Monday, July 21, 2008


WEEK OF JUNE 5-11, 2008


The Wilmington Journal
Originally posted 6/18/2008

Unpaid medical bills are piling up on kitchen tables all over America. In addition to the rising costs of food, gas and housing, more and more working families are becoming overwhelmed by skyrocketing health care costs. Since 2001, average premiums for family health insurance coverage have risen 78 percent and now stand at more than $12,000 annually, not including out-of-pocket costs which average an additional $3,000. The soaring cost of health coverage makes seeing a doctor and getting necessary care unaffordable and even impossible for millions of children and working families. One recent study found that half of all American families filing for bankruptcy cited medical causes.More than 47 million in our nation are uninsured, including 9.4 million children. The majority of these children live in two-parent families, and almost 90 percent have a working parent, but they still cannot afford to cover their children. This is not right. The most recent Census data reveal that the number of uninsured children increased by more than one million in just two years alone, and that number could grow as the economy continues to weaken.There are a number of myths circulating now suggesting that simple, private sector fixes can solve our health care problem. In fact, the private sector has not provided adequate solutions. Businesses are struggling financially to provide coverage for their workers. Since 2000, the percentage of employers providing health coverage has dropped from 69 to 60 percent. And as workers with private or employer-sponsored health coverage saw cost increases that far outpaced the rate of inflation and the growth in their wages, many also saw their benefits shrink. In most states, health insurers in the individual market can charge high premiums, exclude individuals with pre-existing conditions, offer skimpy benefits, or deny coverage altogether to children likely to incur high health care costs.Providing health care tax credits so families can buy private health insurance, as some have suggested, is the wrong approach to covering uninsured children. The relatively small tax credit of between $2,500 and $5,000 that has been proposed will make health coverage affordable for only a few families when average annual health costs are close to $15,000. Regardless of the amount of the tax credit, some families cannot obtain health coverage at any price, particularly for sick or disabled children. By contrast, government-supported health coverage programs such as Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) have substantially reduced the number of uninsured children in our nation. These successful programs must be expanded and simplified as part of a consolidated children’s health program that guarantees every child in America the comprehensive health coverage they need to grow and thrive.All children need access to primary health care, not just when they are sick, but throughout childhood to ensure their healthy growth and development. But frequently, uninsured parents must make the anguished decision to put off a doctor visit for a sick child hoping the child will get better without treatment. In too many cases, waiting causes an illness to worsen to the point where they must take their child to the emergency room for much more invasive and expensive treatment, while the chances of rapid recovery are reduced.Providing health coverage to our children is one of the most cost-effective investments our nation can make. It costs about a third as much to extend health coverage to a child for a year as it does for an adult. Access to timely, quality health care for children can form the foundation for well-being for a lifetime and prevent costly chronic diseases or other health problems later on. For example, every $1 spent on immunizations for children saves $16 over the course of their lifetimes in medical costs. A child is born uninsured in the United States every 41 seconds—that’s more than 2,100 children every day. Children simply can’t wait while policymakers argue over the best way to get health coverage for everyone. When children have health coverage, the number of child hospitalizations for preventable illnesses drops, school attendance goes up and academic performance improves. Healthy children turn into healthy, educated adults who will make up America’s work force tomorrow. We must step forward now to ensure that there is a level playing field for all children in health care. Each step we take that improves the lives of children secures our nation’s health not only tomorrow but today as well. We know how to make our children healthy, and we can afford it. We must step forward and marshal the will to make it happen.

Marian Wright Edelman is president of the Children’s Defense Fund.

For more information about the Children’s Defense Fund’s Healthy Child Campaign, go to

SB 847 Prevent Agricultural Pesticide Exposure

Take a moment and thank those who helped pass Please take a moment to thank key players for supporting S 847, Prevent Agricultural Pesticide Exposure

*Blog Editor Note* NASW-NC participated in the support of this bill through the Covenant for NC's Children Safety Committee. NASW-NC supports the passage of this bill and wishes our friends at Toxic Free NC congratulations!
Butner hospital ready
The Herald-Sun
Jul 20, 2008
It's not overstating the case to note that the new mental hospital in Butner has been fraught with controversy from the beginning.
Questions have been raised about the facility's safety and its mission. Gov.
Mike Easley's administration has been criticized, often with good reason, for adopting a flawed overall plan that shifted community mental health treatment to private agencies and consolidated hospitals.
Indeed, the controversies set off by Central Regional Hospital continued until the last moment, when a requirement for an outside inspection was removed from the state budget just before Gov. Easley signed it. And Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, the GOP candidate for governor, said major mental health issues, such as closing Dix Hospital in Raleigh, should wait for the next administration.
He has a point, but it's doubtful anyone will listen.
Despite debates and delays, Central Regional Hospital is expected to open Monday, with 200 patients to be transferred from John Umstead Hospital.
Juvenile patients will remain at Umstead, and Dix patients should also move soon.
State Rep. Jim Crawford, a Democrat who represents Granville and part of Vance counties, said the problems have been overblown.
He said the new facility should be compared to Dix and Umstead. "It looks like a castle in comparison," he told the News & Observer.
Indeed, many previously identified safety problems have been fixed, according to a report by state officials and outside experts. "The improvements were significant," the report said, adding, "the facility is significantly safer" than either Dix or Umstead.
We think it's time to put the second-guessing behind us. Officials know the challenges they face and the unmet needs of the state's struggling mental health patients.
Come 2009, a new administration in Raleigh may want to revisit mental health and reform the reforms.
But wherever the next steps take us, let's be proud of Central Regional Hospital. It will be with us for many years to come, playing a major role in treating state residents and as part of the community.
The opening will be a welcome sign of progress. Let's keep the momentum going.
C 2008 by The Durham Herald Company. All rights reserved.
* * *
Published: Jul 20, 2008 12:30 AM Modified: Jul 20, 2008 01:41 AM
Under the Dome:
DHHS, N&O at odds over e-mail request
Gov. Mike Easley's administration is still having trouble turning over copies of the e-mail messages of its officials.
On June 27, The News & Observer filed a request with the state Department of Health and Human Services for copies of e-mail since May 1 from six officials pertaining to the opening of Central Regional Hospital, the state's new mental hospital in Butner.
It took 11 days, until July 8, for the department's public information staff to forward the request to the six employees. DHHS public information staffer Mark Van Sciver instructed the six officials to gather the relevant e-mail and respond by July 23.
The first patients are scheduled to move into the hospital on or about July 21.
Tom Lawrence, the agency's director of public affairs, said his office was not trying to delay the request until after the opening and said those who had the e-mails were busy.
"We have a hospital to open," Lawrence said July 9.
Steve Riley, a senior editor at The N&O, faxed a letter protesting the delay to DHHS Secretary Dempsey Benton later that day.
"It is not reasonable that it should take so long to respond to a request for electronic records that could be copied to a file in a matter of minutes," Riley wrote.
Benton responded by telephone that afternoon, assuring Riley that he would direct his public affairs staff to speed things up.
More than a week has passed, and the e-mail has yet to be provided.
[column continues to other topics]
Friday, June 6, 2008

North Carolina Medical Board gives ACT permission to practice 'telemedicine'
Triangle Business Journal - by Adam Linker

RALEIGH - A Wilmington psychiatrists' group has been given the green light by state regulators to write prescriptions after consulting with patients via Internet connections instead of seeing them in person.
ACT Medical Group, which offers its services through what's called telemedicine or telepsychiatry, received permission after asking the North Carolina Medical Board for an exemption from guidelines that prohibit physicians from writing prescriptions without first physically examining a patient.
The medical board's opinion applies only to ACT, says Todd Brosius, an attorney at the NCMB. He says the board's policy committee felt it was too early to issue a broad ruling on telemedicine because the practice is still young.
Instead, he says, the ACT decision can serve as a test case in helping to make future decisions regarding the field of telemedicine. "The board will be interested to see how things go with ACT," he says.
Influencing the NCMB's decision, Brosius says, was the fact that psychiatry does not require physical patient contact. A medical exam via the Internet probably would not get the same exemption for prescribing medicine.
"Underlying the request," Brosius adds, "is that there is a shortage of psychiatric care in North Carolina, and this could help alleviate those shortages."
When telemedicine is practiced in places with a lack of mental health treatment centers - rural North Carolina, for example - Medicare and Medicaid will reimburse psychiatrists for visits through Web connections, says Dove Avylla, marketing manager for ACT Medical Group.
The company works mostly through nursing homes and community agencies, Avylla says. In most North Carolina cities, ACT sends psychiatrists in person, but it was not tenable to treat patients in rural parts of the state.
So ACT began using Web cameras and headphones in early 2007 to consult with clients and prescribe treatments, Avylla says. The practice expanded quickly, she says, and the company now treats about 1,500 people using telepsychiatry.
David Henderson, executive director of the NCMB, says that unlike psychiatric exams, most medical exams require establishing a medical history, conducting a physical exam and giving tests. "It's hard to do a physical exam over the Internet," he says.
There is also a problem with patients getting drugs after completing e-mail questionnaires, he says. The NCMB has disciplined doctors involved in such practices.
That is why the NCMB issued its original guidelines - called a position statement - against Internet prescribing.
A position statement, Henderson says, is not a rule or a law but is meant as a clarification of NCMB policies. But the NCMB can grant exceptions to the general guidelines, he says.
Sara Schneidmiller, vice president of clinical services for ACT Medical Group, says her company would like the NCMB to go further and issue more concrete guidelines to define which practices related to telemedicine are acceptable.
Psychiatry is different than from other medical practices, she says, because it requires a less "hands on" assessment. Also, Schneidmiller says, ACT Medical Group uses a true telehealth approach with live video feeds and direct contact between provider and patient.
It would help to have more guidance from the NCMB, she says, because telehealth and telemedicine are no longer experimental. "Medicare does not fund experimental procedures," she says.
Reform the Reform: How mental health reform went wrong and what lies ahead

John Locke Foundation

July 18, 2007

Key Facts:
1. North Carolina’s 2001 mental health reform was ambitious and well intentioned but flawed.
2. Many proven ideas did not make the final version of reform and lawmakers immediately raided the mental health trust fund to cover a General Fund fiscal crisis in 2001.
3. Later changes targeting specific problems have left the entire system worse off.
4. Money is spent poorly by local management entities (LMEs) with little oversight, leaving essential services with too little money.
5. More money is not the solution. Pennsylvania spends more than three times as much per person as North Carolina with similar results.
6. North Carolina’s involuntary commitment law does provide better safety for patients and the community than does Virginia’s.
7. There is no single state to emulate, but many states have gotten specific policies right.

