Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The gloves are coming off when it comes to transportation dollars. Last week Governor Easley called DOT's $64 billion shortfall over the next 25 years figures "absurd". This week even Democrats are defending the DOT and wondering why Easley ripped the department when the Secretary is his appointment. Even worse, the signals are coming in that DOT will come back to the GA in the next month or two and say it's even higher!!!!

Make sure to check out Political Connections this Friday at 6pm and Sunday morning at 11. I interviewed Easley's Senior Advisor Dan Gerlach as well as Republican Senator Robert Pittenger. We take a look at the Gov's budget. Pretty good stuff.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Reaction from lawmakers to Gov. Easley's budget is now coming fast and furious. Appropriations members were briefed Tuesday by Easley's staff. Republicans are predictably upset that Easley is spending too much and are particularly upset the sales and income taxes that were supposed to stop in 2003 will again not stop this year. Democrats are concerned that Easley's bond package does not include anything for school construction. While Easley said his bond package has things the state must do, lawmakers are clearly hearing it from the rank and file voters to do something on the state level.
Republicans clearly want their voice heard this session and they appear to want to appear more unified if that makes sense. Senate Minority Leader Phil Berger has hired someone to send out press releases and I usually get at least two a week if not more and often it's on behalf of other lawmakers. Republicans have already held at least three press conferences as well. It's clear they are going to go to the media to prove to their voters they are trying to make changes and Democrats aren't listening. Below is one of those releases from Sen. Berger's office.
"Senate Republican Leader Phil Berger (R-District 26) and House Republican Leader Paul Stam (R-District 37) today hosted a press conference in the legislative press room. Representative Stam spoke first to address ethics reform and House rules. Senator Berger continued with his impressions of Governor Easley's proposed budget and specifically discussed fiscal issues, education and transportation.
Senator Berger made the following remarks:
1) Despite statements that highlight minimal tax reductions, the budget proposal actually contains a tax increase of more than $500 million over the two year period. Current North Carolina law provides more than $600 million in broad based tax relief over the next two years; the Governor's budget plan scraps that substantial relief and endorses a tax increase of over $500 million for the two year budget cycle. All this while the projection is the state will collect more than $825 million in excess taxes this fiscal year. We are not surprised, as this will represent the sixth time in the last seven years that state taxes have been raised. The reason for the tax hike is clear as general fund spending for the 2007-2008 fiscal year jumps to a record $20.066 billion and represents an increase of at least 6.4%; an increase that exceeds that needed to keep pace with inflation and population growth. Despite talk of fiscal discipline, the numbers speak clearly of a continuing policy and philosophy of tax and spend.
2) Education spending in the Governor's proposal continues a strategy that has given us dropout rates of 35%+ overall and in excess of 50% for minority populations. It is past time for us to implement a new strategy in education, one that concentrates a high percentage of new dollars to dropout prevention, an increase in vocational options, and reading improvement. We need to increase emphasis on differential pay for teachers in high need areas of math, science, and special education and institute a merit pay plan that rewards results. We can not continue to tread the same path - spending hundreds of millions of more dollars on the same failed approach.
3) It is difficult to understand the Governor's failure to continue to send 170 plus million in road taxes from the Highway Trust Fund to the General Fund. With all of the demonstrated needs in transportation (maintenance, repairs, and construction) we simply must do better."

Friday, February 23, 2007

Covering a President is always interesting and always a pain. Thursday, I took the nice drive north of Raleigh to the little sleepy town of Franklinton. In that little town a giant in the world of enzymes and ethanol lives. Can I tell you about the difficulties of explaining something as complicated as this is in a minute and thirty seconds! I'm no science guy to say the least so it takes some great reporting for me to understand it!

Anywho, regardless of politics, it is indeed an honor to be that close to any world leader. What's amazing is the amount of security. Our technical crew had to have our live trucks and cables in place starting at 7:00am. President Bush didn't even arrive in North Carolina until 10:45am! Since I was not in charge of setting up the equipment, I made the 45 minute drive and arrived in Franklinton around 10:00am. As I approached the entrance to Novozymes, I reached a checkpoint. They told me we had to take a detour to the other side of the plant. It ended up being a seven minute drive through the winding hills and farms of Franklin County. Then I reached another checkpoint where I was told to drive to another checkpoint. Once I reached the final checkpoint it was 10:20am. A 20 minute detour to get to the other side of the plant! After 20 more minutes in line, I was finally able to get on the grounds of the plant to only stand in two more lines to get credentials then head through the metal detectors.

Quite a process! Of course, once Marine One was in the air after the event we could go anywhere we wanted on the roads!

Once we got inside we were escorted to a platform in the back of the room. When the President left the room, we were held in our places for about 15 minutes as were the guests and employees.

While it may seem glamorous on television we definitely do a lot of sitting and waiting when it comes to covering the President of the United States!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The response continues to come in regarding Jim Black. Here's an interesting letter Jerry Meek, NC Democratic Party Chair, sent to his delegation.

Raleigh--North Carolina Democratic Party Chair Jerry Meek today sent the following email message to Democrats across the state:
Dear Fellow Democrat:Just like you, I am furious. And we should be. Someone we know has betrayed us and betrayed the public trust. For almost a year, Jim Black has personally assured me and our fellow legislators that he's done nothing wrong. When the Speaker of the House looks you in the eye and tells you something, it's hard not to believe him. In the past week, Jim Black pled guilty to acts that go beyond anything that any of us anticipated. As a citizen, I'm furious that he's betrayed the public trust. But I'm even more furious that he betrayed my trust and the trust of so many Democrats who knew him.It is, therefore, with great sadness that I write you today. As bad as the earlier press reports about Jim Black were, his recent admission that he took personal bribes to influence legislation shocked us all. That's not why I'm in public service and that's not what democracy is all about. Our Party believes in the power of government to do good things -- by creating opportunity, protecting freedom, and expanding the horizon of human achievement. Whenever an official undermines the public's trust in government, he makes our Party's mission all the more difficult. And Jim Black has done lasting damage to the public's perception of government.I cannot and will not apologize for what Jim Black has done. But I will tell you that the Democratic Party remains the people's party. As Democrats, we will work hard to restore full confidence in state government. Last year's ethics reform law was a good start. But there is more that we must do.With the leadership of Speaker Hackney, Senator Basnight, and Governor Easley, we will put this dark time behind us. Now is the time to focus our energies on moving North Carolina forward.I believe in the power of average citizens to make a difference in our State and nation. I believe in our ability to create a city on a hill, leaving a legacy of prosperity and security for future generations. In the past difficult week, I've taken great solace in the fact that thousands of Democratic elected officials and local Democratic Party leaders work every day to make North Carolina flourish. One man's betrayal of trust will not dissuade any of us from continuing this work.With best wishes,
Jerry Meek, Chair

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Jim Black has another plea bargain and after the latest you would think he made that plea bargain in a bathroom. Testimony shows Black made a deal in an IHOP bathroom with former Representative Michael Decker to keep Black in power. This comes less than a week after Black pleaded guilty in federal court for making deals in bathrooms with chiropractors for cash. Below is several releases from a number of people responding to Black's latest court appearance.

