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Democrats cross aisle to vote for unemployment overhaul

Four Democrats crossed the aisle Tuesday to vote for the Republican-backed bill overhauling the state's unemployment system.

The bill, which is up for its final vote in the Senate today, passed 36-13 on Tuesday. Joining the Republicans were Democrats: Ben Clark of Cumberland County, Clark Jenkins of Bertie County, Gene McLaurin of Anson County and Michael Walters of Columbus County.

When the bill passed the House last week, it also received support from Democrats — three to be exact: William Brisson of Bladen County, Ken Goodman of Hoke County and Paul Tine of Beaufort County.

Last year, Brisson sided with Republicans on a few otherwise partisan issues, most notably overrides of the Perdue's vetoes of the Racial Justice Act and the legislature's budget.

So far, the unemployment bill has received unanimous support from Republicans.

State Senate endorses jetties

The state Senate gave another boost to jetties to control beach erosion.

Senators today sent to the House a provision allowing the Coastal Resources Commission to approve permits for jetties - or terminal groins as their supporters call them. The jetties amendment, which was attached a bill on marinas, passed 37-11. The bill was sent to the House.

The House has not been as eager as the Senate to embrace jetties.

Scientists have found that building a groin on one beach causes erosion of other beaches, said Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, a Carrboro Democrat.

North Carolina is one of two states that does not allow construction of new jetties, seawalls and groins on the coast.

A study of terminal groins resulted in Coastal Resources Commission recommendations this year on conditions that should be attached if the legislature decides to allow them.

Sen. Clark Jenkins, the Tarboro Democrat who sponsored the amendment, said that whoever asks to build a groin would have to provide some financial assurance to cover its removal if the commission decides that it's harming the environment.

Candidate had to pay back wages

Cambridge Behavioral Health Services, a private mental health provider in Greenville, had to pay employees nearly $500,000 in back wages in 2007 after an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor.

The company, run by state Senate candidate Frankie Bordeaux's family, agreed to pay 117 employees for overtime work and for misclassifing some employees as independent contractors, according to the Labor Department.

Bordeaux, a Democrat, is the administrative director at the company. His wife is the clinical director.

Bordeaux is challenging incumbent Sen. Clark Jenkins in a primary in a district representing Pitt, Edgecombe, and Martin counties.

Last month, Bordeaux and his wife agreed to repay the state $4.2 million in Medicaid overpayments.

Candidate opposes no-bid contracts

The sole-source, no-bid contracts the state Department of Health and Human Services awarded have opened the state to corruption and cronyism, said Frankie Bordeaux, who is running for the state Senate.

Bordeaux, who lives in Greenville, is challenging incumbent Sen. Clark Jenkins in the Democratic primary. 

Jenkins, a longtime friend of Senate leader Marc Basnight, has represented the district that includes Edgecombe, Martin and Pitt counties for seven years. Jenkins said today he plans to run again. 

Bordeaux said he opposes deals like the one the state Medicaid office struck with a little-known company, Prodigy Diabetes Care. The contract gave the Charlotte-based business exclusive rights to provide diabetes equipment to residents on Medicaid. The Medicaid office did not consider other offers. 

"In this case, there were several companies that wanted to bid," Bordeaux said. Competition offers a greater opportunity for getting the best equipment at the best price, he said.

A marjority of the district's residents are African-American, and Jenkins, who is white, has has faced at least one African-American primary opponent every time he's run. 

Bordeaux, who is African-American, said he would be in the race no matter the incumbent. 

"It just so happens to be Jenkins," he said.

 The candidate filing period opens Feb. 8.

The cost of tree removal

The billboard industry contributed a total of more than $160,000 to more than 30 legislative and statewide campaigns in North Carolina in the past four years, according to a new study by Democracy North Carolina, a nonpartisan watchdog group.

In that time, the industry has been pushing a bill that would increase the area around billboards where companies can remove trees. The bill passed the Senate in past years, but stalled several times in the House. It recently received approval by a House committee.

"The billboard industry is not one of the 10 biggest spending special-interest groups, like the big banks, utilities, and developers - but it is one of the most persistent," Democracy North Carolina said in a press release.

