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Under the Dome is 79 years old today

Under the Dome may not be the nation's longest running political column, but if not, there are few rivals.

Dome celebrated its 79th birthday as a regular feature on Tuesday. The News and Observer began running the Under the Dome column on Sept. 3, 1934, where it then ran on the back page. It was called "Under the Dome, Capitol News and Comment.''

The lead item was on the effort underway by the State Merchants Association to repeal the three percent sales tax levy that the legislature had levied the previous year to help pay for the state takeover of the schools, the prisons and the roads during the Great Depression.

Dome noted that the N.C. Supreme Court would begin its fall term on Sept. 19th, and mentioned several business deals.

But it said things were really slow when Gov. JCB Ehringhaus was out of town.

"Today being Labor Day, the Capitol and State Department buildings will be deserted,'' Dome reported. "On Tuesday things will begin humming again. The Governor is due back in his office then. When he is gone Capitol news drys up. This is not entirely the Governor's fault, for he attempts to pick a vacation month when there is the least public business to be attended to. Lately governors have been picking August. More and more other state officials have been following suit; until this August things reached the point where if a person wanted to see someone in authority at Raleigh, Raleigh was the last place in the United States where he was likely to be found.''

Kay Hagan: Karl Rove is coming after me, please send money

Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan has sent out one of her first mass fund raising mailings of her 2014 re-election campaign, in which she portrays herself as a working mom who has learned "to pick my battles and fight them hard.''

"North Carolina is now one of the most competitive states in the country -- perhaps the most competitive,'' Hagan writes. "The special interest types and Karl Rove-backed Super-PACs have already made clear their determination to target me for defeat. I'm high on the target list of several more outside special interest groups.''

"And I've only got one place to turn you: you,'' she writes. "I believe we've got a terrific story to tell in this campaign - a story of real solutions, of a different kid of leadership, a story of partisanship transcended. But it takes resources to tell that story, especially when you have to deflect attacks at the same time.''

Rob Christensen

Roy Parker: King of Under the Dome, RIP

I admired Roy Parker Jr. so much I almost moved to Fayetteville," writes veteran Democratic consultant Gary Pearce in his blog Talking About Politics.

"Roy, who died this week, was one of North Carolina’s great reporters and editors. He was founding editor of the Fayetteville Times. Back in the 1960s, he was a political reporter at The News & Observer – and a classic newsroom character.

Terse and sardonic, Roy would stalk in late in the day and go into a manic two-fingered typing trance, turning out page after page of copy. He had more sources and more scoops than any reporter in Raleigh.

In those days, Under the Dome ran on page one every day. It was a place for rumors, trial balloons and gossip that would never get in the paper today. Legend had it that Roy made up some of the items but, to give them credibility, would walk over to Capitol Square, mutter to himself: “I heard such-and-such today,” then go to the newsroom and write, “It was heard on Capitol Square today that ….”

'Under the Dome' goes prime time

"Under the Dome" is going prime time. But alas, not this Dome. A 13-episode TV series based on Stephen King's novel of the same title will debut in June on CBS, according to reports.

The science fiction work doesn't focus on state politics but it involves a band of citizens trying to stop local politician willing to kill to get his way in a small town trapped in an invisible bubble.

In other words, enough material to surely find some parallel to the N.C. political arena.

Burr 'optimistic' with progress in Afghanistan

U.S. Senator Richard Burr, R-N.C., said he's encouraged by progress being made in Afghanistan following a four-day trip to the Middle East. As members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Burr and Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga, returned this morning from Afghanistan where they met with senior U.S. and Afghan officials to review security measures.

“I continue to be optimistic about the progress made by American forces in Afghanistan, and am glad to see Afghans taking more control of their own security,” Burr said.

Ellmers blames Obama for supercommittee failures

Congresswoman Renee Ellmers, R-N.C., is the latest to blame President Obama for the failure of a congressional bipartisan “supercommittee” to cut $1.2 trillion from federal deficits. The lack of an agreement generated a new groundswell of bickering this week as members of Congress blamed the opposition's party for failing to come to terms on taxes, spending and Social Security.

“President Obama and his party in Congress are acting like spoiled children,” she said in a statement. “They take what they want and have a meltdown in the candy aisle when a responsible parent tells them 'no!'

