RALEIGH – October’s Council of State activities saw an audit dispute between two agencies, a trip out of the country, a proclamation supporting Israel, a lawsuit against a social media giant, and a campaign kickoff.
The North Carolina Council of State (COS) is an administrative body of 10 elected officials who are heads of their departments. Council members include the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, commissioner of agriculture, commissioner of insurance, commissioner of labor, secretary of state, state auditor, state treasurer, and superintendent of public instruction. The governor typically leads COS meetings.
Gov. Roy Cooper directed $1.4 million to bolster K-12 school breakfast funds. The money will come from federal Emergency Assistance for Non-Public Schools (EANS) funds that have reverted to the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) fund.
The governor also traveled to Japan on economic development business and attended the Southeast U.S./Japan Association meeting in Tokyo from Oct. 11 to Oct. 15. While Cooper was out of the state, Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson was the acting governor and held a signing of a proclamation “in solemn commemoration of the lives lost in the recent and ongoing terrorist attacks against Israel.”
Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler’s office oversaw another successful N.C. State Fair with attendance reaching closer to the 1 million mark following the pandemic closure in 2020 with an overall attendance of 926,425.
“I am grateful for our fairgoers, vendors and businesses that support the fair,” Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said in a statement. “It is a celebration of the best of North Carolina and feels like an annual reunion that brings together everything that makes North Carolina a great place to live. It is also a celebration of our state’s $103.2 billion agriculture industry, from the daily farm families highlighted, the mock tobacco auction, livestock competitions and horse shows to the horticultural displays, Got to Be N.C. Agriculture Pavilion and soil and forestry exhibits.”
Troxler’s agency also announced $6.3 million had been awarded to the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service for conservation easements on farms in the Upper Neuse River Basin. In the same vein, Troxler also gave notice that applications for farmland preservation grants were open as of Oct. 9 and will run through Dec. 18.
The Office of the State Auditor under Beth Wood issued its annual report on employee association membership numbers. This year’s audit showed that some of the largest associations in the state had lost members over the previous year’s audit. SEANC lost 1,012 members (2.3%) and the NCAE’s membership dropped by 1,210 members (4.8%).
The N.C. Department of Public Instruction, led by State Superintendent Catherine Truitt, also refuted an audit on student truancy issued by Wood’s office. Truitt’s agency issued a lengthy rebuttal, calling the audit error-filled, useless to legislators, and “egregious.”
Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey honored 15 Orange County fire service personnel with the Order of the Guardian Award during a special work session in Hillsborough on Oct. 10. Causey’s office also announced a Wake County man was arrested and charged with insurance fraud and attempting to obtain property by false pretenses.
Labor Commissioner Josh Dobson announced the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Advisory Council will be meeting on Nov. 1 at 10 a.m. It will be an in-person event to be held at Randolph Community College’s Martha Luck Comer Foundation Conference Center.
Attorney General Josh Stein joined 15 other state attorneys general in an amicus brief supporting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CPFB) request to the U.S. Supreme Court to protect the agency’s funding by affirming a decision by the Fifth Circuit in the case of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau v. Community Financial Services Association of America.
Additionally, Stein announced a $1.4 million multistate settlement with Inmediata, a healthcare data clearinghouse, for “exposing the protected health information (PHI) of approximately 1.5 million consumers over almost three years,” as well as joining a multi-state lawsuit against Meta involving negative impacts to the mental health of children.
The attorney general also officially kicked off his gubernatorial campaign at Shaw University in Raleigh. The event was attended by around 100 people and featured an endorsement speech by Gov. Cooper.
At the most recent meeting of the Local Government Commission, chaired by State Treasurer Dale Folwell, approved some $1.9 billion in financing requests and gave New Hanover County’s Project Grace the green light to move forward by approving the requested $57 million for the project.
In August, Folwell’s office issued a report detailing state hospitals had sued over 5,517 patients between January 2017 and June 2022 resulting in over $57.3 million in judgments won. In October, Atrium Health Care updated its website to state was no longer suing patients over medical debt as of November 2022. Folwell reacted to the news by saying Atrium’s response is “unbelievable when you look at the fact it took them almost a year to even post the policy on their website.”
There were no notable updates from the Secretary of State’s office for October.