POLICY & POLITICS
GOP deal cut? Moore next speaker, Hagar to be majority leader (Winston-Salem Journal) -- Republican members of the N.C. House will pick the chamber’s next speaker Nov. 22. This Saturday, candidates for the leadership post will make their case in Raleigh, as GOP House members congregate to discuss their “plan of organization,” according to several lawmakers and party insiders. Sources familiar with the selection process said this week that several names have risen to the top as possible candidates for House speaker. Tim Moore of Cleveland County is one of the frontrunners and Mike Hager of Rutherford may be the chamber’s next majority leader, they say. A deal has been struck that would allow Moore to be the speaker and Hager to be the majority leader, one source said. However, another source said that it is not a done deal and that there could be as many as three rounds of voting, as there are several strong candidates.
Lawmakers peeved over surprise makeover to House chamber (WRAL-TV)-- Outgoing state House Speaker Thom Tillis authorized extensive changes to the House chamber without discussing it with fellow lawmakers. The $125,000 makeover includes walling off six of the 13 sets of double doors to the 51-year-old chamber and replacing the iconic red velvet drapes behind the speaker's dais with wood paneling. Rep. Grier Martin, D-Wake, said he first noticed the plastic sheeting in the House chamber last week but didn't think much about it. "My assumption was that they were just doing some limited maintenance work, cleaning some things up," Martin said Wednesday.
Tillis’ taxpayer-funded parting gift: NC House Chamber Gets Surprise Facelift (WUNC-FM) -- Some North Carolina legislators say they were surprised and upset to hear that their House Chamber is undergoing renovations. They say they didn’t green light the $125,000 expense, and that it didn't go through the legislative services commission. The project received approval from the office of House Speaker Thom Tillis, who is transitioning to U.S. senator. “Quite a surprise,” said House Republican Representative Julia Howard. “I am shocked that they’re taking the red curtains down, that’s a piece of our history. It does disturb me.”
Democratic lawmakers question NC House upgrades (AP) -- The N.C. House chamber is getting an estimated $125,000 face lift, just before the next edition of the General Assembly. But members of both parties aren't happy with what's being covered up or how the project got carried out. Workers this week began nailing drywall over the special-form masonry blocks that make up the walls of the House floor. Outgoing Speaker Thom Tillis (R-Mecklenburg) authorized the renovations, his office confirmed Wednesday. Tillis defeated U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan last week and was in Washington on Wednesday. Wall board is being installed over three of the five sets of double doors on each side of the chamber, blocking their use -- just like the Senate did eight years ago within its chamber at the 1963 Legislative Building. The changes mean legislators will have fewer entry points for daily floor sessions and moving in and out between votes. Plans also are in place to install wood paneling behind the speaker's dais, said Kory Goldsmith, the interim legislative services officer at the General Assembly. Electric outlets and data ports also will be installed at members' desks. Tillis spokeswoman Anna Roberts said Wednesday upgrades will "help members of both parties work more efficiently online as we continue to modernize the legislature and to go paperless." She also said other changes are being replaced due to age or to mirror aspects of what the Senate did during the past decade.
Berger's big bucks and possible errant finance report (Greensboro News & Record) -- State Senate leader Phil Berger raised nearly $2 million through the third quarter of the year, according to his campaign finance report.
SC same-sex marriage ban overturned by federal judge (Charlotte Observer) -- SC same-sex marriage ban overturned by federal judge (Charlotte Observer) -- Federal Judge Richard Gergel of Charleston overturned state law and ruled Wednesday that couples of the same sex have a right under the U.S. Constitution to marry in South Carolina.
State NAACP leader says group 'emboldened' by election results (Wilmington Star-News) -- The Rev. William Barber II stressed Wednesday he was looking forward and hoping to work with the Republicans.
2nd chance: Uninsured can get health coverage starting Saturday (Charlotte Observer) -- The Affordable Care Act health insurance exchange opens Saturday for its second round of sign-ups, building on the experience of almost 500,000 Carolinians who signed up in 2014.
New health care law complicates tax filing season for many in NC (Raleigh News & Observer) -- The new federal health care law means legions of uninsured and newly insured people face a daunting task in filing their tax returns for this year. The imminent tax law changes are likely to bewilder the people
NC to expand veterans treatment court after first graduates succeed (Raleigh News & Observer) -- North Carolina's first veterans treatment court graduated its first class on Wednesday as Gov. Pat McCrory pledged to expand the program to counties across the state.
Graduates of N.C.'s first Veterans Treatment Court celebrate a second chance (Fayetteville Observer) -- Amid celebrity and celebration Wednesday afternoon, six North Carolina veterans found common ground - and a second chance.
