Thursday, April 4, 2013

Cancer clinics are turning away thousands of Medicare patients. The harvest is beginning.

Verne Strickland USA Dot Com / April 5, 2013

I didn't discover this horror. The post I am passing along was referred to me by an internet pal named Craig Hawker. It has more than casual meaning for me. I have multiple myeloma, a bone cancer which is fatal if not apprehended. I am also 76, the 'trigger' age when vital chemotherapy can be shut off via the chilling rules of Obamacare. I don't think this rationing of life-saving medicine has happened in the U.S. before. Recently I wrote: 'I am a senior. Forgive me if I still value my life.' The reports are true, though many scoff at the suggestion. Obama's 'signature' accomplishment will deny health care to seniors, to those already ill, to the young, and the unborn. I expect the deniers will be falling silent soon. And dying.

Dr. Ralph V. Boccia, of The Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders, runs a cancer clinic that is in danger of losing funding due to the sequester cuts. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

Ralph V. Boccia of the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders runs a cancer clinic that is in danger of losing funding due to the sequester cuts. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

Cancer clinics across the country have begun turning away thousands of Medicare patients, blaming the sequester budget cuts.
Oncologists say the reduced funding, which took effect for Medicare on April 1, makes it impossible to administer expensive chemotherapy drugs while staying afloat financially.
Patients at these clinics would need to seek treatment elsewhere, such as at hospitals that might not have the capacity to accommodate them.
“If we treated the patients receiving the most expensive drugs, we’d be out of business in six months to a year,” said Jeff Vacirca, chief executive of North Shore Hematology Oncology Associates in New York. “The drugs we’re going to lose money on we’re not going to administer right now.”
After an emergency meeting Tuesday, Vacirca’s clinics decided that they would no longer see one-third of their 16,000 Medicare patients.
“A lot of us are in disbelief that this is happening,” he said. “It’s a choice between seeing these patients and staying in business.”
Some who have been pushing the federal government to spend less on health care say this is not the right approach.
“I don’t think there was an intention to disrupt care or move it into a more expensive setting,” said Cathy Schoen, senior vice president of the Commonwealth Fund, which recently released a plan for cutting $2 trillion in health spending. “If that’s the case, we’re being  penny-wise and a pound-foolish with these cuts.”
Legislators meant to partially shield Medicare from the automatic budget cuts triggered by the sequester, limiting the program to a 2 percent reduction — a fraction of the cuts seen by other federal programs.
But oncologists say the cut is unexpectedly damaging for cancer patients because of the way those treatments are covered.
Medications for seniors are usually covered under the optional Medicare Part D, which includes private insurance. But because cancer drugs must be administered by a physician, they are among a handful of pharmaceuticals paid for by Part B, which covers doctor visits and is subject to the sequester cut.
The federal government typically pays community oncologists for the average sales price of a chemotherapy drug, plus 6 percent to cover the cost of storing and administering the medication.
Since oncologists cannot change the drug prices, they argue that the entire 2 percent cut will have to come out of that 6 percent overhead. That would make it more akin to a double-digit pay cut.
“If you get cut on the service side, you can either absorb it or make do with fewer nurses,” said Ted Okon, director of the Community Oncology Alliance, which advocates for hundreds of cancer clinics nationwide. “This is a drug that we’re purchasing. The costs don’t change and you can’t do without it. There isn’t really wiggle room.”
Okon’s group has sent letters to legislators urging them to exempt cancer drugs from the sequester or, as a back-up, only shave 2 percent off the money they receive to administer the medications.
Doctors at the Charleston Cancer Center in South Carolina began informing patients weeks ago that, due to the sequester cuts, they would soon need to seek treatment elsewhere.
“We don’t sugar-coat things, we’re cancer doctors,” Charles Holladay, a doctor at the clinic, said. “We tell them that if we don’t go this course, it’s just a matter of time before we go out of business.”
Cancer patients turned away from local oncology clinics may seek care at hospitals, which also deliver chemotherapy treatments.
The care will likely be more expensive: One study from actuarial firm Milliman found that chemotherapy delivered in a hospital setting costs the federal government an average of $6,500 more annually than care delivered in a community clinic.
Those costs can trickle down to patients, who are responsible for picking up a certain amount of the medical bills. Milliman found that Medicare patients ended up with an average of $650 more in out-of-pocket costs when they were seen only in a hospital setting.
It is still unclear whether hospitals have the capacity to absorb these patients. The same Milliman report found that the majority of Medicare patients — 66 percent — receive treatment in a community oncology clinic, instead of a hospital.
Non-profit hospitals will likely have an easier time bearing the brunt of the sequester cuts. A federal program known as 340B requires pharmaceutical companies to give double-digit discounts to hospitals that treat low-income and uninsured patients.
Eastern Connecticut Health Network began preparing for additional volume after a local oncology practice sent out notice that it would stop seeing certain cancer patients.
“What we’re trying to do in the hospital is prepare for this,” ECHN spokesman Eric Berthel said. “We’re making sure we have access to the pharmaceutical companies and that we have appropriate staff on hand. We’re hoping the oncology practice will be successful in renegotiating this. It’s so fresh, so we’re pretty unsure.”
Some cancer clinics are counting on the federal government to provide relief, and continuing to see patients they expect to lose money on.
“We’re hoping that something will change, as legislators see the impact of this,” Ralph Boccia, director of the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders in Bethesda, Md., said. “I don’t think we could keep going, without a change, for more than a couple of months.”
An analysis prepared by his clinic estimates that, if the full 2 percent cut takes effect, between 50 and 70 percent of the drugs it administers would become money losers.
Boccia estimates that 55 percent of his patients are covered by Medicare, making any changes to reimbursement rates difficult to weather.
“When I look at the numbers, they don’t add up,” he said. “Business 101 says we can’t stay open if we don’t cover our costs.”

