Daily dose: Stagnation edition

‘CAROLINA COMBACK’ OR ‘NORTH STATE STAGNATION?’ -- There’s hardly a road-side vegetable stand or machine shop that opens in North Carolina these days that Gov. Pat McCrory and his Department of Commerce don’t seize the opportunity for a news release or ribbon-cutting to announce new job creations. It’s seemed McCrory announces new jobs in the 10s or 20s while South Carolina announces them by the thousands. In the two years that McCrory’s been in office, even with the tax cuts enacted specifically to attract more industry and jobs, the number of new jobs announced has dropped 17 percent; the new job project inquiries dropped 16 percent; new projects announced dropped 8 percent; and total capital investment in new and expanded businesses has dropped 56 percent. Many of those in the Commerce Department who’d been involved in business recruitment in the previous administrations have been dismissed and not taken on by the new private enterprise that has taken over the state’s job-hunting efforts. It appears to be a high hill for the new enterprise to climb, not only making up for the ground lost the last two years, but also dealing with making up for jobs, in a variety of sectors including new energy and films, that will be headed elsewhere because of the elimination of various tax incentives and state assistance.

N.C. trade deficit jumps 17 percent in first half of 2014 (Triangle Business Journal) -- The North Carolina trade deficit increased to $11 billion for the first half of 2014, a 17 percent increase for the comparable six months in 2013 when North Carolina had a $9.5 billion trade deficit. Imports and exports both increased, a sign of growing economic activity. However, imports increased at a significantly faster clip. For the first half of the year, imports increased 8.2 percent to $26.3 billion while exports increased 2.7 percent to $15.3 billion. North Carolina imports more than all but 12 states, but ranks 17th among the states in terms of exports. The U.S. trade deficit for the first six months increased 4 percent in 2014 to $342 billion. Gov. Pat McCrory’s office declined to comment on import and deficit figures and instead focused on the increased exports numbers. “North Carolina products are in greater demand across the world,” McCrory said in a statement. “We will continue to work to make it easier for North Carolina companies to market their goods and services overseas. I expect our exports to continue to grow as more international buyers learn about the quality and value of North Carolina products.”

State Reports Increase In Exporting (Wilmington Business Journal) -- North Carolina exports continue to grow, according to a news release issued Friday by Gov. Pat McCrory’s office. In the first half of 2014, the state’s exported goods and services increased 2.7 percent, compared with the same period in 2013, increasing from $14.9 billion to $15.3 billion, the release stated. Some of that merchandise is going through the Port of Wilmington. McCrory cited data from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration, which show that North Carolina’s export sales for the first half of 2014 grew significantly in a number of markets. Examples are South Africa (147.2 percent), Dominican Republic (38.7 percent), Belgium (29.9 percent), Hong Kong (27.6 percent), Saudi Arabia (26.9 percent), Mexico (18.9 percent) and Japan (6.1 percent).

N.C.’s Export Industry Continues to Grow in 2014 (McCrory Press Office) -- Evidence is adding up to show the state’s economy continues to strengthen under Gov. Pat McCrory’s economic policies. North Carolina exports increased 2.7 percent in the first half of 2014 compared to the same period in 2013, growing from $14.9 billion to $15.3 billion. “North Carolina products are in greater demand across the world, ”said McCrory. “We will continue to work to make it easier for North Carolina companies to market their goods and services overseas. I expect our exports to continue to grow as more international buyers learn about the quality and value of North Carolina products.”

Senate, House Pass Final Coal Ash Bill (N.C. Health News) -- Legislative leaders say their coal ash legislation will protect the public’s health. But environmentalists argue that it doesn’t

Shades of gray: For many, coal ash bill just a first step (Greensboro News & Record) -- Legislators’ adoption of a coal ash bill this week was a good first step to a challenging task, but the job remains unfinished, environmental groups say. “It’s attempting to deal with a problem that was decades in the making,” said Dustin Chicurel-Bayard, a spokesman for the N.C. Sierra Club. “And while it makes some advancements, there are many areas of concern for North Carolinians.”

