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 In the News: May 11, 2010 

GENERAL

Kannapolis outlines legislative priorities.  Money to widen Interstate 85 through Kannapolis and continued support and funding for the N.C. Research Campus are two of Kannapolis City Council's top legislative priorities for 2010. Kannapolis City Council members discussed the city's top 10 legislative priorities at a meeting earlier this week, approving the list unanimously. City Manager Mike Legg said the first priority was to seek continued support for the universities and their funding for the N.C. Research Campus, which Kannapolis officials hope will generate economic development for the city.

 

ANNEXATION

Pinewild annexation foes file voluntary dismissals. Pinewild annexation opponents have dismissed all remaining appeals in an effort to block being taken in by the village of Pinehurst. In documents filed with the courts, two different groups of plaintiffs entered notices of voluntary dismissal through their attorney Gene Boyce. One appeal was headed by Doug Aitken, and the other by Lydia and John Boesch, along with groups of other Pinewild property owners who did not want to be part of the village. After the state Supreme Court turned down a petition for discretionary review earlier this year, the annexation became effective March 31. Pinewild is now part of the municipality of Pinehurst.

Lawsuit holds up Monkey Junction annexation. The Monkey Junction annexation once scheduled to take effect June 10, will be delayed since a lawsuit aimed at stopping Wilmington's expansion is still ongoing. The suit was filed in July on behalf of several property owners who say they were denied access to a public hearing on the annexation in April 2009, among other complaints. City Attorney Carolyn Johnson said the annexation won't be final until litigation is resolved, and that a trial and subsequent appeals could take as long as two years. It isn't unusual for an annexation to be delayed for years, Johnson said, as was the case with Wilmington's 1998 annexation.

 

ABC SYSTEM

Local ABC boards want bigger profit margin. Lawmakers raised the excise tax on liquor last year by 20 percent to help balance the budget, but local liquor boards now complain that the move has dented their bottom lines. In a March 29 letter to Jon Williams, chairman of the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission, the North Carolina Association of ABC Boards asked the state to allow them to raise their mark-ups on liquor sales from 39 percent to 41.5 percent.

Private liquor sales move has local support. Cheap liquor stores might be seen on street corners in Union County in a few years if the privatization of ABC stores is passed by the N.C. legislature this summer. Richard Miller, chairman of the Waxhaw ABC Board, appeared before the Waxhaw Board of Commissioners on April 27 to ask it to send a resolution to recognize the current ABC laws and show their support. In the 1930s, shortly after the end of Prohibition, the government began to control the sale of spirits. Now, North Carolina is one of 18 “control” states in which the government still regulates liquor sales, purchases, transportation, manufacture, consumption and possession, and the N.C. ABC Commission oversees the $5 billion market. It is the only state in which spirits are sold exclusively by local ABC boards.

Editorial: Watered-down ABC regulations not appealing. Watered-down drinks are unappealing. Watered-down regulations are worthless. Nevertheless, a panel of our Honorables has been working to strip down proposed changes to rules governing Alcoholic Beverage Control boards in North Carolina. Most of the Honorables on the panel would leave it to the individual county or town boards to fix or close failing stores, for example, and to keep an eye on what the local ABC board is up to. They've done such a bang-up job so far. The word used by Sen. Dan Clodfelter, a Mecklenburg County Democrat, is “gutted.”

 

GENERAL ASSEMBLY

ABC rules, annexation on legislators’ agenda. This year’s legislative session won’t last long, but Wilmington-area transportation officials have a long wish list from the N.C. General Assembly. … [I]ssues of importance to Southeastern North Carolina residents are also on tap this session. Reforms to the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control system, changes to annexation laws, terminal groins, coastal homeowners’ insurance rates and the ever-present sweepstakes parlors may take up time in lawmakers’ busy schedules.

 

SWEEPSTAKES CAFES

Feeling lucky? Online gaming finds loophole. … Internet sweepstakes cafes began to proliferate last year after judges in Wake and Guilford counties ruled that they should be allowed to continue operating until the General Assembly clarifies whether the games are illegal. Today, so many cafes have sprung up that Clinton, Elizabethtown and other cities have blocked more from opening. Sheriff Moose Butler estimates that as many as 100 Internet cafes are operating in Cumberland County alone.

Mooresville tightens gaming rules. Patrons can play blackjack and other games of chance while enjoying the barbecue at Lancaster's Bar-B-Que & Wings on Rinehart Road, and receive cash payouts from the popular longtime eatery if they win. Or they can cozy up to any of the 25 Internet screens offering such games as "Bustin Vegas," "Robbin Some Cash" and "Four Leaf Luck" at a new Internet sweepstakes business in Shoppes at the French Quarter on Williamson Road.  … The Observer found eight electronic gaming establishments in Mooresville last week after the Mooresville Board of Commissioners voted to tighten restrictions on other such venues that come to town.

 

BROADBAND

N.C. cities, cable still at odds on broadband entry. Big telecoms in North Carolina keep fretting about towns like Wilson and Salisbury getting into the broadband business. Ever since a 2005 appeals court ruling upheld the right of towns and cities to offer high-speed Internet to their residents, large cable and phone companies have been urging the General Assembly to throw obstacles in the way. Local governments, they argue, don't have to pay taxes and can subsidize their rates to undercut the corporate competition. "We just want the playing field level between the two of us," said Jack Stanley, a regional lobbyist for Time Warner Cable. Those efforts, however, have failed as mayors and local governments argue the big companies won't offer the kind of super-fast Internet at reasonable prices they say attracts high-tech industries. "We're trying very hard by providing broadband to bring new local businesses to our community, to bring jobs," said Salisbury Mayor Susan Kluttz, whose city has borrowed to build a $30 million fiber-optic network it will begin testing in a few months.