NCDP Clips for Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

NCDP Clips for Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

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Discrimination masquerading as religious freedom (Politics NC) – Today, the North Carolina state senate will meet in committee to discuss North Carolina Senate President Phil Berger’s Senate Bill 2. The bill, which would allow a magistrate or register of deeds to refuse to issue marriage licenses or perform same-sex marriages, follows a wave of religious freedom bills introduced in conservative legislatures across the country in response to court rulings removing same-sex marriage bans.

NC gay marriage back at legislature in exemption bill (AP) — Gay marriage is back on the front burner at the North Carolina legislature as senators consider legislation to let some court officials avoid marriage duties due to their religious beliefs

Legislator Looks to Revamp the Workforce Development System (TWCN-TV) — North Carolina’s workforce development system is currently very spread out and, by many estimates, quite complicated. Even after recent efforts to consolidate it, it still spans 17 different programs, spread over multiple agencies. One lawmaker came up with a new idea. “Let’s put all of that funding into the community college system, where they are on the cutting edge of new jobs, new technology. That’s the logical place that it ought to be,” said Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph County. “It would take some transition time, but that is what I am proposing. I think that is another way of streamlining to make these programs work.”

Of revenue and religious objections (WRAL-TV) — Lawmakers return to work Tuesday with their busiest day of the session so far. Economic development, gas taxes, and a religious refusal bill are all on today’s committee agendas.

Legislation would invite NC chief justice for March 4 speech (AP) — North Carolina’s new top judge could be coming to the North Carolina General Assembly next week to give a speech.

Virginia in minority with lack of legislative video, audio archives (Norfolk Virginian-Pilot) — Viewers on the General Assembly’s website can watch a live feed of the House of Delegates and Senate, but once it’s over, the video is gone.

Two influential lobbyists join forces (Raleigh News & Observer) — Lisa Martin, longtime lobbyist for the N.C. Home Builders Association, is joining Theresa Kostrzewa at Capitol Advantage Associates, the firm Kostrzewa founded.

States Are Blocking Local Regulations, Often at Industry’s Behest (New York Times) — So-called pre-emption laws, passed in states across the country, have stopped cities from regulating landlords, building municipal broadband systems and raising the minimum wage.

McCrory, other Southern GOP govs blame D.C. politics for local ills (USA Today) — Feuds in Washington over health care and immigration are dumping expensive and complicated federal problems into the laps of governors, three Republican governors from the South complained Monday. After meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House, the governors of North Carolina, Tennessee and South Carolina expressed their frustration with a number of problems, including the country’s 11 million undocumented immigrants and a legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act that could eliminate the federal subsidies people use to buy health insurance. “These food fights here in Washington are sadly relevant to us,” said N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory. “We are the ones who pick up the litter back home.”

Senate vote to pass DHS funding fails as immigration dispute escalates (Guardian) — Democrats have seized on terrorist threats against a Minnesota shopping mall as a fresh reason for Republicans to abandon their showdown over homeland security funding, as a fourth attempt to break their deadlock descended into increasingly bitter political clashes. … Several Republican governors, who were gathered in Washington for a meeting of the bipartisan national governors’ association, also sounded the alarm over the impending clash. … “I strongly disagree with the executive order and I signed my name to what Texas is doing, but at the same time I don’t think you should hijack homeland security funds to deal with that issue,” Gov Pat McCrory told the Guardian. “They need to talk to each other.”

Bad budgets hurt 2016 hopefuls (Politico) — At the National Governors Association meeting in Washington this weekend, Republican Gov. Pat McCrory said he knows what his counterparts are going through as they put the finishing touches on their budget plans. “You can’t hide as a governor,” he said. “There’s nowhere to hide in a crisis, there’s nowhere to hide during a legislative session, and there’s nowhere to hide regarding just basic leadership skills. You’re in a bubble that’s extremely visible and people are expecting results. “But that’s why we all love the job,” he added. “You hear congressmen and senators go, ‘I hate it.’ I’ve yet to hear a governor say they hate their job … It’s much more difficult … but you can see the results.”

Burr’s GOP health plan would leave many low-income families behind (The Hill) — The Obama administration announced this week that 11.4 million people signed up for health coverage during the most recent enrollment period, making it ever harder for critics who love to hate the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to hate it. Despite its success, the threats against the ACA loom large, both in the form of the upcoming Supreme Court case challenging the subsidies that have made coverage affordable for so many Americans, and also in the recent healthcare proposal released by Senate Republicans. Both would be a significant step back for low-income families.

