Friday, August 31, 2007

Make sure to check out Political Connections this weekend. We talk about Homeland Security with Rep. David Price and Duke Prof. David Schanzer who also runs the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security.

It airs tonight at 6 and Sunday at 11am. You can check out past episodes on demand on Time Warner Cable channel 1234.

Have a great and safe holiday weekend!
Gov.'s office just sent a release that's an interesting factoid you may not know that existed about alternative energies and vehicles...the release is below.

"RALEIGH - Gov. Mike Easley today signed into law Senate Bill 1272, "An act to exempt biodiesel that is produced by an individual for personal use in a private passenger vehicle from the motor fuel excise tax." The new law exempts biodiesel produced by an individual, for use in their own private vehicle, from the motor fuel excise tax. State law defines biodiesel as "any fuel or mixture of fuels derived in whole or in part from agricultural products or animal fats or wastes from these products or fats."
"Individuals across the state and country are looking for ways to decrease their consumption of traditional fuels and one of the ways is through the use of biodiesel," said Easley. "This legislation encourages our citizens to use alternative fuels without unfairly taxing them."
North Carolina is one of several states to pass legislation exempting biodiesel fuel from the motor fuel excise tax for some users. Illinois, Texas and Rhode Island partially or fully exempted biodiesel from the motor fuels tax while Indiana passed legislation similar to North Carolina's, exempting individuals who produce and consume biodiesel fuel for their own purposes.
This law directs the Revenue Laws Study Committee and Joint Legislative Transportation Oversight Committee to study the issue of providing adequate funding for transportation infrastructure development and improvement since the Highway Fund will not collect money from biodiesel users. The law further directs the committees to discuss ways to ensure the costs of road construction are paid for by all motorists as usage shifts from traditional motor fuels to new fuels.
The primary sponsor of the legislation is state Sen. John Snow (D-Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon, Swain, Transylvania).
The act becomes effective October 1, 2007, and the study provision becomes effective when the act becomes law. The legislation passed the Senate 46-0 and was approved in the House of Representatives by a 108-4 vote."
Mortgage mess!! I knew I was in trouble this morning when my managers looked at me and said, "We'd like you to do a story about the President's proposals to help with the mortgage crunch."

Yikes! What an important story but what a nightmare to tell on television. This story is so important to so many families but it is so complicated, which is the reason why so many people are in the position they are facing!

Why has the system gotten so complicated that the average person cannot understand it, and the lenders and lawyers can and is that the reason the mortgage industry is in such a mess?

President Bush, in a nutshell, wants to make it easier for those in trouble with their mortgages can refinance. These people are stuck in ARMs or adjustable rates. That means they get cheap interest rates for a few years but then the balloon pops and their rates go through the roof.

He's calling for reform as well. Advocates I've talked with are optimistic but are concerned it won't help enough people facing foreclosure. His plan to help with refinancing may shut out the people facing the worst situations because you need relatively good credit. That's according to Al Ripley over at the NC Justice Center.

The state recently passed some laws related to this that Ripley thinks may help more than Bush's plan in the long run.

Check out the story on for more. My head hurts too much to write and understand more right now!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Easley brought out the veto stamp but we never saw it. Sort an interesting side note to Governor Easley vetoing the "Goodyear bill" as it's being dubbed.

The bill would have given up to $40 million to Goodyear over 10 years to upgrade. The argument is they need the money to keep the plant in Fayetteville or they might move the plant. Problem is, the bill basically allowed Goodyear to lay off 750 people.

Easley has his own plan to allow these grants providing it's a company in the poorest counties that provides 1500+ jobs and promises not to lay off any employee.

Anywho, the last veto we saw, the Governor brought out the big red ink stamp and vetoed the heck out of the bill.

Today, about 10 minutes before the news conference a staff member came into the room and took the stamp. During the news conference, Gov. Easley mentioned it was already stamped. Why couldn't he just stamp it in front of us? It's always great video for us TV folks!

Easley did mention in his remarks and it was obvious he was very much against the bill but was concerned about having to veto it because it involved a major company as well as Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand who sponsored a version. Did the Governor not want to rub salt in the wound by stamping the ink in front of cameras???

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Looks like Easley is going to veto the bill giving Goodyear $40 mill to keep jobs here. Here's the direct release from the Gov's office.

