NCDP Clips for Wednesday, August 19, 2015


NCDP Clips for Wednesday, August 19

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LEGISLATURE 2015

NC lawmakers, McCrory agree on spending $21.74B this year (AP) — North Carolina’s budget, already seven weeks late, plodded closer to completion withTuesday’s announcement that Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and the legislature’s GOP leaders have agreed on how much will be spent this year.

Deal on $21.735 billion state budget target could sacrifice worker raises (Raleigh News & Observer) — The $21.735 billion budget target that House and Senate leaders agreed to on Tuesday could mean less money for state employee raises and other spending items. The target represents a 3.1 percent increase in spending over the previous fiscal year – close to the 2.7 percent increase sought by the Senate and Gov. Pat McCrory. The House wanted a 5 percent increase.

17 Point Plan to Help Rural N.C. Communities (Main Street Dems) — Urban and suburban counties have long been supportive of balanced growth and have traditionally supported efforts to make sure we have “one North Carolina, where all citizens can enjoy the bounty of this wonderful state”. That means we must have some programs that are specifically designed for rural areas. One size does not fit all. Here’s a 17 Point Plan to Help Rural NC succeed in today’s economy.

Governor signs terrorism bill (Raleigh News & Observer) — The governor on Tuesday signed into law a bill that expands where members of the National Guard can carry concealed weapons, and creates a way for people to sue if they are injured or lose property in a terrorist attack.

World War II veterans in N. Carolina honored by legislature (AP) — Some of North Carolina’s living World War II service members have been honored for their service and courage by the General Assembly.

House panel OKs remedial plan for high school seniors (WRAL-TV) — The North Carolina Community College System would design remedial education courses for high school seniors to ensure they meet necessary academic benchmarks before graduating, under legislation advancing in the House.

Prisons seek funds for mentally ill, lawmakers might give half (Raleigh News & Observer) — House halved the prison’s request, Senate cut it to one fourth

POLICY & POLITICS

Pittenger won’t release ethics letter approving sale of business to wife (Charlotte Observer) — Rep. Robert Pittenger won’t release a letter from the House Ethics Committee that he said approves of the sale of his longtime real estate company to his wife before taking a seat in Congress.

Attorneys want N.C. voter ID litigation resolved (AP) — (AP) — A judge kept North Carolina’s voter identification law out of last month’s federal trial scrutinizing other election changes by the legislature. Now attorneys who sued over the law and lawyers for the state want resolution on voter ID. Lawyers this week filed memos with U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder about the photo ID requirement for in-person ballots in 2016. The legislature eased the mandate in June to allow more people to vote without qualifying IDs. The state’s attorneys say voter ID portions of the lawsuits should be dismissed because of the updated law and an appeals court ruling involving Texas’ law. But the plaintiffs say voter ID is still an undue voting burden and would lead to discrimination. They plan to pitch a proposed settlement agreement to the state soon.

Court documents: Legal challenge to NC voter ID could be settled (Winston-Salem Journal) — North Carolina’s voter ID law may not go to trial after all, according to court documents filed Monday. The recent federal trial on North Carolina’s Voter Information Verification Act that ended about two weeks ago did not deal with the state’s photo ID requirement that goes into effect in 2016. It only dealt with other provisions of the law, which reduced the early voting period, eliminated same-day voter registration, prohibited county election officials from counting ballots cast in the wrong precinct but correct county, and abolished preregistration for 16- and 17-year-olds.

McCrory on Income Inequality: Ignorance or Worse (Huffington Post) — Estelle Sommeiller and Mark Price, of the Economic Policy Institute, recently found that, since the dawn of the economic recovery six years ago, the average income of the top 1 percent of North Carolinians, or those who earn more than $311,000 annually, has increased by 22.7 percent, whereas that of the bottom 99 percent has decreased by 1.8 percent.

Barber says march could take ‘Moral Mondays’ to Congress (WRAL-TV) — Members of the North Carolina NAACP will participate in a national march from Selma, Ala, to Washington, D.C., to push Congress to take action on the Voting Rights Act.

Jurors adjourn without verdict in police officer’s trial (AP) — Jurors went home Tuesday afternoon without reaching a verdict in the trial of a white Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer accused in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man almost two years ago.