GOP rolls out less restrictive NC voter ID bill. Tillis tepid: 'May withstand court challenge."

Verne Strickland USA Dot Com / April 4, 2013

April 4, 2013
— House Republicans unveiled their long-awaited voter ID bill Thursday, offering a less restrictive version than the measure that was vetoed by Democratic Gov. Bev. Perdue two years ago.
The measure would require all voters to show a government-issued photograph at the polls starting with the 2016 elections, in what supporters said was an effort to restore voter confidence in the electoral system.
But it would include several provisions that seem designed to address the concerns of critics who charged that it would disenfranchise older voters, students and the poor. The bill would accept driver’s licenses up to 10 years after their expiration date, student IDs from public universities, state employee IDs, and would allow persons older than 70 years to use old IDs. It would also require the state to provide free photo ID’s to those who claim financial hardship.
House Speaker Thom Tillis of Matthews couched the voter ID bill as a compromise that would not fully satisfy partisans on either side of the debate but remained faithful to the “core principles” of requiring photo IDs.
“It’s very different than the bill we tried to pass last year,” Tillis said at a news conference attended by a number of other GOP lawmakers. “It has tried to take into account a number of the concerns that were raised. It is a bill we are very confident will withstand any challenge that may come to us by way of the courts.’’
“The citizens of North Carolina want some form of voter ID legislation,” Tillis said. “I think it really restores confidence in voter outcomes.’’
The Republican controlled legislature passed a voter ID bill in 2011, but it was vetoed by Perdue. But this time, the measure seems certain to become law because Republican Gov. Pat McCrory campaigned on the need for a voter ID law.
Opponents have said they are likely to challenge the voter ID law in the courts, just as they have done in other states.
Assured of passage, Tillis and other Republican leaders have run what they called “a transparent” process, holding hearings and hearing testimony on the bill. They said they incorporated some of the recommendations in the bill.
A public hearing is set for next Wednesday at 4 pm with a House vote expected April 22 or 23.
Under the measure, if a person does not have a photo ID, they could still cast a provisional ballot, but would be required to return at a later time to show an ID for the vote to be counted.
Voters who do not have driver’s licenses – a population that estimates have pegged at several hundred thousand – could get a free voter non-operator ID from the Division of Motor Vehicles at an estimated cost of $10. There could be additional costs, if a person had to get a birth certificate in order to get the ID.
But the measure would have the state cover the costs if the person signed a document declaring financial hardship. Republican lawmakers said they had no estimate for what the cost of the program might cost.
“The nice plus on this is that these same ID cards can be used for other things,’’ said Rep. Ruth Samuelson of Charlotte.
The measure would also tighten the restrictions on absentee ballots, in which no photo ID is required. An official form will be developed that will require a person to provide a driver’s license or Social Security number, or other government documents on the absentee ballot.
“We are trying to improve the integrity of the absentee ballot process as well as requiring a straight voter ID,” said Rep. Tom Murry of Wake County.
The absentee program would go into effect in 2014 – two years before the voter ID requirement.
The bill would also create a board called the Voter Information Verification Agency comprised of 14 employees who will work with counties to help educate voters in the transition to voter ID, assist voters in getting IDs and do voter outreach.