"Gov. Mike Easley today announced he will seek new legislation in the 2008 session of the General Assembly to secure major manufacturing investments from existing industries in disadvantaged parts of the state.
“As our economy has globalized, our largest industries can now direct investments to areas of the country and the world where they can achieve the lowest production costs,” Easley said. “My plan will create a state program to partner with local governments and secure commitments from major anchor industries to modernize operations and enhance their presence in North Carolina.”
Titled “The American Productivity and Competitiveness Act of North Carolina,” Easley’s proposal would have the state partner with qualifying existing industries that commit to invest substantial amounts modernizing their facilities to ensure greater productivity and global competitiveness in their operations. The program would operate in a fashion similar to current incentive programs that require approval by the Economic Investment Committee and award grants measured by a portion of new taxes resulting from the investment and by training costs.
“The economy is changing rapidly,” Easley said. “Those companies that invest in technology and in a high-skilled workforce will succeed. Those which do not will fail. North Carolina wants to partner in success.”
At least one North Carolina business has already signaled that a grant under the proposed legislation could secure its commitment to upgrade a major existing manufacturing plant in North Carolina to state-of-the-art status.
“We have been briefed on Gov. Easley’s proposed legislation which is an innovative, on-target program,” said Steven Akey, Vice President of Government Affairs for Bridgestone Firestone North American Tire, LLC, which operates a large plant in Wilson. “It would be a major step forward in our ability to stay globally competitive in a changing economy by supporting worker training and encouraging investments to enhance productivity. If this were to become law, and we received a grant, we would be prepared to move forward with substantial new investment in our Wilson facility and retain employment at least at current levels in the years to come.”
“A grant from a program like this would enable our Wilson facility to secure our position as a world-class operation that can compete and win in the global economy,” said Jim Pridgen, manager of the Wilson plant.
Grants would be available to manufacturing facilities that require assistance to modernize in the state and that employ at least 1,500 workers in high-paying jobs in Tier 1 distressed counties. Companies receiving grants would be required to maintain current levels of company jobs, pay wages that equal or exceed 140% of the county average wage, and provide quality health insurance and benefits. They would also be required to maintain clean environmental and workforce safety records and not be delinquent on taxes owed.
A key feature of Easley’s program would be a requirement that local governments partner with the state when awarding inducements for the company’s commitment to invest. Current programs such as the One North Carolina Fund also require local government participation.
“Any effort to retain a major economic engine in a community needs to be a fair partnership between the state and local governments – one that appropriately balances both the risks and the rewards of the expanded economic activity,” Easley said.
Officials in Wilson County, where Bridgestone Firestone has been considering future expansions, agreed. “As it has in the past, our county stands ready to do its part and will partner with the State,” said Frank Emory, Chairman of the Wilson County Commissioners. “It is vitally important that we work together to ensure that Bridgestone Firestone remains an enduring presence here and enhances its technology to meet the demands of globalization.”
Senator A.B. Swindell (D-Nash, Wilson) said, “I’m looking forward to working to build consensus in the General Assembly for the Governor’s plan. It’s a creative model that can work for other significant industries in North Carolina and guarantee that we’re the most competitive and innovative state in the country.”
Representative Jean Farmer-Butterfield (D-Edgecombe, Wilson) said, “Bridgestone Firestone provides high-paying jobs to many of our citizens. The Governor’s plan is exactly what is needed to keep communities like Wilson strong.”
Representative Joe Tolson (D-Edgecombe, Wilson) said, “This will guarantee that world-class companies invest in Eastern North Carolina. We need to come together on this fair plan to ensure that we help our long-time employers stay and grow here.”
State grants under the program would be measured against the income, franchise and sales tax revenues paid to the state as a result of the company’s commitment to maintain and modernize operations, as well as the cost of training workers to operate new equipment and manage new lines of production.
Companies could also receive refunds for near-term sales taxes on electricity and natural gas, which are scheduled to be phased out for all manufacturers as a result of legislation recently signed by the Governor.
Qualifying companies that fail to follow through on commitments would see their benefits reduced or terminated, and companies that shut down facilities could be required to repay any incentives received under the program.

I have to leave for the day, but I covered the latest on the death penalty issue in court. My story can be found on the left or

Until then..

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

So, it's not political but it's pretty darn interesting. My bosses wanted me to go to a newser about cattle and hay this morning.

