Senator Gladys A. Robinson Deputy Minority Leader 10.19.2017
2017 - 2018 Session
Standing or Select Committees
It is my pleasure to serve as your voice in Raleigh. Thank you for the opportunity to represent your concerns in the State Senate. Please feel free to contact my office if you should have any issues or concerns.
Appropriations on Health and Human Services
Appropriations Base Budget
Education/ Higher Education
Select Committee on Nominations
Gladys A. Robinson
Joint Legislative Administrative Procedure Oversight Committee
Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee
Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Health and Human Services
Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Medicaid and NC Health Choice
Legislative Updates This Week’s Session Veto Override: Senate Bill 656– The Electoral Freedom Act of 2017 The House and the Senate successfully overrode Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto this week on a bill that will cancel the 2018 judicial primaries, among other things. This is the tenth vetoed bill that the legislature has overridden of Cooper’s since the governor took office in January. Primary elections for trial court and appeals court seats in 2018 have been scrapped after an override of Governor Cooper's veto of a bill that foretells potentially more judicial changes ahead. Senate Bill 656 would also make it easier for third-party and unaffiliated candidates to get on the ballot for statewide or municipal races, but not in legislative races. It would also lower the percentage of primary votes required to avoid a runoff from 40% to 30%. Republican House and Senate leaders say they're canceling the judicial primaries because they intend to redraw the state's Superior Court and District Court districts by next spring, it makes no sense to have candidates file in February for primaries when their districts may change The cancellation of judicial primaries next May and postponement of filing was inserted into a broader elections bill containing ideas that previously have received broad bipartisan support. But the final and override votes broke largely along party lines with the late addition of the judicial changes. Also, lawmakers earlier this year passed legislation calling for partisan judicial elections, meaning all candidates next year would have a party label next to their names. Republicans say the primary cancellation and filing delay will give them more time to consider redrawing judicial election boundaries for trial court seats statewide, and possibly fashion a constitutional amendment changing how judges are selected. Democrats said canceling the judicial primary and delaying judicial candidate filing was premature and would lead to chaos in judicial elections in November 2018 because there would be no limit to the number of people who could run for a seat. They recalled a pair of free-for-all judicial races this decade in which more than a dozen ran in each. AS REPORTED BY WRAL.
Bill Filed: Senate Bill 698- Increase Voter Accountability of Judges Republican lawmakers filed a bill Tuesday that could put every trial court and appellate court judgeship in North Carolina on the ballot next fall. The bill calls for a statewide referendum during the primary on a proposed constitutional amendment reducing the term of every Supreme Court justice, Court of Appeals judge, Superior Court judge and District Court judge to two years. Currently, District Court judges serve four-year terms, while judges in all other courts serve eight-year terms. If voters approved the proposed amendment, the terms of all sitting judges would end Dec. 31, 2018, meaning they all would have to run for re-election in November 2018. AS REPORTED BY WRAL
Legislative Updates Governor’s Appointments Still Delayed Governor Cooper pushed back against legislative tactics to stall on about 10 pending appointments. He publicly released a letter sent to House and Senate leadership that critiqued the delay and event alluded towards taking some sort of legal action. The governor’s administration has appointments that require legislative confirmation, pending back as late as April. These appointments have continued to remain on the backburner as the legislature has been in session serval times during this lengthy waiting period. Major boards are involved including The North Carolina Utilities Commission, the Teachers' and State Employees' Retirement System Board of Trustees and the State Board of Education.
Adjourned Until January 2018 The House and Senate have both adjourned until January 10th 2018. This means SB 698 is not likely to be taken up until then.
