NC JUSTICE NEWS: Meet the Staff - Adam Linker + The 2014 Legislative Session Begins + Education Plan

May 13, 2014

MEET THE STAFF: Adam Linker, Policy Analyst, Health Access Coalition

In 1996, Jesse Helms and Harvey Gantt faced off against one another for the U.S. Senate in their second matchup of the 1990s. It was a heated campaign, and one for which Adam Linker—a Raleigh native—got a front row seat, as he campaigned door-to-door and got his first taste of activism. “I went all over the city and the state, and learned a lot about how people felt about politics,” Adam says with a laugh, remembering just how passionately North Carolinians approached that election, and many others.

Adam’s early penchant for activism only snowballed after that early election. He graduated from UNC Chapel Hill and went on to pursue a PhD in African-American studies at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He worked with labor organizers in San Francisco, where they successfully passed one of the first living wage ordinances in the country, and worked in Senegal, all the while expanding his advocacy work.

It was while Adam was working on his dissertation in Massachusetts that he honed in on the intersection between writing, politics, and advocacy—and subsequently stopped writing his dissertation. He worked with environmental grassroots organizers and on the campaigns of candidates for the NC Court of Appeals, before eventually deciding to put his writing to use while pursuing a Masters of journalism at UNC Chapel Hill.

After graduating from UNC, Adam worked at the Triangle Business Journal as a health care reporter. He wrote about hospital finances, politics and reform, all of which planted the early seedlings of his interest in health care policy. Despite his advocacy background, it wasn’t an issue he had focused on before.

Adam Searing, the former director of the Health Access Coalition, eventually recruited Adam to the NC Justice Center team. Adam had been aware of the Justice Center since his time growing up in Raleigh, and he soon became a policy analyst with HAC. The fight over the state health plan was an early focus of HAC's work, but soon a much larger, national health care battle would become the crux of the team's mission.

The passage of the Affordable Care Act was the biggest victory of Adam’s time at the Justice Center so far. The HAC team spent countless hours making sure legislators and North Carolinians alike were fully informed about the impact of the ACA, both here in North Carolina and across the U.S.

“The Affordable Care Act debate, and the ongoing work on it, was one of the most emotionally-draining periods of my life,” Adam says. “The bill would move, then Senator Kennedy died, then Scott Brown was elected…” The largest challenge for the Health Access Coalition moving forward is ensuring the continued implementation of the Affordable Care Act and expanding Medicaid in North Carolina.

“I’ve seen that with cuts to education, a lot of grassroots activism—writing letters, talking to legislators—have made the legislature very defensive on education,” Adam says. “We have to have a similar push on Medicaid. It was once theoretical but now we have the lived experience of people who aren’t getting coverage. People are falling into the Medicaid gap.”

Adam says he recently spoke with a woman, who, along with her husband, is one of the many North Carolinians stuck in that gap. Her husband was experiencing stomach pains for some time, but couldn’t afford to visit a doctor. He was recently diagnosed with Stage 4 prostate cancer.

“These are the consequences of these decisions,” Adam says. “I care a lot about education—there are terrible consequences of not educating people. Denying people health care is a life and death issue. We’re going to start seeing that playing out and hopefully we’ll also start seeing [legislators’] hearts change.”

You can help Adam and the rest of the Health Access Coalition continue their fight for Medicaid expansion by supporting the NC Justice Center. Make a donation today.

2014 LEGISLATURE SESSION: The budget debate is an opportunity for change

The 2014 legislature session starts tomorrow: Wednesday, May 14. Legislators can make this year's session a success by increasing investments in the classroom, public health, environmental, and the courts.

The state budget will be a major component of the short session. The budget debate offers an opportunity to change North Carolina’s direction and ensure a stronger recovery from the Great Recession by making critical investments in areas that support North Carolina families and communities. Yet such investment will require adequate revenue, meaning lawmakers must revisit the huge tax cuts they passed last year.