Turns out hay production is devastated by the drought. That hay provides feed for cows in the fall and winter months. Yep, it's a big big problem and many farmers are facing the reality of shutting down if something doesn't change.

Well, corn and soybean crops are destroyed as well so for the first time the state is working to make hay out of these dried out crops. Interesting huh?

Here's how bad the situation is...during the 2002 drought there was a need for 10,000 bales of hay because of a bad crop. This year that number is a whopping 800,000!!!

Like I said, it's not politics but it is very interesting! These are some of the non-political stories I cover when the GA is out and government is slow!!

Tomorrow I'm headed to out to National Guard headquarters to talk with Rep. Brad Miller and the Guard folks about readiness for hurricanes. You may remember a large amount of equipment remains overseas.

In the afternoon, Rep. Virginia Foxx drops by our studio.

Until then..have a great night!
Good should be an interesting day. Governor Easley is meeting with Speaker Hackney and Sen. Basnight to talk transportation this afternoon. They are likely to appoint a commission that will study the issue and possibly come up with funding options.

This morning I'm headed over to NC State's Beef Educational Unit. Ag Commish Steve Troxler is giving us reporter types an update on the drought and a look at how cattle farmers can deal with feed issues.

Updates to come later!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Quite the news day! Between Gonzalez resigning and Michael Vick pleading guilty it's hard to find a spot in the news rundown! On top of that it's the first day of school in the Triangle and a bunch of other "smaller" stories are popping up.

On the political front, Sen. Basnight and Rep. Hackney are headed to the Gov's office (not intended to sound like they are headed to the principal's office) tomorrow to talk transportation. It appears less and less likely that a special session will happen before May (when the General Assembly gets back to work).

It's more likely, I'm hearing from several sources, that the three minds will create some sort of study commission or panel to make recommendations on how to fund the massive need to build and retrofit roads and bridges among other things. The meeting is set to take place early Tuesday afternoon.

On another front, Gov. Easley essentially has until the weekend to sign, veto, or ignore a bill that's starting to catch fire in the minds of many. You've heard plenty about economic incentives to lure in jobs. The $200 million plus in tax breaks given to Dell and Google are facing lawsuits and grabbing headlines. Now, legislation passed this last session would open up a path to give Goodyear $10 million over four years to keep jobs here\ (not tax breaks, real money).

I talked at length today with Elaine Mejia with the Budget and Tax Center who opposes incentives. She is concerned this will open up a whole new can of worms and existing businesses will follow Goodyear threatening to leave if the state doesn't hand over some dough.

In fact, I've heard from multiple stories there's evidence that some companies have already inquired about the future deals.

Easley has until the end of the week so stay tuned!

Friday, August 24, 2007

No Feds help no jail for Black? I moderated an interesting discussion panel Wednesday night put on by the Federalist Society.

The panelists were Sen. Phil Berger, Wake Co. DA Colon Willoughby, and former federal prosecutor Kieran Shanahan. The audience was peppered with former prosecutors, current judges, as well as a couple Jim Black investigators.

The main question at hand was prosecutorial power and investigative grand juries.

Willoughby talked often about the lack of resources and need for new technology. Without investigative grand juries in this state, some feel DA's need the feds to take down "big wigs".

That led me to ask Mr. Willoughby if he thought Jim Black would be sitting behind bars right now if he didn't have the help of federal investigators. Without hesitating his answer was "it would have been real difficult".

On another note if you haven't heard, the NC Supreme Court is asking lawmakers to "redo" the Pender county boundary line for elections-fondly referred to as redistricting. It's district 18 and coincidentally is current Rep. Thomas Wright who's facing some fierce allegations.

The court ruled along party lines and ruled that that lawmakers must redo it AFTER the 2008 elections. If it can be done by itself, there is no need to redraw all district lines, however all lines will be redrawn after 2010 anyway because of a new census report.

Have a great weekend everyone!!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Are lottery sales getting worse? Here's a quote from my interview with Lottery Exeuctive Director Tom Shaheen.

"It's a little slower this summer than last summer. I believe that by the end of this week we're going to be down about $10-12 million dollars."

Shaheen says he's not worried though. He expects to begin offering larger prizes in October and the raffle returns by the end of the year. A summertime jackpot of $245 million also helps sales.