"I am pleased Speaker Black has moved closer to accepting responsibility for his crimes. The people of North Carolina entrusted Speaker Black with responsibility and power. In return, Speaker Black prostituted his office. Speaker Black's crimes debase the essential fabric of democracy, which is the people's trust of elected officials. Speaker Black has the opportunity to come clean and cooperate with federal and state investigations."
--U.S. Attorney George E.B. Holding

“These crimes uncovered by our agents threaten the core of our democracy, so state leaders must work to restore public trust. Our investigation uncovered wrongdoing, but part of working to restore public trust is giving investigators and prosecutors better ways to get at the truth. State prosecutors should be able to convene an investigative grand jury, and SBI agents should be able to charge witnesses who lie deliberately. Better tools to root out wrongdoers will help ensure open and honest government.”--North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper

RALEIGH - The executive director and the board president of the North Carolina Chiropractic Association (NCCA) today each issued statements relating to former NC House Speaker Jim Black's guilty plea to accepting cash from three chiropractors while pushing legislation they supported.
"While the NCCA has not engaged in any illegal activity nor been accused of any illegal or unethical conduct, we believe that the alleged misconduct of a few chiropractors is raising questions about our profession and association," said Tom Schoenvogel, executive director of NCCA. "For the record, the NCCA was shocked to learn of these allegations and was in no way involved in and certainly did not endorse or encourage any alleged fund-raising misconduct among our members in an effort to sway legislation."
Schoenvogel added that the purported misconduct of a few in the profession should not reflect on the 1,000 plus chiropractic physicians providing invaluable healthcare for consumers across North Carolina. "One of the key missions of the NCCA is to promote high ethical standards," he said, noting that the organization has a process in place to address questionable ethical activities by any of its members.
As with all Political Action Committees (PAC), activities of the Chiropractic PAC are regulated by the North Carolina Board of Elections. Schoenvogel noted that the Chiropractic PAC is and has always been in good standing. The CPAC has never made any cash donations to elected officials or candidates, and its donations and activities are a matter of public record.
At stake for consumers is whether or not the 2005 law prohibiting higher insurance co-pays for chiropractic care will be allowed to stand. Dr. R. Todd Shaver, NCCA board president from Wilmington, noted that the legislation was developed with consumer needs in mind. "Healthcare consumers who choose to utilize chiropractic services should not have to pay a penalty to see a chiropractic physician rather than a medical physician," he said. "And consumers are the ones who will lose if recent talk to repeal the law becomes a reality."
(RALEIGH) – Linda Daves, Chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party, expressed disbelief and regret that Governor Easley’s “State of the State” address to the people of North Carolina failed to explain or even acknowledge the unprecedented corruption that plagued his tenure as Governor.

“Governor Easley’s vague comments during his “State of the State” address about ethics reform in the General Assembly was an insult to the integrity of hard working North Carolinians. Since he has been Governor we have watched over the years a parade of Democrat leaders being convicted and sent to jail for violating the public trust. Where was Governor Easley during this time? North Carolinians need answers­­--not platitudes--that honestly address and acknowledge the corruption and failure of his own Democrat party to prevent or correct the flagrant corruption within its ranks.”

“Governor Easley nor the Democrat Party can ignore their failure of leadership or inability to police their own members. North Carolina’s citizens deserve honest elected officials that value and protect the integrity of our system of government and take the public trust seriously.”

Monday, February 19, 2007

Governor Easley called for some ambitious programs Monday night. Even his critics are curious about his idea to cut the state income tax or at least reduce it for more than a million people. Republicans came out blazing on how Easley plans to pay for it all and why he didn't address in more detail his plans to fight public corruption after the guilty plea last week and another tomorrow by former House Speaker Jim Black. Expect more details in Easley's budget which could be released as early as Wednesday. In the meantime, here's the text of his State of the State address provided by the Governor's Press Office.

"Speaker Hackney, Senator Basnight, Lt. Governor Perdue, Members of the General Assembly, Chief Justice Parker, Members of the Court, Chief Judge Martin, Members of the Court of Appeals, Council of State and Cabinet, honored guests and fellow citizens.

I would first like to recognize my wife Mary and my son Michael for their love and support.

Tonight, it is my honor to deliver my final State of the State Address. It is much easier than my first one in 2001, because our state is much stronger.

We have taken the toughest blows that a national recession and federal trade policies could deliver, and we are not only surviving in this new world economy, we are thriving in it.

Because of your hard work and discipline, we turned a $2.5 billion shortfall into years of budget surplus.

We have 300,000 more North Carolinians employed today than we did six years ago.

Our schools have lower class sizes and higher test scores.

Six years ago, we had no pre-K program. Today, we have almost 20,000 four-year-olds in More at Four. And we are adding 10,000 more this year.

And with this budget, we will raise teacher pay by 18 percent since 2005 and we are not through yet.

We have fully funded the low-wealth schools, sent turn around teams into failing schools, and we are auditing every school in the state to ensure full accountability for every education dollar.

Our progress is not always measured by how many new programs we start, or how much new money we spend. At this point, given how aggressive you have been, our success should be measured by how well we reap what we have sown. We have planted the seeds of success all across this great state, and we must see them to fruition. Progress is not always about planting new crops, it is often about tending the current harvest and increasing the yield.

Now, having said that, I did bring a little seed corn with me tonight, just in case.

We have worked together closely, as all governments should. We may serve in different branches, but we all share the same roots.

I know progress has not always been easy. If it was, it could have been done by lesser people. But it has always been a great reward.

It is great to have the best business climate in America. It is great to have the best credit rating in America. And it is great to have made the most education progress in the country.

We have done well, but we cannot be satisfied with yesterday's progress.

We must represent the spirit of our people, who have disdain for mediocrity and demand for excellence.

As our soldiers sacrifice abroad, we must show that we are worthy of their sacrifice here at home. They should return to a better North Carolina than they left.

Our nation is still at war. North Carolina is experiencing the largest deployment of soldiers since World War II.

We pray for their safe and speedy return.

War has tragic consequences. The children of our military are struggling too. That is why you funded military family support programs. The children sacrifice a lot, and I am asking you to help them more this year.

Breanna Bodden is nine years old and an honor student at North Harnett Elementary near Fort Bragg. Breanna's stepfather was deployed to Iraq. Then her mother, Army Reservist Rebecca Hagler, was deployed to Iraq. And now recently, her father was deployed. She is living with Deborah Clark, a family friend. Breanna's situation is not unique. It is one of the consequences of war.

Breanna is with us tonight, and her mom is watching live from Iraq. Breanna and Rebecca, we are proud of both of you, and you can rest assured that North Carolina will be there for all of you until your family is reunited.

The true fight for the American way of life is not only in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have enemies to conquer here, as well. In this new world economy, we must fight the enemy of ignorance and illiteracy, the enemy of apathy and complacency, and the enemy of anguish and poverty.

Protecting America means much more than just providing for the national defense. We must protect our economic security, as well. We must be committed to the patriotic duty of providing the knowledge, talent, and skill for our people to compete and win in the world marketplace.

For in this global era, the unskilled nations will suffer and the skilled nations will prosper. North Carolina intends to prosper.

North Carolina was the only state to keep the schoolhouse doors open during the Great Depression - and we must open them wider still today, for as America leads the world, North Carolina must lead the nation.

