Saturday, July 29, 2006

Tax Break Weekend

NC's tax break weekend is next weekend, August 4th to the 6th. Sales tax free items include clothing and shoes under $100. School supplies under $100. Sports equipment under $50. Computers under $3500. Computer supplies under $250.


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posted by David at 9:28 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (14) ::

NC Passes New Film Incentives Bill

WWAY TV 3

Lawmakers Thursday passed a film incentives bill that's expected to revitalize the industry in North Carolina.

They fixed a loophole in a current law that had film companies getting smaller incentive packages than expected.

The companies will now get the entire 15 percent tax break, without having to pay corporate income tax.

Senator Julia Boseman said Screen Gems Studios plans to move ahead with expansion plans for the studio on 23rd Street, which would give Wilmington the largest single stage on the east coast.


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posted by David at 8:57 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (2) ::

Jelly Fish Invade NC

WRAL

A swarm of slimy invaders is menacing beachgoers on North Carolina's southern coast.

Jellyfish have stung so many people in the area of Wrightsville Beach and Carolina Beach that the New Hanover County Health Department issued an alert on Friday.

Charles Smith, the director of Carolina Beach Ocean Rescue, says reports of stings have been gradually increasing over the past couple of weeks, and at least 75 people were stung by sea nettles and other jellyfish from Monday through Thursday.

One swimmer had to be taken to New Hanover Regional Medical Center with a suspected Portuguese man-of-war sting.

"I can't recall any particular year that it's been that bad," Smith said.

Sea nettles, a type of jellyfish, began arriving at Wrightsville Beach in mid-July, a few weeks ahead of schedule. Now they're bombarding Carolina Beach, where so many were in the water on Thursday that lifeguards posted red flags to alert visitors of dangerous conditions.

At Wrightsville Beach, Ocean Rescue director Dave Baker said lifeguards treated about a dozen stings a day when the jellyfish were at their peak. They're now down to about one a day.

Experts offer a variety of reasons for the increase in jellyfish, ranging from tropical weather pushing them inland to a combination of temperatures, salinity and rich feeding grounds.

"Last year we had very few, this year we have a lot," Baker said. "It's just Mother Nature."

They do hurt a lot. My wife, daughter and I went kayaking in Shallowbag Bay at Manteo when we decided to take a cool off swim. My daughter jumped right into a large school of jellies. I had to un-tangle them from around her arms and legs. She looked like she had been whipped with a bullwhip afterward with long red welts all over her body.


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posted by David at 8:48 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (2) ::

NC To Be the Home of the Nation's 2nd Body Farm

WRAL

But Williams, of course, isn't trying to dispose of any dead bodies. Rather, he's a student of how the human body decomposes. He needed the chipper for a study on what the machine does to bone, a study commissioned by attorneys suing a Georgia crematorium owner charged with dumping _ and chipping _ human remains he had been given for incineration.

Soon, Williams will have a new place to conduct his research _ a well-hidden location near Western Carolina's campus where he and students studying the science of the human skeleton and human remains can watch cadavers decompose in the mountainous environment of western North Carolina. It will be just the second such "body farm" in the country.

"They'll be involved with the daily observation process. Very early on, you are examining that body daily, because the changes initially go very quickly," Williams said. "They'll learn how to observe as scientists."

How fast a body left in the open breaks down _ key to establishing when a person was killed _ depends heavily on temperature, moisture and other environmental factors, Williams said. In relatively dry, cold conditions, like those found in these mountains in the winter, it can take months for a body to decompose to skeletal remains.

In the warmer, more humid conditions of summertime, when there are plenty of insects around, that process can speed up greatly, said Williams, a veteran of body recovery operations at the World Trade Center after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the 1999 EgyptAir crash off the Massachusetts coast.

School officials are keeping the facility's exact location a secret, to discourage those with a morbid curiosity from dropping by. Roughly the size of a garage with room for six bodies, it will be hidden from view by a 9-foot privacy fence and protected by a second security fence topped with razor wire. Campus plans daily patrols at the site, which is a half-mile from the nearest home.

If you watch CSI you may remember that a body farm like this was used to dump a body.


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posted by David at 8:36 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (1) ::

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Convention Center

I heard that Wilmington can get it's convention center now that a bill for it's fund has passed. I'm sorry about that guys.


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posted by David at 4:35 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (17) ::

Girl Dies In Elavator Accident

WWAY TV 3

A Wilmington child is dead after a horrifying accident involving an elevator. It happened Sunday night at a house off Pinfish Lane in Carolina Beach.

According to investigators, the 10-year-old girl was celebrating her birthday with friends at her mother's boyfriend's house when things took a deadly turn.

Investigators say around eight p.m. Sunday night the girl went to play in an elevator that was recently put into the house. Police did not say who pushed the buttons in the elevator but at some point the girl was hanging out of the front, from her shoulders up, when the elevator began to move up to the next floor.

The girl did not get out of the way in time and got crushed.

This is terrible and my heart felt sympathy goes to this little girl's family.


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posted by David at 4:33 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (5) ::

One That Got Lost In The System

WRAL

Some say an overwhelming caseload was a factor in why an illegal immigrant charged in what investigators have called a violent case of road rage was not deported after a prior conviction for a McDonald's shooting.

Joel Ortiz was arrested in April in connection with the shooting at the Raleigh restaurant and was under investigation by local U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

But when there was not enough evidence to support a felony conviction, according to prosecutors, a plea bargain was reached with Ortiz and the charge was reduced to a misdemeanor.