Confederate statue at UNC vandalized with spray paint again (AP) — A statue memorializing Confederate soldiers has been spray painted with graffiti again on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

In Quiet Woods, a Clamorous Gun Debate (New York Times) — A fight is playing out in national forests from North Carolina to the Pacific Northwest between backpackers seeking solitude and gun owners out for target shooting.

Deadline approaching on major conservation fund (Asheville Citizen-Times) — A popular 50-year-old conservation program that has spent about $216 million to preserve natural resources in North Carolina will shut down Sept. 30 unless Congress renews it. The Land and Water Conservation Fund, which uses offshore oil and gas drilling royalties to buy and protect land for public use, has strong bipartisan support. Its expiration is one of many deadlines facing Congress at the end of the fiscal year.

Proposed Raleigh Airbnb rules hit snag (AP) — The city of Raleigh’s effort to regulate short-term home rental programs such as Airbnb have hit a snag after Raleigh staff said proposed rules could open the door for more boarding houses.

Hoke wreck victim was former Robeson County commissioner (Fayetteville Observer) — One of three people killed in a head-on crash in Hoke County on Monday was a former Robeson County commissioner and Robeson Community College trustee. Former Robeson County commissioner and long-time community college trustee Tommy Wellington, 84, of the 5500 block of Fayetteville Road in Lumberton, died of injuries at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center shortly after the accident on N.C. 211, the Highway Patrol said.

Unusual extradition fight plays out in N.C. over priests’ slayings (AP) — North Carolina is the unlikely scene of a court battle that could determine whether a former Salvadoran military colonel is prosecuted for the notorious slayings of Jesuit priests more than two decades ago during El Salvador’s civil war.

Greensboro council OKs minimum wage increase (Greensboro News & Record) — About 245 employees will be affected at an estimated annual cost of $266,514.

GENERAL NEWS

Deal Volume Heats Up Among Midsize Banks (Wall Street Journal) — BB&T’s announced purchase of National Penn Bank shares adds to an M&A trend that analysts expect to continue.

FDA approves first pill from N.C. firm aimed at boosting female libido (AP) — The Food and Drug Administration has approved the first prescription drug designed to boost sexual desire in women, a milestone long sought by a pharmaceutical industry eager to replicate the blockbuster success of impotence drugs for men.

PNC prepares to lay off workers (Rocky Mount Telegram) — PNC Bank is gearing up for layoffs in Rocky Mount, more bad news for an area with one of the highest unemployment rates in the state.

SCHOOLS & UNIVERSITIES

Teacher shortage hits Forsyth County classrooms (Winston-Salem Journal) — With less than a week before students return to class, the pressure is on to make sure each of those classrooms has a teacher in it.

State budget delay creates classroom uncertainties (Outer Banks Sentinel) — With school doors set to open in less than a week, the budget wrangling in Raleigh has left Dare County officials scrambling to cope with a number of possible scenarios – from reduced class sizes to layoffs of classroom teacher assistants. Also unclear is what the schools will need to pay teachers in state-mandated raises, an issue that triggered tough negotiations between the board of education and board of commissioners.

500+ CMS teacher assistants told jobs could end in two weeks (Charlotte Observer) — Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools notified more than 500 elementary school teacher assistants Tuesday that their jobs are only guaranteed through Sept. 4.

Hiring freeze on for CMS teacher assistants as state budget still incomplete (Charlotte Business Journal) — Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Ann Clark says more than 500 teacher assistant jobs are up in the air until the N.C. General Assembly resolves the state budget, News 14 reports.

Poll Finds Most Back Healthy School Meals (New York Times) — According to the poll, released by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, 86 percent of Americans support the standards required by a 2010 law, including providing more fruits and vegetables.

Bill would require health assessments for all new NC public school students (Carolina Public Press) — Previously, North Carolina requires health assessments for kids entering kindergarten, but those entering the public school system at any other grade are exempt.

Advocates make calls urging parents to sign up for school vouchers (WRAL-TV) — Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina has been using phone calls and postcards to urge parents to take advantage of the state’s $4,200 private school vouchers.

