Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Final RNC post

My apologies this took so long, but between convention, traveling and work, most of my time was gone.

Anyway, Governor Sarah Palin's speech was impressive. Most people believe she went far beyond expectations. I was sitting in the arena watching her and the prompter. On several occasions, she went "off-prompter" to make a point. Her lip-stick hockey mom joke was not on the prompter, but I understand she's told that joke several times before. I'm sure GOP strategists held their breath every time she didn't go by script. At one point when she was blaming the media, the entire floor turned around, booed and pointed at their least favorite national media outlet. MSNBC seemed to get most of the fingers. All in all, she did more than she was expected.

The next day, Senator McCain gave his address. The whole point of the convention was building up his character. There were several videos and speakers talking about what a great war hero he was. His speech addressed that as well. I was sitting on the floor with the NC delegation during his speech. A NC delegate was almost tossed because of his home made sign. It read "Beware terrorists of Sarah Palin (just ask Obama)." It wasn't the mention McCain's people wanted all over national television. Eventually, the delegate gave up the sign. McCain did what he needed to do during the speech. I've heard several of his speeches, and this was about on par.

The interesting part was how excited the NC delegates were to get back home to work on the McCain-Palin campaign. Let's see if this momentum carries through the election.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Day three....biggest day of convention

By far, this is turning out to be the most important day of the RNC. We are minutes away from hearing the speech of Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin. The entire world is watching the speech of this relative unknown. This could be the turning point of the entire presidential election right here. Many people have told me they are going to watch and listen. There vote could depend on how well she delivers this speech and the message she sends. We'll take a closer look at her speech tomorrow.

The NC delegation ended up spending the day relaxing at a County Club on a lake about a half hour away from Saint Paul. The scrapped the putting together of care packages because there was so much confusion.

Another interesting side note. I'm sitting here watching the RNC speeches and it astounds me how many journalists are dissing the Republican party. I don't care if you're conservative or liberal, but you better not let your opinion known. I'm sitting here listening to an entire delegation of journalists from one news station just downplay these speeches. Remarkable!

We should know by tomorrow the future direction of this election based on Palin's speech. We'll see.....

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

RNC-Day 2

Finally, had a break for two hours today. Adam Butler (photographer) and I decided we had to go check out Mall of America. Wow...that's big. I guess these folks need somewhere to go when it's so cold 6 months of the year. You betcha!

The real show finally started today. The RNC is bringing out the big guns. Former President Bush, President Bush, Sen. Lieberman. They are now just trying to showcase McCain's service and character.

Chaos pretty much reigns here. I was set up to interview SC Senator DeMint. He was a no-show. The scheduler emailed me 7 minutes before I was to meet him saying he wouldn't be available. I don't have a blackberry, so big help.

War heroes. That's the theme of the night. So far, they showed three movies. All featured Republicans doing heroic things in battle. Definite theme.

While the DNC last week was a rock show, the RNC is definitely lacking. The big entertainers out here were Jon Voight and Lynn Swann. Not the same A-listers as the DNC. Also, the production value of the video clips is no where near the DNC.

A moving moment during the beginning of the session. They listed all of the Republicans who died in the past four years. The second biggest round of applause went to the late Senator Jesse Helms from North Carolina. A polarizing figure for sure, but a man who dedicated his life for service. The biggest applause went to the late white house press secretary Tony Snow.

First Lady Laura Bush must be the most popular person left in the Republican party. She always receives the biggest round of applause and you can feel an excitement in the air when she is around. One journalist told me she's like the First Mom. "You really can't get mad at her."

More to come.

RNC convention begins?

Hello from the Twin Cities. It's day two of the convention. Adam Butler and I are here attempting to cover this convention, but it's a minute-by-minute change of plans event.

When we arrived Sunday, the NC delegation was very excited to be here. As the plane landed, we heard applause from about 10 people. We asked them if they thought Hurricane Gustav would force changes with the convention, and they said no. Little did they know.

We quickly ended up at the XCel Energy Center where we found out months of planning and script writing for the convention were being thrown out the door. As Sen. McCain put it, "it's time to take off our Republican hats and put on our American hats." The RNC tried to make the best of a bad situation.

Moving forward with the convention would have looked bad, especially on the three year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina where many felt the President didn't respond well to disaster recovery. However, following the rock concert that was the DNC last week, McCain needed to get his name and message out to the public.

Monday turned out to be relatively calm business day. The delegates did all of the "business" of the convention. Basically, unanimously passing the platform that was written over the past few months. Sen. Burr of North Carolina was the vice-chair of the committee that helped to write the platform. After that, the convention was adjourned until further notice.

Tuesday morning, confusion reigned. The NC delegation was told to go to the convention center to help put together care packages for hurricane relief. When they (and we) got there, we were told it's not until tomorrow. That just goes to show how they're putting together this convention by the seat of their pants. We were then told the evening session would go off as planned with Sen. Lieberman, Sen Thompson, President Bush (via satellite) all telling us about Sen. McCain's service to his country. Basically, the RNC couldn't let another night of prime time television go by without taking center stage. Unfortunately, another hurricane is looming off the coast of the Carolinas and could be headed our direction later this week. Honestly, this is the "perfect storm" again McCain and the Republican party.

The delegates seem to be enjoying themselves here. Last night at a local watering hole, about 6 delegates were chatting (and drinking). A female officer of the Minneapolis PD came over and started talking about all the abuse she is getting from protesters. How they are throwing excrement and other vile material at her (she used stronger words). How, rules against assaulting police officers were relaxed this week to allow freedom of speech. On top of it all, her boss hasn't signed off on 130 hours of overtime she's earned because the $60 million dollars the city was given to pay her salary is all gone. Still, she said it's her job to protect the public. One delegate paid her bar tab. It was a nice gesture.

We're off to Mall of America (told we had to go). Looking forward to speeches this evening. Please email me or reply with comments.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Obama accepts...

What a night. I mean, party affiliation it was truly a remarkable event. I'm not talking about politics. A political convention was moved a mile down the street overnight and 80,000 people in an open air football stadium.

The roars were as loud as the cheers once were for John Elway after throwing yet another touchdown. Did Obama score a touchdown? That's for the pundits and voters to decide.

The NC delegates were clearly in their element. What was extraordinary was how celebrities were mingling and sitting with the general public. We saw Susan Serandon, Anne Hathaway, Chevy Chase, Wyclef Jean, Dan Rather all sitting in the stands sitting next to everyday folks.

The historic nature added quite a buzz to the evening as Obama becomes the first major party African American nominee. It also happened on the 45th anniversary of the "I have a dream" speech.

I can't properly describe the events leading up the final day of the DNC in words. Tens of thousands of people were marching across bridges surrounding the stadium. It was like ants marching in a single file line. Every single person had to go through secret service security check points.

Every two feet Obama gear was for sale. $25 for a t-shirt. On the floor/field, it was so jam packed and insane. Definitely not fun for those who don't like close quarters.

What's funny was beyond the historic nature of the evening, a huge buzz was also surrounding the possibility of a hurricane hitting New Orleans and how that might affect the RNC.

Anyway, it was a wild and interesting week to say the least. Regardless of politics, it is truly an honor to witness history and see these important figures in person and even talk to some of them. I certainly hope we have given you a glimpse of that nad showed you NC's impact on the convention as well.

Denver is a major Raleigh. I can see how it may have once been a lot like Raleigh. THe people talk about how city leaders say no one would ride light rail and it would never work. Now it's one of the most popular modes of transportation. Could that be true in the Triangle, Greensboro, etc.?

THe people are wonderfully nice. Each night on the light rail someone new would talk to us. The light rail drivers would always remember us. The city is very clean. It's just a great place. This was my first visit but it definitely won't be my last.

It's been an honor to bring you stories from such an important event. My colleague Shawn Flynn will work to do the same in Saint Paul with the Republicans next week.

Again, watch Political Connections Friday night at 6 and Sunday morning at 11 to see a wrap of the week with extended interviews.

Until then....

Thursday, August 28, 2008

NC connections

Good morning from the big day here in Denver. It's likely going to be a mess. Transportation is a fiasco. They are asking people to show up no later than 2pm MT which is exactly 6 hours before Sen. Obama takes the stage.

We are leaving for the stadium at 11am MT if that tells you anything. We're still a little unsure how good our access is going to be. We're working on getting an interview with Lenny Julius from Emerald Isle. He's been picked to meet Obama backstage. Unfortunately, due to security issues we have to interview him BEFORE he meets Obama!

Security is here from everywhere, even NC! We've seen police and deputies from communities all over Colorado. While waiting to have our gear searched and inspected yesterday I was talking with two of the security folks and found out they are here from Fort Bragg! Military people are helping as well and they will head to Saint Paul next week. It can't be too bad. They say they just got back from their third trip to Iraq and will head back in December again.

Make sure to watch Political Connections tomorrow night (Friday) at 6pm and Sunday at 11am. We'll be doing the show from here and recapping our week with extended interviews.

I'll try to post more this afternoon on the wild event!

Until then...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

NC convention speaker bumped

So, it was a tale of two stories for two North Carolina women picked to address the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

Pamela Cash-Roper of Pittsboro was scheduled to speak at 6:40 MT. Gloria Craven of Eden was scheduled to speak around 8:00 MT. Shortly before 6:00 MT we found out the two speakers were switched.

