Archive for the ‘Legislation’ Category

Don’t Let Sneaky Politicians Rig N.C. Governor’s Election After Voters Have Spoken

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Last week, after massive statewide recounts, the N.C Board of Elections finally certified Roy Cooper had won the N.C. Governor’s election. On Dec. 5, Pat McCrory conceded the election. McCrory, in a video message, said it was time to “celebrate our democratic process and respect what I see to be the ultimate outcome of the closest North Carolina governor’s race in modern history.”

The people of North Carolina thought we could all finally move on… but we were wrong.

Yesterday the N.C. General Assembly, in a last-minute special session, introduced 28 bills aimed at subverting the will of N.C. voters and limiting the powers of Gov.-elect Roy Cooper. This is an unprecedented, last minute power grab by defeated Gov. Pat McCrory and some Republican legislators, who want to steal the N.C. governor’s election from the people of North Carolina who democratically elected Roy Cooper. Clearly, Pat McCrory and the General Assembly have no interest in celebrating our democratic process or respecting the outcome of this close race, despite what McCrory said just 10 days ago.

This attempt to sneakily pass legislation before the holidays – without opportunity for debate and without the public’s knowledge – ignores the will of North Carolina voters. It is quite possibly unconstitutional. But we can’t wait for the N.C. Supreme Court to decide whether or not these bills are constitutional as the General Assembly is also working to pack the court with justices who will allow this to happen.

We must act IMMEDIATELY to make sure these sneaky, underhanded bills do not become law. Call your state legislators first thing THURSDAY MORNING and tell them to oppose these bills. Let them know that N.C. voters will not stand for this kind of last minute, crooked politics. Ask them to respect the democratic process, instead of throwing up roadblocks to prevent Roy Cooper from doing the job he was elected to do.

Among other things, these bills, if passed, would:

  • Allow Pat McCrory, before he leaves office, to appoint a new chairman of the N.C. Industrial Commission. This person would serve a four-year term. The Industrial Commission is the court for workers’ compensation claims, and we expect anyone McCrory appoints to favor big businesses and insurance companies over injured workers.
  • Require the incoming governor’s cabinet appointments to be confirmed by the state senate.
  • Take away the incoming governor’s power to power to appoint certain State Board of Education and UNC Board of Trustees officials.
  • Take away the new governor’s ability to hire and fire some 1,200 political supervisory positions.

Don’t wait to make your voice heard on this important matter. This special session is expected to close this week, and lawmakers could vote on these bad bills as early as THURSDAY MORNING.

If you need help with what to say, consider this:

This is ______ calling from ______. I am extremely concerned about several bills pending before the General Assembly. Roy Cooper won the governor’s race, and to strip his authority is just wrong. I also oppose the last-minute partisan power grab by Gov. McCrory and certain legislators. North Carolina voters deserve to have their votes count. Can I count on you to vote against rigging this election after the voters have spoken?

To find out who represents you in the General Assembly and how to contact them, click here.

Also, contact these key legislators to oppose these underhanded bills.

Sen. Michael Lee: (919) 715-2525 or [email protected]
Rep. Ted Davis: (919) 733-5786 or [email protected]
Rep. Holly Grange: (919) 733-5830 or [email protected]
Senate President Pro Tempore Sen. Phil Berger: (919) 733-5708 or [email protected]
House Speaker Tim Moore: (919) 733-3451 or [email protected]

Please call these legislators immediately and ask them to respect our democratic process. You can leave a voicemail message after hours.

Phone calls are our best chance at stopping these bills from becoming law, but it is also helpful to send an email expressing your opposition. You can send an email to all state legislators at once using this website.

Because the Industrial Commission bill could affect so many of our clients who are injured workers, we also think it is important to make separate phone calls to the committee members who will be voting on it Thursday morning.

The Industrial Commission bill has been sent to the Senate Redistricting Committee. To stop it in its tracks please contact these committee members and voice your opposition. All can be reached through the General Assembly main switchboard at (919) 733-7928 during normal business hours. You can find their direct office telephone numbers and email address for them here.