Obama to address American Legion in Charlotte (AP) — North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan criticized the Obama administration Friday for not doing enough to help military veterans and fix problems within the Veterans Administration, comments made just days before the president is scheduled to speak to the American Legion convention.

President to address American Legion convention in N.C. (AP) — President Barack Obama is coming to North Carolina to speak to the American Legion convention, where Sen. Kay Hagan says she will talk to him about Washington's commitment to the state's military veterans.

Hagan Criticizes Obama Ahead of N.C. Visit (Roll Call) -- Sen. Kay Hagan doesn’t sound thrilled President Barack Obama is coming to town. The North Carolina Democrat, one of the most vulnerable senators, issued a terse statement about Obama’s veterans policy ahead of his planned Tuesday visit to her home state. The White House announced late Friday that Obama will deliver remarks at the American Legion’s 96th National Convention. The appearance gave Hagan an opportunity to criticize the president in the wake of a scandal that has captured national attention. Hagan’s office blasted her statement just 31 minutes after the White House released the schedule. “The Obama Administration has not yet done enough to earn the lasting trust of our veterans and implement real and permanent reforms at the VA,” Hagan said. She added, “I hope to hear the President address these challenges at the American Legion’s National Convention in Charlotte. I will be there to discuss some of the steps I want to see taken in Washington to uphold the commitment our government has made to North Carolina’s veterans.”

President Barack Obama coming to Charlotte Tuesday (Charlotte Observer) -- Three weeks after signing into law a major overhaul of the Department of Veterans Affairs, President Barack Obama will come to Charlotte Tuesday to speak to the American Legion.

Obama To Speak To Veterans In Charlotte Tuesday (WUNC-FM) -- President Barack Obama is coming to North Carolina to speak to the American Legion convention, where Sen. Kay Hagan says she will talk to him about Washington's commitment to the state's military veterans.

American Legion Convention opens (Charlotte Observer) -- They came in dress suits pinned with medals and faded shirts from wars old and new for Friday’s opening of the American Legion 96th National Convention.

GOP Senate Lineup Cheers Party Leaders (Wall Street Journal) -- Republican leaders believe they are entering Senate races with a slate of strong candidates, having defeated tea party-backed insurgents who upset Senate elections in 2010 and 2012.

Democrat Cleary challenges Holding (Wilson Times) -- For several years, Brenda Cleary commuted to Washington, D.C. for her role as the director of the AARP Public Policy Institute. Some of that work included working on policy issues

Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee to attend event at Charlotte Church (Charlotte Observer) -- Two possible contenders for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination – Senator Ted Cruz and former Gov. Mike Huckabee – are scheduled to be in Charlotte on Sept. 14 to headline “Star Spangled Sunday,” a live national webcast from First Baptist Church of Charlotte.

Voting plan divides state board (Wilson Times) -- It only took 30 minutes Thursday afternoon for the State Board of Elections to vote in favor of the majority voting plan for November’s election. But the vote was not unanimous.

ARE CITIES UNDER SIEGE? (Wilson Times) -- Legislative decisions hanging in the balance not only threaten future city revenues but also signal a battle between powers of the state and local government, a lobbyist told Wilson city officials Thursday. “What they’re doing is re-evaluating the balance between local government and state government in North Carolina.

Attorney General asks voucher distribution while ruling on appeal (Raleigh News & Observer) -- As the legal battle over North Carolina’s voucher program continued. the state attorney general, General Assembly chamber leaders and several parents have asked the N.C. Court of Appeals to make an emergency ruling to allow disbursement of taxpayer funds