USA Dot Com: N.C. House leaders introduce voter ID legislation that Speaker Tillis praises.

USA Dot Com: N.C. House leaders introduce voter ID legislation that Speaker Tillis praises.: The bill will be filed in the House today and referred to the House Elections Committee, where it will be discussed at a public hearing and a committee meeting next week.

N.C. House leaders introduce voter ID legislation that Speaker Tillis praises.

 Verne Strickland / Blogmaster / April 4, 2013
April 4, 2013   Rhonda Amoroso


Raleigh – Legislative leaders in the North Carolina House of Representatives announced today the filing of a bill to implement a photo identification system for voting, highlighting a month-long process that included public hearings, stakeholder input, and expert testimony. House Speaker Thom Tillis (R-Mecklenburg) was joined at a press conference today by Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett), Rep. Harry Warren (R-Rowan), Rep. Tim Moore (R-Cleveland), Rep. Ruth Samuelson (R-Mecklenburg) and Rep. Tom Murry (R-Wake) to unveil the bill that has been a top priority for the Republican-led General Assembly since winning a majority in 2010.

“We are here to announce that after a deliberate and transparent process, we will be filing a voter ID bill today that protects the integrity of the ballot box and respects the sanctity of the right to vote,” Tillis said.

The bill is a sweeping effort to improve North Carolina’s voting process by requiring citizens to show photo identification when voting, and would be fully implemented by 2016. The measure utilizes the 2014 elections as a bridge to identify which voters may be without an accepted form of photo ID – and establishes a program to help citizens acquire a free photo identification card through the Department of Motor Vehicles.

“We have arrived at a bill that we believe will stand up in a court of law, address legitimate concerns about voting access, and move North Carolina to a photo identification voting system,” Tillis said.

Beyond the photo identification requirement, the bill takes steps to ensure the integrity of provisional and absentee ballots. It also directs the State Board of Elections to study the use of modern technology in voting, paving the way for further efficiency through digital efforts in the future.

The bill will be filed in the House today and referred to the House Elections Committee, where it will be discussed at a public hearing and a committee meeting next week.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013



Most civilized societies in the world today have traditionally paid respect to their elders, and returned the love and nurturing that were accorded up and coming generations.
Some haven’t. It is well-known that some American Indian tribes, as well as some African cultures, have left their elders to die alone when they became too weak and infirm to keep up with the pace of the larger group.
At first glance this appears  shocking  and inhumane. That’s a fair appraisal in some ways.   At least it seemed a commonsense solution to protect the welfare of the tribe. Was that a justification? Some thought so, though those left to perish might have considered it a bit harsh.
There are modern-day parallels which may require a bit of a stretch. As our Marines have done in combat situations, provisions are made to carry the weak and wounded along, rather than abandon them to the elements, predators, or even torture by the enemy. There is no question this is the honorable option.
Choices. Hard choices. Somebody has to make them.
But in America today, we come upon a situation that is not only improbable in an affluent, civilized society, but bizarre and cruel as well.
Barack Obama, president of the United States, has at his disposable a federal program, bearing his personal brand, that can be implemented as a virtual killing machine despite being labeled in medical propaganda as a “health” phenomenon – Affordable Health Care or Obamacare.
He will abuse it. That is clear enough. He says as much. He will manipulate to achieve goals unheard of in 21st century medical annals -- to hasten the deaths of the sick and vulnerable, thus easing pressure on the federal budget that he personally has weakened to the point of collapse.

