The power to change:
35-Acre Solar Farm Under Construction In Orange County (WUNC-FM) -- A new six megawatt solar farm is under construction the Orange County community of White Cross. When it’s completed, it will be the second largest in the Triangle. The project is being designed by Chapel Hill based company, Strata Solar. The firm's Blair Schoof says when it's up and running, the 35-acre farm will provide energy for about 750 homes. Strata Solar is the state's largest solar developer, responsible for generating more than 145 megawatts around the state. Schoof says two farms in the Triangle area are already operational with eight more planned for next year.
Discussing Furlough Concerns at Military Bases, Hagel Has ‘No Good News’ (New York Times) -- Over three days visiting military bases across the southeastern United States this week, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told everyone that compromise in Washington was unlikely.
NC judge blocks Charlotte airport transfer (AP) — North Carolina legislators on Thursday completed their drive to strip the city of Charlotte of the airport it has run for more than 70 years, but hours later, a judge issued a temporary order blocking the move.
Airport bill passes, but judge halts authority switch (Charlotte Observer) -- The turbulent fight over Charlotte’s airport boomeranged between the General Assembly in Raleigh and a courtroom in Charlotte on Thursday, and by the end of the day had claimed the job of long-time Aviation Director Jerry Orr.
CLT chief Orr out, pols sling mud and lawsuits (Charlotte Business Journal) -- The city of Charlotte fired Jerry Orr as aviation director Thursday. Unless he fired himself.
Court order halts CLT authority, sides gird for battle (Charlotte Business Journal) -- Charlotte's city manager thinks a restraining order granted Thursday afternoon will prevent an airport authority from ever being recognized
McCrory says Charlotte airport bill wouldn't happen if he was still mayor (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Republican Gov. Pat McCrory said Thursday morning he doesn't think there will be a compromise before 2 p.m. on who controls Charlotte Douglas Airport, despite his efforts to reach a deal. McCrory, the former Charlotte mayor, was asked how he would have reacted if the General Assembly had moved to transfer the airport to an authority while he was mayor. “It wouldn't have occurred,” said McCrory, who spoke with media after a groundbreaking ceremony for the Lynx Blue Line extension. “In my 14 years (as mayor) we did everything we could to keep politics out of the airport.”
PROTEST MOVEMENT SPREADS: Group to hold 'Moral Monday' rally in Greensboro (Greensboro News & Record) -- The League of Women Voters of the Piedmont Triad will hold a local "Moral Monday" protest for people who are unable to attend the weekly protests in Raleigh.
NC Senate rolls out voter ID proposal (AP) — The North Carolina Senate on Thursday rolled out its voter identification bill, scaling back the number of acceptable photo IDs to cast a ballot in person starting in 2016 and could make it more difficult for young people to vote.
Senate Lawmakers Unveil Voter ID Bill (WUNC-FM) -- Lawmakers in the state Senate have released a new version of a measure that would require residents to present photo IDs at the polls. The bill was posted on the legislature's website this morning. It would require residents to use one of only seven qualifying forms of photo IDs in order to vote. It does not include university IDs. The House's version of the bill, which passed three months ago, would allow UNC system and community college students to use their campus ID cards, though it excludes students at private colleges.
Voter ID in Senate Rules Committee Friday (WRAL-TV) -- The Senate Rules Committee will debate a voter ID bill Friday morning. Differences with the same bill as it left the House include eliminating student IDs as an acceptable form of identification in order to vote.
Senate GOP unveils stricter NC voter ID bill (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Resurrecting one of the legislative session’s most contentious issues, Senate Republicans unveiled a new voter ID bill Thursday that would further restrict the forms of photo identification accepted at the polls.
Tax bill closes few loopholes, preserves and extends others (Raleigh News & Observer) -- The months-long debate over tax reform has produced a mixed bag of loophole closures, creating winners and losers in a bill that Republicans declared would create a level playing field.
NC budget agreement nears, legislative leaders say (AP) — North Carolina legislative leaders are hopeful a final state budget agreement can get worked out by this weekend, with an eye toward adjourning the session next week.
