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Morning Roundup: The N.C. political year in review

While North Carolina experienced a predicted blockbuster political year in 2012, the details weren't as anticipated by some.

Charlotte hosted North Carolina's first-ever major party national convention. A proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage in North Carolina passed by a whopping 22 percentage points. And although it wasn't shocking that former Charlotte mayor Pat McCrory was elected governor, the ease of his victory was surprising, as was his Democratic rival - Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, not Gov. Beverly Perdue. Read AP's political year in review here.

More political headlines below:

--North Carolina’s Clean Water Management Trust Fund, which has spent nearly $1 billion to clean up polluted waters and protect untainted ones, will face a dicey future as legislators convene in January.

--The N.C. House’s new Republican majority whip believes he has the votes to stop North Carolina’s green-energy mandate – the first in the Southeast when it was enacted in 2007 – in its tracks. Rep. Mike Hager of Rutherford County views the mandate as the government unfairly “picking winners and losers” in the marketplace. As chairman of the Public Utilities committee, Hager would like to freeze it at the current 3 percent level.

Pate joins clean water board

House Speaker Joe Hackney appointed former state marine fisheries director Preston Pate to the board of the Clean Water Management Trust Fund Friday.

Pate served as director of the Division of Marine Fisheries from 1997-2007. Before that he was assistant director of the state Division of Coastal Management

He replaces Southport businessman Robert Howard, who served on the board since 1996 and as chairman from 2001 to 2006. Howard's tenure as chair was marked by division on the board and the resignation of the organization's highly regarded director, Bill Holman. Other board members and Holman clashed with Howard over his advocacy for grants to wastewater projects in Southport and Brunswick County.

Hackney praised both Howard's and Pate's service to the state.

The trust fund provides grants to local governments, state agencies and conservation non-profits to buy land and take other steps to resolve water pollution problems. Founded in 1996, the fund has awarded nearly $951 million to more than 1,300 projects.

Perdue pays back school building fund

Gov. Beverly Perdue paid back one of the state funds she used to keep the state's checking account flush during the last fiscal year.

The state was facing a $3.2 billion shortfall last year. From month to month, the cash situation was dicey, to put a fine point on it. To ensure the state could pay its bills, Perdue transferred hundreds of millions from four state funds in February as well as ordering agencies to curb spending.

"When the national recession created a shortfall of billions of dollars, I had to turn over every stone to pay North Carolina’s bills — to pay teachers, to keep schools and other core services running," Perdue said in a statement.

Perdue authorized transferring up to $100 million from the Public School Building Capital Fund, the pool of money used to distribute school construction money raised by the state lottery. Perdue took only $37.6 million from that fund because she wanted to spare education, a spokesman said.

Perdue said Friday that she was using money left over from the last fiscal year to replace what was taken from that fund.

Perdue also took $50 million from the Public School Textbook Fund. That money was repaid by the current state budget.

Transfers from two other funds, the Education Lottery Reserve Fund ($50 million) and the Clean Water Management Trust Fund ($100 million) have not been paid back.

Budget: Natural and Economic Resources

Natural and economic resources includes the state's agricultural and environmental agencies as well as the departments of labor and commerce.

All agencies within this category will see vacant positions eliminated.

The budget proposal would also:

* Increase the annual fee to register pesticides administered by the Department of Agriculture from $100 to $150 to raise $500,000.

* Require the Labor Department to charge enough fees for an apprenticeship program to raise $450,000. The figure would offset a 25 percent reduction in funding for the program.

* Eliminate 70 vacant positions in the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to save $3.4 million.

* Reduce by $50 million each year for two years the appropriation to the Clean Water Management Trust Fund.

* Require the Department of Commerce to sell the state's King Air plane and reduce all costs associated with operating it, including a pilot position, to save $148,000 this year and $296,000 next year.

Possible names for Environment post

Who might serve as Environment Secretary?

Gov.-elect Beverly Perdue has not made any announcements yet on her Cabinet pick to lead the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Current Secretary Bill Ross, who has served since 2001, is reportedly interested in sticking around and did not rule it out when asked by Dome recently.

Other names that have come up with varying degrees of likelihood: Lewis Ledford and Bill Holman. 

Ledford currently works as director of the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation, which oversees state parks.

Holman served as executive director of the Clean Water Management Trust Fund until last year, when he left to become a visiting scholar at Duke University.

Tuesday quick hits

* Gov. Mike Easley will appear at a high-dollar fundraiser for state Sen. Kay Hagan's U.S. Senate campaign in Greensboro Nov. 26. (Ed Cone)

* John Edwards unveils $400 million plan for treating veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, allows them to seek outside care. (AP)

* Political observer Stuart Rothenberg says U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler's seat appears "not to be in play in 2008" despite Republican leanings of his district. (Roll Call)

* Clean Water Management Trust Fund sticks to cap on grants for wastewater projects to $3 million in any three-year period. (N&O)

Changing jobs

Richard Rogers, an assistant secretary at the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, was hired Monday as the new executive director of the Clean Water Management Trust Fund.

Rogers succeeds Bill Holman, who left in December to be a visiting scholar at Duke University. Rogers will start Aug. 1 and receive a salary of $125,000 a year, Wade Rawlins reports.

The trust fund, an independent state agency, awards $100 million a year in grants to help finance projects statewide that enhance or restore degraded waters and protect unpolluted waters.

Rogers has worked at the department for 13 years in various roles from legislative analyst to lobbyist to director of conservation and community affairs.

"Richard has demonstrated leadership in protection of North Carolina's natural resources through his work with the land trust community, local governments and of course state agencies," said Phil Baddour, chairman of the trust fund.

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