Should be interesting to follow to say the least!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Thirsty anyone? So we are hurtin when it comes to the drought! Some really smart guys with fancy charts met (NC Drought Advisory Council) in Raleigh, Tuesday. While there's a glimmer of hope that a stubborn high pressure system will finally move off the coast and provide scattered rain next week, we could be in for a world of hurt.

Weather and climate experts said we need anywhere from 12 to 25 inches of rain in three months to ease the drought but the chances of that happening are at best 30%.

On top of that we are facing La Nina-that's a fancy term for we are looking at a abnormally dry fall and winter. That means we could see a stronger drought next year. Yikes!

At the meeting water reps from Cary, Durham, and PWC (Fayetteville) stood up and said the situation is bad but consumers are doing a good job of conserving. The Raleigh rep stood up and said consumers are doing a horrible job and the system is setting usage records! Interesting to say the least.

Not exactly a political story for me today but one that affects everyone!

Tomorrow night I'm moderating a panel discussion on prosecutorial power after Jim Black and the Duke Lacrosse case. Some heavy hitters on the panel...More details tomorrow and after the event I'll have a huge wrap up.
Drought meeting...Should be an interesting morning. I'm headed to a Drought Advisory Council meeting this morning at 10:30. With hot dry conditions continuing I'm sure there will be some interesting suggestions. Agriculture, Forestry, Fire, and other officials will be there as well.

More after the meeting!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Transportation issues continue... I had Sen. Richard Stevens (R-Wake) in studio today for a taping of Politcal Connections on toll roads and transportation.

He called on Governor Easley to call a special session for transportation. As many of you know there's been talk of a special session or at least a meeting of lawmakers, transportation officials, and others to get a plan to fund transportation. As my colleague David Ingram reporter in this morning's Charlotte Observer wrote that may not happen until 2009, however.

Stevens is against toll roads but he said many lawmakers are coming around to the idea because there currently is no way to build the roads before 2030 if toll roads are not utilized.

He's on the record as someone against privatizing the roads even if the state keeps control over the project and toll pricing. He also said the fact that they did so little for transportation was by far his biggest disappointment of the session.

For more on his views and Turnpike Authority Executive Director David Joyner make sure to chekc out Political Connections this weekend.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Make sure to check out Political Connections (News 14 Carolina-Fridays 6pm, Sundays 11am). This week we tackle the land transfer tax and sales tax options just given to counties.

Also our old shows are now available on Carolina On Demand which is channel 1234.

See you next week!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Unfortunately, I've had very little time to update this blog today. I was at a food safety forum held by the AG department and have a very busy day working on the show. Look to the right for a link to my food story. Gov. Easley signed some legislation involving mortgages and foreclosures. Here's a release on it for you reading pleasure!

RALEIGH – Gov. Mike Easley announced today he has signed legislation to reign in abusive lending practices, provide consumers with more information and protect unsuspecting homebuyers and tenants from unfair fees and penalties. The three bills signed into law are:

House Bill 1374: “An act to overturn the Shepard case and amend the limitation regarding actions to recover for usury; to overturn the Skinner case and amend the long-arm statute to allow North Carolina courts to exercise personal jurisdiction over certain nonresidential defendants; to require that a notice of foreclosure contain certain information; and to provide for mortgage debt collection and servicing.”
House Bill 1817: “An act to protect consumers regarding covered loans and to increase the Banking Commissioner’s disciplinary authority over licensees under the Mortgage Lending Act.”
House Bill 947: “An act to require that notice of sale in foreclosure proceedings be sent to certain tenants residing in the property to be sold, to allow those tenants after receiving the notice to terminate the rental agreement upon ten days written notice to the landlord, to require that those tenants be given thirty days notice of an application for an order of possession, and to clarify that the proceeds in the automation enhancement and preservation fund may be used for the preservation and storage of public records.”

“Purchasing a home is the most significant, and often most confusing, financial obligation most North Carolinians will ever make,” said Easley. “Our state has been the national leader in protecting home ownership. Our 1999 predatory lending law was the nation’s first, and is still the national standard. But the volatile sub-prime lending market has presented new challenges. These new laws will give North Carolinians additional protections from unfair and deceptive lending practices.”