Download PDF file: Reform the Reform: How mental health reform went wrong and what lies ahead (178 k)

Session Ends

Session has concluded for the 2008 year. Session will resume Jan 28, 2009 at noon. Check back for NASW-NC's session reports and upcoming information on the 2008 election.
There IS a Free Lunch — In Schools

Review shows many parents misstate income on school lunch forms

By David N. Bass
July 21, 2008

RALEIGH — Many families in North Carolina lie about their income when applying for the free and reduced-lunch program in public schools, and a lack of oversight by government officials allows the fraud to go unchecked, an investigation by Carolina Journal shows.The free and reduced-lunch program, one of the federal government’s most expensive food entitlements, is meant to help low-income students succeed in the public school classroom by ensuring they have nutritious meals each day.The $8 billion per-year school lunch program is designed for children from families having incomes at or below 185 percent of the poverty level, or for children who automatically qualify based on residential status or participation in other government aid programs.A family of four earning $26,845 or less per year, for example, would be eligible for free meals. The same family would qualify for reduced-price meals at an annual income of $38,203 or less.Some ineligible households, however, still receive meal benefits, according to verification summaries from four school districts obtained by CJ.The documents show that two out of three households verified during the 2007-2008 school year had their school lunch benefits reduced or revoked because they reported incorrect income or refused to substantiate their income claims.The results are similar for the 2006-07 school year, when 61 percent of applicants failed to respond to the verification request or provided income data that triggered reduction or revocation of meal benefits.School districts take the verifications from about 3 percent of all approved applications. Officials first select “error prone” applicants, meaning households that have annual earnings within $1,200 of the income eligibility limitation, and then proceed to the entire pool of applicants. To verify each household, officials request documentation to justify the income level adults reported initially on the application.CJ reviewed verification summaries from four school districts: Buncombe County Schools, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, New Hanover County Schools, and Wake County Schools.Thirty-two percent of applicants in the four districts had their benefits reduced or revoked after giving income evidence that differed from the amount reported on the applications, and 37 percent did not respond to the income verification request. That means nearly seven in 10 applicants could not or would not justify their income to school officials.Conversely, 28 percent provided proof that backed up their original report of income. Another 3 percent offered evidence that increased their benefits.Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools had the largest number of households, 479 out of 704 verified, which either did not respond or sent income evidence that reduced or repealed benefits. New Hanover County Schools had the largest percentage of applicants, 89 percent, whose benefits were reduced or eliminated because of non-response or differing income data.Lynn Hoggard, section chief for Child Nutrition Services at the State Department of Public Instruction, attributed the income discrepancies to mistakes by applicants, such as misestimating weekly or monthly income.“Where you have to be very careful is when you’re looking at a very focused sample, whose income falls very close to the income eligibility guidelines,” she said. “There are many who would say we are looking in an inequitable manner.”No proof? No problemFederal guidelines require adults only to self-report household income on school lunch applications. No proof of income, such as a pay stub or W-2 form, is necessary to get the benefits. That’s in contrast to other federal entitlements, including the Food Stamp Program, which require applicants to document their income status to participate.School officials said they have scant leeway to verify income after participants join the free and reduced-lunch program. Aside from the 3 percent verification requirement, school officials can pursue verification for cause if there is evidence of fraud on an application. The districts investigated by CJ took advantage of this option only a handful of times out of tens of thousands of applications.According to child nutrition officials in each district, Buncombe County Schools and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools conducted no verifications for cause during the last two school years. Wake County Schools verified two applicants for cause this school year and less than 10 last year, while New Hanover County Schools verified no applicants for cause this year and an unspecified number last year.One possible deterrent to cheating on free and reduced-lunch applications is a certification statement that parents are required to sign promising that their reported income level is accurate. The statement warns that adults “may be prosecuted” if they “purposefully give false information.”But according to Food and Nutrition Service at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the federal agency that oversees the free and reduced-lunch program, no parents have been prosecuted in North Carolina for falsifying information when applying.If school officials spot possible fraud on applications, the district is responsible for reporting it to the state attorney general’s office for prosecution, according to the USDA.School officials, however, are cautious about verifying income or pursuing potential fraud. Marilyn Bottoms Moody, senior director of Child Nutrition Services for Wake County Public Schools, said she couldn’t ask for proof of income beyond what the federal guidelines allow.“We are mandated to do the 3 percent verification, but I can’t act beyond that,” she said. “In the past, there were a couple agencies that tried to confirm income, and they were shut down.”Hoggard also said that federal guidelines govern the verification process. “The federal language determines the percentage that we can verify,” she said. “The instructions to our state agency have always been to pull the specific percentage. We’re instructed that over-verification is not allowable.”A representative of the USDA disagreed, saying school officials would not be challenged for increasing the percentage of applications verified.In addition to confusion over which governing body is responsible for prosecuting fraud, it’s unclear which penalties parents face if they are prosecuted. The application for free and reduced-lunch does not specify punishment levels or types.In contrast, the application for food stamps in North Carolina is detailed in its description of consequences for giving fraudulent information: up to $250,000 in fines and 20 years in prison.‘The entire process is damaged’The free and reduced-lunch program is particularly controversial in Wake County, where the school board uses school lunch eligibility as one basis for student assignments. Supporters say that mixing students from different socioeconomic backgrounds will boost academic performance, but opponents say there is no evidence the strategy works.According to Wake County’s free and reduced-lunch verification summary for the 2007-08 school year, 64 percent of applicants — 264 of 412 households — had their benefits reduced or revoked for failing or refusing to provide proof of income that matched the amount on the application.The rate is even higher for the 2006-07 school year. Out of 420 applicants, 117 did not respond, and 163 responded with income data that reduced or revoked their benefits, meaning 67 percent of households failed or refused to verify their income with the school district.“This really calls into question the school board’s assignment policies,” said Tony Gurley, a Wake County commissioner, in response to the verification data. Gurley and other county commissioners have tussled with the school board over a host of issues, including school construction funding.“If free and reduced-lunch is not a valid indicator of socioeconomic status, then the entire process is damaged,” he said.Ron Margiotta, a school board member representing the southwestern part of Wake County, also questioned the reliability of using free and reduced-lunch data as an indicator of poverty.“We are busing children all over the county based on their socioeconomic status, yet it appears our system for identifying these students is flawed,” he said. “We should immediately review these numbers and our present process.”School board member Patti Head, a supporter of the socioeconomic diversity policy, said she thought that Wake County was abiding by federal regulations on free and reduced-lunch.“I’m not trying to pass the buck,” she said. “These numbers are interesting, but I would have to refer back to Child Nutrition Services or DPI and ask those sorts of questions of them.”Asked whether free and reduced-lunch is an accurate indicator of family income, Head said, “I do believe free and reduced-lunch is a way of looking at a person’s socioeconomic status, and that’s why we’ve chosen it as one of the factors in our policies and procedures.”Hoggard, however, said that school districts should use a socioeconomic factor other than free and reduced-lunch percentages to determine student assignments.“I have a high level of confidence that students in free and reduced-lunch are eligible to be so,” she said. “When we begin to use that figure for other purposes, it takes a toll on the program. Families with children who need the food become reluctant to divulge their information for fear that it could be used in a manner they did not agree to originally.”School districts benefit from having students in free and reduced-lunch because the program is associated with additional taxpayer dollars. Schools with a higher percentage of free and reduced-lunch students receive a larger discount on the federal government’s E-Rate program, which is meant to provide telecommunications services for schools and libraries.