The lack of resources for public services threatens to erode their quality, efficiency and effectiveness. Yet North Carolina has a long history of investing in the areas that pave the way for an economy that in past decades has outpaced many other Southern states. Policymakers should return to these strategies, among others, in the upcoming legislative session:

  •  Provide high-quality education. Fund pre-K for at-risk children, increase teacher pay, restore funding for classroom resources, and support the UNC system by increasing funding for need-based financial aid and ending cuts that force increased tuition.
  • Protect public health by funding Medicaid without cuts to services, eliminating the waiting list for child care subsidies, and restoring funding to tobacco prevention programs.
  • Invest in infrastructure. Reinvest in public transit, restore funding to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, and encourage placement of healthy food stores in low- and middle-income communities.
  • Protect natural resources by funding water quality inspections, and providing funds for land and farmland conservation and wildlife protection.
  • Support workers and re-employment. Reinvest in workforce development and support community college efforts to align workforce training with economic development.
  • Ensure equal access to justice. Fund defense and civil legal services for low-income clients, restore state funding for drug treatment courts, and increase funding for establishment of local reentry councils.
  • Support economic security during tough times by investing in technology that delivers SNAP, Medicaid, and other critical programs to struggling families.

Tax cuts passed by the legislature last year will bring in less revenue each year than under the previous structure. The current year budget gap is $335 million due to the additional $445 million revenue shortfall announced last week and an estimated $140 million Medicaid shortfall. By next fiscal year, policymakers will face a budget gap again, one that will be significantly larger due to the cost of the tax plan.
North Carolina will struggle to make the investments needed to move the economy forward and support North Carolina families into the future unless policymakers make changes to ensure the tax system is adequate. The 2014 legislative session is an opportunity for lawmakers to correct the mistakes of the past and create a budget that helps build the foundations of opportunity and promotes a strong economy in communities throughout North Carolina.

MCCRORY'S EDUCATION PLAN: How will lawmakers pay for the new plan?

Last week Gov. Pat McCrory presented his plan to provide pay increases for all teachers and state employees, in addition to a number of education reforms that would play out beyond 2016. McCrory deemed his plan the "heart of teacher appreciation week."

Lindsay Wagner, NC Policy Watch's education reporter, covered the announcement last week: "McCrory proposed an across-the-board pay increase of two percent, on average, for all teachers in addition to a flat $1,000 pay raise for state employees for the 2014-15 budget cycle.

The Governor’s plan, the full details of which should be revealed next week when he submits his budget to the legislature, also includes boosting beginning teacher pay to $35,000 by 2015, increased funds for early childhood education and textbooks, and a variety of pay-for-performance incentives that would be implemented by 2018. The state’s teacher salary schedule would also be re-envisioned.

The question of how the Governor will propose to pay for the plan, which rings up to roughly $312 million for just one year, looms large at a time when the state faces a large deficit this year and a projected deficit next year thanks to a tax plan that fails to bring in sufficient revenue for what the state currently spends."

Stay tuned for how the new education plan plays out, particularly given the lingering question of how the Governor plans to pay for this plan. The preliminary estimates of what McCrory’s teacher pay plan will cost next year alone bring up a price tag of approximately $312 million, according to analysis by the North Carolina Justice Center’s Budget & Tax Center.

PROTESTS AT THE GA: Pots & Pans and the return of Moral Mondays

Are you ready to sound off against the agenda taking place in the NC General Assembly? Two upcoming events invite North Carolinians from across the state to make their voice heard during this crucial upcoming legislative session.

Pots & Pan Protest: Wednesday, May 14. Bring an empty pot and spoon (and a friend) out tomorrow, May 14th, and join the NC AFL-CIO’s cacerolazo, only the second-of-its-kind protest of our out-of-control state legislature in North Carolina. Let’s welcome state lawmakers back to Raleigh with a sound they can’t ignore. Sound off for workers’ rights, democracy, equality, public education, the environment, and Moral Monday.

The cacerolazo is a form of popular protest, especially in Latin America, which consists of a group of people creating noise by banging pots, pans, and other utensils to call for attention. In May 2012, the NC AFL-CIO held the first ever Pots & Spoons protest. Now is the time to bring the spirit of the cacerolazo back to our state. Since the 2012 election, our legislature and governor have raised barriers to voting; made cruel cuts to unemployment benefits; gutted public education; rejected Medicaid expansion for 500,000 people without health insurance; and raised taxes on 900,000 of the working poor only to cut them for the 23 wealthiest families in our state, among many other destructive decisions.

