July 2017

We may be fast approaching the dog days of summer, but policymakers at neither the state nor the federal level seem inclined to take much of a summer break.

The NC General Assembly adjourned on June 30, but announced they would be back on August 3 and September 6 (and possibly yet again before November 15) to finish business for the year. And US Congressional leaders have announced that at least two weeks of the planned August recess will be spent working as members stay in Washington to hammer out health care reform.

We hope you are reading this from a beach, a boat, or a mountaintop, but wherever you are, we have your summer reading!

The Rural Counts July newsletter gives you a roundup of the 2017 NCGA Session (so far) and what to expect when members reconvene next month. And we have a full debrief of all that is happening in Washington, D.C. that matters to rural North Carolina...much of which has been escaping the attention of flashy headlines.

Be on the lookout for more updates, knowing that you can count on the Rural Center to have our eyes on the ball while you have your eyes on the crashing waves.

 John Coggin
 Director of Advocacy

NCGA session made small positive steps, but with no guiding vision for rural NC

The Long Session of the 2017-18 NC General Assembly has adjourned...sort of.

On June 30, the NCGA adjourned, with an announcement that they would return at least twice more to Raleigh before a November 15 deadline for redrawing challenged legislative districts. During those convenings, any number of unresolved bills could be considered, but in the meantime, we have put together a comprehensive update of what has happened so far this session and what it means for rural North Carolina.

Major takeaway? Both the budget and some major bills passed this year make positive incremental steps. Rural communities will likely have more funding for transportation construction needs, community health centers, and access to healthy foods. However, the General Assembly has missed multiple opportunities to articulate and implement a strong, strategic vision for rural economic development.

Proposals were on the table this session for major steps forward in broadband access, closing the health insurance coverage gap, and education innovation. None of these proposals were implemented, and some never even heard debate in a committee.

The General Assembly only gets a chance once every two years to pass a budget and major legislation that will make a transformative difference in the lives of our citizens. While we are pleased that small steps were taken this session, the people of North Carolina deserve large steps and a grand vision for the future of this state. 

We thank those legislators from both parties that put forward innovative proposals this year, and we look forward to working with them in the future to further develop and advance scalable strategies for broadband, health care, education, and business development that will help all of our people and communities thrive.

Read our full roundup for a deeper analysis of what has been accomplished this session and what might (and should) happen when the General Assembly reconvenes.

Updates on health care, and everything else you're not hearing about

Much of the public attention on Congress has been around efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. And that attention is well deserved. Our health care system is in need of substantial reform, and it is vital that our legislators pass a bill that improves health care access and delivery to our rural communities.

At the same time, much else is happening in DC that is not getting nearly as much coverage. For example, did you know about:
  • House passage of an important new bill to strengthen career and technical education
  • Efforts to formally recognize the Lumbee tribe
  • Changes to structure and leadership of the USDA Rural Development office
  • Reversal of dozens of Obama-era regulations on environment, labor, and education
  • Progress toward approval of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline extending from West Virginia to North Carolina
Read details about all these and more - and, of course, the latest on health care reform - in our Dispatches from DC report for July.

Next up: Southwestern NC

Now that the Rural Counts strategies are finalized and the program has been launched, the Rural Center has embarked on an 80-county tour of all the rural counties in North Carolina to listen to citizens and leaders discuss local perspectives on statewide issues.

Rural Center President Patrick Woodie and Advocacy Director John Coggin have visited 26 counties so far, hearing about local success stories in education, transportation, health care, and more. They have also gotten feedback about areas where rural communities most need to band together to amplify each other's voices on the rural economic development issues most important to us all.

Our next stops will be in the southwestern part of the state. Interested in participating? Sign up now by clicking the registration links below.

Southwestern Community College, Franklin
Tuesday, July 25
9:00 a.m.

Hayesville Courthouse, Hayesville
Tuesday, July 25
2:30 p.m.

Tri-County Community College, Marble
Wednesday, July 26
9:00 a.m.

Swain County Technology & Training Center, Bryson City
Wednesday, July 26
12:30 p.m.
Waiting for a meeting in your county? Contact  John Coggin to schedule a community forum in your town.

United Way shows what it takes to survive in NC

The United Way of North Carolina recently published
The Self-Sufficiency Standard for North Carolina 2017 in an effort to ensure the best data and analyses are available to enable North Carolina's families and individuals to make progress toward real economic security. 

The result is a comprehensive, credible, and user-friendly tool. The report calculates how much income a family must earn to meet basic needs, with the amount varying by family composition and where they live. This report is a valuable tool for all of North Carolina that can be used by clients of workforce and training programs seeking paths to self-sufficiency, by program managers to evaluate program effectiveness, and by policymakers and legislators seeking to create programs and pathways that lead to self-sufficiency for working families.
Department traveling across state to hear public input on Strategic Plan

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is developing a Strategic Plan for the community and facility-based service system.

While DHHS is accepting public input on any area relevant to this effort, they are particularly interested in feedback on:
  • Access to providers and services
  • Affordability of providers and services
  • Special populations & conditions (veterans, traumatic brain injuries, autism, etc.)
  • Navigating the system
  • Improving quality of care
  • Integration of physical and behavioral health
Your comments are vital in understanding what services and programs are working well and what recommendations should be considered. The Strategic Plan will be presented to the NC General Assembly in January 2018.

See this DHHS flyer for more details on attending a meeting in your area or submitting your written feedback.

Director of Advocacy
The Rural Center