Opinion: A Suspicious Reason To Raise Taxes

MichaelLowreyby Michael Lowrey

In June, the John Locke Foundation released the fiscal year 2012 edition of By The Numbers, JLF’s annual report on the cost of local government. BTN‘s insights are particularly relevant this year, as two of the state’s three largest counties — Mecklenburg and Guilford — have asked voters to raise the local sales tax rate by 0.25 percentage points. The timing is curious, given political and economic developments in the state.

NC House Passes Plan for Coal Ash Management

NCGARALEIGH, N.C. – Last week the NC House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 729, “The Coal Ash Management Act of 2014” in a 94 to 16 bipartisan vote. The bill requires all coal ash ponds to be cleaned by 2029.

Like the Senate version, the House bill creates a Coal Ash Management Commission to oversee the assessment, planning and clean-up of all coal ash ponds across the state.

Ponds will be assessed and grouped into one of three classifications based upon risk to surrounding water supply.  High-risk ponds will be required to be cleaned by 2019.

Governor McCrory Signs Legislation Allowing Hemp Oil Extract Treatment

PatMcCrory1RALEIGH, N.C. — A rare treatment that includes cannabidiol oil from hemp plants to treat drug-resistant epilepsy, which is particularly prevalent in children, will now be available in clinical trials in North Carolina thanks to legislation signed into law last week by Governor Pat McCrory.

“For some children, this treatment is the only relief they can get from debilitating seizures,” said Governor McCrory. “Additionally, provisions in this law will lead to clinical research at our universities that could help in the development of new and more widely accessible therapies.”

Opinion: Obamacare’s Triple Threat Protection For Insurance Companies

KatherineRestrepoby Katherine Restrepo

North Carolina now has a third player entering Obamacare’s game of subsidized health plan distribution.  It looks like United Healthcare has left the sidelines to start offering federally approved health coverage for consumers shopping in the individual market.  Round two of the federal health law’s exchange enrollment period begins this November 15.

This will offer a bit of a boost to competition and choice, but to what extent?  At this juncture it remains unclear how much of the state United will cover.  Blue Cross and Blue Shield currently sells non-group health policies in all of North Carolina’s 100 counties, while Coventry offers them in just 39.

EPA approves state agency approach to development of site specific nutrient criteria for waterways

nc water resourcesRALEIGH, N.C. – A N.C. Division of Water Resources plan to develop numeric criteria to address nutrients in the state’s lakes, rivers and estuaries has received approval from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus are necessary in waterways to support the food cycle of many aquatic animals. However, excessive levels of nutrients can lead to algal blooms, fish kills, and taste and odor issues that result in increased drinking water treatment costs. Many factors – including water temperature, available light, water depth and how long water stays in one location – can affect the impacts from nutrients to a water body.

Fourth of July Message from Senator Richard Burr

Senator Richard Burr

Senator Richard Burr

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Richard Burr distributed the following message to his email list on July 4:

Every year, we look forward to the Fourth of July holiday as an opportunity to celebrate with family and friends by grilling out, enjoying the warm weather, and viewing the community fireworks display.  However, as we enjoy the day of fun, we must not let the significance of our nation’s birthday escape us.  

Senator Hagan Honors Independence Day

Hagan, Kay 010809-18418-rb 0014WASHINGTON, D.C. –U.S. Senator Kay Hagan (NC) released the following statement Friday honoring Independence Day:

“As we celebrate July 4th with our friends and loved ones, it is essential we remember and honor those who have served and continue to serve our country in uniform.  I am proud that North Carolina is the most military-friendly state in the nation and that our brave servicemen and women often choose to settle in our great state after their military service is complete.  As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I am committed to supporting our servicemembers, veterans and their families, who make great personal sacrifices to protect the freedoms and liberties we North Carolinians enjoy every day. Today, I wish all North Carolinians a happy and safe Independence Day.”

Governor’s Senior Education Adviser Calls for Expanded E-Learning

RALEIGH, N.C. — Governor Pat McCrory’s senior education adviser, Eric Guckian, has sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Thomas Wheeler urging the FCC to act now to expand E-Learning opportunities for North Carolina students.

In June, Governor McCrory joined with governors from Oregon, Virginia, Mississippi and Maryland in calling for federal action on Wi-Fi access for all students. The bipartisan group of governors called for the modernization of the FCC’s E-Rate program.

“As you know, in today’s global economy, it is crucial that our students are prepared for success in a competitive workforce,” Guckian wrote. “The best way to do this is to promote personalized education systems and supports that enable learning to take place anytime, anywhere.”

North Carolina Coast Prepares for Hurricane Arthur

WILMINGTON, N.C. — Governor Pat McCrory was in Wilmington Wednesday warning those along the coast and beyond to prepare for Tropical Storm Arthur [as of the 5 a.m. update on Thursday, Arthur is now a Category One Hurricane].  There is a tropical storm warning for the entire North Carolina coast in effect now.

“While we all want to enjoy a fun Fourth of July weekend with friends and family, our highest priority should be safety during the storm,” Governor McCrory said.  “I encourage all of our coastal residents and visitors to take necessary precautions, listen to local media and use good judgment throughout the duration of the storm.”

Opinion: Serve a Different Plate

John Hood

John Hood

by John Hood

As often happens at the North Carolina General Assembly, the new fiscal year has begun with the House and Senate not yet finished with a budget-adjustment bill. Medicaid funding, teacher compensation, and a few other issues continue to divide the two chambers.

Call me odd — it’ll hardly be the first time — but one issue I hope doesn’t get left on the table is a provision in the House budget that would allow me to take the “First in Flight” license plate off my car.