Friday, March 30, 2007

Rudy G is coming to Raleigh. The former New York Mayor and now Republican Presidential candidate is a lunch speaker at the Conservative Leadership conference late next month in downtown Raleigh. The conference, in its second year, is set up by the Civitas Institute-an arm of the Pope Foundations.

It appears the battle over the right to smoke or the right to clean air will continue. Bills banning or allowing local governments to ban smoking were steam rolling through the legislature. Now there's a bit of a hold up. I'm hearing Democrats are a few votes short in the House for a full ban including restaurants and bars. It appears Rep. Holliman is having a hard time getting anyone to switch sides too. He doesn't want to water down the bill at all but bars might get an exemption, however that will upset the Restaurant Association who would likely officially oppose the bill after remaining fairly quiet about the current one. They say they just want an equal playing field.

The home sale transfer tax is in full "testing the waters" mode. I'm getting asked by many different groups if I've heard anything about what lawmakers think about it. Several lawmakers I've talked to don't necessarily oppose it because they feel it's a good tax to help deal with the state's growth considering there's so many other needs out there and needs that want bonds.

What was supposed to be a fairly mundane session has created many interesting bills already!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

I'm not the oldest guy, but wow did I feel old at a news conference today. Several lawmakers and the NC School Nutrition Association want $15mill to help pay for school lunches. NC is the only state in the southeast to not help out. They say new nutrition standards put in place in pilot schools, and eventually all elementary schools, will cost about $12mill more. The reason is healthier foods cost more and they don't make as much revenue.


Because the kids won't buy Little Debbie snacks, Lance products, etc. Man did that make me feel old, because lord knows I never had the opportunity to buy those kinds of foods. Is this corporate America making their way into schools for a buck? Wow, do I feel deprived. Or perhaps I feel lucky since I'm still thin. It just blew me away. Even in later grades, we had one soda machine that was turned off during school hours.

Times have changed but isn't it funny as times change how we often go back to old times and those ways?

Monday, March 26, 2007

A pretty quiet Monday in politics. News surrounding the death of UNC's mascot dominates the headline as well as some horrific shootings in Durham.

Lawmakers head back to work and just a few things to keep your eye on this week. The full House could vote on Rep. Holliman's smoking ban in restaurants, bars, and work places. Also, there's a public hearing at the legislature Wednesday at 4:00 about the proposal to change back the starting date for school earlier than August 25th.

That should be a really interesting and passionate public hearing. It's a tough subject because both sides feel so strongly and the law was just changed two years ago.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

A day of two tales from one news conference. Elizabeth and John Edwards announced that Elizabeth has cancer again. It's in her bone (rib) and is not curable but it's treatable.

It was sort of a strange news conference. This woman who's already had breast cancer now has cancer again and really her prognosis is unknown, yet she's standing in front of 20 cameras live on national television. It's a very private issue she's speaking about, and frankly was very elegant and gracious in her statements to us.

At the same time, the very first question is about the future of the Edwards' Presidential campaign. Naturally, John is the national figure, but wow it's amazing how insensitive it is looking back. Just something to think about as we go to sleep and how we as journalists, you as readers or viewers at home react to situations. My mother had breast cancer so it makes me think back a lot and reflect and I'll be honest I can't truly answer my own question yet but it is something to think about.

It was like, okay Elizabeth wow that's horrible you have cancer, but anyway John what about your campaign? It's our jobs to get all the information and I'm proud of us at News 14 Carolina because our first story by Kenneth Moton is about Elizabeth and her cancer and then I look into the possible political effects.

It is an interesting job we have in many ways and this was another example of the journalistic and moral choices we must make on a daily basis.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Offer incentives or not? That's the question on the mind of many lawmakers. A new study unveiled by the NC Budget and Tax Center (non-profit and not government affiliated) bashes a deal the state made with Dell computers in 2004. It also questions whether the state overbids on luring in these companies to provide jobs.