Sen. Bob Rucho
Sen. Chad Barefoot,
Sen. Dan Blue
Sen. Harry Brown
Sen. Ben Clark
Sen. Joel D. M. Ford
Sen. Kathy Harrington
Sen. Ralph Hise
Sen. Brent Jackson
Sen. Michael V. Lee
Sen. Floyd B. McKissick, Jr.
Sen. Shirley B. Randleman
Sen. Norman W. Sanderson
Sen. Jane W. Smith, Sen. Smith-Ingram
Sen. Trudy Wade
Sen. Andy Wells
If the bill passes the redistricting committee it will then go to the Finance Committee, whose members are listed below. All can be reached through the General Assembly main switchboard at (919) 733-7928 during normal business hours. You can find their direct office telephone numbers and email address for them by here.

Co-Chairman Sen. Bill Rabon
Co-Chairman Sen. Bob Rucho
Co-Chairman Sen. Jerry W. Tillman
Vice Chairman Sen. David L. Curtis
Vice Chairman Sen. Fletcher L. Hartsell, Jr.
Vice Chairman Sen. Ronald J. Rabin
Sen. John M. Alexander, Jr.
Sen. Chad Barefoot
Sen. Tamara Barringer
Sen. Dan Blue
Sen. Andrew C. Brock
Sen. Harry Brown
Sen. Angela R. Bryant
Sen. Ben Clark
Sen. Bill Cook
Sen. Warren Daniel
Sen. Don Davis
Sen. Jim Davis
Sen. Joel D. M. Ford
Sen. Kathy Harrington
Sen. Ralph Hise
Sen. Jeff Jackson
Sen. Brent Jackson
Sen. Tom McInnis
Sen. Floyd B. McKissick, Jr.
Sen. Wesley Meredith
Sen. E. S. (Buck) Newton
Sen. Louis Pate
Sen. Norman W. Sanderson
Sen. Jeff Tarte
Sen. Terry Van Duyn
Sen. Waddell
Sen. Trudy Wade
Sen. Andy Wells
As we learn more about the progress of these bills, we’ll do our best to keep you informed on our blog at www.deutermanlaw.com/news. We also recommend that you follow news coverage at WRAL and the News & Observer.

N.C. Supreme Court Packing Plan Ignores the Will of Voters

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With the surprising outcome of the presidential election and the uncertainty about who won the governor’s race in North Carolina, you may not have seen the latest news about our state’s judicial races.

Last week, Judge Mike Morgan, a candidate we endorsed, defeated incumbent Justice Bob Edmonds for a seat on the N.C. Supreme Court. This is a great outcome for North Carolina workers.

With Morgan’s election, the N.C. Supreme court will shift from Republican control to a 4-3 Democratic majority. And some Republican lawmakers aren’t happy about that, and they have a plan to undermine the will of the people and pack the court with unelected justices appointed by Gov. Pat McCrory before the end of his term.

The state high court is currently comprised of a Chief Justice and six associate justices, but the N.C. Constitution allows for nine justices.

The N.C. General Assembly is set to convene a special session next month regarding relief for Hurricane Matthew. The plan by some ranking state senators and representatives is to introduce and pass legislation to expand the N.C. Supreme Court to nine seats during that special session.

But voters wouldn’t get to choose the justices to fill those seats. The governor is expected to appoint two partisan judges — packing the state’s highest court and ignoring the will of the people.

This cannot happen, and it should not happen. There’s no good reason to expand the N.C. Supreme Court, whose workload has not increased significantly over the last 10 years, according to an official review of the state appellate court system.

As state Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue told WRAL, “This is the height of disrespect of state’s voters. To add justices just because they don’t like the outcome of the election is outrageous.”

Voters are already calling their state legislators in opposition to this court-packing scheme. And some are being told that the proposed bill is “just a rumor.”