The contributions came from industry representatives, such as business owners, as well as the industry's political action committee. The PAC contributed $95,750.

"If you are an active organization, then you want to help the people who are good representatives and senators," said Tony Adams, executive director of the N.C. Outdoor Advertising Association, who noted that his organization's contributions are substantially less than other PACs.

More after the jump.

Secondary roads bill shelved for now

Legislation that could change the state Department of Transportation's relationship with North Carolina cities has been shelved while DOT and city leaders try to become better friends.

DOT officials drafted the measure, which would make changes aimed at easing the department's cash flow problems and reducing state maintenance costs for city streets, Bruce Siceloff reports.

One provision would reclassify an estimated 4,700 miles of minor state-maintained roads inside city and town limits across the state, and start a process of shifting them to local government responsibility. Local elected officials have lobbied against that plan because it did not include  money to cover the added local road maintenance expense.

The bills also would change a once-per-year schedule used by DOT to distribute so-called Powell Bill funds for street maintenance costs to local towns and cities. DOT wants to spread out the payments to twice a year.

"We've parked that bill for the year — we're not going to run it," Sen. Clark Jenkins of Edgecombe County, sponsor of the Senate measure, said today.

More after the jump.

Who gets a chair?

Here are the chairs of the other Senate committees, the senators who often decide what bills get debated and voted on by the committee.

Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources -- Sen. Bob Atwater, Chapel Hill Democrat

Commerce -- Sen. R.C. Soles, Tabor City Democrat

Education -- Sen. Vernon Malone, Raleigh Democrat and Sen. Richard Stevens, Cary Republican

Finance -- Sen. David Hoyle, Dallas Democrat; Sen. Dan Clodfelter, Charlotte Democrat and Sen. Clark Jenkins, Tarboro Democrat

Health Care -- Sen. William Purcell, Laurinburg Democrat and Sen. Stan Bingham, Denton Republican

Judiciary 1 -- Sen. Martin Nesbitt, Asheville Democrat

Judiciary 2 -- Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, Concord Republican

Mental Health and Youth Services -- Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, Carrboro Democrat and Sen. Malcolm Graham, Charlotte Democrat

Pensions/Retirement/Aging -- Sen. Tony Foriest, Graham Democrat

Rules -- Sen. Tony Rand, Fayetteville Democrat

State and Local Government -- Sen. Ed Jones, Enfield Democrat and Sen. Don East, Pilot Mountain Republican

Transportation -- Sen. Larry Shaw, Fayetteville Democrat

Ways & Means -- Sen. Charlie Dannelly, Charlotte Democrat

Select Committee on Energy, Science and Technology -- Sen. Katie Dorsett, Greensboro Democrat and Sen. Joe Sam Queen, Waynesville Democrat

The latest word on Perdue's Cabinet

Names have risen and fallen like the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

But with no Cabinet-level appointments made yet by Gov.-elect Beverly Perdue, the guessing game on her administration continues.

(Perdue has named a transition team, a chief of staff and the head of a public campaign finance project, however.)

Here's the latest rundown:

Transportation: State Sen. Clark Jenkins chairs the Appropriations committee on transportation. Gene Conti is a former assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation. Lanny Wilson is vice chairman of the N.C. Turnpike Authority and has Senate leader Marc Basnight's backing. David Joyner is a transportation expert and head of the turnpike authority. Nina Szlosberg, a Board of Transportation member appointed to oversee environmental issues, has the support of transit advocates, women political leaders and environmentalists.

Correction: Crime Control Secretary Bryan Beatty is reportedly under consideration.

Crime Control: Scott Thomas is the district attorney for Carteret, Craven and Pamlico counties and served in the state Senate from 2000 to 2005.

Juvenile Justice: Linda Hayes has chaired the Governor's Crime Commission since 1995 and is a past chair of the national Coalition for Juvenile Justice.

Commerce: Senate Finance Committee chairman David Hoyle is well known as an advocate for business in the legislature. Rep. Jim Harrell helped pass incentives bills. Former deputy Tony Copeland now works in the private sector.