After Craven's speech we interviewed her and she was clearly nervous but very excited about the opportunity to speak in front of 20,000 people and millions potentially on television.

At 8:30pm MT we were waiting for Ms. Cash-Roper when Hillary Clinton came out on stage. They escorted Cash-Roper to us to do an interview and it was clear she had tears in her eyes. Yep, they were running over on time and she lost the opportunity to speak.

She was frustrated and sad. Imagine telling all your friends and family and then it doesn't happen.

Now, keep in mind, both women were able to introduce Barack Obama personally when he came to North Carolina and I'm guessing the campaign paid for their trips here.

Both women were chosen to tell their story of economic and health hardships.

I'll have more on their reaction to Tuesday's events later today. Based on my light rail trip back to the hotel, delegates are unsure if Clinton's speech will have any impact on her supporters.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Easley dissing Edwards?

I caught up with Governor Mike Easley this afteroon at the Pepsi Center here in Denver at the DNC.

It's his first convention he's ever attended and attributed that to Barack Obama. He says he hasn't attended conventions in the past because his message hasn't always matched the candidate's message. That would obviously include Kerry/Edwards in 2004.

It's all part of an interview that we'll show part of tomorrow and in its entirety Friday (6pm) and Sunday (11am) on Political Connections on

In the meantime, we are getting backstage access to watch two North Carolinians speak at the convention. We're also interviewing them afterward. Watch for that story tomorrow.

Until then...

Tuesday in Denver

Good morning one and all from the Rocky Mountains!

Governor Easley is here and we are trying to track him down for an interview today. The Democratic Party knows little to nothing about his whereabouts so I'm at the mercy of his staff back at Raleigh getting me in touch with his people here in Denver.

Here's something very few want to say but are off the record and off camera. Ted Kennedy's moment on stage was very emotional and remarkable but his speech was not as amazing as commentators say it was last night. Again, it was a remarkable moment but the speech itself didn't knock the socks off a lot of the delegates I spoke to since the speech.

Michelle Obama, on the other hand, did knock the socks off of people. I'm not surprised. I got a chance to interview her twice and I was very impressed. I'm not talking politics, I'm talking about the way she communicates and can tell her family's story.

Tonight, it's Hillary Clinton. She speaks after my deadline so not sure how we're going to cover it yet but this could be a huge moment in this election. Will Clinton be able to convince her strong supporters to lend their vote to Obama despite their anger? Our delegates are convinced it's a smaller number than the media portrays and we are taking it way out of context.

Two North Carolina women are speaking on at the convention floor tonight. We are trying to arrange an interview with one of them after she speaks.

Let me tell you, it's a disaster trying to set up stories here beyond talking to delegates. There are more than 15,000 journalists here and they all want the same access I'm trying to get! There is a gate around the Pepsi Center at least a block in every direction keeping people out. Police are on every corner in Denver. Some have massive weapons and riot gear. Kinda strange!

Anyway, I must continue on my quest to find the Governor. Check out News 14 Carolina later on tonight. We'll have a story on the oldest and youngest delegates in NC and maybe even the entire convention!

Until then...

Monday, August 25, 2008

Let the DNCC begin!

Howard Dean officially got the party started this afternoon and the convention is underway in Denver.

We've had a chance to talk with many of our delegates today. They are clearly disappointed they are sitting so far back compared to front row seats in 2004. However, they are down right pushy to push the point that it has nothing to do with Sen. Obama giving up on NC. Republicans argue otherwise.

The big buzz tonight in the entire city is whether or not Ted Kennedy will make it on stage tonight. Michelle Obama is the keynote speaker but it's clear Kennedy would overshadow that in a hurry.

Just to give you a viewpoint of how things are working here in Denver. Right outside the Pepsi center there are 3 huge media pavilions where the networks are working out of. We are working with our sister stations in New York out of a construction trailer that is equipped with some fancy technology to get our stories back to North Carolina.

On the floor of the convention hall it is madness. A mixture of excitement and pretty bad fashion! Crazy shirts, signs, and hats are everywhere but it is very exciting for them.

I'm essentially typing with the laptop on my lap in a folding chair in the corner of the trailer. There are probably 30 of us in it right now. Yeah, not so glamorous! At least compared to CNN who has overtaken a restaurant and even renamed it CNN Cafe for the week complete with a 20 foot neon sign (there goes the pay raises for CNN folks!).

It's exhausting walking with all the gear but it's so worth it to get as close as we are to all this history!

We'll see how tonight goes! Tomorrow, Hillary Clinton speaks and two NC residents speak on the floor as well!

Until then...

Sunday, August 24, 2008

NC in the back!

So, after an hour of security and general misery of sitting in the heat and altitude with no water we are finally inside the compound.

By the way, Denver is a ridiculously nice city. Very modern and sheik yet historical.

Anyway, my point for this entry is to tell you they just released the seating chart for the delegates and NC is in the very back. How bad? They are seated next to Arizona which is McCain's home state.

Compare that to the front row seats delegates had in 2004! Should be interesting tomorrow.

We saw Dan Rather, Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper, and Kate Snow today wandering around the floor. We happened to be on the floor when Madeline Albright was checking out the speaker's podium as well.

While we were waiting in line to get through security Rep. Dennis Kucinich walked by with his leading lady. She's about 5-6 inches taller and many more years younger. Pretty much everyone was turning their heads at the interesting couple!

They walked right past two guys from Missouri who spent the day holding a huge sign that said "Rednecks from Obama". The foreign press took a huge liking to them. Anything to make the Americans look dumb, odd, etc. right?

Tomorrow the convention starts so it's time to sleep!!

Mornin from Denver!

I'll tell you what. It's not a bad morning when you're sipping on a coffee with your laptop staring at the Rocky Mountains! It is gorgeous here.

The air is so clean and so clear. No humidity. My photographer, Maurice Griffin, is probably getting sick of hearing me take deep breaths and saying "Man is this fresh air!".

The people of Denver have been unbelievably friendly. They have volunteers posted just about everywhere. We are probably about 20 minutes outside of downtown. However, this city has a light rail system that works awesome. You can catch one about every 10 minutes and it's only $3.00 for a roundtrip ticket. So far, it seems very clean and pretty modern. I would imagine "green" yuppies would eat this city up. I don't consider myself that but I love it too!

One funny note. There is a traffic reporter on a local station and her name is Amelia Earhart. I kid you not. Can that be real?

We're getting ready to head out and venture downtown. It's worse than getting kids ready. We have so much equipment to take with us. I'm sure we'll get stared at quite a bit but we definitely won't be alone with 15,000 credentialed journalists. I will also get my favorite question when we carry all this television equipment. "Do you work for a tv station?"


Anyway, we're doing a story on the history of Denver and the convention here. We have an interview with someone about the host hotel from the 1908 Democratic National Convention which exists today still. Plus we hope to show you a little of Denver as well.

Until then...!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

We made it to Denver!

It's 6:30 MT and we are in our hotel. Whew..long travel day and a strange one at that. Nonetheless our Democratic National Convention trip has begun!

We had two flights with our layover in Houston. On the first flight the plane arrived late. As soon as we sat down the stewardess scolded the passengers to hurry up and sit down because we're running late. Wait, don't scold us, YOU were late! Then she began walking up the aisle scolding passenger after passenger about bags that weren't under the seat properly. Then she rudely dealt with two people in exit rows behind me and talked to them like they were 1st graders. I've never seen anything like it.

Anyway, we arrived in the Mile High City. I've never been here before so it's a fun work trip and a great life experience as well. It was sadly cloudy as we arrived. In fact, there were tornadoes and flood warnings south of here earlier. It's still cloudy now but we can still make out the mountains, or at least an outline in the deep blue clouds.

We are carrying television equipment so everywhere we go we get the inevitable, you work for a tv station? Yep.

So far everyone is really nice here but it's really spread out like the Triangle. We haven't even seen the downtown area yet and we're not far.

Delegates start arriving tomorrow afternoon. So, our story tomorrow afternoon will focus on setting the stage here in Denver to give you a feel for what's in store. If you haven't heard 100 years ago, in 1908, the Democratic Convention was held here too! The host hotel is still around so we're going to get a tour and there's some really neat memorabilia from it.

Anyway, look for that tomorrow and I'll keep you posted. It's time for us to get some grub and relax after a long day of travel. Until then....

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Obama on Edwards' affair

I was lucky enough to be one of two TV reporters in the state to interview Sen. Obama tonight in Raleigh and I was the only one who talked with him about John Edwards.

Here's what he had to say on that...

"I haven't talked to him but obviously this is a difficult and painful time for their family. My thoughts and prayers go out to them and I think right now john just wants to focus on healing the family and working things through for the good of their kids and I respect that and wish them all godspeed."

I had about four minutes to talk with him here's a few of the highlights.

He believes the race in North carolina is incredibly close He credits a terrific ground game, knocking on doors and making phone calls.

He highlighted that 30% of manufacturing jobs since Bush has been in office in NC are gone. He says John McCain is offering more of George Bush.

