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 In the News, July 1, 2010 



Legislators approve budget. The General Assembly gave tentative approval Tuesday to a final budget that Democrats contend would preserve more teachers and university faculty jobs this fall but also likely would end help with cooking and bathing for thousands of Medicaid patients living at home. In largely party-line votes, the Senate gave initial approval 31-14 to the nearly $19 billion spending plan followed by the House with a 66-49 margin. The two chambers must approve the bill again today before it heads to Gov. Beverly Perdue. She said Tuesday she intends to sign the bill into law before the new fiscal year begins Thursday - on time for the first time since 2003. "We took big cuts and made hard choices, but by tomorrow we will have balanced the budget with our priorities intact," Perdue said in a news release, calling the budget a "clear win" for N.C. residents. "Most importantly, North Carolina will be positioned to fully recover from this global economic recession."


Editorial: Some good fixes in tough budget. State lawmakers have all but finished their 2010-11 budget revisions, which reflect a sluggish economic recovery. There's not much to be happy about in the $19 billion budget - more than $20 billion counting federal stimulus money - but legislators wisely used their time to get back to some key priorities centering on education. Democrats believe their plan will save as many as 1,600 teaching jobs that otherwise might have been lost. No one is happy with this budget. "There's not enough money for anyone down here to be proud of," noted Senate Majority Leader Martin Nesbitt, D-Buncombe.


Editorial: Campaign finance stripped from bill. A Senate committee did the right thing the other day when it stripped a controversial and highly politicized tax-supported campaign financing scheme from a bill which otherwise is designed to shed more sunshine on the operations of state government.   The committee did so reluctantly. Originally, the Democratic majority on the committee and in the Senate was prepared to barrel ahead and require North Carolinians to pay for political consultants, advertisements and campaign circulars for Council of State candidates.  They changed their mind after the North Carolina chapter of Americans for Prosperity, a conservative advocacy group based in Raleigh, started sending out recorded phone calls attacking the campaign finance provision in the bill. The recordings were made by former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, the Republican nominee for governor in 2008.   


Editorial: N.C. still needs to expand public financing of state elections. Students of irony probably have this one already framed and hanging on the wall in their studies. In the N.C. Senate last week, a measure that would have reduced the corrosive effects of money and influence groups in politics was derailed by … the effects of money and influence. Hopes for the expansion of public financing to additional political campaigns in North Carolina looked as if it might be on track, but those hopes folded like a $2 pup tent after a “robocall'' campaign from Americans for Prosperity North Carolina, an adjunct of a well-heeled national group, was launched.



Alcohol sales steadily rise, funneling cash to counties. At least one sector of retail has bucked the Great Recession: Alcohol sales rose by nearly 40 percent from 2005 through 2009 in the Triangle. In terms of both revenue and bottle volume, sales point to a conclusion that while folks around here may cut back in many ways, they will find the cash to buy booze. Revenue-wise, total sales for the three counties rose from $60.2 million in 2005 to $82.7 million in 2009 – an increase of 37 percent.



Editorial: End it – make this the last eminent domain struggle. Over time, some issues assume a walk-on role in which they annually appear in the state House or Senate and then vanish down some committee trapdoor without a word of floor debate. Neither the public nor right-minded lawmakers should let that happen to the issue of eminent domain, government's power to put you out of your home or business because it wants the real estate. North Carolina's constitution should include restraints on that power …



Editorial: State Senate ethics bill omits critical changes. State Senate leaders introduced a big ethics-reform bill last week and almost immediately deleted one of its major provisions. They don't seem very committed to their proposals. It's almost painful to watch North Carolina legislators wrestle with the issue of ethics. They give the impression they really don't want to set tougher rules for the conduct of elected officials and government employees but are forced to do something in the wake of so many recent scandals. What results is slow progress indeed. The latest measure includes some needed provisions, such as making it a felony to give $10,000 or more in illegal campaign contributions. But its omissions are glaring.



Opinion: Congress should defeat unions’ push for police and firefighters. While Mecklenburg County struggled to create a budget to keep teachers in classrooms and maintain our library system, U.S. Sen. Harry Reid found a way to pay back union bosses for the millions they invested in national election campaigns in 2008. Reid has attached an amendment to a war funding bill called the Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act (H.R. 413). If it passes, public safety workers would be represented by collective bargaining mandated at a federal level. This federal legislation would supplant state collective bargaining laws and deliver thousands of new members to union rolls, which have suffered over the years. Many municipalities, counties and states would immediately lose control of public safety wages to negotiators and arbitrators.