Budget deal, adjournment in sight (WRAL-TV) -- House and Senate leaders say they expect to sign off on a budget deal late Friday or Saturday, finishing the session next week.
The 2013 Tax Package (WRAL-TV) -- A tax bill that has passed the General Assembly will lower personal and corporate income rates. However, big changes to sales taxes will wait for future sessions
Sales Tax Holiday On The Chopping Block (WUNC-FM) -- North Carolina's annual sales tax holiday will end if a bill to overhaul the tax code becomes law. A provision in the proposal eliminates the sales tax-free weekend that usually happens in early August, starting next year.
House passes fix to unemployment law (WRAL-TV) -- The U.S. Labor Department asked the state to bring North Carolina's unemployment law into compliance with federal guidelines.
McCrory signs 43 bills including abortion risks (AP) -- North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory has signed into law a requirement teaching public school children there's a link between abortion and pre-term births later in life.
Help for NC disabled students could change (AP) — A two-year-old tax credit program to help North Carolina students with disabilities attend private school or get special tutoring could soon turn into a grant program.
Senate OKs school grants for disabled students (WRAL-TV) -- The state Senate voted overwhelmingly Thursday to approve a new scholarship program for children with disabilities.
Tax reform sparks debate at legislative breakfast (Rocky Mount Telegram) -- Standing in front of a packed room Thursday at the Holiday Inn, N.C. Sen. Buck Newton likened the tax reform debate to passing a kidney stone.
Sharia ban resurfaces in Senate (WRAL-TV) -- For the third time this session, legislation that would forbid courts from recognizing "foreign law" in family cases has popped up in the North Carolina legislature.
NC House OKs bill to let officers remove dogs from hot cars (Raleigh News & Observer) -- The state House passed legislation Thursday that would give rescue workers explicit permission to break into cars to remove dogs and other animals from hot cars. Some local ordinances already let police break into locked cars to rescue an animal but the amendment would make that legal statewide.
Foreign trade zone bill OK’d in Senate (Elizabeth City Daily Advance) -- It took a procedural zigzag, but legislation hailed as a boon to foreign trade for northeastern North Carolina now awaits Gov. Pat McCrory’s signature.
POLICY & POLITICS
McCrory not surprised by drop in approval rating (WNCN-TV) -- Considering major changes North Carolina Republicans have pushed through the legislature, Gov. Pat McCrory said he's surprised his approval rating is as high as it is. On Tuesday, Raleigh-based polling operation Public Policy Polling found that McCrory now has his lowest approval rating since taking office at 40 percent, which is down 15 points from June. His disapproval rating is 49 percent. According to the poll, only 68 percent of people who voted for McCrory still approve of the job he's doing. "The last three weeks we've had a big decline," McCrory acknowledged Thursday. "But listen, I'm shocked they're that high because we're stepping on the toes of the status quo."
McCrory says he’s not breaking campaign promise by signing tough abortion bill (WNCN-TV) -- Gov. Pat McCrory said he would not be breaking a campaign promise if he signs legislation establishing tougher new rules on women’s access to abortion services. During last fall's campaign, McCrory made it clear he was not interested in signing additional abortion restrictions into law. During a televised debate last October, McCrory was asked which additional abortion restrictions he would agree to sign into law. McCrory responded simply, "None."
Planned Parenthood vows to keep Wilmington facility open (Wilmington Star-News) -- Planned Parenthood operates four clinics in North Carolina that offer abortion services
NC Rural Center President Resigns, Governor Cuts Off Funding (AP) -- Gov. Pat McCrory's administration says it's suspended giving state money to the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center and directed center officials to halt distributing state funds to grant recipients. State Budget Director Art Pope also told N.C. Rural Center leaders Thursday the state was considering recouping potentially more than $100 million held by the center in the light of a stinging state audit issued the day before. Center President Billy Ray Hall announced his retirement Thursday.
Pope wrote separately to legislators who are determining how much money to give to the center in the two-year budget being negotiated. He says it appears the center may have tried to conceal the audit until after the final budget was completed. Center officials didn't return phone calls seeking comment.
