Daily dose: Dash for the cash edition


Top on the agenda with return to Raleigh, raising campaign cash (WRAL-TV) -- Amid the rush of office moves, angling for committee assignments and pomp that marks the beginning of the legislative session, another tradition shows top lawmakers have at least one eye on the next election before they even start governing in earnest. Invitations to campaign fundraisers are circling around Raleigh, including a joint event for Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and House Speaker-designee Tim Moore on Jan. 13, the day before lawmakers are due to officially be sworn into office and officially organize themselves. "I actually have three fundraisers the day before," said Moore, R-Cleveland, ticking off a list that included an event coordinated by the House Republican Caucus and an evening gathering featuring barbecue.


What's on the agenda? Legislature convenes this week (High Point Enterprise) -- The latest session of the N.C. General Assembly kicking off this week may show whether the tax reform experiment of Republican legislators turns into a net plus or minus for taxpayers. Though the economy has improved since the General Assembly and Republican Gov. Pat McCrory pushed through tax cuts that took effect at the start of last year, the state’s revenue is running a current shortfall of about $190 million. A key factor for the governor and legislators is how much the shortfall increases or declines as personal income tax payments come in between now and the April 15 filing deadline. Liberal critics of state Republican leaders say the revenue predicament confronting North Carolina is fiscal chickens coming home to roost from exorbitant corporate and personal tax cuts.


NC budget writers await April 15 returns (Raleigh N&O/Charlotte Observer) -- The next couple of months will give legislative budget writers a better idea of where the state stands financially, as analysts chart the effects of the legislature’s tax code changes since 2013.


Familiar faces, issues to welcome legislators as new session begins (Wilmington Star-News) -- Major issues will include a looming budget shortfall and what to do about economic incentives


After last year’s legislative session, city leaders in NC watch, worry (Raleigh N&O/Charlotte Observer) -- After efforts last year to strip cities and towns of zoning powers and tax revenue, mayors across North Carolina will be keeping a close eye on Jones Street this year.


Education outlook: Poor grades and little money for improvements (Raleigh N&O/Charlotte Observer) -- Money for schools, textbooks and teacher pay sits at the core of nearly every legislative session. Throwing an unknown into the usual mash of ideas is the release of school grades in February.


NC lawmakers face annual challenge: What to do about Medicaid? (Raleigh N&O/Charlotte Observer) -- Medicaid, the $14 billion state and federal health insurance program, will be at the center of more maneuvering and conflict this session.


Coal ash, fracking, renewable energy top green list (Raleigh N&O/Charlotte Observer) -- Coal ash, fracking, greenhouse gases, offshore drilling and renewable sources of energy are some of the environmental issues that will breeze through the NC legislative building this year on their way to court.


Abortion, same-sex marriage debates return to NC legislature (Raleigh N&O/Charlotte Observer) -- Divisive social issues never really go away, and this session in NC is expected to revisit at least two of the big ones: abortion and gay marriage.


Economic incentives, film credits will be back up for debate (Raleigh N&O/Charlotte Observer) The debate over economic incentives that wasn’t settled last year is expected to resume quickly when the General Assembly gets to work this month. Gov. Pat McCrory said recently that passing an incentives bill must be a priority when lawmakers return. McCrory has said the state is courting potential job creators and that the lack of available incentives could be hurting its chances at landing them. He received ammunition in his fight last week when Mercedes-Benz USA chose to relocate its corporate headquarters from New Jersey to Atlanta, after reportedly considering sites in the Triangle.


Med school tops delegation goals (Greenville Daily Reflector) -- Fully restoring the Brody School of Medicine’s ability to collect debt and protecting it from future funding cuts are the top goals of Pitt County’s state legislative delegation.


Tim Moore set-to jump from village to big stage of N.C. House Speaker (Charlotte Observer) -- Tim Moore still lives and works near the heart of this old textile town, not far from the Bethlehem community where he was born.


