- June's meeting comes as the state legislature develops the state budget, and candidates launch campaigns for 2024 elections.
On Tuesday, Governor Roy Cooper and other members of the North Carolina Council of State met for their monthly meeting to discuss a wide range of issues, including a controversial bill allowing for Blue Cross Blue Shield NC’s organizational restructuring.
Hosted by N.C. Agricultural Commissioner Steve Troxler at the recently built Agricultural Sciences Center in Raleigh, Council members State Treasurer Dale Folwell and Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey, both Republicans, voiced their concerns on House Bill 346, which allows Blue Cross Blue Shield NC to restructure and create a non-profit holding company.
The bill recently passed both chambers of the General Assembly with bipartisan support and has been sitting on Cooper’s desk since June 1, awaiting action. Cooper has ten days to sign or veto it, or it becomes law without his signature.
Both Folwell and Causey, who have vocally opposed the bill over concerns that it will cause consumers to pay higher premiums, used the meeting to appeal directly to Cooper to consider amendments proposed by Causey which were not added by the legislature.
“Commissioner Causey…has put forth amendments that I hope, even as [the bill] sits on your desk, that you will consider, amendments that…will protect consumers in North Carolina,” said Folwell directly to Cooper.
Causey suggested that lobbying from Blue Cross NC heavily influenced H.B. 346’s passage in the General Assembly.
“In my opinion, it did not have a fair hearing in both chambers because of the pressure Blue Cross put on it politically to get it pushed through…I’m not sure that the legislators heard from all the folks that I heard from across the state,” said Causey.
Following the Council of State meeting, Folwell held his monthly “Ask Me Anything” call where reporters asked if he’d heard back from lawmakers on the amendments to the Blue Cross NC bill.
“I’ve not heard back on that bill that is now on the governor’s desk,” said Folwell.
Additional updates at meeting
Other Council members attended the meeting in person: Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, State Auditor Beth Wood, Department of Public Instruction Superintendent Catherine Truitt, and Labor Commissioner Josh Dobson. The meeting took place as the General Assembly negotiated details of the state budget, which will affect initiatives undertaken by Council members and their departments in the upcoming fiscal year.
Attorney General Josh Stein, currently running for the 2024 Democratic nomination for governor, attended the meeting virtually.
Two participants in the meeting, Robinson and Folwell, are currently running for the Republican nomination in the upcoming gubernatorial election. Despite their rival candidacies, the meeting was strictly state business.
Folwell provided the only discordance to the meeting by opposing the approval of property acquisitions by the state over transparency concerns.
“I have for years had concerns about the relationship and the lack of transparency between some of the foundations and public universities and how they ultimately end up in our report,” said Folwell.
Secretary Marshall used her remarks to tee up an upcoming visit to the state by the U.S. Ambassador to Moldova Kent Logsdon and his Moldovan counterpart Viorel Ursu as part of the N.C.-Moldovan Bi-Lateral Partnership. Marshall’s support for Moldova indicates continued Executive Branch support for the former Soviet state in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Moldova shares a border with Ukraine and has accepted Ukrainian refugees fleeing from the war.
Insurance Commissioner Causey highlighted the State Property Fire Insurance Fund, which paid over $23 million for damages caused to state property. Major fires named in the meeting agenda include over $4 million in damage caused by a laundry fire at Sampson Correctional Institute in March 2022. Also, a mini-fridge fire at UNC’s McColl Building in August 2021 caused over $300,000 in damage.
Education Superintendent Catherine Truitt did not deliver a report during the meeting.
Robinson led the meeting in honoring the 79th anniversary of the Normandy landings, with Cooper similarly ending the session by praising servicemen and women both past and present.
Following the meeting’s conclusion, members took a group photograph with political rivals, Cooper and Robinson, standing side by side.
The next N.C. Council of State meeting is scheduled for July 11, 2023. All council positions will be up for statewide election in 2024.