House panel OKs remedial plan for high school seniors (WRAL-TV) — The North Carolina Community College System would design remedial education courses for high school seniors to ensure they meet necessary academic benchmarks before graduating, under legislation advancing in the House.

Drivers Education Suspended in Wake County (TWCN-TV) — County officials say drivers education will be suspended starting August 21 due to lack of state funds.

THE SPILL

DENR moves to stop another lawsuit against Duke (Winston-Salem Journal) — State environmental regulators on Tuesday moved to put a hold on a lawsuit that aims to force Duke Energy to stop coal ash ponds at its 14 power plants statewide from violating clean-water laws. The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, or DENR, asked a state court to stay legal action against Duke Energy to let a state law — passed a year after the legal action was started — run its course.

State asks to put Duke Energy ash cases on hold (Raleigh News & Observer) — North Carolina’s environment agency asked Tuesday that its own enforcement cases over Duke Energy coal ash practices at 10 power plants be put on hold.

Tests find water polluted outside Duke Energy coal ash range (AP) — A handful of tests near Duke Energy coal plants find heavy metals in North Carolina water wells outside the range of coal ash contamination seeping from storage pits.

ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT

Board imposes moratorium on oil and gas development (Sanford Herald) — The Chatham County Board of Commissioners adopted an ordinance Monday night imposing a two-year moratorium on county approvals for oil and gas development, including hydraulic fracking.

Brunswick County stands firm in support of offshore drilling (AP) — Brunswick County is standing firm in its support of offshore seismic testing for oil and natural gas, even as dozens of other communities in the Carolinas have gone on record against the idea.

U.S. Rep. McHenry dodges a stand on Duke Energy’s transmission lines (Tryon Daily Bulletin) — Seeing that the audience strongly opposed Duke Energy’s most recent endeavor on power transmission lines, Republican U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry avoided directly addressing the issue by asking the audience if they supported solar energy and natural gas. Agreement from the crowd rang out. The following question regarding nuclear energy drew room-wide disagreement. “At least admit reality,” said McHenry. “More energy is not a bad thing. … “When I look at issues like this and read about them in the newspaper I think certainly this will be resolved at the state level and local level,” said McHenry. “This isn’t a federal issue.”

Power companies may have found a new way to crack into the solar business(Washington Post) — Another sign that utilities are getting into the community solar game, the solar sphere’s hottest growth market.

Opponents: Proposed pipeline through Cumberland County is dangerous (Fayetteville Observer) – Opponents said Tuesday the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline needs to be stopped because it’s too potentially dangerous. Standing in front of Eastover-Central Elementary School, they said it would be within about a mile of the pipeline’s path and thus could be at risk if there were an explosion or a leak. “We believe that is just too close for our precious children,” said Cary Rodgers of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League. Rodgers is helping organize Cumberland County Caring Voices, a local opposition group.

New Video Supports Repower Our Schools Initiative In NC (EdNC) — A new video is out in support of the Repower Our Schools initiative in North Carolina to transition Charlotte and Durham schools to 100 percent renewable electricity. As families across the country gear up for the start of school, kids in North Carolina are imagining a brighter future for their schools. By transitioning school systems to run on 100 percent renewable electricity, schools can reinvest in the classroom and provide hands on experience with 21st century technology, the press release says.

Deadline approaching on major conservation fund (Asheville Citizen-Times) — A popular 50-year-old conservation program that has spent about $216 million to preserve natural resources in North Carolina will shut down Sept. 30 unless Congress renews it. The Land and Water Conservation Fund, which uses offshore oil and gas drilling royalties to buy and protect land for public use, has strong bipartisan support. Its expiration is one of many deadlines facing Congress at the end of the fiscal year.

Solar cell efficiency could double with novel ‘green’ antenna (Solar Daily) The use of solar energy in the U.S. is growing, but panels on rooftops are still a rare sight. They cost thousands of dollars, and homeowners don’t recoup costs for years even in the sunniest or best-subsidized locales. But scientists may have a solution. They report today the development of a unique, “green” antenna that could potentially double the efficiencies of certain kinds of solar cells and make them more affordable.

Time’s Up for Decision on Hog Farms (Coastal Review) — The deadline has arrived for the EPA to address allegations by environmental groups that hog farms in North Carolina put the health of minorities at risk.