Although a misdemeanor-assault charge is a deportable offense, according to immigration attorney Lynn Calder, immigration officials said that because the charge was reduced, the case became a low priority.

"If they got something more serious going on at the time, I don't think they'll get to them," Calder said.

That procedure, referred to as a detainer, is now under way for Ortiz after he was arrested last Thursday in a series of incidents in which he allegedly chased down motorists, rammed their vehicles and shot at them. He is currently in jail under $407,000 bond.

But Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby said on Monday that he had hoped immigration agents would have taken a serious look at Ortiz's immigration status after the first arrest in April.

"Anytime someone is in this country illegally and gets arrested for a felony with a firearm, it ought to get reviewed by ICE," Willoughby said.

Willoughby, the police, as well as many other people, have said they realize and understand how overwhelmed immigration agents are. For example, the local immigration office covers 31 counties.

The enormous amount of work, in part, has prompted state lawmakers to take a tougher stance on illegal immigration. On Monday evening, they unanimously passed a resolution to pushing for an immigration court in North Carolina, which is one of three states under consideration for the court.

North Carolina's illegal-immigrant population is estimated at about 300,000 and is the eighth largest in the United States. Currently, the closest immigration court is in Atlanta.

The resolution also urges the U.S. Congress to make a driving-while-impaired conviction a cause for deportation, and it calls for the expansion of Homeland Security to give local law-enforcement officers the authority to identify people who have previously been deported.

An Elon University poll released in April shows that 71 percent of North Carolinians believe illegal immigration is an important issue, but those who responded are split as to whether it has helped the state.

Of the 677 participants, 44 percent said illegal immigration has been bad for North Carolina, while 43 percent said it has been good or has not made much difference.

Participants were asked their opinions about a variety of statements to determine what makes immigration an important issue to them. More than 70 percent agreed that providing school, health care and similar services for illegal immigrants costs too much and 72 percent said such immigrants do not pay their fair share of taxes.


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posted by David at 4:31 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (2) ::

State House and Senate Fight Over Sex Offender Tracking

WRAL

State lawmakers were poised on Monday evening to move forward with a bill that would better track sex offenders, but the House rejected the Senate's version of the bill.


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posted by David at 4:29 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (2) ::

Easley Says Give It Back

WRAL

Gov. Mike Easley demanded Monday that the state's Ports Authority repay nearly $4,000 of taxpayer money used to make a state ferry available for an invitation-only boat party during a sailing festival.

"I want to be crystal clear with you: this type of activity should not ever occur again," Easley wrote in a letter to Ports Authority officials. "State agencies and their employees are stewards of the public's money and trust and our actions should reflect the highest of standards."

The cruise gave about 200 passengers -- including Secretary of State Elaine Marshall and other elected lawmakers -- an up-close view of the Tall Ships Festival in Beaufort and Morehead City on July 1. While officials dined on seafood and enjoyed the music of a steel drum band, others fought crowds and congestion.

The ferry was replaced on its route by a smaller ship, leading to delays for passengers trying to cross the river.

"It is absolutely indefensible that a ferry was taken out of service to transport dignitaries while the general public battled traffic and stood in stifling heat for hours to get a glimpse of the ships," Easley wrote.

Easley found that the Ports Authority, which is a state agency but runs on its own revenue, paid almost $25,000 out of its budget to host the event. The Department of Transportation added about $3,800, which is taxpayer money.

Most of the $3,800 was used for paint and cleaning supplies to renovate the Floyd Lupton, additional staffing and personnel to cover the costs of two ships, fuel and a photographer to document the event, said DOT spokesman Ernie Seneca.

"To cover the costs borne by the taxpayers, I am directing the State Ports Authority to reimburse the Department of Transportation for the costs of using the ferry," Easley wrote.


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posted by David at 4:26 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (1) ::

Watermelon Festival

Fair Bluff's annual Watermelon Festival kicks off this weekend. I've never been to it before, but this year my daughter is a Melon Belle, so I must throw in my support of this local festival. Also my 6 year old is really looking forward to the seed spitting contest, he keeps telling me he has to practice before the big day. Hope to see you there.


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posted by David at 4:09 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (0) ::

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Offensive Jokes

I found this list of jokes at Boortz

Something To Offend Everyone!

What do you call two Mexicans playing basketball?
Juan on Juan.


What is the difference between a Harley and a Hoover?
The position of the dirt bag.


What do you see when the Pillsbury Dough Boy bends over?
Doughnuts?


Why is air a lot like sex?
Because it's no big deal unless you're not getting any.


What do you call a smart blonde?
A golden retriever.


What's the difference between a girlfriend and wife?
45 lbs.


What's the difference between a boyfriend and husband?
45 minutes.


What's the fastest way to a man's heart?
Through his chest with a sharp knife.


Why do men want to marry virgins?
They can't stand criticism.


Why is it so hard for women to find men that are sensitive, caring, and good-looking?
Because those men already have boyfriends.


What's the difference between a new husband and a new dog?
After a year, the dog is still excited to see you.


What makes men chase women they have no intention of marrying?
The same urge that makes dogs chase cars they have no intention of driving.


What did the blonde say when she found out she was pregnant?
"Are you sure it's mine?"


Why does Mike Tyson cry during sex?
Mace will do that to you.


Why did OJ Simpson want to move to West Virginia?
Everyone has the same DNA.