David N. Bass is an associate editor of Carolina Journal.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Nader Campaigning

Though his name won't be on the ballot in North Carolina in November, U.S. presidential candidate Ralph Nader was in Raleigh Saturday seeking to win the support of voters. "I was raised by my parents to believe in ... the Pledge of Allegiance, 'liberty and justice for all' -- not for a few," he told about 125 people who gathered to see him speak at St. Mary's School. Nader didn't have enough signatures in time to get his name on the North Carolina ballot. But under state law, he can qualify as a write-in candidate for president by turning in a petition with 500 signatures by noon Aug. 6.
While slamming the presumptive Republican and Democratic candidates, U.S. Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama, Nader vowed to be a better champion of workers' rights and a more accessible health insurance system. He said that, if elected, he would rapidly withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq, slash the military budget and redirect the money to public infrastructure. And he promised to crack down on corporate crime. (Jack Hagel, THE NEWS & OBSERVER, 7/13/08).
DMV Offices

The state Department of Transportation said last week that two Division of Motor Vehicles offices in the Triad have been shut down after authorities investigated questionable activity at each location. The department said Friday in a statement that the DMV License and Theft bureau has been investigating fraudulent activity for the past year at the offices in High Point and Thomasville. Local, state and federal authorities have also been investigating.
The closures are permanent, said DOT spokeswoman Marge Howell in a telephone interview. Howell wouldn't elaborate on the nature of the investigation, but said no charges have been filed. The High Point office had been under contract to Judith D. Hancock since 1994, while the Thomasville location was under contract to Danny Michael Hancock since 1997. Howell said the two are married. She said the Hancocks are not state employees but were under contract to provide services such as license plates, titles and registrations for vehicles. Neither of the Hancocks could be reached for comment Friday. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 7/11/08).

A mysterious national outbreak of salmonella may have made its way to North Carolina, according to state health officials. At least 14 North Carolinians across the state have been sickened by the bacteria. No one has been hospitalized, said state epidemiologist Dr. Jeff Engel. This week, state lab results confirmed eight new cases since early this month, Engel said, and the number of cases is expected to rise as more lab results come back. The cases have put North Carolina in a key role in investigating the outbreak, which has sickened more than 1,000 people in the United States and Canada since April. The cause is still unknown. More than 200 people across the country have been hospitalized for severe gastrointestinal problems, Engel said. Nationally, many of those sickened have eaten in Mexican restaurants. Tomatoes, jalapeno peppers and cilantro are suspected culprits, but no tainted produce has yet been found.
In North Carolina, Engel said interviews with those sickened have uncovered two people who ate at the same Mecklenburg County Mexican restaurant. State officials are tracking down other customers of the restaurant to check for illness and sampling dozens of foods that the restaurant served. Joe Reardon, director of the state Department of Agriculture's food and drug protection division, said his staff is spending more than 12 hours a day testing 42 products that were served in the restaurant. He said test results are expected this week. He is hoping that by testing everything in the restaurant, North Carolina can finally pinpoint the source of an outbreak that has baffled national investigators. (Kristin Collins, THE NEWS & OBSERVER, 7/12/08).
Clean Air Interstate Rule

A federal appeals court has upheld a challenge to a high-profile Bush administration rule on interstate air pollution that was brought by North Carolina and electric utilities including Duke Energy. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency overstepped its authority by instituting the clean-air rule. Citing “more than several fatal flaws,” the court scrapped the entire regulation. “This is without a doubt the worst news of the year when it comes to air pollution,” said Frank O'Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch. The Clean Air Interstate Rule required 28 mostly Eastern states to reduce emissions that form fine particles and ozone, which can travel hundreds of miles on the wind. The EPA had predicted the rule would prevent about 17,000 premature deaths a year.
North Carolina objected to the rule's provision allowing polluters to trade for emission “allowances” earned by low-pollution sources. That would let some upwind facilities avoid updating their pollution controls, the state argued. “We're pleased that the court has agreed that we need tougher rules to clean up and protect the air we breathe,” N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper said in a statement. The EPA denied a petition filed by the state in 2004 to force lower pollution limits on 13 upwind states, which Cooper argued were hurting North Carolina's efforts to clean up utility emissions. The state has appealed the EPA denial. Duke Energy spokeswoman Tom Williams said the Charlotte-based utility had objected to the rule because of the low number of emission allowances it gave Duke. The EPA said it was reviewing the 60-page opinion. The Bush administration can appeal the decision. (Bruce Henderson, THE CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 7/12/08).
TVA Lawsuit

North Carolina's public-nuisance lawsuit against the Tennessee Valley Authority over pollution in the Great Smoky Mountains begins today in an Asheville federal courtroom. Several expert witnesses are expected to testify in a case that assesses public health, economics, environment and the role utilities should play in curbing damage to all three. Ever since North Carolina passed its own laws six years ago to drastically reduce emissions within the state, it has looked to upwind generators -- the TVA operates 11 coal-fired power plants in Tennessee, Kentucky and Alabama -- to also meet its strengthened standards. But Attorney General Roy Cooper said the nation's largest utility has failed to follow suit. "The lawsuit is the last resort," Cooper said. "We can't wait for clean air. It's important for TVA to start taking steps now to clean up its coal-fired plants." Cooper argues the TVA isn't doing enough to control its coal-fired facilities, which he said release sulfur dioxi! de, nitrogen oxides and mercury eastward into North Carolina's mountains.
The state's experts will argue the pollutants cause annual public health costs in the billions, and that lowering the levels could reduce premature deaths by 1,400 annually across the region. Witnesses also say in court documents that emissions and the resulting haze damage plants, wildlife and visibility -- and, ultimately, North Carolina's tourism industry. North Carolina wants the TVA to lower emissions to levels comparable to its Clean Smokestacks Act by 2013. But the TVA, a federally owned corporation, contends that it is already -- and always -- working to reduce emissions and will to continue to do so by 2013. Attorneys for the agency argued that North Carolina bases its emissions estimates on the unreasonable assumption that the TVA won't make improvements in the next few years. Attorneys for the agency also say what little pollution that does enter the state from TVA facilities pales in comparison to the emissions from within the state. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 7/13/08).

Midwives and their supporters are pushing lawmakers to establish a statewide licensing program to help expectant mothers find qualified midwives to assist in home births. Currently, the field of midwifery that focuses on home births isn't licensed in North Carolina. The state does recognize "certified midwives," who primarily work in hospitals or private practices under the supervision of a physician. "If there was licensure in place, there would be more midwives trained here, and there would be a selection," said Kirsti Kreutzer, a member of the North Carolina Friends of Midwives.
Home midwives are not required to have nursing degrees. But they must meet national certification standards, including one year of clinical observation and participation in births. A legislative study committee has already met twice to study the issue and proponents hope to see a bill to establish a licensing program introduced next year. A similar effort was unsuccessful several years ago amid objections from medical professionals concerned about oversight and the safety of home births. The North Carolina Medical Society has spoken against the licensing proposal, said Chip Baggett, the group's legislative director. He said the physician's group supports the existing system of nurse midwives in hospitals, birth centers and ambulatory centers -- but not at home. (Vicky Eckenrode, WILMINGTON STAR-NEWS, 7/11/08).
Donor Disclosure

Democracy North Carolina, a campaign finance watchdog group, has praised 21 lawmakers for doing "a superior job" identifying occupations and employers of their donors on campaign finance forms. Though candidates are required to make their best effort to identify all donors, many fall short, listing only names, dates and amounts. The group singled out legislators who raised more than $15,000 and provided full information on 98 percent or more of donors, including Senate leader Marc Basnight and House Speaker Joe Hackney, both Democrats.
Also praised, from the House, were: Democrats Tricia Cotham, Jim Crawford, Margaret Dickson, Rick Glazier, Bruce Goforth, Deborah Ross, Russell Tucker, Jennifer Weiss and Verla Insko, and Republican David Lewis. And from the Senate: Democrats Charlie Albertson, Doug Berger, Linda Garrou, Clark Jenkins and A.B. Swindell, and Republicans Pete Brunstetter, Neal Hunt, Richard Stevens and Jerry Tillman. (Dome, THE NEWS & OBSERVER, 7/13/08).
Race and Death

Anti-death penalty advocates want lawmakers to approve a bill that would allow capital murder defendants to challenge prosecutors' decisions as racially biased. The catch is that they may have to accept a move to restart executions in the state to see that happen. Senate Democrats are talking among themselves about trying to pass a measure aimed at addressing racial bias in death penalty cases. The House has already passed a bill that would allow murder defendants to use statistical evidence to suggest that race is a significant factor in prosecutors' seeking the death penalty or in juries' imposing it. The state NAACP president is prodding senators to approve the measure.
If Senate Democrats move forward with it, Republicans see a chance to get something they've been fighting for -- a provision that may allow the state to resume executions. Executions have been stalled for more than a year partly because the Department of Correction cannot find doctors who will take part in them, as the law requires. Last year, the N.C. Medical Board adopted an ethics policy that forbids doctors from doing anything more than being present at executions. Sen. Phil Berger, the chamber's Republican leader, said the racial bias bill may allow the GOP to add a proposal that frees medical personnel to participate in executions without fear of disciplinary action. If Republicans succeed in attaching their death penalty proposal, the Senate is likely to approve overriding the Medical Board's execution policy, senators said.
For death penalty opponents, that complicates the fight. The Rev. William Barber, state NAACP president, doesn't want the two issues combined. "It should stand alone," he said. "This is about people dying simply because of their race." The N.C. Conference of District Attorneys doesn't want statistics to play a role in death penalty cases. "The DAs really think it's an inappropriate element to put into the death penalty process," said Peg Dorer, conference director. The measure would open the way for "statisticians to come in and testify and manipulate statistics," Dorer said. (Lynn Bonner, THE NEWS & OBSERVER, 7/14/08).

