POLICIES & POLITICS
GOP searches for elusive Obamacare fix (Politico) -- Republicans cite a sense that articulating their own alternatives to Obama Care may send a message to the Supreme Court that it doesn’t have to fear health care chaos if it rules against the White House. To that end, GOP Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina and Orrin Hatch of Utah are tweaking their Obamacare replacement draft, which is probably the most comprehensive in the Senate. They’ve brought into the discussion two other key committee chairmen — Fred Upton (R-Mich.) of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), incoming chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. “The onus is on us to present a logical solution prior to that case ever being heard,” Burr said. “Maybe the court will feel more confident making a decision if in fact there is a legislation solution [to the subsidy problem] that is realistic.”
Cooper to speak on economy at Chamber event (Rocky Mount Telegram) -- N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper will be the keynote speaker at the Rocky Mount Area Chamber of Commerce’s 111th Annual Meeting on Jan. 22 in the Brown Auditorium at Nash Community College. “Our Attorney General’s presence at our Annual Meeting will help us better understand the dynamics underway that impact education, economics and quality of life for all North Carolinians,” said 2014 Chamber Chairman Reuben Blackwell. “His insight will help us as the new Chamber leadership develops a strategy to continue the economic progress that we are beginning to see and feel in the Twin Counties.” Cooper was first elected attorney general in 2000 and was re-elected to a fourth term in 2012.
For some NC retirees, a big pension - and then some more (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Some of North Carolina's highest-paid government retirees are benefiting from a special fund set up by state lawmakers in 2013 so the retirees can receive pensions that otherwise would be too high under federal law.
GOP Congress to dominate Sunday shows (The Hill) -- A crop of rising Republican stars, including North Carolina’s Thom Tillis, will look to help preview the GOP's agenda in the new Congress as they are set to take over the majority. They'll join already established Congressional giants in looking to show a party that is ready to move beyond being dubbed "The Party of No" by their Democratic critics. Tillis will join Reps.-elect Mia Love (R-Utah), the first female African American Republican elected to Congress, on ABC's "This Week."
Politicos, media already eyeing 2016 elections (Kinston Free Press) -- Quiet so far in Lenoir County
GOP’s top goal is proving the party can govern well (Washington Post) -- Republicans, who are about to assume control of Congress, want to move past a reputation for rancor and focus initially on modest issues with bipartisan support.
Obama to Push Plans Ahead of State of the Union (Will Street Journal) -- President Obama will spend the days before the State of the Union address rolling out economic plans, in a shift from previous years when the White House has kept a tight lid on proposals to be announced in the speech.
Obama Plans 3-Day Tour to Preview State of the Union (New York Times) -- President Obama plans a three-day, three-state tour promoting different themes as a prelude to his State of the Union speech, White House officials said.
G.O.P. Turns to the Courts to Aid Agenda (New York Times) -- As Republicans prepare to take full control of Congress on Tuesday, they are counting on judges, not their new majority, to block President Obama’s second-term agenda.
Alumnus to chair Senate Intelligence Committee (Old Gold & Black) -- With the 114th Congress to be gaveled into session on Jan. 6, Republicans will find themselves with a majority in the Senate for the first time in eight years, seizing control of all of the chamber’s select committees. One of those who will benefit most from the new Republican majority will be Sen. Richard Burr (’78) — a former football player at Wake Forest who remains a Winston-Salem resident — who is set to chair the Senate’s powerful Select Committee on Intelligence. Burr will succeed California Sen. Dianne Feinstein as head of the panel.
Jones, GOP congressmen try to oust Boehner (New Bern Sun Journal) -- Congress may have adjourned for the holidays, but representatives were not on vacation from politics, particularly those lobbying to oust Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, from reelection to the post as speaker of the house.
After year of trouble, VA building for future (Fayetteville Observer) -- Elizabeth Goolsby was the punching bag for a troubled VA in the latter half of last year. At seven town hall meetings held since September, Goolsby - the director of the Fayetteville Veterans Affairs Medical Center - calmly stood before crowds of sometimes angry veterans. At the height of the national VA scandal - and after Fayetteville was revealed to have the longest wait times for veteran health care in the nation - she took the abuse, the calls for her job and the criticism of her staff. But the most recent meetings, held in a small auditorium on the third floor of the Fayetteville Veterans Affairs Medical Center last month, took on a different tone. There still were complaints. But there also was some praise for the work to address the problem and improve care for veterans. After a tumultuous year, local VA officials believe they are getting their arms around many of the problems exposed last year.
