- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:

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Feb. 7

News & Record of Greensboro on a bill to protect wild horses on the state’s coast:

Although they are a good 300 miles away, the wild horses on the Outer Banks, for many North Carolinians, are natural treasures that belong to us all. Unfortunately, these horses are facing severe threats from disease and encroaching development.



U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina wants to help. Tillis has introduced legislation that would provide responsible management of the wild horse population. The time is right.

“A cherished part of our state’s history and an admired attraction, thousands of tourists visit North Carolina’s beaches each year to witness the majestic nature of the Corolla horses,” Tillis said in a news release. “This legislation will take the necessary and proper steps in protecting the health and safety of the wild animals and their habitat, while encouraging continued tourism and economic investment for our local coastal communities.”

Tillis‘ bill would require the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the state of North Carolina, Currituck County and the Corolla Wild Horse Fund to work together to craft a new management plan to care for the wild horses.

The horses, descended from Colonial Spanish Mustangs, have lived charmed lives along the Outer Banks, roaming freely with little interference. But their numbers have dwindled from 5,000 or 6,000 in 1926 to about 100 now. And though they used to roam widely, they’ve been squeezed steadily northward to smaller terrain by coastal development.

Earlier this month, a funguslike disease known as “swamp cancer,” exacerbated by warmer winters, claimed the lives of seven wild ponies on a Virginia island. The Corolla horses are being monitored for signs of a similar outbreak.

They also face threats from overzealous tourists who try to feed them foods that can actually be deadly for them. A local law requires people to stay 50 feet away from the horses, but not everyone pays attention.

The nonprofit Corolla Wild Horse Fund tries to protect the horses while maintaining a healthy distance, but its resources are limited. Tillis‘ bill would help and is supported by the Humane Society and American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Online: https://www.greensboro.com/

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Feb. 12

StarNews of Wilmington on expanding Medicaid:

All of a sudden, Medicaid expansion is a big topic in Raleigh. Senate Democrats are pushing a bill, and New Hanover County’s Sen. Harper Peterson thinks it’s a good idea. We do too. Even Republicans in the legislature are getting in on the act. (More on that in a minute.)

Ignoring the fact that several hundred thousand of our fellow Tar Heels do not have health insurance does not make the problem go away. And don’t think that just because you have insurance you are not negatively affected, especially if you live in a rural area.

Medicaid (not to be confused with Medicare) is a federal program, but is managed at the state level. In North Carolina, it’s run by the state Department of Health and Human Services. Medicaid provides benefits for poor children and for a narrow cadre of aged poor, the disabled, and pregnant women. It costs $14.8 billion or so a year, with Uncle Sam covering two-thirds of the costs.

This is nice, but it leaves a whole lot of folks - most of whom have jobs - too poor to afford health care, too rich for Medicaid, and not covered by their employers. It’s estimated to be more than 300,000 adults.

Why should this worry us? Well, basic humanity aside, a lot of these people have chronic health conditions that aren’t getting treated. Cancers aren’t detected, high blood pressure turns into strokes, diabetes turns into amputations.

A lot of these folks wind up in emergency rooms for needed expensive care they can’t afford. (Federal law requires those emergency departments to treat them). The cost of that care then gets passed on to other patients - one reason why medical bills are so high. Emergency departments become the defacto health care option for ear aches and sore throats, often leaving them overcrowded and plagued by long waits.

The Affordable Care Act (yes, the dreaded Obamacare) offered states an option: If a state would extend Medicaid coverage to folks earning less than 138 percent of the federal poverty line, Uncle Sam would cover all the costs initially, then pick up 90 percent of the tab.

(For the math challenged - ourselves included - 138 percent of the poverty line amounts to a little more than $17,000 for one person, and $29,435 for a family of three.

It seems like a sucker’s deal. One way, Uncle Sam pays for two-thirds of Medicaid. The other way, he pays for 90 percent. What could be simpler?

Well, a lot of Republican-run states, including North Carolina, didn’t like the idea - or anything else associated with Obamacare. They refused to expand, so we pay the tax dollars for it but receive none of the benefits.

Some red states held their noses and took the plunge, sometimes by adopting elaborate plans without using the term “Medicaid.” (Indiana did something like this while Vice President Mike Pence was still governor.)

So now, the Democrats are pushing expansion, but they’re the minority in both houses of the legislature.

Enter a small group of Republicans with a plan called Carolina Cares. It would expand Medicaid but with some conditions: The new additions to the Medicaid rolls would have to pay a monthly premium. They’d also have to either a. hold a job, b. be looking for work, or c. be in a job-training program.

That’s not ideal. When you’re not far above the poverty level and living paycheck to paycheck, a lot of folks are likely (yes, unwisely) to skip the premium. Then they get sick, and we pay for it. Also, even today, finding a job in parts of this state is harder than it might seem. Most areas of North Carolina are not enjoying the same low unemployment levels and economic prosperity found in Wilmington and other urban centers.

Still, Carolina Cares is a step in the right direction, and is an acknowledgment by at least some Republican legislators that the status quo is untenable. (Among the side effects of that status quo are the closure of rural hospitals and lack of other vital health services and practitioners).

Online: https://www.starnewsonline.com/

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Feb. 11

The Charlotte Observer on the death of U.S. Rep. Walter Jones:

On Sunday, journalists’ inboxes overflowed with politicians’ statements of admiration for the late U.S. Rep. Walter Jones and his consistent independence from party.

On Monday, this headline topped Google News: “Another government shutdown looms” - as both parties dig in their heels on immigration.

The accolades for the Republican Jones, who died Sunday at age 76, centered around his dedication to principles and country over party. Jones, said senator and fellow North Carolinian Thom Tillis, will be remembered “for always following his convictions, no matter the political cost . and it was no wonder why he was so widely admired and trusted.”

Really? It seems Jones was more admired and trusted in death than in life - at least by Republican leaders in Washington. Jones, who represented eastern North Carolina in Congress for nearly a quarter century, won few friends with his courageous stands. In fact, he was rewarded by being stripped of committee memberships, was never named a committee chairman and was banished to the Republicans’ back bench.

That’s the price to be paid these days by a politician, from either side, who does not come to attention and salute the party line. Independence should be a trait that is celebrated, not punished, but Jones knew that’s not the case in 21st century America.

Jones’s colleagues could better honor him not by heaping praise on him but by emulating him. Where has their respect for his nonaligned nature been up to now?

We saw a similar phenomenon when former President George H.W. Bush died in November. Washington took a couple days off from its viciousness to applaud his integrity before launching the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.

Jones was driven by his principles. He voted with Donald Trump only about 50 percent of the time. He spent much of the past 15 years trying to atone for his vote to send troops to Iraq. He voted against Trump’s tax cuts, recognizing the fuel they would provide for a rising deficit and debt. He voted against repealing the Affordable Care Act. He wanted to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, which unleashed rivers of corporate money into political campaigns.

He called on Trump to release his tax returns and he supported an independent investigation into whether Russia influenced the 2016 election. But he was no Democrat, either; he held deeply conservative views on social issues, budgeting and other areas.

It all adds up to a model for other lawmakers, and perhaps for a post-Trump Republican party.

We need more Walter Joneses in Congress. Such a body would see less gridlock.

Shortly before Jones died, Rob Christensen, a former political columnist for the (Raleigh) News & Observer, wrote: “The knock on Jones, of course, is that politics is a team sport, and legislative bodies could not function if every individual went off in their own direction. A Congress full of Walter Joneses would be chaos.”

Compared to what we have now, we’d take our chances.

Online: https://www.charlotteobserver.com/

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