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Bill would amend hate crimes law

Pricey HarrisonThe Matthew Shephard Act is back, minus the name.

Rep. Pricey Harrison has again filed a bill that would add age, gender, sexual orientation or disability to the state's hate crimes law.

Currently, North Carolina only outlaws hate crimes based on ethnicity, although attacks motivated by prejudice can still be prosecuted as regular crimes.

After the killing of University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard in 1998, some North Carolina legislators tried to add sexual orientation to the hate crimes law unsuccessfully.

The new bill is simply titled the "Safer Communities Act" and makes no mention of Shepard, but the Greensboro Democrat said that she was particularly concerned about the high rate of hate crimes against gays and lesbians.

She said she understood the argument that there shouldn't be a special law against hate crimes, but as long as there is it should be complete.

"It's our feeling that if we have a hate crimes law, we ought to be covering all of the hate crimes," she said.

Previous versions of the bill have not made it out of committee, but Harrison said she was optimistic since Congress may take similar action this year.

Harrison targets tuition break

Pricey HarrisonRep. Pricey Harrison wants to end a tuition break for out-of-state athletes.

The Greensboro Democrat plans to file a bill that would end a special scholarship program at state universities that allows out-of-state athletes to pay in-state tuition rates.

The program began as a provision in the state Senate's budget. Harrison has gotten notice from good government groups for her unsuccessful attempts to end it.

She said she feels better about eliminating the estimated $10 million cost this year.

"At a time when we've got a $2 billion budget gap it just doesn't make sense that we're subsidizing out-of-state athletes," she said.

She also argued that the program subsidizies the Wolfpack Club, the Rams Club and the Pirate Club, the booster groups for state universities, which otherwise would have to give donations to support the athletes.

Some more House bills

A few of the interesting new House bills:

H.B. 74: Spend 65% of School Funds in Classroom, Rep. John Blust

H.B. 75: Salary Funds/Spend Only for Salaries, Rep. Blust

H.B. 76: School Board Candidate Filing Fee, Reps. Rick Glazier, Doug Yongue

H.B. 78: Honor Jimmy Johnson, NASCAR Nextel Champ, Rep. Bill Owens

H.B. 83: Modify Out-of-State Tuition Exemption, Reps. Pricey Harrison, George Cleveland, Wil Neumann, Jennifer Weiss

Quick Hits

* U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler raised "a six-figure sum" at a fundraiser in Raleigh Monday featuring former President Bill Clinton, according to a spokesman.

* State Rep. Pricey Harrison said she's going to push again for a law that would require new cars sold here to emit fewer gases blamed for global warming.

* Democratic pollster Tom Jensen argues Civitas' polling on the 2010 Senate race was affected by the fact they don't include party affiliation for the candidates.

* Bill deadlines. House: April 1 for local bills, April 8 for non-budget, May 6 for budget. Senate: March 11 for local and March 25 non-budget. Crossover is May 14.

More in the crowd at Obama rally

The VIPs in the crowd in Greensboro were more local.

At a rally for Barack Obama today, the highest-ranking candidate for state office was Agriculture Commissioner candidate Ronnie Ansley.

Obama gave him a shout-out and recognized Congressional candidates Roy Carter and Teresa Sue Bratton, Greensboro Mayor Yevonne Johnson and state Rep. Pricey Harrison.

Also at the event: State Rep. Alma Adams and state Cultural Resources secretary Libba Evans.

Not present: Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beverly Perdue or Senate candidate Kay Hagan, who is from Greensboro.

Update: The inestimable Mark Binker of the News & Record says he spotted Rep. Earl Jones as well.

Second Update: A spokeswoman for Hagan said she had a previously scheduled event. 

Bill would prevent immigration inquiries

Illegal immigrants would continue to have access to state universities and community colleges under legislation filed Tuesday by Reps. Pricey Harrison, Paul Luebke and Rick Glazier.

Their bill would prevent the UNC Board of Governors and the State Board of Community Colleges from requiring prospective students to disclose their immigration status, Dan Kane reports.

The bill does not prevent the universities and community colleges from charging much higher out-of-state rates for students who are not U.S. citizens. That is current practice.

The legislation counters two other bills filed this session by Republican lawmakers that would prevent illegal immigrants from attending the state's universities and community colleges. The issue of those students' admission first surfaced late last year when the community college system announced a new policy telling all 58 campuses that they should admit students regardless of their immigration status.

