Morning Roundup: The GOP’s Obamacare Replacement Is Back from the Dead, Maybe | News
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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Morning Roundup: The GOP’s Obamacare Replacement Is Back from the Dead, Maybe

Posted by on Thu, Apr 20, 2017 at 10:48 AM

Good midmorning. Here is your (belated) roundup.


1. Bill O’Reilly is out at Fox News.

After claims of sexual harassment prompted advertisers to flee, Fox News severed ties with its longtime high-rated cable news host. From The New York Times:

Bill O’Reilly’s reign as the top-rated host in cable news came to an abrupt and embarrassing end on Wednesday as Fox News forced him out after the disclosure of a series of sexual harassment allegations against him and an internal investigation that turned up even more.

Mr. O’Reilly and his employers came under intense pressure after an article by The New York Times on April 1 revealed how Fox News and its parent company, 21st Century Fox, had repeatedly stood by him even as he and the company reached settlements with five women who had complained about sexual harassment or other inappropriate behavior by him. The agreements totaled about $13 million.

Since then, more than 50 advertisers had abandoned his show, and women’s rights groups had called for him to be fired. Inside the company, women expressed outrage and questioned whether top executives were serious about maintaining a culture based on “trust and respect,” as they had promised last summer when another sexual harassment scandal led to the ouster of Roger E. Ailes as chairman of Fox News.
It’s hard to overestimate how big a role O’Reilly’s brand of right-wing bloviation played in the rise of the sort of populist conservatism that led to President Trump, from his jeremiads against feminism to his caterwauling over the make-believe War on Christmas to his raging at liberal elites. See this analysis from CNN.
What O'Reilly and Ailes built was something that not only succeeded beyond their wildest dreams financially speaking but also had a profound impact on how conservatives thought of themselves. Yes, lower taxes and smaller government still mattered. But populism, wariness of elites and a deep and abiding distrust in the mainstream media also became core tenets of modern conservatism as imagined by O'Reilly and Ailes. Democrats became the party of Hollywood and elites — in the media, in business, in entertainment. Republicans were the ones fighting for the little guy who felt left behind and scolded by those very people.

2. Republicans are trying to revive their Obamacare replacement.

Just in from Politico, a possible deal between the Freedom Caucus and the more moderate Tuesday Group.

The deal — brokered by centrist Tuesday Group co-chair Tom MacArthur and hard-right Freedom Caucus head Mark Meadows — proposes giving states more flexibility to opt out of major Obamacare provisions, while at the same time preserving popular protections like the law’s ban on discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions.

It remains unclear whether the proposal can succeed in shifting any votes — President Donald Trump and leaders were forced to abandon a planned vote last month in the face of intraparty rebellion. They’ve since struggled to find a path forward, and even the deal being floated now relies largely on rehashing concepts lawmakers previously rejected.
The Huffington Post casts doubt on the idea that this compromise will succeed where its predecessor failed, as many of the policies that are anathema to moderates are still there.

Additionally, with Republicans effectively going back on their repeated promises to guarantee coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, the amendment could lose a number of Republicans who already supported the legislation. In short, even though the Tuesday Group and the Freedom Caucus think they have a deal, Republicans writ large might have nothing.

Leadership is expected to discuss the amendment on a conference call this Saturday with GOP members, but public opinion might also affect the landscape. Republicans are trying to say their amendment will cover people with pre-existing conditions ― because, first, the legislation still claims those people can’t be denied coverage, and second, because there will be high-risk pools for those people if insurance costs dramatically go up for them.

The reality, however, is that insurers would be able to effectively deny coverage by pricing sick people out of the market. 

3. Bad news for craft brews: HB 500 has been gutted.

As the INDY reported yesterday, a House committee removed a key provision of a HB 500 at the behest of the powerful N.C. Beer & Wine Wholesalers Association. That provision, sought by the craft beer industry, would have significantly raised the cap on how many barrels of beer breweries can self-distribute without having to go through wholesalers.

But the bill was pretty much gutted ahead of a Wednesday meeting of the House Alcohol Beverage Control committee. The committee was expected to vote on the bill today, but did not.

Deleted from the proposed bill were provisions to increase the barrel cap, change how that barrel cap is calculated, and make it easier for breweries to get out of distribution agreements.

What remains largely clarifies ambiguities or gaps in current law. HB 500, as revised, would still let breweries sell other alcoholic beverages with the correct permits, let home brewers participate in competitions and makes it clear that breweries can offer tastings during tours, among other provisions.

Craft Freedom, a coalition of brewers that has been the driving force behind the bill, suggested "backroom political pressure" influenced the changes to the bill.
We’ll have more on this story later today.

Related: The booze cops are cracking down on mimosa brunches.

