Friday, June 29, 2007

Gov. signs CR...Just got a call from the Governor's office that Gov. Easley has signed the continuing resolution letting lawmakers off the hook for not compromising on a budget by July 1st as required by law.

The CR now gives them 30 more days to come up with a plan.

More to come in a bit...

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Democats can't even agree on the mood in the infamous "612". The bosses wanted a story on what happens behind the scenes for state budget negotiations.

Check out the difference of opinion of two men who have spent many hours in that room about how tense it may or may not get.

From Sen. David Hoyle, (D) Gaston County
"A lot of tension a lot of friends getting in each other's faces but it's today and tomorrow is a new issue and a new idea. You don't burn bridges, you try to agree to disagree and move on down the road.

From Rep. Jim Crawford, (D) Granville County
10:09 They tell us what we think about it and we tell them what we think about it and then we try to compromise somewhere between. Usually it's not very tense in fact there's a lot of joking and we work real hard.

Of course, if this was the biggest disagreement we probably would have a budget a lot faster. The truth probably is they are both right.

The Senate won't take up the latest Medicaid plan until tomorrow (Wednesday). Meanwhile, despite a House bill offering a continuing resolution *with* temporary taxes, it appears one without it will pass later this week and lawmakers will 30 more days to approve a final budget. Even top House members are admitting at this point the clock is simply against them when it comes to keeping the taxes on the book. They are going to need Senators to collapse at the last second and it appears from all accounts they will not.

As the Dome blog points out, lawmakers can get their sparklers ready because if they want to watch the fireworks it's either going to be sparklers at the GA or some nearby celebration.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Brad Miller is running.....for the House. Just got back from meeting with the U.S. Representative. He has decided not to run against Senator Elizabeth Dole. He says it's because he doesn't want to put his family through a potentially nasty campaign.

But how close was he to running??? Here's a quote from my interview with him.

"As recently as last week I was leaning pretty strongly toward doing it, now I think I'd probably have to drag my wife to the announcement not quite kicking and screaming. Obviously I wanted to do it."

He says he believes he could have won and Dole is still vulnerable.

Who now?

Names people still are putting in the hat include Sen. Kay Hagan and several folks have mentioned Rep. Grier Martin as someone who is also interested.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Dropout prevention is the topic for this week's Political Connections on News 14 Carolina that airs tonight at 6:00 and replays at 11am on Sunday.

Our guests are Rep. Rick Glazier (Cumberland County Democrat) and Jerry Winkeljohn from Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools (have several troubled high schools).

In the meantime, at least in public lawmakers are extremely far from a compromise on the budget. With just a week to go, lawmakers (including conferees) are still taking the weekend off. Although, I did see Dan Gerlach roaming the empty halls of the General Assembly.

Some watch dog groups are shocked, other believe it was probably necessary to cool off. Medicaid and taxes remain the sticking points. If it's true the House's continuing resolution includes the temporary taxes it sets up a big battle behind the typically closed door meetings. How does the House overcome the fact that all the Senate has to do is not agree and the temporary taxes will go away July 1??? That's probably a question House members are pondering this weekend. Oh but that's just one issue...

Rest well...

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Presidential candidate John Edwards continued his push to be a candidate for labor and the working man Thursday.

He met with workers from the Smithfield Foods pig slaughterhouse in Bladen County. He met with them outside his office. The workers have been trying to unionize for nearly 15 years. They say they are abused often, want more pay, and are fired if they speak out.

Workers told stories of the company using Gatoradge powder in the water to cover up the smell and taste of water problems.

Edwards then promptly held a news conference after the meeting. He announced that he sent a letter to the company asking them to allow the employees to unionize. What's interesting is Edwards says he's never been near the plant or in it. He's also never talked company executives and flat out said he's just taking the word of the employees.

Now, the company denies the working condidtions and has run ads to the contrary in fact.

It will be interesting to see how this impacts talks if any between the company and the employees.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Dead people voting??? State Auditor Les Merritt (a Republican) says he thought he was doing the right thing when he asked lawmakers to hold off on approving a bill to allow registration and voting at one stop absentee sites on the same day.

He says he's been investigating the voter rolls since January and reports are he found 1600+ dead people voting, 600+ invalid social security numbers and 25,000+ invalid drivers licenses. He says he just wanted lawmakers to know about it in case they needed the information for debate.

Two problems-he did it just 30 minutes before the vote and his report is not complete and did not ask the Board of Elections for help.

The result was a scolding by lawmakers. The committee room was extremely packed and audience members included the Democratic party chair Jerry Meek who called Merritt incompetent.

The State BOE says they have verified all the claims of voter fraud and they are all resolved. The dead people for the most part registered to vote and did so by absentee but died between that time and election day, according to the BOE.

Merritt was clearly outnumbered and in the end the committee approved the bill again and it will head back to the Senate floor.

Sen. Dan Clodfelter was clearly not pleased that Merritt asked them to pull the bill at the last minute which is unusual to say the least. He was particularly mad that the bill was pulled and Merritt said he had no new information and indicated his final review could result in no evidence of voter fraud.

Most Democrats believe Merritt wanted it pulled because Republicans don't support the bill because Democrats believe the bill will benefit the donkeys in elections.

Oh the partisan politics continues...

Monday, June 18, 2007

Governor Easley held a news conference Monday. It was scheduled with Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to talk about their meeting about hurricane preparedness.

With the war and hurricane issues in recent years it was probably the first time a majority of the journalists could care less what he had to say. They were all waiting to hear what Governor Easley had to say about Mike Nifong.

