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McCrory finalizes his cabinet, picked ousted Wake leader as DOT head

Gov.-elect Pat McCrory named former Wake County Schools Superintendent Tony Tata as his secretary of transportation Thursday. He was one of four picks McCrory announced to complete his cabinet two days before he takes the oath. He also named Sharon Decker as his commerce secretary, former Republican state Rep. Bill Daughtridge to lead the Department of Administration and Neal Alexander as his personnel director. Read more here.

State mini-motor pool opens downtown

The state's motor fleet has a new five-vehicle "mini-motor pool" in downtown Raleigh to provide state employees easier access to state cars for day trips.

The five-vehicle motor pool launched today at state parking Lot No. 1 on Salisbury Street, between Facility Management and State Capitol Police. The cars are available on a first-come, first-served basis and can be reserved for up to 60 minutes. Interested state employees can call 733-3855.

State employees have complained that it was difficult to get to the motor fleet operation on Blue Ridge Road for quick trips.

UPDATE: Post corrects the time period required for reservation and the time period allowed for vehicle trips.

More children home schooled

The number of home schools in the state has more than doubled in the last 10 years, according to the office that counts them.

The N.C. Division of Non-Public Education, which keeps track of private and home schools, reported today that the state had 43,316 home schools in the last school year, up from 16,623 in the 1999-2000 school year.

The non-public education division, part of the N.C. Department of Administration, monitors conventional private schools and home schools.

The division estimates that 81,509 children are home schooled.

State rips floor mats out of its Toyotas

The state wants the floor mats removed from its 17 Toyotas in response to the massive recall related to acceleration problems with the automaker's vehicles.

The state's Toyotas are all hybrid Priuses and 11 are permanently assigned to state employees, according to a news release from the N.C. Department of Administration, which oversees the Motor Fleet Management division. The division has told the 11 employees to remove the floor mats.

Toyota says the floor mats should be removed on the Prius until problems with the accelerator pedal can be addressed. 

Toyota has not recommended additional safety inspections for the vehicles at this time, said Motor Fleet Director John Massey. He added that no safety incidents have been reported with the vehicles.

Motor Fleet purchased a total of 17 of the hybrid vehicles in 2007 and 2008. Eleven of the vehicles are permanently assigned, with the balance available for temporary use through the Motor Pool. No other Toyota models are in the state fleet.

State didn't buy new cars in '09

The state budget crunch has been hard on North Carolina's car dealers this year.

Normally the state of North Carolina buys 2,000 new automobiles each year, says Britt Cobb, the secretary of administration. But because of the fiscal crisis no new cars were purchased in 2009, saving the state between $10 million and $15 million, Rob Christensen reports.

State cars are typically sold after 110,000 miles, but they are now being kept in service. So far, Cobb says, the state has not had any major problems with keeping the state cars on the road longer. Cobb said the state cars are well-maintained. The oil is changed every 4,000 miles.

Audit: State parking spaces unused

While 400 state employees are on a waiting list to get a parking space in Raleigh, 18 spaces are not assigned to anyone, according to an audit report released last week.

The report, a financial control audit of the Department of Administration, found that the department's parking division was not regularly reviewing and re-allocating spaces. The department is supposed to re-assign a space that is vacant for two months.

A December 2008 report found that 43 spaces had been vacant for three to 15 months.

The agency noted that since February 2006, 1,100 spaces have been lost because of downtown development. Those losses meant that the department could not accurately re-allocate space.

The Department says it can now return to its previously scheduled review of parking spaces. Also it notes that departments are responsible for paying for empty spaces and that since each agency keeps its own waiting list, the auditors figures may be inaccurate.

administration audit.pdf

No parking on Capitol lawn

For state Rep. Nelson Dollar, the construction vehicles parked in front of statues and monuments on the Capitol's lawn had ruined enough field trips.

So Dollar got his fellow lawmakers to do something about it.

The Cary Republican sponsored a bill that would let state maintenance vehicles park on the streets around the Capitol for free as long as they stayed off the building's lawn. On Thursday, the bill got final approval from the Senate.

"I just wanted it so school children and other visitors to the Capitol could see the vistas," Capitol said.

In the past, trucks were ticketed for parking too long in metered and free spots. The bill is a compromise between the Department of Administration, which own the trucks, and the city of Raleigh, which is planning on installing more parking meters along the streets.

"It was just to make sure that, no matter what, these people would still be able to work and park," Dollar said.

Whither the State Energy Office?

Pricey HarrisonWhere does the State Energy Office belong?

The agency, which leads the state's efforts to provide information about sustainable energy, would move to the N.C. Department of Commerce under a state bill endorsed today by Gov. Beverly Perdue as part of a reform package.

State Rep. Pricey Harrison, a Greensboro Democrat and bill co-sponsor, admitted that might sound a little odd to some people, since Commerce typically handles business recruiting and development.

But she argued the office should focus on business.

"This office is largely a relic of the Arab oil embargo, when it was focused more on energy security," she said. "We seem to have now entered a new era where it's as much about economic development and homegrown energy options as trying to find alternatives to Mideast oil."

The office is currently part of the Department of Administration, a catch-all government agency that houses the state construction office, among other things.

Harrison opposed an earlier effort to move the office to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources which she argued was designed to undermine it. She says the new proposal is a good-faith effort.

Bill: State prefers more efficient cars

The legislature will again consider buying more efficient cars.

A proposal to wean state government off of gas-guzzlers has resurfaced and car dealers who helped kill it last time say they'll stay neutral.

The bill would require the state Department of Administration give preference to cars in the top 15 percent of their class for fuel economy. Police cars and ambulances would be exempt.

The N.C. Automobile Dealers Association, which opposed the bill last year, opposed a similar bill that would have mandated that the state buy more efficient cars, but it will remain neutral as long as the state only prefers them.

"It's just like night and day," said Rep. Pricey Harrison, a Greensboro Democrat who sponsored the bill. (AC-T)

What else has been cut?

State agencies are cutting back in small ways too.

As noted previously, Gov. Beverly Perdue asked Cabinet-level agencies to trim their spending. A list of the cuts includes some interesting items:

* The Department of Administration has stopped printing most publications.

* The Department of Cultural Resources is training employees online and turning off computers at night.

* The Department of Revenue is encouraging carpooling.

Some of these cutbacks actually have positive benefits. For example, environmentalists might support putting more state publications online rather than printing them, while carpooling and turning off computers saves gas and electricity.

Fiscal conservatives, meantime, support reduced spending on travel and other items.

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