Legislators lament 'unsustainable' state budget (Laurinburg Exchange) -- The $21 billion state budget recently passed by the General Assembly “is unsustainable and fiscally irresponsible,’’ state Rep. Ken Goodman told about 50 people attending Friday’s legislative breakfast sponsored by the Laurinburg/Hoke County Chamber of Commerce. Held in the Fellowship Hall of the Laurinburg Presbyterian Church, the breakfast also included talks by state Rep. Garland Pierce and state Sen. Gene McLaurin. The three men represent Scotland County voters in the North Carolina General Assembly. All are Democrats, minority members of a Republican-controlled legislature. … Goodman’s remarks about the state’s new budget were endorsed by Pierce and McLaurin. Pierce said Scotland County and the southeast region as a whole are at a disadvantage in the budget process because “it’s rural against urban; that’s the real argument in the legislature. “It’s hard to see how Scotland County residents are going to benefit from business growth in Wilmington or Charlotte,’’ said Pierce. “We have to fight in Raleigh to get what we do get. We have to be there because if you’re not at the table, you’re going to end up on the menu.’’ Sen. McLaurin, in his first General Assembly term, complained about the amount of time wasted in the short session, then the end-of-summer rush to get the budget passed before anyone really had much time to read it. The last version of the budget “came to me at 8 a.m. — a $21 billion budget document — and I was told I had to vote on it by 3 p.m. that day. That’s not near enough time. There should be at least seven to 10 days to let the public see it before a final vote. “I think it would be a good idea if every member of the General Assembly was required by law to have a public budget hearing in their respective distracts before the law is final,’’ said the senator, adding that such lengthy “short’’ terms could be avoided if a law was passed that sets deadlines for completing a state budget, after which legislators pay would stop whether the budget was complete or not.

Look at what the NC legislature left unfinished this session (Raleigh News & Observer) -- The extended short session of the North Carolina General Assembly this year - first projected for completion by July 4 - is now a wrap. Here's a look at what didn't pass.

Discrimination Lawsuit Against NCDMV Will Go Forward (WUNC-FM) -- A federal judge says he will not dismiss a lawsuit against the North Carolina DMV that accuses the department of discriminating against drivers with disabilities. The complaint was filed by the group Disability Rights North Carolina. It says DMV workers are using the state's Medical Evaluation Program to target disabled drivers for further review when they apply for licenses.

Protesters attend labor rights rally at NC Capitol (AP) — Dozens of demonstrators wearing red union shirts rallied at the North Carolina Capitol to call for fair wages and workers' rights.

Moral Monday movement launches week of protests (WTVD-TV) -- The Moral Monday movement is on the move again. Friday, the NAACP and Forward Together Moral Movement kicked off a week of protests outside the State Capitol Building in Raleigh. Each day has its own theme ranging from labor rights (Friday's topic) to education, women's rights, Medicaid expansion, and voting rights. It's important to come together as a larger community to say that your issue is my issue," said Rev. Rodney Sadler, a Charlotte pastor. "We're working on this together." Friday's cause: workers' rights. "Because we think labor rights are so important in the upcoming election," said Angie Wells, with the Communication Workers of America. "Labor rights, fair living wages are moral rights, so we think it's important to tell our state legislature about fair pay for women, and I don't believe that's still an issue but it is."

Growing number of states clear way for crowdfunding (Stateline) -- In the last three years, Wisconsin and 11 other states plus the District of Columbia have passed laws or regulations allowing startups to use crowdfunding to raise money from investors, without having to jump through all the regulatory hoops that companies with shareholders usually do. Anya Coverman, deputy policy director for the North American Securities Administrators Association, which represents state securities regulators, said startups in the states where the laws have been changed still have to fill out some paperwork, disclose information to investors and pay a small fee. But it’s not considered a full-blown securities registration, which can be expensive and time-consuming. The business also must operate in and sell shares to investors only within that state.

Holden, first African American to head NC Highway Patrol, dies (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Richard W. Holden Sr., 77, who grew up on a Wendell farm, served five years as commander of the NC State Highway Patrol. … Holden grew up on a Wendell farm and graduated from N.C. A&T State University. In 1969, he became one of the first six African Americans to join the Highway Patrol. He said later he had been inspired by a state trooper who came to his high school class to talk about driver safety in the early 1960s.

Col. Holden, first black to lead NC Patrol, dies (WNCN-TV) -- Col. Richard Holden of Cary, the first African-American to lead the North Carolina Highway Patrol, died Thursday, according to Lea Funeral Home. His funeral will be Aug. 27 at noon at First Baptist Church in Raleigh. Visitation will be Wednesday from 11 a.m. until noon. Holden retired in 2004 after leading the Highway Patrol for five years. He remained as an adviser to Gov. Mike Easley at the time. Easley, in a statement at Holden's retirement, said, "Under his leadership, the State Highway Patrol renewed focus on traffic safety and ways to reduce crashes and fatalities. Col. Holden oversaw implementation of the emergency lane reversal evacuation process for Interstate 40 in the eastern part of the state, and worked hard to ensure that his troopers had the most effective equipment, weapons and training."