Franklin County Residents Show Support for Law Enforcement (TWCN-TV) -- About 150 people took part in the meet-and-greet luncheon in front of the Franklin County Sheriff's Office. The event was organized by a Youngsville man who says he's concerned with relations between the community and law enforcement.
Governors' inaugurals fueled by political donors (AP) -- When it comes to parties, ringing in the new year has nothing on the swearing-in soirees for governors across the country.
Edward Brooke, First Black Elected U.S. Senator, Dead at 95 (Wall Street Journal) -- Former Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Edward Brooke, the first black to win popular election to the Senate, has died. He was 95. Brooke was a liberal Republican elected to the Senate in 1966 and served two terms.
Edward Brooke, first African-American elected US senator (Washington Post) -- Edward W. Brooke, a liberal Massachusetts Republican, was one of only two African-Americans to serve in the Senate in the 20th century. He was the first to serve since Reconstruction, when state legislatures appointed senators.
Edward W. Brooke III, 95, Senate Pioneer, Is Dead (New York Times) -- A liberal Republican from Massachusetts, Mr. Brooke in 1966 became the first African-American popularly elected to the Senate.
How much time could former Gov. Bob McDonnell get? What's next? (Norfolk Virginian-Pilot) -- A sentencing hearing will begin at 10 a.m. Tuesday before Judge James Spencer of U.S. District Court.
Smaller City Council could lie ahead in Greensboro (Greensboro News & Record) – Republican state Sen. Trudy Wade says she may introduce a bill to cut two seats, but exactly what sparked that idea?
Butterfield hosts viewing parties (Greenville Daily Reflector) -- U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., is hosting two viewing parties for his swearing in as chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Monroe bypass hearing set for Tuesday (Charlotte Observer) -- The bypass would be a toll road, extending from near Interstate 485 at the Stallings-Matthews line eastward to between Wingate and Marshville – about 20 miles.
Panthers beat Cards for 1st playoff win in 9 years (AP) The Carolina Panthers were the second division winner with a losing record in NFL history. They're also the second such team to win a postseason game.
Panthers soak in playoff victory over Cardinals (Charlotte Observer) -- On a soggy, sensational Saturday, the Carolina Panthers played one of the best defensive games in NFL playoff history and trounced Arizona 27-16.
New year, new beginning for refugees in N.C. (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Since 2001, more than 15,000 refugees have resettled in North Carolina from more than 40 countries. Starting over is hard. It requires finding a new home, a new job and a new community - all in a foreign language and far from family and friends.
Download Charlotte O’s Panthers app (Charlotte Observer) -- Get the most out of Carolina's postseason run with news, photos, videos and more - for both smart phones and tablets.
Vapor shops see solid growth in Wilmington area (Wilmington Star-News) -- Driving down Market Street and College Road, Wilmingtonians can glimpse names like Vapor Shack, AVAIL Vapor and Electra Vapor.
Cumberland commissioners expected to decide on chicken plant (Fayetteville Observer) -- The Cumberland County commissioners are expected to decide Monday whether to consider an incentives package for the proposed Sanderson Farms chicken plant. The commissioners will meet behind closed doors with the staff of the Economic Development Alliance to hear a briefing on the package, Board of Commissioners Chairman Kenneth Edge said last week. Sanderson Farms, a Mississippi-based company that has a four-year-old chicken operation in Kinston employing about 1,400 employees, is considering a proposal to build a $113 million plant in Cedar Creek, east of Fayetteville. The plant would employ nearly 1,000 workers. Sanderson Farms hopes to put the plant in the county's vacant industrial park, called the Cedar Creek Business Center, that has been annexed into the city.
NC Maritime Museum in Southport Planning $305,000 expansion (TWCN-TV) -- The Friends of the Museum launched the "Come Grow with Us" campaign to raise $305,000 for an expansion. They raised more than $165,000 by November, and aim to have the rest by April.
SCHOOLS & UNIVERSITIES
NAACP to lead talk on KKK pic (Rocky Mount Telegram) -- Andre Knight, president of the Rocky Mount NAACP, said the branch is planning to address the Nash-Rocky Mount Board of Education at the board’s monthly meeting Monday regarding a controversial photo posted on the social media app Instagram.
George Battle defends handling of Heath Morrison investigation (Charlotte Observer) -- One week, Heath Morrison was a popular school superintendent. The next, he had hastily resigned. His undoing? Actions highlighted in a secret investigative report by general counsel George Battle III, who has drawn criticism for how he did it.