Revenue: Former state Sen. Oscar Harris served as Perdue's campaign treasurer.

Legislative Liaison: Former Senate budget analyst Andy Willis is vice president of government relations for the University of North Carolina system.

Health and Human Services: Perdue may conduct a national search for this post.

Environment and Natural Resources: Current secretary Bill Ross has served since 2001 and is reportedly interested in sticking around.

Administration: State Rep. Alma Adams filmed a TV ad for Perdue in the primary, but later criticized her transition team for its lack of diversity.

Cultural Resources: Adams, an art professor, may also be considered for this department.

Charlotte Office: Crandall Bowles is the former chair of Springs Industries and wife of UNC system president Erskine Bowles.

How the Cabinet might affect the legislature

Tom Jensen says Cabinet picks may affect the legislature.

In a post on his Public Policy Polling blog, the Democratic pollster says four legislators who have been rumored to be potential appointees under Gov.-elect Beverly Perdue would leave different open seats behind them.

Rep. Alma Adams of Greensboro: "More than likely she would be replaced by another African American in the minority/majority district and the only threat to that person would possibly be in the 2010 primary."

Sen. Clark Jenkins of Tarboro: "Jenkins has done a remarkable job of holding onto the seat through multiple primary challenges but it seems pretty inevitable that when he vacates the seat a minority will take his place."

Rep. Bill Owens of Elizabeth City: " This is the kind of district that could be competitive if it was truly an open seat, but if Owens goes into the cabinet and a replacement gets two years to establish his or herself."

The biggest challenge for Democrats, he argues, would be Sen. David Hoyle of Gastonia.

"He's been uniquely equipped to win that seat as a Democrat and if he leaves you may as well turn the seat over to the GOP," he writes, adding that "whatever small chance the Democrats might have of holding onto the seat would be enhanced if someone new was able to move into the seat and then be able to run in two years as an incumbent."

Names in the mix for Perdue's Cabinet?

Who might Gov.-elect Beverly Perdue appoint to her Cabinet?

The New Bern Democrat has already appointed a transition team and chief of staff and said that she will put Tom Lambeth in charge of an endowment for gubernatorial campaigns, but she has not yet named anyone to the 10 positions that run state departments.

Based on conversations with Raleigh insiders, a few names have come up:

Transportation: State Sen. Clark Jenkins chairs the Appropriations committee on transportation. Gene Conti is a former assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation. Lanny Wilson is vice chairman of the N.C. Turnpike Authority and has Senate leader Marc Basnight's backing. David Joyner is a transportation expert and head of the turnpike authority. Nina Szlosberg, a Board of Transportation member appointed to oversee environmental issues, has the support of transit advocates, women political leaders and environmentalists.

Crime Control: Scott Thomas is the district attorney for Carteret, Craven and Pamlico counties and served in the state Senate from 2000 to 2005. Current Secretary Bryan Beatty has served in that position since 2001 and is reportedly interested in staying.

Juvenile Justice: Linda Hayes has chaired the Governor's Crime Commission since 1995 and is a past chair of the national Coalition for Juvenile Justice.

Commerce: Crandall Bowles is the former chair of Springs Industries and wife of UNC system president Erskine Bowles. Senate Finance Committee chairman David Hoyle is well known as an advocate for business in the legislature. Rep. Jim Harrell helped pass incentives bills.

Revenue: Former state Sen. Oscar Harris served as Perdue's campaign treasurer.

Health and Human Services: Former Raleigh city manager Dempsey Benton was brought in to clean up problems in the mental health system and is reportedly interested in staying.

Environment and Natural Resources: Current secretary Bill Ross has served since 2001 and is reportedly interested in sticking around.

Administration: State Rep. Alma Adams filmed a TV ad for Perdue in the primary, but later criticized her transition team for its lack of diversity.

Cultural Resources: Adams, an art professor, may also be considered for this department.

In addition, National Education Association executive director John Wilson may be under consideration for an advisory role in education, although the state Superintendent of Public Instruction is elected separately from the Cabinet.

Previously: Five Perdue appointments to watch

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