The national furor over that announcement led the system to get an opinion from state Attorney General Roy Cooper's office. That subsequent opinion found that the system could not admit illegal immigrants. The system has now announced it would no longer admit them. UNC officials say the issue still isn't settled and therefore have not changed their policy to admit illegal immigrants.

Both the community colleges and the UNC system say a tiny percentage of their students are illegal immigrants.

Gov. Mike Easley has come out against barring these students from attending community colleges and UNC schools.

Harrison of Greensboro, Luebke of Durham and Glazier of Fayetteville are all Democrats.

Obama launches Truth Squad

They are the N.C. Truth Squad.

Their mission? To "make sure that the truth is shared with North Carolinians."

Their outfits? Capes, with a large purple "T" and a lightening bolt.

Okay, we made that last one up.

But it is true that Barack Obama announced today the creation of a N.C. Truth Squad whose job it is, according to Obama state director Craig Schirmer, is to "make sure that the truth is shared with North Carolinians."

Of course, that would be the truth as seen from the Obama camp. The squad is supposed to set the record straight on the candidate's records and, according to Schirmer, respond to "misleading messages from any corner - especialliy those that the Clinton campaign has tried here in North Carolina and in other states."

So, who are the members of the N.C. Truth Squad?

They are: U.S. Reps. David Price, Mel Watt and G.K. Butterfield, former state House Speaker Dan Blue and state Reps. Pricey Harrison and Ty Harrell.

Obama announces 50 Edwards supporters

The Barack Obama campaign Wednesday released a list of 50 former North Carolina supporters of John Edwards who are backing the Illinois senator in the May 6th primary.

Rob Christensen reports that the list included Congressmen David Price, and G.K Butterfield, former state House Majoirty leader Phil Baddour of Goldsboro, attorney Wade Byrd of Fayetteville, former state Democratic party chairs Libba Evans and Wade Smith, former Charlotte Mayor Harvey Gantt, former N.C. Supreme Court Justice Henry Frye, and Jim Phillips, the chairman of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors.

"We are going to be in the trenches helping him to do well," said Ed Turlington, a Raleigh attorney who was general chairman of Edwards’ 2004 presidential campaign.

Turlington and state Rep. Pricey Harrison said that Obama shared many of the ideas of Edwards on such issues as fighting poverty, and changing the culture of Washington.

Edwards, a former North Carolina senator who dropped out of the presidential race in January, has suggested that he and his wife Elizabeth were unlikely to endorse.

Colleagues dropped in on Wright

Thomas WrightLast week, several members of the General Assembly stopped into Room 544 of the Legislative Office Building, where a six-member ethics panel was sitting in judgment of their colleague Rep. Thomas Wright.

They included two legislators from the other chamber: State Sens. Julia Boseman, a Wilmington Democrat, and Ed Jones, a Halifax County Democrat, David Ingram reports.

Several of Wright's colleagues came as well: State Reps. Alice Bordsen, a Mebane Democrat; Walter Church, a Burke County Democrat; Dale Folwell, a Winston-Salem Republican; Pricey Harrison, a Greensboro Democrat; Verla Insko, a Chapel Hill Democrat; Earl Jones, a Greensboro Democrat; Grier Martin, a Raleigh Democrat; and Trudi Walend, a Brevard Republican.

The full House of Representatives could be asked to vote soon on whether to expel Wright for Rep. Rick Glazier, a Fayetteville Democrat and chair of the panel, called "breathtakingly massive" fraud.

The panel voted unanimously Thursday to recommend Wright's expulsion. It found that Wright, a Wilmington Democrat, violated ethics rules in connection with his handling of almost $350,000 in campaign, charitable and corporate money.

Also sitting in last week were several state and federal investigators, including some who were involved in the corruption case of former House Speaker Jim Black, a Mecklenburg County Democrat.

Besse raised $81,000 by end of 2007

Dan BesseDan Besse raised $81,903 by the end of 2007.

The Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor raised $66,694 from large donors, including Wake Forest University professor Stephen Boyd and state Rep. Pricey Harrison of Greensboro.

He also raised $9,648 from donors who gave less than $50, and $2,500 from other candidates' campaigns, including Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines and Chapel Hill Councilman Ed Harrison, according to a campaign finance report filed with the State Board of Elections last week.

He also loaned his campaign $50,000, donated $4,000, transferred $3,060 from his city council campaign fund and gave $643 worth of in-kind contributions. In addition, he received a $4,000 loan from retiree Kay House.

At the same time, Besse spent $7,130 on campaign buttons, gas and event planning.

That left him with cash on hand of $122,402.

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