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Friday, February 12, 2016

The Morning Roundup: Oh God It’s Going to Snow!

Posted by on Fri, Feb 12, 2016 at 8:44 AM

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Greetings and salutations and Happy Friday, everyone! Let’s dive right in, get this week over with, and commence with our Friday afternoon binge drinking, shall we?  

First off, did y’all see the debate? No? Here’s the tl;dr: Hillary is hugging Obama so hard the president might well suffocate, and Bernie has developed an almost Rubioesque devotion to his talking points. He also, in my estimation, didn’t fare particularly well in the foreign policy discussion, but I doubt that’s going to matter much. 

The best encapsulation I’ve seen: 


Moving on to the headlines: 

1. Wayne Goodwin launches an investigation of Blue Cross Blue Shield. The insurance commissioner, who hit something of a rough patch last week, wants to know why the hell BCBS’s tech problems have left thousands without coverage. 

N.C. Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin said Thursday his agency has launched an examination of Blue Cross and Blue Shield to determine the cause of ongoing technology problems that have prevented thousands from buying or verifying health insurance this year.

Goodwin said the examination of the state’s largest health insurer will likely take months, and Blue Cross would be billed for any complex investigative work outsourced to specialists. He said his agency has received more than 1,000 formal complaints about Blue Cross in the past month and well over 4,000 customer calls.

“We’re at that point where it is what I need to do,” Goodwin said. “This is akin to a deep dive audit where we determine what worked, what didn’t work, whether any laws were broken, and how the process can be improved.”

BCBS, by the way, has said recently that it might pull out of the Affordable Care Act marketplace in North Carolina because it isn’t making enough money. Its CEO wrote a letter to the N&O saying, "It's clear that the ACA requires changes if it is to become a sustainable business model. No business can sustain losses like this." And the state’s Republicans are pretty sure this Obamacare hiccup spells DOOM!!! for Democrats this fall, and Goodwin’s investigation is really just a diversion. 

Dallas Woodhouse, the leader of North Carolina’s Republican Party, predicted that the ACA’s mounting problems here and around the country would end Goodwin’s career as an elected official. […]

“Wayne Goodwin – along with Roy Cooper – is simply trying to save face, pass blame and cover his tracks after his steadfast support for the disastrous ObamaCare plan and roll out in North Carolina,” Woodhouse said in astatement. “But now with skyrocketing premiums and Blue Cross recently announcing it will probably have to leave the marketplace due to ObamaCare, Goodwin and Cooper will have to face the music from voters come November."

2. The state’s mental health care system is a mess. Really, go read this entire story, but here’s the money quote, from DHHS secretary Rick Brajer: “It’s hard to describe it as a broken system, because it’s not a system.” 

3. Don’t freak out, but it might snow today

The threat on Friday of wintry weather closed some schools and put the bulk of counties between Raleigh and the coast under winter weather alerts but won't cause many problems during the morning or evening commute.

A weather system drifting in from the west will mix with low pressure forming off the coast of South Carolina to bring a mixed bag of wintry precipitation across the eastern half of the Tar Heel state beginning just before lunchtime. Though some schools closed ahead of the storm, the Triangle area has a low chance of accumulation that will affect commuting.

"(The weather) lasts through lunchtime and into early afternoon, and then it's out of here," said WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner. "Skies will clear."

Skies will clear, but I’m betting I-40 won’t. 

4. Another lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s gerrymandering may be headed to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

Last week, a federal court struck down North Carolina’s congressional districts, ruling that they amounted to an unconstitutional racial gerrymandering. (For reasons that defy understanding, it is totally kosher to gerrymander for political purposes, just not racial ones.) This week, the N.C. Supreme Court declined to rehear a lawsuit challenging legislative and congressional districts for much the same reason. And that case, too, appears headed for the highest court in the land. 

The state justices declined to take up a request that they rehear a case filed in state court by Margaret Dickson, a former state representative. Dickson and her fellow challengers are likely to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the case, one of several filed in state and federal courts challenging maps drawn in 2011 by the Republican-led legislature, Dickson and others make arguments similar to those that held sway last week with a three-judge federal panel.

Dickson and her co-challengers argue that race played too dominant a role in drawing the maps and that black voters were packed into districts where their candidates of choice typically had been successful. Packing the districts weakened the overall power of black voters, the challengers contend.

5. Don’t bring your gun to the airport, dummy

Charlotte lawyer John Fennebresque, the former UNC Board of Governors chairman, was arrested Thursday after authorities found a small handgun in his briefcase as he passed through a security checkpoint at Charlotte Douglas International Airport.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police officers arrested Fennebresque at 10 a.m. at checkpoint B, charging him with misdemeanor possession of a firearm on city property, CMPD and Mecklenburg County jail records show.

He was released on $500 bail, according to the records.

Reached by the Observer later Thursday, Fennebresque said he didn’t know the gun was in the briefcase. “It was an honest, stupid mistake,” he said.

Fennebresque stepped down from the BoG in October, right after the board voted to install Margaret Spellings as the president of the UNC system. 

That’s it for this week, kids. Stay warm today. 

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