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 In The News: May 06, 2010 

ABC System

N.C. ABC commission makes liquor rule recommendations.
Several recommendations and suggestions to change North Carolina's liquor control laws, including some from panelists appointed by the governor, were thrown out by a committee that approved a watered-down version of a bill on Wednesday. The Joint Study Committee on Alcoholic Beverage Control did approve a proposal that would allow the state ABC Commission to set performance standards and training requirements for local ABC boards and their stores. Local stores also would have to follow the same rules local governments do in carrying out their annual budgets.

ABC panel waters down its recommendations for General Assembly.
After a slew of changes Wednesday, the committee tasked with modernizing the state's Alcoholic Beverage Control system is recommending a weaker set of reforms than those first proposed. … The bill to be sent to lawmakers wouldn't require that members of local ABC boards comply with the State Government Ethics Act. Instead, it would require each local board to adopt an ethics policy for its members.

Senator: ‘We gutted' new rules for state ABC stores.

Lawmakers on Wednesday stripped out some of the toughest measures from a package of new laws governing the state's liquor store system. "We gutted it," said Sen. Dan Clodfelter, a Charlotte Democrat who was critical of the changes. He cast the lone "no" vote on the legislation approved by a special committee focused on the Alcoholic Beverage Control system. The committee cut a requirement that members of local ABC boards must follow the state ethics law, even though a primary task assigned to the group was to craft a bill establishing consistent ethical standards across the state.

General

County seeks legislation for occupancy tax.

The Dare County Board of Commissioners has decided to ask the North Carolina General Assembly for a one percent increase in the occupancy tax. To be considered for passage in the next legislative session, requests of this nature are due in Raleigh by May 20. In a meeting Monday morning, the commissioners all voted unanimously to approve a motion made by Commissioner Richard Johnson to ask the state government to introduce a bill to allow the county to raise the tax from 5 to 6 percent. If approved, the additional revenue will be ear-marked for shoreline management. … The potential funding source couldn't have come at a better time as the Town of Nags Head looks to be at the end of a lengthy planning and permitting process for a beach nourishment project for 10 miles of its beaches.

Perdue calls for tougher campaign finance rules.

Gov. Beverly Perdue on Wednesday called for stiffer sanctions on campaign finance violations, one day after a major fundraiser pleaded guilty to making illegal contributions to her campaign. Wilmington businessman Rusty Carter pleaded guilty to three misdemeanors for funneling $176,000 in contributions through employees at Atlantic Corp., a packaging company that he owns. Perdue's campaign received $64,000, Senate leader Marc Basnight's campaign received $84,000 and Sen. Julia Boseman's campaign received $28,000.

Rocky Mount to buy back guns.
The Rocky Mount Police Department on Thursday will be giving out gift cards up to $100 for each firearm dropped off at the police station. The “no questions asked” gun buy-back program is designed to reduce the number of firearms in the community, reducing the chance of weapons ending up in criminals' hands, Police Chief John Manley said. “Are we expecting criminals to return their guns? No,” Manley said. Manley said the program gives people who want to get rid of firearms, regardless of whether the weapons can be fired, an outlet for disposal.

Sweepstakes Cafes

Video gambling again on the table for lawmakers
North Carolina lawmakers just can't seem to scratch video poker from their to-do lists. Four years after the General Assembly thought it had banned video poker gambling machines, the House and Senate could consider in the upcoming legislative session whether to try to ban an alternate form of the games or find a more profitable way to live with them. For more than a year, trial judges have blocked state agents and police from closing down so-called "sweepstakes cafes" or "business centers" where customers buy Internet or phone time but usually play computer-based games and win cash and prizes.

Pembroke adopts gaming fee.
The Pembroke Town Council on Monday approved an annual privilege license fee that requires businesses to pay $3,000 per computer connected to the Internet, which town officials say are portals to online gambling. The ordinance: requires a $1,500 annual privilege license fee for computers not connected to the Internet; restricts gaming establishments to areas zoned central and highway business districts and at least 250 feet away from schools, churches and day care centers; and restricts hours of operation, patron age, and business operator age. Municipalities across the state have been using privilege license fees to curb — or at least profit from the growth of — sweepstakes operations and Internet cafés, which officials say are computer gambling operations. Lumberton, Fairmont, and Rowland already have such ordinances...

Taxes

New Hanover sales tax wins slim approval.

New Hanover County voters approved an additional sales tax Tuesday, a decision that could help save popular county programs on the financial brink. About 52 percent of voters supported the tax, while 48 percent voted against it. Results are unofficial until they are certified next week. "I think we as a county did a great job of educating the citizens about what's at stake," said Chairman Jason Thompson.
Editorial: Sales tax will help, but responsible cuts, use of cash reserves needed, too.
Voters in New Hanover County showed that they're willing to pay a little extra for the things they buy if it helps avoid drastic cuts in services. Now the county commissioners need to do their part by looking for places to conserve, even in a tight budget, and by dipping into a healthy fund balance to help close a potential $13 million budget gap.