(PLUG) Watch Political Connections Friday night at 6 and Sunday morning at 11 as we take on the debate of local governments in these incentive packages.

In the meantime here's the link to the study released today if you want to read the whole thing.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Is tomorrow National Press Conference day? There are at least seven press/news conferences scheduled for Wednesday. In fact, there are so many that lawmakers are having press conferences outside of the press conference room because they conflict with each other.

This session it seems lawmakers are competing for most press conferences. Republicans are clearly organized and are holding them at least twice a week.

It's smart in many ways, because if there is a press conference, regardless of subject for some reason it tends to get all of the tv stations out as well as other media that might otherwise ignore the issues.

I think the public benefits because there's more attention to more bills that would get no attention. It is interesting though because while these are all important issues the day may come if there is not enough "news" coming out of these news conferences people will just stop going.

This year the press people for the Speaker and President Pro Tem are sending out releases on behalf of other Democrats which didn't happen before. The same is happening from Sen. Berger's office for Republicans.

In the end we all benefit I guess. Lawmakers are getting more attention to more bills. We are getting easy access to the lawmakers to talk about the bills as well as other subjects they may not want to talk about! Hopefully, in the end voters and really non voters at home are getting more information about what lawmakers are doing.

But do we really have to hav all these press conferences on one day! I mean spread it out my friends there's only one of me to cover it all!!!

Friday, March 16, 2007

From hoops to politics! We're back from our political vacation covering the ACC tourney in sunny Tampa, Florida. Never saw any politicians, so they weren't there or had bad seats or were inside a box.

I was thinking the coaches would make great politicians. We sat behind the benches and you should see the coaches work. They argue with the refs even if they know they are wrong. It's all to get their way on another play much like deals politicians make.

Perhaps, refs would make the better politicians though. They get yelled at by fans and coaches yet have a thick skin and come right back. But, getting votes from fan bases from across the state probably would be hard! Their foul calls would likely be dissected as much as a politicians voting record!

An interesting week back. Did a story today about who in the world will run against Elizabeth Dole. Most pundits believe Gov. Easley has the best shot but he continues to deny interest. Bottom line is to have enough money someone is going to have to step up to the plate soon!

Have a great weekend and check back on Monday for an interesting study about congestion in NC. Here's a's not good!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Anyone can win. That's the theme today for sure. Not only in most cases is it true, but the fans and players believe it themselves. That, within itself, is a strange thing to say about the conference. Typically, there are plenty of good teams but more than two or three that could win? Not usually. ACC commish John Swofford said yesterday he could argue 9 teams from the ACC should make the NCAA tourney. He's obviously a homer, but there's a lot of truth to it. Conventional wisdom around here is 6, maybe 7. That's the beauty of the conference tournament. Pride is not only on the line but so is making the national tournament as well as seeding for teams like North Carolina. Think about it. If UNC wins, they likely get a #1 seed and will stay in North Carolina for rounds 1 and 2. There's a big belief that Clemson and Florida State will be playing today for a spot in the NCAA tournament. Can't get much more on the line for a first round conference game. How about Duke and NC State playing the first round? There is definitely a lot more excitement and buzz about these first round games than in the past. Now, you just have to get people off the beach and into a dark arena? This is truly a test to the pure heart ACC fan, because it is gorgeous here in Tampa! As I sip on my complimentary hotel coffee, it's definitely a good morning. Then again, it's the ACC tournament and if it was held in Siberia, I'd be feeling the same. Take that sunshine! But hey if it's here might as well enjoy it right!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

I'm on vacation from politics and covering the ACC tourney in Tampa. Nice, I know. Anywho, doing a different blog for that so here's the latest entry if you're interested. Haven't seen any politicians yet, but will keep you posted! By the way the local stations here in Tampa did a story last night about a big speech from the Republican Governor and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle praised it. Weird, I know! Thought you'd like to hear that one.