Did you hear about the dyslexic Rabbi?
He walks around saying "Yo."


Where does an Irish family go on vacation?
A different bar.


Did you hear about the Chinese couple that had a retarded baby?
They named him "Sum Ting Wong.


What would you call it when an Italian has one arm shorter than the other?
A speech impediment.


What does it mean when the flag at the Post Office is flying at half-mast?
They're hiring.


What's the difference between a southern zoo and a northern zoo?
A southern zoo has a description of the animal on the front of the cage along with... "a recipe."


How do you get a sweet little 80-year-old lady to say the F word?
Get another sweet little 80-year-old lady to yell *BINGO*!


What's the difference between a northern fairytale and a southern fairytale?
A northern fairytale begins "Once upon a time..."
A southern fairytale begins "Y'all ain't gonna believe this s....t."


Why is there no Disneyland in China ?
No one's tall enough to go on the good rides.


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posted by David at 11:28 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (6) ::

Easley Blocks Attempt To ID New Marina Leaseholders

Carolina Journal

Gov. Mike Easley, saying proper procedure had not been followed, thwarted Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry’s attempt in a Council of State meeting Tuesday to learn the identities of the individuals awarded a new lease for the state-owned Southport Marina property.

When Berry tried to raise the issue at the meeting, Easley would not allow it. He told Berry that she “didn’t allow enough time” for her request to be put on the agenda, though she said she had made the request five days in advance of the meeting. Easley indicated that her request would be taken up in August.

Berry said she wanted the individuals involved in the marina deal identified because she said the public has a right to know. She also said full disclosure is necessary so state officials can avoid a conflict of interest when voting on real estate matters.

Berry, Carolina Journal, and other media organizations have tried unsuccessfully to identify the leaseholders since Easley coaxed the lease though the approval process in January. Neither Easley’s office nor the North Carolina State Ports Authority, the agency that controls the property, will identify the new owners of the marina operating company.

This was a shady deal from the get go. A lot of Southport residents are upset at how this process was handled. They really feel betrayed by Easley and the state. A lot of questions have been brought up about who holds the lease and what their relationship to the governor is and with why the deal was made without giving residents input but so far very few answers have emerged from Raliegh.


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posted by David at 11:20 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (3) ::

What the Heck?!?

Myrtle Beach Online

Seeking to patch any holes in North Carolina's criminal justice system, the state Senate approved a bill Monday to create an "innocence commission" that could override a court to free a prisoner.

The eight-member commission would conduct inquiries into claims of innocence. A convicted criminal would have to petition the commission, citing new evidence that may prove a new verdict.

"It would restore the integrity and the public's confidence in the process," said Sen. Dan Clodfelter, D-Mecklenburg.

A criminal justice task force recommended the panel. The task force was formed in part because of the murder case of Darryl Hunt, who spent 18 years in prison for the slaying of a Winston-Salem woman before DNA evidence exonerated him.

If five of the eight members agree there is enough evidence, the case would be sent to a three-judge Superior Court panel. Charges would be dismissed if the judges unanimously determine there "is clear and convincing evidence" that the defendant is innocent.

Only one senator - Hugh Webster - dissented in the vote. He said lawmakers should work on fixing the justice system as it is now.

"We're saying it's not working, so we have to have this commission to catch and correct errors," said Webster, R-Alamance.

The Senate version, slightly different than a House bill passed last year, would bar defendants who pleaded from going before the commission. And while the House would allow a split decision of a three-judge panel to be appealed to the state Supreme Court, there is no such provision in the Senate bill and provides for no additional appeals.

The measure now returns to the House for concurrence.

So after going to a jury of his peers and being found guilty a panel can recommend an inmate to be set free. This is bull crap. This is wrong. An appeals process is set up for this and no panel is needed to second guess a jury.


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posted by David at 4:25 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (5) ::

NC Moves To Break Law

NBC17.com

North Carolina is following the lead of other Southeastern states in proposing tolls for Interstate 95 to help pay for repairs and expansion.

I-95 needs about $4 billion in repairs in North Carolina, state Department of Transportation officials said. That includes replacing dozens of bridges and adding lanes to the highway's 182 miles of asphalt across the state.

DOT officials have discussed the toll-road plan with federal highway officials. But North Carolina law prohibits tolling an existing road, so the General Assembly would have to approve the change.

"This follows the plan of Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia in making those improvements. The study is underway, and it no way implies you'll see construction equipment in the next few months," state Transportation Secretary Lyndo Tippett said.

South Carolina wants to start collecting tolls in 2009. Virginia lawmakers have already passed a bill that would allow the state to share tolls collected at the state border with North Carolina.

Drivers said Wednesday that they don't like the idea.

"I'm already paying lots of money," said Wilmar Pinargote, who noted he would look for another route from Florida to New York if tolls are levied. "I try to save money. I need to save money for my family."

Our state law states that an existing road can not be made into a toll road. The law does allow tolls on new roads being constructing. But it doesn't suprise me that our state legislature is considering breaking the law or changeing to so that they can collect more taxes. Yes a toll is a tax. And don't believe that if tolls are set up that they will be used just for repairs on that road. The money will be pulled for whatever the legislature wants. Don't believe me, what about the lottery? Remember it wouldn't replace any existing education money, but within a week it was.


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posted by David at 4:19 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (2) ::

Senate Votes To Protect The 2nd Amendment

I'm very very happy to see this.