School vouchers, early voting sites (WRAL-TV) -- Lawmakers left Raleigh on Wednesday until next year, but that doesn't stop the flow of news from the state capital.

State's payment little solace for victim of ex-Eugenics Board (Wilmington Star-News) -- Mary Elizabeth and John David were to be loved, cared for and fed like royalty

N.C. man's experience highlights U.S. scrutiny of Islamic State supporters (AP) -- Officially, the FBI agents who swarmed Donald Ray Morgan at Kennedy Airport this month were there to arrest him on a mundane gun charge. But they whisked him away to their Manhattan office and grilled him for two hours on an entirely different topic: Islamic State extremists.

Gov. McCrory appoints Bell to NC Court of Appeals (AP) — Gov. Pat McCrory has appointed a Charlotte judge to fill the remainder of an unexpired term on the North Carolina Court of Appeals.

McCrory Names Bell to N.C. Appeals Court (Voter Update Magazine) -- Republican Gov. Pat McCrory on Friday announced his appointment of Judge Lisa Bell to the N.C. Court of Appeals, temporarily taking the place of John Martin, who retired from the bench on Aug. 1.

New Biotech Center CEO lays out future vision (WRAL-TV) -- Life science veteran executive Doug Edgeton, who once ran the Piedmont Research Park in Winston-Salem, spells out his vision for where he hopes to take the North Carolina Biotechnology Center as its new CEO. He says N.C. has a fight on its hands to grow one of the nation's largest biotech industry clusters. But Edgeton believes he's ready for the job. Restoring state budget cuts is a "top priority" as well as recruiting and helping build new businesses. "We have to be creative in finding ways to bring technologies to the marketplace that will improve lives, create well-paying jobs and create wealth for the people of our state," Edgeton explains.

New Biotech Center CEO will 'push the envelope with new ideas and programs' (WRAL-TV) -- Doug Edgeton, the new CEO of the North Carolina Biotechnology Center and the veteran life science executive, talks about his goals, his background, and the Center's commitment to development of the sector across the state.

NC Central police chief out after DWI charge (AP) — The police chief at N.C. Central University is out of a job, nearly three weeks after he was charged with driving while impaired.

Wainwright to lead State Ethics Commission (Wilson Times) -- Gov. Pat McCrory selected Wilson County native George Wainwright Jr. as the chairman of the State Ethics Commission.

Bullet-proof vest, gun clip stolen from ALE car (Elizabeth City Daily Advance) -- A local N.C. Alcohol Law Enforcement agent was the victim of a larceny earlier this week when equipment that included a bullet-proof vest, handcuffs and a handgun magazine clip were stolen from his unmarked vehicle, the Pasquotank County sheriff said Friday.

Business coaches aim to inspire Bragg soldiers (AP) -- Business leaders and entrepreneurs are at Fort Bragg in an ongoing effort to help service members prepare for life after the military.

Montford Point Marines Honored at Camp Johnson Ceremony (TWCN-TV) -- The Montford Point Marines served during World War II on the segregated base near Camp Lejeune, now used primarily to train infantry units.

Poultry production restarts in old Townsend plant in Siler City (Triangle Business Journal) -- A startup poultry production company from Moore County has been awarded a $750,000 grant from the N.C. Rural Infrastructure Authority to open a new chicken processing line in Siler City.