Rural Center president Billy Ray Hall resigns under pressure (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Billy Ray Hall, president of the Rural Center since 1987, steps down after a stinging audit and pressure from Gov. Pat McCrory.
Senator takes a swing at Hall's 'parachute' (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Senate leader Phil Berger, a Rockingham County Republican, leveled intense criticism Thursday about a severance account for Rural Center president Billy Ray Hall that was disclosed to the public in a footnote within a critical state audit.
McCrory halts Rural Center spending after critical audit (WRAL-TV) -- Gov. Pat McCrory ordered Thursday that the flow of state money to and spent by the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center stop immediately. The move comes one day after a state audit criticized the nonprofit for a lack of oversight and exorbitant salaries.
Luddy calls Rural Center a "scam" (Triangle Business Journal) -- Saying “It’s about time” Billy Ray Hall stepped down as president of the Rural Center, board member Bob Luddy today called the organization a “scam” that should be shut down. Luddy, founder and president of CaptiveAire Systems, was appointed to the board about 18 months ago. He said he since has come to view the organization as being manipulated in a way that made it “Hall’s own personal piggybank.”
McCrory to Rural Center: Stop spending public funds now (Triangle Business Journal) -- Late Thursday, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory announced that he has requested the State Budget and Management office to immediately suspend
50 Politicos to Watch: Thom Tillis (Politico) -- “I believe we can win it” but that it “will be a very difficult race,” said North Carolina Republican Thom Tillis, who describes himself as “very much pro-business.” The candidate’s consultants believe that the competitiveness of any primary will be directly driven by Tillis’s ability to raise a lot of money early. Tillis already has Washington ties. He graduated from the University of Maryland and lived in Northern Virginia until 1998. As a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, he was commuting to Charlotte on a project every week for a year and a half. So he moved his family there. “It was an easy transition,” he said. The speaker’s son, 23, graduated last year from American University. His daughter, 24, is in nursing school. Tillis has named his dogs after famous conservatives. He used to have a Maggie and a Reagan; now he has boxers named Abe and Ike.
Black colleges pen letter to McCrory, cite challenges (AP) -- The leaders of historically black colleges and universities have written North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory about challenges they face. The three-page letter was signed by Fayetteville State University Chancellor James Anderson on behalf of 11 schools across the state. The schools cite problems with changes in federal financial aid policies, state funding cuts, outdated infrastructure, and a lack of scholarship support.
North Carolinians on guns, Voting Rights Act, and more (Public Policy Polling) -- The last part of PPP’s monthly North Carolina poll revealed that nearly half of the state, 49%, supports the Voting Rights Act, compared to just 23% who oppose it. Furthermore, 52% of the state opposes the Supreme Court’s recent decision to overturn parts of the act, while only 22% support. These opinions seem to be spread across party lines; 62% of Democrats, 42% of Republicans, and 48% of independents oppose the decision, while 14%, 25%, and 34% of the respective groups approve. Opinions on background checks for all gun purchases in the Tar Heel state are largely unchanged from when the question was last asked in May, with support suffering a minor drop from 81% to 78%, though opposition remained at 16%. While support for expanded background checks dropped both among Democrats (94% to 88%) and Republicans (65% to 61%), it rose among independent and third party voters, from 75% in May to 84%.
Top state officials balk at defending laws they deem unconstitutional (Washington Post) -- In several cases, officials draw ire by saying statutes on socially divisive issues shouldn’t be enforced.
Hagel holds closed discussion with female Marines at Lejeune (New Bern Sun Journal) -- Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel held a closed discussion with female Marines on what their military experience has been like during a visit Wednesday to Camp Lejeune.
Senate panel OKs Rep. Mel Watt to lead Fannie, Freddie (McClatchy Newspapers) -- Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., overcame a difficult challenge to becoming the next head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency on Thursday when he was approved.
Officials mark Charlotte light rail groundbreaking (AP) -- North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory and Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff joined area leaders Thursday in a groundbreaking ceremony for the extension of Charlotte's light rail.