NC's highest civilian honor marks 50th anniversary (AP) -- North Carolina is marking the 50th anniversary of the presentation of its highest civilian honor when the awards are presented in Durham. Gov. Pat McCrory will present the North Carolina Awards to six people Thursday. The awards have been presented annually since 1964. Honorees include Dr. Betsy Bennett, who led the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences as it became the state's most visited museum and supervised the opening of the Nature Research Center in 2012. She's receiving the award for public service as is Robert Ingram of Durham. Other recipients are: Lenard Moore of Raleigh for literature; Dr. Jagdish Narayan of Raleigh for science; Alan Shapiro of Chapel Hill for literature and Ira David Wood III of Raleigh for fine arts.
N.C. employers dodge more federal unemployment taxes (AP) — North Carolina businesses won't have to pay even higher unemployment insurance taxes beyond what's already required while the state still owes the federal government money used to pay jobless benefits during the Great Recession.
US waives jobless tax hike for NC employers (Raleigh News & Observer) -- North Carolina employers bracing for another increase in their federal unemployment taxes won’t be paying as steep an increase as expected.
Congress’ 100th woman, a North Carolinian, takes her oath (McClatchy Newspapers) -- Newly elected Democratic Rep. Alma Adams of North Carolina said Wednesday that being the 100th woman in Congress comes with a lot of responsibility.
Adams sworn in as NC's newest House member (AP) — North Carolina again has a 13th U.S. House member after a vacancy that lasted ten months.
Tillis surveys his new home (McClatchy Newspapers) -- Expect the U.S. Senate under Republican control to focus on jobs and the budget and to get a lot done next year, Republican senator-elect Thom Tillis said in an interview Wednesday, after a day of orientation on Capitol Hill.
Supreme Court Considers Voting-Rights Case (Wall Street Journal) -- The justices appeared divided Wednesday over whether Alabama can draw its election map with predominantly black legislative districts that effectively limit racially diverse areas where Democrats can compete.
Forbes: N.C. is 3rd-best state for business (Triangle Business Journal) -- North Carolina moves from No. 4 to No. 3 in Forbes' 2014 rankings of the "Best and Worst States for Business."
Honda Aero, Sheetz Unveil Large Expansions in Burlington (TWCN-TV) -- Big business is booming in Burlington. Honda Aero and Sheetz both unveiled large expansions on Wednesday. Four years of preparations and training went into creating a new Honda jet engine. "It wasn't all just building the engine but all the infrastructure from hiring the employees to building work instructions, to buying the tools to do the work, our work stations, everything," said Michael Edmonson, production team leader at Honda Aero. Gov. Pat McCrory says new technology and talent is another tool to entice new business to the area. "The cost of doing business in North Carolina has been reduced," said McCrory. "They're finding the talent in this region which is very beneficial with the partnerships we have with the universities and the community colleges. The logistics, being in and around the airports." Sheetz celebrated the opening of a new distribution plant which brings around 200 new jobs.
Honda starts jet engine output as it pushes into aviation business (Japan Times) -- Honda Motor Co. began manufacturing engines Wednesday for its HondaJet small aircraft at a subsidiary in Burlington, North Carolina, and expects certification by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration in the first quarter of next year. The HF120 turbofan engine, developed jointly with U.S. electric equipment giant General Electric Co., is touted as being roughly 10 percent more fuel-efficient than competing engines of the same class and represents a major enhancement of the HondaJet’s capability. With capacity to build 500 engines per year, Honda also wants to supply some units to Sierra Industries Ltd., a U.S. aircraft maintenance company, in the hope of taking advantage of economies of scale.
Honda Aero shows off first engine built in Burlington (Greensboro News & Record) -- A plant in Greensboro makes the sleek HondaJet. But a plant in Burlington will make it fly. On Wednesday, Gov. Pat McCrory pulled away a black cloth to reveal the first jet engine made in the Burlington plant, which now employs about 60 people.
Seven years in the making: Honda Aero unveils engine (Burlington Times-News) -- After seven years in Burlington, Honda Aero Inc. Wednesday unveiled the first HF 120 Turbofan jet engine to be produced at its plant on Tucker Street Extension. “To this point we have been preparing; it took time, but now we are here at the starting line to build our business,” said Masahiro Izumi, president and CEO. “As with many other Honda businesses, we start our business small … but step by step we will grow our business big.” The unveiling comes after 28 years of work, Izumi said. North Carolina — especially Burlington — has been looking forward to this for seven years. Gov. Pat McCrory, the Alamance County state legislative delegation, Burlington Mayor Ronnie Wall, County Commissioner Linda Massey, representatives from Alamance Community College, the chamber of commerce, local business leaders, a big crowd of white-clad Honda Aero employees and media from Burlington to Japan joined the celebration Wednesday morning in the Honda Aero plant.