Tim Moore: New NC House speaker will be tested on many fronts (Raleigh News & Observer) -- The biggest change in the state House this session will be the absence of Thom Tillis and several of his chosen lieutenants. Rep. Tom Murry and Rep. Tim Moffitt were defeated; Rep. Ruth Samuelson didn’t run again.


Rep. Paul Tine: Will he be moderating influence on GOP? (Raleigh N&O/Charlotte Observer) -- Rep. Paul Tine, a Kitty Hawk businessman, announced last week that he was leaving the Democratic Party and registering as unaffiliated for the upcoming legislative session, making him the only unaffiliated member of the General Assembly.


Sen. Jeff Jackson: Democrat looking for bipartisan effort (Raleigh N&O/Charlotte Observer) --Jeff Jackson says he’ll work as a Democrat in an overwhelmingly Republican chamber by studying bills and making suggestions for improvements.


NC Sen. Tamara Barringer’s role has expanded from tax law to foster care (Raleigh N&O/Charlotte Observer) --In her first two terms as a state senator, Tamara Barringer established a reputation for two things: her willingness to dive into complex economic issues, and her ability to explain them – at length.


Lawmaker: Reducing delays at crime lab will be priority (Winston-Salem Journal) -- As the General Assembly convenes this week, lawmakers will mark as a priority the complex task of dealing with enormous delays at the State Crime Lab that law-enforcement officials say jeopardize the full prosecution of certain criminal cases, Republican Sen. Buck Newton of Wilson said in a phone interview last week.



For poor in wealthy mountain areas, new taxes a likely hit (AP) — Counties surrounding two of North Carolina's wealthiest mountain communities face tough decisions on property taxes after several years of a sputtering vacation-home market.


Ex-NC medical examiner manager says rules weren't followed (AP) — Witnesses testifying in a lawsuit filed by a former manager at the North Carolina's medical examiner's office say the agency didn't have written policies on how to conduct autopsies or handle evidence.


Lawyer: Prosecutor says man jailed for 36 years is innocent (AP) — The lawyer for a man who has been in prison for 36 years after being convicted of two murder charges says a prosecutor agrees his client is innocent.


Defense lawyer: Prosecutor agrees man locked up since 1978 should be freed (Fayetteville Observer) -- The Bladen County district attorney agrees former Fayetteville resident Joseph Sledge, imprisoned since 1978 for double murder, is innocent


Focus group’s view on Bush, Clinton: ‘Again?’ ‘Don’t like.’ (Washington Post) -- In a two-hour session, a dozen Denver-area voters were chilly and sometimes harshly dismissive of the political dynasties that occupy so much space in the coming presidential race.


Paula Broadwell can’t escape the news (Charlotte Observer) -- For all the Charlotte resident’s efforts to focus on the here-and-now, it was an infamous and apparently inescapable incident in her past that landed Paula Broadwell’s picture on the front page of The New York Times on Saturday.


Economic Development Alliance to re-examine its targeted industries (Fayetteville Observer) -- Two days after the Sanderson Farms proposal died, board members for the Economic Development Alliance were reviewing what went wrong.



Fort Fisher's historic importance in Civil War largely forgotten (Fayetteville Observer) -- Ask anyone to talk about the Civil War in North Carolina, and the first name you're likely to hear is Sherman.


Wool coat that sank with Civil War ironclad Monitor is nearly revived (LA Times) -- More than 150 years after it sank off Cape Hatteras inside the warship Monitor, a woolen coat discarded by a Union sailor trying to escape the doomed Civil War ironclad is approaching another milestone. Found inside the gun turret, which was recovered from the Atlantic in 2002, the rumpled expanse of Navy blue cloth had to be chiseled and coaxed from the grasp of the thick marine concretion that trapped it — a painstaking process that took archaeologists and conservators from the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary and Mariners' Museum several days.


After centuries, map could hold clue to Lost Colony (Norfolk Virginian-Pilot) -- Hidden markings and secret codes on a late 1500s map of eastern North Carolina may hold clues to unlocking the mystery of the Lost Colony.