He is already working on his convention speech. I couldn't get a preview but he said he will contain a lot of the same themes he's talked about during the campaign.

He says we have to do everything on the energy front and if offshore oil drilling in North Carolina is part of a comprehensive package he's okay with it but he says we can't drill ourselves out of this problem.

Watch Political Connections Friday night at 6pm and Sunday at 11am to see the entire interview.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Heading to the DNC soon

I'm back blogging! Sorry it's been a while. I'm having to adjust to an entirely new job on the anchor desk. While it may seem like all I do is read, there is much much more that goes into the job.

Anywho, I've actually got some big political interviews in the next three days and plan to blog about them extensively starting on my shift tomorrow evening so check for that!

In addition, I leave Saturday for Denver to cover the Democratic National Convention. I will be filing daily reports on and on News 14 Carolina statewide. In addition, I'll be blogging on this here blog daily so make sure to check it out. I'll likely be doing a story on NC bloggers as well.

I'll also be taping the entire episode of Political Connections next week from Denver and this week's show will have a very very prominent guest you won't want to miss!

Stay tuned!!!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Hello anchor desk

Job change...

Some of you may have noticed I haven't posted on here as much as I have in the past. The reason is my job has changed. I've been promoted from Senior Political Reporter to Weeknight Evening Anchor. The bottom line is you're stuck seeing me a lot more often Monday-Friday nights on News 14 Carolina!

I am still following politics and am still doing Political Connections for the time being. Eventually I will be replaced and the new person will take over everything political.

However, I'm still going to keep up with it and I'm still going to be working to get long form indepth interviews with candidates and officials (i.e. governor, senators, etc.). As the prime time anchor I hope it actually makes it easier to bring those folks into our studio.

Those interviews will likely continue appearing on Political Connections even when I'm not the host.

It has been a joy to follow and cover state government and politics in the field on a daily basis but I'm really looking forward to this new challenge. I really can't wait for election night when I'm essentially directing it from the anchor desk!

I will continue to update the blog as I see fit for now and when I am relieved of politics I plan to start another blog of my own which I hope you will read as well. More details on that in the months to come.

For now, check out News 14 Carolina and please stay in close touch with me for story ideas, tips, etc!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Easley to have surgery

Is Governor Easley falling apart?

We got word today that Gov. Easley will have shoulder surgery tomorrow. I'll put the release below this. This is at least his third surgery that I can remember since he's been in office.

In January of 2003, Gov. Easley had bone spurs removed from his left shoulder at UNC Hospitals. He was in a sling for a few weeks.

In May of 2006, Gov. Easley had outpatient surgery on his left knee to repair a cartilage fissure.

Now we get word he's having the same bone spur surgery on his right shoulder but this time it's at Duke University hospitals.

You have to love the sense of humor of his doctor-full release is below.

RALEIGH – Gov. Mike Easley will undergo shoulder surgery on Tuesday at Duke Hospital in Durham. The surgery is expected to last approximately two hours and Easley will be numbed with a general nerve block to the affected area. His activity will be restricted for several months.

The following is a statement from Dr. Bill Garrett, Easley’s doctor:

“We will be removing bone spurs from the governor’s right shoulder area, including his AC joint and acromion – the area near the rotator cuff. The spurs were caused by extensive use of the shoulder during exercise, sports, and physical activities over several years. In addition to spurs, there are torn tendons that must be reattached with screws and sutures. This is very similar to the surgery on his shoulder in 2003, but is on the other side.

“He will be able to work, but will be wearing a sling for the next three to four weeks. I am advising the governor to restrict activity for several months and to refrain from high impact or strenuous activity like contact basketball, golf, shooting shot guns, weight lifting or NASCAR driving until next year. We might suggest he sign bills left handed as well. His signature will not be any worse.”

Friday, July 18, 2008

Lawmakers end session quickly

So hard to say goodbye...or is it!

Lawmakers frantically finished their work Friday and whisked away from Raleigh as fast as possible. There's several reasons for this. First and foremost, all 170 spots in the General Assembly are up for election every two years and this would be that time. They don't want to be here giving their opponents any possible ammunition.

Second, revenues keep dropping and the outlook is as well so they just want to get away from it.

At the beginning of the session there were high hopes to get work done on transportation, drought, mental health and many other big issues. But day one it was clear leadership was focused on one thing-get a budget amended and get out of dodge ASAP!

So how did they do? Obviously depends on who you ask. I think the bottom line is they did enough to touch on the subjects and not get crucified during elections but not too much to get crucified in elections. Sounds funny I know, yet it makes sense.

Just about everyone you talk to down there is completely focused on transportation next year. They are all waiting for the 21st Century Transportation Committee to come forward with recommendations later this year.

Expect huge debates over finding new revenue sources (i.e. new taxes or fees to replace dwindling gas tax funds). Sadly, public transportation probably won't get as much attention by lawmakers as it should even though I suspect it will be a pretty big portion of the 21st Century Committee.

So, how will we fund roads. That's perhaps the biggest question. Big bonds? That's another question to be answered. Will lawmakers look to put big bonds (big as in billion$) for transportation, water and sewer, land preservation, etc. That will be another huge debate whether or not to ask voters for a big chunk of cash or figure out other ways to fix the state's crumbling state infrastructure.

You'll also hear a lot about education as usual. Expect another push for significant teacher raises and new fixes for dropout issues.

Will lawmakers touch the death penalty, annexation, land transfer taxes, etc.? Who knows..depends on how the wind is blowing I would bet.

For now the wind's blowing them right out of town. Get ready for non-stop election coverage!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Easley signs NC budget

Easley quietly signs budget....

By press release, Gov. Easley announced he signed the amended budget. He's clearly not pleased with the budget by signing it so quietly. There was no news conference, no question and answer, just a quiet last signature on a budget as Governor.

It's no secret he was not pleased with lower teacher raises than he proposed and had concerns about spending and borrowing. There was even question whether he would sign it or just let it go into law without his signature after 10 days. I don't think too many people believed he would veto. It's an interesting end to his last budget process though since it was so quiet.

In the meantime, lawmakers are probably a bit giddy. This means they can wrap up session and get out of town for 2008 in time to hit the lakes or links this weekend.

Now it's just a matter of time what they can get through and/or kill between now and then as far as bills are concerned.

I think it's safe to say political coverage will take a major shift back to the elections next week with the legislature adjourning. Get ready!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Happy Tuesday!

Well it appears lawmakers are going to do everything they can to wrap up the session and get out of town by the end of the week. The big question remains...will the Gov. sign the budget? He does have the option of not signing it and letting it simply go into law after 10 days which comes Friday.

In the meantime lawmakers are feverishly working on several last minute bills including the drought and gangs. There is a compromise on both that are both expected to pass.

Here's my story today on the gang issue.

RALEIGH -- Lawmakers have compromised on a plan that will officially make street gangs illegal in North Carolina.

Currently there is no law on the books that directly specifically deals with gangs. The legislation still needs final votes from the state house and senate.

Statewide there are an estimated 550 gangs with more than 14,000 members.

"We are at a crisis point in our state we have from all over this state gangs are popping up everywhere," Rep. Tricia Cotham (D-Mecklenburg) said.

Lawmakers hope new proposals will stop gangs from growing even larger. For the first time in state history the plan would make gang activity a crime.
The proposals add new felonies to the law books for gang leaders who take part in gangs and recruit.

"The focus of the legislation is to go after the gang members not necessarily the rank and file gang members but those who are really running the operations through drugs, crimes, recruiting members, those who are in charge," Rep. Cotham added.

"Now we are aware gangs reach down to levels of 8, 9, 10 but the leadership the people who really profit from this that's where we've got to really hit," Rep. Bill Current (R-Gaston) said.

This bill has not been without controversy at the General Assembly. There is some concern it will target minority groups. There is also concerns about age restrictions.

For months, lawmakers argued what age these gang members should face adult charges. One version said 12 years old another said 16. A compromise settled on 15 years old.

After they serve their time the gang portion of their record is erased but any related charges involving weapons or anything else would stay on their record. Supporters say it's about time North Carolina puts gang laws on the books.

"It's so important to the foundation of our society that people feel safe in their homes and walk around and jog and feel safe in their homes," Rep. Current added.

They hope these new proposals with prevention and intervention programs will slow down one of the fastest growing crime problems in the state.
If approved and signed by the governor the law would take effect on December 1st. That means it would only impact crimes that take place on or after that date.

Friday, July 11, 2008

TGIF!!!!! Quite a week with Helms' funeral and the legislature scrambling to get out of here by next week.

Anywho, make sure to check out Political Connections tonight at 6pm (Friday) and Sunday again at 11am. We're focusing on all of our coverage from Jesse Helms this past week with a few guests added in.

I focused my daily effort today on the fundraising in the governor's race. Story is below..

RALEIGH -- Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory has his work cut out for him in the fundraising department.

The Republican candidate for governor has less than half the amount of his opponent, Democratic Lieutenant Governor Beverly Perdue.

"The Perdue is very consistent in their fundraising," Peace College political professor Dr. David McLennan said. "The McCrory campaign needs to pick it up to be quite honest."

In the second quarter Perdue raised $2.3 million dollars. She has $1.4 million in cash. McCrory reports more than a million dollars with $700,000 in cash.