Common Core’s test for states (Washington Post column) -- Last month, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush suggested to hundreds of lawmakers and education reformers gathered for his foundation’s annual summit that “the rigor of the Common Core State Standards must be the new minimum.” Furthermore, he said, to “those states choosing a path other than Common Core, I say this: That’s fine. Except you should be aiming even higher and be bolder and raise standards and ask more of our students and the system.” Several Republican politicians, including Louisiana Sen. (and gubernatorial hopeful) David Vitter and Mississippi Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, promptly took up his suggestion, calling on their states to replace the Common Core with standards that are even more challenging.
New rules give schools backup resource for allergy treatment (Gaston Gazette) -- A new statute from the N.C. Board of Pharmacy provides schools with more resources to obtain emergency allergy injections. As of Jan. 1, the state Board of Pharmacy permits public health department nurses to dispense epinephrine auto-injectors to authorized school personnel. Schools can now reach out to local health departments as another option to obtain the medication, which treats severe allergic reactions. Previously, schools could fill epinephrine prescriptions at pharmacies, or participate in a number of national programs that offer the devices for free or reduced costs.
Bat signal for blind example of campus innovations (AP) — A wrist-worn device that can tell a blind person about open doors or down staircases by analyzing echoes is one example of the stream of innovations pouring off campuses like Wake Forest University. The device was developed this fall by students at the private Winston-Salem university for a project to build socially useful technology.
NC companies offer Japan business how-to course (AP) -- A center based at North Carolina State University is offering a course that aims to help company executives get a handle on how to navigate the ways of doing business in Japan.
CFCC's new captain no stranger to Cape Hatteras (Wilmington Star-News) -- Stepping aboard the Research Vessel Cape Hatteras is like coming home for Capt. Robert Daniels.
Dangerous diversity deficit in UNC Board of Governors (Raleigh News & Observer column) -- Bill Friday, the late president of the University of North Carolina System, often reminded students that a million North Carolinians living in poverty worked and paid taxes so that they could receive higher education. In Friday’s reminders, it was always implied that those students and the universities they attended owed a debt to those North Carolinians. The UNC System was never supposed to be just an academic ivory tower; it was supposed to be an institution that served and advocated for every North Carolinian. The mission of the UNC System emphasizes “public service, which contributes to the solution of societal problems and enriches the quality of life in the State.”
Participation in high school football increases despite concussion risk (Raleigh News & Observer) -- High school football ended a five-year downward trend in national participation last year, when almost 1.1 million boys and girls played football at National Federation of State High School Associations schools
Magdalene Canady, 102, oldest living UNCP graduate dies (Fayetteville Observer) -- Magdalene C. Canady, the oldest living graduate of the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, died Friday.
Lawmakers need to approve $6M for ECSU (Elizabeth City Daily Advance) -- In their hasty reversal of course last summer, state lawmakers decided that, instead of pursing the closing of Elizabeth City State University, they’d seek ways to keep it open.
Lee Commissioners poised to oppose Duke's coal ash plan (Sanford Herald) -- The Lee County Board of Commissioners is set to take formal action Monday against Duke Energy's plan to store up to 8 million tons of coal ash in Lee County in the coming years. The board will vote on a resolution opposing this plan during its regular meeting, which begins at 4 p.m. Monday at the Lee County Government Center at 106 Hillcrest Drive in Sanford.
ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT
Doug Rader wants to change how people fish (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Doug Rader, Raleigh-based chief oceans scientist for the Environmental Defense Fund, is leading a new initiative to stem the overfishing that is harming the world's oceans.
GOP's new refrain: 'Not a scientist' (The Hill) -- High-profile Republicans converged this year around a new favorite refrain when it comes to climate change: “I’m not a scientist.
Gas pipeline faces mountain of opposition in western Virginia (Richmond Times-Dispatch) -- Wendy Little was home alone last fall when a vehicle with Texas license plates came up the driveway of her property here in western Augusta County. She asked him if he was an agent for Dominion Transmission Inc., which had sought unsuccessfully to get permission from Little and her husband, William, to come onto their 5-acre parcel to survey for the potential route of a supersized, high-pressure natural gas pipeline proposed through the county from West Virginia to southeastern Virginia and North Carolina. She told him — again — they wouldn’t allow the pipeline surveyors on their land. “He threatened court and I said, ‘Fine, we’ll be happy to see you there,’ ” she said. The Littles are at the center of a legal confrontation that marks the beginning of a widening political battle over the proposed 554-mile, $5 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline and its potential effects on some of the most scenic and environmentally sensitive areas of Virginia, as well as the rights of property owners in its path.