But rest assured, there’s more than rumor behind these reports. This could happen, and it could happen quickly. So it’s important for North Carolina voters to oppose this underhanded attempt to change the makeup of our state’s highest court.

Gerry Cohen, former special counsel to the state legislature and an expert on state election law, told N.C. Policy Watch a court-packing bill could be presented and passed in in one day, the same way HB2 was passed.

Find out who represents you in the N.C. General Assembly and who to contact about N.C. Supreme Court packing here.

Fixing the VA Benefits Backlog

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Recently, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs advised Congress that it must do something to reduce the time it takes for a veteran’s appeal for disability benefits to be resolved.

As of January, an estimated 400,000 veterans had appeals pending with the Veterans Administration. It takes an average of 1,000 days — nearly three years — for these appeals to be resolved, according to news reports.

Proposed legislation, HR 800, also known as the The Express Appeals Act, would give veterans the option speed up that process, instead of going through a traditional appeal. While we support fast-tracking veterans’ appeals, there’s a better way to do it than what has been proposed in HR 800 and the similar Senate Bill 2473.

We are in agreement with NOVA, the National Organization of Veteran’s Advocates, that there are three major problems with HR 800:

  1. The bill would create two separate tracks for appeals
  2. To get an express appeal, the veteran must waive the right to submit additional evidence;
  3. There is a very real possibility that this bill will mislead veterans to believe that if they give up their right to submit further evidence, then their appeal will be heard sooner.

A better solution to the backlog problem, which I recently outlined in a letter to U.S. Senator Richard Burr, would not prevent veterans from submitting new evidence once a fast-track appeal is submitted.

I won’t go into too much detail here about how the VA benefits claims process works, but you can read more here about what happens when you apply for VA benefits.

In short, a veteran files an files an initial application for benefits. When that is denied, they file a Notice of Disagreement (NOD). The regional office VA then reviews the claim and a new decision is made.

If the claim is denied again, as is typically the case, the VA then issues a Statement of the Case. The veteran has to file a VA9 form appeal, which takes the claim to the Board of Veterans Appeals for a hearing.

I believe the notice of disagreement, or NOD step, is unnecessary, is not productive and is inefficient. Eliminating this step in the appeal process will save time and money, while still protecting the rights of the veterans.

In my proposed scenario, after a veteran’s claim is first denied, he or she would file a VA9 appeal. The regional VA office would then be required to review the appeal within a time certain (which would require amending the law) and issue a statement of the case. The statement of the case would be the VA’s argument supporting its denial of the claim.

Next, the veteran would have the opportunity to submit additional arguments and evidence in response, up to the point where the Board of Veterans Appeals reviews the appeal. This scenario eliminates a step in the process, and saves time and money, but not at the expense of the veteran’s rights.

As it stands now, the Notice of Disagreement stage of appeal process seems more of a rubber-stamp of the VA’s initial denial of a claim.

The Secretary says the VA is working to clear its backlog of cases.

However, most efforts to eliminate the backlog have been aimed at initial claims, not appeals.

In the last three years, claims pending for four months or more dropped from 612,000 to as low as 80,000 this week. In that same time frame, the number of appeals has risen by more than a third, to 440,000 cases. Resolution of these appeals is averaging more than two years, which is too long for veterans to wait for medical treatment and benefits they are entitled.

Eliminating the Notice of Disagreement step in the process could help, but the Board of Veterans Appeals needs to be prepared to handle those cases when they reach them for adjudication.

I  believe decentralizing the Board of Veterans Appeals would also help the process.

Similar to the Social Security system, Veteran Law Judges could be assigned to regional VA offices. This would reduce the number of veterans who have to travel to Washington DC, for an appeals hearing, wait for a video conference hearing or wait for a traveling Board hearing. This would help to further reduce the backlog and ensure that veterans get their benefits sooner.

Additionally, assigning BVA judges to regional VA offices would give them more opportunity to train ratings specialists on the issues they see as slowing down the claims process.