In a statement, Perdue spokesman David Kochman writes "Voters across North Carolina share Bev Perdue's vision for world-class public schools, affordable health care, and economic opportunity for all North Carolina families."

McCrory campaign manager Richard Hudson writes in a statement, "When you consider the amount of money Pat has been able to raise in such a short time, it is easy to understand that he has momentum on his side."

On top of just entering the race in January, McCrory's advisors also point out he has raised more money than the last two Republican candidates.

McCrory's campaign says they raised $600,000 more than Patrick Ballantine did in the second quarter of the 2004 race. They also say he raised $190,000 more than Richard Vinroot did in 2000.

While money doesn't translate into votes, it does buy tv time which is important to get votes all across the state. Dr. McLennan believes the third quarter fundraising numbers could tell us how competitive election night will be in the governor's race.

"I think that's what we'll watch for," Dr. McLennan added. "Is he bringing in money from across the state to show statewide support and is he bringing in enough money to make himself competitive with Perdue."

In the U.S. Senate race, Kay Hagan kept pace with Elizabeth Dole raising money during the second quarter. However, Dole still has more than two and a half times the amount of money in her campaign war chest.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Wrappin up...

It appears more and more likely that lawmakers will wrap up by the end of next week.
Yesterday, House Majority Leader Hugh Holliman told me he expected them to be done by then. Today, committees were working overtime to get through bills.

Drought will likely get wrapped up. I'm told there's an agreement on anti-gang legislation and it will be rolled out next week. So, if you need something with a lawmaker better see them quick cause you're likely to see nothing but dust by the end of next week.

In the meantime I did a story on Hannah Montana today. I know...just read below!

RALEIGH -- State lawmakers could ban software that allows brokers to sellout concerts or games in just minutes.

The software helps brokers get hundreds if not thousands of tickets. Those tickets are then sold for a much higher price on the internet. Teen sensation Hannah Montana sparked idea not only in North Carolina but other states as well.

Last fall, Hannah Montana came to Greensboro. Rob Fisher tried to buy tickets online the minute they went on sale.

"We clicked on any available seats and nothing came up so we figured maybe our computer clock was off by a minute or two so we tried again, tried again and nothing came up," Fisher said last September.

That's because the concert sold out in record time. Most of those tickets were likely bought in seconds by computer software.

"There are people in the country that have these robotic systems that actually come in," Sandy Sands, who represents Ticketmaster, said. "We're not talking about two dozen tickets, we're talking about hundreds and thousands of tickets."

Those tickets are then resold online for a much higher price. A proposed law continues to make its way through the legislature that would ban that software.

"And it will give the venue and the seller the ability to go after them and stop them and get an injunction and hit them for money damages which is a whole lot more than a little misdemeanor which is currently in the law now," Sands said.

While pretty much everyone including venues all across North Carolina are in favor of banning these computer programs, companies like eBay and Stub Hub do have concerns about a new tax in the bill they would have to collect.

The bill allows the resale of tickets online above the ticket price, but it charges a three percent tax.

Those companies argue it's not their responsibility, it's the person who sells the actual ticket. A company representative compared it to classified ad sales in newspapers.

"You're saying the newspaper should collect taxes on the appreciated value of the items sold in the classified ads," Bill Scoggin, who represents Stub Hub and eBay said.

The bill still needs approval in another committee and from the full House. Then it goes back to the Senate for approval there before heading to the governor's desk.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Rep. Holliman told me today he believes the House will close shop up sometime next week.

Here's a brief piece I did today on the subject..

RALEIGH -- Lawmakers approved a budget but their work is not over just yet.

From the drought to gang issues, some big ticket items remain on lawmakers plates. They are trying to finish up by next week and won't be back until january.

Outside the legislature, advocacy groups continue to push lawmakers for approval of several bills.

A moratorium on forced annexations passed the House already, but it still needs Senate approval. The Senate has approved a bill to repeal the land transfer sales tax, but it needs House approval. Both face an uphill battle.

There is likely a week or two left and it's a fast and furious push for lawmakers looking to get their bills passed.

"We want enough time to take a look at it and see if it's something we want to accomplish," House Majority Leader Hugh Holliman (D-Davidson) said. "If it's something that's not needed we'll be back in January."

Before then lawmakers are still working to pass new laws defining gangs for the first time. Leaders hope to resolve that soon.

Drought proposals are a major focus among House and Senate members. The most current compromise gives the state power to force water restrictions but local governments can still decide who must conserve and how much.

"This issue is not going to go away," Rep. Holliman added. "We can't just wait to see where it goes. We know we're getting a little rain but we still have a drought problem in this state and we need to address it."

But some lawmakers are worried about pushing through this legislation too fast.

"There are some questions about seeding too much authority to the state government or providing local governments too much over people who are not under local rules," Sen. Minority Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) said.

While there are a few big ticket items for lawmakers to take up, it's clear their goal is to leave as soon as possible with an election this fall. Rep. Holliman believes they will be out of raleigh sometime next week.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

I need to get to an appointment but I wanted to make sure and at least post my story from Helms' funeral today. Someone else covered the actual funeral. I focused on who attended. More tomorrow..

RALEIGH -- A number of high profile people attended Jesse Helms' funeral.

From the Vice President to U.S. Senators, some big names said goodbye to Senator Helms.

More than two hours before the funeral started, mourners began arriving, including Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory.

"He supported mass transit, he was really tough on foreign policy and yet he was also friends with Bono the rock singer, but he was always consistent in the way he treated people and that's why I admired him," Mayor McCrory said.

Not long after, three white limousines brought the family of Helms to the church. Then a short time later two buses filled with members of Congress arrived, including Elizabeth and Bob Dole, Richard Burr, and at least two Democrats.

Moments later Senator Burr greeted Republican Presidential candidate John McCain's wife Cindy.

Governor Mike Easley and UNC system President Erskine Bowles walked into the church together followed by more than a dozen state lawmakers.

Shortly before 2:00pm, the Vice President of the United States Dick Cheney arrived.

"That to me says more about Jesse Helms than some of the things I've seen written lately," Helms' Chief of Staff Jimmy Broughton said. "When you have the funeral and that's a celebration of life and look who shows up to pay tribute to that life. It's the most diverse crowd ever."

After the funeral pall bearers brought Helms flag draped coffin down the stairs of the church. The family then followed to a private burial service.

Those who know Helms best say he would be shocked by the turnout for his own funeral with all the high profile politicians.

"He would have been blown away, totally overwhelmed if you would have said the Vice President would attend his funeral," Broughton added.

"He remained a common man and he told the people the truth and I think they always respected him for that," Sen. Fred Smith (R-Johnston) said.

Helms no doubt created a great deal of controversy during his life, but in death, it appears he will be most remembered for his courage to stand up for his beliefs.

Monday, July 07, 2008

How's this for a political reporter? I didn't find out about Jesse Helms' death Friday until Saturday!

I was at my brother's cabin in Wisconsin for the weekend and we were no where near watching television with 75 degree weather and a boat! My father-in-law called Saturday asking if I had heard. Kinda crazy.

I spent a large part of today talking with folks at the church who came to pay their final respects. We'll be covering his funeral live on News 14 Carolina tomorrow. In the meantime, here's my story about it from today. I'm hoping to do this week's show on the Senator as well.

RALEIGH -- The public is saying a final farewell to Jesse Helms today.

The Republican Senator died of natural causes on the Fourth of July. He was 86 years old. His body will continue to lie in repose at his Raleigh church until 8:00 pm tonight.

Thomas Allen was one of a dozen people who lined up an hour before the church doors opened. Allen brought letters he got from the senator.

"He was instrumental in not only helping me help handicap people with disabilities but ordinary citizens who may have had tough times in their lives," Allen said.

Ellen Baker brought her five year old son.

"He's just now entering schools and paying attention to the things around him and he doesn't understand it now but maybe he'll look back and say hey I remember that with my mom when we helped celebrate his life," Baker said.

Throughout the day a slow but steady line of people walked past the Senator's coffin in the church Helms attended for 67 years. They paused at his casket draped with an American flag with an honor guard from the NC Highway Patrol nearby.

"He was a very loyal and career senator so I just like to stop by to show my appreciation and thanks for him serving so long in the Senate," Garland Thompson, Jr. from the Christian Leadership Council said.

"I will remember Jesse Helms who spoke his mind," Baker added. "He was brave enough to say what he felt even when those things were not popular, he was the one who stood up and said the way he felt."

It was not just supporters who came to say a final farewell to Helms. In his 30 years as a senator he ruffled a lot of feathers, but even opponents of his work came to pay their final respects.

One of his most controversial moments involved his opposition to the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

"Again even if I don't agree with all his viewpoints I feel like he did a lot for the state of North Carolina," Gary Pennington said.

It was truly a day to remember Jesse Helms courage to stand up for his beliefs rather than argue over those beliefs that created so much controversy.

Helms funeral will take place at the same church at 2:00 Tuesday afternoon. A private burial service will follow. News 14 Carolina will air the entire funeral live.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Governor defends himself-I'm leaving for vacation!

