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Political notebook: Heggins says state should pass Medicaid expansion, support HB 1075

On Thursday, Salisbury Mayor Pro Tem Al Heggins — a Democrat running to unseat Rep. Harry Warren, a Republican who represents the 76th District — urged state legislators to provide Medicaid expansion for North Carolinians and support House Bill 1075.

The last movement on HB 1075 was in May, and it currently sits in the House Committee on Finance. Among other things, the bill would increase the unemployment insurance benefit eligibility period and the maximum weekly benefit amount.

Heggins’ statement came as Oklahoma voters approved a ballot measure to expand Medicaid eligibility — something for which she congratulated the state.

“I want to congratulate the Oklahoma legislature on a job well done for the people of their state by passing Medicaid expansion,” Heggins said. “I look forward to the day I can congratulate the N.C. legislature for providing Medicaid expansion for North Carolinians.”

Heggins added that an indicator of a well-run government is that elected public servants do work needed to improve the quality of life for all they’re elected to serve.

“Human dignity should be core to the decisions being made that impact health care and employment; these two areas directly affect the daily lives of North Carolinians and their families,” she said.

Heggins said a family-friendly work environment means the state should increase unemployment benefits at this time as many across the state are still out of work.

“Taking care of people when they are out of work or lack health care means North Carolina will be taking care of families,” she said.  “It’s time to bring decency back to the N.C. General Assembly and dignity back to the great people of North Carolina.”

 

Treasurer applauds legislators for bipartisan bills addressing unfunded pension, health care liabilities

State Treasurer Dale R. Folwell on Tuesday thanked Senate and House appropriations chairs and all members of the North Carolina General Assembly for their efforts in passing bipartisan bills that address the state’s $50 billion in unfunded pension and health care liabilities as well as fully fund benefit packages for the year.

“It’s even more important in challenging economic times to act responsibly in addressing long-term liabilities,” Folwell said in a statement. “This is a promise delivered under adverse circumstances that will continue to build the state’s reputation for fiscal responsibility.”

Combined, the provisions of the recently-signed House Bill 1218 and Senate Bill 818 provide a new allocation of $32 million per year for the state’s Retiree Health Benefit Fund. The trust pays for health insurance for retired teachers, state employees and other public servants who spent a career serving our citizens.

“With $32 million going into the fund, real progress is being made,” he said in the statement.

Additionally, the General Assembly fully funded the Actuarially Determined Employer Contribution for the state’s retirement system. Because of adverse economic conditions facing the pension fund, this required an increased appropriation of $69.7 million over and above the amount planned last year for the pension fund increase. The state’s retirement system has been funded every year since 1941.

Further, as authorized by the General Assembly in Senate Bill 719 and made possible by the State Health Plan Board’s approval of the previously announced new Medicare Advantage contract, another $475.2 million has now been made available to the Retiree Health Benefit Fund to address unfunded long-term liability.

“A total of more than half a billion dollars is a good start toward closing the $50 billion long-term gap,” Folwell said. “It’s a great sign of progress that the General Assembly and the governor are listening to us on these issues and making difficult, but necessary decisions during this difficult economic time.”

 

Gov. Cooper signs 24 bills into law

Last week, Gov. Roy Cooper signed 24 bills into law, including House Bill 1023. Among other things, the bill provides additional and revised uses for federal coronavirus relief funds, allocates more funding for school nutritional needs, extends the ability of certain government retirees to seek part-time employment without seeing an adverse affect on their retirement

In a statement, Cooper noted the measure includes funding for personal protective equipment for schools.

“It also helps ensure that summer feeding operations can continue to provide meals for children who can’t be at school, which is critical for our families right now,” Cooper said in a statement.

Other bills signed include:

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