LYNX Blue Line light rail extension breaks ground (Charlotte Observer) -- Federal, state and local leaders gathered Thursday for the groundbreaking of the Lynx Blue Line extension, which will extend the system from uptown to UNC Charlotte.
Forest's Common Core questions (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Lt. Gov. Dan Forest continues to question the national Common Core education standards that state public schools implemented last year. The State Board of Education has spent part of its last two meetings talking and asking questions about the standards. Forest on Thursday released 20 pages of questions he wants answered before the board's August meeting, and an accompanying video.
N.C.'s new combined bills hitting the mail (Wilson Times) -- North Carolina’s new Tag and Tax Together program has started and the first combined tag and tax notices are being mailed to drivers with September vehicle registration renewals.
NC companies' secrets at risk, cyber terrorism experts say (WRAL-TV) -- Meat, tobacco, furniture and surgical products are just a few of the North Carolina exports booming in the Chinese market. North Carolina businesses' secrets are also in high demand overseas, and cyber terrorism experts say many companies are not doing enough to fend off hackers.
Top bidder pays $5.36 million for chicken processor Townsend NC assets (Raleigh News & Observer) -- A group led by a California auction company cast the winning bid in a bankruptcy auction for the North Carolina assets of chicken processor Townsends.
NBA approves Hornets name returning to Charlotte (AP) — Charlotte is the home of the Hornets once again.
Research looks at cumulative impact of football hits to head (Winston-Salem Journal) -- Determining whether to remove a banged-up football player from competition is a dicey decision for medical officials, coaches and the athletes themselves. The latest development from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center researchers – involving 40 Reagan High School players during the 2012 season – could play a role in making that choice easier. The center said Thursday that scientists have come up with a new way of tracking the cumulative effect of impacts to the head incurred by football players.
N.C.-filmed 'Homeland' scores big with Emmy nominations (Wilmington Star-News) -- The filmed-in-North Carolina series "Homeland" racked up more Emmy nominations for its second season.
In General’s Court-Martial, Selection Begins for a Jury of High-Ranking Peers (New York Times) -- The jurors in the trial, on charges stemming from a romance that prosecutors say turned criminally violent, must all be at least one-star generals.
ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT
McCrory to visit Boone Friday (Watauga Democrat) -- Gov. Pat McCrory is scheduled to appear in Boone Friday to speak at the conclusion of the second annual Appalachian Energy Summit, event organizers said Thursday. Summit events are open to registered attendees only. McCrory's press assistant Jenny Steele said the governor would then tour downtown Boone for a meet-and-greet, beginning at 2:30 p.m. at Mellow Mushroom.
Energy Summit under way (Wautuga Democrat) -- Nearly 300 people interested in an environmentally responsible and sustainable university system are in Boone this week for the second annual Appalachian Energy Summit. The multiday conference, hosted by Appalachian State University, is being held to review successes and develop and enhance strategies as the University of North Carolina system works to reduce energy consumption and achieve carbon neutrality by the year 2050. Participating are representatives from all 17 UNC campuses as well as the private institutions of Duke University, Wake Forest, Davidson, Warren Wilson, Catawba and Elon. The UNC system is working to reduce energy costs by $1 billion during the next two decades. "This is really about what kind of world we're going to have," said UNC system President Tom Ross on Wednesday. "We have o face these challenges, and we have to do it now." ollowing Ross' remarks was a keynote address by Amory Lovin, director of the Rocky Mountain Institute. Lovins advises governments and major firms worldwide on advanced energy and resource efficiency, and the institute is once again assisting with facilitation of the summit. Lovins said the UNC system is on the right track, but that many opportunities remain. "The efficient technologies keep improving faster than we can install them," he said. "I think we're headed to negative costs." Anthony Cortese, senior fellow at Second Nature, spoke to summit attendees on Thursday about the role of higher education in leading the way to a sustainable society. Sustainability should be part of the core mission of every college institution, he said. "We have to stop thinking about sustainability as an add-on," he said.
Wood Pellet Plan May Hinge on Faraway Policies (Coastal Review) -- Eco-policy in the United Kingdom could decide, more than all the blueprints and well-laid plans, the future of wood pellets here in North Carolina.
