Thursday, April 26, 2007

To budget or not to budget that is the question. House Democrats are now backing off their claims that the budget would be approved by the end of next week. There's apparently some questions about the latest tax revenue numbers.

On a much brighter note (for me). I will not be posting on this here blog for a couple weeks. I'm getting hitched and taking a week for the wedding and a week for the honeymoon.

So, enjoy the budget, Decker's sentencing, Gedding's sentencing, and all the fun in between. My first day back is the day Black will be sentenced. What a way to get back into the swing of things!

Be good and I'll be writing you soon!
Interesting news about the state lottery just released. Curious how lottery opponents feel about this.

"RALEIGH -- The N.C. Center for Missing Persons and N.C. Education Lottery have partnered to spread the word when children are abducted or endangered. Beginning next Tuesday, May 1st, emergency notifications will appear on every lottery terminal in the state when an AMBER Alert is issued.
“The first few hours after a child is abducted are the most critical,” said Secretary Bryan Beatty of the N.C. Department of Crime Control and Public Safety. “And the more people you have looking for the abductor and child, the better our chances are of finding them safely. Spreading the word through the lottery terminals is an easy way to reach thousands of people almost instantly.”
The electronic crawl message will first appear on the retail location’s lottery terminal alerting the employee that a child has been abducted. The employee will be able to print out the details to provide to customers so they, too, can be on the lookout for the missing child. In addition, an electronic scrolling AMBER Alert message will appear on the video screen at the terminal that can be seen by every customer.
“We are so pleased our services will aid in expanding the reach to thousands of people when trying to get the word out about a missing child,” said Tom Shaheen, NCEL executive director. “While we always hope the alert won’t be needed, we believe that adding this very large line of communication will only enhance the extremely important process. It also is another way that the NCEL’s services will benefit the citizens of North Carolina.”

North Carolina established the AMBER Alert program in June 2003 under the N.C. Center for Missing Persons, a division of the N.C. Department of Crime Control and Public Safety. The center issues notifications to the public and media when a child 17 years of age or younger has been abducted or is in serious danger. "

Monday, April 23, 2007

I was attacked by talk radio! Okay not really, but something rather strange happened to me today. I was driving back from Chapel Hill. I had just finished shooting my story which was on John Edwards' appearance on the Ed Schultz show. Schultz is a Democrat so it was a very friendly crowd for Edwards. I was listening to the tail end of the show since I was just there.

As I got about halfway to Raleigh, I began to hear a voice mixing in with the Schultz show and some static. The voice was Rush Limbaugh.

It was insane to hear them talking over each other (not intentionally obviously since it was a radio mishap).

It just shows I'm meant to hear and report on BOTH sides of the story. Or someone is keeping a check on who I'm listening to???

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Well, campus leaders here in North Carolina say they will review safety at our universities. We've had our fair share of violent incidents, but overall most admit it's nearly impossible to lock down an entire campus that's big.

Regardless, it's now going to be a big issue here. This afternoon, Attorney General Roy Cooper's office sent out this news release.

"Raleigh: Attorney General Roy Cooper and North Carolina college and university officials will hold a media availability on Wednesday April 18 at 2:00 PM to discuss next steps in campus safety in light of the recent tragedy at Virginia Tech University.

Cooper will be joined by University of North Carolina System President Erskine Bowles, UNC Board of Governors Chairman Jim W. Phillips, Jr., President of North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities Dr. Hope Williams, and North Carolina Community College System President Martin Lancaster."

We'll be there so stay tuned to find out what they think could work!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Sorry it's been a number of days. I was covering DA Mike Nifong's ethics hearing in downtown Raleigh, Friday and it ran late. Well, it ran late in the world of television news.

National crews were still on hand to cover the story. It's always funny to watch how pushy the national press is covering these stories. Locally, I have to say we're all generally courteous to each other and work out ahead of time how we will handle each situation.

After Nifong's hearing camera's surrounded the door and when Nifong walked out, a network reporter instantly began screaming questions at him even though he was just two feet away from him and all the cameras clearly had him cornered where he was forced to say something.

It always amazes me, despite going through it a number of times, how pushy those crews are. I can't blame them I guess though since it is probably a little crazier in New York and Washington D.C.

Anybody else just numb thinking about this Virginia Tech nightmare? Hard to even put it in words.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Not sure if you heard but the charges have been dropped in the Duke Lacrosse case?? Ha ha..

I spend yesterday covering Roy Cooper's news conference. It was quite interesting behind the scenes. Randomly the national media has come to North Carolina to cover the case. As most of you know, the local media has covered nearly once a week or more for a year now and often several days a week.

Well, the AG's office reserved the front two rows for local media. That meant Katie Couric the rest of the "big" names were stuck in the back. On top of that once Coop started taking questions he allowed local media to ask the first 7-8 questions ignoring Couric's eager hand waving in the air.

It's a small, unnoticable victory for local media but a big one in our hearts. See, no matter how much we cover a story, when the national outlets get here we quickly get pushed aside typically. It happened during the Michael Peterson case, and in many ways it happened during much of the coverage of the Duke story. But, not on this day at this news conference.

