ICYMI: North Carolina Democrats Stand Up for Middle-Class North Carolinians

“It is time to put ideology aside and do what is right for the people of our state.” – Rep. MaryAnn Black

RALEIGH, NC – While Republican lawmakers debate the best way to rig the system in their favor, North Carolina Democrats are insisting the General Assembly put partisanship aside and act in the best interest of all North Carolinians by expanding Medicaid, protecting our clean water, and implementing independent redistricting.

Rep. Mary Anne Black, Let’s Put Politics aside and expand Medicaid now: “Our state chose to put politics ahead of good policy by not expanding Medicaid. According to data from a N.C. Institute of Medicine article from 2014, every day that goes by without Medicaid expansion our state is losing nearly $5 million a day in federal funding. This would provide health-care coverage to countless uninsured North Carolinians. This funding could be used to make families healthier, bring jobs to our state and grow our economy.”

Sen. Ben Clark, Keep politics out of our water supply: “Eastern North Carolina is facing a public health crisis. Not only are we now at a disadvantage having to respond to a crisis that is already playing out along the Cape Fear River; families are now left in limbo while a partisan fight ensues within the General Assembly. Clean, safe drinking water should not be a partisan issue. We need to keep politics out of our water and act in the best interest of our state.”

Rep. Billy Richardson, This is how to solve our GenX problems: “The GenX crisis is a symptom of a much bigger problem — failure to act and plan for the future…My prayer for this New Year is that we put aside partisan differences and dogma and begin to work using our common sense and practical effort to solve the pressing problems the affect our health and the safety of our citizens.”

NCDP Chair Wayne Goodwin, Democrats have ‘already’ pledged to end gerrymandering:The official NC Democratic Party platform includes support for an independent redistricting commission. Governor Cooper has promised that – with a majority in the legislature – Democrats will empower an independent, nonpartisan redistricting commission. And many Democratic lawmakers, with the support of their caucuses, have proposed legislation to implement independent redistricting. Each time, Republicans refuse to hear it.”

Herald Sun: Let’s put politics aside and expand Medicaid now – MaryAnn Black
By Rep. MaryAnn Black
February 5, 2018

North Carolina should expand Medicaid. Access to quality and affordable health care should be a right for all people.

As someone who works every day to connect our communities to health-care access, a lack of health insurance and its rising costs are primary issues of concern. I hear from many people in the Durham community that they cannot afford health insurance or can barely afford to keep what they have.

In my role as a social worker and as a state representative, I see the consequences of unaffordable health insurance. For many working families, the next major illness or hospitalization could mean bankruptcy.

The people I serve in Durham want what most Americans want for themselves and their families. They want brighter futures for their children through a quality education, to adequately support their families and to save for a secure retirement. Health care, housing and basic living expenses are becoming more and more costly, and too many families are struggling to survive.
These struggling families deserve health care, and there is one clear thing that we could do to help. North Carolina could provide health-care coverage for an estimated 390,000 additional people by expanding Medicaid coverage now!

Thanks to Medicaid, millions of Americans have health insurance coverage, particularly our children, people with disabilities and low-income adults. The states that expanded Medicaid coverage covered 16 million people, helping drive the nation’s uninsured rate to the lowest level in history.

Our state chose to put politics ahead of good policy by not expanding Medicaid. According to data from a N.C. Institute of Medicine article from 2014, every day that goes by without Medicaid expansion our state is losing nearly $5 million a day in federal funding. This would provide health-care coverage to countless uninsured North Carolinians. This funding could be used to make families healthier, bring jobs to our state and grow our economy.

Our health-care systems are also suffering from the lack of Medicaid expansion. In rural areas, hospitals are closing because they can no longer afford to provide care to patients who simply cannot pay for it. Medicaid expansion would help to ensure that every person who needs to see a doctor could afford to and hospitals would not have to close their doors.

I hope that you will join me in calling on my colleagues in the legislature to support expanding health-care coverage for North Carolinians. It is time to put ideology aside and do what is right for the people of our state.

Read the full online article here.

Fayetteville Observer: Sen. Ben Clark: Keep politics out of our water supply
By Sen. Ben Clark
January 20, 2018

Protecting the safety of our drinking water should be a top priority for legislators. We cannot afford inaction on the threat that Gen X poses to the public.
Regardless of your party affiliation, as legislators, we all have one primary job: to develop policies and pass laws that protect our community. To date, Republicans have failed to do their jobs.

The discovery of Gen X in drinking water in Cumberland County, Bladen County, and as far west as Wake County is not an isolated incident; it is the result of years of dangerous deregulation enacted by Republicans since they came into power.

Minimizing regulation in order to encourage economic growth is a good thing. But it requires a balance of protecting the public while supporting businesses. People expect to be able to turn on their faucets and not question whether the water coming from the tap is safe to use. We cannot gamble with public safety and we must not put politics into our drinking water.

Since 2013, 70 water quality positions have been eliminated from the Department of Environmental Quality. Years of cuts have left waterways unprotected and water permit reviews backlogged — the Chemours water permit was among them. North Carolina has 60 more water discharge facilities than South Carolina, yet South Carolina has twice as many permit writers.

We are not giving DEQ and the Department of Health and Human Services the funding and resources they need to do their jobs and protect our natural resources and the public.

Passing House Bill 189 in the Senate, which passed the House unanimously, should have been the first step in showing the public where our priorities are. I agree with Sen. Phil Berger that HB 189 doesn’t do enough to respond to the growing threat to our drinking water. But it was a critical bipartisan response that was desperately needed at this time. The funding would have provided DEQ with testing equipment and staff to better understand what we’re really dealing with and respond accordingly.

