Political Notebook: Rep. Budd questions federal agency after vaccinations canceled in Piedmont region

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Last week, Rep. Ted Budd, R-13, sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that demanded answers after more than 10,000 vaccination appointments were canceled in the Piedmont Triad region.

The letter, addressed to Acting Secretary Norris Cochran, detailed concerns Budd had after hearing reports from health care providers and county departments of health that 10,400 vaccine appointments were forcibly canceled at Cone Health. He added that during that same week, more than 35,000 doses were allocated to the Charlotte region for a mass vaccination site at the Charlotte Motor Speedway and Bank of America stadium.

Last week, WBTV reported that vaccination appointments had been canceled in an effort to redistribute supplies to mass vaccination events.

Budd said in the letter he contacted state officials, who expressed difficulty in planning ahead with the short notice given from the federal government regarding vaccine allotments. He acknowledged that President Joe Biden’s administration has announced plans to increase weekly vaccine supplies and provide a three-week notice, but he asked the department to provide additional information about what methods it uses to distribute vaccine doses.

“I understand that an expedient national vaccine rollout is a complex undertaking,” Budd said in the letter. “The more vaccine doses allocated to North Carolina, the sooner we will be able to defeat this pandemic.”

The latest state data show that of the 794,525 first doses that have arrived in the state, 699,885 doses, or 88%, have been administered. And of the 387,650 second doses that have arrived, 122,158 doses, or 32%, have been administered.

On Monday, U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, a Republican, announced a $102.98 million grant will be awarded to the North Carolina Emergency Management Agency from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help with COVID-19 vaccine distribution across North Carolina. 

“The COVID-19 vaccine must be distributed in a timely and effective manner, and I’m confident that this grant will help make it possible,” Tillis said in a statement. “With every administered vaccine, North Carolina gets one step closer to defeating this virus, which is why I’m pleased to announce this funding for our state’s vaccine distribution operation.”


Civitas Poll shows disapproval of Cooper’s handling of school reopening during COVID-19

A poll among North Carolina voters shows almost half of likely registered voters disapprove of Gov. Roy Cooper’s handling of school reopening amidst the pandemic.

The poll, conducted by Harper Polling from Jan. 20-24, and released last week, shows 46% of the 950 likely registered voters in North Carolina gave the governor a thumbs down on the issue while 39% supported Cooper’s handling of reopening schools. Harper Polling conducted the poll on behalf of the John Locke Foundation, a conservative think tank based in North Carolina.

The disapproval was strongest among Hispanic voters, with nearly 60% expressing concern about the issue.

Voters surveyed showed a similar disapproval with how their local school districts have handled school reopenings, with 45% saying they either strongly disapprove or somewhat disapprove. Nearly seven in 10 believe instructional changes made in response to the pandemic have had a negative impact on student learning, with the same amount indicating they would choose another school for their children if cost wasn’t a factor.

“While Gov. Roy Cooper has had high approval ratings over the past four years, voters are running out of patience with his handling of reopening schools,” said Donald Bryson, president of the John Locke Foundation. “Voters, especially parents, feel that families should have a greater say in their child’s educational environment, and COVID-19 has emphasized how out of touch the Cooper administration is on this issue.”

In a survey of 601 registered voters in October, a High Point University poll showed that Cooper’s approval rating sat at 49%, while 36% disapproved and 15% didn’t offer an opinion.


Constitution, Green parties no longer recognized in North Carolina

After failing to turn out the required 2% of the total vote for gubernatorial and presidential candidates, the Constitution Party and the Green Party are no longer recognized in North Carolina.

The State Board of Elections will meet on Feb. 23 to decide when to change the affiliation of voters registered to those parties to unaffiliated status. State law says such an action cannot be taken until at least 90 days after the general election.

Karen Brinson-Bell, the executive director of the state Board of Elections, said the parties may be recognized once again if they meet the requirements for a political party.

The Constitution Party in North Carolina was first recognized as a political party in June 2018, with about 4,600 members for the 2020 election. The Green Party was recognized in March 2018, with about 3,600 members statewide.

Per state law, a recognized political party must reach at least 2% of the entire vote cast for governor or presidential electors in a general election. Additionally, a party can be recognized if any group of voters that files with the state Board of Elections petitions for the creation of a new political party signed by 0.25% of the total number of voters in the most recent election for governor. Also, the petition must be signed by at least 200 registered voters from three state congressional districts.

The Libertarian Party requested to continue as a recognized political party because its candidate for president was on the ballot in at least 35 states, meeting the 70% threshold required by law.

The State Board of Elections is expected to consider the continued certification of the Libertarian Party at its Feb. 23 meeting. Aabout 45,000 voters in North Carolina are registered Libertarians.


Sen. Tillis, Rep. Budd reintroduce “Justice for Victims of Sanctuary Cities Act”

Last week, Sen. Thom Tillis and Rep. Ted Budd reintroduced legislation that would allow victims of sanctuary jurisdictions to bring civil action for compensation.

The “Justice for Victims of Sanctuary Cities Act” is an effort to “hold sanctuary jurisdictions accountable for failing to comply with lawful detainer and release notification requests made by federal authorities and jeopardizing public safety,” Tillis and Budd said in a news release. The legislation gives victims a private right of civil action as a result of a violent crime committed by an undocumented immigrant.

It also calls for any sanctuary city or jurisdiction that refuses to waive its immunity as it relates to sanctuary-related civil action would be subject to the withholding of funds, specifically Community Development Block Grant funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The act defines a sanctuary jurisdiction as any state or political subdivision (including a county or city) that has a statute, ordinance, policy or practice that restricts a government official or entity from receiving or maintaining information about the immigration status of an individual, including refusing to comply with lawful detainer requests or the notification of the release of an illegal immigrant. A jurisdiction would not be deemed a “sanctuary jurisdiction” based solely on policies where officials do not share information or comply with detainers for illegal immigrants who come forward as a victim or a witness to a criminal offense.

Counties in North Carolina that have sanctuary cities or jurisdictions include Buncombe, Durham, Forsyth, Mecklenburg, Orange and Wake counties.

“For more than a year now, we have watched careless sheriffs across North Carolina ignore notification and detainer requests made by federal ICE agents, releasing dangerous criminals back into the communities they serve and jeopardizing public safety,” Tillis said in a news release. “If politicians want to prioritize reckless sanctuary policies over public safety, they should also be willing to provide just compensation for the victims. The Justice for Victims of Sanctuary Cities Act is commonsense legislation that will enhance public safety and hold sanctuary jurisdictions accountable for their refusal to cooperate with federal law enforcement.”

Budd said the legislation is a matter of public safety and the rule of law.

“At a time when the Biden administration refuses to crack down on sanctuary cities, Congress has the responsibility to act,” Budd said in a statement. “It’s long past time that cities who refuse to enforce our immigration laws face legal consequences. When laws are not enforced, completely preventable tragedies strike. That has to stop.”

The legislation was co-sponsored by 12 other Republican senators, including Ted Cruz of Texas, Marco Rubio of Florida and Josh Hawley of Missouri.

Budd also appeared on Fox & Friends on Fox News Channel Saturday morning to discuss the legislation.

“The main point is that if you enforce the law, you prevent tragedies,” Budd said on Fox News. “The bottom line is that lawlessness leads to tragedy, and that is just not acceptable.”

About Natalie Anderson

Natalie Anderson covers the city of Salisbury, politics and more for the Salisbury Post. She joined the staff in January 2020 after graduating from Louisiana State University, where she was editor of The Reveille newspaper. Email her at natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com or call her at 704-797-4246.

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