*Blog Editor Note* NASW-NC supports this bill.
Tire Bill

A House judiciary committee has approved legislation that would allow school systems and state agencies to choose from two different tire repair methods. The measure could end a tug-of-war between a Wilson tire company that had held the state contract to repair and retread tires for nearly three decades and other companies who use a different method. And provisions in the bill limiting how much the state would pay for spot repairs address concerns raised in a 2005 auditor's report that said the state paid too much for tire repairs. The bill's next stop is the House floor. If it wins approval there, it returns to the Senate for concurrence.
Debate has centered on two methods of retreading tires. One, known as bead-to-bead, is favored by White's Tire of Wilson, the only company in the state known to use the method. Other companies such as Snider Tire Co. of Greensboro say that the more common top-capping method costs less, performs just as well and does not remove manufacturer's information from the tire. In the past three weeks, legislators have argued over a provision that would require that manufacturers' information to remain. Some say that it would be critical in the event of a recall or catastrophic problem. But White's and some legislators said there is no way to do the bead-to-bead process and maintain that information. Bead-to-bead is also more expensive. Workers in some state agencies say the method performs better on rough roads and work sites.
The House panel amended the bill Thursday to require the state to bid two separate contracts -- one for bead-to-bead and one for the top-capping method. Agencies and school systems would then choose between the two methods and be responsible for justifying the extra cost if they picked the more expensive one. When asked whether he was happy with the latest and possibly final version of the bill he has pushed, Rep. Nelson Cole said, "Everything here is a work in progress." The Reidsville Democrat added that he would ask the full House to approve the bill as amended by the committee. (Mark Binker, THE NEWS & RECORD, 7/11/08).
ABC Evaluation

The General Assembly's Program Evaluation Division has launched a deep examination of the state's alcoholic beverage control system. Lawmakers have asked the team of legislative staffers to evaluate over the next few months whether the ABC system works as efficiently as it should and whether changes, including adopting practices used in other states, are needed to make the system more effective. The division, created last year, is visiting 30 of the 158 local ABC boards across the state during July and August. They're visiting stores and interviewing local board members. "We're just taking a fresh look at it, seeing if there are some best practices other states have that might help here," said John Turcotte, the division's director. Turcotte expects to give lawmakers a full report at the end of the year, including options for new policies or changes in the system. The recommendations could be drafted into legislation after the General Assembly convenes in January.
Under North Carolina's system, the state's three-member ABC Commission runs a central liquor warehouse and sets statewide prices while local boards operate liquor stores. But critics contend the system breeds inefficiency and waste, often pointing to the fact that two thirds of the local ABC boards oversee only one store. Last year, ABC Commission Chair Doug Fox proposed changes to consolidate the number of local boards. He wants the state commission to have more power to require mergers among small, neighboring ABC boards and to require consistent design and hours among stores. So far, none of those proposals have been turned into legislation. Turcotte said his staff will examine how the system works, why it was set up the way it is and what problems the system was designed to address.
The Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the N.C. Christian Action League, expressed concerns about the possibility of adopting practices from other states. He suggested the ultimate goal of the study was the privatization of the stores in order to generate more sales and more tax money. "The issue is not so much about efficiency as it is the possibility of additional revenues," he said. Turcotte said the evaluation is not a privatization plan, noting that there also is no effort to take away localities' power to determine whether liquor is sold in their community. Taxes on liquor sales last year put more than $250 million into state and local treasuries. (Mark Johnson, THE CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 7/13/08).
Dole and Hagan

Republican U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole entered the third quarter with 10 times the campaign cash of her Democratic challenger, state Sen. Kay Hagan. After burning through millions of dollars in the last few months, Dole now has about double the campaign funds of Hagan. Dole's campaign said last week that she raised some $1.7 million during the reporting period, adding to the $3.2 million she had on hand during a finance report in mid-April. But her campaign said Friday she had just $2.7 million remaining. Much of the money Dole spent during the period went toward a television advertising buy to introduce her accomplishments to voters.
Hagan, meanwhile, reported having just $317,000 cash on hand three months ago. But her campaign said last week she had quadrupled her available cash to $1.2 million at the end of June after raising an additional $1.5 million. Dole has aired two separate television ads since the May primary, touting her work on illegal immigration, tobacco buyout programs and protecting North Carolina military bases. Hagan, a lawmaker from Greensboro, aired several ads before the primary but has not gone to the air since then. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 7/11/08).
McCrory Money

Republican Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory's gubernatorial campaign said Friday that he raised more than $1 million in the last quarter and has $700,000 in cash on hand. Campaign manager Richard Hudson pointed out that McCrory had raised more in that three-month period than the party's two previous nominees. Democratic Lt. Gov. Bev Perdue's gubernatorial campaign said last week that she had $1.4 million in her coffers at the end of June and had raised some $2.3 million during the filing period between April 16 and June 30. Candidates had to file or mail their reports to the State Board of Elections before midnight Thursday. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 7/11/08).

*Blog Editor Note* NASW-NC Political Action Committee, NC PACE, has endorsed Lt. Gov Bev Perdue in this race.
No Salary Review

University of North Carolina system officials have no current plans to order a statewide review of salaries after North Carolina State University acknowledged last week that it has not adhered to the system's pay raise policy since 2002, according to a system spokeswoman. "There are no plans for a widespread review," said Joni Worthington, a spokeswoman for the UNC system. "There doesn't appear to be any indication that it is required." NCSU is reviewing hundreds of salaries in the wake of news reports that Mary Easley, wife of Gov. Mike Easley, received an 88 percent pay raise, increasing her annual salary for her executive-in-residence position at the university to $170,000. A university system policy requires raises of more than 15 percent and $10,000 to be approved by the UNC system's governing board. Worthington said other campuses will be asked to verify they've adhered to the policy.
NCSU officials say they didn't think until recently that the university system policy applied to Easley's situation because it does not cover new job hires, which is what they considered her new appointment. Her job changed, and she received a fixed five-year work term, but some of her duties and her title remained unchanged. Now, NCSU will review more than 800 fixed-term contracts. It must conduct the review before the next UNC Board of Governors meeting in September. (Eric Ferreri, THE NEWS & OBSERVER, 7/12/08).
Stokes Letter

George C. Stokes, the former top administrator of the State Health Plan who was abruptly fired last week, challenged his removal in a letter released by his attorney on Friday. Stokes said the two legislative leaders who effectively fired him gave "invalid, inaccurate and misleading" statements about the plan's finances and failed to follow proper procedure in removing him from the position. "I know for certain that the State Health Plan was in no jeopardy whatsoever and there was absolutely no need for the precipitous action they took," Stokes said in the letter.
Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand and House Majority Leader Hugh Holliman caused Stokes to be fired by sending a letter to state Insurance Commissioner Jim Long. The two leaders said that they had received information showing that the plan's finances had swung from $50 million in the black to $65 million in the red. They said the change in the plan's fortunes could mean higher premiums. They also said that legislative staff had a difficult time getting information about the plan's finances. Rand said Friday that he stood by the reasons for Stokes' firing. Rand said the plan's deficit may be worse than expected and may need a financial boost from the state. "We're trying to see if we have sufficient resources to get to the end of the year," Rand said.
The plan serves nearly 650,000 state employees, teachers, retirees and their dependents. Stokes, 61, had been the executive administrator for three years. He made $167,872 a year. Stokes contends in the letter that his firing violated state law. He said Long, who informed Stokes of his dismissal, could remove him only after receiving advice from the executive committee of the Committee on Employee Hospital Medical Benefits. "To my knowledge, no such executive committee has existed and functioned during my tenure," Stokes said. He said his lawyer, James E. Ferguson II of Charlotte, is working with Long to try to rectify "the wrongs that have been done without going through the costly and cumbersome process of litigation." (Dan Kane, THE NEWS & OBSERVER, 7/12/08).

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Move of John Umstead patients to the new Central Regional Hospital delayed until July 21, 2008

NASW-NC has learned that there will be a delay in the move of patients from JUH to the new CRH facility until July 21, 2008.

NASW-NC along with other mental health and consumer advocates toured the CRH facility on July 8, 2008. The facility was open and spacious with lots of potential programming for consumers. It is a far better facility than what we have now, in the opinion of Jack Register, Director of Advocacy and Legislation with NASW-NC.

NASW-NC will continue to monitor the transition along with other advocates. We appreciate the deliberate nature by which the Divisions of DMH/DD/SAS and the Secretary, along with the legislature are going about the transition.

From our friends at the NC Council of Churches

July 8, 2008
George Reed, Editor

Budget Adopted; Adjournment on the Horizon
The House and Senate are taking final votes today on the conference committee report on the budget for 2008-09. Assuming that the budget is passed and signed by the Governor (and only eight days into the new fiscal year!), adjournment won’t be far behind. Estimates are that this session of the General Assembly will close down by the end of next week, perhaps earlier. A summary of the budget will be included with the next Raleigh Report.
Status Update on Other Bills

H 44, DV Orders/Repeat Violators, awaits the Governor’s signature.

H 93, Transport of Individual in Wheelchair Study, awaits the Governor’s signature.