That is why, working together, we have developed Learn and Earn early college high schools. Learn and Earn allows high school students to take college courses at their high school. Students earn a college associate's degree with just one extra year of study. Families save thousands of dollars on education costs and the graduation rate goes up.

These schools have made national headlines, from Newsweek to CBS News and have won national awards.

But students like Ashley Williams are what Learn and Earn is all about. For Ashley, college was once a far-off dream. Now, she is two courses away from earning her associate's degree and then plans to get her bachelor's degree.

Ashley is in the audience tonight. She is the first in her family to ever go to college.

Her future plans include a career in public service. She wants to be Governor. She has two more years of college. I have two more years as Governor - it might work out.

We must support Ashley's education not only because of her worth as a child of God, but we need Ashley and all the other Ashleys out there to develop and contribute their talent to build One North Carolina and a stronger America.

There are other nations emerging, jealous of our success and position in the world. They are investing heavily in education. They are poised to take advantage of any weaknesses that we allow or create. We will not let our lead in creativity and innovation erode.

Let all know that this state and nation will make any sacrifice and invest any resource, but we will never surrender our position as world leaders. This time in our history does not call for following the old familiar path. Now is the time to blaze a new trail so that all people of good-will and ambition can travel that path to prosperity.

I believe the path is clear.

We obligated ourselves in our constitution to provide for K-12 education. But that same document requires us to offer a college education as free as practical. And, in this new world, it is impractical not to offer college to every citizen.

As more of our students receive an advanced education, North Carolina becomes stronger. College graduates earn over 60 percent more per year than high school graduates.

They generate more wealth, more revenue and more innovation, and we secure our place as a leader in the world economy.

I have worked with Learn and Earn schools like Ashley's. We plan to have 75 of them open by the 2008-2009 school year. That is good, but it is not enough.

My budget will include support to take Learn and Earn early college high school statewide. It is only fair to give every student in every corner of every county in North Carolina the opportunity to take college-level courses and earn an associate's degree at their high school, and they can do it for free.

The time for timidity has passed. The time for action has come. Let us be bold and aggressive and set the goal that all students can earn a college associate’s degree by the time they leave school.

President Erskine Bowles of the UNC System and President Martin Lancaster of the Community College System and State Board of Education Chair Howard Lee have worked tirelessly and given complete support for this effort.

Gentlemen, we thank you.

But there is more. To middle and high schoolers and their families, I say to you tonight - you can all get a four-year college degree.

Our tuition is one of the lowest in the nation. And we are going to keep it low.

We have increased financial aid for needy students.

This legislature now provides almost $300 million in college aid.

And we have come this far so that we can finish the job this year. Just as other generations have sacrificed so the next might prosper, our generation will do no less.

My budget will provide students in low- and moderate-income families with a grant for a college education.

But students, I want you to hear me clearly. This plan is not a free lunch. You have to earn it. With every opportunity comes accountability. We will supply a grant, but you have to keep your grades up and be willing to work 10 hours a week. If you do, you can graduate from college in North Carolina debt free.

The grant will pay for two additional years of college, so students who earn an associate’s degree through a Learn and Earn program can finish college at a state university.

Now, let us think about this for a minute…

We are investing billions of dollars in early childhood, pre-K, lower class size and teacher pay. We are doing this not so we can maintain the status quo. We are doing it so we can raise the bar and raise the level of expectation for education. We are giving more opportunity, and we expect more achievement.

The people of this state have been tested before, and they have always answered the call.

Today, it is the duty of every citizen to learn as much as they can to compete in the world economy. And it is our duty to offer that opportunity. It is the right thing to do not because our constitution orders it, or because our economy requires it, but because our North Carolina values demand it.

Education is critical to protecting the strength of America. But we have other obligations as well.

We know we will be judged by how we treat the least of our people.

Even during the worst of times, we refused to follow the poor example of others. Many denied their most vulnerable citizens Medicaid and child health care.

We did not follow Washington's example of cutting the safety net for our most needy. In fact, we replaced federal cuts for the disabled, and increased our child health care. We numbed the pain of Washington politics as much as we could.

We even had to replace federal cuts to foster-care families.

When children enter foster care, we the state, assume the role of guardian. We become their parents and we raise them. But when these children reach 18, they are set out on their own with no financial support, no health care or higher education. I believe we can do better than that.

I propose that we do for them, the state's children, the same as we do for own: offer them health care until age 21 while they pursue a college education. After all, we committed to raise these children. Let us do it in a way so they can be strong and we can be proud.

Meanwhile, we can hope all children will have a loving family. We can help families afford the costs of adopting a child. By offering an adoption tax credit, we can provide the opportunity not only for a family to have a child - but for every child to have a family.

And, we have to help families who cannot afford health care for their children.

Every year, we have fully funded our Child Health Insurance Program. This stops a small problem from becoming a major illness and a major cost to us. We are never as big as when we help those who are small. We will fully fund CHIPS again this year.

But now, middle class families are feeling the financial squeeze from the rising cost of health care.

The N.C. Kids Care package that I will propose will help cover 12,000 children in North Carolina families who earn an income of up to 300 percent of the poverty level.

This plan will require these families to pay an affordable amount for their children to have health care coverage.

We have seen Washington shift the risk and burden in America to our low- and middle-income families. Many struggle to make ends meet.

It is time to reverse that trend. We must put a value on work and lessen the burden on hardworking people who struggle under the crushing weight of poverty.

We can do it by making our tax code more fair. The principle is simple. People in poverty should not pay income tax in this state.

Tonight, I propose that we eliminate the income tax entirely for almost 600,000 North Carolina taxpayers and cut it in half for over 600,000 more. This will send a message in a loud and mighty voice that we place a premium on work and we mean for it to pay off for hard-working people.

It is fair. It is just. And it is affordable.

And we will never forget our greatest generation.

Our seniors are having difficulty navigating the Medicare D Prescription Plan, and many still cannot afford the premiums. If they do not get their medication, they end up in the hospital, and that is more suffering for them and more cost for us. I am pleased to report that the plan you wanted, North Carolina Rx, is already improving the lives of 4,000 seniors, and we are making room for 45,000 more this year.

Our seniors built this country and made it great. They were there for us when we needed them, and we will be there for them now that they need us.

And protecting the least of these is not just about those who are poor.

All children should feel safe in school. My budget will add additional school resource officers to make sure every child is protected. Parents have the right to know that when they drop off their children at school, they are leaving them in a safe environment.

It still takes too long for criminal cases to be prosecuted. We must build on the progress we made last year for the courts and for law enforcement.

We are adding additional prosecutors, judges, victims' assistance and clerks, and expanding our prisons.

If you commit a violent crime in this state, we are going to take you to court faster and keep you in jail longer.

We are also funding more technology and communication for local law enforcement, as we have done every year since 9/11.

But much has changed in six years. Our economy is transitioning to newer and better jobs. Our economic and business climate is ranked among the best in the nation.

You should be proud of what you have accomplished. We have done it with the strategy set in 2001. We are keeping the tax burden low and our knowledge level high. We are staying focused on creativity and innovation, and we are using smart and targeted investments. And our incentives must continue to be based on performance and accountability

I ask you to fund that package again this year. At the same time, we will continue to fund our research institutions, build regional centers for promising new opportunities and give relief to small businesses.

