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 In the News, July 22, 2010 

ABC SYSTEMS

Perdue signs ABC reform. Promising to put a stop to the "embarrassing stories" that have emerged about the practices of some local Alcoholic Beverage Control boards, Gov. Bev Perdue signed into law a bill meant to end excessive salaries, poorly run liquor stores and lavish gifts from liquor companies.  Perdue stressed that the actions of only a few of the nearly 170 local boards in the state made the law necessary.

 

GENERAL

Debtors win big, then lose. The lottery collected a record $1 million during the past year from prize winners who were also debtors. The lottery scans big winners against a list of people who owe child support, back taxes, hospital bills and student loans. So as you dream about spending the piles of money you plan to win in the lottery, don't forget those bills you never paid. … Debt owed to county and local governments accounted for the largest category of debts collected by the lottery last year. In 966 such cases, the lottery withheld $359,000 from winnings plus another $4,800 in fees to satisfy debts to local governments. In Wake County those most often came from vehicle property taxes, but could also be for real estate taxes or unpaid bills for ambulance trips.

Cities using public power band together to try to bring down prices. Southport Mayor Robert Howard has joined an effort with fellow mayors to try to bring down electric rates their residents pay. The group hopes to organize the mayors of the 32 towns and cities in eastern North Carolina that use public power and are served by the N.C. Eastern Municipal Power Agency and ElectriCities. Howard attended a May 20 meeting of mayors in Elizabeth City and said he is participating in the effort. “My judgment is the expenses are far too high; they should not be what they are,” he said. “It seems to me they’ve got an awful lot of bureaucracy. I would join any effort to try to curtail the expense.”

 

SWEEPSTAKES CAFES

Fight continues over gaming parlors. A gaming industry special interest group is lobbying Gov. Bev Perdue to veto the bill that will put sweepstakes cafes out of business in December. William Thevaos, president of the Entertainment Group of North Carolina, sent a letter to Perdue last week asking her to veto the bill, which places statewide restrictions on all Internet gaming cafes. The legislation garnered widespread support in the N.C. General Assembly and is scheduled to take effect Dec. 1.

Perdue could take second look at video poker ban. Gov. Beverly Perdue says she's willing to hear ideas on whether to legalize video poker-style games again in North Carolina. Perdue made the comment on Wednesday, a day after she signed a bill into law that banned computer-based sweepstakes games starting Dec. 1. They often offered games that used to be on video poker machines, which have been banned since 2007.

Businesses question fees for Internet cafes. A lawyer says Fayetteville's "oppressive" fees on sweepstakes lounges are designed to close them and might be challenged in court. "You can't tax something out of existence," said Lonnie Player Jr., a Fayetteville lawyer representing owners of the lounges. The city intends to charge each owner a "privilege license" of $2,000 per location and $2,500 per computer terminal. For some locations with dozens of video gambling machines, the bill can run more than $100,000.

 

ANNEXATION

Editorial: Scrap it – gaming licenses won’t fund needed annexation. Shaw Heights, a poor, unincorporated island off Murchison Road in Fayetteville, should have been annexed years ago. At the least, the annexation machinery should have been engaged in 2008, when the city made another pass at affluent Gates Four, a gated community with little need for city services. Not only do Shaw Heights' residents - well over 1,000 of them - need services; the city can ill afford to neglect the neighborhood as it promotes development of practically everything else in the Murchison corridor in anticipation of increased traffic flow once Fort Bragg closes Bragg Boulevard to civilian traffic at its perimeter. City Council members are understandably concerned that residents of Shaw Heights (and nearby Julie Heights) may be unable to pay for those services. But the city needs to think a little harder, especially now that Mayor Tony Chavonne has proposed to pay for it with revenues from privilege licenses issued to so-called "sweepstakes" gambling emporia.

Selma expands planning reach. Town leaders expanded Selma's planning authority over a chorus of protest at a meeting last week. In a 3-2 vote, the Town Council pushed Selma's extraterritorial jurisdiction out another mile. The change, which took effect right away, gives the town the right to make zoning changes and enforce building codes in the affected area, a responsibility that had fallen to the county. It does not include taxation or police authority.