Politics & Government

Political news

Lawmakers in the state House have tentatively approved a 19 billion dollar budget that makes deep cuts to education and health care. 

 Legislators debated the Republican penned budget for nearly ten hours yesterday. Republican representative Mitch Gillespie of Marion told colleagues it's the most responsible budget that could be put together in a slow economy. 

State senators have tentatively passed a bill that would make it more difficult for municipalities in North Carolina to build their own Internet broadband systems. 

 Right now a handful of municipalities across the state provide their own internet broadband services to residents at subsidized rates. But cable companies are wary of the do-it-yourselfers. They say it's not fair that municipalities don't have to follow the same regulations to set up broadband services.

Surry County communications operators are testing a developing 911 call system to improve emergency response networks. A grant program is funding a test system called Next Generation 911 from Greensboro-based Synergem Emergency Services. Surry County communications director Roger Shore says the system allows 911 operators to field calls more efficiently.

State senators have passed a new bill that attempts to close a 500 million dollar shortfall in the state health plan. Governor Bev Perdue vetoed an earlier health plan bill two weeks ago, saying teachers weren't consulted about the premiums workers would have to pay, along with other costs. The new bill would also require workers to pay premiums, but with some changes. Republican Senator Tom Apodaca is the bill's main sponsor. 

Charles Meeker
charlesmeeker.com

  Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker will not seek another term in office this fall. He made the announcement earlier today. 

Charles Meeker is known for staying very calm under pressure and not letting his emotions get the best of him. This morning, though, he cracked a little when talking about the success of his pet project - the opening of Fayetteville Street.

Transportation officials are slowly opening new lanes this week on Interstate 40 in west Raleigh. It's part of the North Carolina Department of Transportation's long-term plan to expand freeways in the Triangle. DOT spokesman Steve Abbot says the section of I-40 between Harrison Avenue and Highway 1 will widen from four lanes to six.

Steve Abbot: "That is one of the biggest bottlenecks of traffic in the Triangle and we widen that just to alleviate traffic, make things safer and help traffic flow better. We are on target to be finished about the end of June of this year."

Republican lawmakers have completed many spending recommendations that are part of crafting next year's budget.

Brookridge ribbon cutting
DHIC, Inc.

  Low-income people in Wake County got access some more housing options this week when officials dedicated a supportive housing development. Brookridge is a neighborhood of 40 studio apartments in south Raleigh.

Residents make 50 percent or less of the area's median income. Program manager Annemarie Maiorano says the development supports a population that is susceptible to becoming homeless or falling back into homelessness.

Home and business owners who file insurance claims in the wake of last weekend's storm and have a dispute with their insurer could be eligible for a state mediation program. 

Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin activated the program earlier this week in anticipation of problems as many people put in claims for storm damage. 

Spokeswoman Kerry Hall from the state Department of Insurance says her office is starting to get calls from people with questions:

State house lawmakers have tentatively passed a controversial tort reform bill.

Senate Bill 33's Republican sponsors say capping non-economic damages for patients who're suing their doctors for malpractice would help create a friendlier climate for doctors to come to the Tar Heel state. They say the measure would rein in skyrocketing insurance costs for doctors. But Democratic representative Bill Faison- who's a well-known plaintiff's attorney- disputes that. 

Governor Bev Perdue says she's thankful the White House moved quickly to send federal assistance to North Carolina. 

Right now residents of ten counties qualify for low-interest federal loans or FEMA grants to repair their homes and businesses. Governor Perdue says she could have asked that more counties qualify, but it would have taken longer for federal assistance to come to the state. 

 State representatives have tentatively passed a reworked version of a bill that would move oversight of the state health plan from the legislature to the treasurer's office. 

State lawmakers have not come to an agreement over restoring unemployment benefits for 37 thousand people across the state.

Republican leaders in Raleigh say they plan to try to override the governor's veto of a bill that would have extended federal unemployment benefits. The governor vetoed the measure Saturday because it was tied to a provision that would've required her to cut next year's budget by 13 percent. Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger says he thinks the governor made a bad decision. 

State lawmakers have voted to extend unemployment benefits for North Carolinians for up to four additional months. But the measure would also force the governor to accept a spending cut.

 Both the House and the Senate have now passed House Bill 383. It would extend unemployment benefits for about 37 thousand workers who otherwise would stop receiving their checks as of Saturday. Republican Paul Stam is the House Majority Leader.

The Department of Public Instruction will put cameras on school buses to identify drivers who don't stop when children are getting on or off the bus. State law requires drivers to stop when a school bus has its "stop arm" out. The pilot program will help identify the license plates and drivers of vehicles that fail to stop. DPI Transportation Services chief Derek Graham says the cameras will help law enforcement catch "stop arm" violators.

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