There are only so many high-skill jobs out there, and we have to stay aggressive every hour of every day until we transition our economy in every county so that every citizen who wants a better job can get a better job.

If any of our counties are weak, then we all are weaker.

We must have strong state and local governments. We must work together to help those low-wealth counties struggling with rising Medicaid costs.

I know the State and Local Fiscal Modernization Study Commission is working hard on a solution. They will make their recommendation to us next month. If we do not receive a timely or reasonable recommendation, we will offer our own plan. But, one way or another, we are going to face and fix this problem this session.

Our disciplined nature must extend to energy use, as well. We want this country to be energy independent and the small steps we take can make a big difference.

We have saved millions in state government buildings by making them more energy efficient. All of us must conserve more. We cannot just keep building more and more power plants.

This year, working with the power companies, we will give you incentives. If you increase your energy efficiency we will decrease your power bill.

We are offering the best tax credits in the nation for alternative power. We have two choices: start working toward energy independence or put our country at risk. We must choose independence.

Together, we enhanced our environment by cleaning our water and air. We added more than 400,000 acres in state lands, from the waterfalls of Dupont Forest to the cliffs of Chimney Rock. Great natural resources are not replaceable, and we will not let them be destroyed.

Lastly, you took needed steps toward ethics and campaign reform last session. But, this year and every year to come, there will always be more work to be done and more improvements to be made.

We must be mindful that democracy only works when people participate and people only participate when they have confidence in the integrity of the political process.

I urge you to continue to improve and refine the good work you have started until it fully reflects the character and integrity of the people of North Carolina.

So tonight, we have positioned our state well.

We can never forget how we got here and what we have been through.

Now is not the time to abandon fiscal discipline. We cannot over-spend, over-tax or over-borrow.

Real progress must be sustainable, and it must be paid for. Otherwise, the promises made today will be broken tomorrow. Fiscal discipline, education progress, care for the least of these, these are the hallmarks of a great state.

I came here in 2001, when we were facing the largest budget shortfall in history, recovering from a flood in 40 of our 100 counties and losing hundreds of thousands of jobs to foreign trade.

I said then, "It is the darkest hours that bring out the brightest stars." And, oh, how you did shine. You made more progress during a recession than others did in a decade of prosperity.

Success is contagious, and progress is its own momentum, and you have continued to shine and fight off the enemy of apathy and complacency.

So now, greatness is within our reach. Let us never have regret for lost opportunity.

We can build what others would not dream and dream what others would not dare.

We can build a stronger, brighter and better North Carolina.

And in our stronger and brighter future, they will say about you, you who serve here tonight, that you had courage. They will say about you, you who serve here tonight, that you had compassion.

They will say about you, you who serve here tonight, that your values were good and just and fair."

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Bet you can't guess what lawmakers are talking about today? Yep, the whispering is at an all time high. I couldn't find one lawmaker that was surprised though that former House Speaker Jim Black is expected to plead guilty Thursday. A number of lawmakers believe he will get anywhere from one to three years behind bars but will get no where near the 10 years a judge could impose.

It will be interesting to see how Mecklenburg folks fill his spot. I'm heading to a four day cruise after typing this entry so have a great weekend and we'll be back Monday to talk about Governor Easley's speech to the General Assembly!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Executions are on hold but apparently no one has told the Department of Corrections. Two more executions were scheduled today for the first two weeks in March.

Likely, the law tells Corrections to move forward, but unless something happens soon the two cases will go to court and a judge will stay the executions until the doctor's role issue is cleared up.

Here's the release from the Department of Corrections.

"RALEIGH - Correction Secretary Theodis Beck has set two execution dates: March 2, 2007, for Archie Lee Billings; and March 9, 2007, for Allen R. Holman Sr. The executions are scheduled for 2 a.m. on the respective dates at Central Prison in Raleigh.Billings, 33, was sentenced to death June 5, 1996, in Caswell County Superior Court for the first degree murder of Amy Jackson. He also received consecutive sentences of 34 years and 5 months for first-degree rape; 10 years and 9 months for assault with a deadly weapon with intent to inflict serious injury; and 9 years and 11 months for first-degree burglary.On May 8, 1998, the North Carolina Supreme Court affirmed Billings' conviction and sentence of death.On January 8, 2007, the US Supreme Court denied Billings' petition to review the decision of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, dismissing his appeal and causing this execution date to be set.HolmanHolman, 47, was sentenced to death April 7, 1998, in Wake County Superior Court for the first degree murder of Linda Holman. On August 18, 2005, the North Carolina Supreme Court affirmed Holman's conviction and sentence of death. Holman declined further appeals efforts and requested that an execution date be set.On December 14, 2006, a federal judge ruled Holman was mentally competent to withdraw his appeals."

Monday, February 12, 2007

Speaker Joe Hackney has released committee assignments. Here they are! Eight appropriation chairs as expected. The following is a release from Hackney's office.

RALEIGH -- N.C. House Speaker Joe Hackney today announced the House committees, which will meet during the 2007-08 session. After many discussions with members of the House Democratic and Republican caucuses and careful consideration of their requests and suggestions, Speaker Hackney decided to create four new committees and restructure several others that have met in previous years.

The House of Representatives will now have committees that will focus on agribusiness and agricultural economy, energy and energy efficiency, juvenile justice and mental health reform. Several committees will also focus on slightly different issues or have expanded responsibilities than in previous years, including: Commerce, Small Business and Entrepreneurship; Federal Relations and Indian Affairs; Homeland Security, Military and Veteran Affairs; and Ways and Means.

Below is a list of all committees and their membership:

ASSISTANT TO THE SPEAKER: Representative Cunningham.

AGING: Representative Farmer-Butterfield Chair; Representatives Bordsen, Clary, Jones, and Pierce Vice Chairs; Representatives Adams, Boylan, Earle, England, Gillespie, Holmes, Mobley, Thomas, and Weiss.

AGRIBUSINESS AND AGRICULTURAL ECONOMY: Representative Faison Chair; Representatives Hill and West Vice Chairs; Representatives Brubaker, Frye, Mobley, and Pierce.

AGRICULTURE: Representative Hill Chair; Representatives Bell, Braxton, Brisson, Faison, Lewis, and Williams Vice Chairs; Representatives Coates, Daughtry, Holloway, Kiser, Langdon, Pate, Steen, Tarleton, Tolson, Tucker, Underhill, Walker, E. Warren, and Wray.

ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGE CONTROL: Representative Lucas Chair; Representatives Gibson and Grady Vice Chairs; Representatives Boylan, Brown, Coates, Cole, Daughtry, Goforth, Jones, Lewis, McGee, Saunders, Starnes, and Tucker.

APPROPRIATIONS: Representatives Adams, Alexander, Crawford, Haire, Jeffus, Tolson, Yongue, and Michaux (Senior) Chairs;

APPROPRIATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE ON CAPITAL: Representatives Womble and Wright Chairs; Representatives Church and Grady Vice Chairs; Representatives Allred, Avila, Cunningham, Daughtry, Holliman, Killian, and Wainwright.

APPROPRIATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE ON EDUCATION: Representatives Glazier, McLawhorn, and Rapp Chairs; Representatives Bell, Johnson, and Lucas Vice Chairs; Representatives Hilton, Holloway, Parmon, Pate, Tarleton, and Wiley.

APPROPRIATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE ON GENERAL GOVERNMENT: Representatives Goforth and Underhill Chairs; Representatives Fisher, Steen, and Tucker Vice Chairs; Representatives Almond, Braxton, Brown, Cleveland, Owens, Pierce, Walker, and West.

APPROPRIATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE ON HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: Representatives Earle, England, and Insko Chairs; Representatives Barnhart, Clary, and Coleman Vice Chairs; Representatives Brisson, Neumann, and Thomas.

APPROPRIATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE ON JUSTICE AND PUBLIC SAFETY: Representatives Bordsen and Love Chairs; Representatives Kiser, Ray, Spear, Sutton, and R. Warren Vice Chairs; Representatives Frye, Goodwin, Hurley, Justus, Mobley, and Moore.

APPROPRIATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATURAL AND ECONOMIC RESOURCES: Representatives McAllister and E. Warren Chairs; Representatives Harrison, Justice, and Wilkins Vice Chairs; Representatives Bryant, Langdon, Samuelson, Stiller, and Wray.

APPROPRIATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE ON TRANSPORTATION: Representatives Coates and Cole Chairs; Representatives Allen, Blue, Holmes, and Saunders Vice Chairs; Representatives Boylan, Current, Dickson, Dockham, Dollar, Gillespie, Gulley, T. Harrell, Martin, McElraft, and Williams.

CHILDREN, YOUTH AND FAMILIES: Representative Pierce Chair; Representatives Farmer-Butterfield, McAllister, and Wiley Vice Chairs; Representatives Alexander, Almond, Fisher, T. Harrell, Hilton, Mobley, Moore, and Setzer.

COMMERCE, SMALL BUSINESS AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP: Representative Dickson Chair; Representatives Carney, Daughtridge, Starnes, and Wilkins Vice Chairs; Representatives Allen, Allred, Blackwood, Braxton, Brown, Clary, Cole, England, Farmer-Butterfield, Gillespie, Goforth, T. Harrell, McGee, Neumann, Owens, Parmon, Pate, Pierce, Rapp, Ray, Samuelson, Steen, Tarleton, E. Warren, and R. Warren.

EDUCATION: Representatives Bell and Lucas Chairs;

EDUCATION SUBCOMMITTEE ON COMMUNITY COLLEGES: Representatives Wilkins and Wray Chairs; Representatives Bordsen, England, and Walker Vice Chairs; Representatives Avila, Brown, Dockham, Goforth, Goodwin, Langdon, Love, McElraft, Tolson, and R. Warren.

EDUCATION SUBCOMMITTEE ON PRE-SCHOOL, ELEMENTARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION: Representatives Fisher and Parmon Chairs; Representatives Blackwood, Jeffus, and McLawhorn Vice Chairs; Representatives Carney, Folwell, Glazier, Johnson, Rapp, Stam, and Wiley.

EDUCATION SUBCOMMITTEE ON UNIVERSITIES: Representatives McAllister and Womble Chairs; Representatives Current, Dollar, Insko, Tarleton, and E. Warren Vice Chairs; Representatives Adams, Alexander, Bryant, Cleveland, Daughtridge, Dickson, Hall, Hilton, Holloway, Hurley, Ross, Samuelson, Stiller, Thomas, and Yongue.

ELECTION LAW AND CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM: Representative Goodwin Chair; Representatives Kiser, Luebke, and Ross Vice Chairs; Representatives Bryant, Church, Current, Fisher, Harrison, Holmes, Justice, Lewis, Martin, Michaux, Stam, and Starnes.

ENERGY AND ENERGY EFFICENCY: Representative Harrison Chair; Representatives Tolson and Walend Vice Chairs; Representatives Boylan, Fisher, Folwell, Gibson, Gulley, J. Harrell, Luebke, Neumann, Samuelson, Saunders, and Tarleton.

ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES: Representative Allen Chair; Representatives Gillespie, J. Harrell, Harrison, Justice, Tarleton, and Underhill Vice Chairs; Representatives Blackwood, Brisson, Dollar, Gibson, Haire, Insko, Killian, Luebke, Martin, McComas, Owens, Samuelson, Stiller, Tucker, Weiss, West, and Womble.

ETHICS: Representatives Howard and Ross Chairs; Representatives Brubaker and Yongue Vice Chairs; Representatives Bell, Dockham, Justice, Lucas, Steen, and Tolson.


FEDERAL RELATIONS AND INDIAN AFFAIRS: Representatives Blue and Sutton Chairs; Representatives Frye and Martin Vice Chairs; Representatives Black, Brown, Gillespie, and Yongue.

FINANCE: Representatives Gibson, Wainwright, Weiss, and Luebke (Senior) Chairs; Representatives Hill, Holliman, Howard, McComas, and Womble Vice Chairs; Representatives Black, Blackwood, Blust, Carney, Cunningham, Daughtridge, Faison, Farmer-Butterfield, Folwell, Hall, J. Harrell, Jones, Lewis, McGee, Owens, Ross, Setzer, Stam, Starnes, Tillis, and Walend.

FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS: Representative Church Chair; Representatives Brubaker, Carney, and Williams Vice Chairs; Representatives Black, Daughtridge, Dockham, Earle, Grady, Hall, Holmes, Jeffus, McComas, Mobley, Neumann, Saunders, Spear, Tillis, and R. Warren.
HEALTH: Representative Wright Chair; Representatives Earle, England, and Justus Vice Chairs; Representatives Adams, Alexander, Avila, Barnhart, Boylan, Current, Farmer-Butterfield, Glazier, Grady, T. Harrell, McAllister, McElraft, McLawhorn, Neumann, Parmon, Rapp, Stiller, Thomas, Wainwright, Walend, and Wilkins.

HOMELAND SECURITY, MILITARY AND VETERAN AFFAIRS: Representative Martin Chair; Representatives Blust, Cunningham, Pate, and Wright Vice Chairs; Representatives Allred, Barnhart, Braxton, Cleveland, Coates, Dickson, Glazier, Hilton, Killian, Spear, Sutton, Thomas, Underhill, and R. Warren.

INSURANCE: Representatives Goforth and Holliman Chairs; Representatives Bryant, Dickson, Dockham, and Setzer Vice Chairs; Representatives Almond, Blust, Cole, Current, Faison, Howard, Lewis, Pierce, Saunders, Sutton, Wainwright, Walend, and Wright.

JUDICIARY I: Representative Ross Chair; Representatives Goodwin, Stam, and Stiller Vice Chairs; Representatives Alexander, Blust, Bryant, Clary, Hall, Harrison, Holmes, Insko, Martin, Mobley, and West.

JUDICIARY II: Representative Blue Chair; Representatives Glazier, Love, and Weiss Vice Chairs; Representatives Bordsen, Crawford, Folwell, J. Harrell, Hurley, Johnson, Kiser, Moore, Parmon, Ray, and Spear.

JUDICIARY III: Representative Sutton Chair; Representatives Daughtry, Faison, and R. Warren Vice Chairs; Representatives Almond, Black, Fisher, Haire, Jeffus, Lewis, Michaux, Tillis, Underhill, Walend, and Wiley.