So, Gov. Easley was a little defensive at a news conference this morning. He was asked extensively about overseas trips by he and the Mrs. to promote NC.

I have to wonder if at the end of his tenure when he's sitting in that Southport house of his working on some wood project next year, Gov. Easley's greatest regret will be picking a fight with McClatchey. That's who owns the N&O and Charlotte Observer. Since the mental health fiasco (including the now infamous news conference) the two newspapers have gone all out looking into Easley's public records. I'm not saying these issues shouldn't be investigated and/or debated. I just wonder if they would have gotten as much play or investigation if the tiff hadn't grown between the Gov's office and the newspaper chain.

It doesn't help that gas is $4.oo a gallon and the dollar is getting miserable value in Europe.

In some ways it's been a perfect storm for him to face such criticism for his actions in the past year.

Even Republicans will tell you these trips are worthwhile to bring in art exhibits for tourism and potential jobs to the state, but they have an issue with the first class treatment the Gov. and Mrs. paid for using taxpayers money.

Anywho..I'm headed home to MN to spend 5 days on the lake fishing and relaxing with the family.

Have a great 4th of July and good luck on all the state budget stuff..

I'm out!

Friday, June 27, 2008

A slow, hot Friday...

The budget folks apparently took the day off. A much needed breather from what I hear. I was going to cover a drought working committee today as well that got cancelled.

So, instead I went to the farmer's market! Here's the script below if you're interested. I'm probalby on car insurance Monday. The next round of hearings gets underway. Political Connections tonight and Sunday on News 14 Carolina looks back at a busy week.

RALEIGH -- As food prices continue to rise, North Carolina farmers are hoping you'll decide to buy local.

In many cases, prices at farmers markets are cheaper than the grocery store.

On a sizzling Friday afternoon, customers swarmed to the state farmer's market.

"Particularly with the tomato scare that was recently in the news you know you can come out here and get fresh vegetables and feel good about what you're getting," Shopper Glenda Small said.

Small says she feels better about the price as well. She says it's only gone up about ten percent since last year.

"I think they are better than the grocery stores, some things, the corn seems to be about the same as grocery stores," Small said. "Tomatoes in the grocery store are a little higher."

NC Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler added, "In most instances our food products are going to be cheaper out here than the grocery store. Even if they're not people need to understand that by buying these fresh products here or across the state are keeping farmers in business."

Staying in business has proven tough. Fertilizer costs have doubled since last year and fuel prices are still rising. That has led to higher prices for food. It didn't help when more than a million acres of corn were devoured by the Mississippi river in the midwest. However, that has created a high demand for North Varolina corn.

That's a bit of a double edged sword. iI's creating problems at the same time for other North Carolina farmers.

"We have the huge pork and poultry industry in North Carolina that depend on corn, soybeans, and wheat as a food source and its driven their feed costs through the roof," Troxler added.

As long as oil prices remain high, tToxler says food costs will do the same, but he hopes it will convince people to buy more local food.

Most grocery stores do sell North Carolina grown products. The locally grown food will have stickers that say "Got to be NC".

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Trouble in paradise?

So, word was that lawmakers were on a roll and planned to have a budget done in time to light off fireworks for the 4th of July (ones that don't leave the ground or are in general interesting of course unless you're at a professional show).

Anywho, at the end of the House session Rep. Mickey Michaux told his colleagues some some road blocks had come up and was dogging the Senate a little bit. While it was clear there was hope that lawmakers would get a glimpse of a budget on Monday, Rep. Michaux said today he would bring them a budget "soon".

Looks like the honorables will have a long weekend-at least the ones on the conference committee.

On top of that Easley's right hand man, Dan Gerlach, delivered more bad news that revenues are going to be $70 million less than expected. Ooops..better order in some pizzas!

In the meantime I did an update to a story today that the N&O actually broke in February. It is below..

RALEIGH -- Lawmakers say they are about to right a wrong when it comes to rape victims in this state.

Earlier this year, it was discovered that a large majority of rape victims were forced to pay for their own rape kits at hospitals. It was also hitting hospitals in their pocketbook.

When lawmakers realized earlier this year that rape victims were forced to pay for rape kits many of them were shocked.

"We had no idea here in the General Assembly that victims of sexual assault, rape, we're having to pay for their own evidence gathering," Sen. Alice Bordsen (D-Alamance) said.

About 3000 people are examined each year for rape in emergency rooms across the state. The test and exam can cost as much as $1600.

"We need to make sure rape victims are not billed for the collection of forensic evidence just like the victim of any other crime doesn't have to pay for the collection of evidence," Rep. Bordsen added.

Months later, lawmakers appear to have a resolution. The Senate and House both have funding in their budget proposals to pick up the tab whether or not a victim has insurance. It not only prevents rape victims from paying but hospitals as well.

The Hospital Association did not want to talk on camera but a spokesperson did say they are optimistic will come up with a plan that will benefit everyone.

While the money will pay for the collection of evidence it will not pay for everything.

"Any other expenses such as mental health services, medical services, replacement of clothing, we have the victims assistance fund and they can draw from that for those types of needs," Rep. Bordsen said.

It's not a done deal yet with budget negotiations ongoing-however supporters are highly optimistic it will end up in the final spending plan.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Session's end and marijuana?

So, I keep hearing from folks working on the budget they are intent on wrapping up the budget next week (it's supposed to be done by Monday night but that won't happen). Anyway, conventional wisdom is it takes two weeks to wrap up session after the budget.

I've had three dates thrown at me-the 15th, 17th, 21st. Any guesses? Perhaps this could be another 8 ball decision over at my colleagues blog The Dome? Or he could get another pool going. Not as interesting as elections but it is a hot topic among the honorables.

I went to a hearing on medical marijuana today. I'll leave the jokes behind and just leave the script instead!

RALEIGH -- A state lawmaker wants North Carolina to study and potentially legalize medical marijuana.

Guilford County Representative Earl Jones filed the bill. Wednesday, a former U.S. Surgeon General testified in favor of it as well.

From 1993-1995, Dr. Joycelyn Elders was the country's top doctor. Nearly 20 years, later she's here in North Carolina advocating medical marijuana.

"We've been using marijuana out there as I said for 5000 years," Dr. Elders said. "It's safer than an awful lot of medications than we have out there on the market."

But opponents say that's not the case.

"When you consider the carcinogens in marijuana alone, it's multiple to that of smoking so this is not really a safe drug to take," Mark Creech from the NC Christian Action League said.

Supporters believe medical marijuana helps health problems related to Alzheimers, AIDS, arthritis, cancer, and multiple sclerosis.

"And if you can prevent nausea and vomiting the body might soon recover but so many of these patients die of starvation because they can't keep anything down," Dr. Elders added.

Rep. Jones agrees and wants north carolina to look into the idea.

12 other states have legalized medical marijuana. Most of them are out west or in the northeast. Rep. Jones of the bill points out this is just a bill to study the idea.

He emphasizes it's a study, but it's clear he supports the idea to help patients with nausea and vomiting.

"Marijuana has clearly demonstrated to stop that process, people gain weight, they have a high quality of life, they are psychologically and emotionally enhanced," Rep. Jones (D-Guilford) said.

"Who's gonna grow it?" Creech asked. "That's a question that has to be considered and can that get out of hand. It has gotten out of hand as I understand it in California."

Lawmakers did not vote on the proposal and it appears House leadership is reluctant to take up the issue. A similar bill failed in the North Carolina legislature in 2003. Recent attempts in Tennessee and South Carolina have failed as well.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Happy Tuesday and voting day for some!

So, a record turnout is expected for the second straight primary election. Problem is, we could reach a record low for today's runoff compared to record highs in the May 6 primary.

I was in Atlantic Beach this weekend for the debates. If you haven't seen them we are in the process of putting them on our Carolina Ondemand channel which you can get on Ch. 1234 on Time Warner Cable. I really think viewers can take a lot from both debates. I think the U.S. Senate candidates made a much stronger point to show clear differences between themselves. All four candidates appeared well prepared and had some great stories lined up to illustrate points.

Today, it's a busy one at the legislature and I'm just one man so the bosses wanted me to focus on a wrongly convicted compensation bill. Here's the script from my story.

RALEIGH -- The state could soon more than double the amount of money given to wrongfully convicted people.

Just in the past year, two people have been released from prison after new evidence found them innocent. Lawmakers are working on a bill that would help them find jobs as well.

Last summer DNA evidence cleared Dwayne Dail after serving nearly 20 years in prison for a rape that he did not commit.

"I can take this day and start my life now," Dail said the day he was released. "Today is the first day of the rest of my life and I'm absolutely going to make the most of it."

But getting that start can prove difficult after years behind bars. If the governor offers a pardon of innocence, those who are wrongfully convicted can get $20,000 for every year they spent in prison but no more than $500,000.

Tuesday a House committee voted to more than double that amount.

"When we have created the double injustice of not solving the crime we do great harm to society and the victim," Rep. Rick Glazier (D-Cumberland) said. "But this is dealing with the other harm, the person we have put in prison wrongfully and taken away years if not in some cases decades of their life."

The proposal offers $50,000 per year served in prison but no more than $750,000 total.

The idea of this bill goes beyond money. It's to help the people wrongfully convicted get back on their feet by offering a free education.