Rural Heritage Museum to open exhibit on African Americans’ education in WNC (Carolina Public Press) -- The exhibition traces the history of African Americans' education in Western North Carolina, with a particular emphasis on Madison County,

Museum chronicles history of tattoos (Winston-Salem Journal) -- Once, tattoos were the exclusive territory of "loose women, sailors and prisoners," Harriett Cohen said. But that started to change in the 1980s when rock stars and rock-star athletes started sporting skin art. Now, soccer moms and rock fans are equally likely to display skin that is adorned with permanent images. Cohen and her partner in life and love of ink, C.W. "Chuck" Eldridge, own and operate The Tattoo Archive and The Book Mistress on Fourth Street. The storefront houses two businesses and a nonprofit organization. The Tattoo Archive is a tattoo museum; it's a collection of tattoo memorabilia, gadgets, machinery and "flash," which is what drawings and paintings of tattoo designs are called. There is the tattoo shop in the back, where Eldridge does custom tattooing.

Raleigh mayor, husband sell pharmaceutical company (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane and her husband have sold their specialty pharmaceutical business to a Michigan-based company.

N.C. Man Pleads Guilty to Creating, Selling Fake Mercedes-Benz Equipment (FBI News Release) -- U.S. Attorney Kenneth Allen Polite, Jr. announced that ROBERT BECKMANN, 52, of Durham, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Kurt D. Engelhardt, to criminal infringement of a copyright, a misdemeanor, and his company, BECKMANN TECHNOLOGIES, INC., pleaded guilty to creating and selling non-authentic Mercedes-Benz diagnostic equipment. According to court documents, BECKMANN owned BECKMANN TECHNOLOGIES, INC., a company that, among other things, sold remanufactured parts for Mercedes-Benz automobiles. Between about 2001 and July 2012, BECKMANN TECHNOLOGIES, INC., in conjunction with “Company A,” located in Harahan, Louisiana, “Company B,” located in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, and an individual in the United Kingdom, “J.C.,” produced and sold unauthorized, non-authentic versions of the Mercedes-Benz Star Diagnostic System (SDS), a hand-held computer containing proprietary, confidential software. The SDS is used by mechanics to diagnose problems with and assure the safety of Mercedes-Benz vehicles employing electronic control systems.

More than 400 attend fracking hearing in Sanford (Fayetteville Observer) -- Speakers opposed to fracking outnumbered those who favored the controversial method of natural gas drilling by about a 7-to-1 ratio at a public hearing Friday. More than 400 people attended the four-hour hearing at Sanford's Wicker Center that covered proposed rules for hydraulic fracturing, which is also called fracking. The horizontal drilling process pumps water, sand and chemicals into the ground to fracture rocks, which release natural gas.

Hundreds gather at hearing on proposed fracking rules (WRAL-TV) -- Officials from the North Carolina Mining and Energy Commission were hearing from the public Friday night on proposed rules for the oil and gas drilling method known as fracking. The second of four public meetings on the issue began at 5 p.m. at the Dennis Wicker Center in Sanford, where 86 people shared their thoughts on both sides of the issue. Critics of fracking raised concerns about the rules. "The rules are not written with people's interest in mind and the government in North Carolina is not protecting its people," said Debra Champion who opposes fracking. Commission Chairman Jim Womack, who also is a Lee County commissioner, threatened Friday morning to cancel the hearing if a security plan wasn't in place to keep the peace between drilling supporters and opponents.

Proposed rules criticized during fracking hearing (Sanford Herald) -- As approximately 100 speakers took their turn addressing the audience and members of the Mining and Energy Commission Friday night, some common themes emerged in their opinions on and objections to hydraulic fracturing.

Fracking hearing draws a crowd (Sanford Herald) -- More than 350 people converged Friday at the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center to either voice their support for or express concerns about rules for hydraulic fracturing developed by the N.C. Mining and Energy Commission. The meeting is second of four public hearings held by the commission. The first was on Wednesday in Raleigh and attended by nearly 500 people.