The new laws:
Limit the ability of mortgage brokers to charge customers above market rates and prepayment penalties,
Protect borrowers from abusive adjustable rate mortgages,
Ensure that lenders take into account the ability of borrowers to repay the loans, and
Protect homeowners from abusive mortgage servicing companies that misapply mortgage payments, charge illegal fees and mishandle escrow accounts.

If a homeowner is unable to meet the mortgage payments, loan servicers are now required to give a detailed accounting of the sums claimed to be owed, and to protect the borrower’s interest during the foreclosure proceedings.

The legislation also moves to clarify two recent state Supreme Court decisions that made it harder for borrowers to sue for illegal lending practices. The new law now makes it easier for borrowers to sue than would have been the case if the bill had not addressed the court rulings. “If unscrupulous lenders break the law, this will ensure that they pay the price,” Easley said.

Sponsors of H 1374 were Reps. Dan Blue (D-Wake) Jennifer Weiss (D-Wake), Margaret Dickson (D-Cumberland) and Rick Glazier (D-Cumberland). The bill was carried in the Senate by Sen. Martin Nesbitt (D-Buncombe). It passed the House 118-0 and the Senate 43-0. Most of the bill is effective immediately, while other portions go into effect April 1, 2008.

H 1817 was sponsored by Rep. Dan Blue (D-Wake). It was carried in the Senate by Sen. Martin Nesbitt (D-Buncombe). It passed the House 110-0 and the Senate 33-15. The new law is effective Jan. 1, 2008.

H 947 was sponsored by Reps. Rick Glazier (D-Cumberland) and Dan Blue (D-Wake). It was carried in the Senate by Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, (R-Cabarrus). It passed the House 112-0 and the Senate 34-6. It goes into effect Oct. 1, 2007.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Private funding for toll roads? This afternoon the Turnpike Authority voted to look into private funding. The loan will fund what's known as a gap between traditional funding and tolls to pay for the pay to ride road.

The Authority was looking to lawmakers for the money but they are not willing to give it yet. The House was particularly against an increase in registration fees to fund the funding.

Turnpike top dog David Joyner says the private funding is like a second mortgage. The question the Authority has to answer is, is the interest in the long run less than the future cost of construction if they wait.

Joyner said it could take 3-4 months to see if the private funding is a viable option. The Authority only agreed to the idea if the state maintained control of the projects and toll rates.
The turnpike authority is set to vote on what's next this afternoon. Toll roads took a huge hit when lawmakers decided against giving what's known as gap funding to move forward with the pay to ride roads.

The gap funding makes up the difference between tolls and other funding that is needed to build the roads.

This afternoon they may vote on a plan to solicit private funding. Anyone want a road named in their honor?

More after the meeting.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Happy Monday!! I'm using this post to tell you about some new things! You may have noticed some changes to the format of this blog. We are just beginning to make some major changes to make this a more visually pleasing and useful blog as well. I'm also learning all the fancy things I'm able (not yet capable!) of adding. We're working to make this a great resource as well as for political and election coverage as we get ready to enter into an extremely important year. We're adding RSS feeds and I'm trying to figure out how to get audio and video links as well as links to my stories and shows, etc. It's not super hard but I just need some time to get it all figured out as well as getting the rest of my job duties done every day if you know what I mean!

Also, if you watch Political Connections and don't have DVR or tend to miss the episodes we have yet another tool to catch the show. The show is now on Carolina on Demand which you can find on Time Warner Cable channel 1234. Click on the politics tab and you'll see several shows. We're trying to keep shows up on the channel for about two months. The current show will show up on the channel Wednesday after the show airs.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Just released...the decision by the Administrative Court over the Council of State's rights to make the decision on death penalty's part of the ruling itself signed by Judge Fred Morrison.


That the Council of State reconsider its approval of the Execution Protocol.


The North Carolina Council of State is the agency that will make the Final Decision in this contested case. Prior to the issuance of its Final Decision, the Council of State is required to give each party an opportunity to file exceptions to this decision, and to present written arguments to the members of the Council of State who will make the Final Decision. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 150B-36(a).