Heavyweight Response to Local Fracking Bans (New York Times) -- The oil and gas industry has responded aggressively to a wave of local, citizen-led bans on hydraulic fracturing, arguing in court that only state officials can impose such rules.
Costly turnover at the top: TVA executive ranks, turnover costs (Chattanooga Times Free Press) -- Since 2004, when Congress replaced the three-member, full-time board with a nine-member, part-time board, TVA is not only paying its executives higher salaries, but has enlarged its leadership team and increased turnover expenses, an inspector general's report found. The audit showed TVA had 54 executives last year when the report was completed, compared to 46 a decade ago, before the expanded board structure began. That's a 17 percent increase.
legislature's not-to-do list for 2015 (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Dwane Powell lampoons lawmakers and other folks in the great North State.
Ethics committee move could raise tide of money flowing to campaigns (Asheville Citizen-Times) -- Someone — thanks to committee secrecy we don’t know who — asked the committee if it were all right to solicit money for a 501(c)(4), 501(c)(5), 501(c)(6) or 527 organization, nonprofits that are allowed to engage in certain political activities. The names come from sections of the tax code under which they are authorized. A 501(c)(4) is a “social welfare organization,” frequently used to run campaign-style advertising. Carolina Rising, which backed House Speaker Thom Tillis in his successful U.S. Senate campaign, is such a group. … t would be tempting to blame the big bad Republicans for this, but Democrats also benefit from loose rules on giving. Tillis received millions in campaign aid during his successful run against U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, but so did Hagan. Those millions are warping our elections already. We needn’t kick the floodgates open wider still.
General Assembly should take a practical turn in 2015 (Raleigh News & Observer) -- The political context as the General Assembly prepares to reconvene this month is not unlike the situation in Washington. The chief executive must show he can advance his agenda with legislative leaders who have not shown him respect, and legislative leaders must avoid swinging so far right it hurts their chances of retaining power in 2016. But unlike lame-duck President Barack Obama, Gov. Pat McCrory must position himself to run for re-election in 2016. And unlike the do-nothing Congress, the Republican-dominated General Assembly does, and undoes, too much as it pursues an agenda that’s half voodoo economics and half tea party hysteria.
We should be broadening the economic pie (Wilmington Star-News) -- Fundamentally, there has been too much rhetoric and, in some cases, vitriol around competing economic interests.
GOP tactics resist inevitable change (Raleigh News & Observer column) -- By changing the mechanics of elections with convoluted redistricting maps, Republicans are trying to hold off a change in voting patterns. The party would do better to adjust rather than resist.
New Year presents familiar to-do list (Greensboro News & Record) -- The economy, downtown, Medicaid, the civil rights museum, civic enghttp://www.news-record.com/opinion/n_and_r_editorials/new-year-presents-familiar-to-do-list/article_...
Watching speaker’s words (Durham Herald-Sun) -- When the N. C. General Assembly meets Jan. 14 to kick off this year’s legislative session, Tim Moore of Kings Mountain is certain to be elected House speaker.
Bond money would be well spent on CFCC technology center (Wilmington Star-News) -- The technology center is an investment in jobs, and in the future of the Cape Fear region.
Opportunity, Enthusiasm Abound in 2015 for The Pilot (Southern Pines Pilot column) -- We’ve always believed that The Pilot belongs to this community. That’s why we started the tradition of writing to you in the first edition of the new year about your newspaper company’s performance during the last 12 months, as well as to give you a preview of what we have in store in the year ahead.
Chicken plant plan still short on objective data (Fayetteville Observer) -- Cumberland County commissioners will go behind closed doors Monday to discuss economic incentives to bring a Sanderson Farms plant.
Celia Rivenbark - Spare us these newfangled vending machines (Wilmington Star-News column) -- A new vending machine uses facial recognition technology to decide whether or not you can have those Twinkies
Rob Christensen: 2014 predictions fell short (Raleigh News & Observer column) -- Every year I get out my crystal ball and make my predictions of what will happen in politics and government during the coming year. The fact that I am often wrong has never stopped me before and I see no reason why it should stop me now.
Euthanizing pets: Ban on gas is overdue step (Winston-Salem Journal) -- Here’s one new state mandate that many will agree on: a ban on the use of gas to euthanize animals that becomes official Feb. 15. And it should serve as a general reminder to spay and neuter more of our pets.
Let’s do our part to keep roadways safe (Rocky Mount Telegram) -- North Carolina Highway Patrol troopers shouldn’t have to spend valuable time hitting us over the head to keep drivers from doing something we all know is stupid and dangerous.