What he propose Is shameful – a description not unheard of where this unusual politician is concerned.


NC Becomes Next Obamacare Battleground State

Over the next 30 days, North Carolina is expected to become the site for the next battle over President Obama’s signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  Former Gov. Bev Purdue had begun to implement the state-based exchanges under the ACA, however the newly sworn-in Republican Gov. Pat McCrory has put on hold those plans, at least for now.
McCrory’s Department of Health and Human Services announced last week that the Governor would decide whether or not to proceed with the state exchanges by February 15.  Meanwhile, due to the plans set in motion by former Gov. Purdue, North Carolina has received federal assistance to help with the exchanges.
North Carolina was awarded a $74 million grant to help with creation of a health insurance exchange, a marketplace for individuals and small businesses to buy insurance that’s part of the Affordable Care Act.

The money is part of $1.5 billion in exchange establishment grants offered to 11 states by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and is designed to help ready the exchanges for use in 2014.
Before McCrory’s final decision, Republican lawmakers are making attempts to water down the state’s participation in the ACA as well.  N.C. House Republican Leader, Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam said recently that removing the abortion provisions in ACA are being looked at seriously.
“There is a law being drafted to remove abortions from the health care exchange,” the Apex Republican said, adding that such a proposal likely would be introduced in the Senate. He said a “sex-selection” law is another strong possibility.  “In North Carolina you can get an abortion for any reason, including sex-selection abortions,” Stam said. “That’s something we’ve got to deal with.”

The Impact of Obamacare on Seniors

Like most seniors, Ann Lorenz relies on Medicare as she copes with serious health care challenges, including Parkinson's Disease. Ann sees a number of doctors and depends on a variety of prescription drugs and therapies to stay independent. She worries that Obamacare threatens her access to doctors, treatment options and insurance plans - and her neurologist shares her concerns.
The SolutionGive seniors greater choice of doctors, private health plans, and services under Medicare.
Obamacare Facts & Figures
  • Nearly one-quarter of all seniors rely on Medicare Advantage, the private health care option in Medicare. However, Obamacare makes such deep cuts to that program that half of those covered will no longer be able to keep the coverage they have.
  • New taxes on drug companies ($27 billion) and medical device makers ($20 billion), as well as new reporting requirements and regulations imposed on physicians, will make access to health care and services more costly and difficult for seniors under Obamacare.

The Right Way Forward for America

After repeal of Obamacare, Congress should pursue targeted policy solutions that address practical problems faced by millions of Americans in a step-by-step and fully transparent legislative process. The elements outlined above are at the core of transforming today's health care economy into one where individuals and families can control their own dollars and make their own decisions.