Shallotte woman claims $188 million Powerball jackpot (Port City Daily) — A single mother from Shallotte has come forward to claim her $188 million Powerball prize, making her the largest jackpot winner in state history.

GPS study finds waste, speed in state motor fleet (WRAL-TV) — A study released Monday using GPS telemetry in a sampling of state-owned vehicles shows many aren’t being used on a regular basis – and others are being used in ways that diminish fuel efficiency.

Lawmakers hear motor fleet management pitch (Raleigh News & Observer) — High-tech management of the state’s fleet of cars will save the government fuel and maintenance costs, an account manager for Verizon Telematics told a legislative committee Monday. Bob Boggio, a strategic account manager for Verizon Telematics, Networkfleet, pitched the system to the Joint Legislative Program Evaluation Oversight Committee.

U.S. Attorney Anne Tompkins to leave office in March (Charlotte Observer) — U.S. Attorney Anne Tompkins, who sent Charlotte’s mayor to prison and helped carve out a multibillion-dollar settlement with BofA over mortgage fraud, announced she is leaving office.

US Attorney Anne Tompkins says she will step down next month (AP) — Anne M. Tompkins, the Charlotte-based U.S. Attorney who most recently prosecuted former Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon on corruption charges, says she’s leaving her post.

Lawmaking Is Art Professor’s Unfinished Work (New York Times) – Rep. Alma Adams, a freshman Democrat, set a record the moment she took the oath of office. After winning election in November, she was sworn in immediately to fill a vacant seat, and for the first time in history, there were 100 women in Congress. Perhaps none, however, has had as unlikely a path as Ms. Adams, who has a Ph.D. in art education, a collection of about 900 hats and an up-from-the-bootstraps story to tell. She taught art at the historically black Bennett College in Greensboro and spent 20 years in the N.C. legislature before coming to Congress from the 12th District.

Panel changes medical fees for workers comp cases (Winston-Salem Journal) — The state Industrial Commission approved significant changes Monday to how health-care providers are reimbursed for treating patients involved in workers’ compensation cases. State Commerce officials said maximum fees for hospitals and other institutional providers will decrease, while fees for physicians, nurses and other professional providers will increase.

NC gov’t looking at keeping tabs on drivers electronically (AP) — A North Carolina government agency responsible for thousands of state-owned passenger vehicles is experimenting with technology that can keep an electronic eye on drivers who speed or brake too hard.

State officials hope to keep data centers coming (Greensboro News & Record) — Locally, developers and government officials have offered a plan called “Project Haystack” that could attract more than 10 data centers to 2,000 acres in Guilford and Alamance counties as part of a plan to turn the county prison farm into a business park. That idea, floated in 2013, stalled when county officials said the land wasn’t for sale. Now, state legislators want to make it easier for data companies to choose North Carolina.

Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson: 440th Airlift Wing "should not go” (Fayetteville Observer) — Fort Bragg’s commanding general on Monday publicly threw his support behind keeping the 440th Airlift Wing.

States predict inmates’ future crimes with secretive surveys (AP) — On a hot Friday last July, a parolee was mowing a lawn in a small cul-de-sac on the west side of the city when he stopped to ask for a glass of water.

US Secret Service sees rise in ‘skimming’ around Charlotte (AP) — The U.S. Secret Service says "skimming," a cybercrime which targets automatic teller machines and gasoline pumps and the people who use them, is on the rise in the Charlotte area.

Greene County courts shut down for two weeks (Kinston Free Press) — Reopening dependent on results of health hazard report

Fayetteville Council votes to offer $3.8 million incentives to Sanderson Farms(Fayetteville Observer) — The Fayetteville City Council has agreed to offer $3.8 million in incentives for a Sanderson Farms chicken processing plant.

ESC offers online payment options (Winston-Salem Journal) — The N.C. Division of Employment Security said Monday it is offering an online payment option to individuals who owe money to the division from an overpayment. The recipients can pay with a credit and debit card. It also gives recipients the ability to make payment arrange-ments and automatic debit payments.

Charlotte City Council tightens ethics rules (Charlotte Observer) — The Charlotte City Council tightened its ethics rules for elected officials Monday, requiring council members to tell the public more about their business dealings and forbidding many gifts.