I realize that the VA may not yet be ready for such an undertaking, but I do believe that it is an issue worth considering to more effectively and timely resolve pending veterans ‘ disability claims.

I would like to encourage veterans and their family members to contact Senator Burr and other members of Congress about HR 800 and legislative changes to the VA appeals process.

Lawmakers Ask for Federal Oversight of State Workers’ Comp Programs

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Ten powerful members of Congress, including Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, have asked the federal government to resume oversight and monitoring of workers’ compensation in the wake of drastic cuts to benefits for injured workers.

“State workers’ compensation laws are no longer providing adequate levels of support and compensation for workers injured on the job,” the lawmakers wrote. “The race to the bottom now appears to be nearly bottomless…”

Over the last decade, 33 states, including North Carolina, have cut workers’ compensation benefits, making it more difficult to qualify and giving employers more control over an injured workers’ medical care.

These so-called workers’ comp “reforms” have pushed many injured workers into poverty and have shifted the cost of caring for them to taxpayers, via Social Security Disability, Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps. Meanwhile, they have enriched insurances companies and big businesses.

The cuts in workers’ comp benefits coincide with the end of federal oversight and tracking of state-run programs.

Until 2004, the U.S. Department of Labor Department tracked changes in state workers’ comp laws and failures to meet 19 “minimum and essential standards for benefits” established by a 1972 commission created by President Richard Nixon.

Unchecked and without federal accountability for 11 years, many states have bowed to influence and pressure by insurance companies and big businesses and stripped injured workers of their rights and safety net.

The letter urged the federal agency Department to strengthen its oversight of state-run workers’ comp programs.

You can read the full text of the letter here. http://bit.ly/laborletter.

According to a news report by NPR, the Labor Department said in a statement it shares the lawmakers’ concerns. “Every year injured workers and their families are bearing more and more of the cost of workplace injuries and illnesses.”

However, the agency did not outline a specific plan for addressing these issues but did indicate it will work “with stakeholders to find real solutions.”
The cuts to workers’ compensation programs in North Carolina and elsewhere will continue without strong, vocal opposition to the big business and insurance interests. We praise these lawmakers for standing up for injured people.

It’s important that we as citizens support and vote for candidates who support injured workers and stand up for their rights. Please remember that as you go to the polls.

Call N.C. Senators to Oppose Workers’ Comp Trucking Bill

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Out-of-state trucking companies want to push the cost of caring for injured truck drivers onto North Carolina taxpayers.

It’s just the latest effort by big business to destroy North Carolina’s workers’ compensation system and to gut benefits in favor of profits.

N.C. Senate Bill 205, which is currently being considered in committee but could soon be brought to a vote in the N.C. General Assembly, seeks to change how trucking companies and their employees are covered when they’re injured on the job. If this legislation passes, it puts injured truck drivers at real risk and will shift the expense of covering their injuries to taxpayers.

Truck driving is one of the most dangerous occupations; many of the injuries are catastrophic.

A little background on how N.C. workers’ compensation laws work in regards to truck drivers:

In 2003, state law was enacted to allow allow trucking companies to cover their independent contractors in a blanket workers’ compensation policy. The law allows trucking companies to charge back the costs of that coverage to drivers, giving independent contractors coverage in the event of a wreck or other work-related injury. The N.C. Trucking Association supported this legislation.

In 2006, the statute was amended to exempt mom-and-mom trucking companies from providing this type of workers’ comp coverage when they contract with an owner/operator drivers using their own truck. The amended law is a balanced provision resulting from hours of negotiation. It was fair to small mom-and-pop trucking companies and to owner-operator drivers.

Senate Bill 205 would extend the mom-and-pop exemption to practically any operator working for an independent trucker. It undercuts the idea that all truck drivers should be covered under workers’ compensation.

Large out-of-state trucking companies have for years made efforts to push their workers’ compensation obligations off onto drivers, sub-contractors or the public. One of the ways they have done this is to substitute inferior “occupational accident” policies for workers’ compensation.