H 1366, School Violence Prevention Act. The House has failed to concur in changes made by the Senate, so it now goes to a conference committee. The primary point of contention between the House and Senate is whether this anti-bullying bill should include a list of categories of students most likely to need protection from bullying. Included in the list is sexual orientation. Opponents of the list claim that including sexual orientation would make that a protected class of people, in spite of the fact that the language of the bill says specifically, “Nothing in this act shall be construed to create any classification or preference beyond those existing in present statute or case law.” Do these opponents think that it is OK for gay and lesbian students to be bullied or harassed because of their sexual orientation?

H 2105, Compensation for Erroneously Convicted, has been passed by the House and is now in the Senate Judiciary II Comm. It was amended in the House to increase the amount awarded for each year of imprisonment to $50,000 (from $40,000 in the original bill), but also to include the value of job training and educational expenses when determining whether compensation has reached a cap of $750,000.

H 2288, Continue the Dropout Prevention Commission, has been passed by the House and is now in the Senate Rules Comm.

H 2340, Transporting Children in Open Bed of Vehicle, has been amended to add back the provision in current law which allows children to ride in the back of pickups as long as an adult is there with them. Earlier versions of the bill would have removed that exemption. The bill is on the calendar for House action.

H 2404, Increase Long-Term Care Insurance Tax Credit, has been re-referred to House Finance. It has been amended so that the maximum income levels of those who can claim the credit have been virtually doubled.

H 2487, Change Format of Drivers Licenses/Under 21, awaits the Governor’s signature.

H 2529, Extend Climate Change Commission 2008, awaits the Governor’s signature.

H 2592, Study K-12 Physical Education (formerly “DPI to Collect Childhood Obesity Statistics”), has been re-referred to the House Rules Comm. All references to “childhood obesity” were deleted, though the bill still requires the collection of basically the same information, including body mass index numbers and information about nutrition knowledge and behaviors. Perhaps “obesity” is a four-letter word.

H 2720, Energy-Efficient State Motor Vehicle Fleets, has been passed by the House and is now in the Senate Commerce Committee.

H 2794, School Integration 50th Anniversary, has been passed by the House and Senate. Since it is a resolution, it does not require the Governor’s signature.

H 2803, Defense of Marriage. A new bill has been introduced to amend the state constitution to prohibit marriage or civil unions for gay and lesbian couples. The proposed constitutional amendment is identical to those found in H 493, S 13, and S 1608, all of which, because they pertain to a constitutional amendment, remain live bills. H 2803 has been referred to the House Rules Committee.

S 847, Prevent Agricultural Pesticide Exposure. This bill, originally about technical corrections to environmental laws, has now been amended in the House so that it contains some of the provisions of H 2460. Specifically, it still includes protecting agricultural workers from workplace retaliation and requiring pesticide applicators to record the time of day when pesticide is sprayed. It was been passed by the House and returned to the Senate for concurrence.

S 1669, Community Colleges/Tobacco Free, awaits the Governor’s signature.

S 1681, Smoke-Free Motor Fleet, has been passed by the House and returned to the Senate for concurrence.

S 1860, Amend Child Abuse/Child Fatality Task Force, has been passed by the House and returned to the Senate for concurrence. It is in Senate Judiciary II, which will make a recommendation to the full Senate regarding concurrence.

S 1924, Require Carbon Monoxide Detectors, has been passed by the Senate and sent to the House, where it is calendared for a floor vote.

S 1946, Codify Energy Efficiency in Public Buildings, has been passed by the Senate and is on the House calendar for action.

S 1988, Unlawful to Burn Cross/Hang Noose, has been passed by the Senate and is now in House Judiciary II.

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Student Loans

The North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority, the largest provider of student loans in the state, says it will have the money to meet demand for student financial aid after the State Employees Credit Union agreed to invest $1.1 billion in the student loan market. The money will replace some of the money that had been generated through the auction-rate securities market, which failed earlier this year as part of the bigger credit crunch. Auction-rate securities were used to finance about $2 billion a year in student loans in North Carolina. "We will use this investment from the credit union to refinance some of our taxable auction-rate bonds," said Steve Brooks, director of the state authority. "We also are using it to finance some new loans for this year."
The $1.1 billion investment allows the authority to provide loans with better rates than other available options. The authority backs about 60 percent of the student loans made in the state. As part of the agreement, credit union members are eligible for supplemental student loans at reduced rates once they have exhausted the federally guaranteed loans available to them, said Leigh Brady, a spokeswoman for the credit union. (Tim Simmons, THE NEWS & OBSERVER, 7/08/08).
Half Mast

Some people would apparently give up their job rather than lower a flag in honor of former U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms. In fact, that's exactly what L.F. Eason III did. Eason, a 29-year veteran of the state Department of Agriculture, instructed his staff at a small Raleigh lab not to fly the U.S. or North Carolina flags at half mast Monday as called for in a directive to all state agencies by Gov. Mike Easley. When a superior ordered the lab to follow the order, Eason decided to retire rather than pay tribute to Helms. After several hours' delay, one of Eason's employees hung the flags at half mast.
Late Sunday night, Eason e-mailed nine of his employees in the state Metrology Lab, which calibrates measuring equipment used on things as widely varied as gasoline and hamburgers, telling them not to lower the flags. "Regardless of any executive proclamation, I do not want the flags at the North Carolina Standards Laboratory flown at half staff to honor Jesse Helms any time this week," Eason wrote, according to e-mails released in response to a public records request. Eason told his staff that he did not think it was appropriate to honor Helms, who died last week, because of his "doctrine of negativity, hate and prejudice" and his opposition to civil rights bills and the federal Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
In e-mails with his superiors, Eason was told he could either lower the flags or retire effective immediately. Though he's only 51, Eason chose to retire, although he pleaded several times to be allowed to stay at the lab. Eason was paid $65,235 a year as the lab's manager. No one in the governor's office was aware of any times in recent memory when a state employee refused to lower a flag. (Ryan Teague Beckwith, THE NEWS & OBSERVER, 7/09/08).
Helms Funeral

Jesse Helms was laid to rest Tuesday in a simple, dignified ceremony that emphasized the man rather than the conservative force who became a beloved and despised household name in American politics. Hundreds of mourners, including a number of state and national politicians, gathered Tuesday at a Raleigh church for the funeral. In a eulogy, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky referred to Helms' modest background and kindness. "Anyone who passed by Jesse Helms in the Capitol or worked in his office would remember him as one of the kindest men they ever knew," McConnell said. "No matter who they were, he always had a kind word and gentle smile." He said that Helms showed tenacity in the face of criticism. "Jesse Helms always stood his ground," McConnell said. Helms, an uncompromising conservative Republican and a divisive figure in North Carolina politics, served five terms in the U.S. Senate.
About 900 people attended the service at Hayes-Barton Baptist Church, where Helms worshiped for decades. The front rows of the church were crowded with more than a dozen U.S. senators, including Republicans Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina, Richard Lugar of Indiana, Ted Stevens and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Orrin Hatch and Robert Bennett of Utah, Jon Kyl of Arizona, Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby of Alabama and Sam Brownback of Kansas. Those in attendance also included Vice President Dick Cheney; Cindy McCain, wife of Republican presidential candidate John McCain; Democratic U.S. Sens. Chris Dodd of Connecticut and Joe Biden of Delaware; former U.S. Sens. Bob Dole of Kansas, Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Don Nickles of Oklahoma; GOP North Carolina U.S. Sen. Richard Burr; Democratic Gov. Mike Easley; Erskine Bowles, University of North Carolina president; state Sens. Fred Smith, R-Johnston, and Janet Cowell, D-Wake; state Reps. Paul Stam, R-Wake, and Leo Daughtry, R-Joh! nston; and Republican consultant Jack Hawke. (Rob Christensen and Jim Morrill, MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS, 7/09/08; THE NEWS & OBSERVER, 7/08/08).
Public Records Lawsuits

Governmental bodies would be required to pay the legal fees of parties that win public records lawsuits against them under a measure approved Tuesday by a Senate panel. The bill introduced by Sen. David Hoyle, D-Gaston, would also create a new open government unit within the state Department of Justice that would be responsible for the education and mediation of public records and open meetings law issues. Before approving the measure, committee members voted down an amendment by Sen. Dan Clodfelter, D-Mecklenburg, that would have stripped the legal fee requirement from the bill. Clodfelter argued that judges are already allowed to assess fees under a law negotiated three years ago. "What I don't like about the bill is that it's going to be thrown out the window now," Clodfelter said about the three-year-old law."

Representatives from the N.C. Association of County Commissioners, the N.C. League of Municipalities and the N.C. Hospitals Association supported Clodfelter's amendment. Others, however, argued against Clodfelter's amendment and in favor of the bill, saying it would give the state's public records law some teeth. John Bussian, a lobbyist for the N.C. Press Association, noted that smaller newspapers and citizens groups had won public records lawsuits recently, only to be denied recovery of their legal fees. The bill now goes to the Senate Finance Committee. (Barry Smith, FREEDOM NEWSPAPERS, 7/08/08).
Hospital Provision

The state budget approved by lawmakers on Tuesday would make it easier to open a mental hospital in Butner and clear the way for the closure of Dorothea Dix Hospital in Raleigh by August. The spending plan headed to Gov. Mike Easley for his signature was stripped of a provision that would have required Central Regional Hospital to pass muster with outside inspectors before it can accept patients. Advocates for the mentally ill decried the change Tuesday, which effectively lets the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Dempsey Benton, certify that the new hospital is safe to open. "They watered it down to where no certification by a third party will be required," said John Rittelmeyer, the director of legal services for the advocacy group Disability Rights North Carolina.

