McCRORY TO SIGN FIRST BILL, GIVE STATE OF STATE ADDRESS: As expected, Gov. Pat McCrory is making the most of an education bill that hit his desk last week, as opposed to another that will cut unemployment benefits. From AP: McCrory planned to put his signature on a law Monday morning in Asheboro that requires the State Board of Education develop by the fall of 2014 new diplomas that make clear a student is ready for college, ready a vocational career, or both. The bill received final approval from the General Assembly last week. McCrory was scheduled to visit Randolph Community College's industrial center for the bill signing. The bill's primary sponsor is from Randolph County.
The bill also tells the state board to look at ways to make it easier to license vocational and technical teachers. The new law fits well into McCrory's campaign platform about public schools preparing students for the work world.
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WHAT VOTERS WANT TO HEAR FROM McCRORY TONIGHT:
SPECIFIC PLANS:Wilmington resident Michael Wooten, 60, voted for McCrory in November, it was the first time he voted for a Republican candidate for governor in his life, he said. And it had little to do with McCrory’s politics: Former Gov. Perdue’s administration saw too much political head-butting, Wooten said. “I have spent my entire life looking at this from the center to the left of center, and I’m just tired of the political gridlock,” Wooten said. “If McCrory can break this, then that’ll be fine. But if he doesn’t, or if he starts pushing the radical right agenda, then he’s going to have to go, and that’s just how I feel about it.” Wooten said what he would like to see most is McCrory addressing the issues with more than just platitudes but specific plans.
SMALL BUSINESSES:Bill Edwards, 62, owns North Raleigh Guns, and said he voted for McCrory as a small business owner before he considered gun politics. He’s been operating his business for nearly two years, and as he’s begun expanding, he says he’s faced state regulations that have made it difficult. Edwards has opened two locations in two years and is working to open his first shooting range, Triangle Shooting Academy, but said he has been frustrated dealing with parking and signage regulations. “We’re going to hire 50 to 60 employees, and I’m not asking for anything from the city or the state; I’m just asking for them not to put too many roadblocks in my way,” Edwards said. “We’ve got to be small-business friendly: The regulations that they impose on us need to be relaxed a little bit so we can expand.”
BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT:Raleigh resident Leon Sanderson, 73, said he hopes McCrory will address making North Carolina a competitive business environment, especially compared with surrounding states.
HIGHER EDUCATION:Bob Hulbert, an assistant district attorney in Snow Hill, said he hopes to see McCrory explain the details of exactly what he’s planning to do to higher education. “I hope he gives a good explanation of exactly what he meant in those remarks, because if he says ‘We’re going to reform the funding so that we cut down liberal arts programs,’ that’s bad,” Hulbert said, adding that he studied history at Wake Forest University. “I can understand that you are always going to have some courses that aren’t going to get you a job, but the good outweighs the bad.” (Full story here).
WHO IS POISED TO STRIKE FRACKING GOLD IN LEE COUNTY? County officials this month released detailed property data revealing who owns the mineral rights to extract natural gas or other buried resources. The data shows that the owners of 365 parcels, on about 12 square miles, do not own the rights to drill or mine under their land. Many of them are concentrated in the northwestern gas-rich section of the county.
Kenneth Alexander was stunned to learn last week that in 2010, Weyerhaeuser leased its mineral rights to an energy exploration company, granting rights to drill and frack for natural gas under his land. Alexander said he had no idea Weyerhaeuser “could sell their rights, and the person they sold it to would have access to my land. I wouldn’t have bought land and paid the premiums I paid and the taxes I have to pay so that someone else could come in here and reap any benefit to that,” he said.
A NEW PROBLEM FOR SENATE GOP BOARD SWEEP: Republican legislators’ plan to take over key state commissions would remake the Coastal Resources Commission in a way that could strain a decades-long partnership with federal regulators. At stake is $2.5 million in federal funds the state receives each year to help protect the environment in a federal-state partnership that has afforded North Carolina local control of coastal development permits.
ROB CHRISTENSEN: BIPARTISAN BLAME FOR N.C.'s UNEMPLOYMENT DEBT: The political spin machine has been working overtime explaining why North Carolina’s unemployment insurance program owes $2.5 billion to the federal government. Senate Republican leader Phil Berger blamed it on “previous leaders’ mismanagement for several years.” The state Senate Republican leadership, in a news release, pinned it on previous Democratic legislatures and governors who “made irresponsible decisions that hurt the solvency of our state’s unemployment insurance system.”
But here’s the truth. The reason North Carolina got in such a hole, is the state – led by both Democrats and Republicans – went overboard in cutting unemployment taxes trying to please business during the flush times That, of course, is not the current GOP line in Raleigh, which goes something like this: Business had been mistreated under Democratic rule, and now the Republicans are here to correct matters and make sure business gets a fair shake. In fact, North Carolina cut unemployment insurance taxes six times between 1992 and 2000. Full column here.
ACLU AWARDS: The N.C. chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union held a banquet Saturday to give awards to their "civil liberties heroes." The winners: UNC Law Professor Deborah Weissman, the Frank Porter Graham Award for her longstanding and significant contributions to the fight for individual freedom and civil liberties in North Carolina; NC-NAACP President Rev. Dr. William Barber II, the ACLU-NC Award for his deep commitment to preserving and defending civil rights in North Carolina; civil rights attorney James E. Ferguson II, the Paul Green Award for his valiant efforts to abolish or limit the death penalty in North Carolina; Equality North Carolina Communications Director Jen Jones, the Sharon Thompson Award for her extraordinary efforts toward advancing equal rights for LGBT persons in North Carolina; former ACLU-NC Legal Director Katy Parker with the Norman Smith Award for volunteering extraordinary time and effort in service to the ACLU of North Carolina.
THE MONEY BEHIND PAYDAY LENDING BILL: From the N&O story -- The payday lending industry has retained some of Raleigh’s top lobbyists to promote the bill. Former House Speaker Harold Brubaker, an Asheboro Republican, is working for the Community Financial Services Association of America, the payday lending industry group. Brubaker, chief House budget writer last session, is new to lobbying but is expected to have considerable pull. Former state Republican Party Chairman Tom Fetzer, who was voted the second-most influential lobbyist last session, and John McMillan, the top lobbyist in 2010, also are working for the industry. In all, 10 lobbyists are registered to work for CFSA.