One of the most troubling aspects of the Republican-led General Assembly’s operations is that they are a reactive rather than proactive. Too often, we are left reacting to crises in our schools, our communities and our drinking water. These are largely self-made crises, brought on by short-term spending cuts with little consideration for the long-term ramifications they could have on our state.

Eastern North Carolina is facing a public health crisis. Not only are we now at a disadvantage having to respond to a crisis that is already playing out along the Cape Fear River; families are now left in limbo while a partisan fight ensues within the General Assembly.

Clean, safe drinking water should not be a partisan issue. We need to keep politics out of our water and act in the best interest of our state.

State Sen. Ben Clark represents Senate District 21, covering Hoke County and part of Cumberland County, in the N.C. General Assembly.

Read the full online article here.

Fayetteville Observer: Billy Richardson: This is how to solve our GenX problems
By Billy Richardson
February 3, 2018

In a recent column, the Observer’s Tim White asked, “Will the current North Carolina General Assembly fix our water issues caused by GenX?”
Common sense says the answer is an obvious “yes.” However, given the current leadership’s past history, legislation recently enacted by the House and stalled in the Senate puts the answer serious doubt.

This raises two fundamental questions:

  • Why are we always reacting to problems rather than anticipating them? Any reasonable person could see this crisis coming. If it was not GenX, it would have been something else as bad or worse — hog lagoons, blue algae blooms, fish kills, coal ash and more have plagued our rivers. We have stressed our water resources to their maximum. The Cape Fear and Neuse River basins are as stressed and endangered as any rivers in this country. Throw in the fact that our Cape Fear River Basin has a reduced capacity due to Raleigh and Wake County’s consumption of our water, treating it and then transferring it into another basin and a once abundant asset becomes a resource in crisis.
  • Just as it is with our schools, infrastructure and higher education, we consistently fail as a General Assembly to prioritize and devote adequate resources to solving our problems. We most certainly fail to use long-range planning to prepare for the demands of a fast-growing state. The GenX crisis is a symptom of a much bigger problem — failure to act and plan for the future. We have come to a place in our governance where extreme partisan philosophies are shaping both parties, but in particular the extreme right who now controls the House and Senate, who are hunkered down and refusing to work with anyone, much less compromise. The extreme right House Caucus dictates to the present leadership and other Republicans who otherwise are willing to work with Democrats in what they can and cannot do. Commonsense solutions and the proper use of government is paralyzed. It results in a state government unable to do what it should do — protect the health and welfare of our people. For example, our House leadership in dealing with GenX is fearful of any change offered with the proposed legislation, therefore any other solution other than that offered by the house leadership is either not considered or voted down. The House’s fear of the Senate causes our own members to be so rigid that meaningful dialogue and discourse on a solution is impossible (and rarely even attempted). The Senate, philosophically opposed to any government solution to any problem, refuses to consider any bill that adds funding for the Department of Environmental Quality. Dogma is placed over people’s welfare.

We cannot just brag about our tax rate and deregulation and expect industry and business to flourish in our state. We must also govern. Every responsible corporate citizen who researches and considers doing business in North Carolina has asked these questions? “Do you have the trained workforce capable of handling modern jobs?” “Do you have an abundance of usable water?”

Water is essential to growth, yet in requiring DEQ to assume responsibility for fixing the GenX problem our legislature refuses to allocate the additional funds DEQ needs to do the extra testing and develop solutions. They even voted down an amendment I offered to add airborne agents containing GenX as “emissions”. How else did GenX get into wells on the other side of the river, upstream or in ponds? So we have no regulation of airborne GenX.

The solutions here are commonsense and must be nonpartisan. They start with equipping our executive branch with the resources it needs to test, identify and solve the problem. We cannot require and expect our overstressed DEQ or our local county governments to fix this problem. Reducing an already reduced budget and playing petty politics won’t either — we must act decisively and quickly to handle the pressing issues of providing clean water to all our citizens whose wells have been contaminated. Our utilities must be brought up-to-date as well.

Next we must comprehensively assess just how widespread the contamination is. Delaying this will only worsen the problem. When we fully understand the widespread nature of the issue we can come up with meaningful solutions. We must then partner with industry and clean up this mess. Finally, we must enact commonsense rules that prevent this from happening again. Here is a simple rule that I learned from my parents: “When you borrow something from someone, you return it in the same or better condition that you found it.” So why do we not require anyone using our water to do the same? We owe our children and our grandchildren nothing less. We certainly owe our citizens that as well. My prayer for this New Year is that we put aside partisan differences and dogma and begin to work using our common sense and practical effort to solve the pressing problems the affect our health and the safety of our citizens. By doing so we will instill trust back in our government.

Billy Richardson of Fayetteville represents House District 44 in the North Carolina General Assembly.

Read the full online article here.

News & Observer: Democrats have ‘already’ pledged to end gerrymandering
By Wayne Goodwin
February 1, 2018

The editorial “Democrats should pledge to put an end to gerrymandering” (Jan. 28) overlooks an important fact: we already have. The NC Democratic Party, Democratic lawmakers, and Governor Cooper have all voiced their commitment to independent redistricting and an end to partisan and racial gerrymandering.

The official NC Democratic Party platform includes support for an independent redistricting commission. Governor Cooper has promised that – with a majority in the legislature – Democrats will empower an independent, nonpartisan redistricting commission. And many Democratic lawmakers, with the support of their caucuses, have proposed legislation to implement independent redistricting. Each time, Republicans refuse to hear it.

NC Democrats believe that the people should get to pick their politicians, not the other way around. We are committed to bringing competitive elections and fair maps to North Carolina. People frustrated by years of Republican efforts to rig our elections should help us break the Republican majority in 2018. Only then can North Carolina finally put an end to gerrymandering.

WAYNE GOODWIN

CHAIR, NORTH CAROLINA DEMOCRATIC PARTY

Read the full online letter here.

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