MyWay

- The U.S. Senate on Thursday voted to prohibit the confiscation of legally owned guns during an emergency like last year's Hurricane Katrina, marking another victory for the gun lobby.

By a vote of 84-16, the Senate embraced an amendment by Sen. David Vitter, a Louisiana Republican. He attached his measure to a domestic security spending bill for the fiscal year starting October 1 that the Senate is expected to pass soon.

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed its version of the spending bill and negotiators will have to decide whether to keep the gun provision. The House is usually sympathetic to gun owners.

Citing the constitutional right to bear arms, Vitter said that during an emergency people should be allowed to hold onto "legally possessed firearms to defend your life, your property" at a time when telephone lines and cell phones probably are not operating and victims "can't reach out to law enforcement authorities."

Vitter said 10 states have passed similar laws. Louisiana is one of them.

Following Hurricane Katrina last August, some emergency workers expressed fears about guns being looted from stores and first-responders being threatened by gun proliferation.

Sen. Edward Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat, called the amendment "pay-back time by the National Rifle Association," a powerful lobbying group that opposes gun controls.

Sen. Richard Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, added, "You send the National Guardsmen in ... and then snipers start shooting at them and the police make it known this is going to be a gun-free zone. We don't want any National Guardsmen killed because of this national emergency, this disaster. Is that an unreasonable thing?"

Vitter countered that the "declaration or state of emergency in and of itself does not give anyone the right to confiscate guns" and local law enforcement officials should not "trump" the Constitution.

Last month, gun lobbyists won another victory when the House voted to overturn a recently enacted law requiring safety trigger locks on all hand guns sold in the United States.

That measure, attached to a law enforcement spending bill, awaits Senate action.


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posted by David at 4:10 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (1) ::

Friday, July 14, 2006

Senate Doing A Kerry

The US Senate has voted not to fund a fence on the southern border just two months after voting to build the 370 mile fence.

The Washington Times

Less than two months after voting overwhelmingly to build 370 miles of new fencing along the border with Mexico, the Senate yesterday voted against providing funds to build it.
"We do a lot of talking. We do a lot of legislating," said Sen. Jeff Sessions, the Alabama Republican whose amendment to fund the fence was killed on a 71-29 vote. "The things we do often sound very good, but we never quite get there."
Mr. Sessions offered his amendment to authorize $1.8 billion to pay for the fencing that the Senate voted 83-16 to build along high-traffic areas of the border with Mexico. In the same vote on May 17, the Senate also directed 500 miles of vehicle barriers to be built along the border.
But the May vote simply authorized the fencing and vehicle barriers, which on Capitol Hill is a different matter from approving the federal expenditures needed to build it.


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posted by David at 11:42 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (3) ::

Hazleton, PA Gets Tough On Illegals

NewsMax

The Hazleton, Pa., City Council approved a law Thursday night designed to make this small city in northeastern Pennsylvania among the most hostile places in the U.S. for illegal immigrants to live or work.

The 4-to-1 vote came after nearly two hours of passionate debate. Opponents argued it was divisive and possibly illegal, but supporters argued illegal immigrants' growing numbers have damaged the quality of life here.

"We must draw the line, and we are doing it tonight," Mayor Lou Barletta told a packed council chambers.

Barletta proposed the Illegal Immigration Relief Act last month as a response to what he said were Hazleton's problems with violent crime, crowded schools, hospital costs and the demand for services.

The ordinance would deny licenses to businesses that employ illegal immigrants, fine landlords $1,000 for each illegal immigrant discovered renting their properties, and require city documents to be in English only.

Good job.


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posted by David at 11:40 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (1) ::

Johnston County Elections Director Stole Funds

WRAL

The Johnston County elections director resigned Friday after an investigation linked her to missing cash from the office -- more than $6,000 over five years.

County attorney Mark Payne said Teresa Davis, who had been director since 1998, was expected to begin repaying the money soon. He said his office would notify the county prosecutor.

An internal investigation showed the missing money included filing fees from candidates and notary fees.

Deputy director Leigh Anne Price was selected as interim director while the county elections board decides on a permanent replacement for Davis.

Davis was paid about $52,000 a year and had experienced financial problems, filing for bankruptcy last year.


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posted by David at 11:28 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (3) ::

House Passes Voting Rights Act Renewal

Did you know that there is no federal right to vote. That's right the constitution of the US does not grant you the right to vote. There are amendments that prevent the discrimination when granting the franchise, but they do not automatically give you the franchise. People mistake this state granted right as the law of the land when it's not.

The VRA is no longer needed. Heck it wasn't truely need in 1965. Just read the 15th amendment and you will see that blacks have same right to vote as whites. The 19th amendment stated that a woman has the same right to vote as a man. Then the 24th amendment stated that poll taxes are illegal (voter id is not a poll tax no matter what the ACLU and DNC say). The 26th amendment gave every citizen (it does state citizens, not guest workers, illegal aliens, undocumented workers, etc) equal right to vote.

It should be allowed to die. Why do we need bilingual ballots, if only citizens can vote? Why do some southern states still need DOJ approval of voting practice changes 40 years later when the Constitution states that all states should be treated the same by the federal government? Why? Please explain this to me.


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posted by David at 4:03 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (1) ::

Jugde Says No To Voter ID Check

WSAV.com

Georgia voters won't have to show a government-

issued photo id when they go to the polls.

That's because of two rulings issued Wednesday.

