#NCGA #TBT Key player in Jim Black Scandal lives again

jimblack(Ah, the *good* old days.)  It seems like just yesterday that eye doctor from Matthews and that portly fellow from Moore County were roaming the House chamber wreaking havoc , shaking down lobbyists and scaring children. For those of you who have not been following North Carolina politics as long as we have, here is a good recap of the final days of that era: 

In February 2007, James Boyce Black, a/k/a Jim Black, pleaded guilty to one felony count of corruptly accepting things of value concerning programs receiving federal funds [1]. The offense involved taking about $25,000 in cash, plus a $4,000 check, in payments from three chiropractors in exchange for backing legislation favorable to their profession [2]. The payments were made between 2000 and 2005 when Black was Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives.

Okay.  So what was the legislation the chiropractors were wanting so badly?  Check this out, from 2005 (specifically page 39, section 6.29):

HEALTH BENEFIT PLAN CO-PAYMENTS SECTION 6.29.

G.S. 58-50-30(a3) reads as rewritten: “(a3) Whenever any health benefit plan, subscriber contract, or policy of insurance issued by a health maintenance organization, hospital or medical service corporation, or insurer governed by Articles 1 through 67 of this Chapter provides coverage for medically necessary treatment, the insurer shall not impose any limitation on treatment or levels of coverage if performed by a duly licensed chiropractor acting within the scope of the chiropractor’s practice as defined in G.S. 90-151 unless a comparable limitation is imposed on the medically necessary treatment if performed or authorized by any other duly licensed physician. An insurer shall not impose as a limitation on treatment or level of coverage a co-payment amount charged to the insured for chiropractic services that is higher than the co-payment amount charged to the insured for the services of a duly licensed primary care physician for the same medically necessary treatment or condition.”

Got it?  The key part — the revision to the law being sought — is underlined above. Now, let’s continue with the history lesson:

The details of the case are described in the Government’s sentencing memorandum:

Black served as a member of the North Carolina House of Representatives from January 1985 to February 2007. Black was elected as Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives for four terms from 1999 to 2006. As Speaker of the House, the defendant wielded enormous influence over legislation and other state business, such as the budget of the State of North Carolina. Due in large part to the power held by the Speaker of the House, Speaker Black received millions of dollars of campaign contributions from individuals and political action committees during his tenure as Speaker. Included among these contributors were chiropractors, optometrists, video poker operators, members of the payday lending industry, and lobbyists.

Sometime between 2000 and February of 2002, Speaker Black approached two chiropractors and informed them that cash payments would be more helpful than campaign contributions in gaining support from other members of the North Carolina House of Representatives. The two chiropractors agreed to provide Speaker scandalBlack with cash payments and ultimately recruited a third chiropractor to provide cash payments to Speaker Black. As noted below, the defendant received $25,000 in cash payments and an improper check for $4,000 from the following three chiropractors: (i) Dr. Thomas Brown; (ii) Dr. Fletcher Keith; and (iii) Dr. Steven Willen. . . .

During the time period that the defendant received payments from the three chiropractors, a number of pieces of legislation pertaining to the chiropractic industry were considered by the North Carolina legislature, including legislation prohibiting health insurers from requiring patients to pay higher co-payments for visits to chiropractors than for visits to physicians.

During the 2005 legislative session, Speaker Black caused legislation to be drafted to accomplish this goal, and helped helped get it inserted into the House version of the Budget Bill (Senate Bill 622). The provision was ultimately passed into law. See North Carolina Session Laws, 2005-276, § 6.29, amending N.C. Gen. Stat. § 58-50- 30(a3).

After the results of the general election of November, 2002, left the North Carolina House of Representatives with 61 Republican members and 59 Democratic members, it was unclear whether Speaker Black would be re-elected as Speaker. Consequently, Speaker Black met in the restroom of an IHOP Restaurant with Michael P. Decker Sr., a long time Republican member of the House of Representatives, and reached an agreement under which the defendant agreed to give Decker $50,000 and one staff position in return for his promise to switch from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party and support the defendant for Speaker of the House.

On February 20, 2007, the defendant entered an Alford guilty plea to a two-count bill of information charging him with offering a bribe and obstrulegisction of justice relating to his agreement with Decker.

Pursuant to his agreement with Speaker Black, on January 23, 2003, just prior to the start of the legislative session, Decker switched his party affiliation. As a result of his party switch, the North Carolina House of Representatives was evenly split between 60 Republicans and 60 Democrats. This split allowed Speaker Black, after an 8-day stalemate, to negotiate a party sharing arrangement under which he was named co-speaker. Speaker Black then gave about $38,000 in campaign checks from his traditional supporters to Decker, along with $12,000 in cash. . . . During the period from February, 2002, through December, 2005, chiropractors Thomas Brown, Fletcher Keith, and Steve Willen provided Speaker Black with $29,000 in corrupt payments, of which $25,000 was in the form of cash. . . . It is noteworthy that, as was the case in striking his agreement with Decker, Speaker Black met Steve Willen in bathrooms to receive two of the corrupt cash payments.