It's 6:00pm and it's 72 degrees. Slap me now, I know! What a truly marvelous and amazing weather day here in Tampa, Florida. I'll be honest though, if you took away the warm weather, palm trees, and ACC Tournament it's really not that great of a work trip. Okay slap me again!

We're here and it's a pretty good set up. All you hear about from anyone and everyone is the weather. This is clearly one huge vacation for the fans that are coming.

Let's get right to the juice though shall we? I am dumbfounded by all the people selling books and books of tickets out front. Never have I seen books for sale at the end when teams are losing and leaving let alone at the very beginning of the tournament. A scalper out front told me an NC State alum sold him 40 books of tickets! He had a hundred in his pocket and I know because I saw the books myself. We talked to another guy who had two books and had a last minute issue and couldn't use the tickets he bought. He says he's likely going to sell them for less than face value!!! What makes it even worse for these guys is scalping is legal in Florida!

This is the first time ever for the ACC tournament in Florida. Tampa officials held a special press conference with the ACC commissioner. I'm told by ACC officials no other venue has done that. Both sets of officials are playing up the venue. Swofford says it was necessary to be fair to other schools to move the tourney around especially now with two teams in Florida. It's key they want to push the ACC in Florida for recruiting and tv markets which may still be related to the football issue and expanding the ACC.

The problem is when the tourney is closer to North Carolina, fans from teams that win will drive and pick up tickets from fans of teams that lose. Problem is, it took us 10 hours to drive here and a flight isn't short or cheap and hotels and everything is expensive here. Will there actually be open seats at an ACC basketball tournament final? Wow are ACC officials a little nervous and while everyone is putting on a happy face, I can tell you first hand there are plenty of tickets to be had and the scalpers say they expect it to remain that way.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Tough assignment tomorrow: Leave for ACC Tournament! I know, I know how in the world does a political reporter get that assignment? I convinced my bosses to go down and look for politicians going to the tournament. JUST KIDDING! Although, that could be interesting. The truth is I've covered it many times and am obsessed with college basketball so it's my one week every year to steer clear of politics.

By the way Duke and UNC are not having public practices or media availability at the tournament while the other teams are on Wednesday. Do you think they are avoiding any talk about elbows being thrown?

I'm really excited though and am looking forward to a tournament where any number of teams could win. What's wild is there's a great chance it could be someone from outside of North Carolina. Wild huh?

Guard play and matchups...that's everything this time of year so look for that.

I will be blogging the entire time there so keep any eye out for that and I'll be sure to catch a little sun for all of you!

Friday, March 02, 2007

Let the 2008 Governor's race officially begin..well sort of. Even though Lieutenant Governor Beverly Perdue and State Treasurer Richard Moore have not announced they will run for governor the laces to the gloves are loose and the gloves may come off soon! Both sides are sending emails to supporters about each other.

Moore has been criticizing for doing business with more companies to get more campaign contributions. He held a media briefing Friday morning where cameras and recording devices in the end were allowed. He was fairly defensive in response to questions but was adament that he has done nothing wrong, the contributions are not questionable, and he will keep the money ($736,000).

It's early in 2007, but the two will likely be competing for similar dollars and therefore the battle is underway. Political observers I talked to today say the Democrats better watch it though because if this continues for a year and gets worse voters will be turned off and it could greatly benefit Republicans. However, even those observers admit that would still not be enough to help Republicans win.

Deep down most observers believe the big wigs within the Democratic party really want one of the candidates to move to the Senate race but no one wants to to take on Elizabeth Dole. Democrats don't want to see two of their "stars" have to tear each other apart in a primary.

Should be interesting!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Breaking news! The death penalty issue is headed back to court. In a letter to the State Medical Board, the Attorney General's office says the medical board basically wouldn't answer how or if they would punish a doctor if they participated in an execution. AG's office says it will head back to court and probably sooner than later. Look for talk to heat up at the legislature as well.