NC Legislature repudiates Democrats, confirms McCrory appointments

Governor-elect Pat McCrory 






House backs slate 80-33, Senate by 42-5 


 Verne Strickland Blogmaster / April 3, 2013

 Associated Press |

RALEIGH — The N.C. General Assembly on Wednesday confirmed six appointments to the state Board of Education, despite an objection raised by Democrats against a member of the Winston Salem/Forsyth County school board who has been criticized for voting in 2002 against a local proposal that would have prohibited bullying based on sexual orientation.
The House and Senate met in a joint session to confirm Republican Gov. Pat McCrory’s appointments to the 13-member board ahead of meetings in Raleigh over the next two days.
State Rep. Paul Luebke, D-Durham, tried to pull Kernersville attorney Buddy Collins from consideration, but his effort was squashed by a motion in the GOP-dominated House.
The other new members are Bill Cobey of Durham, Greg Alcorn of Salisbury, Becky Taylor of Greenville, Olivia Oxendine of Robeson County, and Marcella Ramirez Savage of Union County.
Collins has served on the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Board of Education for more than 15 years. Luebke said his opposition came because of Collins’ 2002 vote against the inclusion of language in an anti-harassment policy specifically outlawing bullying based on sexual orientation.
“His feelings as expressed toward gay and lesbian citizens of our state are offensive to me, I think, to many people in this chamber, and to many people in this state,” Luebke said.
Collins couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday.
In 2002, Collins voted against a proposal that would have specifically prohibited bullying based on sexual orientation in Winston-Salem/Forsyth County schools. At the time, Collins said he didn’t support homosexuality, but that his personal views had nothing to do with his vote. Collins said the district’s discrimination policy already prohibited bullying of any student, so the addition was unnecessary.
“I think it has everything to do with whether people who are gay and lesbian have some sort of special right that everybody else doesn’t,” Collins said at the time. “This request could have been made by people with overweight children or kids with glasses or any other thing that children pick on other children for.
“Our position with the school system is that all children are not to be harassed or bullied," Collins said.
In 2003, Collins voted to remove questions about harassment because of sexual orientation from the student portion of a school climate survey.
On Wednesday, state Rep. Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, who is House Rules Committee chairman, opposed Luebke’s amendment, noting appointments from a governor typically pass without partisan discord.
“I find it very unfortunate that the member from Durham would want to try to politicize the situation and would remind that member that, when our party was in the minority, we generally respected the governor’s appointments and confirmed those,” Moore said.
The House confirmed the appointments by a vote of 80-33 after Moore used a parliamentary maneuver to quash Luebke’s amendment without voting on its content. The Senate approved the appointments 42-5.
Journal reporter John Hinton contributed to this story.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Gay advocates oppose Buddy Collins appointment by Governor McCrory

Verne Strickland Blogmaster / April 3, 2013

Posted: Tuesday, April 2, 2013 8:11 pm 
Another one of Gov. Pat McCrory’s appointments from Forsyth County is hitting a roadblock.

Equality NC, a gay-rights advocacy group, is calling for McCrory to rescind the appointment of Kernersville lawyer A.L. “Buddy” Collins to the State Board of Education.

Collins, a member of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Board of Education since 1996, received national attention this week for what’s being called an “anti-gay” record. An article published last week by The Huffington Post cited votes that Collins cast in 2002 and 2003 that have been seen as anti-gay.

Collins could not be reached for comment this week, but school communications specialist Kim Underwood said Collins felt misrepresented by The Huffington Post article.

The story has ignited yet another controversy for the McCrory administration. In February, a firestorm erupted around Dianna Lightfoot, a Winston-Salem woman who was selected to head the state’s pre-K programs.

Lightfoot stepped down from the post before her official start date after news reports that a nonprofit she runs has questioned the value of early childhood education and pre-K programs.Now, Equality NC is asking supporters to call McCrory’s office and ask that he reconsider Collins’ appointment.

“Gov. McCrory should reconsider his appointment of Buddy Collins to the State Board of Education,” said Stuart Campbell, executive director of Equality NC, in a statement posted to the group’s website. “Surely, there are others Gov. McCrory could appoint that would protect the rights of all North Carolina students.”

In 2002, Collins voted against a proposal that would specifically prohibit bullying based on sexual orientation in Winston-Salem/Forsyth County schools. At the time, Collins said that he does not support homosexuality, but that his personal views had nothing to do with his vote. Collins said the district’s discrimination policy already prohibited bullying of any student, so the addition was unnecessary.

“I think it has everything to do with whether people who are gay and lesbian have some sort of special right that everybody else doesn’t,” Collins said at the time. “This request could have been made by people with overweight children or kids with glasses or any other thing that children pick on other children for.
“Our position with the school system is that all children are not to be harassed or bullied."

In 2003, Collins voted to remove questions about harassment because of sexual orientation from the student portion of a school climate survey.

Matt Comer, a former Forsyth County student, told The Huffington Post that Collins was the “ringleader” in efforts to keep LGBT support organizations out of the schools.

Both votes, supported by a majority of the school board, came despite impassioned pleas by the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network of Winston-Salem. In a 2002 editorial, published in the Winston-Salem Journal, Collins said GLSEN was using public schools as a place “to seek acceptance of its sexual practices.”

In that same 2002 editorial, Collins wrote that he did not support gay marriage or lifestyle, but believed in equal protection from bullying and harassment for all students.

“Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens have the same right to equal protection of our laws and the same expectation of privacy enjoyed by all other citizens,” Collins wrote. “As a society we can and will tolerate their difference. Tolerance and compassion are worthy virtues. On the other hand, public endorsement of a homosexual union and homosexual practices is another matter entirely.”

Superintendent Don Martin said Collins has enforced district policies for all students who have been bullied, including gay students.

“Personal feelings are personal feelings, and we all have them,” Martin said. “He (Collins) has protected all students. I think they (board members) have all been interested in protecting all students.”

Board member Jeannie Metcalf was also mentioned in The Huffington Post story for alleged anti-gay rhetoric. When reached Tuesday, Metcalf declined to comment.

McCrory’s office did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

McCrory’s three State Board of Education appointments require approval by the General Assembly.
Rep. Donny Lambeth, R-Forsyth, served on the school board with Collins before stepping down to join the General Assembly this year. Lambeth said he supports Collins’ appointment.

“He’s been a strong anti-bullying advocate,” Lambeth said. “He has multiple years on the school board, with really a lot of challenges over the years.

“He brings a wealth of experience to the state school board that they could use.”

Monday, April 1, 2013

Governor McCrory asked to withdraw State School Board appointment.

 Verne Strickland / Blogmaster / April 1, 2013


Rev. Mark H. Creech is Executive Director of the 
Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc. 

By Dr. Mark H. Creech    April 1, 2013

According to the Raleigh News and Observer, Equality NC has asked Governor McCrory to reconsider his appointment of Buddy Collins to the state Board of Education. They charge that Collins wrongly opposed an anti-bullying measure that enumerated protections for GLBT students in 2009.

I hope the Governor will not take their suggestion of reconsideration seriously. The legislation that passed the North Carolina General Assembly in 2009 was highly controversial and succeeded by only one vote. It was a travesty of justice in that it was the first time in North Carolina history the highly undefined concepts of "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" were codified into law.

Rep. Marilyn Avila (R-Wake) expressed the fundamental flaw in the law when it was proposed and debated that year by the NC House. She said, "Here we are taking over from parents who have failed to teach their child not to bully. But how have you and how have I taught my child not to bully?" Avilla asked. "I didn't say 'don't pick on Rick because he's Jewish, don't pick on Julie because she's autistic, don't pick on Frank because he is overweight.' I sent my child out of the house and into the world with one admonition — 'you do not bully because it is wrong and it hurts people.'"

The legislation created a specially protected class of people. The irony is Equality NC faults Collins for not wanting to protect all of the state's students, when in fact, I'm sure that's exactly the reason Collins and others like him, including myself, were so opposed to the measure. It doesn't protect every child, instead it enumerates with special protections certain groups. If Equality NC was really concerned with protecting every child, then they would have agreed as many others argued, no enumerations were needed - bullying is bullying - no matter to whom it is directed.

The bullying bill was and remains to be an effort by homosexual activists in our state to get a foothold in North Carolina law - a foothold they hope to use for the advancement of their cause.

Collins showed courage in speaking out against the policy at the time. A man shouldn't be denied for having demonstrated virtue.

-Dr. Mark Creech
Like · ·
  • Donna Mauney and 10 others like this.
  • David Deborah Williams A local pastor last week said that he has felt for a long time that this issue will be the defining one that separates those born again from those not. I tend to agree. Politically, the homosexual lobby has won, if not this year, next. They have changed the national rhetoric to the point that Bible believing Christians are just bullies. God help us remain faithful to Jesus and His truth.
  • Warren Shinn Not only that but there were ALREADY rules in place to handle bullying. That legislation was redundant and unnecessary! I hope Pat McCrory doesn't fold on this! But if he's like he was as Mayor of Charlotte, he will fold....Unless he's changed. He proved himself to be a politician and not a statesman. I have hope....he appears to have a backbone as Governor...time will tell!
  • Ralph Eubanks When we began to give up our freedom and our life long value system we began to destroy our way of life and our country. Will we be able to overcome the small majority who have no values and return this country to its former glory?
  • David Deborah Williams I pray we can. We have to remember that those of us who remain faithful and true will be sought out when culture collapses. Jesus remains Lord no matter what happens to the nation.