JUVENILE JUSTICE: Representative Bordsen Chair; Representatives Haire, Kiser, and Mobley Vice Chairs; Representatives Avila, Blust, Bryant, Cunningham, Goodwin, Hurley, Justus, McAllister, McElraft, and Pierce.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT I: Representative Tucker Chair; Representatives Braxton and Langdon Vice Chairs; Representatives Coleman, Gibson, Hurley, McElraft, McGee, Owens, Pate, Spear, Walker, and E. Warren.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT II: Representative Jones Chair; Representatives Adams and Allen Vice Chairs; Representatives Fisher, Frye, Love, Lucas, Steen, Tillis, and Womble.

MENTAL HEALTH REFORM: Representatives Earle and Insko Chairs; Representatives Alexander and Barnhart Vice Chairs; Representatives Braxton, Brisson, Clary, Coleman, England, Justus, Langdon, McLawhorn, Ray, and Wiley.

PENSIONS AND RETIREMENT: Representatives Bell and J. Harrell Chairs; Representatives Coleman, Folwell, Holloway, and McGee Vice Chairs; Representatives Hurley, McLawhorn, and Tolson.

PUBLIC UTILITIES: Representative Saunders Chair; Representatives Brubaker and Coates Vice Chairs; Representatives Black, Bryant, Earle, Grady, Gulley, Harrison, Holmes, Howard, Lucas, and Wright.

RULES, CALENDAR, AND OPERATIONS OF THE HOUSE: Representative Owens Chair; Representatives Glazier, Hill, Luebke, and Ross Vice Chairs; Representatives Barnhart, Bell, Blue, Brubaker, Clary, Cole, Crawford, Dockham, J. Harrell, Holliman, Howard, Insko, Jeffus, Justice, Justus, Love, McComas, McLawhorn, Michaux, Pate, Ray, Setzer, Steen, Weiss, and Yongue.

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY: Representative Jones Chair; Representatives Gulley, T. Harrell, and Tolson Vice Chairs; Representatives Avila, Blue, England, Haire, Johnson, and Tillis.

STATE PERSONNEL: Representative Coleman Chair; Representatives Almond and Church Vice Chairs; Representatives J. Harrell, Justus, Killian, Sutton, Wiley, Womble, and Yongue.

TRANSPORTATION: Representative Carney Chair; Representatives Coates, Cole, Crawford, Hilton, McComas, and Williams Vice Chairs; Representatives Allen, Blackwood, Braxton, Brisson, Cleveland, Daughtridge, Daughtry, Dollar, T. Harrell, Hill, Killian, Moore, Rapp, Steen, Stiller, Sutton, Underhill, Wilkins, Wray, and Wright.

UNIVERSITY BOARD OF GOVERNORS NOMINATING: Representative Dickson Chair; Representatives Bryant, Haire, and Moore Vice Chairs; Representatives Blust, Brubaker, Dollar, Holmes, Insko, Rapp, E. Warren, and Womble.

WAYS AND MEANS: Representative J. Harrell Chair; Representatives Allred, Hall, Michaux, Owens, and Wainwright Vice Chairs; Representatives Avila, Carney, Crawford, Folwell, Goforth, Grady, Holliman, Lewis, McLawhorn, Neumann, Spear, and Walend.

WILDLIFE RESOURCES: Representative Williams Chair; Representatives Cleveland, Spear, and Wray Vice Chairs; Representatives Brisson, Church, Gulley, Love, Thomas, and West.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Lawmakers are gone for the weekend but there's still plenty to talk about. Political junkies are waiting to see how new House Speaker Joe Hackeny will distribute committee apppointments and chair positions. Multiple sources have confirmed that the latest and likely final plan will include eight Appropriations chairs. While that may seem like an abundance of chairs to agree, there are plenty of lawmakers who like it because it brings more backgrounds to the table so items don't get disregarded if someone just doesn't know about a subject.

The Hondajet deal continues to keep the argument about state incentives to the forefront. Senator Basnight now wants to study the issue. As Representative Paul Luebke put it today, that means it will get debate when he opens up about the subject. The Senate is commonly known as the chamber that goes along with the incentives.

Events like the death penalty hearings and now these tax deals keep bringing up more and more big subjects that lawmakers appear to now take up this session. Stay tuned!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Two very interesting bills and very different ideas on what to do with the death penalty. One, filed by Senator Phil Berger, clarifies that doctors participate in an execution and it also ensures that those doctors cannot be punished by the medical board.

The other bill filed by Senator Ellie Kinnaird is basically a two year moratorium to study the lethal injection issue. How fast these bills get taken up is another issue!
Another day and another end of the work week for lawmakers. It appears they are moving closer and closer to rolling up their sleeves and moving bills and working toward a budget. Yesterday, the Senate unveiled committee assignments. I'm told early next week, we can expect House assignments. I don't want to report rumor or speculation, but let's just say I'm told we can expect some big time changes and interesting arrangements in the House. What makes that even more interesting is, the House must come up with the budget first this time around.

If committee assignments are complete next week bills could start moving into committees by the end of next week and the debate can begin. It will likely take some time just to assign the bills. House members have already filed 135 bills and Senators have filed 112. Several interesting but few are earth shattering bills.

Expect things to really pick up next week.

In the meantime, check out Political Connections Friday night at 6 and Sunday morning at 11. We take on developments with the death penalty this week and what lawmakers are thinking about the issue. Wake County Republican Senator Richard Stevens and Durham Democrat Representative Paul Luebke are our guests!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Committee appointments are out for the's a look if you're curious.