1st Vice-Chair Keever running to lead NC Democrats (AP) — The first vice-chairwoman of the North Carolina Democratic Party is running for the party's top elected position.
Former legislator Patsy Keever wants to be Dems' chair (Asheville Citizen-Times) -- Patsy Keever, a former Buncombe County commissioner then state legislator who is first vice chair of the state Democratic Party, said Wednesday she is running to be state party chair. The winner of the race will be in charge of Democrats' 2016 efforts to reverse defeats they suffered in 2012 and this year. The state party apparatus has been in turmoil for much of the past few years. Keever, who lives in Asheville, became first vice chair in August 2013 after her predecessor resigned, citing differences with current Chairman Randy Voller.
Cuts in Military Mean Job Losses for Career Staff (New York Times) -- Forced to retire after 20 years of Army service, Capt. Elder Saintjuste, in Hope Mills, N.C., will receive a sergeant’s pension. The cuts have mostly affected enlisted soldiers but are beginning to force out officers who were clearly intending on making a career of the military.
NC Quick Pass users good to go in Georgia (AP) — Motorists who have a North Carolina Quick Pass transponder for their vehicles can use their device outside the state as well.
Newly released diaries reveal more about Graham’s alliance with Nixon (Carolina Public Press) -- November 12, 2014
Forty years after Nixon’s resignation, another round of disclosures details Graham’s role as one of the late president’s confidants and strategists.
Four sentenced for mortgage fraud scheme (Wilmington Star-News) -- Individuals were asked to allow construction loans to be obtained in their names in exchange for cash from the conspirators
Video games contribute $102.5M to N.C.'s economy (Triad Business Journal) -- North Carolina's video game industry meant $102.5 million to the state's economy, according to a new study by trade group Entertainment Software Association. And Raleigh video game celeb Cliff Bleszinski sure isn't surprised.
Is NC Next Generation Network in jeopardy? No one's talking (WRAL-TV) -- An event discussing the impact of gigabit Internet access on the Triangle sponsored by AT&T is still a "go" for Thursday, but whether the communications giant will proceed with the North Carolina Next Generation Network and other fiber projects in the Triangle is not clear after AT&T's CEO announced a "pause" in deployments. No one involved will comment specifically. Will AT&T's delay impact Google Fiber's decision making?
BB&T to Buy Susquehanna Bancshares for $2.5 Billion (New York Times) -- The deal will give the BB&T Corporation a bigger foothold in Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey and West Virginia.
N.C. Women Seek Their Rightful Place In The Meat Business (WUNC-FM) -- Most of America’s food industry is male-dominated, from the farmers to the chefs. But a group of women gathered in Chapel Hill, N.C. this week to learn and hopefully take their rightful place in the competitive meat business. And that includes bringing home the bacon and frying it up in a pan.
SCHOOLS & UNIVERSITIES
Brunswick school board fires Superintendent Pruden (Wilmington Star-News) -- A divided Brunswick County school board voted Wednesday to fire Superintendent Edward Pruden
Friction erupts in CMS over Heath Morrison departure (Charlotte Observer) -- Former Superintendent Heath Morrison said Wednesday that he presented concerns about a plan to give raises to members of the district's legal department, two weeks before general counsel George Battle III launched an investigation into allegations of misconduct against Morrison. Battle denies that conflict over the raises played a role in the investigation.
Retaining teachers must be a priority (Rocky Mount Telegram editorial) -- While teacher pay raises approved this year by the N.C. General Assembly offered welcome relief in varying amounts to state educators, a new study shows North Carolina is losing its best and brightest classroom resources.
Student Debt Rises Again (Inside Higher Ed) -- Average debt of college students with loans again ticked up last year; bachelor's degree recipients at public and private nonprofit institutions left with average debt of $28,400, up 2 percent.
Coal ash commission begins big job (Raleigh News & Observer) -- North Carolina is about to start building a comprehensive regulatory scheme leading to the cleaning up and safe storage of coal ash. How effective that turns out to be depends upon a new commission that meets for the first time Friday. Its members come from a variety of backgrounds that touch on the issue. But some environmentalists are concerned that it tilts toward industry representatives and doesn’t include advocates or people who live near the coal-fired plants. The Coal Ash Management Commission, whose nine members are appointed by the governor and legislature, is charged with prioritizing – based on risk of pollution – the closing of 32 ponds where ash is stored at Duke Energy’s 14 coal-fired plants near rivers. The coal residue in high- or intermediate-risk basins will have to be removed, but the low-risk ponds could be capped without being moved – a far cheaper but potentially hazardous option. That will be the tension between Duke Energy and state environmental regulators and advocates, with the coal commission in the middle.
ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT
Why solar farms are booming in N.C. (WCNC-TV) -- This week, SNL Financial put out this map, showing where farms of solar panels are showing up. As you can see, North Carolina is exploding with solar, more so than any other neighboring state. We rank third in the nation when it comes to the amount of solar power that's on the state's grid. Largely because Duke Energy had to solve a problem. A state law says that in the year 2020, one eighth of all of the power Duke Energy makes has to come from renewable energy. Right now, it mostly comes from coal. So to get there-- Duke has largely turned to Solar power for two reasons: The federal tax credits are really good (30%) and so are the state tax credits (35%). "North Carolina has one of the best incentives in the country," Chris Verner of Accelerate Solar told us in May, "and by far one of the best incentives for large scales arrays." The price of solar panels has come way down in recent years. Hence, solar farms are popping up everywhere in North Carolina (Most recently, in Kings Mountain and Hickory in our area) and earlier this year, Duke Energy it would invest a half billion dollars into solar in North Carolina.
North Carolina Breathes a Little Easier in 2014, Literally (Public News Service) -- It may the time of year when North Carolinians are holding their breath for the next freeze warning, but the latest data on 2014 ozone levels in the Tarheel State indicates people can take a small sigh of relief about the air they breathe.
Oceana environmental group objects to governor's offshore drilling secrecy (State Port Pilot) -- The local representative of an international environmental group has called Gov. Pat McCrory’s recent statements on offshore oil drilling premature and in conflict with established tourism, fishing and resort uses of the coast. Oceana and other groups criticized McCrory’s recent closed-door meeting with the six other members of the Outer Continental Shelf Governors Coalition. McCrory responded by holding a question-and-answer-style press conference following the Nov. 6 session. He included a state energy advisor and the chief of the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources.
Offshore Drilling In North Carolina (WUNC-FM) -- In 2015, oil industry representatives will begin exploration off the Carolina coastlines. Some of those representatives met with government officials last week in Raleigh. But the details around their closed-door meeting are scant. Supporters say the potential drilling could create jobs and revenue for the state but environmentalists maintain that drilling harms humans and wildlife.
limate Accord Relies on Environmental Policies Now in Place (New York Times) -- The United States and China should both be able to meet the stated goals by aggressively pursuing policies that are largely underway, analysts said.
Table Rock wildfire anniversary: Fire helps rejuvenate forest life (Morganton Herald-News) -- One year ago today, a blaze struck the Pisgah National Forest that would burn for three weeks and almost 3,000 acres.
Ringside Seat to an Ancient Ritual (Coastal Review) -- Bird watchers gather on Ocracoke each fall to scan the skies for migrating kestrels, hawks and other raptors.
Asheville's first sustainability czar steps down (Asheville Citizen-Times) -- The city's first sustainability czar, Maggie Ullman, has left the position after six years on the job. Ullman was hired to run the city's sustainability office in 2008 with the goal of improving Asheville's energy efficiency and reducing the city's carbon footprint. During her time in the sustainability office, the city reduced its carbon footprint by 25 percent through power-use reduction programs and a move toward better building practices. Ullman also ramped up recycling with the "blue-bin" system that cut landfill waste by 6.5 percent and oversaw the switchover to high-efficiency LED streetlights, saving $450,000 annually in energy costs. She left the job at the end of October. She has started her own consulting firm that will work with various cities "toward collective action and streamlined practices" on sustainability, Ullman said.
An outrageous blanket of secrecy over NC courts (Raleigh News & Observer column) -- For the first time in 40 years, North Carolina voters cast their ballots for judges without any information about pending judicial ethics complaints. This bizarre situation resulted from the last-minute passage of House Bill 562, a bill subjected to little public scrutiny or discussion. The problems with this bill are so great that for the first time in its history, the North Carolina Bar Association – in a letter signed by all living past presidents – asked the governor to veto it. Although the legislative vote indicated that a veto could be sustained, Gov. Pat McCrory signed the bill into law. House Bill 562 did three things that will erode the integrity of our courts.
Open up coastal-drilling meetings (Winston-Salem Journal) -- When it comes to North Carolina’s coast and processes that affect all of us, the McCrory administration needs to stop meeting behind closed doors.
State law fosters harmful secrecy (Charlotte Observer) -- As obtuse as the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board has been with regard to superintendent Heath Morrison’s resignation, state law allows it. That needs to change.
Expanded ferry system one of many ideas on long-range transit plan (Wilmington Star-News) -- Transportation planners went “back to the future” with their recent brainstorm – an expanded ferry system to move people and cars across the Cape Fear River.
GOP reaps NC victories from its redistricting maps (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Results from the 2014 vote show how Republican gerrymandering has warped voting districts and results.
Help meet foster care needs (Greenville Daily Reflector) -- More help is always needed in the foster care systems of North Carolina and elsewhere.