One denied the state's appeal to an earlier ruling that blocked enforcement of the new law during next week's primary.

The other decision blocking enforcement came from a federal judge.

Critics -- who believe the law will keep Georgia's elderly, low-income and minorities from voting -- are relieved.

"It's logical. Because when people went to get the photo id, the same 17 pieces of identification they needed to get the photo id -- they can't use to vote! So it really didn't make any sense at all,"

says Democratic State Senator Regina Thomas.

Law proponent, Republican Senator Eric Johnson, who sees photo id's as a way to fight election fraud, issued a statement saying, "Democrats have found a way to allow Illegals and the dead to have a say in next Tuesday's primary. Every registered voter should be outraged."Georgia voters won't have to show a government-

issued photo id when they go to the polls.

That's because of two rulings issued Wednesday.

One denied the state's appeal to an earlier ruling that blocked enforcement of the new law during next week's primary.

The other decision blocking enforcement came from a federal judge.

Critics -- who believe the law will keep Georgia's elderly, low-income and minorities from voting -- are relieved.

"It's logical. Because when people went to get the photo id, the same 17 pieces of identification they needed to get the photo id -- they can't use to vote! So it really didn't make any sense at all,"

says Democratic State Senator Regina Thomas.

Law proponent, Republican Senator Eric Johnson, who sees photo id's as a way to fight election fraud, issued a statement saying, "Democrats have found a way to allow Illegals and the dead to have a say in next Tuesday's primary. Every registered voter should be outraged."

I don't see where it's illegal or un-constitutional to require you to prove you are you to vote. Photo IDs aren't hard to get (just ask any illegal alien here in NC).


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posted by David at 3:34 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (2) ::

Lebanon Grabbed the Tiger By the Tail

Washington Post

Israel imposed a blockade on Lebanon by land, sea and air on Thursday, striking the capital's airport twice, cutting off its ports and wrecking bridges and roads in attacks that killed at least 47 people in the last two days, nearly all of them Lebanese civilians. Israel said the radical Shiite Muslim group Hezbollah fired 150 rockets into northern Israel, including two that reached the port city of Haifa. Israeli jets repeatedly crossed over Beirut before dawn Friday. At least two explosions were heard, and antiaircraft fire and flares lit up the night sky.


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posted by David at 3:25 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (1) ::

Minuteman Project Slowing the Border Drug Trade

KVOA News 4

This intelligence report obtained by News 4 says that the Minuteman Project had an impact on drug trafficking in Cochise County in 2005.

DEA officials say bulk loads of marijuana crossing the border dropped siginificantly.

Anthony Coulson, with DEA says, "When you have eyes on the border -- I think any law enforcment will admit this -- you have a great deterrent effect of keeping things away."


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posted by David at 3:21 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (3) ::

Easley Signs Minimum Wage Bill

WRAL

Gov. Mike Easley Thursday signed into law a bill that will increase the state's minimum wage by $1.

House Bill 2174 raises the hourly minimum pay rate from $5.15 to $6.15 per hour and also ties North Carolina's minimum wage to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.

If the federal minimum wage is raised, employees in North Carolina will receive whichever wage is higher. The federal minimum wage is currently $5.15 an hour and has not been raised in nine years.

At a news conference Thursday, Easley said the bill is just one step in changing the state's economy.

"We are not trying to build a low-road economy based on low wages and low skill. Those days are gone," Easley said.

"We are building a better workforce by providing the knowledge, talent and skill our citizens need to succeed in the global marketplace," he added. "This higher level of education is bringing in high-paying jobs but raising the minimum wage helps our people make the needed transition to this new economy."

Several state and community leaders, including bill sponsor Rep. Alma Adams, D-Guilford, who worked to get the bill passed in both the House and Senate.

"Raising the minimum wage by this first dollar is a small but significant step in the right direction toward a living wage," she said. "It sends a powerful message that North Carolina values hard work and is concerned about working poor families and the 'least of these' among us who need a lift up."

An estimated 139,000 workers will benefit from the law, which goes into effect Jan. 1, 2007.

How much skill does it take to say, "hi welcome to Wal-Mart, wanta a sticker?" or to flip a burger or sweep a floor. Mr. Easley, I have to inform that bio-tech engineers, nurses, doctors and teachers aren't makeing $5.15 per hour.


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posted by David at 1:12 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (0) ::

Higher Minimum Wage For Illegals

The Washington Times

The Senate immigration bill would require that foreign construction laborers here under the guest-worker program be paid well above the minimum wage, even as American workers at the same work site could earn less.
The bill "would guarantee wages to some foreign workers that could be higher than those paid to American workers at the same work site," says a policy paper released this week by the Senate's Republican Policy Committee. "This is unfair to U.S. workers, inappropriate, and unnecessary."
The 11-page, harshly critical analysis of the Senate immigration bill on this one point reveals how torn Senate Republicans are over the larger issue of immigration.
Though the bill was supported by Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee and Majority Whip Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, it was opposed by the rest of the Senate Republican leadership and a majority of Republicans in the chamber. And despite the support of Mr. Frist and Mr. McConnell, this week's policy paper critical of the wage guarantees for foreign workers marks the official stance of the Republican Policy Committee, which formulates and implements the policies of the caucus.

The Senate is really getting ourt of sync with the American people.