That’s what they want to do with SB 205. But these occupational accident policies are largely unregulated, notoriously difficult to deal with when claims are filed, and have widely varying provisions for medical or wage replacement coverage. As a result the cost of caring for injured truckers is shifted from industry to taxpayers.

If this legislation passes, it would lead to the misclassification of truck drivers as independent contractors, instead of employees, and leave drivers largely unprotected.

As I mentioned before, SB 205 is in committee, and our best chance of defeating this bad legislation is to stop it there before it’s sent to the full N.C. General Assembly for a vote. With the crossover deadline looming, that could happen soon.

Please reach out to the following members of the Senate Judiciary 2 Committee and let them know SB 205 is a bad idea:

Co-chair Senator Tamara Barringer
Republican – District 17
Wake
(919) 733-5653

Co-chair Senator Warren Daniel
Republican – District 46
Burke, Cleveland
(919) 715-7823

Co-chair Senator Shirley B. Randleman
Republican – District 30
Stokes, Surry, Wilkes
(919) 733-5743

Senator Stan Bingham
Republican – District 33
Davidson, Montgomery
(919) 733-5665

Senator Andy Wells
Republican – District 42
Alexander, Catawba
(919) 733-5876

Senator John M. Alexander, Jr.
Republican – District 15
Wake
(919) 733-5850
(Alexander is president of Cardinal International Trucks, a truck sales company.)

Senator Chad Barefoot
Republican – District 18
Franklin, Wake
(919) 715-3036

Senator Bill Cook
Republican – District 1
Beaufort, Camden, Currituck, Dare, Gates, Hyde, Pasquotank, Perquimans
(919) 715-8293

Senator David L. Curtis
Republican – District 44
Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln
(919) 715-3038

Senator Joyce Krawiec
Republican – District 31
Forsyth, Yadkin
(919) 733-7850

Senator Jim Davis
Republican – District 50
Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon, Swain
(919) 733-5875

Senator Tom McInnis
Republican – District 25
Anson, Richmond, Rowan, Scotland, Stanly
(919) 733-5953

When you call these legislators, let them know that you are reaching out to oppose Senate Bill 205, which is in the Judiciary 2 committee. Urge them to not let big out of state trucking companies push the costs of injured drivers off on onto taxpayers.

Thanks for your prompt action on this important legislative issue.

Retailers, insurers funding campaign to gut workers’ comp benefits in NC, elsewhere

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Walmart, Lowe’s, Macy’s, Kohls and many of the nation’s largest retailers, insurers and corporations are bankrolling campaigns to change workers’ compensation laws and limit benefits nationwide. North Carolina is one of the next states they’re targeting.

According to a recent piece in Mother Jones, the corporations are funding the Association for Responsible Alternatives to Workers’ Compensation (ARAWC), a lobbying group. ARAWC wants to introduce so-called “reform” legislation that would allow companies to opt out of state-mandated workers’ comp programs through what’s called an “option.”

Rest assured, this option will limit injured workers’ benefits and their access to ongoing treatment for their injuries, while saving companies and their workers’ comp insurers millions.

“Employers that opt out would still be compelled to purchase workers’ comp plans,” according to the article. “But they would be allowed to write their own rules governing when, for how long, and for which reasons an injured employee can access medical benefits and wages.”

Only two states, Texas and Oklahoma, give employers the option of setting up their own workers’ comp plans, outside of the state system.  ARAWC has already helped write legislation to make an “option” the law in Tennessee, and the group’s executive director has said the goal is to change workers’ comp laws in every state.

These option plans do not provide the same protections and level of benefits for injured workers. 

