The House Finance Committee gave approval to a bill pushed by business interests this morning that appears likely to result in the awarding of a no-bid contract to a controversial consulting firm.
The proposal, Senate Bill 99, which was rushed through the Senate less than 48 hours after it was introduced at the end of February, directs the state to spend $250,000 on a study that would look at the huge funding shortfall that confronts the state’s unemployment insurance system.
This morning in committee, Senator Bob Rucho, the bill’s lead sponsor, made plain his intent that the contract for studying the matter would go to the Lucas Group — a Boston-based, self-described “boutique corporate strategy consulting firm” that has conducted a similar study in South Carolina. At the committee, State Commerce Secretary Keith Crisco, acknowledged that his agency — the state body directed to contract for the study — had already participated in a conversation with Lucas.
Interestingly, the justification for the Lucas study is that North Carolina supposedly needs “a fresh set of eyes” on the matter. But as others have noted, there is no particular mystery about what ails North Carolina. Moreover, at last report, the Lucas report in South Carolina has not received a universally enthusiastic response.
In short, the question arises: Why spend $250,000 for a no-bid private study to a firm with a mixed record when state officials already know what needs to be done?
Could it be that Lucas is expected to abet the agendas of the GOP and the business lobby to remake unemployment insurance in a fashion that’s even less worker-friendly than it already is?
Seems like a safe bet.