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posted by David at 1:08 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (2) ::

FCC On Gone Wild

MSNBC

In its continuing crackdown on on-air profanity, the FCC has requested numerous tapes from broadcasters that might include vulgar remarks from unruly spectators, coaches and athletes at live sporting events, industry sources said.

Tapes requested by the commission include live broadcasts of football games and NASCAR races where the participants or the crowds let loose with an expletive. While commission officials refused to talk about its requests, one broadcast company executive said the commission had asked for 30 tapes of live sports and news programs.

“It looks like they want to end live broadcast TV,” said one executive, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity. “We already know that they aren’t afraid to go after news.”

Why is the FCC trying to protect us from ourselves? I thought the main job of the FCC was to make sure that the airwaves where being used fairly. Sort of to make sure that WWAY doesn't block WECT's signal to gain viewers. I didn't know that they where mandated to be the official censors of the US.


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posted by David at 1:05 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (3) ::

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Network-Neutrality

IPI

No need now for new net neutrality regulation
By Tom Giovanetti

Here’s a proposed solution to the current debate over new network-neutrality regulations: How about let’s do nothing — at least not now?

The net-neutrality debate started off with a great name and a good premise — namely, that a user should have the ability to connect and use any device over the Internet. But today net neutrality has morphed into a set of proposed restrictions designed to limit significantly the ability of Internet service providers to enter into private contracts with content owners and to prioritize traffic over their networks. And the proposed regulations have been grafted onto an otherwise useful bill designed to remove regulatory barriers so that telecom companies can more easily introduce video services.

Why are such regulations being proposed? The fear is that network owners will leverage their control over the “pipes” in order to restrict consumer choice and competition.

Here’s an imagined worst-case scenario: Let’s say that a major broadband provider like AT&T decides to go into the business of selling music online. The problem, from AT&T’s standpoint, would be formidable established competitors such as Apple’s iTunes Music Store.

Since AT&T controls its own pipes, and thus access to customers, might it go to Apple and say, “If you won’t pay us, we’ll block our customers’ access to iTunes”? Or at least slow down iTunes’ traffic and guarantee faster access to AT&Tunes?

But even net-neutrality supporters don’t agree on the right response to this imagined threat. Some advocates wanted to see much more restrictive language in the bill that passed out of the House Commerce Committee last week, which is scheduled for a floor vote in the House tomorrow. And they’ll probably try to get more net-neutrality restrictions through floor amendments. But others worried that the language in the bill is actually worse than nothing because at least under the status quo the Federal Communications Commission has fairly broad authority to field complaints and take action should a broadband provider behave in an abusive manner.

And, of course, broadband providers want no restriction at all on their ability to enter freely into contracts with content providers. And they have a point. Onerous restrictions would quite likely preclude new business models designed to give consumers new products and services. And if we’re not careful we could end up with net-neutrality regulations that are actually harmful.

For instance, if broadband companies are legally precluded from prioritizing Internet traffic, might we someday read the horror story of fire and police departments not being able to get through on their voice over Internet protocol phones because too much traffic was being tied up by men downloading the Victoria’s Secret fashion show?

Don’t laugh — as more and more critical communication moves to the Internet it will be absolutely necessary for broadband providers to prioritize traffic. First responders, hospitals and other key infrastructure elements will need access to the equivalent of HOV lanes on the Internet, to ensure that urgent communications get where they need to go as quickly as possible.

So, at this point in the broadband rollout, where we don’t even know if such regulations are going to be necessary, what’s wrong with doing nothing — at least not now? After all, it’s likely that these companies know that their customers will not tolerate practices that discriminate against customer choice.

It seems reasonable to take a go-slow approach to net neutrality, rather than legislating a solution in search of a problem.

This is the also the model we used on Internet taxation. When the Internet was still young, there were calls to allow Internet transactions to be taxed. The concern was that brick-and-mortar businesses were going to be devastated by online competition unfairly favored by a lack of sales taxes and that state revenues would plummet. But Congress wisely decided to hold off on such taxation and observe the development of the Internet without burdening it.

And the feared damage has simply not occurred. Brick-and-mortar businesses have adapted to compete with online competition, and states are flush with revenue.

It seems reasonable to adopt a similar “first, do no harm” model for net neutrality as well. Without net-neutrality regulations, government doesn’t go away. It just doesn’t get in the way.


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posted by David at 3:46 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (1) ::

Deficit Shrinks

MyWayNews

President Bush touted new deficit figures Tuesday showing considerable improvement upon earlier administration predictions, saying it shows the wisdom of his tax cuts.

Bush himself announced the figures - a task that for the most part has been left to lower-ranking administration officials in the past. The new figures show the deficit for the budget year ending Sept. 30 will be $296 billion - much better than the $423 billion that Bush predicted in February and a slight improvement over 2005.

Bush said the improvement is due to tax cuts he pushed in 2001 and 2003 and his clampdown on domestic agencies funded by Congress.

"These tax cuts left nearly $1.1 trillion in the hands of American workers and families and small business owners. And they used this money to help fuel an economic resurgence that's now in its 18th quarter," Bush said. "Economic growth fueled by tax relief has sent our tax revenues soaring."

Impressive profits and big income gains by the wealthy are largely responsible for the surge in revenues and, in turn, the deficit drop.

However, the results are less impressive when compared to the $318 billion deficit posted last fall for fiscal 2005. Despite strong revenues, the high costs of the Iraq war and Gulf Coast hurricane relief have weighed on the deficit - as have higher interest payments paid on the national debt.