NC Attorney General Joins Federal Lawsuit North Carolina’s Attorney General Josh Stein is joining 18 other Democratic attorneys general in a planned federal lawsuit to block President Trump’s move to eliminate Affordable Care Act (ACA) subsidies. The suit, to be filed in California, will ask a court to force the Trump administration to continue funding the subsidies. The payments have been made since 2014 to insurance companies to offset the cost of discounting health insurance for low-income households. The subsidies, called “cost sharing reductions,” are paid to insurers, who are obligated by law to discount deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs for ACA customers whose household incomes fall between 100 percent and 250 percent of the federal poverty level. In North Carolina, more than 300,000 ACA customers have policies that qualify for the “cost sharing reductions.” The elimination of the subsidy is effective immediately. Insurers who stop receiving the reimbursements are still obligated by federal law to offer discounted ACA plans to low-income customer as long as the insurers sell ACA policies in a given market. Blue Cross and Blue Shield, North Carolina’s largest health insurer, said it plans to continue selling ACA policies in 2018. The Durham insurer has asked for a 14.1 percent rate increase for ACA plans in 2018 anticipating that “cost sharing reductions” might be eliminated. The rate increase would offset the financial loss caused by the elimination of the federal subsidy. Blue Cross is the only insurer offering ACA plans in all 100 North Carolina counties. Cigna, which sells ACA plans in five counties, also said it plans to continue offering ACA plans in 2018. However, since the subsidy elimination was effective immediately – unless a federal court heeds the AGs’ request and blocks Trump’s decision – the insurers will have no immediate way to recoup the loss of the subsidy through the end of 2017. AS REPORTED BY THE NEWS & OBSERVER
North Carolina Updates Governor Cooper to Launch New Re-Entry Program Governor Cooper will help launch the State Reentry Council Collaborative, an effort to help formerly incarcerated people successfully return to the community and become productive contributors to society. The State Reentry Council Collaborative, chaired by Department of Public Safety Secretary Erik A. Hooks, will examine the needs of people being released from prison and ways to help them successfully reintegrate into their communities. The group will also focus on increasing the effectiveness of local reentry councils, which provide direct support and case management services such as assistance with housing, job placement, transportation and referrals for mental health and substance abuse services for those leaving prison. Members will work with community stakeholders including law enforcement to develop and carry out a Statewide Reentry Action Plan. This comprehensive plan will address the myriad of challenges and barriers that offenders face when they leave prison and return to society and outline specific reentry strategies for state and local government agencies, non-profit organizations, and community stakeholders. To help with reentry, Gov. Cooper’s budget, Common Ground Solutions for North Carolina, recommended an additional $9 million for behavioral treatment, support for local reentry councils, and extending transitional housing for formerly incarcerated individuals. The Reentry Council’s core membership is expected to meet quarterly with workgroups meeting more frequently to further develop recommendations for the Statewide Reentry Action Plan. Over the next several meetings, the SRCC will learn about ongoing reentry work in North Carolina, review model programs in other states, and discuss substantive strategies that can be successfully implemented.
Changes In NC Educational Leadership The North Carolina Supreme Court granted the State Board of Education's motion for a temporary stay in its lawsuit against State Superintendent Mark Johnson. The stay, which is in effect until further notice from the NC Supreme Court, prevents Johnson from managing the state's education budget, having more authority to dismiss senior level employees and having control of the Office of Charter Schools, among other acquiring powers granted to him by House Bill 17. The bill was passed during a special session of the General Assembly last year. The powers in question have been under the State Board of Education's control, and board members said shifting them to the elected superintendent violated the state constitution and threatened the working relationship between the board and the superintendent. Meanwhile, the state’s educational leaders have created a new commission that will come up with a strategic plan on educational attainment that runs from early childhood through college. The effort, named My Future NC, includes people from the business, nonprofit, education and faith communities. The group will meet through the end of 2018. They plans to produce two major reports — one to recommend educational goals for the state and another to recommend policies to achieve those goals. The 35-member commission will be guided by a five-member steering committee that includes Mark Johnson, the previously mentioned state superintendent of public instruction. Commission members with Greensboro connections include Maurice “Mo” Green, the former superintendent of Guilford County Schools; and Vanessa Harrison, the president of AT&T North Carolina and a member of the board of trustees at N.C. A&T. AS REPORTED BY NEWS & RECORD AND WRAL
