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Legislative spat over Durham development yields public hearing

The Durham development called 751 South has again divided the legislature. This time, it took the form of a fight between the House Rules chairman and a House Finance co-chairwoman. Finance won going away, in a 75-36 vote.

That means a public hearing on the bill requiring Durham to annex land for the controversial subdivision is on for 4 p.m. Monday.

Rep. Julia Howard, successfully argued to Senate Bill 315 transferred back to her Finance Committee after it had been moved to Rep. Tim Moore's Rules Committee.

Howard said Finance had decided to hold a public hearing, so it wouldn't be right to move the bill.

McCrory administration taps Nick Tennyson for DOT post

Nick Tennyson, who was Durham's mayor for four years until 2001, will start work next month as one of two chief deputy secretaries at the state Department of Transportation.

As Transportation Secretary Tony Tata's chief deputy for support, Tennyson will take charge of developing a new statewide 25-year infrastructure plan, which was one of Gov. Pat McCrory's priorities for DOT. He'll step down from a job he has held for 18 years as executive vice president of the Homebuilders Association of Durham, Orange and Chatham counties.

"This is an opportunity to have a real impact on the future of North Carolina," Tennyson said. "This is really a continuation of work that I got started on when I was mayor, to try to get people to think about the near future. Twenty-five years seems like a long time to a lot of people ..., but we need to think how quickly 25 years will arrive."

Tennyson, 63, a Republican, will start work April 1 at a salary of $123,000. His new position puts him on equal footing with DOT's chief deputy secretary for operations, Jim Trogdon. He'll oversee the Division of Motor Vehicles, finance, intergovernmental affairs, planning and information technology. --Bruce Siceloff, staff writer

Local mayors appear in video to boost gun control effort

A national mayors group is trying to keep the pressure on Congress to take action on gun laws following the Newtown school shootings with a new public service announcement.

The 1:26 minute video features Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt and Durham Mayor Bill Bell. The two get small cameos in the spot. "No more makeshift memorials," Kleinschmidt says in the quick-cut piece. "Demand action," Bell adds later in the spot.

Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the producer of the spot, said it represents a shift in the group's campaign for tougher gun laws as it asks Congress to take action to pass legislation requiring background checks in all gun sales, limit high-capacity ammunition magazines and toughen penalties for gun trafficking.

Durham makes charter school growth list

Durham is the state's only county with at least 10 percent of its students enrolled in charters, according to a recent report from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Nationally, more than 100 districts have at least 10 percent of students enrolled in charters.

Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina pointed to the report as evidence that parents are demanding "high quality educational options."

"We hope that our education leaders continue to increase the number of quality public charters, especially in rural areas and other parts of the state where there is great need for high quality schools," Parents for Educational Freedom's Darrell Allison said in a statement.

But this statistic is an example why Durham education and political leaders are resisting more charters there. They say charters drain money from traditional schools.

Jill Biden heading to Durham on Sunday

Jill Biden, wife of vice president Joe Biden, will attend a campaign event in Durham on Sunday, according to the White House.

No details were available. The vice president plans to campaign in Asheville and Charlotte on Tuesday.

The stepped up activity comes as four consecutive independent polls show the Obama-Biden ticket taking a small lead over the Romney ticket.

Michelle Obama campaigns in Durham, Greenville next week

First Lady Michelle Obama will be in North Carolina on Wednesday for campaign stops in Greenville and Durham.

The Obama campaign said more details will be provided later today. Michelle Obama is a familiar presence in the state, appearing at campaign events and fundraisers in 2008 and this year. 

She was in North Carolina just two weeks ago, delivering a televised speech on the first night of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte and speaking to smaller convention gatherings.

Senate rejects forced hook up for 751 South in Durham...twice

The N.C. Senate rejected by a vote of 15-25 a bill that would require Durham to hook the 751 South development to water and sewer service. A bit later, the Senate reconsidered and rejected it again, 18-19.

The measure would have overruled a decision by the Durham City Council, which in February unanimously rejected the developer's request to connect to the city system after an economic analysis showed the connection would not begin to pay for itself for seven years. "It is not the kind of meddling we ought to be doing," said Sen. Floyd McKissick, a Durham Democrat. 

The 167-acre project would include 1,300 houses and 600 square feet of commercial space. 

Corrects: A senator changed his vote from no to yes. 

Butterfield includes Durham in his announcement tour

What do Durham, Greenville and Rocky Mount have in common? (Other than they're all in North Carolina.)

They're all included the newly drawn 1st Congressional District and they are all on U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield's reelection announcement tour. 

Butterfield, an incumbent Democrat, will hold a campaign announcement and rally at the Durham Arts Council on Feb. 10. 

After years of being fully contained in the 4th Congressional District, Durham is divided among four districts, 1, 4, 6, and 13. 

Getting to know you in Durham and Fayetteville

That new face in Fayetteville belongs to U.S. Rep. David Price. U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield is paying more visits to Durham, the home of his alma mater. And it's not to visit the statue of NCCU founder James E. Shepard.

U.S. Rep. David Price of Chapel Hill will be in Cumberland County tomorrow at an MLK event, a meeting with senior Democrats, and a neighborhood meet-and-greet.

U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield of Wilson is an announced attendee at an event tomorrow sponsored by the Religious Coalition for a Nonviolent Durham. Later this month, a Durham school administrator will be Butterfield's guest at the State of the Union address.

Totally routine for congressmen to be out and about in their districts, except that Butterfield doesn't represent Durham and Price doesn't represent Fayetteville. Not yet, anyway.

New redistricting plans reconfigure congressional districts to put part of Durham, which is now all in the 4th District and represented by Price, into the 1st District where Butterfield is the incumbent.

Price's district is reshaped to run south into Fayetteville.

Democrats and advocacy groups are fighting the new district plans in court with the aim of having the maps redrawn.

But Butterfield and Price wouldn't be politicians if they didn't weren't planning for all contingencies.

Sex ed text line hits the big time

While legislators are debating what kind of sex education public schools should teach, the country is talking about a program that gives students answers to teens' questions about sex by text message.

After the New York Times published a story Sunday about the Birds and Bees Text Line, run by the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of North Carolina, the phone started ringing with interview requests, Lynn Bonner reports.

Look for staff members talking about sex ed by text message Wednesday on Fox and Friends, the Today Show on NBC, and the Early Show on CBS, said pregnancy prevention campaign director Kay Phillips.

The office, based in Durham, has had requests for information about the text line from other states. At least a few states asked if they could forward their teens' questions to North Carolina, Phillips said.

The answer was no, but the office is willing to teach other states how to set up their own text lines, she said.

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