Breweries to sell formerly restricted cities, counties

North Carolina breweries located in cities or counties with restrictions on the sale of alcohol will soon be able to sell their drinks on site.

Some cities and counties restrict on-premise sale of alcohol to hotels, motels or restaurants, under what is called a "modified plan," but on Tuesday, the House voted in favor of a bill that would allow breweries in these areas to sell the malt beverages they produce to employees and guests.

The bill is restricted to areas where some alcoholic beverage sales are already permitted and not in completely "dry counties," like Graham. Six cities or towns--Morganton, Spruce Pine, Sylva, Bryson City, Sapphire and Hendersonville--currently forbid on-premise sales.

House votes in favor of workers' comp overhaul

An overhaul of the state's workers' compensation benefits moved one step closer to becoming law on Tuesday, May 31 when the House voted with 102 in favor and 12 opposed after its second reading. A final vote is expected for later in the week.

The bill would cap disability benefits for most North Carolina workers injured on the job at just over 9-1/2 years instead of the “lifetime” benefits currently available.

In an earlier version of the bill, workers with specific severe injuries such as the loss of both hands, both eyes or paralysis were eligible for an exception to the cap. The version the House voted on today includes a provision for “extended compensation” to expand the exception of the benefit cap to workers who can prove that they have lost their wage earning capacity.

Union vetoes Charlotte for Dems convention

Charlotte’s bid to host the Democratic National Convention has gotten a “no” vote from the union that represents hotel workers, according to a report in

“Among the DNC's four finalist cities, only St. Louis and Minneapolis” have the capacity to “house a large portion of the delegates and other guests ... in unionized hotels,” John Wilhelm, president of the international UNITE HERE union of hotel and textile workers, wrote in a letter to Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine.

The letter, dated Oct. 6, wasn't publicized until last week, when the union's Minneapolis local, issued a press release on the subject.

Politico cites Democratic sources saying that Charlotte and St. Louis are now considered front-runners but that Charlotte had a slight disadvantage cause it didn’t have as many hotel rooms, period. But politics – including the mid-term election results – will play a role in the decision which is expected later this year or early in 2011.

Expect more political ads in 2012

Unless you're a political junkie, you probably were relieved when Nov. 3 arrived and the flurry of candidates' TV ads stopped.

Here's a small bit of solace: It could have been a whole lot worse. And a word of warning: It will be in 2012.

The Raleigh-Durham market's political ad saturation in October was 5.85 percent, Nielsen reports. That's well below top markets based on the percentage of political ads, including Cleveland at 23.44 percent, Portland, Ore., at 21.78 percent and Sacramento, Calif., at 21.18 percent.

This market didn't have a major competitive race, since U.S. Sen. Richard Burr stayed ahead in most polls, local TV executives say. That will change in 2012, with races for president and governor.

Nationally, ad spending was expected to reach $4 billion for this season. Politicians spent money on print, radio, online and other ads, but TV still receives the lion's share.

Federal campaigns' next reports on ad spending, which will cover the bulk of the election season, are scheduled to be filed in early December.

This area's broadcasters got a healthy boost, which came as the slow economic recovery has revived demand from car dealers and other traditional TV advertisers.

Time Warner Cable Media Sales, which sells ads for News 14 and 40 other cable channels, saw revenue rise 50 percent in October compared with a year earlier, said spokesman Keith Poston. He declined to provide specifics.

"Most of that was political advertising," he said. "We did pick up a lot of candidates, and not just on the news channel. We also saw candidates looking to hit younger audiences, like on MTV."

WTVD, ABC 11, also is having a stronger year, said General Manager John Idler, who added that "the political advertising is just one of the contributing factors."

WRAL, the local CBS affiliate with the region's top-rated newscasts, also had a strong October, said General Manager Steven Hammel, who declined to provide specific numbers.

That said, the recent election season wasn't as good as 2008, "when you had all the various political stars in alignment," including the tight presidential race, he added. But this year did bring more ads for various local races, including candidates for judge seats, and the General Assembly.

Local viewers weren't the only ones happy to see the ad blitz end.

There are a finite number of TV spots, and "there are some local advertisers who don't appreciate getting displaced" by politicians, Hammel said. "The good news is that Nov. 3 comes and goes. Now we're able to air ads from loyal advertisers again."

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