Sanford hearing reveals passions on both sides of fracking issue (Raleigh News & Observer) -- A heavily anti-fracking crowd turned out for the second public hearing on proposed rules for shale gas exploration in North Carolina. Before a public hearing Friday evening on fracking, pro-drilling activists said they hoped it would be a more cordial environment than the first hearing in Raleigh. “We are hoping for a polite hearing, unlike the one Wednesday,” said Kathy Hartkopf, a Hillsborough resident who organized a counter-protest to the anti-drilling rallies on Friday. “They laughed at, cat-called and shouted down every pro-fracking speaker, including a 15-year-old girl.” But she and the 25 others, who gathered in the county where the gas exploration method is most likely to occur, wearing shirts with messages such as “Shale yes,” didn’t get their wish. The night’s third speaker vouched for hydraulic fracturing, saying it will be a boon to the state’s economy and that she believes state and local officials will regulate it well. Hands popped up, waving tiny red flags, during her speech. But then boos from the heavily anti-drilling crowd started rolling in once she finished, behavior which continued throughout the night.

Heated words exchanged at Sanford fracking meeting (WNCT-TV) -- More than 400 people attended a fracking meeting in Sanford Friday night for a chance to speak directly to the North Carolina Mining and Energy Commission. Many of the nearly 100 speakers at the meeting own land in areas where drilling many happen. One speaker told the commission the drilling would devalue their property. The largely anti-fracking crowd expressed concern about how the drilling could affect water quality. They urged the commission to require fracking companies to disclose all chemical used in the process. "For some reason, they don't want to tell us, the people, what's in this secret recipe of death," one man told the commission.

Supporters, critics sound off at fracking meeting (AP) -- Police and highway patrol had to step in to provide security Friday for a public hearing in Sanford on fracking. The extra security was called in after a meeting earlier this week got heated. The crowd was passionate but did not get out of hand.

Safety concerns addressed for fracking hearing (AP) — State officials say they have addressed concerns about security so that a public meeting on fracking in Sanford can proceed as planned.

Dynegy to spend $6.25B on power plant acquisitions (AP) -- Dynegy plans to spend more than $6 billion to buy several coal and gas power generation plants from Duke Energy and Energy Capital Partners.

Duke begins demolition of shuttered Moncure plant (WRAL-TV) -- Duke Energy imploded two smokestacks Friday at a former coal-fired power plant in Moncure. The 90-year-old Cape Fear Plant was shut down in 2012 as Duke shifts to natural-gas fired plants to reduce air pollution. "The Cape Fear Plant has been a part of the local community and a key part of powering the region for nearly a century," Indira Everett, Duke's district manager, said in a statement. "The implosion of the stacks marks a milestone in the company's comprehensive effort to transition to cleaner and more efficient energy sources."

Coastal Federation To Fund Collaborative Look At Economic Development (Wilmington Business Journal) -- In anticipation of an effort by Wilmington and New Hanover County to move ahead on economic development recommendations from the "Pathways to Prosperity"Garner Report, the N.C. Coastal Federation wants to develop a model for that development process. That was the message at a news conference held Thursday in downtown Wilmington’s Riverfront Park.

Survey on NC coast to study continental drift (AP) — Researchers plan to study the ocean floor off North Carolina using sonic blasts to learn how the continents broke apart.

Botanical Garden to present ’Following in the Bartrams’ Footsteps‘ Aug. 30-Nov.2 (UNC News) -- Botanical Garden to present ’Following in the Bartrams’ Footsteps‘ Aug. 30-Nov.2 The contemporary art exhibition and related events pay tribute to the influence of botanical illustrators John and William Bartram

Poaching Venus flytraps may become a felony in NC (Raleigh News & Observer) -- But poaching of wild Venus flytraps from their only natural home is southeastern North Carolina and northeastern South Carolina has put the plant on a precarious footing.

Ignominious No. 1 for N.C., again (Charlotte Observer column) -- Tens of millions of dollars are flowing into North Carolina to influence the Kay Hagan-Thom Tillis U.S. Senate race, and there’s no way to know where the vast majority of it is coming from.

Judge made right call on private-school vouchers (Wilmington Star-News) -- Parents have a right to send their children to private schools – at their expense.

No public purpose (Greensboro News & Record) -- A judge’s forceful ruling blocks spending tax dollars for private schools, citing violations of the state constitution.