"If someone qualifies within ten years of their release for tuition and fees at a community college or constituent university campus if admitted," Rep. Glazier added.

It also offers at least one year of job skills training for those not interested in school. Just five people since 2001 qualified for the money so it won't create a big strain on state budgets, but it could have a huge impact on the lives of those who spent years in prison for crimes they did not commit.

The bill must still pass on the House floor and in the Senate. If it's approved there, the governor must sign the bill as well.

Friday, June 20, 2008

To debate...or is it forum?

Make sure to check out special editions of Political Connections this Sunday on News 14 Carolina.

11:00am - Debate/forum between Bev Perdue and Pat McCrory
1:00pm - Debate/forum between Elizabeth Dole and Kay Hagan

It's in Atlantic Beach for the Bar Association's gathering. It's really the first debate/forum between the candidates.

We will air them in their entirety and let's hope it's interesting!

I'll be heading down as's funny because everyone keeps saying oh you have to work on a Saturday but you're going to the beach. I will see it on the way into the forum and on the way out..that's about it!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Following the money..

If you want to see how the money race is shaping up in the Prez race the Federal Elex Commission has a pretty neat map system right on its front page.

At the moment (last reporting period) there's some interesting stuff.

-NC has contributed $9,265,183 to candidates
-While NC is traditionally a red presidential state McCain is 4th behind Obama, Edwards, and Clinton
-Democrats have raised almost 3-1 over Republicans

You can even narrow it down by zip code and then when you click on a zip code it tells you who's contributing.

It's not earth shattering news or new but if you haven't seen it, it can be a little addicting.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Sorry no major update today, I'm working on a non-political or state government story today.

However, you are well covered by my colleagues who are covering the goings on at the General Assembly.

It appears we will have votes Wed. and Thurs. on the budget in the Senate and it won't be terribly different than the House on the hot button items. Should be interesting if they can get a deal done by July 1 and what Gov. Easley will have to say about teacher pay proposals that don't come anywhere near his goal.

Tomorrow I'll likely be focused on a couple things. It's equal rights for women day at the GA which is an interesting topic with so many high profile women up for office this year. There could be some news out of an immigration rally planned as well. Will keep you posted!

Monday, June 16, 2008

I'm headed to the following this weekend for news stories but wanted to keep you posted on our other efforts involving debates for this weekend.


Raleigh, NC (, 2008) –News 14 Carolina, Time Warner Cable’s 24-hour local news network, will televise the first debates between the major candidates for Governor and U.S. Senate.

The first joint appearance of the two major party candidates for both offices is June 21st at the meeting of the North Carolina Bar Association in Atlantic Beach. Beverly Purdue, Pat McCrory, Elizabeth Dole and Kay Hagan will respond to questions from a media panel in two separate 45 minute forums.

News 14 Carolina will record both forums and televise them Sunday, June 22nd. The Gubernatorial forum will air at 11 am. The U.S. Senate forum will air at 1 pm.

Both forums will then be available on-demand to Time Warner Cable digital subscribers on Carolina on Demand. Carolina on Demand is a free, exclusive service of Time Warner Cable on channel 1234. It features news, sports and entertainment programming produced in and about North and South Carolina.

News 14 Carolina is sharing its coverage of the forums with UNC-TV. This will make them available to non-cable subscribers across North Carolina. “Time Warner Cable is dedicated to providing all citizens of our state with the information they need to make informed choices at the polls,” says News 14 Carolina VP & General Manager, Alan Mason. “We are pleased UNC-TV will telecast our coverage of this important event on its digital service across North Carolina.”

About News 14 Carolina:

News 14 Carolina is an exclusive service of Time Warner Cable. News 14 Carolina is available to all 1.3 million Time Warner Cable subscribers in the Charlotte, Raleigh/Durham/Fayetteville and Greensboro/High Point/Winston-Salem television markets. News 14 Carolina will expand to the Wilmington, Morehead City and Jacksonville area on August 18.
About Time Warner Cable:
Time Warner Cable is the second-largest cable operator in the U.S., with technologically advanced, well-clustered systems located mainly in five geographic areas — New York state (including New York City), the Carolinas, Ohio, southern California (including Los Angeles) and Texas. As of December 31, 2007, Time Warner Cable served approximately 14.6 million customers who subscribed to one or more of its video, high-speed data and voice services.

Friday, June 13, 2008

I was off politics today in a way. Rev. Al Sharpton was in Charlotte protesting police and the death of a young man at the hands of a police officer.

I helped them out by doing a companion piece on new training efforts for officers to deal with potentially lethal situations. Here's the story if you're interested. Have a great weekend! This weekend's Political Connections focuses on the week that was and Obama's return trip. 6pm tonight and Sunday at 11am on News 14 Carolina.

RALEIGH -- This year alone more than two dozen officer involved shootings were reported to the State Bureau of Investigation.

In some parts of the state there is new technology to help prepare officers for these situations. The simulator can look like a video game, but it's far from a game. It trains officers to deal with life and death situations.

"To say okay what should I do in this situation, not to jump to a quick decision but to think that decision through before taking any action," Anthony Caison, Dean at Wake Tech Community College said.

This year alone, the SBI has investigated 26 officer involved shootings, half were fatal. The statistics only include shootings the SBI has investigated.

Under state law, officers essentially have the authority to shoot and kill if the officer's life or any other life is in danger. The simulator allows superiors to see how their officers will react in a life and death situation.

"We want to see how accurate they are in situations because the screen is firing at them and it actually makes them more stressful and see how they react under stress," Fuquay-Varina Police Chief Larry Smith said.

Beyond the fact they believe it helps with decision making and accuracy with shooting, they also believe it has a huge impact in the real world.

"And many of the scenarios in the firearms training simulator are actual scenarios that have happened and that's why they are constantly updating the software," Caison added.

"I've been through the fats training and I find myself ducking behind the table and yelling commands at the screen to drop their weapons and we want to see that to make the officers are doing the right things," Chief Smith said.

The right thing to make sure no one dies unless absolutely necessary.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Sen. David Hoyle says he thinks the Senate will vote on a budget next week. That gives conference less than two weeks before the June 30th deadline. Can they do it? They are pretty darn pushy about getting it done by that date and get home but that's not a lot of time either.

In the meantime, involuntary annexation opponenets got a small victory today but still face an uphill battle. Here's the script from my story...

RALEIGH -- A legislative committee approved a one year ban on involuntary annexations today.

Involuntary annexation is when a town or city forces outlying residents to become city residents. One by one opponents of involuntary annexation pleaded their case to lawmakers.

"I got involved in annexation after the mayor of selma decided that he needed to fix the town,' Tony Terrington from Johnston County said. "He had a very unlawful annexation and i was successful in fighting it."

With involuntary annexation, the new residents must pay taxes but get city services like water, transportation and police. City leaders across the state say annexation is necessary as town and cities grow, but homeowners often say they already have those services and don't want to pay more taxes.

"Our community is a gated, private community," Moore County resident Doug Aitken said. "We have every single service the law talks about."

Thursday the House Finance Committee approved a one year ban on forced annexations to study the law.

"There are some problems with the law," Rep. Paul Luebke (D-Durham) said. "It's 49 years old and there have been some excesses and we have some good suggestions that we have talked about in our committee."

Cities and towns are against the moratorium but agree some changes to the law are necessary.

"I think the issue that probably has to be looked at is water and sewer," Andy Romanet from the League of Municipalities said.

Opponents are hoping lawmakers would require a vote by residents for all annexations. They also want more supervision of cities trying to annex new residents.

The bill must still pass another House committee then a full vote on the House floor. It then heads to the Senate where leaders are reportedly not likely to hear the bill.

North Carolina is one of just five states that allow involuntary annexations.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Realtors pledge more...

Despite a 20-0 record against counties, the NC Realtor's Association has pledged a $10 million dollar campaign to continue it's fight against any land transfer tax increase.

Here's my story from today..

RALEIGH -- Realtors across the state are stepping up their efforts to fight any tax increase on the sale of a house.

The North Carolina Association of Realtors pledged a multi million dollar fight against what's known as the land transfer tax. It comes as lawmakers battle over the future of the tax as well.

Hundreds of realtors filled the halls of the state legislature Wednesday with one simple goal, to let lawmakers know they are serious.

"The Realtors Association has made a $10 million commitment to continue the fight against the home tax as well as other assaults against private property rights," Tim Kent from the NC Realtor's Association said.

Realtors are fighting what's known as the land transfer tax. It's a tax on the person selling a home. Last year counties were given permission by lawmakers to put an increase of that tax on the ballot to help raise money to build schools and roads.

"The people have already had a chance to vote on this," Kent added. "20 times, 3 out of 4 voters have said absolutely no to the home tax."

Realtors say it unfairly targets homeowners but counties say without it, they would have to hike property taxes. Realtors are getting help from some lawmakers in trying to keep land transfer tax increases off voter ballots.

"Anything that we add to the cost of selling or transferring real estate is just counterproductive," Sen. David Hoyle (D-Gaston) said. "We're trying to do things to spur people to buy not discourage it."

While realtors continue their expensive campaign against the tax and the Senate appears poised to possibly vote against the tax as well, there is some strong support from one of the state's top leaders for the counties.