N.C. Gen. Stat. § 150B-36(b), (b)(1), (b)(2), and (b)(3) enumerate the standard of review and procedures the agency must follow in making its Final Decision, and adopting and/or not adopting the Findings of Fact and Decision of the Administrative Law Judge. The agency shall adopt the decision of the Administrative Law Judge unless the agency demonstrates that the decision of the Administrative Law Judge is clearly contrary to the preponderance of the admissible evidence in the official record. In accordance with N.C. Gen. Stat. § 150B-36 the agency shall adopt each finding of fact contained in the Administrative Law Judge’s decision unless the finding is clearly contrary to the preponderance of the admissible evidence. For each finding of fact not adopted by the agency, the agency shall set forth separately and in detail the reasons for not adopting the finding of fact and the evidence in the record relied upon by the agency in not adopting the finding of fact. For each new finding of fact made by the agency that is not contained in the Administrative Law Judge’s decision, the agency shall set forth separately and in detail the evidence in the record relied upon by the agency in making the finding of fact.

Pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 150B-36(b)(3), the agency is required to serve a copy of its Final Decision upon each party personally or by certified mail and to furnish a copy to each attorney of record and the Office of Administrative Hearings, 6714 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, North Carolina 27699-6714.

Here's more...


1. The Office of Administrative Hearings has jurisdiction to hear this case pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 150B-23.

2. The North Carolina Administrative Procedure Act confers upon any “person aggrieved” the right to commence an administrative hearing to resolve a dispute with an agency involving the person’s rights, duties, or privileges. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 150B-23(a); See also Empire Power Co. v. North Carolina Dep’t of Env’t, Health & Natural Resources, 337 N.C. 569, 584 (1994).

3. A “person aggrieved” means any person or group of persons of common interest directly or indirectly affected substantially in his or its person, property, or employment by an administrative decision. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 150B-2(6).

4. Petitioners, as human beings sentenced to die according to the method described in the Execution Protocol, are persons aggrieved within the meaning of the statute. They are entitled to the presence of medical personnel who are appropriately placed, trained and qualified to help ensure that they are unconscious and unable to feel pain prior to and at the time of the administration of any pancuronium bromide or potassium chloride. Although a sentencing court has determined that Petitioners have no right to life, they retain a right to die without the risk of undue pain and suffering.

5. As persons aggrieved by Respondent’s decision to approve the protocol, Petitioners bear the burden of proving by the preponderance or greater weight of the evidence that in making its decision the Respondent: (1) exceeded its authority or jurisdiction; (2) acted erroneously; (3) failed to use proper procedure; (4) acted arbitrarily or capriciously; or (5) failed to act as required by law or rule. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 150B-23.

6. Petitioners failed to persuade me that Respondent exceeded its statutory authority or jurisdiction; acted arbitrarily or capriciously; or failed to act as required by law or rule in approving the Execution Protocol. Pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15-188, the Governor and Council of State have the authority to approve the warden’s provision of the “necessary appliances for the infliction of the punishment of death and qualified personnel to set up and prepare the injection, administer the preinjections, insert the IV catheter, and to perform other tasks…”

7. Respondent’s decision to approve the Execution Protocol was not erroneous for including limited involvement of a doctor in the face of the Medical Board’s Position Statement. Angel of mercy, not agent of harm, is the role inmates seek for the doctor. They want help, not harm, from a doctor. Palliative care from a doctor to prevent unnecessary suffering, prior to a person being injected with lethal drugs which can cause excruciating pain, is not unprofessional or unethical. To threaten to discipline a doctor for helping in this manner is not regulating medicine for the benefit and protection of the people of North Carolina. The oath of office taken by members of the North Carolina Medical Board binds them to support our constitutions and constitutional authorities(the Council of State). Our state and federal constitutions authorize the death penalty. Our General Assembly has authorized it for those convicted of first degree murder. It is part of North Carolina’s public policy, which is not to be stymied by a non-binding position statement.

8. Petitioners persuaded me that it was erroneous to approve the provision in the protocol allowing the warden to determine unconsciousness after injection of pentothal solely upon a reading of 60 or below on a BIS Monitor, especially without involvement and consultation with a licensed registered nurse and licensed physician as approved by Judge Howard. Unless a nurse and doctor fully trained on the BIS Monitor are participating in the Warden’s decision, the later sentence in the protocol stating that the doctor will monitor the prisoner for signs of undue pain or suffering could be meaningless for if the inmate remains conscious and is paralysed he or she could not show or send such signs.

