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Midwife bill surfaces again

A bill filed Tuesday would create a new regulated category of midwife. Currently, state law requires home births be handled by licensed nurse midwives under the supervision of physicians.

Sen. Thom Goolsby’s bill would create certified professional midwives, who do not have to be nurses but meet certain training requirements. They would be overseen by a new state council comprised of other certified professional midwives, a nurse midwife, a physician and a “home birth consumer.”

Last session, a bipartisan bill regulating midwives failed to make it out of committee.

Democrats sound alarm on fast-tracked bills

"I think they want to leave town just as soon as possible."

That was Senate Minority Leader Martin Nesbitt's parting words on Thursday, a day that saw Republicans speed-voting two major pieces of legislation toward quick approval with little public discussion.

Nesbitt, an Asheville Democrat, and Rep. Larry Hall, the House minority leader from Durham, were joined by a couple dozen other General Assembly Democrats to complain about two bills that would cut unemployment benefits and reject expanding Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act.

Picking up on a theme from last session, the Democrats said GOP committee chairs are not allowing public comment, sharing information with Democrats only at the last minute and then rushing into law bills crafted in private with help from business interests.

House Republicans, meanwhile, countered that the unemployment insurance bill has been studied and debated in the open for several months leading up to Thursday's committee meeting.

Berger names new press secretary

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger has hired a new press secretary: Brandon Greife, who was previously federal government affairs manager with the National Taxpayers Union in Washington, D.C.

Greife replaces Ray Martin, who was recently named political director for the Senate Republican Caucus. Martin was a reporter for The N&O before becoming press secretary.

Erv Portman seeks leap to state Senate

Wake County Commissioner Erv Portman filed today to run for the state Senate rather than seek to retain his current seat.

Portman, a small business owner from Cary, is running for the Democratic nomination for the Senate District 17 seat in southwestern Wake. It's now held by Republican Sen. Richard Stevens, who is not running for another term.“This Legislature is broken and off track," Portman said in a statement today. "They promised to focus on jobs, but instead they have engaged in endless partisan battles on social issue designed to divide us.”

Robert Pittenger preparing to enter congressional race

After considering the race for days, former Republican state Sen. Robert Pittenger told a Charlotte TV station he is running for Congress and forming a campaign team

Pittenger, who lost the 2008 lieutenant governor's race to Walter Dalton, is joining a crowded field in the race to replace U.S. Rep. Sue Myrick, who is not seeking re-election to her Ninth Congressional District seat.

John Snow wants a rematch for his N.C. Senate seat

Former N.C. Sen. John Snow of Murphy wants his seat back. Snow, a Democrat and former veteran judge, served six years in the Senate until he lost a close fight with Republican Jim Davis for the District 50 post in western North Carolina.

Snow's 2010 election battle hit the pages of The New Yorker  magazine last year in a piece that looked at the influence of Republican financier Art Pope. But as Rob Christensen reported, the article, made it look like Snow was the victim of a Pope-funded assault, when in fact it was one of the most fiercely contested districts in the state in which both sides poured money.

In his announcement, Snow doesn't mention his loss. Instead, he hits the high notes about jobs as a priority and the need to fund education.

Carney ready to join the conservative 'revolution' in Raleigh

Chris Carney, the mayor pro tem of Mooresville, has been sworn in as the newest member of the N.C. Senate.

He takes the District 41 seat held by the late Jim Forrester. Both are Republicans.

Carney, 40, is a small business owner who has served more than five years in the Mooresville board of commissioners.

He said his first act would be to vote to over ride Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue's veto of the Racial Justice Act when the legislature returns Jan. 4th for a special session.

“It's a flawed law,” Carney told the Statesville Record and Landmark. “And any time you have the opportunity to fix something that is flawed, I think that's a good thing.”

Carney said there there is a kind of revolution taking place in the state legislature and that he is glad to be part of it.

“I think this is the start of a decade of young, conservative professionals in Raleigh,” he told the Statesville paper. “We have a chance to take North Carolina to the next level and it's just really exciting.”

Senate leader Phil Berger welcomed Carney to the Senate.

“Chris Carney has succeeded in the private sector and as a public servant, and I'm confident he will represent his constituents well as a state senator.”

Senate GOP transition team named

Sen. Richard Stevens of Cary and Rob Rucho of Charlotte have been named to lead the Senate Republican transition team by Senate GOP leader Phil Berger.

Also on the transition team are Sen. Tom Apodaca of Hendersonville, Sen. Harry Brown of Jacksonville, Sen. Pete Brunsetter of Winston-Salem and Sen-Elect Louis Pate of of Pitt County.

Rucho and Stevens have already begun the work of studying the state budget as well as the redistricting process to aid in preparing the the Republicans to take control of the Senate in January for the first time since 1898, according to Berger.


State GOP caucus nominates Berger, Brown

Republicans in the state Senate this morning approved Sen. Phil Berger as the nominee to become their new leader, staff writer Lynn Bonner reports.

Berger, of Eden, previously was minority leader. In January he will replace Democrat Marc Basnight as president pro tem of the state Senate, one of the most powerful political positions in North Carolina.

State Sen. Harry Brown, a Republican from Jacksonsville, was voted majority leader by the Senate GOP caucus during a closed-door meeting at their state headquarters on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh.

UNC system likes the Senate's budget ideas

The Senate budget plan brought some smiles to administrative offices across the UNC system today. It proposes a 4 percent budget cut, which is 2 percent less than Gov. Bev Perdue's proposal. That's a difference of about $50 million.

"It's a great step forward from the governor's budget for our students," said Ernie Murphrey, the UNC system's vice president for finance. To help offset that 4 percent cut, the Senate proposal would allow campuses to increase tuition by as much as $750, reports Eric Ferreri.

It would scrap the law enacted last year that takes tuition revenues away from the campuses and deposits it into the state's general fund. Murphrey emphasized that tuition won't necessarily go up simply because the university has the authority to raise it.

"We're going to have to analyze it and talk to the campus about what to do," Murphrey said. "We're asking the campuses what they'd do if they had that authority."

The Senate budget proposal would also grant the UNC system authority to furlough its employees. In recent weeks, the universities have lobbied extensively for the authority, a formal mechanism it would need before implementing the unpaid time off.

UNC system President Erskine Bowles has said furloughs, while not ideal, would be far preferable to the level of job cuts he said would occur under Perdue's proposal. Under that budget, about 1,200 jobs would be lost within the university system, half of which would be faculty positions, Bowles has said.

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