Carolina Journal Weekly Report

December 22, 2005

Carolina Journal Weekly Report

For the week of December 22, 2005 -

Reaction of the Week

Two years ago President George W. Bush signed legislation that made tax-free "health savings accounts" possible. With many private businesses embracing HSAs as an alternative to traditional insurance arrangements, a new report from the John Locke Foundation urges the General Assembly to offer HSAs to North Carolina's teachers and state employees.

The cost to North Carolina taxpayers of providing health insurance to state employees rose significantly over the past decade, with a dramatic doubling just since 2000, according to the new JLF report. It concluded that state lawmakers will need to reform the state employee health plan to avoid a budgetary train wreck in the coming years.

The author of the report is Michael E. DeBow, Samford University Law professor and Professor of Health Care Organization & Policy and Lister Hill Scholar in the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health. DeBow argued that HSAs offer an attractive alternative to low-deductible, high-cost insurance benefits.

The head of the State Employees Association of North Carolina said while his group hasn’t studied HSAs for his members, he is open to discussing it as an option with the new administrator of the N.C. State Health Plan, George Stokes.

"I think it would save the health plan dollars," said Dana Cope, executive director of SEANC. "It's an incentive for people to consume health care more wisely."

News Features

Lottery opens floor to bidders
RALEIGH — The state lottery Tuesday officially asked for bidders to help run the numbers games, and said players should expect to see four instant-winner scratch-off games when the lottery begins by April 5. But there is concern that the request for proposals from the lottery on one of its most important contracts will point the state to only one company: Scientific Games.

Cooper to render opinion on Watson
EDENTON — Attorney General Roy Cooper is examining whether a conflict of interest would result if the head of the Northeastern Partnership joins Randy Parton's entertainment project in Halifax County. Currituck County requested the legal opinion in November. The request asks Cooper to examine the legality of Rick Watson's recently announced plan to become a partner in an entertainment complex being developed in Halifax County by Parton, brother of country music star Dolly Parton.

Black apologizes, maintains innocence
GREENVILLE — Last week, House Speaker Jim Black offered a public mea culpa for his role in the startup of the state lottery and his ties to a Raleigh lobbyist who also served as his campaign's political director. But in a radio interview Monday, Black was adamant that neither he nor his former political director, Meredith Norris, did anything wrong.

Fair: Blacks should back school choice
CHARLOTTE — Calling school choice “the civil rights issue of the 21st century," W. Willard Fair issued a call to action for blacks to demand change. Blacks “must lead the charge,” he said, “because it is in our interest” to do so.

Garey Ballance tells his story
HENDERSON — In the barrage of controversy and public scrutiny surrounding he and his father, publicly shamed judge Garey Ballance feels strongly that one side of the story never really came to light: his own. Ballance is preparing himself for a nine-month federal prison sentence handed down in October for failing to file a federal tax return.

Upcoming Events

Monday, January 16, 2006 at 12:00 Noon
Headliner Luncheon in Wilmington, NC
with our special guest Dick Morris
Will Hillary Be Our Next President?

Tuesday, February 07, 2006 at 12:00 Noon
Headliner Luncheon in Winston-Salem, NC
with our special guest William Kristol
The Future of Conservatism and the Republican Role

Friday, February 10, 2006 at 6:30 Reception / 7:15 Dinner
16th Annual Anniversary Celebration
with our special guest Winston S. Churchill III
Celebrating Freedom

John Locke Foundation Carolina Journal Online
The Locker Room Carolina Journal Radio

Capital Quotes

I think the grand jury has wandered far afield of a legitimate criminal investigation, and it's starting to look political.
Ken Bell, attorney for House Speaker Jim Black, speaking to the Winston-Salem Journal about a federal grand jury investigation into potential wrongdoing in granting state jobs and personal favors in exchange for political contributions and support.

I think these guys are trying to ferret out justice. I don't want to taint the process.
State Rep. Jim Harrell III, D-Surry, in the same Journal article, commenting after his grand jury testimony in Raleigh Wednesday.

People look at a $50 million jackpot, and they say, ‘mm, that’s not going to be enough.’
Tom Shaheen, executive director of the N.C. lottery, describing to the Winston-Salem Journal how big the lottery jackpot has to be before casual players buy lottery tickets. Shaheen estimates casual interest starts at about a $80 million jackpot. The state has joined Powerball to increase its lottery jackpot payout.

We’re going to help all of the small businesses in the state — that has 80 percent of the jobs — with $1 million?
State Sen. Martin Nesbitt, D-Buncombe, commenting to the Asheville Citizen-Times on the adequacy of the One North Carolina Small Business Fund, which will distribute $1 million in incentives to small business in the state.

I really think this is an opportunity for citizens not to feel overshadowed by elected officials.
Parks Helms, chairman of the Mecklenburg County Commission, talking to The Charlotte Observer about a committee to review the county’s school construction needs. The panel would not have elected officials or candidates for public office on it.

On The Air This Week…

Carolina Journal Radio

This week on C J Radio…
Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina's 3rd congressional district defends and clarifies comments he made in June about the war in Iraq and what was widely interpreted as his call for a timetable for withdrawal of American troops. Then former North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Robert Orr explains the legal challenge to the state lottery recently filed by his organization, the North Carolina Institute for Constitutional Law. CJ Radio listeners get additional perspective on ethical questions surrounding the state lottery and House Speaker Jim Black from Locke Foundation president John Hood. And Christie Barbee, president of the NC Professional Lobbyists Association, weighs in on lobbying reforms set to take effect in 2007.

NC Spin

This week on NC Spin…
Join moderator Tom Campbell for another week of political discussion and debate on the most intelligent television talk show in the state. This week's show is our traditional year-end run down of the top stories of North Carolina in 2005. They include: the lottery, the Jim Black controversy, the strange legislative session, the cigarette tax increase, Molly and Erskine, lobbying reform, UNC tuition flexibility, illegal immigration, roads, teacher licensing, and panelists' contributions on top stories. Panelists this week include: Chris Fitzsimon with NC Policy Watch; John Hood, president of the John Locke Foundation; political consultant Brad Crone; and former House speakers Dan Blue and Joe Mavretic.

At Issue

This week on At Issue…
Triangle viewers can tune in as host Monty Knight is joined by Carolina Journal's Donna Martinez and The Carolinian's Cash Michaels for another round of "At Issue," a weekly round-up of news and issues facing the Triangle area and state. This week, Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina's 3rd congressional district discusses his concern that military chaplains are being discouraged from praying in the name of Jesus. Then Bill Peaslee of the NC GOP offers perspective on ethical questions swirling around House Speaker Jim Black. And finally, Jennifer Rudinger of the NC ACLU explains why her organization will appeal the recent ruling of a judge who threw out a case that sought to clarify the definition of "Holy Scriptures" used by NC courts, and whether or not witnesses can be sworn in on texts other than the Bible.


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