Freshman Tine jumps right into the legislative fray

By on February 22, 2013

tineRep. Paul Tine had an eventful introduction into the North Carolina General Assembly’s lower legislative chamber.

Tine, a Democrat from Dare County, represents the 6th District , which also includes Beaufort, Hyde and Washington County.

Through a summary of his first month provided by his office and a subsequent phone conversation, Tine provided some insight into his legislative debut.

According to his statement, the first instance Tine ever heard a “floor amendment” offered turned out to be one he was giving.

“I jumped in faster than I expected to,” Rep. Tine said. “The first time I heard an amendment offered on the floor, I was giving it. But there was some middle room on these two bills that neither side was looking at that needed a voice in the debate.”

The bill he was attempting to amend, House Bill 4, dealt with changes to the way North Carolina’s unemployment insurance will assess employers and pay recipients in the face of a $2 billion debt owed to the Federal government for extended benefits paid out by the state since the 2007 recession.

Tine’s amendment was not the only one offered by Democrats to H.R. 4, which was drafted by the Republican majority, but it was cited by Raleigh media and opponents of the GOP bill as the most balanced of all amendments offered.

Tine’s amendment went down to defeat along party lines, but it didn’t take long for Tine to get back in fray again when Senate Bill 4 worked its way to the state House of Representatives.

S.B. 4 was a Republican drafted bill, “No NC Exchange/No Medicaid Expansion.” It represented the Republican majority’s desire to reverse decisions by former Democratic Gov. Bev Purdue and the Democrat-controlled legislature to have North Carolina operate its own “insurance exchanges” under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The act, widely referred to as “Obamacare,” gave states a chance to run their own exchanges or allow the federal government to run an exchange for them. It also allows the state to expand Medicaid coverage to up to 500,000 additional North Carolinians.

The new GOP plan leaves the running of this state’s exchange to the federal government and opts out of expanding the state Medicaid rolls.

According to Tine’s summary, “The Affordable Care Act and the Fiscal Cliff legislation changed the way hospitals are reimbursed for treating individuals without insurance, or the means to pay for their treatment, resulting in a $7.8 billion reduction in payments to hospitals in North Carolina over the next 10 years. The expectation was that the loss would be made up with more individuals covered and less write offs with the expansion of Medicaid.”

Tine’s concerned about the impact of these cutbacks and others imposed by “Fiscal Cliff” legislation on North Carolina’s rural hospitals, where Medicaid reimbursement represent a significant source of revenue due to a higher proportion of Medicaid patients.

Tine’s statement said his proposed amendment to S.B. 4 “expressed the state’s desire to make up for the losses and established an eight-person commission of House and Senate members to determine how to accomplish this repayment. A report would be due during the short session on how to move forward.”

The statement went on to say, “I am not a big government person, either, but sometimes the Federal Government puts us in a box that has real consequences.

“Our rural hospitals are operating on a razor-thin margin and cannot afford to lose this revenue. If someone comes to the hospital, they have to be treated. The hospitals in this region cannot afford to absorb these losses on their own.”

This amendment, like Tine’s first, was defeated along party lines, but Tine remains optimistic about his chances to reach across the aisle.

““I’m going to keep working. I have had positive responses from rural legislators on the other side and I’m going to keep working with them to try and to get the very best I can out of the policies being brought forward.”

Time will tell whether such bi-partisan cooperation will be forthcoming, but Dare’s new representative certainly wasted no time in getting into the thick of things in Raleigh.

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