House Speaker Joe Hackney wants it to remain an option for counties and other leadership in the house appears to agree.

"As long as you require voter approval, I don't see any need for major changes," House Majority Leader Hugh Holliman said.

With the House opposing changes, that likely means there will be no change in law and it could end up on ballots in future elections.

So far, only Polk county plans to put the land transfer tax on the November ballot.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Hey all...

Not much to report on my front. I'm caught up doing a lot of non-legislative work again. This week seems to be filled with a lot of interesting bills in committees. I took up a driver's license bill today. Here's the text...

RALEIGH -- A new plan to change drivers licenses is cruising toward approval at the state legislature.

Monday, a senate committee approved the idea that changes the look of licenses for those under 21 years old. Advocates hope the idea will cut down on under age drinking.

At John Hernly's restaurant, his company goes the extra mile to help prevent his employees from serving minors.

"We have a bars program," the Champps General Manager said. "We have undercovers that we pay coming in here to check up on us constantly so we're always aware of that."

Lawmakers are working on a way to make it easier for bars and restaurants to check id's.

"It simply changes anyone's driving license from horizontal with which you're familiar with to vertical because the number of complaints and sales to minors of alcohol," Sen. Stan Bingham (R-Davidson) said.

Those complaints come from ALE. This year, during 700 compliance checks, ALE officers found that under age drinkers were able to buy alcohol 18-percent of the time.

21 states already use the vertical id for people under 21 including Virginia, where Hernly use to work.

"It's a lot easier for the staff to recognize under 21 you know and I think it's harder to alter the id," Hernly said.

North Carolina currently uses color coding systems to identify those under 21 and 18 but retailers believe this new id is a better solution.

So far, there has been no vocal opposition to the proposals. Supporters understand it won't cure underage drinking but it will help.

The bill still needs approval on the House and Senate floors and from Governor Easley. If it passes, the new licenses will start in October.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Dems support Obama...

Gov. Easley introduced Obama basically saying better late than never. John and Elizabeth Edwards are here as well.

So, I'm here covering the Barack Obama speech at the state fairgrounds in Raleigh. It seems most of the top Democrats in the state are here. There's probably 500 people maybe. It's an invite only event. It's clear there are volunteers and supporters in addition to the public officials. There are people of all ages.

The list includes....

House Speaker Joe Hackney
Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand
State Treasurer Richard Moore
Rep. Ty Harrell
Rep. Dan Blue
U.S. Rep. GK Butterfield
U.S. Rep Bob Etheridge
Rep. Linda Coleman
Sec. of State Elaine Marshall
Sen. Vernon Malone
Ed Turlington (Edwards 04 Campaign Chair)
Hampton Dellinger (Frm. Lt. Gov. candidate)
NC NAACP Prez William Barber
Rep. Jennifer Weiss
Rep. Floyd McKissick
Rep. Verla Insko
Rep. Fisher

So far no sign of Gov. Easley or Sen. President Pro Tem Marc Basnight

Keep you posted!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Will Easley veto budget?

Hello again! I'm back from a great five day trip to the Outer Banks.

I spent a short time at the General Assembly today because I had some meetings. What's interesting is the buzz I heard about the House budget and what's next.

We'll have to see what the Senate does with the budget and teacher pay in particular, but there is a lot of talk about the governor's reaction.

If you missed my interview with the Gov this past weekend I asked him if he would veto a budget that doesn't help teachers reach the national average in pay. He paused, grinned, then said he would have to see what the rest of the budget looks like.

Several lawmakers posed the question today about Easley potentially vetoing the legislature's budget. Some believe he would to make a point since he's leaving office and does not face an election. Others believe he won't because he doesn't want to worry about tarnishing his reputation if his veto was overruled.

Either way, it is interesting to chat about and creates some interesting chit chat as lawmakers figure out their budget.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Just a reminder to check out Political Connections this weekend.

The entire show is an interview with Gov. Easley. It's pretty interesting and covers a wide range of topics. It airs on News 14 Carolina tonight at 6pm and Sunday morning at 11am. It should wind up on the website at as well.

We talk about the budget, controversial issues, his style of governing, why he prefers his work over fundraising, his future, etc. etc. etc.

Check it out if you get a chance. I aired a story on part of the interview today and will post the script below.

In the meantime, I'm counting down the hours to a 5 day vacation so have a great weekend and I'll be back next Thursday. Happy House Budgeting!

RALEIGH -- A big budget battle is shaping up between the governor's office and the legislature.

The State House will likely vote on their version of the budget next week. Early indications are that it will look much different than the governor's budget.

Senior Political Reporter Tim Boyum sat down with the governor this week. When Governor Easley unveiled his budget three weeks ago, it included a 20-cent cigarette tax hike and a four cent increase on alcohol.

Next week the House will unveil its version of the budget. It will not include those tax proposals.

"I don't care if they pass them or not," Gov. Easley said. "I'm just looking for a means to an end."

That end is an expensive mental health reform package and a seven percent teacher pay raise.

"We have to get teachers to the national average," Easley added. "We said we were going to do it in 2005, we raised them five percent, eight percent, five percent over the last three years and we're looking at 6.9-percent short this year."

The House budget will include a three percent raise instead of seven percent.

"Is that something you would send the budget back if they didn't?" Boyum asked.

"You know, I would want to look at the entire budget before I ever said that I would look at that," Gov. Easley said. "The thing for me to do now is work with the legislators and try to help them get there."

But lawmakers want lower teacher pay to help give state employees a 2.75-percent raise compared to Easley's 1.5-percent.

Easley says state employees deserve a large raise but he promised teachers they would get to the national average by the end of the year.

"If you say you're going to do it you should do it," Easley added. "That's what we teach kids and we can start by paying their teachers so that's why I started with the sin taxes.

It's a pay battle that will play out over the next month. After the House budget, the Senate must come up with their version then all three sides must compromise on a final budget by June 30th.

To see the entire interview watch Political Connections. It airs Friday nights at 6:00 and Sunday mornings at 11:00.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Gov. Easley one on one...

I had a chance to sit down with Gov. Easley for a lengthy interview this morning. We hit a number of topics ranging from the budget to his style of governing. The entire interview will air on Political Connections this weekend but here's a short story we're airing today on a couple topics. I'll try to update some other highlights from the interview as well later.

RALEIGH -- Gov. Easley says there's no need for lawmakers to get involved in the illegal immigrant community college issue.

Easley made the comments during a one-on-one interview that will air on Political Connections this weekend. Easley believes its time for the federal government to fix immigration and gas price issues.

Those two topics are among the top concerns to North Carolina voters in most polls.

Gov. Easley still supports illegal immigrants in community colleges if they pay out of state tuition.

"The reason is you have so many undocumented workers that are working in the state's now all across the country that you're building your economy on those people so do you want them better educated or less educated and we could make that decision better if we knew what the heck Washington is going to do," Gov. Easley said. "So, I'd like for Washington to take some action. They have defacto legalized illegal immigrants."

The community college system ordered all campuses last year to admit illegal immigrants, but it reversed the policy recently while federal officials formally weigh in on the matter.

Earlier this month, Attorney General Roy Cooper's office recommended community colleges drop the lenient admissions policy.

Several lawmakers have filed bills to either disqualify or allow illegal immigrants in community colleges.

"It's not a legislative issue at this point," Easley said. "What the attorney general was reacting to was the perceived federal regulation but the federal regulation isn't what they thought it was. It's way beyond the state legislature at least at this point."

On the gas price front, Easley believes the answers will come from Washington.

"There's not a lot the state can do in terms of immediate help on the gas price," Gov. Easley said. "That's set by OPEC and we're not members of OPEC.

Easley believes the state must focus on public transportation and research on battery powered cars to limit our need for oil.

We will show the entire interview with Governor Mike Easley this weekend on Political Connections.

He talks about everything from the state budget to his future after office. It airs Friday night at 6:00 and Sunday morning at 11:00 only on News 14 Carolina.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Welcome back after a long holiday weekend!

I don't have much to report since I'm swamped working on a potentially big show this weekend (hopefully more on that tomorrow).

Last week Sen. Rand said he thought the House might unveil its budget this week. I'd say that is unlikely. I just got a number of notices from appropriation subcommittees that are working on Thursday, so I'd say it won't happen this week.

That would put House members at the earliest voting next week which would give the Senate and Conference roughly 3 weeks to come up with another version and compromise by the July 1 deadline. Can it happen? The answer is almost always, if they really want it to they can.

I'll hopefully have more to report tomorrow. In the meantime here's my story today on U.S. Senate candidate Kay Hagan's roundtable on 287 g with sheriffs today. One thing not in the story is the fact that none of the people on her roundtable were actually using the 287 g program yet and I believe at least most of them were Democrats just like her. Not sure what that may or may not mean but just throwing information out there for you to know.

P.S. I was in Arizona this weekend and saw the Red Rocks in Sedona. Holy smokes if you haven't seen them you should! And no, I didn't make it out to McCain's house to BBQ with the Veep candidates!'s the story

RALEIGH -- Immigration is quickly becoming a hot topic in North Carolina's U.S. Senate race.