The deficit for next year would ease back up to $339 billion, the White House predicted. It would drop to $188 billion in 2008.

"The 2006 deficit may be a bit lower, but it represents a $600 billion swing from the surplus projected in 2001. And a deficit of $296 billion is still a large deficit. In nominal terms, its one of the four largest in history," said Rep. John Spratt Jr. of South Carolina, top Democrat on the Budget Committee.

"Let's not boast about a $300 billion deficit," said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. "Any statistic you look at recognizes the rich in America are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer and the middle class is getting squeezed."

Revenues are running $115 billion greater than expected earlier this year, the White House said, reflecting particularly strong growth in taxes paid on corporate profits and income taxes paid by wealthier people and small businessmen who pay taxes quarterly instead of having them withheld by employers.

Taxes paid by individuals are growing at an 11 percent rate, the White House says, while corporate taxes are rising at a 19 percent rate.

"Bold pro-growth tax policies enacted by Congress and the president have sparked unprecedented economic growth," said Senate Budget Committee Chairman Judd Gregg, R-N.H.

But Gregg and budget experts across the spectrum say the real challenge lies ahead, when the retirement of the baby boomers threatens to swamp Social Security and the Medicare health plan for the aged.

For his part, Bush reiterated that Congress should enact the line-item veto to help him crack down on wasteful spending passed by Congress.

The economy is estimated to grow at a 3.5 percent rate in real terms, a slight slowdown from the 5.6 percent rate of the first quarter of the year.

"We've had extraordinarily good profit growth, and when you have better profit growth than wage growth you tend to have windfall tax revenues because taxes on profits are higher than taxes on wages," said Diane Swonk, chief economist for Mesirow Financial, a Chicago-based financial services firm.

Swonk predicted that the unexpected revenue surge would ease around the end of the year as profits peak.

Bush has had few opportunities to boast about the deficit over the course of his time in office. He inherited in 2001 a surplus estimated by both White House and congressional forecasters at $5.6 trillion over the subsequent decade, and it quickly dwindled.

Those faulty estimates assumed the late-1990s revenue boom - fueled by the stock market and dot.com booms - would continue. But that bubble burst, and a recession and the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks started a flow of red ink. Several rounds of tax cuts, including Bush's signature $1.35 trillion tax cut in 2001, also contributed to the return to deficits four years ago after four years of budget surpluses.

Some budget experts say the steep rise in tax receipts looks more impressive than it really is since revenues are bouncing back from a three-year decline during Bush's first term, drops not seen since the Great Depression.

"The current so-called revenue surge is merely restoring revenues to where they were half a decade ago," said Robert Greenstein, executive director of the liberal-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities think tank. That's after accounting for inflation and population growth.

Still, the new figures allowed Bush to claim that he will meet his promise, made in early 2004, that he will cut the deficit in half by the end of his second term. Bush's deficit-halving promise was based on 2004 estimates projecting a $521 billion deficit for the 2004 budget year, setting the goal of $260 billion.


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posted by David at 3:36 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (0) ::

Landfill Moratorium Gets Committee Approval

WRAL

A Senate committee Wednesday unanimously approved an 18-month moratorium on new landfills to give state officials time to study the impact of solid waste disposal is having on North Carolina.

Waste management businesses are planning four major landfills around the state, which have the potential to double North Carolina's waste capacity.

"We all know that landfills are an integral part of the state and of economic growth," said Sen. Clark Jenkins, D-Edgecombe, the bill's sponsor. "However, we've got to take a look at these mega-landfills before we move forward."

One facility in Camden County would take in 10,000 tons of garbage each day from all along the East Coast and as far away as Michigan. Currently, the state landfill with the highest volume of waste is the Charlotte Motor Speedway facility, which takes in about 3,500 tons per day.

Elizabeth Self, a lobbyist for the environmental advocacy group Sierra Club, said the new projects would turn North Carolina, which is now a net exporter of trash, into the fourth largest waste importing state.

"North Carolina is poised to become the destination of choice for trash along the East Coast of the United States," said Jim Stephenson, policy director for the North Carolina Coastal Federation, an environmental group concerned with issues along the waterfront. "These mega landfills pose serious environmental, ecological and economic impacts."

All the major facilities -- in Camden, Brunswick, Hyde and Columbus Counties -- are currently under review.

While House Speaker Jim Black has said representatives will consider the proposal, he questioned the state's decision to hault existing reviews.

"There's some companies that have made significant investment in North Carolina and we let them get pretty far along (in the process of planning a new landfill)," Black said last week. "And if you pass a moratorium ... there may be some legally jeopardy there."

And while landfill opponents said the trash could contaminate groundwater supplies and harm fragile ecosystems, Greg Peverall, a consultant for Waste Management, said the landfills instead protect the environment by safely storing trash. He added that a number of North Carolina landfills will reach capacity over the next decade.

Dexter Matthews, the director of waste management for North Carolina's Department of Natural Resources, said the bill's exceptions allow existing landfills to expand, which will help the state meet its needs during the moratorium.

The Senate, which is expected to bring the bill to the floor Thursday, originally wanted to add the landfill moratorium in the budget.

"We're talking about some real severe implications with these landfills," Jenkins said. "We have to consider those implications."


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posted by David at 3:32 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (0) ::

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Congress, Really Looking Out For Us

Our US Congress is debating on rather or not to ban online gambling. This is much more important then taxes, terrorist and the bloated mass of bureaucracy trying to run our lives to protect us from ourselves.


