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 In the News, June 17, 2010 

ANNEXATION

Annexation reform bill shelved for the session. Legislation is being shelved that would have imposed new restrictions on how North Carolina municipalities annex people against their will, a state senator said Wednesday. Involuntary annexation has riled up many North Carolinians, including people in Fayetteville. They complain they have to pay heavy taxes and get few and unwanted services in exchange. … Anti-annexation activists visited the capital Wednesday to pressure lawmakers to make it tougher for cities to annex. They estimated at least 150 people, most dressed in a "uniform" of red T-shirts, staked out lawmakers at their offices and legislative committee meetings to tell them their thoughts. Meanwhile, mayors, city councilmen and other officials from cities and towns across North Carolina visited the General Assembly for their annual lobbying day. The cities want annexation power so they can control growth in their vicinities. Critics say the cities frequently use annexation power to increase their tax revenue.

Annexation opponents rally as supporters hold Town Hall Day. Both sides of the annexation debate in North Carolina voiced their opinions Wednesday. The League of Municipalities, which is in favor of annexation, is held its Town Hall Day at the Legislative Building in Raleigh. Meanwhile, the Stop N.C. Annexation organization rallied at Halifax Mall. The group says it wants to end forced annexation and says county commissioners should have a voice in annexing a city.

 

BROADBAND

FCC set to reconsider broadband regulations. Federal regulators are reconsidering the rules that govern high-speed Internet connections, wading into a bitter policy dispute that could be tied up in court for years. The Federal Communications Commission is scheduled to vote Thursday to begin taking public comments on three different paths for regulating broadband. That includes a proposal by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, a Democrat, to define broadband access as a telecommunications service subject to "common carrier" obligations to treat all traffic equally.

 

GENERAL

Ever energetic, Susan Burgess never slowed down. Not on the school board or city council. Not at church. Not on state and national boards. Not in politics.  “I have two speeds – on and off,” she liked to say. “I just go all the time.” Burgess died this morning at her home, following a three-year bout with cancer. She was 64. Her three decades of community and public service engendered fierce loyalties: she won more votes than anyone in the last two council elections. The grace of her final struggle inspired tributes from home and across the country.

Editorial: Susan Burgess leaves legacy as civic leader. The death of Susan Burgess on Wednesday came as no real surprise. Sadly, this community has known for a few weeks that cancer had taken its toll and her passing seemed imminent. And yet, news that she had died early that morning was still a blow. Just last week the long-time Charlotte City Council member made her last appearance at a council meeting. Sitting in a wheelchair, she resigned her at-large seat, citing health reasons, and made a pitch for the council to appoint her son Jason to fill her unexpired term. The City Council did so on Monday night. It was so like Susan Burgess to do the public's work almost to the moment of her death. Accolades poured in Wednesday saluting her "zest for living" and her "heart." N.C. Gov. Bev Perdue described her aptly: "She worked tirelessly for what was right and never let the word 'no' keep her from doing what she believed in."

 

COLLECTIVE BARGAINING

Editorial: Congress should let states handle their own labor relations. All across America, state and local governments are struggling with recession-induced budget crises as revenue has plummeted and demand for services has remained high. But the issue is not only cyclical. Many public employees have been promised pay, pensions and health benefits that tax bases cannot sustain even in good times. As a result, voters and political leaders of both parties are rethinking the costs and benefits of public-sector unionism. Except in Congress, it seems. Senate Majority Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) is pushing to federalize labor relations between state and local governments and some public-sector unions. The Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act would require all states to give police and fire unions "adequate" collective bargaining rights -- as determined by the Federal Labor Relations Authority. States deemed "inadequate" could wind up in federal court. Long sought by public-safety unions, the bill is supported not only by Mr. Reid but also by Republicans, including the soon-to-retire Sen. Judd Gregg (N.H.). It has a good chance of passing if the Senate can fit it on its busy calendar.

Apex resolution opposes bill. A federal bill that would allow public safety officials the right to bargain collectively on pay, benefits and hours has found few friends among local governments in North Carolina.  That's no less true in western Wake County, where several towns have taken a stand against the legislation.  The most recent example came on June 1, when the Apex Town Council passed a resolution voicing its opposition to the Senate bill. The resolution calls on Congress to respect towns' "right and responsibility to manage their own employee relations." "It would put up a barrier between the good-faith negotiations of the town and its employees," Mayor Keith Weatherly of Apex said of the federal bill. "There's no reason to do things that way with the way our system is now. We're treating them in a fair and equitable manner."

Group lobbies to end government bargaining ban. School bus drivers, cafeteria workers and custodians are among the public employees who want North Carolina to change a state law banning collective bargaining for government employees. The school workers on Tuesday joined representatives of the state's labor unions and workers' rights groups to call on the General Assembly to repeal the 51-year-old law. North Carolina forbids state and local governments from entering into collective bargaining deals with their employees. Virginia is the only other state with such a ban.

 

TRANSPORTATION

Opinion: Legislators must include Perdue's Mobility Fund in budget.

North Carolina is again at a crossroads with transportation funding. As legislators continue to work to finalize the 2011 budget, it is imperative that they recognize the importance of the proposed North Carolina Mobility Fund and what it means for North Carolina's economic growth, new jobs and high quality of life for our state's citizens.

The Mobility Fund, as proposed by Gov. Bev Perdue in her budget, is a way to address our state's most pressing transportation needs that are crucial to our economy. Currently, the Mobility Fund is included in the House budget but not in the Senate's.

As the two chambers begin their negotiations toward a final state budget, the prospects of the proposed Mobility Fund remain uncertain. Our state cannot afford this uncertainty. We need legislators to be bold and make the commitment now to properly fund the necessary transportation projects that will keep our state moving and speed up the economic recovery we need.