RALEIGH, N.C. (WGHP) – Although Medicaid expansion is being celebrated for finally making it across the finish line in the General Assembly, that approval won’t provide immediate aid for the 600,000 who might qualify.

That’s because lawmakers tied the final implementation of the expansion to their passing of the biennial budget, which is a poke-and-parry process among the two chambers and the governor’s office that can take a bit of time.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper delivers his State of the State address to a joint session of the N.C. General Assembly on March 6. (Travis Long/The News & Observer via AP)

Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) and House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) had said the expansion was a “budgetary” matter, and Moore said after the House’s final vote on Thursday that the House had made good progress on its budget.

Gov. Roy Cooper has decried that entanglement with the budget process, but he also has taken his first step in that journey. After Berger and Moore announced they had agreed on a 6.5% increase for 2023 and 3.75% for 2024, Cooper submitted a budget proposal to them that Berger immediately said was too extreme in spending.

North Carolina Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham). (AP Photo/Gary D. Robertson, File)

“This is an irresponsible, unserious proposal from a lame-duck governor who wants future North Carolinians to pick up his tab,” Berger said in a release. “Gov. Cooper wants to go on a reckless spending spree by raising taxes, raiding the state’s savings account, and proposing the largest increase in year-over-year spending in the state’s history. He is following the same failed Democratic playbook that is causing residents to flee blue states like New York, California, and Illinois.”

Cooper, among other things, asked for an average of 18% raises for teachers, $1 billion for mental health and investment in compensation for state employees.

“We are at a historic moment with unprecedented opportunity to make ‘once-in-a-generation’ investments in our future,” Cooper said in his release. “North Carolina has built on our success to strengthen our place as first in opportunity, and we will continue that growth only by making sound investments in our families, workforce, schools and communities. Let’s take advantage of our unlimited potential to make sure every North Carolinian can thrive.”

He asked for $1.5 billion in new funding to support child care and early childhood education. He wants the Leandro educational funds fully released (which courts again are reconsidering), and he asks for an investment in public safety, infrastructure and rural hospitals, among other items, while also maintaining $7 billion in cash reserved.

State of the State – and response

With the backdrop of that original proposal and response from lawmakers, Cooper delivered the final State of the State address of his eight years in office. Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson delivered the Republican rebuttal. Both drew responses from a few lawmakers from the Triad:

District 30 Rep. Renee Price (D-Hillsborough): “Collaboration often has its challenges, yet Governor Cooper has shown that joint efforts can yield significant results. Passing the Medicaid Expansion bill will be a monumental accomplishment for North Carolinians. Since taking office, Governor Cooper has made Medicaid Expansion a top priority recognizing that it will cover more than 600,000 North Carolinians with good healthcare.”

Lt. Governor Mark Robinson (AP Photo/Chris Seward)

District 27 Sen. Michael Garrett (D-Greensboro): “Under Governor Roy Cooper our state is leading the south in building a clean energy economy. This was accomplished by republicans, democrats, advocates, and the business community working together. His State of the State reminded us of what we can accomplish when we work together, avoid the culture wars, and focus on the people of North Carolina. CNBC named North Carolina a top state for business, largely because of what we have accomplished, even with divided government.”

District 30 Sen. Steve Jarvis (R-Lexington): “Lt. Governor Robinson connected with the audience by focusing his speech on education and the important, unbiased role that teachers play. He also reminded listeners to not let partisanship become entrenched in extreme views.”

NC House members square off in committee debates

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) at a House Education and Labor Committee hearing last year (AP)

Two members of Congress from the Triad – and a former resident of Greensboro – recently squared off for about 16 hours as they debated two bills: one about whether transgender girls should be allowed to compete on girls’ sports teams and the so-called “parents bill of rights,” McClatchy reported.

5th Congressional District Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-Banner Elk) is the chair of the House Committee on Workforce and Education, but she got no help from 6th District Rep. Kathy Manning (D-Greensboro) or 12th District Rep. Alma Adams (D-Charlotte), a native of Greensboro.

6th District Rep. Kathy Manning (D-Greensboro) (WGHP)

Foxx says that the founding argument for equality, Title IX, has been “perverted to achieve the opposite of its intentions.” She advocated House Resolution 734, the so-called Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act of 2023, and said in a release that “progressives are pushing a gender-bending agenda.”

Adams called that “bullying” and said the bill didn’t really address the issue.

About House Resolution 5, the parents’ rights bill pushed by Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-California), Manning said the issues addressed in the bill didn’t need the attention.

“We should support our students and our parents and we should make sure our students have the tools and resources to succeed in school, to learn to read competently, to understand history, math, science, social students, to become critical thinkers and problem solvers to they can become productive and fulfilled members of society,” McClatchy reported Manning as saying, “instead of focusing on which material extreme politicians believe should be stricken from the classroom, or extra burdens that should be put on teachers and administrators by forcing them to share lists of every book in the school library.”