A Fayetteville-area restaurant was flagged by law enforcement for illegally selling “bottomless” mimosas at Sunday brunch after a Fayetteville Observer article mentioned that the restaurant offered this drink special.
4. In a lawsuit, Common Cause says last December’s legislative special session was illegal.

From The News & Observer:

A nonpartisan citizens’ lobbying group and 10 North Carolina residents filed a lawsuit Wednesday accusing the lieutenant governor and legislative leaders of violating the state Constitution in December when they hastily called a special session to consider laws that transform state government. […]

The laws, Senate Bill 4 and House Bill 17, are the focus of several other lawsuits in state court. The governor has challenged them as violations of the constitutional separation of powers. A three-judge panel has ruled in his favor on the portion of the law that merged the ethics commission and elections board, but stated he had not been able to show harm by the state Senate’s plan to have a say in who he appoints to Cabinet posts.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday in Wake County Superior Court contends that Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, president of the state Senate, Phil Berger, president pro tempore of the state Senate, and Tim Moore, speaker of the state House of Representatives, violated North Carolinians’ rights when they took up the bills in a three-day session in December without laying out to the public what was on the agenda.
5. The legislature considers banning school boards from suing county commissions over funding.

In North Carolina, because school boards have no taxing authority, they have to ask county commissioners for funds. If the counties don’t want to provide them with enough money, they could sue. But now, some lawmakers want that to no longer be an option, which would essentially give school boards no recourse should counties no adequately provide for their needs.

The bill’s sponsors say the change is needed to avoid costly lawsuits when school boards are seeking a bigger budget than county leaders are willing to provide. […]

The N.C. Association of County Commissioners says the bill is one of its top legislative priorities this year. Lobbyist Johanna Reese pointed to a lawsuit in Union County in which the court awarded the school board $91 million, although that award was overturned on appeal. She said the case required $2 million in legal fees that “did not go to education.”
6. Dan Forest’s “free-speech” bill is stalled (for now).

The vote split 6–6 along party lines, which prevented it from getting out of committee, and three Republicans were absent. So it’s likely to come back. Here’s WRAL’s take:

A bill to "restore and preserve campus free speech" throughout the University of North Carolina system failed in a House committee on Wednesday amid concerns that it would do more to infringe on free speech than it would to protect it.

Calling the state's infamous Speaker Ban in the 1960s a mistake, Reps. Chris Millis, R-Pender, and Jonathan Jordan, R-Ashe, the sponsors of House Bill 527, said UNC campuses should be open to all ideas, even those that some students and faculty find objectionable. […]

Lawmakers expressed doubts about a provision requiring campuses to remain neutral on "public policy controversies of the day" and not require students or faculty to take a position on such issues. Rep. Verla Insko, D-Orange, asked whether that would, for example, prevent a university center from publishing a study on climate change.

Steven Walker, general counsel for Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who backed the bill, said the measure wouldn't affect faculty academic freedom, only a university's ability to tell a professor what he or she can or cannot say publicly.

Susanna Birdsong, policy counsel for the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the legislation was written too broadly and "risks chilling the activity it purports to protect."

7. Longtime Durham state senator Floyd McKissick Jr. may be headed to the district court.

McKissick has expressed interest in the seat vacated by Marcia Morey, who was appointed to fill the House seat of the late state representative Paul Luebke.

State Sen. Floyd McKissick Jr., D-Durham, is seeking the nod of the Durham County Bar Association to fill the unexpired District Court seat vacated by Judge Marcia Morey after Durham County Democrats voted to appoint Morey to the N.C. House District 30 seat on March 30.

Morey replaced late Rep. Paul Luebke, 70, a Democrat who represented Durham for 25 years in the state House before his death in October.

The process to replace Morey started with the Fourteenth Judicial District Bar calling for a vote for a new district court judge.

Possible candidates submitted their names, credentials and qualifications during a five-day period that ran April 10-14.

8. The staff of Raleigh nonprofit Love Wins quits, alleging misconduct.

From the INDY’s Erica Hellerstein:

In a dramatic turn of events yesterday, the staff of the Love Wins Community Engagement Center, a community center and advocacy group for Raleigh's homeless population, quit and posted a Facebook video alleging financial mismanagement by the group's executive director, Hugh L. Hollowell. The board of Love Wins and Hollowell are disputing the employees' allegations.

According to the video, narrated by a former Love Wins employee, the staff hopes to continue Love Wins' work under a different name, the Raleigh Center, and plans to raise money to keep the new facility afloat. The employee read the letter on camera through tears. She described the organization's work and outlined her concerns about its financial operations— including a lack of transparency over its nonprofit certification and allegations that it may have misappropriated thousands of dollars of donations. 
That’s all for today. Hang in there, it’s almost Friday.

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