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The 2019 long session ended last week with the legislature postponing a vote to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of the state budget. Republican lawmakers remain unwilling to negotiate with Governor Cooper.
What needs to happen is all sides must sit down to negotiate larger teacher pay raises and public employee compensation, smaller corporate tax cuts, a statewide bond referendum for school construction, a bond for clean water and sewer infrastructure and Medicaid expansion.
Compromise is not easy. Yet the people of this state elected Roy Cooper as governor and the men and women in the legislature for a reason. They believed they could work together to make North Carolina better. It is only right that a negotiated state budget reflect some of the priorities of the people of this state: greater investment in public schools, expanded health care access and lower health care costs.
KANSAS TO EXPAND MEDICAID
Kansas is one of the most Republican states in the country. It is also a state with a Democratic governor and a Republican-controlled legislature. Last week, Kansas Republicans announced an agreement with the Democratic governor to expand Medicaid.
If this can happen in Kansas, then why not in North Carolina? The evidence continues to mount on the benefits of expansion. This week it was an academic journal article confirming that Medicaid expansion lowers the death rate of opioid overdoses.
Here is how North Carolina would benefit from Medicaid expansion that we could pay for with federal funds:
• Closing the health care coverage gap for 500,000 North Carolinians.
• Lowering health care costs for all of us by reducing unreimbursed emergency room care from the uninsured that we all end up paying for.
• 37,200 new health care jobs by 2022.
• $2.9 billion in new economic activity by 2022.
VOTER ID LAW
Two weeks ago, a federal judge ordered the state of North Carolina to stop its implementation of the new photo ID law because of significant evidence that the new law was racially discriminatory. The state will appeal the judge’s ruling, but, for now, there is no requirement to show a photo ID in the upcoming March primary.
Voters approved an amendment to the North Carolina Constitution in 2018 to require in-person voters to show photo identification. Immediately after the 2018 election, but before newly elected legislators could take office, the General Assembly approved the law to implement the new photo ID requirement.
The new law allowed voters to use some photo IDs, but did not allow other photo IDs. For example, a federal ID could get you in the Pentagon but not a North Carolina voting booth. Governor Cooper vetoed the new law, but the veto was overridden by the state legislature.
Jean Farmer-Butterfield, D-Wilson, represents Wilson County in the N.C. House. This column is adapted from her weekly email newsletter to constituents.