, gay folk and straight folk, and people of all faiths hugging each other, something is on the loose!” Barber said.

The first Moral Monday rallies were mostly made up of protesters from the Triangle area and members of the NAACP, but as the weeks progressed and the controversial legislation was unveiled, the crowds grew.

Paul Jones, a Clinical Professor at the UNC  School of Information and Library Science and the School of Journalism and Mass Communications, said, “This is my sixth visit here [to Moral Monday] to try to turn the hearts of the legislature back to the path of righteousness and caring, to save them from the path of sin which they have entered, and to bring happiness and fellowship back to North Carolina.”

The movement has captured national attention from media outlets such as the New York Times, MSNBC, CNN and Fox News, to name a few.

“I think it is obvious that this is gaining momentum and that the values that they are speaking to resonate with North Carolinians,” said Randy Voller, Mayor of Pittsboro and Chair of the North Carolina Democratic Party.

For now, Mondays in downtown Raleigh will be a little more quiet until the legislature gets back to business.

To hear the radio version, click here:

Abortion Regulations & Voter ID Go To Governor

Pictured: Rally against abortion regulations

RALEIGH – The state Senate gave final approval Thursday to a bill that will tighten regulations for abortion providers in North Carolina. Hours later, the House passed drastic changes to the state’s current election laws.

House Bill 589  was revamped by Senate Republicans Tuesday to include provisions that go beyond the original voter I.D. requirement. The new version of the bill shortens the early voting period in general elections from 17 to 10 days, prohibits counties from extending early voting hours on the Saturday before Election Day to accommodate crowds, eliminates same-day voter registration during early voting, and eliminates straight-ticket voting, among other provisions.

One form of identification that would not be accepted is the student I.D., and some believe this is targeting the collegiate vote. Protesters, including UNC students, have been rallying  and have even been arrested at the General Assembly this week, outraged because of the legislation.

The abortion bill now goes to Governor Pat McCrory, who previously said he would sign it into law. Backers of the bill steadfastly pushed the bill through the General Assembly.  Senate Republicans originally attached the measure to a bill concerning Sharia Law. The next week, the abortion regulations were tacked onto a motorcycle safety measure, Senate Bill 353. It is the version now awaiting the Governor’s signature.

Democrats and pro-choice advocates have criticized the legislation, saying it would close abortion clinics and force many  women to resort to unsafe methods to have an abortion. The bill makes regulations for abortion providers similar to those in ambulatory care centers without “unduly restricting access.”

Only one abortion clinic in the state meets those standards.

Former NC Sen. Candidate Gives NC GA ‘C’

Pictured: N.C. General Assembly

ORANGE COUNTY – Throughout this entire legislative session, critics of the General Assembly have been outspoken against its Republican leadership. We’ve shared the liberal perspective on the legislature, but it’s been difficult to get a conservative perspective in Orange County.

WCHL has reached out to Stephen Xavier, Chair of the Orange County Republican Party, several times.

Dave Carter, a Republican who challenged Senator Ellie Kinnaird in the 2012 election to represent the 23rd district, shares his thoughts as this controversial legislative session comes to end.

“They’ve [the General Assembly] been all over the road. They’ve done some things I would view as progressive, which I am not a fan of. I’m not a fan of the ultraconservative crazies either,” Carter says. “And I see the current legislature, like the last legislature, and the legislature for the last 12 years that I have been following, they are driving all over the road. Sometimes they pull the wheel left, and sometimes they open their eyes and they are going to the extreme right.”

Carter doesn’t consider himself a moderate, but leans more toward Libertarian ideals.

He says he gives this General Assembly a grade of a “C.”

“They talk up a good thing, but they get all carried away with minutia. They are really not doing the things that they said they would do.”

Others, including the Moral Monday protesters, would not have so gracious an estimation of the Legislature. Each week since late April, protesters, led by NAACP State Chapter President, Reverend William Barber, have gathered in Raleigh to rally against what they call “regressive policies.”

“The Moral Monday stuff seems very fabricated, like it is almost backed by corporate sponsors,” Carter says. “I kind of expect to see Reverend Barber walking around with a big sign on the back of his shoulder, like you’d see a football player, saying sponsored by whomever.”

More than 900 people have been arrested inside the General Assembly as part of the Moral Monday protests.

“It’s like ‘Go get arrested and we can say: Look, we have 80 people arrested!’ That’s not civil disobedience; it is proving it with quota kind of stuff,” Carter says.