The opening of Central Regional has been repeatedly delayed amid concerns about projected staffing shortages and internal safety reviews that identified dozens of hazards in the $130 million building that could allow suicidal patients to kill themselves. The version of the budget approved by the Senate last month forbade Benton from opening the hospital until it met all staffing and safety standards from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Joint Commission, an independent organization that accredits hospitals. Benton and other administration officials lobbied hard to kill the provision, which could have delayed the planned move of patients from Dix and John Umstead Hospital in Butner for months.

In the final version of the budget presented to legislators Monday, the requirement had changed to allow Benton to determine when the new hospital complies with the standards of the outside regulators. The new bill requires that Benton send a written report to Easley attesting that the new hospital is safe. The change clears the way for Benton to stick to his current schedule, which calls for moving most patients from Umstead before the end of July and closing Dix within a couple weeks after that. Benton declined a request for an interview Tuesday. Rep. James Crawford, a House budget writer whose district includes the new hospital, acknowledged Tuesday that he was among those who pushed to strip the requirement for an outside review from the budget. He said safety concerns about Central Regional are overblown. (Michael Biesecker, THE NEWS & OBSERVER, 7/09/08).
Budget Approved

Lawmakers have approved and sent to Gov. Mike Easley for his signature a nearly $21.4 billion state budget bill. Following its initial approval Monday night in both chambers, the spending plan for this fiscal year was approved 97-20 in the House and 32-14 in the Senate. Now lawmakers hope Easley will sign the bill into law. He was unhappy at times with his fellow Democrats during two weeks of intense House-Senate negotiations. But legislative leaders ultimately agreed before the July 4 weekend to delay by a year a pair of tax breaks and make some spending reductions. Easley had demanded changes after tax collections missed estimates by a total of $63 million in May and June. Easley's office hinted late Tuesday that the governor was pleased with the changes. Easley, who is in his eighth and final year in office, has never vetoed a budget bill. "The governor hasn't fully reviewed the bill at this point, but he believes there has been some positive movement," Easley spokesman Seth Effron said.

A majority of House Republicans joined Democrats in voting for the final spending package, which adjusts the second year of a two-year budget. They were pleased with the pay raises given to public school teachers and state employees despite a slowing economy. And the overall spending increased by less than 3.4 percent, less than half the growth rate of 2006 and 2007. "The overall spending trend is down considerably from what we have seen the Democrats do in recent years," said Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake, who voted for the bill. "There were no tax increases for a change."

But other Republicans said the budget authorized too much debt -- $857 million over the next four years -- to construct 1,500 additional prison beds, university and state buildings. None of the borrowing requires voter approval in a referendum. The bill also provides seed money for another $1 billion in capital projects that GOP members argued if carried out ultimately could threaten the state's prized triple-A credit bond rating. They also say it may require additional taxes to pay for other needs such as transportation. "We are on our way to maxing out our credit limit," Senate Minority Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said during Tuesday's brief debate. Democrats contend the borrowing remains reasonable and is needed to prepare the state for a population projected to grow from 9 million today to 12 million in 2030.

The budget bill includes a few tax cuts and the phase-out of a $172 million annual payment siphoned from a dedicated road-building fund. It also gives $25 million to help begin construction on a proposed toll road circling Raleigh and sets aside an extra $14.2 million in lottery funds to boost construction funding in school districts that have received less under the current formula. In addition, the measure directs officials to require all state agencies to develop a unified e-mail system by Jan. 1, 2010. A consolidated system will make it easier to store public, electronic records. (Gary D. Robertson, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 7/08/08).

Covenant for NC Children Update

Covenant with North Carolina ’s Children
Bi-weekly Update
July 8, 2008
*Due to the Fourth of July holiday

In this update:

NC Child Care Coalition 2008 Session Update
Juvenile Justice Update

NC Child Care Coalition 2008 Session
Alert # 13
Monday July 7, 2008



Shortly after both the State House and Senate adjourned on Thursday, July 3 for the Holiday weekend, President Pro Tem Marc Basnight and Speaker Joe Hackney met for the last time to iron out a few items in the budget where House and Senate budget conferees could not find a consensus. When agreement was reached the Conferees signed on to what is called the Conference Report on the Budget and then left town. Note: Both the “Money” Report and the budget is on-line. The end of this alert will direct you to the two documents.

What Happens Next?

The adoption of the Conference Report for the $21.3 billion budget plan for fiscal year 2008-2009 will receive its first of two votes on Monday night, July 7 (the second and final vote will be the next day and then the budget will be sent to the Governor for his signature). Note: There can be no changes to the Conference Report on the floor of the House or Senate. It is just a straight up or down vote (with speechifying, of course).

What Happened with our N.C. Child Care Coalition Priorities for 2008?

On a positive note, three of our four priorities (Smart Start, T.E.A.C.H., and the child care subsidy waiting list) all received higher funding, although increased child care subsidy funds to serve more families from the waiting list were accomplished through federal block grant transfers; not increased state general revenue funds. The one item not included in the budget was any change in child care subsidy market rates. Without significant support for new state subsidy funding, a rate increase was next to impossible this year. We will continue to work on this item. Here are the details on our issues:

Smart Start: An additional $500,000. In the end, the Conferees took the lower amount, the House position. Note: The $500,000 is added to the new $4+ million appropriated for 2008-009 from the long session budget. The line item for Smart Start can be found in the “Money” Report, item # 21 on Page G-3.

T.E.A.C.H.: The amount was the same in both House and Senate budgets, $100,000. The amount will help the program keep up with inflationary costs. The line item for T.E.A.C.H. can be found in the “Money” Report, item # 19 on Page G-2.

Child Care Subsidy: The budget reflects the position of the House on subsidy; state funding reductions and increased TANF block grant transfers for child care subsidy. The line items for Child Care Subsidies can be found in the “Money” Report, items 16 & 17 on Page G2. The special provisions can be found in the budget document (House Bill 2436, Modify Appropriations Act of 2007). First: CHILD CARE FUNDS MATCHING REQUIREMENT. The special provision was the same in both House and Senate; increasing the local match requirement from 15% to 20% if local purchasing agencies request additional funds above $25,000 over their initial allocation. The Department will continue to evaluate the effect on local purchasing agencies and whether the
matching requirement should be adjusted [in future years]. The provision is on page 47-48.

Second: The Block Grants (for child care) remain the same as the House version related to the TANF transfers. Pages 84-90 cover the Block Grants that include child care subsidy. Note: For those who really follow the Block Grant numbers carefully, you will see a change on page 90, line 13, 04. Quality and Availability Initiatives. Both the House and Senate versions had $27,000,000. The amount should have been $27,298,901 and was corrected by the budget conferees.

Other Items of Interest to the NC Child Care Coalition

More at Four: The Governor got most of what he wanted, but not all of the $41 million requested. More at Four will receive an additional $30 million in recurring dollars. The line item for More at Four can be found in the “Money” Report, item # 26 on Page F – 4. Note: the explanation (“the snappy” in legislative jargon) under this item reads: “Expands program that provides high-quality pre-K services to eligible four-year olds.” The Governor’s proposal stipulated a rate increase for all slots. The House budget stipulated a small amount increase and the Senate version reflects this current language. The budget leadership went round and round on this issue: slots? rates? They decided to go with the Governor’s suggestion to give him and the More at Four office flexibility on how to allocate the new money. We made it clear to the Governor’s “people” that a rate adjustment is critical. They understand the need so let’s see what they will do. More at Four Study. The conferees went with the Senate version to require an annual More at Four study but they did revise the language for the study. The study can be found in the budget document on Page 28.

Tax Changes: 1) The House plan to increase the state Earned Income Tax Credit to 5% from the
current 3.5% was delayed one year to taxable years beginning on or after January 1, 2009. 2) The Small Business Health Benefits Tax Credit, due to expire January 1, 2009, was extended to January 1, 2010. Note: There is no change in the value of the credit. Previous versions had increased the credit value. Both tax changes can be found in the budget document on Page 207.

Where Can I Go to Read These Fascinating Documents?

New Conference Committee Substitute on House Bill 2436, Modify Appropriations Act of 2007, approved by conference committee, July 3, 2008 (the Budget document, 237 pages)

New The Joint Conference Committee Report on the Continuation, Expansion, and Capital Budget s for House Bill 2436, Modify Appropriations Act of 2007, July 3, 2008 (the “Money” Report)

Does This Mean the Short Session is Over?

NO! Once the budget is passed there usually is at least a week or more of legislative activity, including passage of a “technical corrections” bill, an “appointments” bill, and lots of other policy bills that were eligible for this session but have not made it through the entire process yet. This can be a very scary time at the Legislature. Eternal vigilance is required.

Will I Be Hearing from the NC Child Care Coalition Again This Session?
Yes! There will be more alerts (if needed) as well as a short update on the final days of the session and whom to thank. Then a longer report will be written and sent out to the Coalition after a little rest and recuperation.

Juvenile Justice Update

In the Juvenile Justice area several items are included in the negotiated budget:
The funding for JCPC programs was restored to its current level as a recurring item in the budget.
$500,000 was added to the JCPC funding as a recurring budget item.
A feasibility study was authorized to determine the effectiveness of JCPC programs. This study is to be conducted by the Sentencing Commission in conjunction with DJJDP.
The formula by which JCPC funds are distributed is to be studied and recommendations submitted to the legislature.
The Governor’s Crime Commission was authorized to conduct a study regarding raising the age of jurisdiction of the juvenile court to age 17.