Poaching flytraps might become a felony (Wilmington Star-News) -- State officials are exploring making flytrap poaching a felony
Residents question potential impact of wood pellet plan (Jacksonville Daily News) -- While plans are proceeding for a scaled-back wood pellet export facility at the state port in Morehead City, citizens wanted to know more this week about a different project idea.
Charlotte commuters drive more than most Americans (Charlotte Observer) -- Charlotte-area commuters log 1,000 more miles a year and urbanites use public transit half as much.
Crack in Blue Ridge Parkway grows (Asheville Citizen-Times) -- A 200-foot-long crack on the Blue Ridge Parkway north of Asheville continues to widen and lengthen.
Tillis tries, but can't serve two masters (Charlotte Observer) -- North Carolina’s House of Representatives took action on 36 bills Wednesday. They included a package of tax cuts totaling more than $2.4 billion over the next five years, a controversial resolution on guns and important legislation affecting businesses hiring illegal immigrants. The Speaker of the House, Rep. Thom Tillis of Cornelius, missed it all. He was 263 miles away, in Washington, D.C., raising money for his budding U.S. Senate campaign. … It’s fine that Tillis is interested in higher office, and we don’t fault him for recognizing the need to raise millions. But the fiscal year started three weeks ago and the legislature still has not agreed on a budget. Tillis is missing sessions. His actions are raising questions of conflict of interest. He has shown he can’t give his undivided attention to the N.C. House and the U.S. Senate at the same time. He should give up his Speaker’s gavel, resign from his House seat and give his full energy to his Senate bid, unencumbered by such distractions as running the state.
Lawmaking blizzard marks final days of the session (Fayetteville Observer) -- Brace yourself. More Midnight Madness is on its way, and it may not be the kind of fun we associate with a Black Friday shopping spree.
Rural Center needs financial safeguards (Rocky Mount Telegram) -- The General Assembly needs to take a long look at the center’s books. But it would be devastating if the state ended grants for rural North Carolina altogether.
Now, onward (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Billy Ray Hall did some good work as head of the N.C. Rural Economic Development Center, but it’s clear that oversight over the years has been weak, some projects have not been aimed at the right goals and Hall’s board has not done a very good job maintaining perspective with regard to his compensation.
Who can Democrats blame? (Greenville Daily Reflector) -- The tax plan agreement touted by Gov. Pat McCrory on Monday as “meaningful tax reform” may not live up to that definition for most North Carolina taxpayers, but it comes as no surprise. The plan shifts more burden of funding government to middle- and low-income taxpayers and reflects the Republican formula for inspiring economic growth by lowering taxes for corporations and the wealthy. The plan also reflects the failure of North Carolina Democrats to define and enact any alternate formula for needed tax reform that might have averted the rise of GOP control in Raleigh.
Law requiring carbon-monoxide detectors in hotels needs quick OK (Winston-Salem Journal) -- We are pleased to see the legislature acting quickly to require carbon-monoxide detectors in hotels following the tragic deaths of three guests in separate incidents in the same room earlier this year at the Best Western hotel in Boone.
Commissioners should consider taxpayers, employees when spending money (Wilmington Star-News) -- As governments are preaching austerity, they ought to be practicing it for their boards and high-ranking employees
What Libertarians offer NC: Simplicity (Raleigh News & Observer column) -- The Libertarian Party of North Carolina believes that bills should be as simple and to the point as possible. They should cover only one topic and be understood by the average voter. Lawmakers should not add on riders or unrelated amendments.
Best use of limited state money: Teacher assistants, better pay (Charlotte Observer column) -- The N.C. General Assembly is now engaged in completing the 2013-2015 budget. The important decisions made in the next few days will affect our state’s future.
Don’t weaken background check laws (Charlotte Observer column) -- We should be proud that North Carolina has been a leader in the struggle against gun violence, that we love our neighbor enough to pass laws keeping guns out of the wrong hands, limiting the plague of violence on our streets. But now our good common-sense laws are under attack – and we have to defend them.