In addition to providing Speaker Black with corrupt payments 4 during this time period, the chiropractors held fund-raisers for Speaker Black and met with Speaker Black to discuss legislation relevant to their practice.

On December 14, 2004, Speaker Black met with chiropractor Steven Willen in a restaurant restroom in Concord and accepted $4,000 in cash. On December 3, 2005, a fund-raiser for Speaker Black was held by a group of chiropractors at the Capital Grille in Charlotte, North Carolina. During the fund-raiser, Willen met Speaker Black in a restroom in order to secretly deliver to Speaker Black a $3,000 cash payment. When a restaurant employee entered the restroom, Willen and Speaker Black stepped just outside the restroom and completed the delivery. Upon receiving the $3,000 in cash, Speaker Black stated to Willen, “This is just between me and you. Don’t you ever tell anybody about this.”

Speaker Black did not deposit the aforementioned cash payments, totaling approximately $25,000, into the bank account of his campaign and did not report thblacke payments to the North Carolina State Board of Elections (“NC-BOE”) as campaign contributions. In receiving these payments and converting them to his own use, Speaker Black intended to be rewarded in connection with the business of state government in which he participated, said state business involving many millions of dollars. On February 15, 2007, the defendant entered a guilty plea to receiving corrupt payments in connection with business of state government related to federal programs, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 666(a)(1)(B). [3]

Two months after After Black’s guilty plea, the North Carolina legislature repealed the provision.

So, the above legislative changes sought by the chiropractors in this instance were repealed in April 2007.

Weeeeeeeeeeeell.  Lookee what has magically reappeared in the North Carolina House here in 2015.  THIS GOT APPROVED IN THE HOUSE YESTERDAY (Tuesday)

SECTION 1. G.S. 58-50-30(a3) reads as rewritten:  “(a3) Whenever any health benefit plan, subscriber contract, or policy of insurance issued  by a health maintenance organization, hospital or medical service corporation, or insurer  governed by Articles 1 through 67 of this Chapter provides coverage for medically necessary  treatment, the insurer shall not impose any limitation on treatment or levels of coverage if  performed by a duly licensed chiropractor acting within the scope of the chiropractor’s practice  as defined in G.S. 90-151 unless a comparable limitation is imposed on the medically necessary  treatment if performed or authorized by any other duly licensed physician. An insurer shall not  impose upon an insured as a limitation on treatment or level of coverage a co-payment amount  for services performed by a duly licensed chiropractor that is higher than the co-payment  amount imposed upon the insured for services performed by a duly licensed primary care  physician for a comparable, medically necessary treatment or condition.” SECTION 2. This act becomes effective January 1, 2016, and applies to health  benefit contracts entered into on or after that date

Hmmm.  Does the underlined red text above look familiar to anyone else?  (Hint: Start from the top of this post, and then see this post’s SECOND section of red quoted text.)

So,a piece of legislation that helped bring down a House speaker and got repealed by Democrats EIGHT years ago is creeping through the House again.  Considering the history of this legislation – -and what happened to its last, most famous patron — you would think most smart politicians would avoid it like the plague.

6 thoughts on “#NCGA #TBT Key player in Jim Black Scandal lives again

  1. Justin Burr seems to get his name as chief sponsor on a lot of these special interest bills, doesn’t he? That bail bondsman bill of his was a real horror story. Burr had primary opposition last time. Hopefully, he will again.

    Other legislators should be very careful when Burr brings them a bill to co-sponsor. It could well be a stinker.

  2. Besides being attached to Black’s name, is this bill a bad bill based on content?
    How about changing Rep. LaRoque billl vs. paid rule 414, (with the help of another rep. and a lot of insurance donations) Seens how he went to prison too. That bill is only a few years old Not a decade ago??

  3. Nothing ever changes.

    The Republicans were out in the cold for so long. Then they win and nothing changes. Seems to me that without redistricting the GOP would be booted back to the outhouse.

    I think what happened was that the GOP was out of power for so long they forgot how to govern. So they adopted the Democratic way that the Dems have used for so long.

    Bruce Jenner has it right. We need a change.

  4. I’m with Billy. Is the bill bad on its face?

    jr, the Republicans are going to have a hard time energizing the base. I’m one of the base. I’m not energized. The good news is there is no reason to stress over which party wins. They’re both going to do the same things.

    What’s bizarre is that the Republicans are indistinguishable from Democrats, and the Democrats are STILL whining. You just can’t keep some children quiet.

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