Verne Strickland / Blogmaster / April 1, 2013

March 31, 2013
“If you want to be represented by a Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Mike Lee or Jim DeMint type, send me to the US Senate.”

That is the simple explanation Dr. Greg Brannon, a Cary OB-GYN, gives when people ask what they would be getting with a vote for him in the 2014 US Senate race.  Brannon is getting an early start on trying to unseat North Carolina’s rookie Democrat senator Kay Hagan.  He realizes he has a long way to go in raising his name ID.  But at this time, in 2007, how many people outside of Greensboro really knew anything about Kay Hagan? 
Brannon has a résumé that sounds like perfection to grassroots activists frustrated with what they see as an out-of-control federal government.   He’s never run for or held political office.  One of two sons raised by a single mother,  he worked his way through school and established what has become a successful medical practice.  He’s a self-described “born-again Christian” who has participated in medical missions to Africa and China. ( He opposes same-sex marriage and is unabashedly pro-life. )
Brannon and his wife have seven children — three of whom were adopted from China.
He’s a self-taught constitutional scholar who can quote verbatim from our Founding Documents.  Brannon says those documents will form the basis of his decision-making process in the Senate:
“If it’s not enumerated in The Constitution, the federal government has no business being in that business.  Plain and simple.”
Brannon says he — like many Americans – has grown frustrated watching Congress ignore the specifics in The Constitution while pushing the country deeper into debt.  As a practicing physician, he’s seen first-hand the problems that government meddling has caused the nation’s health care system.  Brannon says ObamaCare, in its early stages, is already creating more problems than it’s solving.
The Republican has a pretty clear philosophy on foreign policy and the use of the military:
“I want to have the strongest, most impressive, most powerful military possible that, hopefully, never has to be used.  If you’re the biggest, toughest guy on the block, people will tend to respect you and leave you alone. ”
Brannon says that — if a credible need for military action arises — Congress should follow the specifics set out in The Constitution:
“Congress should take up the matter and declare war.  Once the declaration of war is made, the politicians need to step back and turn things over to the admirals and the generals, letting them do whatever they need to do to finish things as quickly as possible and come home victorious.”
Brannon says he is encouraged by the high level of interest shown his campaign by Tea Party-affiliated leaders and organizations across the state and the nation.  His campaign has retained the services of  consultants and managers who have been successful in electing constitutional conservatives on the national level.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