Activists were outraged recently when tighter abortion regulations swept through the General Assembly with little public notice, tacked onto unrelated bills.

“I know that there was recent brouhaha over the abortion stuff,” he said. “I think it was kind of tricky for them [Republican lawmakers] to do what they did, using rules in their own special way. They followed the rules, but they did it in a tricky way, and I think they could have been a little bit more transparent on that.”

Carter, who remains active in the Orange County Republican Party, says he’s entertained the idea of running again, but nothing is definite at this point.

NC Election Process Likely To See Big Changes

Pictured: Moral Monday Protest; photo by Rachel Nash

RALEIGH – The Senate backed sweeping changes in the election process Wednesday evening that will likely alter the way we vote in North Carolina. The bill proposes significant changes to the state’s current election laws and also requires photo I.D.’s at the polls.

House Bill 589  was revamped by Senate Republicans Tuesday to include provisions that go beyond a voter I.D. requirement. The new version of the bill shortens the early voting period in general elections from 17 to 10 days, prohibits counties from extending early voting hours on the Saturday before Election Day to accommodate crowds, eliminates same-day voter registration during early voting, and eliminate straight-ticket voting, among other provisions.

One form of identification that would not be accepted is student I.D.’s and some believe this is targeting the collegiate vote. Protesters, including UNC students, have been rallying  and even arrested at the General Assembly this week, outraged because of this bill.

UNC Student Body President Christy Lambden says he is concerned about how these possible changes will affect his peers’ access to the polls.

“I’m disappointed to see the introduction of the Voter I.D. Bill, especially if a student I.D. is not counting a valid form of voter I.D,” Lambden says.

Reverend William Barber of the state NAACP says in a statement: “These policies will be the most race-based, regressive and unconstitutional attacks on voting rights of the citizens of North Carolina that we have seen since the implementation of Jim Crow laws…”

Backers of the bill say that photo identification will cut down on voting fraud, whereas opponents of the bill say it is a strike against the more liberal groups, like student voters.

“Anything that is putting a constraint on voting and making it harder for students to vote, as I think this will, I think means that student voice is not going to be heard and that is ultimately troubling for me as a student representative,” Lambden says.

The election law changes normally would have been subject to authorization under the Voting Rights Act, but the Supreme Court’s recent decision exempted North Carolina from federal review until a new process is created by Congress.

“I think the state legislature needs to focus on maximizing student participation in the election process and I think to do that, they need to make sure that students can vote as easily as possible,” Lamden says.

A final vote of concurrence is expected in the Senate on Thursday. If passed, it will then go back to the House for a final vote and finally head to the desk of Governor Pat McCrory.

Negative Nat’l Press Might Hurt More Than NC’s Image

CHAPEL HILL – We never like to hear that North Carolina is being viewed in a negative light nationally, overshadowing the progressive efforts we’ve made locally. Recently, though, it seems our state can’t stay out of the spotlight, and for reasons many are not pleased about.

Chapel Hillian Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling in Raleigh feared that this negative press, sparked by policies rolling through the Republican-led General Assembly this session, will hurt the state’s business climate.

“We’re getting made fun of on the Daily Show, getting made fun of on the Colbert Reports, that sort of thing. You combine that with the more serious fact of getting chided by the New York Times, it seems like every week there’s a new thing getting a lot of attention where people outside the state are really sort of making fun of North Carolina,” Jensen said.

The New York Times published an editorial last week on the state recent policies with the headline: “The Decline of North Carolina.” 

“Ultimately if you get a reputation as a yokel state where the government is kind of crazy and that sort of thing, that’s bad for business recruitment and it makes businesses not want to move here and create jobs for the state,” Jensen said.

Last year, N.C. was ranked No. 4 on CNBC’s “America’s Top State’s for Business,” but this year dropped eight spots to No. 12 on the list. N.C. had previously been on the list each year since it was started in 2007.

“I think that’s one of the first signs that people outside of North Carolina sort of are waking up to the fact that North Carolina is getting extreme,” Jensen said. “That particular thing [NC dropping out of top 10 states for business] I think that maybe why you see the Republicans’ poll number getting so bad.”

Jensen explained that there is increasing dissatisfaction with the Republican majority in the House and Senate, driven by the less than transparent manner in which the abortion restriction bill was pushed through both houses. Only 34 percent of voters support the proposal, while 47 percent are opposed. 80 percent of voters think it’s inappropriate to combine abortion legislation with bills about motorcycle safety or Sharia Law. Those numbers are based on a PPP survey of 600 state voters between July 12 and July 14.