The shock on the faces of the national reporters and producers was priceless and something I will never forget. Look, they are great at what they do and I'm not knocking them, but for this reporter who's been ignored many a times because a national outlet was covering the story it was a great day!

On another note, Sen. Rand and Clodfelter already have a bill filed giving a governor the chance to suspend a DA if they are being investigated by the state bar. I'm told one relating to Cooper's request for the State Supreme Court to remove a "rogue" DA could be coming soon if they meet with Cooper's staff soon.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory met with Sen. Basnight today. McCrory brought along his police chief, Meck. County's Sheriff, DA, and a judge to push for his public safety initiative. Sen. Basnight actually requested the meeting. Contrary to a few other reports, I'm told by both parties it was scheduled for last week and scheduled before the shootings took place.

It was a follow up to the Mayor's caravan where hundreds of people rallied outside the GA to get more money for more courts, jails, DA's to help prevent the same people getting arrested over and over.

Getting an hour with Sen. Basnight is a big deal and they took full advantage. Basnight appeared very interested and asked lots of questions.

Most of the discussion centered on how to find the money. Everyone and everything needs money. If you give it to public safety then some other area like mental health, education, or transportation suffers with less money.

The biggest idea floated around was raising court fees (currently $110) and making sure that money goes directly back into the court system. Talk was about raising the fees $25 and it could bring in $25 million more for the courts. This system has the advantage of the ability to actually raise revenue unlike other systems such as education and mental health.

Sen. Dan Clodfelter said the money is there now but appropriations consistently take that money out of the court budget and use it for the general fund.

Clodfelter has a bill ready to go and Basnight seemed keenly interested in getting it through after today's meeting.

Basnight said during the meeting that raising fees makes sense because the people who commit crimes and are put through the system should pay for it.

Stay tuned!

Friday, April 06, 2007

Another poll shows North Carolinians support a smoking ban. This poll comes to us from PPP or Public Policy Polling. By most, it's considered a pretty even handed polling outfit. 67% approved of a smoking ban in restaurants and work places. In the meantime, the actual bill in the legislature keeps getting watered down. It exempts bars who only allow 21 year olds in and allows local governments to make the work place decisions.

Keep in mind only 461 people were interviewed for this survey which isn't a small sample necessarily but still something to keep in mind.

The poll also shows 58% approve of the tax break/incentive packages to lure in companies like Dell for jobs. BUT, 46% didn't approve of the Google $260 million package. Very interesting to say the least.

Word is appropriation subcommittee chairs will get their hands on preliminary House budget next week.


Thursday, April 05, 2007

Speaker Hackney held an interesting news conference this morning. A parade of leading House Democrats filed into the press room and Speaker Hackney stood in front of them to make a big announcement about the state's poor graduation/dropout rates.

What was that announcement? They will hold two public hearings about the issue. Not to downplay public hearings but to hold a press conference about that?

Now don't get me wrong because we in the press always appreciate any opportunity to speak with the Speaker, but many of us were just surprised.

Hackney did say some money would be put aside in the House budget to fund pilot programs that come out of these public hearings.

It is interesting though that these lawmakers are reaching out to the general public for solutions. Not always the case!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Well if you want to see a lawmaker run in the other direction just ask them about the proposed resolution to apologize for the state's role in slavery.

While they have many opinions, wow, are they reluctant to comment on the record. It's an interesting story to say the least. Just like most other bills, there's politics involved.

Think about this officially apologizes. Does this open the door for lawsuits? Keep that in mind as the legislature moves forward with the resolution in both chambers. There's other proposals underway I'm hearing also.

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

A potpouri kind of day...a lot of interesting things going on at the GA but nothing that jumps at you and says WOW!

Hugh Holliman is trying to pass another smoking bill. This time it would ban smoking in buildings of all the UNC campuses. It would also ban smoking on university health campuses altogether. It passed through the House Health Committee but still has a ways to go. Holliman also wants to ban smoking in restaurants, bars, and work places. It hasn't seen a vote because there aren't enough votes for it to pass. Holliman acknowledges he's 20 short or more.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Got bucks? That seems to be the question you need to answer if you want to run for office. Campaign finance reports released show John Edwards broke records for his $14 million raised in the first three months of 2007. Oh wait, he was nearly doubled by Hilary Clinton with $26 million (she added $10 mill of her own to make $36). Still waiting on Obama.

If that's not crazy enough, consider some of these state numbers. The last two U.S. Senate races have been $22 and $26 million respectively. The gubernatorial bid will likely cost each candidate $15-20 million if not more.

At the state legislature, candidates together raised $1 mill in 1976, 5.6 in 1994, and by 2006 that number jumped to $30+ million.

Can anyone run for office these days? Reformers say not if you don't have the dough or a lot of friends with it. Statistics show 1% give 90% of the money in NC campaigns.

Food for thought, or perhaps money for thought?