Education outlook: Poor grades and little money for improvements (Raleigh N&O/Charlotte Observer) -- Money for schools, textbooks and teacher pay sits at the core of nearly every legislative session. Throwing an unknown into the usual mash of ideas is the release of school grades in February.


WNC educators question letter grades for schools (Asheville Citizen-Times) -- Schools in Western North Carolina will be labeled with grades from A to F next month as part of an effort to let families know how educators are doing. But even before the first grades are handed out, some school officials in the region are questioning the grading system and whether the formula used to come up with the grades will really reflect what’s happening inside classrooms. The school grades are heavily weighted toward performance on standardized tests, and some worry they will add another layer of pressure for teachers. The first grades will be released to the state Board of Education Feb. 5. “It’s punishing to schools that are working with kids who need the most help,” said Steve Agan, who has two daughters at Isaac Dickson Elementary School. Agan also serves on the Asheville City Schools Foundation board.


Custodians Working In Durham Public Schools To Get 'Back Pay' (WUNC-FM) -- Dozens of Durham Public Schools custodial workers rallied outside school district offices Friday, hoping they’ll get their back wages soon. Workers carried signs reading, "DPS, Clean This Up!" More than 140 custodians at big schools like Jordan and Hillside High Schools are still due two paychecks that were supposed to come before the holidays. Durham Public Schools contracts out custodial services. But when sub-contractor, Integrity Facilities Management filed for bankruptcy, workers were not paid.


UNCW names first diversity administrator (Port City Daily) -- UNC-Wilmington has named its first chief diversity officer. Dr. W. Kent Guion was appointed to the newly created position Thursday, according to a release from the university.


From patent law to chemical weapons, Campbell prof Osborn is on global stage (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Lucas Osborn was a patent lawyer in Houston before moving into academia at Campbell’s law school in Raleigh. He recently was appointed to a role with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.


N.C. A&T Campus Police charge man with inciting a riot (Greensboro News & Record) -- N.C. A&T Campus Police charged a man today with inciting a riot.


UNCW students enrich community as they develop (Wilmington Star-News editorial) -- Seahawks again earn recognition from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.


STEM initiatives promising (Greenville Daily Reflector editorial) -- Two announcements this past week spell positive progress for public education and job development in Pitt County. The school system announced it has received overwhelming support for a potential science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) magnet middle school. And Pitt Community College will receive an additional $2 million for the construction of its new Science and Technology Training Center. Both projects are part of a response among public educators to fill the need for graduates with STEM degrees. Children interested in science, math or just building things can be steered toward STEM programs such as the proposed magnet middle school. As high school graduates — or perhaps during as students in the upcoming Pitt County Early College High School — those same students could benefit from the new STEM training facility at PCC.



Coal ash, fracking, renewable energy top green list (Raleigh N&O/Charlotte Observer) -- Coal ash, fracking, greenhouse gases, offshore drilling and renewable sources of energy are some of the environmental issues that will breeze through the NC legislative building this year on their way to court.


In Chatham and Lee counties, opposition rises against coal ash disposal plan (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Fifteen miles apart, in Lee and Chatham counties near the geographic center of the state, lie two giant holes in the earth in which Duke Energy Progress and its millions of electric customers might hope to bury their troubles.


Coal ash rules must be stronger (Norfolk Virginian Pilot editorial) -- Ignorance isn't an excuse when things go terribly wrong. Just ask America's tobacco companies, which made a product that killed millions. Or the manufacturers of asbestos insulation, whose workers died in droves. Or the cookers of polychlorinated biphenyls or dioxins, both of which cause cancers and mess with endocrine systems in ways scientists are still trying to sort out. If ignorance isn't an excuse, neither is the government's lax oversight. Just because federal regulators didn't inspect a chemical silo or a fertilizer plant or coal ash dump, just because they didn't ban the use of asbestos or PCBs, doesn't make manufacturers immune from responsibility if there's a leak or explosion or downstream effect. The Duke Energy coal ash spill into the Dan River, upstream from the Hampton Roads water supply, was an alarming example of the supine oversight that results when powerful companies have their way with intimidated regulators.