Vouching For The Constitution (Esquire Magazine column) -- The legislature in the newly insane state of North Carolina had the brilliant idea of shoveling public money into private schools. Perhaps in an attempt to keep James Madison from spinning at 300 rpm, a state superior court judge named Thomas Hobgood went upside the legislature's melon in a big way. "The General Assembly fails the children of North Carolina when they are sent with public taxpayer money to private schools that have no legal obligation to teach them anything," Hobgood said. He then went on to explain his ruling in the form of that traditional constitutional theory of Other Than That, Mrs. Lincoln, How Was The Play? Among the highlights: This legislation unconstitutionally: 1) appropriates to private schools grades K-12, by use of funds which apparently have gone to the university system budget but which should be used exclusively for establishing and maintaining the uniform system of free public schools; 2) appropriates education funds in a manner that does not accomplish a public purpose; 3) appropriates educational funds outside the supervision and administration of the state board of education; 4) creates a non-uniform system of education, 5) appropriates taxpayer funds to educational institutions that have no standards, curriculum and requirements for teachers and principals to be certified...

Thom Tillis to constituents: It's my way or no highway (Asheville Citizen-Times column) -- N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, wants fewer taxes and more user fees in North Carolina. If Tar Heels wind up paying more out of pocket in fees than taxes, well, freedom. The NC Department of Transportation project to widen I-26 here in Buncombe County may not be shovel-ready, but in his Mecklenburg County district Tillis supports widening I-77 from Charlotte to Mooresville. With toll lanes. “Lexus lanes,” opponents call them. Other critics call I-77 “Thom’s Tholl Road.” Residents along the crowded interstate stretching north from Charlotte long anticipated seeing the highway finally widened. Except where citizens expected general-purpose lanes to relieve their daily commutes, Tillis backs a public-private partnership (P3) featuring High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes instead. Oh, there will be new lanes all right, but to use them drivers will pay tolls to a foreign developer. What Raleigh saves today, Tillis’ neighbors will pay out of pocket for the next 50 years. Or else spend more time in traffic and less with their families or sleeping.

Case against school vouchers in one blistering court ruling (LA Times column) – Of all the self-interested scams perpetrated by school "reformers" against public education, the school voucher scam may be the most dishonest. In their undiluted form, these programs are a sop to right wingers and religious fanatics convinced that teaching children that the Founding Fathers were all upstanding Christian gentlemen and evolution should be doubted somehow prepares them for life in the 21st century. This week in Raleigh, N.C., a judge named Robert Hobgood called out North Carolina's version of the swindle for what it was: a raid on the state treasury. His target was the state's $10-million Opportunity Scholarship Program, which was to go into effect with the upcoming school year. Wake County Superior Court Judge Hobgood, ruling in a case brought by the state teachers association and an advocacy group for low-income residents, found the program to be "unconstitutional beyond a reasonable doubt," and designed chiefly to relieve the state of the responsibility for educating the children of low-income families. His decision, issued from the bench Thursday, put an immediate stop to the program's disbursements to private schools. A transcript of the ruling is here. The state says it will appeal.

Let's go back to the drawing board on Hofmann Forest (Raleigh News & Observer column) -- How should we proceed given that a Hofmann sale agreement was signed last October? The most satisfying approach would be to simply call off the deal (which has yet to close) and return the deposit. Then the university could go back to square one and build a consensus answer as to what to do

Key to successful NC charter schools includes partnerships (Raleigh News & Observer column) -- Nationally, more than 20 public school districts have entered into compacts with charters that allow the schools to share professional development, set performance metrics for struggling schools, share school buildings, create common enrollment systems


If Hagan

wants to show her displeasure with Obama, perhaps she should try being silent.

"She (Hagan) added, “I hope to hear the President address these challenges at the American Legion’s National Convention in Charlotte."

Yea, maybe listening to what he has to say before commenting might be a better approach.

The Obama Administration Congress has not yet done enough to earn the lasting trust of our veterans and implement real and permanent reforms at the VA.”

There. Be mindful of who you give "credit" to. If you think distancing yourself from Obama will help you get elected, so be it. Ramifications come with that, too.

Agree wholeheartedly

Aside from alienating a whole bunch of Democrats who support the President, people she will desperately need for GOTV efforts, she's letting her opponents set the tone of the campaign. Just because somebody attacks you for something, it doesn't mean you have to prove them wrong.