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 In the News, May 27, 2010 

BROADBAND

Bill would limit N.C. cities starting broadband. … The Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday postponed considering legislation that would force municipalities to get voter approval before borrowing money to build a competing broadband network. The bill is the latest in a series of efforts by telecom corporations to keep local governments out of the broadband business. "This is another iteration of the previous ones we have seen over the last three years that are designed to contain and cripple existing systems, and set the bar so high for new systems that it would be difficult for communities to move forward," said Doug Paris, an assistant to Salisbury's city manager. Salisbury has borrowed $30 million to build a fiber-optic network. It will begin testing the system in a few months.

 

COLLECTIVE BARGAINING

Public servants seek to bargain. The U.S. Senate may vote as soon as this week on whether to allow police officers, firefighters and state troopers across North Carolina the right to bargain collectively on pay, benefits and hours. The legislation, supported by unions but strongly opposed by the state's municipalities, would overturn a 51-year-old law in the Tar Heel state. It would require local government employers, including cities, counties and the state, to negotiate with their public safety workers. The workers covered by the legislation would include prison guards, Highway Patrol troopers, sheriff's deputies, police officers, emergency responders and firefighters. … [O]pponents say the bill would have an effect nationally, overriding the various regulations about collective bargaining in the other 48 states. "It's a state's rights issue. It potentially violates the Constitution," said Charles Archer, the associate director for operations and federal relations with the N.C. League of Municipalities.

Editorial: Hagan on hot seat. High Point Mayor Becky Smothers has a warm relationship with Sen. Kay Hagan, which didn't stop her from turning up the heat this week. "I love Kay, and I will love her either way, but this one is big and we will remember," Smothers, a Democrat, said Wednesday. The "we" is a coalition of local government organizations and business groups across North Carolina. What they'll remember is how Hagan, a Democrat, votes on a measure that would extend collective-bargaining rights to public-safety workers. In phone calls and e-mails to Hagan's Washington office, and even radio ads, opponents of the provision urged the senator to help defeat it. Tuesday, she said she would, repeating a 2008 campaign promise. "This is a states' rights issue, and I believe it should be left up to the states to decide," Hagan said in a statement released by her office.

 

GENERAL

City tries to plug gap in budget. As the beginning of the next fiscal year looms, Kinston officials are still looking at ways to close a $400,000 budget gap, including switching to a more affordable employee health plan and a 10 percent pay cut for the mayor and City Council members. “One thing the council is struggling with is that we don’t want to spend more than we take in, and we’re not using revenue numbers based on the growth that Spirit and Sanderson could provide,” Mayor B.J. Murphy said following a budget work session Monday. “We’re using actual numbers we know are solid.” As it currently stands, the fiscal 2011 budget totals $95.8 million, or 2.3 percent less than the current city budget.

Google leaders detail N.C. economic impact. Google this: How much economic activity did the Internet search giant generate for businesses in North Carolina in 2009?  The answer, thanks to fresh blog posts from Google on that topic, is $780 million.  That's one of the numbers that the Mountain View, Calif.-based information giant, which posted annual revenues of $23.7 billion in 2009, announced Tuesday at an economic impact event held at Johnny T-shirt on Franklin Street.  … Tuesday's event in Chapel Hill was attended by state Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, Rep. Verla Insko, Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt, Town Councilwomen Sally Greene and Laurin Easthom, as well as Scott Doherty, North Carolina's first Small Business Commissioner as appointed by the governor.  … Kleinschmidt said Google's commitment to small businesses is in line with Chapel Hill's values. "Those are true Chapel Hill values and the business climate that Chapel Hill wants to have," he said.

Two sides make case for incorporating Seven Lakes. Both groups pushing efforts to incorporate Seven Lakes say that the encroachment of the village of Pinehurst is a factor in the movement but insist it is not the primary motivation.  Pinehurst's recent annexation of the Pinewild development has moved the village limits even closer to West End and Seven Lakes. Pinehurst and the village of Foxfire recently reached an annexation agreement.

 

VIDEO GAMBLING

Boseman proposes the Lottery Commission oversee video gambling. The state lottery would have a little brother in North Carolina, if state Sen. Julia Boseman gets her way. The Democratic senator from New Hanover County is sponsoring legislation that would allow video gambling in North Carolina to be overseen by the N.C. Lottery Commission. The Video Gaming Entertainment Act would allow gambling machines, provided they are licensed, regulated and their proceeds taxed by the state, according to a draft bill released by Boseman’s legislative office on Tuesday.