Politics & Government

Political news

Two bonds being considered by the Raleigh City Council may end up on the ballot this fall. If passed, they would total $52 million for transportation and housing projects.

The transportation bond would be the largest, at $37 million. It would include the usual road paving projects, but for the first time, a transportation bond would also include money for greenways and bike lanes. Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker explained the need when he gave his state of the city address in March.

Democratic leaders at the legislature say they're unhappy with the Republican-authored Senate budget proposal that would cut Smart Start. It's a nationally recognized early childhood program for low-income families across the state. The Senate plan would strip funding for the program by 20 percent, as does the House budget proposal passed a few weeks ago. But the Senate proposal would also dissolve the parent organization that oversees Smart Start and shift its administration to the Division of Child Development. Democrat Joe Hackney is the Minority Leader in the House.

Republican leaders in the state Senate have released a $19.4 billion dollar budget that would still make deep cuts to education. The Senate plan would give more money to public schools and universities than a House plan passed a few weeks ago, but community colleges would receive less funding. The proposed Senate budget would also lower personal income taxes, exempt small businesses from paying some taxes and establish merit pay for teachers. Phil Berger is the President Pro Tem of the Senate.

A bill that opponents of abortion rights have pushed for years is moving through the state legislature. House Bill 854, known as the "Woman's Right to Know Act," would mandate counseling, a waiting period, and an ultrasound before a woman could receive an abortion. Supporters of the bill say the measure would give women more information to make an informed choice. But opponents say the measure is designed to intimidate women.

 The governor and Republican legislative leaders have reached an agreement on how to fund the State Health Plan.

 Governor Perdue vetoed a health plan bill last month because she wasn't happy with the idea of teachers paying premiums. Under that plan, all state employees would've had to pay premiums for the first time. But now the governor and Republican leaders have agreed not to charge healthy workers any premiums at all.

Durham health officials want to ban smoking in a number of public places, including all county and city grounds, athletic fields, playgrounds, and bus stops. Gayle Harris is director of the Durham County Health Department.

State senators have passed a bill that would promote a controversial method of extracting natural gas popularly known as fracking. Senate Bill 709 would also open the coast to offshore natural gas drilling in conjunction with other states. Republican Senator Bob Rucho is the bill's main sponsor.

 State lawmakers have passed a measure that would make it harder for cities and towns to build their own Internet broadband systems. 

 The controversial bill passed the Senate earlier this week and returned yesterday to the House for concurrence. Supporters say it's not fair that municipalities don't have to follow the same regulations that commercial providers do. But a few Democratic lawmakers still fired whatever shots they could at the measure. Democrat Bill Faison represents Caswell and Orange counties. 

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.

Pages