Coal ash, fracking, renewable energy top green list (Raleigh N&O/Charlotte Observer) -- Coal ash, fracking, greenhouse gases, offshore drilling and renewable sources of energy are some of the environmental issues that will breeze through the NC legislative building this year on their way to court.


Victory For Solar Owners In N.C. (Clean Technica) -- There appears to have been a victory for solar owners in North Carolina. In what is becoming an all too familiar theme, Duke Energy and Dominion North Carolina Power sought to lower the evaluation formula (the avoided cost rate) for solar energy being fed to the grid. Though the State Utilities Commission agreed that there may be costs that could be added to “a utility’s avoided cost calculations,” they pointed out that there are also benefits which the utilities failed to consider. In fact (p 61), “a comprehensive evaluation of solar integration costs in North Carolina has not been undertaken.” The utilities have to file their proposed avoided cost rate in March.


Asheville executive pushing propane to power cars (AP) — If it's possible to be a visionary regarding a product that's more than 100 years old, Stuart Weidie might be one.


Garbage Incinerators Make Comeback, Kindling Both Garbage and Debate (New York Times) -- With the country’s record-setting trash output unyielding, new waste-to-energy plants are being considered, raising concerns about emissions.


Will Keystone XL construction really create 42,000 jobs? (Washington Post Fact Checker) -- “42,000 new jobs” is going too far. Most of those jobs are far from the construction site, and it’s hard to argue they are new. Moreover, under State’s accounting, they only last for a year. For some workers, it would be a good but brief payday. In the context of the U.S. economy, the impact is barely a ripple. Two Pinocchios



NC should move on Medicaid (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Gov. Pat McCrory comes out of a meeting with President Obama saying there’s a possibility the federal government would allow North Carolina to modify requirements for Medicaid expansion.


Incentives remain necessary for state (Rocky Mount Telegram) -- Gov. Pat McCrory urged lawmakers last week to make replenishing the state’s economic incentives fund their No. 1 priority when they convene next week for the 2014 legislative session. Speaking to a group of business leaders at an economic forum, the governor urged legislators to act within two weeks to allocate money for the state’s Job Development Investment Grant program, which funds incentive programs to lure new industries to the state. The governor’s plea likely will fall on deaf ears.


Our courts aren’t for sale (Charlotte Observer column) -- N.C. Supreme Court Justice Robin Hudson delivered remarks at her investiture on Tuesday. Here are excerpts:


Improving voting: More than equipment may be needed (Winston-Salem Journal) -- After the problems in Forsyth County’s November elections, it’s obvious that some equipment upgrade is needed. But the upgrade that Forsyth County Elections Director Steve Hines is requesting won’t solve everything. We like the question Forsyth County Commissioner Don Martin is asking: What went wrong in the last election and what role did the equipment play?


Environmental policies can harm ability to attract jobs (Elizabeth City Daily Advance) -- If North Carolina’s lawmakers want to create more jobs and spur economic growth, they sure have a funny way of showing it.


Flexible planning can aid gas pipeline's progress (Fayetteville Observer) -- Some North Carolina landowners aren't pleased to host the Dominion gas pipeline, but the project has mostly gotten a good reception here.


Our moment is our own (Raleigh News & Observer column) -- I turned 59 on Saturday and I find myself clinging to that second digit like the nine in nine lives. For next comes 60, and then one is undeniably “up there.” I’m sorry, but 60 is not “the new” anything.


Celia Rivenbark - America can export these to Cuba now (Wilmington Star-News column) -- It's the perfect time to unload some of the people and things that have, well, overstayed their welcome in our country


An open letter to Congressman Walker (Greensboro News & Record column) -- As your constituent, I wanted to remind you of some of the promises you made during your campaign.


Will NC’s ‘conservative revolution’ continue? (Raleigh News & Observer column) -- GOP leaders must decide whether to keep pushing on conservative issues or pull back a bit with an eye on the 2016 election.