9. Petitioners persuaded me that it was erroneous to include the sentence “The Warden will then stop the execution.” under Section III of the protocol, especially without further explanation. The Warden is not given such authority as G. S. § 15-188 says in part “the mode of executing a death sentence must in every case be by administering to the convict or felon a lethal quantity of an ultrashort-acting barbiturate in combination with a chemical paralytic agent until the convict or felon is dead.” The Warden could pause the process so medical personnel could return an inmate to an unconscious state per Judge Howard’s ruling. There is no need for a recovery room or crash cart.

10. ESSE QUAM VIDERI is our North Carolina State Motto—“To be, rather than to seem”. Prison officials through their attorneys seemed to be telling a federal judge that a licensed registered nurse and licensed physician would be: observing the inmate lying on the gurney while also monitoring vital signs via BIS and other monitors to be sure of unconsciounsness before injection of painful drugs. This persuaded the judge to let them execute Willie Brown. The doctor did not observe the inmate nor did he monitor vital signs. The proposed protocol seeks to modify what was presented to Judge Howard. Petitioners have persuaded me that the proposed protocol does not ensure that inmates will be rendered unconscious prior to and throughout the period during which lethal drugs are injected into their bloodstream, such that they will be prevented from perceiving pain during their execution.

11. The essence of due process is the right to be heard. It was not proper procedure to consider only documents and comments from those proposing the protocol and not hear from counsel for the condemned inmates. This error can be corrected by members of the Council of State reviewing this Decision, the Transcript of the May 21st hearing, Exhibit notebooks introduced by Petitioners and Respondent, as well as Exceptions and written arguments filed by the parties, prior to making their final agency decision.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

This isn't exactly politics...but interesting. I was doing a story today on concerns about the future water supply with the population surge expected by 2030.

As a part of making various phone calls I talked with Brian Long from the NC Ag department. We were talking about how recent droughts have affected crops in recent years. It seems the extreme conditions are making it worse (freezes, floods, droughts, etc.) than droughts alone.

Even more interesting, apparently this was supposed to be a killer year for corn. 1.1 million acres were planted compared to 700,000 last year - a 39% increase. Turns out corn is a pretty sensitive crop and the drought is destroying some of the crops.

Yet another blow for North Carolina farmers.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Speaker Hackney's office sent out this release this afternoon.
Remarks of Speaker Joe Hackney upon receiving the Excellence in Legislative Leadership Award from the National Conference of State Legislatures and the State Legislative Leaders Foundation. Hackney was recognized for his work to pass sweeping ethics reform in North Carolina last year and then successfully leading the House through this session. Hackney received the award Tuesday, Aug. 7, during NCSL's annual meeting in Boston. A photo of him with the award is available for download at
"I am very grateful for this recognition and to all who played a role in my being here today -- House Principal Clerk Denise Weeks, who nominated me, others who wrote in support of the nomination, including Howard Lee, Franklin Freeman, Dr. William Friday and Gerry Cohen.
I want to thank Mr. Bulger, Steve Lakis and Bill Pound for their part in this award. I want to thank Prof. Marty Linsky from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, who chaired the award committee, and the other members of the award committee for their consideration of my nomination.
I want to thank my colleagues in the North Carolina House and Senate, who worked together with me to respond to the crisis we faced. In this regard, I especially want to recognize Rep. Deborah Ross, Rep. Julia Howard and Sen. Dan Clodfelter and Sen. Tony Rand.
I would like to thank the dedicated members of our legislative staff, especially Walker Reagan, Erika Churchill and Laura DeVivo for their contributions in this effort.
I would like to thank my family, especially my wife Betsy, for putting up with me when times were bad. It is my hope that you, my colleagues from across the country, will never face the situation we faced in North Carolina -- that of having decades of reputation for good government endangered by the unlawful conduct of one or a few. But if you do, I hope that you will find in your state the same incredible determination that we found among our North Carolina colleagues, House and Senate, Democrat and Republican, a determination to come together and craft a response worthy of convincing a skeptical public and a skeptical press that we were serious about addressing their concerns and changing our culture.
My colleagues and I responded with new laws, new legislative rules, new ethics education and training, new enforcement and new reporting requirements.
But most of all, my colleagues did what most all of us have tried to do for our entire legislative careers. We faced each day with a determination to act honestly and ethically and with careful thought that day and every day that follows."
____________ Excerpted remarks from William M. "Billy" Bulger, former Massachusetts Senate president and former University of Massachusetts president. He was the first recipient of the award and it is named in his honor. He presented the award to Speaker Hackney.
"The Excellence in State Legislative Leadership Award was established in 1995 and first presented in 1996 to honor a legislative leader who serves to maintain the honor and integrity of the legislative institution in a manner befitting the founding fathers that David McCullough will discuss in a moment.
The recipient receives this engraved award as well as a $10,000 donation to a charity or organization of their choice. The Honorable Joe Hackney, speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives, and winner of the 2007 Excellence in State Legislative Leadership Award, is most definitely such a leader.
Taking over as Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives following a criminal investigation and indictment of his predecessor, Representative Hackney worked hard to restore public trust. Speaker Hackney, a 26-year-veteran of the North Carolina House, served as Majority Leader and Speaker Pro Tempore before becoming speaker in 2007.
Known for his patience and quiet leadership style, Hackney led a session that was among the most open and fair in recent memory.
Under his leadership, the North Carolina General Assembly opened ethics hearings, regulated legal defense funds and passed legislation denying pensions for legislators convicted of official job connected offenses.
Noted one traditional critic of the North Carolina General Assembly, "By all accounts, the process is more open and inclusive than it has been in many years."
Much of this change can be attributed to the leadership of Joe Hackney."