Jensen said there’s also been a major shift in voter opinion polls rating the job that N.C. Governor Pat McCrory is doing.

“This is the first time that we have ever found Governor Pat McCrory with a negative approval rating. Only 40 percent of the voters approve of the job he’s doing. 49 percent disapprove, and that’s a net 15 percent decline from last month.”

The numbers suggest that the Moral Monday protests against the policies of the General Assembly are viewed positively by a majority of North Carolinians. 45 percent of voters have a favorable opinion of the demonstrations whereas only 40 percent disapprove, according to Jensen.

The protests have caught the attention of national media outlets, such as MSNBC, Fox News, and CNN, who have sent camera crews to cover the weekly peaceful rallies that have resulted in more than 800 arrests.

“Nothing like this has ever happened in North Carolina,” Jensen said. “I think we’ve always been thought of as a pretty centrist but forward moving state that, especially more than any other states in the South, has been willing to move forward on key issues. What’s happened over the last two and a half years, but especially over the last six months, is something that’s very new for us.”

The 2012 election resulted in a Republican governor and a Republican-controlled General Assembly for only the second time in 140 years, but, Jensen said this could change in the next election.

“And when you ask people, ‘If there were a legislative election today, what party would you vote for?’ Democrats have a nine point lead, 51 percent to 42 percent, which is the biggest lead we have ever found for them on that measure,” Jensen said.

To view the full report by the PPP, click below:


House Approves Proposed NC Abortion Regulations

Pictured: Planned Parenthood protest of proposed abortion restrictions

CHAPEL HILL – Following an impassioned debate, the state House voted Thursday 74-41 in favor of new regulations on abortion clinics in North Carolina. The measure now returns to the Senate for final approval before going to Governor Pat McCrory.

WCHL spoke with state Senator Ellie Kinnaird (Dem. Orange and Chatham Counties) Wednesday about the controversial process by which these measures moved through the General Assembly.

“You have to have an issue that is germane, or related in other words. When they took this abortion bill, they took it out on a motorcycle bill and there ain’t nothing germane about motorcycles and abortions,” Kinnaird said.

It was case of déjà vu Wednesday after the House mimicked actions taken by Senate last week by tacking abortions restrictions onto an unrelated bill with little public notice.

Senate Bill 353, the new abortion bill passed Thursday, was originally a bill about motorcycle safety. It was re-titled “Health and Safety Law Changes” after abortion regulations from a completely separate bill were added and then passed by a House Judiciary Committee Wednesday.

Women’s groups cried foul as there was no public notice that the abortion-related provisions would be on the calendar Wednesday, calling it a sneak attack.

Kinnaird said these tactics are common place in politics, saying that Democrats used similar strategies when they held the majority power.

“It’s is crazy, but things are crazy over here. You would have thought they would have found a health bill—surely there are some health bills sitting around that they could have added it into. But it is crazy over here, why not one more crazy thing they must have thought?”

Governor Pat McCrory threatened to veto the first abortion bill, House Bill 695, saying that significant changes and clarifications were necessary. Yet after Judiciary Committee made some changes to the new abortion bill Wednesday, many said the tweaks were only “modest” and that the language of the bill was still unclear.

Kinnaird said that she was pleased with the changes, calling them “significant.”

“It’s a better bill in terms of the Governor’s reaction. I want to say that all over the place, the Governor and his administration are really beginning to react.”

She explained that the bill asks the Department of Health and Human Services to write regulations for abortion clinics “similar” to those for ambulatory surgery centers, “while not unduly restricting access,” according to what was said in the committee hearing. Kinnaird also said the bill does not require a doctor to be present during all phases of a non-surgical, drug-induced abortion.

She said the changes, forced by the governor’s veto threats, do reflect that he is listening to what opponents of the restrictions are saying.

“It was an acknowledgement that there is a great deal of disagreement in the administration and the legislature on how to move forward with some of these issues,” she said.

Kinnaird said that Republican lawmakers are not as unified as they once were heading into the final weeks of the legislative session.

“The cracks are widening and how wide they will get, I don’t know,” she said.

The bill is almost certain to go into law at this point, though Kinnaird anticipates the regulations will likely generate Constitutional issues in the courts for some time.