New NC legislature targets 'arrogant' cities












Verne Strickland / Blogmaster March 30, 2013

Published: March 30, 2013
— Even in a state that has grown increasingly urban, North Carolina cities are on the defensive, fighting to keep prized assets and local control against a legislature that appears intent on taking them.
Three cities – Charlotte, Asheville and Raleigh – face the loss of signature assets. Small towns, like bigger cities, fear significant revenue drains.
It’s not just municipalities that have felt the sting. Senate bills would redraw school board districts in Wake and Guilford counties and change the way members in each are elected.
“It has been an amazing array of bills that add up to more restrictions on cities and on urban counties to govern themselves,” says Ferrel Guillory, a political analyst at UNC Chapel Hill.
Like the General Assembly itself, the urban struggles reflect North Carolina’s demographic and political changes.
Republicans control the legislature with an alliance of rural and suburban lawmakers. Some of the most influential lawmakers now hail from suburbs, such as Apex, Cornelius and Matthews.
Democrats, once as strong in rural counties as in metropolitan areas, now find their strength confined largely to urban cores.
Despite having a governor in Republican Pat McCrory who was the longtime mayor of the state’s largest city, some GOP members are openly wary of cities.
“There is a definite feeling that cities have too much power and want to control everything,” says Sen. Tom Apodaca, a Hendersonville Republican who chairs the influential Rules Committee. “Cities are getting too big and too powerful. We have to look after counties.”
The tensions have been marked by three battles:
• Lawmakers would transfer control of Charlotte Douglas International Airport – the world’s sixth busiest based on takeoffs and landings – from the city to an independent, regional authority.
Sen. Bob Rucho, a Matthew Republican, says city officials want control “for their personal agenda rather than what is best for the economic future of airport, the city and the region.”
• The Senate negated a lease of the former Dorothea Dix hospital property to the city of Raleigh, which plans a park. The bill would require the state to get fair market value. The lease had been approved in December under former Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue.
The measure, now in the House, sparked tense debate. At a hearing, Capitol Broadcasting president and CEO Jim Goodmon said nobody would trust doing business with the state if it breaks the lease.
• A long-anticipated bill filed last week would put Asheville’s water system under control of a Metropolitan Sewerage District, without compensating the city.
Dozens of other bills would affect cities.
House Bill 150, for example, would limit their ability to make homebuilders adhere to design standards. House Bill 79 calls for a constitutional amendment eliminating extraterritorial jurisdiction, a tool that helps cities control development on their borders.
Tax reform bills would end revenue sources such as the franchise and business privilege license taxes. That would cost cities $320 million, according to the N.C. League of Municipalities, though bill supporters say it would be balanced by broadening the sales tax base.
House Bill 252 would prevent Asheville from using part of its water utility revenues for street repairs that result from installing underground water lines.
All these follow last year’s major changes in North Carolina’s annexation laws that made it harder for cities to grow through annexation.
“The legislature has created a threatening environment for cities, forcing cities to legitimize and justify their role in North Carolina and its economy,” says Esther Manheimer, vice mayor of Asheville and a former legislative attorney.
“Past legislatures have understood the role of cities in the overall health of the state, and that was never questioned.”
‘Genuine tension’ in GOP
In the legislative auditorium last week, public officials from around the state gathered for Town Hall Day, organized by the N.C. League of Municipalities. After listening to Republican Rep. Ruth Samuelson of Charlotte outline issues, councilman Tony Stimatz of Elizabeth City rose.
“The impression is (legislators) don’t want to let us do our jobs,” he said. “We really don’t want them telling us how to run our city.”
“You’re identifying a genuine tension in our philosophy,” Samuelson replied. “On one hand we believe in local government. On the other hand we might be more sensitive to over-reach(ing) at the local level.”
House Speaker Thom Tillis says the tensions with cities reflect philosophical differences.
“A part of the conflict is a different world view of the role of government,” he says. “We’re putting more power in the hands of the individual property owner.”
In the Dix dispute, Republicans say, they have a responsibility to state taxpayers to get more money for the property than it would get under the current lease. In the cases involving the Charlotte airport and Asheville water system, they say they’re trying to make the best decisions for the most people.
“We are changing the management of publicly owned assets from people who use them for the benefit of a few to protect the rights of the many,” says Rep. Bill Brawley, a Matthews Republican and a main sponsor of the airport bill.
Brawley says he fears continued city management could lead to the loss of the airport’s status as a US Airways hub. A former town commissioner, he says he has seen little willingness by cities in general to negotiate.
“They don’t want to have conversations,” he says. “They want to have the right to do whatever they want. ‘Arrogant’ is a word I would use.”
Changing balance of power
Last December a bipartisan, high-profile group including two former governors, business executives and two people who went on to join Gov. Pat McCrory’s cabinet formed an organization called The North Carolina Communities and Business Alliance.
Its mission: to “promote economic growth and development in North Carolina’s cities and towns.”
Chairman Keith Crisco, Perdue’s former commerce secretary, says the group is watching bills like those affecting Charlotte, Asheville and Raleigh.
“If this is the beginning of a long-term trend to make cities weaker financially and less attractive to citizens and business, that’s a bad thing,” he says.
Much of North Carolina’s growth over the last decade has come along the I-85/I-40 corridor, drawn by growing urban areas from the Research Triangle to Charlotte.
UNC’s Guillory says signing the Republican measures into law would represent “a dramatic shift in the balance of governing power in the state.”
“It would amount to a significant state intervention in the affairs of counties and cities,” he says.
Ellis Hankins, the League of Municipalities’ executive director, calls cities engines of economic development that attract growth and jobs.
“We need to preserve the solid foundation that we have in this state,” he says. “We don’t need to take bricks out of the foundation.”