Here's a rundown of what Easley had to say on several topics.

-An interesting comment on National Guard readiness. He says the state can only handle a hurricane 3 or less. Yet, he says the only way the lack of equipment will cause problems is if a disaster affects all 50 states and there's no national help. The reason is there's agreements with other states to bring in their guard members to help. Chertoff says nationwide the numbers are better this year than last.

-On the Nifong issue-he said if it was his choice Nifong would be gone today! Easley is hoping the House passes a proposal as early as this week that would give him the power to kick Nifong out now. Nifong wrote in his resignation letter that he will leave July 13th.

-Easley wants to put investments (bonds) into things the state is soley responsible first. That includes money for prisons, mental facilities, etc. That basically means he believes any bonds for schools construction or land and water issues would be secondary.

-He favors the Senate proposal of finding a long term solution now to the Medicaid issue rather than a "bandaid" $100 one time fix that the House is proposing.

More on all of this a little later...

Friday, June 15, 2007

It's interesting to see how the Presidential candidates are literally flying through North Carolina. Obama and Clinton as well as some of the Repubs are flying in, driving to a private fundraiser, and flying out.

Last night, Obama held a fundraiser at a home in Chapel Hill. When I arrived there, I was promptly told by a police officer that I could not get any closer than a quarter mile. There were dense woods so I could see nothing. On top of that guests were being shuttled in on vans with tinted windows so there were few glimpses of who even attended.

When Obama's entourage came through they wizzed by us with the windows up and we never got a glimpse of him.

Obviously with a late primary and not picking a Democrat since 1976, these candidates aren't here getting votes but using our state as a bank builder. But why can't you stop for two minutes and give a reporter a soundbite? I mean it was myself and one other photographer. It's not like there was a mass of media waiting for something.

Just wanted to give you a glimpse, when they mean private, they mean private!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A day to remember Sandy...

Tomorrow, Sandy Basnight will be laid to rest after passing away from a lengthy illness. I have to say on a personal note, I never knew her but I fell in love in the Outer Banks and got married there recently so I do know the love the Basnights shared with that area.

I have dined at the restaurant so many times and how hard it must have been to know that place burned down. Senator Basnight, despite being President Pro Tem of the Senate, manages to stay out of the spotlight as much as some would expect with the position. He's readily available for a quick interview before session but he doesn't do a lot of in-depth interviews and generally allows the authors of bills and ideas to speak on them instead of him.

Despite that he's in the spotlight as one of, if not the, most powerful politicians in the state.

Tomorrow, the state Senate, many House members, and other state leaders will put Sandy in the spotlight and celebrate her life.

Senator Basnight, our thoughts are with you in this tough time for you and your family.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Not going anywhere for a while? Sen. David Hoyle said today he thinks best case scenario the budget will be finished by mid July but he thinks it will be late July.

Conferees from the House and Senate met again this afternoon. Apparently they are trying to work out the Medicare issue right now. There's an apparent compromise plan between Sen.'s Rand and Clodfelter that's on the table. That plus the COPS debt (loans for UNC construction, prisons, etc. that doesn't need voter approval) and the temporary taxes are still up in the air. Negotiations are still in the early stages but it appears it's not going anywhere too fast.

These issues need to be taken up first so lawmakers know how much $$$ is available.

Should be a fun week or two for the conference committee! We'll see how much they want that July 4th vacation.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Sen. Marc Basnight's absence will be interesting to follow. Depending on the length and seriousness of his absence the dynamic of the conference committee to reach a budget compromise to say the least.

His office says he's on temporary leave to deal with a family illness and is in contact with Raleigh several times a day.

He has told leadership what their specific roles are in his absence. That tells me and others I've talked to he may be gone more than just a few days.

There are some lawmakers who are indeed nervous about the impact this may have on both the content and timing of getting a budget passed.

With that all in mind and politics aside, let's keep our thoughts with the Basnight family.

Monday, June 04, 2007

New immigration office - Well, if you thought that the state could build a new office to help illegal immigrants get new citizenship would help discourage illegal immigration, think again.

The U.S. Immigration and Citizenship office (Part of Homeland Security) broke ground on another office in Durham today. Believe it or not it's only the second office now in the state. Charlotte is home to the only office in the state that processes visas, green cards, and citizenship.

They take in 500 people a day and likely over 20,000 a year get citizenship. The process takes at least six months and several trips to the office. That means those people looking to legally become citizens would have to take several days off work, spend the money to get to Charlotte, and wait for hours and hours if not days to get processed each time they went.

My question? Could this help encourage those who give up and live here illegally to do it right now that they don't have to go as far and it could be easier now?

Quick answer from Rep. David Price and USCIS Director Dr. Emilio Gonzalez-NO!

They say it won't make a difference on that topic. They do believe it could go quicker for those seeking citizenship but it's more or less a move to ease the burden on Charlotte.

The new office opens off Miami Boulevard in March 2008.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Miller decision soon? Just had U.S. Representative Brad Miller in our studio to do several interviews. Of course, I asked him about his decision to run against Elizabeth Dole in the Senate. His response was a chuckle, then basically said he's having a hard time making a decision and the indecision is stressful on him and his supporters. He said he plans to make the decision soon. Soon is a vague word though so we'll have to wait and see.

Interesting though, during taping I asked him about his decision and his answer took about 15 seconds and then without any questioons from me he continued on for three minutes stating why Elizabeth Dole is a bad Senator and needs to go.

Sounded like a candidate for the spot to many of us????