Advocates for juvenile justice were told before and early in the session that we would be fortunate to succeed in getting the full JCPC funding restored.
Numbers 1, 2, 4 & 5 represent a significant victory for the many people and organizations that worked on this area. Number 3 represents a continuing frustration by the legislature to get what they perceive as appropriate information from the department.

Covenant with North Carolina 's Children, Inc.
(919) 649-2449

PO Box 28268
Raleigh, NC 27611

*Blog Editor Note* NASW-NC is a member and co-lobbies on issues for this coalition.

Monday, July 7, 2008

NASW Endorses Barack Obama for President in 2008

The National Association of Social Workers enthusiastically endorses Barack Obama for President in 2008. Mr. Obama holds the ideals of the profession in high regard as evidenced by his support of important legislation such as the Mental Health Parity Act, End Racial Profiling Act, and Healthy Families Act.

Mr. Obama attended Columbia University and moved to Chicago after graduation to become a community organizer in the tradition of Saul Alinksy and in the hometown of legendary social worker Jane Addams. He spent several years working to transform the South Side of Chicago and once noted, “It’s as a consequence of working with this organization and this community that I found my calling. There was something more than making money and getting a fancy degree. The measure of my life would be public service.”

In order to help find solutions to the problems Mr. Obama saw as a community organizer, he went on to pursue his law degree from Harvard Law School and was elected the first African American President of the Harvard Law Review. He served in the Illinois Senate for seven years before becoming a United States Senator.

Barack Obama is an ally to social workers and the clients we serve including women, children, and people of color. He has vowed to promote equal opportunity and end discrimination, empowering people to make positive changes in their communities and in their lives. He is a strong supporter of civil rights legislation aimed at closing the pay equity gap, ending racial profiling, and reducing hate crimes across the country. Mr. Obama has promised to make health care affordable for all Americans and has pledged to protect a woman’s right to choose.

During his term as President, Mr. Obama vows to strengthen the Medicare system that many of our clients depend on and is opposed to the privatization of our Social Security system. He pledges to reform No Child Left Behind, solve the current school dropout crisis, and make higher education affordable.

Barack Obama is an ally to the profession and it is our responsibility to ensure that social work issues stay primary in his campaign. As president, Mr. Obama will be making important appointments that affect the social work profession such as Secretary of Health and Human Services and Director of the National Institutes of Health. These key decisions will have an impact not only on the profession but the entire nation.

There are several ways to ensure that social work plays a prominent role in the next administration. One of those ways is to volunteer with the Obama campaign. You can make phone calls, attend campaign events, or work in campaign offices across the country. Find out how to volunteer for his campaign by visiting

For more information contact

*Mr. Obama is not accepting contributions from lobbyists or political action groups, however he will be accepting contributions from individuals.
Why Social Workers Should Run for Office (from

NASW encourages social workers to run for office because social workers are a profession of trained communicators with concrete ideas about how to empower communities. Social workers understand social problems and know human relations, and the commitment to improving the quality of life brings a vital perspective to public decision-making.
Social workers across the country serve in a range of political institutions, from school boards to city and county offices and state legislatures. There are six social workers in the US House and Senate.

Social workers make good political candidates because they:
are well educated
are articulate and experienced in public speaking
are comfortable at persuasion
are knowledgeable about their communities
understand social problems and are committed to social justice
understand how policies affect individuals and communities

Social workers run for public office because they:

are attracted to politics through an issue or cause.
realize they are just as capable as many officeholders.
see the opportunity to make changes on a broader scale.
want to provide leadership to improve their community.

NASW also encourages social workers to offer their professional expertise to campaigns. Social workers can use their skills as campaign managers, volunteer coordinators, and political directors. These jobs can also translate into legislative jobs in which social workers can shape policy, and help constituents by working with federal, state and local agencies to get individuals appropriate assistance. Social workers can also translate their involvement in campaigns into key appointments in state and local agencies in which they can oversee key government agencies to influence the practice of social work and seek social justice.

Contact NASW at or 800/638-8799, ext. 418 for the contact information of other social workers who have run for office.

Why Social Workers Should be involved in politics

This is from our National Office regarding why it is neccessary for Social Workers to be involved in politics:

Why Social Workers Should Get Involved
It is easier to spend a few months and some money electing the right people than to spend years and a lot of money trying to get the wrong people to do the right things.
—Senator Debbie Stabenow, MSW

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

From our friends at NC Against Gun Violence

NCGV Members,

As you probably know, today the Supreme Court in their D.C. v Heller Decision found that the 2nd amendment is a personal right and that it is unconstitutional to pass a general ban on handguns. While their decision is in opposition of almost 70 years of precedent, the Supreme Court's ruling also supported the need for sensible gun legislation. Please find below several positive aspects of today's ruling.

The ruling today established that the 2nd amendment is NOT an absolute right. In his Majority Opinion Justice Scalia stated: "Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited . . . the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose."

The ruling today supported sensible gun safety legislation. The Supreme Court ruling upheld laws that promote gun safety such as the prohibitions on gun ownership by "felons and the [dangerous] mentally ill." The decision also upheld laws that prohibit individuals from "carrying firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings."

The ruling today upheld restrictions on gun purchasing. The decision stated that supporting the personal right of an individual to bear arms did not circumvent "laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms."

The ruling supported registration and licensing. While overturning the 30-year-old D.C. handgun ban the Majority Opinion stated the District of Columbia could use other tools to prevent gun violence such as registration and licensing of handguns.

The ruling may hurt the anti-gun safety lobby. In past years "pro-gun" groups have opposed sensible gun legislation claiming they feared any/all legislation was a slippery slope to losing their right to bear arms. Now that the highest court in the land has stated that the 2nd amendment is a personal right, these groups and politicians will have less justification for blocking reasonable gun laws. Today in the media NCGV called on these groups to now work with us to find a middle ground in sensible solutions to preventing gun violence.

Sadly, however we can anticipate that the Heller decision may cause of us a variety of problems. The gun lobby and other groups may use the decision to file legal attacks on existing gun laws. Many experts predict the definition of "reasonable regulations" will be decided in court cases across the country. Which is why with your help NCGV will continue to fight for sensible gun laws to help protect you, your family, and your community.

Thank You for Saving Lives.

Blog Editor Note* NASW-NC is a member of NCGV and works with coalition partners on these legisaltive issues.
Southeastern Audit

Some members of New Hanover County's legislative delegation said Monday that they were blindsided by Sen. Julia Boseman's call for a state audit of Southeastern Center for Mental Health's finances. Republican Reps. Carolyn Justice and Danny McComas had been working with local officials on Southeastern's ongoing issues for weeks, Justice said. "We were shocked by the immediate call without any discussion with the delegation," said Justice. Justice said area lawmakers met Thursday in Raleigh with those involved with Southeastern about the regional mental health agency's funding concerns as well as the future of its crisis station, which state regulators temporarily shut down. Justice said Boseman was invited to the meeting but did not attend, sending a staff member instead. Southeastern officials agreed to prepare a report summarizing the center's problems by August.

The next day, Boseman sent her request to the state auditor's office, stating she was concerned that Southeastern's financial practices might have led to its funding crisis. "I had to act quickly and get on top of this as soon as possible," Boseman, a Democrat, said Monday. McComas sent a letter Monday to Southeastern officials stating that he took "exception" with the proposed audit. "Our House Delegation, in no way, shape (or) form, was part of this audit request, nor for that matter understood why it was called for, when we all agreed to the above mentioned report by August 1st," his letter stated. McComas said Rep. Sandra Spaulding Hughes, the fourth member of the Delegation and the other Democrat, attended the meeting and later told him she didn't know in advance of Boseman's request. (Vicky Eckenrode, WILMINGTON STAR-NEWS, 7/01/08).
Annexation Petitions

A group of Wilmington residents has filed a complaint against Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand's legislative assistant, claiming she violated public records laws by throwing away petitions from people opposed to forced annexations. "It was astonishing that she threw them in the trash, and pretty stupid, too," said Lora Albachten, one of the residents who presented the petitions. When the group asked Rand's legislative assistant why she discarded the documents, they said she called security and had them removed. Evelyn Costello, Rand's assistant, denied throwing all the documents in the trash. She declined to provide detailed comments, but said she kept one copy from a number of documents she received. She also said the people who delivered the letters "were not very mannerly toward the staff."

The Wilmington residents were a part of a conservative rally last week sponsored by anti-tax group Americans for Prosperity. The rally focused on forced annexations, ending wasteful government spending and opening up government. Rand has said he supports current annexation law, which allows cities to annex land even if new residents object. The Wilmington residents sought to deliver the petitions to Rand because they suspect that -- as chairman of the Senate Rules Committee -- he would to block a bill that would temporarily ban involuntary annexations if it passes the House, said Russ Hauptman, who leads the Wilmington chapter of Americans for Prosperity. "We had premade petitions that we signed on the back to give to him, but they never even hit her desk," he said.