Monday, August 06, 2007

Cooper not happy. Attorney Roy General and the SBI Computer Crimes Unit picked up an award today from the National Law Center for Children and Families. It's dubbed the Child Defender of the Month Award. It's for their effort to nab criminals who use the internet to pick up kids.

Anywho, Coop was pretty blunt about his disliking of how lawmakers treated his child protection act bill. It passed the Senate and did nothing in the House. He was particularly mad about the social networking parental permission part of the bill that was axed and penalties that were lessened. He said high paid lobbyists for the industry convinced lawmakers to do it. The bill does remain alive for the spring.

The Computer Crimes Unit chief says he gets 20-30 calls a week directly from parents asking for help to catch someone preying on their child.

More on that in my story this afternoon.

I also asked about a death penalty update and well..not much of one. I'm told to expect another hearing in front of Judge Stephens at the end of this month but it's only to take up a few motions.
Cooper not happy. Attorney Roy General and the SBI Computer Crimes Unit picked up an award today from the National Law Center for Children and Families. It's dubbed the Child Defender of the Month Award. It's for their effort to nab criminals who use the internet to pick up kids.

Anywho, Coop was pretty blunt about his disliking of how lawmakers treated his child protection act bill. It passed the Senate and did nothing in the House. He was particularly mad about the social networking parental permission part of the bill that was axed and penalties that were lessened. He said high paid lobbyists for the industry convinced lawmakers to do it. The bill does remain alive for the spring.

The Computer Crimes Unit chief says he gets 20-30 calls a week directly from parents asking for help to catch someone preying on their child.

More on that in my story this afternoon.

I also asked about a death penalty update and well..not much of one. I'm told to expect another hearing in front of Judge Stephens at the end of this month but it's only to take up a few motions.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

An insane week comes to a close for me. I"m off for a couple days because I'm helping out this weekend and it's nuts right now with the legislature and other things going on.

Therefore, I have little time to write much but please check out my story at on bridges today. Very interesting stuff...

Also, this week on Political Connections we take on Youth and Politics. Pretty cool stuff there as well.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

To tax or not to tax..that is the question. It remains unclear how quick and if counties will take advantage of the new ability to raise taxes. The land transfer tax and 1/4 cent sales tax options must be approved by voters as well.

It seems counties are unsure of what they can do. Todd McGee from the County Commish Assoc. says some counties want to put both on the ballot and then pick which to use (counties can only utilize one not both). However, it's not clear if that's legal. Others don't know if they can get it all together and give the State Board of Elections proper notice. All in all, it seems as though most will wait til next year.

Numbers from McGee show it's a mixed bag as well when it comes to potential revenue. Some counties would gain more from the sales tax increase and others would do more with the land transfer tax.

The Realtor's Association already has plans to get locals involved for any potential ballot issue on the topic.

In most cases if the county can make as much or more with the sales tax they will likely go for that just to avoid the fight from realtors.

Should be an interesting 18 months as this hits ballots in many counties.