Businesses can save millions of dollars by opting out and writing plans with narrow benefits, putting pressure on their competitors to do the same. “It creates a race to the bottom,” says Michael Clingman, a workers’ advocate in Oklahoma, which passed an opt-out measure in January 2014. The state’s oil and gas industry, along with major retailers, such as the craft store chain Hobby Lobby, pushed hard for the change—with help from a lobbyist, Steve Edwards, who now heads ARAWC’s legislative strategy. Dillard’s, a department store chain with 10 locations in Oklahoma, took advantage of the change by requiring workers to report injuries before the end of their shift to be eligible for workers’ comp. Walmart and Dillard’s declined to comment for this article.

We are expecting ARAWC to target North Carolina’s workers’ comp laws soon by introducing more “reform” legislation in the North Carolina General Assembly. ARAWC has already hired lobbyists in our state to push the “option” model with conservative legislators, according to Mother Jones. Since there’s a lot of money at stake, we expect a well-financed campaign to bring a workers’ comp “option” to North Carolina.

When that happens, you’ll probably hear the other side say that employer-run workers’ comp plans will mean less tape for injured workers, shorter wait times for benefits and better medical outcomes. 

But they’ll fail to tell you that you’ll likely be unable to see the doctor of your choice and that their plan won’t pay for things like artificial limbs, hearing aids, home care, funeral expenses, or disability modifications to a home or a car for injured workers. This type of plan is especially bad for workers who are severely hurt and with injuries that cause longterm health problems and complications.

The proposed Tennessee “option” legislation would allow employers to stop paying workers’ comp benefits after only three years, even if the injured worker needs continuing medical treatment and cannot return to work.

We’ll continue to monitor this situation in North Carolina and tell you what you can do to protect workers’ rights here.

 

2014 North Carolina Voter Guide

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Click HERE for a printable 2014 N.C. Voter Guide you can take to the polls on Nov. 4. The guide includes endorsements for all candidates who represent districts in the Piedmont Triad. 

To find out who represents you, click HERE.

For the last several years, workers’ rights have been under attack in North Carolina.

The insurance industry, big businesses and powerful lobbyists have used every underhanded tactic in the book to take away the legal protections workers and injured people in North Carolina have under the law.

They’ve passed bills in the N.C. General Assembly limiting workers’ compensation coverage, and they’ve tried to sneak other changes through by attaching provisions to other bills.

The governor and his political appointees have tried to dismantle the N.C. Industrial Commission, the group that decides workers’ compensation cases, and stack it with biased judges who favor business and insurance.

They’ve funded false attack ads against fair-minded judges in an attempt to replace them with candidates who answer to special interests.

We’ve been fighting a war over workers rights, and the battle isn’t over yet. But we have a great weapon to use in this fight – our vote.

The Nov. 4 general election is an important one in North Carolina. I want to encourage you to vote and to support candidates who will stand up for the rights of hardworking North Carolinians, people like U.S. Senator Kay Hagan and N.C. Supreme Court Justice Robin Hudson.

If the insurance lobby’s candidates win these races and others, I fear workers and injured people in North Carolina will lose even more of their rights. And taxpayers will pay the price.

During each election season, the N.C. Advocates for Justice examines the platforms of all candidates and endorses those who are committed to protecting those rights. We are publishing their endorsements on our website. We suggest you consider the candidates on this list as you go to the polls on Nov. 4.

Click HERE for a printable 2014 N.C. Voter Guide you can take to the polls on Nov. 4. The guide includes endorsements for all candidates who represent districts in the Piedmont Triad. 

To find out who represents you, click HERE.

If you live outside the Piedmont Triad, you can find the NCAJ’s endorsements for the N.C. Senate here and the endorsements for the N.C. House of Representatives here.

Fall 2014 Election Endorsements — N.C. Senate

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The N.C. Advocates for Justice endorses the following candidates for N.C. Senate in the upcoming Nov. 4 election in North Carolina. 

These candidates have the best records when it comes to supporting the rights of injured and disabled people.

The endorsements are listed by district. Just scroll to find the appropriate district.

For a full list of endorsements for the Nov. 4 elections in North Carolina, plus a printable voter guide you can take to the polls, click HERE.