Guilford County Updates Redistricting Hearing Held In Greensboro Lawyers for aggrieved voters challenged 12 revised districts last Thursday resulting from the North Carolina General Assembly’s efforts this summer to fix problems with racial gerrymandering. In a four-hour hearing at the L. Richardson Preyer Federal Building and Court House downtown, they claimed that at least four of those revised districts still were unconstitutionally gerrymandered along racial lines. Two of the more disputed districts in the voting rights case are in Guilford County, seats now held by state Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Greensboro) and Sen. Gladys Robinson (D-High Point). The hearing was before that same panel and aimed to determine whether new election districts that state legislators drew this summer had fixed those problems. The judges heard lengthy legal arguments from both sides before adjourning and saying they would rule later. The judges entered an order shortly after the hearing directing both sides to submit “the names of at least three persons the parties agree are qualified to serve as a special master.” A special master is an administrator that judges appoint to oversee certain aspects of a lawsuit; perhaps, in this case, redrawing election districts that the court decides legislators failed to get right after two tries. The order advised only that the names should be submitted by Wednesday “to avoid delay should the court decide that some or all of the plaintiffs’ objections should be sustained.” The hearing was held before the same trio of judges who ruled last year that the Republican-led legislature had erred in drawing the original maps in 2011 because legislators used race as a key factor and packed too many black voters in a relatively small number of districts. The judges ruled those districts ran afoul of voting rights laws in diluting the overall impact of black voters, who tend to vote Democrat, by concentrating their numbers in those few districts at levels well beyond the point at which their ballots would be decisive. Lawyers for the 31 voters who filed the successful lawsuit against the flawed districts did not challenge all of the redrawn districts on racial grounds. They argued that in some of the allegedly flawed, new districts state legislators had stepped beyond their authority by needlessly redrawing districts other than the 28 cited as being unconstitutional gerrymanders in the judges' initial order. Harrison’s district anchored in Greensboro was one where legislators allegedly had not only failed to improve the racial demographics, but actually made them worse in its new version. The district went from a “black voting age population” of just under 51 percent in its original, unconstitutional version to almost 61 percent in the supposedly repaired edition, the plaintiffs argued in a recent petition. The petition noted Harrison’s supposedly reformed district has “the highest total BVAP (black voting age population) percentage of any House or Senate district in the state.” Senator Robinson’s and Rep. Harrison’s districts were two of four statewide in which racial gerrymandering problems had not been remedied, the plaintiffs contend. The other two districts with racial demographics still allegedly out of whack are located in the Fayetteville and Goldsboro areas, they argue. The other, eight districts remaining in dispute violate the state Constitution by breaking that document’s limits on needlessly redrawing districts “mid-decade,” arbitrarily splitting counties apart into separate districts, and sprawling across the landscape instead of being as compact as possible, Southern Coalition lawyer Anita Earls maintained. AS REPORTED BY NEWS & RECORD
Guilford County Updates Congratulations To Mrs. Shirley Frye Ms. Shirley Frye was named the 2017 News & Record Woman of the Year. In 1970, she led the merger of the city’s two segregated YWCAs, serving as the new organization’s first president. Nearly 50 years later, the N.C. A&T graduate and former teacher continues to be known for her ability to lead groups through issues to solutions. She has served on the former Greensboro City Schools Board of Education, been vice chairwoman of the United Arts Council of Greensboro and was vice chairwoman of the United Way of Greater Greensboro. She is a former administrator at Bennett College and at A&T and worked at the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.
Governor’s New Appointees Congratulations to the following people appointed by Governor Roy Cooper to State Boards and Commissions: North Carolina Commission for Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Substance Abuse Services: Azell Reeves of Greensboro as an immediate family member of a consumer of developmental disabilities services. Reeves has previously served two terms as an appointed member of the North Carolina Council on Development Disabilities (NCCDD) and co-founded the Guilford County Schools Exceptional Children Parent Advisory Council. Governor’s Advisory Council on Aging: Steve Mostofsky of Greensboro as an at-large member. Mostofsky is the President and CEO of TTI Global Resources, which specializes in the sale of hosiery and apparel. Mostofsky has also served as the Director of Sourcing for Sara Lee Hosiery. North Carolina Sedimentation Control Commission: Mark Taylor of Greensboro as a member nominated by the Professional Engineers of N.C. Taylor is a senior consultant with Golder Associates, Inc., an environmental services company. He has more than 35 years of experience in consulting, engineering design, construction management, and teaching.
Congratulations to United Way of Greater High Point United Way of Greater High Point was recognized by United Way Worldwide for its 2016 campaign season, which ranked second best in the nation for United Ways that typically raise between $4 million and $9 million annually. United Way of Greater High Point ranked second for overall campaign growth as well as growth in donors within its respective metro category. If you wish to unsubscribe to this newsletter, please click here Senator Robinson’s Office Contact Information 1120 Legislative Building
Office: (919) 715-3042
16 W Jones St.
Fax: (919) 733-2599
Raleigh, NC 27601