Rand said he stands by his staff. "It was my understanding that some sort of people came by, and it was some kind of problem," he said. Rand said he has no set routine for retaining correspondence, but added, "I have whatever comes in." State law says any letter or communication made or received in conjunction with public business is a public document. It is a misdemeanor to destroy a public document and the maximum penalty is a $500 fine. Efforts to confirm whether Attorney General Roy Cooper or the State Bureau of Investigation had received the complaint Monday were unsuccessful. (John Fuquay, THE FAYETTEVILLE OBSERVER, 7/01/08).
Smoking Bill

A House judiciary committee has approved a bill that would ban smoking inside all state-owned or state-leased vehicles. Sen. Bill Purcell, D-Scotland, said the proposal is a health issue for state employees. The committee voted against an amendment offered by House Minority Leader Paul Stam, R-Wake, that would have allowed smoking inside older state cars -- provided the employee was assigned the car on a permanent basis. And other people inside the car would have to consent before the driver could smoke. The bill now heads to the full House. The Senate already has approved a version of the bill. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 7/01/08).
Sweepstakes Bill

A House judiciary committee has unanimously approved a bill that would outlaw online sweepstakes that look, sound and play like video slot machines. Such devices have become common in convenience stores and truck stops. Lawmakers passed a bill outlawing stand-alone video poker in 2005. Since then, video slot devices that are tied into a central computer server have proliferated throughout the state. Operators use a perceived loophole in the state law to claim the devices are legal, but different law enforcement agencies disagree.

State ALE agents have raided businesses in several counties that have operated the devices. But Guilford County's district attorney has refused to prosecute such cases. Rockingham County District Attorney Phil Berger Jr. dropped charges against several defendants when video slot machine operators sued to prove they were operating legally. Berger said that if the General Assembly did pass a law clarifying the issue, it would be useful for all involved. "This is an issue that has certainly stirred a lot of interest around here," Berger said of Rockingham County.
Theresa Kostrzewa, a lobbyist for one of the video slot companies, asked the committee to hold off on passing the bill, saying that it could have unintended consequences. She said that the type of games that would be outlawed under the bill, which are offered in conjunction with the purchase of phone or Internet time, are similar to sweepstakes offered by Pepsi or Skittles. (Mark Binker, THE NEWS & RECORD, 7/01/08).
Trip Response

Republican leaders on Tuesday sharply criticized taxpayer-funded trips taken by Gov. Mike Easley and his wife, Mary. Overall, the three cultural exchange and business-recruitment trips to Europe cost more than $280,000. Senate Minority Leader Phil Berger brought the trips up in a news conference. "If you're in private business and you waste money in that way, you're probably going to be let go. Obviously you can't fire the first lady. At this point, it's a little late in the game to talk about firing the governor," said Berger, R-Rockingham. "But certainly that kind of judgment has got to be something that calls into question a whole range of decisions that have been made over the years." And GOP chairwoman Linda Daves said the Easleys are again "lavishly spending taxpayer money on vacations overseas." Easley, a Democrat, defended the expense of the trips Tuesday at a news conference, saying they can reap exponentially larger monetary rewards for the state through new jobs a! nd major art exhibits. (Benjamin Niolet, THE NEWS & OBSERVER, 7/02/08; Gary D. Robertson, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 7/01/08).
Easley Trips

Gov. Mike Easley on Tuesday defended high overseas travel bills racked up on taxpayer-funded trips he and his wife took in the past two years, saying such excursions are necessary if the state hopes to land big art exhibits or recruit new business. In April, Easley and his wife, Mary, participated in a business-recruiting and tourism-promoting trip to Italy that cost more than $170,000. Last year, Mary Easley went to France with two others at a cost of more than $53,000. And in May, she went to Estonia and Russia with five others at a cost of more than $56,000.

During a press conference, Easley said high bills are unavoidable. "It costs what it costs," Easley said, adding that the dollar is "very, very weak now." Easley said the trips were designed to bring jobs and tourists to the state. "That is why we were over there, in order to get those euros coming to the United States for tourism," Easley said. Easley also said he didn't plan the trips. The trip to Italy was organized by the N.C. Department of Commerce. The trips to France and Russia and Estonia were run by the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources. "It's not something that either her or I have anything to say about or do with," said Easley, who appoints the head of both the commerce and culture agencies.

Mary Easley's trip to Russia and Estonia was to build relationships with museum officials that could one day score a blockbuster exhibit, like the 2006 and 2007 Monet exhibit at the N.C. Museum of Art that brought more than $20 million to the state. If the trip to Russia results in an exhibit from The Hermitage in St. Petersburg, it would likely bring similar numbers, Easley said. Easley said the trip to Italy has led to four or five potential new or expanded businesses in the state. Museum officials acknowledge a major loan from a Russian exhibit has not yet been realized, although plans are in the works to show Estonian artists at a state museum. (Benjamin Niolet, THE NEWS & OBSERVER, 7/02/08).
Budget Negotiations

House Speaker Joe Hackney and Senate leader Marc Basnight met behind closed doors twice Tuesday to work out lingering House and Senate differences on the state budget. The meetings at the top come after a week and a half of negotiating by House and Senate teams reached an impasse on several issues, including education spending, construction projects and other items. Hackney and Basnight left Tuesday night asking staff and fellow legislators to propose additional spending cuts to address a small downturn in revenue that Gov. Mike Easley has urged them to respond to in recent days. "That is something that has to be done," said Basnight, D-Dare, in an interview. "There's going to be some significant changes (from) what we've seen."

Easley, who is leaving office in January after two terms, has urged fellow Democrats to pull back on spending or tax breaks because revenues were $70 million less than expected as the fiscal year that ended Monday. "I can't sign an unbalanced budget," Easley said at a news conference. The governor has suggested that lawmakers drop tentative agreements to eliminate the gift tax and expand a refundable income tax credit to the working poor toward saving $45 million in additional spending in the new fiscal year. Democratic lawmakers have been cool to his recommendations, arguing that the final budget still projects revenue growth for this fiscal year at a reasonable rate. By late Tuesday, Basnight and Hackney acknowledged that their fiscal analysts also believe there's less money than previously believed, although they don't necessarily agree with Easley's estimates. "We know the general ballpark of it," said Hackney, D-Orange, but it "ought not to be a big problem."

Hackney said he doesn't expect dramatic spending changes. He believes the House and Senate will keep to a tentative agreement to spend $34 million more on preparing for thousands of additional students at University of North Carolina system campuses this fall. But he said that there may be less money than anticipated for More at Four, Easley's signature preschool initiative. Easley has grated on legislative leaders since he began taking them to task last week on the revenue picture. Hackney said lawmakers will create a sound spending plan. "We know how to balance the budget and we don't need him to tell us" how, he said. Legislative leaders still hoped for a final agreement as early as Wednesday, with two required votes in each chamber completed by early Friday morning or early next week. (Gary D. Robertson, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 7/01/08).
Foreclosure Help

Gov. Mike Easley is backing legislation designed to limit home foreclosures over the next few years. Easley appeared at a news conference on Tuesday with Rep. Dan Blue, D-Wake, the bill sponsor, and State Commissioner of Banks Joe Smith to tout the legislation, which would require a minimum of 45 days notice before foreclosure proceedings. Easley said the bill, which also would allow Smith to work with lenders and borrowers to reach agreements to avoid foreclosures, has the potential to prevent 25,000 at-risk mortgages from failing. "This is not a bailout," Easley said. "This is not the state trying to subsidize banks."

The bill would also require mortgage companies to notify the state about delinquent home loans and give the banking commissioner the ability to delay foreclosures for an additional 30 days if a settlement looks possible. Easley credited North Carolina's predatory lending laws with limiting the number of at-risk mortgages here. But foreclosures still increased 9 percent in 2007, according to his office. "Foreclosure means not only tragedy for the families that may be involved, but the communities," Blue said. "It drives down home values." Sen. Walter Dalton, D-Rutherford, who has also sponsored legislation intended to stem foreclosures, also spoke at the event. (THE INSIDER, 7/02/08).
Ticket Scalping

The Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to take up a bill today that would, under some circumstances, legalize ticket scalping in North Carolina. The bill would allow tickets to sporting events and other entertainment to be resold at any price by Internet resellers, but only with the permission of the original sales outlet. Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, R-Cabarrus, the bill's sponsor, says putting some restrictions on Internet ticket brokers is preferable to the state's current scalping laws which are unenforceable on out-of-state companies. "The problem is that it was taking place anyway, particularly on the Internet," Hartsell said. "Right now, there is no way to monitor it." Hartsell said the legislation could prevent ticket brokers from using complex software programs to exceed ticket limits -- a common complaint of concert-goers forced to turn to the brokers for popular events.

The bill would subject brokers who violate ticket limits to lawsuits in which plaintiffs could be awarded treble damages. Internet resellers would also have to guarantee delivery and refunds in the event of cancellations. Hartsell said the major professional sports in the state, along with Lowe's Motor Speedway, favor the change. He said the bill also could help curb abuses associated with some ticket brokers. Last fall, a North Carolina woman sued ticket broker after paying $1,000 for four tickets for a Miley Cyrus concert at Greensboro Coliseum. Lyn Peraldo said she was unable to buy the tickets at face value when they went on sale and blamed schemes by ticket brokers to prevent average buyers from being able to purchase the tickets. Several states -- including New York, Florida and Louisiana -- have dropped prohibitions on ticket scalping in recent years. (THE INSIDER, 7/02/08).