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 In the News, July 13, 2010 


Heated debate, financial woes mark closing of 2010 session. With the traditional drop of a handkerchief, the 2010 session of the General Assembly gaveled to a close in the wee hours of Saturday morning. Lawmakers ended their time in Raleigh after a night that saw lawmakers approve new ethics and open government laws and economic incentives and participate in a heated debate on a bill that would allow police to gather DNA samples from people arrested for violent felonies. The session began in May with lawmakers facing a $1.2 billion budget gap. During the session, the General Assembly adopted a $19 billion budget that was balanced on a hope that Congress will approve about $500 million in funds to help pay for increases in Medicaid expenses.



Gov. Perdue expected to sign ABC bill. Both the Senate and House approved a bill that reforms North Carolina's Alcoholic Beverage Control System. The bill puts tighter regulations on local boards and creates more oversight. Those regulations include requiring salaries and expenditures at every board made public record. It also sets salaries for ABC employees. That's after a father and son were making more than $400,000 a year combined at the ABC Board in New Hanover County.

Analysis: Days of living large are over. The "culture of entitlement" is no more. Six months ago, North Carolina's local liquor boards operated as they pleased in the state's barely regulated Alcoholic Beverage Control system – an antiquated setup that allowed some lavishly paid managers and unaccountable board members to do what they pleased. But the days of living large ended last week. Those boards now find themselves hemmed in by salary caps, ethics rules and mandatory budgets after the General Assembly signed off on sweeping ABC reforms prompted in part by StarNews reports of excesses at the New Hanover County ABC.



Editorial: Ethics reform bill is just a start. The push for ethics reform in Raleigh can be likened to exercise. Some is better than none. There's no doubt some of the atrophied ethical muscles in our state capitol could use a little flexing, and there's no doubt they're about to undergo a workout after the Senate and House each passed their own versions of ethics reform. We would prefer the final compromise hammered out between those chambers is an ethical workout, the Mr. Universe of reform bills.



Ban draws mixed reactions. Some local officials are applauding the N.C. General Assembly’s decision to ban electronic sweepstakes games purveyed by Internet cafés and business centers. Others aren’t so sure a majority of the state’s lawmakers made the right decision. “That’s a tricky thing. ... There’s two sides to it,” said Hood Richardson, a Republican Beaufort County commissioner and a candidate for the seat held by Sen. Marc Basnight, D-Dare. “If people are using (sweepstakes parlors) in the way that it’s been described to me that they’re using (them), I don’t see a problem with it,” Richardson continued. “Some of the people who have criticized this have said there’s gambling going on and the state’s trying to protect its monopoly.” In that last remark, Richardson was referring to the North Carolina Education Lottery.

Tabor City’s gaming fees stand pat. Tabor City’s town council had an opportunity to lower the privilege license fees for electronic gaming houses at a budget meeting that recessed three weeks earlier, but all five members sat silent. The council set fees for the town’s five existing businesses at its June 8 meeting with Mayor Royce Harper breaking a tie vote. Miona Fonvielle’s motion to set privilege license fees at $1,000 per business and $450 per machine carried by a 3-2 vote, with Mayor Royce Harper voting with Fonvielle and David Mincey to break the tie. Trent Burroughs and Mitchell Ward voted “no.”

 Editorial: Fight over sweepstakes may not have had final round. Although a statewide ban on video sweepstakes is on a fast track to take effect Dec. 1, the last word has yet to be heard. It wouldn’t be the first time that gambling foes thought that they’d finally pulled the plug on video machines only to have them surface in a new disguise. Unresolved court challenges have bought the industry time, allowing it to gain a solid foothold.  Backers aren’t easily deterred. Soon after the House overwhelmingly approved the measure on Wednesday,  an industry support group vowed to continue the fight.



Opinion: Municipal broadband untouched. Thank you! Thanks to you and your participation in the process, lawmakers saw that protecting decades-old monopolies isn’t the slam dunk the cable company had made it out to be. The NC General Assembly wrapped up the year early Sunday morning without taking action on municipal broadband. This year was the biggest battle friends of community broadband had faced. Bottom line, municipal broadband, including Wilson’s Greenlight, will continue to improve NC broadband speeds and provide critical infrastructure for our citizens. Thank you!