The event will be held tomorrow, Wednesday, May 14, at 10:00 a.m. at 16 W. Jones Street in Raleigh.

Moral Mondays: Monday, May 19

Moral Mondays return to Raleigh next Monday, May 19, in honor of the upcoming legislative session. Last year, there were 13 Moral Mondays at the Legislative Building in Raleigh, as well as 30 more across the state. The first event of 2014 will take place from 5:00-7:00 p.m. at the NC General Assembly, 16 W. Jones Street in Raleigh.

Rev. William Barber of the North Carolina NAACP will hold a press conference immediately before the Pots and Spoons event tomorrow to discuss further details.

MORAL MOVIES: Film series will bring documentaries to cities across NC

You’ve heard about Moral Mondays, but what about Moral Movies? The NC Justice Center is proud to be a collaborator, along with the NC NAACP and Working Films, on the Moral Movies film series, which is bringing award-winning documentaries to cities across North Carolina to jumpstart community dialogue and action on social, economic, and environmental issues.

Moral Movies will take place the last week of each month from April through July in Wilmington, Asheville, Charlotte, Raleigh, Greensboro, Greenville and Durham. The NC Justice Center will host all of the July screenings of the documentary Inequality for All throughout the state.

The next round of screenings will take place on May 29 across the state. The award-winning documentary American Winter presents an intimate and emotionally evocative snapshot of the state of the economy as it is playing out in many American families.

Moral Movies is a collaboration among national nonprofit Working Films (based in Wilmington), the NC NAACP, and allied organizations across the state. For the full four month schedule and more information about the series please see the Working Films blog.

Hosted by The Mountain People’s Assembly
American Winter: Thursday, May 29, 7pm
Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Asheville, 1 Edwin Place, Asheville, NC 28801

Hosted by the NC Association of Educators (NCAE)
American Winter: Thursday, May 29, 7pm
NCAE, 301 S McDowell ST. Suite 1200, Charlotte, NC 18204
Parking is available in the lot beside the building and your parking pass will be validated

Hosted by the Durham People’s Alliance
American Winter: Thursday, May 29, 7pm
Full Frame Theater in the center of the American Tobacco Campus, 320 Blackwell St. Durham, NC 27701

Hosted by The Beloved Community Center
American Winter: Thursday, May 29, 7pm
Weatherspoon Art Museum, 500 Tate St. Greensboro, NC 27412

Hosted by Pitt County NAACP
American Winter: Thursday, May 29, 7pm
Lucille W. Gorham Intergenerational Community Ctr. 1100 Ward St. Greenville, NC 27834

Hosted by Action NC
American Winter: Thursday, May 29, 7pm
 Kenan Hall at William Peace University, 15 E Peace St. Raleigh, NC

Hosted by The Black Arts Alliance and the New Hanover County NAACP
American Winter: Thursday, May 29, 7pm
Hannah Block Community Arts Center, 120 S 2nd St. Wilmington, NC 28401

HEALTH CARE FORUMS: Join us in Burnsville, Valdese on May 29

Join the Health Care Access Coalition for two special forums on May 29 in Burnsville and Valdese to address the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, and the health benefits exchanges.

As the Affordable Care Act is being implemented in our state, North Carolina lawmakers have blocked the Medicaid program from being expanded. This means that 500,000 working adults will remain uninsured in 2014. Join in the conversation with the NC Justice Center to discuss the benefits of the Affordable Care Act, how Medicaid expansion would help the community, the new health benefits exchanges (online marketplace for purchasing insurance), and eligibility for tax credits for individuals and small businesses.

The Burnsville luncheon will be held on Thursday, May 29, from 12:30-2:00 p.m. at the First Baptist Church, 11 North Main Street in Burnsville, NC. Join us! Call or email today to reserve your place: Church office: (828) 682-2288 or Nicole Dozier: / (919) 272-3593. Click here for a flyer.

The Valdese supper will also be held on Thursday, May 29, from 4:00-5:30 p.m. at the Olive Hill Community Economic Development Corporation, Inc., 309 Columbo St. SW, Ste. 110 in Valdese, NC. Call or email today to reserve your place: Olive Hill CEDC Office: (828) 522-4051 or Nicole Dozier: / (919) 272-3593. Click here for a flyer.

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