School buses turn around as snow falls (WRAL-TV) — Light snow started to fall before 5 a.m. and school systems across central North Carolina were quick to react, posting delays and cancellations. But for some, the news did not come quick enough.

New Hanover DA Asks SBI To Investigate Cape Fear Community College (WECT-TV) — New Hanover County District Attorney Ben David asked the SBI today to investigate Cape Fear Community College, amid new information coming to light regarding the final days of Dr. Ted Spring’s involvement in the college. Dr. Spring resigned suddenly in January, following a closed session meeting of the Board of Trustees at CFCC. David says SBI Agents have been asked to interview employees of the college following allegations that Dr. Spring asked one of his employees to fabricate a report about college enrollment in exchange for a promotion. David told WECT the SBI had been alerted weeks ago to monitor the results of an on-going investigation at CFCC by the State Auditor’s office.

NC Supreme Court weighs private school voucher program (AP) — The North Carolina Supreme Court is hearing arguments on whether millions of dollars in taxpayer money can be used to pay student tuition at private and religious schools.

Public dollars for private education? (Halifax Newspapers) — The N.C. Supreme Court will decide Tuesday whether taxpayer money can be used for low-income children to attend private schools. Gov. Pat McCrory enacted the Opportunity Scholarship provision in the state budget in July 2013. The taxpayer-funded program allowed qualified low-income families to receive up to $4,200 for their children to attend a private school of their choice. The General Assembly budgeted $10 million for the program to pay for 2,400 students last year. Only $4.2 million has been used to send half those students to private schools. Critics of the program have challenged its legality since its inception.

ECU medical school wants more state funding (Raleigh News & Observer) — Administrators for the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University say the state must increase funding for the medical school so it can keep producing family doctors to practice in rural North Carolina and so its clinics can continue.

Wake school leaders want to create charter schools (WRAL-TV) — Wake County school leaders, during a committee meeting Monday evening, said they want the ability to create charter schools so to have additional flexibility in how students are taught.

2 school buses set afire at Carteret County school (AP) — Police in Newport in Carteret County are investigating after someone set two school buses on fire in a school parking lot.

Effort for student vote on UNC board continues without Adams (AP) — Their longtime champion has left for Capitol Hill, but young people who want more power overseeing the University of North Carolina system are seeking help from others in the legislature.

Reimagining School Lunch (EdNC) — Historically, chefs haven’t been the most obvious people to tap as experts when it comes to politics. But the reach of a chef has changed significantly in the last decade.

UNC system professors afraid – just the way the board wants it (Raleigh News & Observer column) — Peter St. Onge: You can imagine how educators feel about a University of North Carolina Board of Governors panel recommending the elimination of three university centers, including one that’s run by an outspoken critic of Republican policies in the state, Gene Nichol.

More than ever, we need to support N.C. higher ed (Charlotte Observer) — Richard Vinroot: Coach Dean Smith was my college coach, and a hero of mine and many others. His recent death brought to mind his words, “You should never be proud of doing the right thing. Just do the right thing.”

Educators, Entrepreneurs Join Forces At Triangle Startup Weekend (EdNC) — This past weekend, educators, entrepreneurs, developers, and designers gathered in NC State University’s Hunt Library with one common goal: to come up with the next big idea in education.

DENR took two months to ask SBI to investigate coal ash spill (Raleigh News & Observer) — The Department of Environment and Natural Resources waited two months to seek an SBI investigation into the Feb. 2 2014 coal ash spill on the Dan River, according to e-mail records released by the Department on Monday. The release of the information, that was part of documentation supporting a written summary of coal ash management in the state, disclose for the first time that then-Secretary John Skvarla in April 2014 asked the State Bureau of Investigation to look into the Dan River spill. It was in April that DENR discovered inspection records showed Duke Energy had been repeatedly warned about the weakness of a corrugated metal drainage pipe beneath a coal ash pond at the plant in Eden. That pipe collapsed and caused the massive spill of coal ash and wastewater.

So much is missing from utility’s deal with feds (Fayetteville Observer editorial) — After Duke Energy spilled massive amounts of coal ash into the Dan River last year, federal attorneys released a torrent of subpoenas. Attached letters said: "An official criminal investigation of a suspected felony is being conducted by an agency of the United States and a federal grand jury." But a settlement between Duke and the federal government announced last week describes only fines for misdemeanor charges against the company, with none of the individuals whose utility or state government emails were searched being held responsible. So what happened?

