United States: NC Politics In The News - April 14, 2015

Last week, the North Carolina General Assembly took a rare spring recess, with both the House and the Senate adjourning for the week. Both chambers return to action today with a busy schedule ahead of them.

Economy and Economic Development

NEWS & OBSERVER: Gov. McCrory Wants NC Bond Referendum in November
Gov. Pat McCrory's administration wants the legislature to schedule a special election this November to let voters decide on a pair of proposals to borrow up to $2.8 billion to build new roads and renovate or replace state government buildings. Transportation Secretary Tony Tata told the N.C. Chamber on Thursday that the bonds likely will be on a statewide referendum ballot Nov. 3

WINSTON SALEM JOURNAL: Retroactive Tax Code Changes May Affect Some N.C. Returns
Some North Carolina taxpayers will have to amend their 2014 state tax return or scramble to make last-minute adjustments because of changes to the state's tax code that went into effect March 31. Senate Bill 20, which was signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory, is known primarily as fuel tax legislation because it lowered the state's gas tax by a half-cent to 36 cents a gallon on April 1 and to 35 cents on Jan. 1, 2016.

CHARLOTTE OBSERVER: Tax Delinquents Owe NC $1 Billion
As they scramble to balance the state budget, N.C. lawmakers could use a little help from Koren Robinson. Robinson, who starred at N.C. State and later in the National Football League, owes the state nearly a half-million dollars in back taxes. He's near the top of a long list of tax delinquents who collectively owe more than $1 billion. That's in a state facing an estimated $271 million shortfall in a budget of $21.5 billion.


NEWS & OBSERVER: UNC System Looks at Bigger Salary Ranges for President, Chancellor
About to embark on a search for the next UNC system leader, the UNC Board of Governors is taking steps to sweeten the salaries of the president, chancellors and other top executives of the state's public universities. On Thursday at a meeting at East Carolina University, the board's personnel and tenure committee approved new salary ranges that give latitude to offer significantly larger pay packages to top leaders in the university system.

CHARLOTTE OBSERVER: Changes on the Table for NC School Performance Grades
State legislators on both sides of the aisle want to make changes to the controversial system of assigning letter grades to all North Carolina schools. But the scope of those changes is still a matter of debate, and it appears clear that school performance grades won't be going away, according to three legislators who spoke at an event Friday hosted by the nonprofit MeckEd.


CHARLOTTE OBSERVER: Republicans Push to Expand Solar Power in NC
A Republican push to expand solar power in North Carolina may stand the best chance yet of ending a state ban that prevents independent energy developers from selling electricity directly to homeowners and businesses. The Energy Freedom Act would inject a free-market alternative into the state's strictly regulated utility market by letting independents compete for customers against utility monopolies such as Duke Energy Carolinas and Duke Energy Progress.


WINSTON SALEM JOURNAL: State Audit on DHHS Set for Monday
A financial audit of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services requested by the legislature is scheduled for release Monday. The report from the State Auditor's Office is the latest of 13 audits on DHHS' overall performance since Dr. Aldona Wos was named state health secretary in early 2013. Besides the report, which will be released at noon, state Auditor Beth Wood will discuss the audit at 3 p.m. before the joint legislative program oversight committee.

WINSTON SALEM JOURNAL: House Bill Would Allow Suicide for Terminally Ill
The national debate over the right for a terminally ill individual to die on his or her terms – assisted by a lethal dose of prescribed medicine – has entered the North Carolina legislature. House Bill 611 was introduced Thursday by two House Democrats as a means "for allowing qualified patients diagnosed with a terminal illness to end life in a humane and dignified manner."

In The Courts

NEWS & OBSERVER: Wake Voters Challenge New NC Legislative Changes to Local Elections Process
Fourteen Wake County voters and the Raleigh Wake Citizens Association filed a lawsuit in federal court Thursday challenging the recent legislative rewrite of rules for electing Wake County commissioners. The complaint accuses Republican legislative leaders and Wake elections officials of racial gerrymanders and developing a plan that unfairly weakens the power of urban voters and strengthens the suburban and rural vote.

NEWS & OBSERVER: Judge Hears Ideas on NC School Tests
Dissecting standardized test results is central to Superior Court Judge Howard Manning's ongoing evaluation of the state's constitutional obligation to provide public school students a sound basic education. With a state-sanctioned group talking about changing or eliminating some tests, Manning brought education officials into court Wednesday to talk about testing and what the state Department of Public Instruction is doing to improve low-performing schools.


CHARLOTTE OBSERVER: I-485 Carpool Lanes Rejected
Charlotte's transportation planning organization voted 12-2 Tuesday night against creating carpool lanes on Interstate 485 in south Charlotte, saying the lanes' costs wouldn't be worth the benefits. The Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization decided to wait for the N.C. Department of Transportation to create express toll lanes on the outerbelt by 2020. The toll lanes, when finished, will run from Interstate 77 to U.S. 74.

NEWS & OBSERVER: Cameras to Capture Motorists Who Disobey Bus Stop Signs in Wake
Hasty Wake County drivers now have an additional reason to obey school bus stop signs and lights: Three extra eyes watching from the bus, recording everything. The Wake County Public School System has outfitted 16 school buses with three exterior cameras to capture those who take the risk of passing a stopped bus when the red lights are flashing and the stop sign arm is extended. North Carolina lawmakers provided $1.38 million in 2013 so that each school district in the state could equip two buses with cameras. Wake County just added 14 more.

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