Said Foxx: The bill’s passage would mean “parents will finally feel empowered.”

HR 5 passed the House on Friday, but Senate Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) has said it won’t be taken up in his chamber. The committee passed out HR 734, but it has not moved since March 9.

Not to confuse you, but the Parents Bill of Rights passed by the North Carolina Senate has been on the shelf in the House Rules Committee since early February. Its fate is uncertain. The House this week did pass a bill that limits the topic of discussions by teachers.

Clemmons at the top

State Rep. Ashton Clemmons (D-Greensboro)

You maybe are following the expansive set of bills to address early childhood education and care that District 57 Rep. Ashton Clemmons (D-Greensboro) filed earlier this month. Clemmons is a former school teacher and principal who says she holds those causes close.

What you may not realize about that effort is that Clemmons, first elected in 2018, has risen to be the second-ranking Democrat in the state House, as the deputy leader of the caucus. This week she was a primary sponsor of the sports gambling bill that is steaming toward a vote on the House floor.

“Ashton Clemmons will be a key partner and leader on all parts of our caucus work,” Rep. Robert Reives (D-Chatham), the House Democratic leader, told the High Point News.

Redistricting is still a hot topic

The recent state Supreme Court rehearing of the Harper v. Moore case on electoral redistricting has continued to draw ire. The newly Republican-controlled court agreed to a request by legislative leaders to reconsider the justices’ decision entered Dec. 16, which upheld their earlier judgment that political districts can’t be gerrymandered to maintain political power.

The court’s “reheard” decision hasn’t been revealed, but here are some reactions:

  • Hilary Harris Klein, senior counsel for voting rights at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice: “The petition for rehearing in this case was filed because of a change in composition of the court, and as we heard in the arguments today, every argument about partisan gerrymandering was fully considered by the Supreme Court already in the prior decisions. Those decisions were right on the facts, and they were right on the law and there is no reason to be revisiting the issue.” 
  • Debra Dicks Maxwell, president of the NC NAACP, during a rally held by plaintiff Common Cause NC: “North Carolina has been and continues to be a testing ground for voting suppression as far back as the poll taxes and 1971 redistricting tactics that were used to exclude Black voter engagement. I am a fierce advocate for civil rights, and I assure you that we will not back down.” 
  • Carrie Clark, executive director of the NC League of Conservation Voters, a plaintiff in the case: “Our belief throughout this process is that every voter has the right to cast a ballot for the environment in free and fair elections and have their voice heard. The North Carolina Supreme Court originally ruled that the legislature had violated our state constitution and that the gerrymanders must be replaced. We don’t believe anything in our state constitution has changed and hope the current Supreme Court doesn’t take an unprecedented step of overturning its prior decision. Our constitution and laws spell out judicial oversight of redistricting, which ensures free and fair elections. Ultimately, this is how lawmakers are held accountable and how our organization stands up for clean air and water for the people of North Carolina.”

McHenry in a banking pickle

U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-Statesville)

U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-Denver), whose 10th District until January included a large part of the Piedmont Triad, is negotiating through a bit of a conflict. Bloomberg News reported this week that McHenry, chair of the House Financial Services Committee, which is overseeing the recent collapse of Signature Bank, earlier this month received thousands of dollars in campaign donations from some of the bank’s executives.

The fundraiser, held in Signature’s boardroom, was on March 2, about 10 days before the bank shut its doors. McHenry’s campaign said it would not process any of those donations, although bank employees over the years have contributed more than $188,000 to his elections.


Some things your elected leaders have been touting recently:

  • U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina) has been particularly busy. At various times Tillis has called for members of Congress to stop using Tik-Tok, complained about President Joe Biden’s proposed budget, demanded answers about oversight of Silicone Valley Bank, cosponsored a bill to crack down on trade cheats, introduced a bill to help NATO allies escape Russian dependence and introduced a constitutional amendment to prevent court packing. Those are just the highlights. You can see all the details on his website.
  • Rep. Manning, one of 38 Jewish members of Congress, decried the stark rise of antisemitic incidents in one year, from 683 in 2020 to 817 in 2021, in the FBI’s Supplemental Hate Crime report, which was an update of a lacking original report. Manning is the co-chair of the House Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Antisemitism.  She criticized how the original report by the FBI had undercounted hate crimes, saying, “There is a clear need for more robust compliance with collection and reporting from all state and local law enforcement agencies.”
  • U.S. Sen. Ted Budd (R-N.C.) cosponsored a bill with Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) to require the FAA to issue new regulations about the tracking of high-altitude balloons. This is a reaction to the Chinese spy balloon that crossed the country.