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Health exchange choice needed to get $74 million grant, says Perdue spokeswoman

Updated: Gov. Bev Perdue faced criticism this week from Senate leader Phil Berger for her choice of a state-federal health exchange, but her office said she had to pick a plan in order for the state to be eligible for millions in federal grants.

Berger, a Republican, said the outgoing Democratic governor should have left the choice to incoming Republican governor Pat McCrory. 

States have three options for internet insurance marketplaces required under the federal law. Perdue chose the middle course so McCrory and the Republican-led legislature can pick something else if they want.

Berger said he didn't object applying for money, as long as it wasn't going to be wasted.

Health insurance agents support Perdue exchange choice

State health insurance agents and brokers say they support Gov. Bev Perdue's decision to opt for a health exchange set up as a state-federal partnership.

The Affordable Care Act requires states have internet shopping centers where people without health insurance can search for plans.

“We support the Governor’s choice to give North Carolina citizens a voice in managing their own health insurance marketplace,” says Teri Gutierrez, president of the N.C. Association of Health Underwriters. “It is critical that we make decisions that best fit the needs of both individual consumers and employers in North Carolina. We also agree with the Governor’s intent to move North Carolina towards a full state-based exchange as quickly as possible.”

States have the choice of setting up their own exchange, having the federal government run it, or working with the feds.

Perdue said she chose the middle course so imcoming governor Pat McCrory can choose to have a state-run exchange or a federally-operated exchange.

Perdue vows fix for group home residents

Gov. Bev Perdue said she will work with the legislature to keep up to 2,000 people with mental disabilities from being turned out of their group homes this winter -- including the possibility of a special session.

On Jan. 1, changing Medicaid rules means that most group home residents will no longer qualify for government-paid personal care services. Medicaid reimbursements for personal care pay about one-third of group home costs.

Perdue said on Thursday that she was "distressed" over the prospect of mentally disabled people without places to live.

Hundreds rally for group homes

About 200 group home residents, operators and advocates for disabled people rallied outside the Legislative Building on Wednesday to push for money to keep the homes open next year.

On Jan. 1, hundreds of group homes are in danger of closing because a stream of federal money helps keep them running is slated to be cut off. The state says about 2,000 people with mental disabilities will no longer meet new standards for personal care services funded by Medicaid.

Before the speeches started Wednesday, the crowd chanted "Save our homes," and "Our life is in your hands."

State Ed Board members on borrowed time

State Board of Education Chairman Bill Harrison and members Jean Woolard of Plymouth and Tom Speed of Boone are working on terms that expired March 31, 2011.

Gov. Bev Perdue asked the Senate back in May 2011 confirm reappointments for Harrison and Woolard and to appoint William Woltz to take over for Speed.

Senate Leader Phil Berger said Monday that the legislature will not act to confirm those appointments.

"Gov. Perdue is a lame duck," Berger said. "We would prefer to have whoever the new governor is fill in long-term appointments on various state boards and commissions. We may make some limited exceptions to that, but that would be the general rule."

The state Utilities Commission will be short-handed when it considers the Duke/Progress Energy merger. The legislature is sitting on a Perdue recommendation to appoint Linda Cheatham to fill a vacancy.

Perdue video criticizes marriage amendment

Gov. Bev Perdue has recorded a video criticizing the proposed constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage and civil unions.

Perdue will also touch on the issue during a speech tomorrow in Charlotte. Perdue has not said much about the proposed amendment since legislators voted to put it on the ballot. This seems to indicate a willingness to be more vocal in her opposition.

And there they go: Perdue staffers begin departure

With Gov. Bev Perdue's term winding down, her staff is beginning to depart. 

Ben Niolet, who went to work for Perdue as her new media director in 2010, is leaving in a couple of weeks. He's got a job as marketing director for Contactology, an email marketing company based in Durham. 

Niolet is a former News & Observer political reporter and Domemeister. 

Update: Perdue communications director Jon Romano says this:

"Ben has been an invaluable member of the Governor's team and a trusted friend. His hard work, terrific sense of humor and innovative ideas to advance the Governor's commitment to education will be missed."

Perdue denounces budget ad

Gov. Bev Perdue denounced a television ad being run by Americans for Prosperity about education spending, saying it "muddies the water."

"I'm asking them to pull this ad down, to stop trying to distort the truth," Perdue said this morning.

Dallas Woodhouse, Americans for Prosperity state director, said the ad is "100 percent accurate and truthful," and of course, they're going to keep running it.  "We're going to continue to tell the truth about what this budget did," he said.

State personnel director resigns to campaign

Linda Coleman is leaving her her job as director of the Office of State Personnel at the end of the month to spend more time on her campaign for lieutenant governor. 

Coleman said she will be in and out of the office for the next few weeks, tying up loose ends. She'll use some of her accumulated leave when she's out working on the campaign. 

She faces Sen. Eric Mansfield of Fayetteville in the Democratic primary. 

Coleman said she talked to Gov. Bev Perdue a few weeks ago, and was told she could stay in the job as long as she kept her work and the campaign separate. 

Perdue appointed Coleman, a former state House member from Knightdale, to the job in 2009.

Coleman said she decided there wasn't enough time to do her job well and campaign the way she wants to. 

"I really am committed to the campaign for lieutenant governor," she said, and decided "i need to give it all that I had."

UPDATE: Meanwhile, Coleman today picked up the endorsement of the State Employees Association of N.C.
The association’s political action committee held a candidate forum last week. All seven candidates for the job were invited but only Coleman and state Rep. Dale Folwell showed up.
SEANC, Service Employees International Union Local 2008, has 55,000 members.


UPDATE2: A statement from Perdue spokesman Mark Johnson. 

“Gov. Perdue is grateful to Linda Coleman for her frank and thoughtful advice and for her years of devoted service to the state and state employees. The Governor will begin the process of identifying a new director.”

New dust-up between GA and the gov

There’s a new standoff between the governor and the Republican leadership in the General Assembly.

Gov. Bev Perdue wants the General Assembly to contribute $10 million of the $13 million it had left over in its budget at the end of the fiscal year to help defray cuts to education.

Perdue doesn’t have the legal authority to take the General Assembly’s money, and it’s not likely that a handful of the body’s leaders can just decide to do that on their own, as the governor seems to think they can.

Unlike state agencies, the General Assembly gets to keep its unspent money. In at least one recent year, the General Assembly did chip some of its reserve money into a common pot.

Chrissy Pearson, the governor’s spokeswoman, says there’s about $120 million in unspent money from various state agencies this year. Perdue wants to send about $100 million of that to universities, community colleges and K-12.

Normally, there is a lot more left over, which state agencies can apply to retrieve. But Perdue contends the more than half a billion dollars in savings the General Assembly ordered earlier this year has cut into that money.

Whether the governor is frugally scraping together every spare cent, or if she's just trying to make the General Assembly look bad depends on who you talk to.

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