N.C. Senate

Dist     Candidate

1          Stan White – D

2          Sen. Norm Sanderson – R

4          Sen. Angela Bryant – D

5          Sen. Don Davis – D

9          Elizabeth Redenbaugh – D

11       Sen. Buck Newton – R

13       Jane Smith – D

14       Sen. Dan Blue – D

16       Sen. Josh Stein – D

17       Sen. Tamara Barringer – R

18       Sarah Crawford – D

19       Billy Richardson – D

20       Sen. Floyd McKissick, Jr. – D

22       Sen. Mike Woodard – D

23       Sen. Valerie Foushee – D

25       Sen. Gene McLaurin – D

26       Sen. Phil Berger – R

28       Sen. Gladys Robinson – D

30       Sen. Shirley Randleman – R

32       Sen. Earline Parmon – D

33       Sen. Stan Bingham – R

36       Sen. Fletcher Hartsell – R

37       Sen. Jeff Jackson – D

38       Sen. Joel Ford – D

41       Sen. Jeff Tarte – R

42       Andy Wells – R

43       Sen. Kathy Harrington – R

46       Sen. Warren Daniel – R

49       Sen. Terry Van Duyn – D

Fall 2014 Election Endorsements – N.C. House of Representatives

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The N.C. Advocates for Justice endorses the following candidates for N.C. House of Representatives in the upcoming Nov. 4 election in North Carolina. 

These candidates have the best records when it comes to supporting the rights of injured and disabled people.

The endorsements are listed by district. Just scroll to find the appropriate district.

For a full list of endorsements for the Nov. 4 elections in North Carolina, plus a printable voter guide you can take to the polls, click HERE.

N.C. House of Representatives

Dist     Incumbent/Candidate

1          Bob Steinburg – R

2          B. Ray Jeffers – D

3          Whit Whitley – D

5          Howard Hunter, III – D

6          Paul Tine – D

7          Bobbie Richardson – D

10       John Bell – R

11       Duane Hall – D

12       George Graham – D

19       Ted Davis, Jr. – R

20       Rick Catlin – R

23       Shelly Willingham – D

24       Jean Farmer-Butterfield – D

26       Leo Daughtry – R

28       James Langdon – R

29       Larry Hall – D

30       Paul Luebke – D

31       Mickey Michaux – D

32       Nathan Baskerville – D

33       Rosa Gill – D

34       Grier Martin- D

35       Chris Malone – R

37       Paul Stam – R

38       Yvonne Holley – D

39       Darren Jackson – D

40       Marilyn Avila – R

42       Marvin Lucas – D

43       Elmer Floyd – D

44       Rick Glazier – D

46       Kenneth Waddell – D

47       Charles Graham – D

48       Garland Pierce – D

50       Graig Meyer – D

51       Brad Salmon – D

52       Jamie Boles – R

54       Robert Reives – D

56       Verla Insko – D

57       Pricey Harrison – D

58       Ralph Johnson – D

59       Jon Hardister – R

60       Cecil Brockman – D

61       John Faircloth – R

62       John Blust – R

63       Stephen M. Ross – R

66       Ken Goodman – D

70       Pat Hurley – R

71       Evelyn Terry – D

72       Ed Hanes – D

73       Lee Zachary – R

74       Debra Conrad – R

84       Rena Turner – R

86       Hugh Blackwell – R

87       Edgar Starnes – R

88       Rob Bryan – R

90       Sarah Stevens – R

91       Bryan Holloway – R

93       Jonathan Jordan – R

94       Jeffrey Elmore – R

96       Jay Adams – R

97       Jason Saine – R

99       Rodney Moore – D

100     Tricia Cotham – D

101     Beverly Earle – D

102     Becky Carney – D

104     Dan Bishop – R

106     Carla Cunningham – D

107     Kelly Alexander – D

110     Kelly Hastings – R

111     Tim Moore – R

113     Chris Whitmire – R

114     Susan Fisher – D

115     John Ager – D

116     Tim Moffitt – R

116     Brian Turner – D

117     Chuck McGrady – R

118     Dean Hicks – D

119     Joe Sam Queen – D

 

NC HB369 bad for taxpayers, hospitals and undocumented workers

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I wanted to follow up on last week’s blog post about the proposed N.C. House Bill 369, which would end workers’ compensation benefits and medical treatment for undocumented workers who are hurt on the job.