Today, Democratic candidate Kay Hagan met with a half dozen sheriffs to talk about the 287 g program. Hagan's opponent, current Senator Elizabeth Dole has tried to convince sheriffs to join the program for more than a year.

Mecklenburg County started the 287 g program in 2006 and its sheriff says it works.

"In the stats we've looked at the DWI stats for Hispanics has gone down every year since 287 g came in," Sheriff Chip Bailey said. "And if you look at the DWLR, driving while license revoked, its gone down every year.

The 287 g program trains sheriff's deputies to identify illegal immigrants who commit crimes and start the deportation process.

Hagan supports the program but only if the federal government pays for 100-percent of it.

"My problem with it is that it's an unfunded federal mandate," Hagan said. "As I've stated last year the state of North Carolina spent $750,000 on this program and this is really something that is an ICE situation which is an immigration situation."

Dole has been a big supporter of the program. In fact she spent the past year touring the state trying to get sheriffs on board.

"We're looking at every possibility to stay focused on this issue of criminals who are illegal aliens who repeat and repeat and causing great angst among our citizens in North Carolina," Dole said at one of her own roundtables last August.

Dole's stance may be paying off in some ways.

In the most recent Public Policy Polling poll, she leads Hagan by five points with ten percent still undecided.

However voters who are most concerned with immigration overwhelmingly pick Dole by an 89% to 8% margin.

Hagan hopes her public stance on the issue will turn those numbers around.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Prez..

So, I spent the day on Fort Bragg covering President Bush. You can check out to see the story itself.

What a day. I arrived there around 6:45 this morning. We checked in and sat around until 8:15 when they put us on a coach bus and took us to the site. When we got there we went through another 25 minutes of security.

Finally about 9:00 we were all set and it was sunny and hot! But as it always is with President Bush, it started right on time and his speech was even 5 minutes earlier than expected.

He was almost in a campaign mode after the event. He avoided the stage and walked within 10 feet of us and shook hands with the crowd, which was mostly families of paratroopers.

I have to say it was quite a sight to see 16,000 parartroopers lined up in a field. It was incredible to see them all march by knowing what they have seen and where they have been. Many of them still have acne problems which reminds you how young some of these troops are.

One of those days that makes you think.

I'm off until Tuesday..a late post election trip/late anniversary trip!

Until then...

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Unfortunately I'm swamped trying to get my show done because I'm on vacation Friday and covering President Bush tomorrow so all I got is my story from today...

RALEIGH -- It appears North Carolina will put gang laws on the books for the first time in state history.

Mayors, police, and lawmakers joined forces Wednesday to announce they are close to an agreement. Right now, North Carolina law does not address gangs specifically.

Statewide there are an estimated 550 gangs with more than 14,000 members.

"Gangs are recruiting better than law enforcement agencies are," Gastonia Police Chief Terry Sult said. "These bills before the legislature address that recruiting effort on the gang level."

Wednesday the Senate passed those bills unanimously inching them closer to becoming law.

The proposals define gangs for the first time, make it illegal to belong to a gang, and target gang leaders.

"This has been a four year battle and I'm glad to see a lot of converts," Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory said. "The four letter word gang is now being confronted in the state capitol and I'm glad to see a lot of people get on board and recognize this is a life and death issue."

Mayor McCrory is making it a top issue in his campaign for governor. Tuesday his opponent, Lieutenant Governor Beverly Perdue said it's on the top of her legislative list as well.

While the news conference was essentially billed as a celebration that these new gang laws are likely going to pass, not everyone is supportive of these ideas.

One concern still undecided is how to punish gang members under 16 years old and if these laws will have an impact beyond filling up already crowded prisons.

"We're talking about severe criminal sanctions and I would argue that the acts we're trying to prevent are already illegal," NC Policy Watch's Chris Fitzsimon said. "If we need more police officers, more district attorneys, more magistrates, more prison beds, then we should do those things."

Attorney General Roy Cooper supports gang legislation but wants gang prevention funding as well.

"We are in a battle with gangs for the hearts and minds of our children and we must invest in education," Cooper said. "We must invest in after school programs."

Despite concerns, it appears after years of negotiations, lawmakers will make it illegal to belong to a gang in North Carolina.

Lawmakers are expected to negotiate differences between the House and Senate bills next week. It would also need the governor's signature.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

*update with quotes below*

Couple interesting notes from today's Rules Committee in the NC Senate.

That committee is powerful and can send bills directly to the floor. They took up the Street Gang Prevention Act today and approved it.

Coincidentally that is a huge issue GOP Gov candidate Pat McCrory has been pushing and criticizing the legislature about for not taking it up.

The Senate has sat still on the bill. It just so happens that McCrory has plans to come lobby the bill on Wednesday (as in tomorrow).

The Lt. Gov. staff (who just happens to be McCrory's opponent) made sure to make a public statement that Lt. Gov. Perdue supports the legislation.

Sen. Rand who chairs the committee said it's not politics and it was fast tracked because they had to with money in the bill that needs to be in the budget both chambers are working on now.

You be the judge.

Speaking of that, Sen. Rand said it's his belief the House will roll out its version of the budget next week.

Stay tuned.

**here's my story from today on the subject

RALEIGH -- The war on gangs has become a focus for the candidates for governor.

State Senate leaders put anti-gang legislation on the fast track toward approval Tuesday. It comes just one day before one gubernatorial candidate planned to lobby against his opponent on the issue.

Last July, the State House passed a bill defining gangs in state law for the first time. Nearly a year later, it appears the Senate will do the same this week.

"It certainly is a long time coming," Sen. Malcolm Graham (D-Mecklenburg) said. "Gang activity across the state of North Carolina is increasing. We need to make sure that we have legislation in place that protects the citizens and that's what we did here today."

The bill defines a gang, makes it a felony to belong to one, and will target gang leaders. The Senate and House must still settle differences over punishing gang members under 16.

The bill was pushed through one of the few committees that can fast track a bill to the Senate floor. It's also just one day before gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory is scheduled to be in Raleigh.

The current Charlotte mayor plans to lobby lawmakers Wednesday to pass gang legislation.

Tuesday the staff of his opponent Lieutenant Governor Beverly Perdue made a point to speak before the committee voted.

"This legislation is one of the lieutenant governor's top priorities for the coming legislative session," Perdue's Chief of Staff Don Hobart said. "We're very pleased the committee has agreed to take it up quickly and hopefully it will find itself into conference and in law. "

Committee Chair Tony Rand says the meeting was not about politics.

"It has to do with we're trying to get the budget passed and we're trying to adjourn and this has to move forward as you know the provision in this it doesn't go into effect unless there's money in the budget so we're trying to do it together," Sen. Rand (D-Cumberland) said.

The full Senate could vote on the bill as soon as Wednesday. Supporters hope for final approval next week.

A recent report shows there are nearly 15,000 gang members in North Carolina. That's up from an estimated nine thousand just four years ago.
As a follow up to yesterday's post on a potential gas tax holiday. I was contacted by Civitas and given an early preview of their upcoming poll. Here's the section about the gas tax holiday from Civitas.




# %

1. GAS HOLIDAY 224 28


98. NOT SURE 95 12


Monday, May 19, 2008

To gas tax or not to gas tax?

State Rep. Joe Boylan wants a state gas tax holiday. Clinton and McCain want one too on the federal level. Will it happen? Probably not. Below is the script from my story today. Richard Burr definitely supports it nationally but wants the bill tied to other long term goals.

RALEIGH -- Gas prices continue to set records with Memorial Day weekend approaching.

Leaders in North Carolina are proposing changes to help fix the high price at the pump, but will these proposals make a difference?

On the national level, Hillary Clinton and John McCain have proposed a three month gas tax holiday. Barack Obama opposes the idea and calls it a Washington gimmick and he wants to focus on long term solutions.

U.S. Senator Richard Burr doesn't believe it would pass Congress anyway.

"The leadership won't take up the gas tax," Sen. Burr said. "Does it make a big difference? 25-cents to a family that is struggling today is a big difference. Is it the optimal direction for us? Not in isolation."

Senator Burr also wants to focus on alternative fuels but he does support immediate help.

"I'd be very supportive of a temporary moratorium but it has to be mashed with an investment in the right technologies," Sen. Burr added. "It has to be matched with a commitment on this country's part to invest in new exploration but our goal should be to eliminate our need for foreign oil in the future."

On the state level, most state leaders don't have an appetite to take up the gas tax but there are some who want changes.

Moore County Representative Joe Boylan wants to suspend the state gas tax for 90 days starting June 15th.

Currently the state gas tax is 30.2 cents. It's the sixth highest rate in the country. The state revenue department estimates the state would lose out on about $425 million dollars for road projects.

Gov. Easley supports Hillary Clinton's national gas tax holiday proposal but recently said he would never recommend it on the state level.

"If they can do it like she did which is paying for it by taxes from windfall profits from oil companies but I don't think we could do that on the state level," Easley said.

While there is some support on the state and national level for a gas tax holiday this summer, Republicans and Democrats generally agree it is unlikely.

Easley has proposed to keep a current cap on the gas tax in his budget. It's unclear at this point if lawmakers will keep the cap in their versions of the budget.