Agriculture/Environment/Natural Resources Sen. Charlie Albertson – chairman Sen. Austin Allran – vice chairman Sen. Bob Atwater – vice chairman Sen. Janet Cowell – vice chairman Sen. Ellie Kinnaird – vice chairman Sen. A.B. Swindell – vice chairman Sen. David Weinstein – vice chairman Members: Sen. Stan Bingham, Sen. Andrew Brock, Sen. Harry Brown, Sen. Dan Clodfelter, Sen. Don East, Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, Sen. Clark Jenkins, Sen. Ed Jones, Sen. Jean Preston, Sen. Joe Sam Queen, Sen. Fred Smith, Sen. John Snow, Sen. Jerry Tillman
Appropriations/Base Budget Sen. Walter Dalton – co-chairman Sen. Linda Garrou – co-chairman Sen. Kay Hagan – co-chairman Sen. Charlie Albertson – vice chairman Sen. Charlie Dannelly – vice chairman Members: Sen. Tom Apodaca, Sen. Bob Atwater, Sen. Doug Berger, Sen. Phil Berger, Sen. Stan Bingham, Sen. Harris Blake, Sen. Julia Boseman, Sen. Andrew Brock, Sen. Harry Brown, Sen. Pete Brunstetter, Sen. Dan Clodfelter, Sen. Janet Cowell, Sen. Katie Dorsett, Sen. Don East, Sen. Tony Foriest, Sen. Jim Forrester, Sen. Steve Goss, Sen. Malcolm Graham, Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, Sen. David Hoyle, Sen. Neal Hunt, Sen. Jim Jacumin, Sen. Clark Jenkins, Sen. Ed Jones, Sen. John Kerr, Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, Sen. Jeanne Lucas, Sen. Vernon Malone, Sen. Martin Nesbitt, Sen. Robert Pittenger, Sen. Jean Preston, Sen. Bill Purcell, Sen. Joe Sam Queen, Sen. Tony Rand, Sen. Larry Shaw, Sen. Fred Smith, Sen. John Snow, Sen. R.C. Soles, Sen. Richard Stevens, Sen. A.B. Swindell, Sen. David Weinstein
Appropriations/Education/Higher Education Sen. A.B. Swindell – senior chairman Sen. Julia Boseman – co-chairman Sen. Richard Stevens – co-chairman Members: Sen. Tony Foriest, Sen. Fletcher Hartsell
Appropriations/Education/Public Instruction Sen. Jeanne Lucas – senior chairman Sen. Vernon Malone – co-chairman Sen. Joe Sam Queen – co-chairman Members: Sen. Bob Atwater, Sen. Martin Nesbitt, Sen. Jean Preston, Sen. Jerry Tillman
Appropriations/Human Resources Sen. Bill Purcell – co-chairman Sen. Doug Berger – co-chairman Members: Sen. Harris Blake, Sen. Charlie Dannelly, Sen. Jim Forrester, Sen. Steve Goss
Appropriations/Information Technology and General Government Sen. Janet Cowell – co-chairman Sen. Katie Dorsett – co-chairman Members: Sen. Andrew Brock, Sen. Malcolm Graham, Sen. Neal Hunt, Sen. John Kerr, Sen. Fred Smith
Appropriations/Justice and Public Safety Sen. Ellie Kinnaird – co-chairman Sen. John Snow – co-chairman Sen. Dan Clodfelter – vice chairman Members: Sen. Tom Apodaca, Sen. Stan Bingham, Sen. Pete Brunstetter, Sen. Tony Rand
Appropriations/Natural and Economic Resources Sen. David Weinstein – chairman Sen. Charlie Albertson – vice chairman Members: Sen. Harry Brown, Sen. Jim Jacumin, Sen. Ed Jones
Appropriations/Transportation Sen. Clark Jenkins – chairman Sen. R.C. Soles – vice chairman Members: Sen. Phil Berger, Sen. Don East, Sen. David Hoyle, Sen. Larry Shaw
Commerce, Small Business and Entrepreneurship Sen. R.C. Soles – chairman Sen. David Hoyle – vice chairman Sen. Tony Rand – vice chairman Members: Sen. Tom Apodaca, Sen. Doug Berger, Sen. Phil Berger, Sen. Harris Blake, Sen. Julia Boseman, Sen. Walter Dalton, Sen. Katie Dorsett, Sen. Tony Foriest, Sen. Jim Forrester, Sen. Linda Garrou, Sen. Eddie Goodall, Sen. Steve Goss, Sen. Malcolm Graham, Sen. Kay Hagan, Sen. Neal Hunt, Sen. Jim Jacumin, Sen. John Kerr, Sen. Vernon Malone, Sen. Martin Nesbitt, Sen. Robert Pittenger, Sen. Bill Purcell, Sen. Larry Shaw, Sen. Richard Stevens
Education/Public Instruction Sen. Jeanne Lucas – senior chairman Sen. Vernon Malone – co-chairman Sen. Joe Sam Queen – co-chairman Members: Sen. Tom Apodaca, Sen. Bob Atwater, Sen. Doug Berger, Sen. Harry Brown, Sen. Walter Dalton, Sen. Charlie Dannelly, Sen. Katie Dorsett, Sen. Jim Forrester, Sen. Eddie Goodall, Sen. Steve Goss, Sen. Malcolm Graham, Sen. Kay Hagan, Sen. Ed Jones, Sen. Martin Nesbitt, Sen. Jean Preston, Sen. Fred Smith, Sen. Jerry Tillman
Education/Higher Education Sen. A.B. Swindell – senior chairman Sen. Julia Boseman – co-chairman Sen. Richard Stevens – co-chairman Members: Sen. Austin Allran, Sen. Phil Berger, Sen. Stan Bingham, Sen. Janet Cowell, Sen. Linda Garrou, Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, Sen. David Hoyle, Sen. Neal Hunt, Sen. Clark Jenkins, Sen. Bill Purcell, Sen. Tony Rand, Sen. John Snow
Finance Sen. Dan Clodfelter – co-chairman Sen. David Hoyle – co-chairman Sen. John Kerr – co-chairman Sen. Fletcher Hartsell – vice chairman Sen. Larry Shaw – vice chairman Members: Sen. Charlie Albertson, Sen. Austin Allran, Sen. Tom Apodaca, Sen. Bob Atwater, Sen. Phil Berger, Sen. Harris Blake, Sen. Julia Boseman, Sen. Andrew Brock, Sen. Harry Brown, Sen. Pete Brunstetter, Sen. Janet Cowell, Sen. Walter Dalton, Sen. Charlie Dannelly, Sen. Linda Garrou, Sen. Eddie Goodall, Sen. Steve Goss, Sen. Neal Hunt, Sen. Clark Jenkins, Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, Sen. Martin Nesbitt, Sen. Robert Pittenger, Sen. Jean Preston, Sen. Bill Purcell, Sen. Joe Sam Queen, Sen. Tony Rand, Sen. Fred Smith, Sen. R.C. Soles, Sen. Richard Stevens, Sen. A.B. Swindell, Sen. Jerry Tillman
Finance – Subcommittee on Capital and Infrastructure Financing Sen. Dan Clodfelter – chairman Members: Sen. Pete Brunstetter, Sen. Janet Cowell, Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, Sen. David Hoyle, Sen. John Kerr, Sen, R.C. Soles, Sen. Richard Stevens
Health Care Sen. Stan Bingham – co-chairman Sen. Bill Purcell – co-chairman Sen. Katie Dorsett – vice chairman Sen. Tony Foriest – vice chairman Sen. Jim Forrester – vice chairman Members: Sen. Bob Atwater, Sen. Doug Berger, Sen. Harris Blake, Sen. Pete Brunstetter, Sen. Charlie Dannelly, Sen. Kay Hagan, Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, Sen. David Hoyle, Sen. Jim Jacumin, Sen. Ed Jones, Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, Sen. Vernon Malone, Sen. Martin Nesbitt, Sen. Tony Rand
Information Technology Sen. Janet Cowell – co-chairman Sen. Katie Dorsett – co-chairman Sen. Malcolm Graham – vice chairman Members: Sen. Tom Apodaca, Sen. Doug Berger, Sen. Phil Berger, Sen. Andrew Brock, Sen. Tony Foriest, Sen. Steve Goss, Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, Sen. John Kerr, Sen. Joe Sam Queen
Judiciary I Sen. Martin Nesbitt – chairman Sen. Dan Clodfelter – vice chairman Sen. R.C. Soles – vice chairman Sen. Phil Berger – vice chairman Members: Sen. Charlie Albertson, Sen. Julia Boseman, Sen. Andrew Brock, Sen. Harry Brown, Sen. Pete Brunstetter, Sen. Janet Cowell, Sen. Malcolm Graham, Sen. David Hoyle, Sen. Clark Jenkins, Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, Sen. Vernon Malone, Sen. Tony Rand, Sen. Richard Stevens, Sen. Jerry Tillman
Judiciary II Sen. Fletcher Hartsell – chairman Sen. Doug Berger – vice chairman Sen. Ed Jones – vice chairman Sen. Austin Allran – vice chairman Members: Sen. Tom Apodaca, Sen. Bob Atwater, Sen. Stan Bingham, Sen. Walter Dalton, Sen. Charlie Dannelly, Sen. Katie Dorsett, Sen. Eddie Goodall, Sen. Jim Jacumin, Sen. John Kerr, Sen. Joe Sam Queen, Sen. John Snow, Sen. A.B. Swindell
Mental Health and Youth Services Sen. Bob Atwater – co-chairman Sen. Ellie Kinnaird – co-chairman Sen. Martin Nesbitt – vice chairman Members: Sen. Charlie Dannelly, Sen. Jim Forrester, Sen. Jim Jacumin, Sen. Vernon Malone, Sen. Jean Preston, Sen. Bill Purcell, Sen. Larry Shaw, Sen. John Snow, Sen. A.B. Swindell
Pensions, Retirement and Aging Sen. Walter Dalton – co-chairman Sen. Linda Garrou – co-chairman Sen. Kay Hagan – co-chairman Members: Sen. Charlie Albertson, Sen. Bob Atwater, Sen. Stan Bingham, Sen. Andrew Brock, Sen. Dan Clodfelter, Sen. Janet Cowell, Sen. Katie Dorsett, Sen. Don East, Sen. Tony Foriest, Sen. Jim Forrester, Sen. Clark Jenkins, Sen. Vernon Malone, Sen. Martin Nesbitt, Sen. Bill Purcell, Sen. Joe Sam Queen, Sen. Richard Stevens, Sen. A.B. Swindell
Rules and Operations of the Senate Sen. Tony Rand – chairman Sen. Walter Dalton – vice chairman Members: Sen. Charlie Albertson, Sen. Tom Apodaca, Sen. Phil Berger, Sen. Julia Boseman, Sen. Andrew Brock, Sen. Pete Brunstetter, Sen. Katie Dorsett, Sen. Jim Forrester, Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, Sen. David Hoyle, Sen. Ed Jones, Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, Sen. Martin Nesbitt, Sen. R.C. Soles, Sen. Richard Stevens, Sen. A.B. Swindell, Sen. David Weinstein
State and Local Government Sen. Don East – co-chairman Sen. Malcolm Graham – co-chairman Sen. Katie Dorsett – vice chairman Members: Sen. Charlie Albertson, Sen. Tom Apodaca, Sen. Phil Berger, Sen. Harris Blake, Sen. Julia Boseman, Sen. Pete Brunstetter, Sen. Ed Jones, Sen. Joe Sam Queen, Sen. Fred Smith, Sen. R.C. Soles, Sen. Richard Stevens
Transportation Sen. Larry Shaw – chairman Sen. Steve Goss – vice chairman Sen. Clark Jenkins – vice chairman Members: Sen. Austin Allran, Sen. Phil Berger, Sen. Harry Brown, Sen. Janet Cowell, Sen. Don East, Sen. Eddie Goodall, Sen. Malcolm Graham, Sen. Neal Hunt, Sen. John Kerr, Sen. Jean Preston, Sen. Joe Sam Queen, Sen. John Snow, Sen. R.C. Soles, Sen. Richard Stevens, Sen. A.B. Swindell, Sen. Jerry Tillman, Sen. David Weinstein
Ways and Means Sen. Charlie Dannelly – chairman Sen. David Weinstein – vice chairman Members: Sen. Charlie Albertson, Sen. Austin Allran, Sen. Jim Forrester, Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, Sen. David Hoyle, Sen. Neal Hunt, Sen. Clark Jenkins, Sen. John Kerr, Sen. Jeanne Lucas, Sen. Vernon Malone, Sen. A.B. Swindell, Sen. David Weinstein