This is a bad bill all around for hardworking immigrants, North Carolina taxpayers, hospitals, companies and all North Carolina workers who deserve to be kept safe and protected while on the job. And when a person is hurt at work, they deserve the medical treatment necessary to heal and get back on their feet. And they shouldn’t have to suffer financially because they got hurt.

Already, immigrants are disproportionately employed in dangerous jobs and they are at a higher risk of getting hurt or killed on the job than people of other ethnicities. If passed, House Bill 369 would increase that risk.

Currently, North Carolina companies with three or more employees have a moral and legal responsibility to provide medical treatment and workers’ comp benefits to any worker who is injured on the job. Remove that responsibility, as HB 369 seeks to do, and there are will be no legal or financial penalties for companies that operate unsafe workplaces and knowingly hire undocumented workers.

If this bill becomes state law, I suspect many North Carolina companies with questionable ethics and morals will find it good business to hire undocumented workers because they’ll save money in workers’ comp payouts and safety measures.

Who will suffer if House Bill 369 passes? Surely not the insurance companies, who will continue to collect workers’ compensation premiums for undocumented workers since fees are based on a company’s total workforce. But they won’t be paying out any claims for any undocumented workers who are injured, so they’ll be pocketing  the premiums as pure profit.

True, it is illegal to hire undocumented workers in North Carolina — but many companies here knowingly do so. Yet, the N.C. legislature doesn’t seem concerned with punishing businesses that knowingly violate state law by hiring undocumented workers, probably because these same businesses contribute to their campaigns.

Instead our legislature is unjustly bent on punishing undocumented workers because they have no voice or influence in government. But those of us who do have influence in state government can do something about it. We can contact our state senators and representatives and tell them that the voters of North Carolina don’t support this legislation. And if they don’t listen to us now, we can vote them out of office in November.

The real victims of HB 369 will be good, hardworking immigrants, working hard and dangerous jobs that contribute to the American economy, and North Carolina taxpayers.

Rest assured, HB 369 will cost taxpayers millions. When undocumented workers are injured, their claims for medical treatment and workers’ comp benefits will be denied. Insurance companies will be off the hook.

But that won’t make the injured workers’ medical problems go away.

Under federal law, hospitals will still be required to accept these injured workers and to treat their workplace injuries. The public will bear much of this burden through higher insurance rates.

 As Carol Brooke, director of the Workers’ Rights Project at the N.C. Justice Center, notes in a News & Observer article about HB 369, current workers’ comp law protects businesses and their employees.

“It’s just good public policy,” Brooke said. “Workers’ comp is a bargain that’s intended to benefit employers and employees. When you mess with that bargain, you’re asking for trouble.”

The cost to N.C. hospitals (and taxpayers) of HB 369 could amount to millions ever year:

Hospitals are not seeing a large number of unpaid workers’ compensation claims, but if some workers lose their coverage that would have a big impact, said Cody Hand, a lobbyist for the N.C. Hospital Association. 

There are an estimated 325,000 immigrants living in North Carolina illegally, and this group represents 5.4 percent of the labor force, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.

 Hand said injured workers showing up in emergency rooms without coverage would add to the $1 million a year the state’s hospitals already provide in charity care.

Do the right thing by calling and emailing your state legislators TODAY and asking them to do the right thing by voting against HB 369. The bill is scheduled for a vote on Wednesday, July 9, so don’t delay in contacting your representatives and senators. Find out who represents you in the N.C. General Assembly here.