‘We are accountable’ (Greensboro News & Record) — A federal investigation results in a large fine for Duke Energy and a statement of responsibility for coal ash spill.

Solar Helping to Drive N.C. Economy (PR Web) — A new report from Duke University, The Solar Economy: Widespread Benefits for North Carolina, found that public policies such as North Carolina’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard and Investment Tax Credit have made North Carolina first in the south and fourth in the nation for installed solar investment, creating jobs and boosting the economy across the state. Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association, applauded the study’s findings.

Carolina leads efforts in clean tech (UNC News) — For two days, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill united a diverse group of 500 academics, professionals and students for one reason—to discuss issues and ideas surrounding North Carolina’s clean technology sector. The second annual NC Clean Tech Summit was hosted at the Friday Center on Feb. 19-20, but the hope is that its impact will last for years.

Webinar to Focus on Wind Energy (Coastal Review) — The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy continues its webinar series on Monday, March 10,with a presentation on transmitting wind energy to the Southeast.

Gas Prices On the Rise; Car Buyers Want Fuel Efficiency (Public News Service) — Gas prices are on the rise in North Carolina, up between 10 and 15 cents over the last two weeks. While prices at the pump are still low compared to recent history, a survey by the Consumer Federation of America indicates drivers want their next car or truck to get better gas consumption.

Bill Gates and Other Business Leaders Urge U.S. to Increase Energy Research(New York Times) — At stake are not just long-term goals like reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, Mr. Gates said, but also continued United States leadership in industries of the future.

North Carolina man arrested for alleged Deepwater Horizon fraud (McClatchy Newspapers) — Michael R. Rosella, a Wilmington, N.C. resident, was arrested Monday on federal charges that he’d submitted a fraudulent, multi-million dollar claim to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill compensation program.

Winter weather forecast to hit both ends of North Carolina (AP) — Forecasts from the National Weather Service suggest the next round of winter will attack North Carolina at opposite ends.

Duke Coal Plant in NC May Violate Air Standards (Greenville, S.C. News) — Emissions of sulfur dioxide from Duke Energy’s Asheville coal plant may be violating federal air quality standards and scrubbers used to capture the pollutant before it becomes airborne are operating at inefficient levels, according to a pair of reports commissioned by the Sierra Club. The Sierra Club emissions study, authored by Howard Gebhart of Air Resource Specialists in Colorado, used computer modeling with local meteorological statistics and emissions data generated by the Asheville coal plant. Duke Energy disputed the study’s findings, saying it relied on a method that can be misleading and overestimates pollutant output.

What do we have to show for government subsidies of wind power? (The Hill column) — The government wants taxpayers to sustain an industry that can’t sustain itself.

Private Sewer Plants Could Fuel Development (Coastal Review) — Sewer plants at two residential subdivisions in western Carteret County could be turned into regional plants that would increase development and threaten the shellfish waters of Bogue Sound.

PowerSecure lands $13M in contracts for new data centers (WRAL-TV) — PowerSecure lands a contract with a company that plans to build a series of new data centers. The first contracts are worth $13 million, the Wake Forest-based company says.

McCrory’s moment to make Medicaid a touchstone (Raleigh News & Observer column) — Health insurance for more than a million North Carolinians is at stake, and Gov. Pat McCrory has two options: He can take the initiative to protect the people he has sworn to represent or he can sit back and let external forces decide our destiny. … McCrory may not realize it, but insurance for more than a million North Carolinians will be a touchstone for his administration. Claiming he has no control over the issue will not do because it’s not true.

Revive film tax credits to keep this industry going (Winston-Salem Journal) — Despite the legislature’s elimination of a popular tax-incentive program for TV and film projects, film is not dead in North Carolina – at least, not film appreciation. Film creation may be another story.

Unity needed to save N.C. film industry (Wilmington Star-News) — There is danger in choosing the path of least resistance. It can put one in a position of being more easily trampled next time. Yet local film-industry supporters say they see no choice

Hospitals take right course in easing payment suits (Raleigh News & Observer) — Nonprofit hospitals have become less aggressive in pursuing those who can’t afford to pay their bills.

A disconnect between Dean Smith tributes and today’s sports culture (Raleigh News & Observer) — Fred Hobson: UNC basketball Coach Dean Smith viewed instruction in more traditional classrooms as something more than a means of remaining eligible. He would be dismayed by the "paper classes" that have disgraced his university