Monday, February 05, 2007

To say the death penalty debate is up in the air would be an understatement! Tuesday morning the Council of State will take up the complicated issue. Does a new protocol requiring a doctor to be present and meet a federal judge's recommendation from last year requiring a doctor to monitor an inmate's "pain" level match state law and a medical board's recent ruling that participation by a doctor is forbidden? Regardless of what is decided Tuesday it will go back to a judge and by all accounts it will head back to the legislature to clarify the law. In the meantime, by all accounts that means no executions for many months if not longer. The House Select Committee on Capital Punishment argued but decided against recommending a moratorium Monday. While Speaker Hackney said a few weeks ago he didn't think there was enough votes for a moratorium, momentum for one appears to be growing.

I'm told to expect a number of "speeches" from Council of State members as a rather diverse group of people make an unusual decision compared to their usual business. It's their chance to speak out on a issue many of them care about but would never be asked for their opinion typically. There's a large number of lawmakers who want the Council of State to vote against the prison's protocol and send it back to the legislature. The judge could also do the same thing. It's an interesting process when you think that all three branches of government are simultaneously taking up the same issue.

Meanwhile, Lt. Governor Beverly Perdue sent out a release tonight calling for a moratorium but she explains it has nothing to do with Tuesday's's the full release from her communications director. Keep in mind she's a likely gubernatorial candidate.

"Lt. Governor Calls for Moratorium on Executions Until Constitutional Questions are Clarified

Raleigh: Lt. Governor Bev Perdue is closely studying the death penalty protocol vote that will come before the Council of State tomorrow morning.

But Lt. Governor Perdue recognizes that questions about the constitutionality of the death penalty administration have been accumulating. They have now reached a peak with questions about lethal injection and medical supervision. Lt. Governor Perdue believes that until these questions are clarified in the courts that there should be a moratorium on executions.

Lt. Governor Perdue wants to make clear that she is not linking tomorrow’s protocol vote with a vote for or against a moratorium.

Lt. Governor Perdue has long stood and continues to stand as a supporter of capital punishment. At the same time, she believes and has a demonstrated record in favor of insisting upon fairness in its administration."

Friday, February 02, 2007

Kevin Geddings won't be sentenced until April. Just got off the phone with the U.S. Attorneys office and that's what we are told. I was looking at my calendar and did some research and realized it hadn't been reported yet so I made the phone call and there we are.

You'll remember for Rep. Michael Decker was supposed to be sentenced Monday as well, but he too had his sentencing pushed back until April.

In the meantime, we did a great story (at least I think!) about the Council of State taking up the death penalty issue next Tuesday. I interviewed Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. He's a farmer born and bred and you can tell he's not real pleased about being put in this position. Think about it, an auditor or a farmer having to make such a decision.

Should be interesting to say the least!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Let it snow, let it snow, let's go home. That's apparently what a large number of lawmakers did Wednesday night. Fearing they might get stuck in Raleigh, many out-of-towners hit the roads before the white stuff even began falling from the sky. As a result, little if nothing was done at the legislature.

And, it appears that had an impact on attendance at the Emerging Issues Forum at NC State largely associated with former governor Jim Hunt. While lawmakers claim education is a priority, less than ten were at the forum to hear U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings speak and announce a budget plan to increase pell grants.

If you haven't seen it on our website, check out the full interview I did with former Governor Jim Hunt. Interesting stuff.