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posted by David at 2:26 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (3) ::

Judge Says Search of Jefferson's Office Was A OK

The Times-Picayune

Federal agents conducting a criminal investigation of U.S. Rep. William Jefferson were entitled to raid his congressional office, a federal judge ruled Monday, and prosecutors can immediately begin reviewing seized material, including the computer hard drives seized from the congressman and his staff.

The May 20-21 search, the first ever of a congressional office, was carried out as part of a nearly 16-month political corruption probe that has targeted the eight-term New Orleans Democrat. It had been challenged by attorneys for Jefferson and by House leaders of both parties who argued that the search was unnecessary to advance the investigation and that it violated the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches and the Speech or Debate Clause of the Constitution.

But Chief U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan, in a 28-page ruling, rejected all the arguments, saying their theories, if carried to their logical conclusion, would allow members of Congress to hide evidence of criminal activities.

"Congressman Jefferson's interpretation of the speech or debate privilege would have the effect of converting every congressional office into a taxpayer-subsidized sanctuary for crime," said Hogan, who had approved the search warrant for the May 20-21 search of Jefferson's office.

Jefferson's attorney, Robert Trout, vowed to appeal Hogan's ruling, but the fact that the judge, an appointee of President Reagan, said the material can be reviewed immediately by the Justice Department may indicate he won't be willing to stay his ruling during what could be a lengthy appeals process. Law enforcement officials have said they would expect a decision by a Virginia grand jury on whether to indict Jefferson fairly soon after the material taken from the office is made available.

Hogan rejected the contention by Jefferson's attorneys that the search wasn't necessary because the Department of Justice had not exhausted less intrusive approaches to obtaining the evidence and that the FBI agents had taken privileged material related to Jefferson's legislative duties.

"While the search here entailed an invasion somewhat greater than usual because it took place in a congressional office certain to contain privileged legislative material, the government has demonstrated a compelling need to conduct the search in relation to a criminal investigation involving very serious crimes and has been unable to obtain the evidence sought through any other reasonable means," Hogan ruled.

Separation of powers

As to whether the search violated the separation of powers, as argued by Jefferson's attorneys, Hogan said he actually found the opposite to be the case.

"Rather, the principle of the separation of powers is threatened by the position that the Legislative branch enjoys the unilateral and unreviewable power to invoke an absolute privilege, thus making it immune from the ordinary criminal process of a validly issued search warrant," Hogan said.

Trout, Jefferson's attorney, vowed to appeal, and that appeal is expected to be filed today. Initially, it's likely that the appeal would be heard by a three-judge panel of U.S. District Court, and after that panel's ruling, the matter could come before the U.S. Supreme Court.

'Unprecedented' raid

Trout said the raid "was unprecedented, unnecessary and unconstitutional."

"In this case, 15 FBI agents spent 18 hours looking at every piece of paper in the congressman's office, and they carted away his computer hard drive as well as the hard drives of every single member of his staff," Trout said. "A bipartisan group of House leaders joined us in court to argue that these procedures were in direct violation of the Speech or Debate Clause of the Constitution, which the Framers specifically designed to protect legislators from intimidation by the legislative and judicial branches. While a congressman is not above the law, the executive branch must also follow the law."

Hogan said it is true that members of Congress, under the Speech or Debate Clause of the Constitution, may not be questioned by a member of the executive branch, including federal prosecutors, for their legislative work. But that's not what happened, he said.

"No one argues that the warrant executed upon Congressman Jefferson's office was not properly administered," Hogan wrote. "Therefore, there was no impermissible intrusion on the Legislature. The fact that some privileged material was incidentally captured by the search does not constitute an unlawful intrusion."

The Justice Department has been investigating Jefferson since March 2005. The major allegation is that he accepted payments in return for using his congressional position to assist a small Kentucky telecommunications company, iGate Inc., in getting Internet and cable television contracts in Nigeria and Ghana. The CEO of iGate, Vernon Jackson, one of two people to plead guilty in the probe, has said that he paid a company controlled by Jefferson's family more than $400,000.

Lori Mody, an iGate investor who has been cooperating with federal investigators and has worn a wire during meetings and telephone discussions with Jefferson, was videotaped handing the congressman a briefcase with $100,000, reportedly to be used as a bribe for the vice president of Nigeria. All but $10,000 of the money was later found in the freezer of Jefferson's Washington home.

Jefferson has said he has an honorable explanation for the allegations against him. He has not been charged in the case and predicts he ultimately will be cleared of any wrongdoing.

Pelosi's views

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who led the move to strip Jefferson of his seat on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee because of the allegations against him, said the ruling shows that "no one is above the law."

Still, Pelosi, who challenged the raid along with House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., continued to question the way the raid was carried out without allowing a representative of the House counsel's office to observe.

"This particular search could have been conducted in a manner that fully protected the ability of the prosecutors to obtain the evidence needed to do their job while preserving constitutional principles," she said.

In his ruling, Hogan said there is no provision in federal rules for search warrants that allow someone to observe the search. Pelosi and a Department of Justice spokesman said discussions continue on procedures that both sides would agree to follow in any future raid of a congressional office.

"We are pleased with this decision, which allows us to move forward in this investigation using the documents that the court has concluded were lawfully obtained," said Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse. "At the same time, we will also continue our discussions with Congress about harmonizing policies and procedures for possible future searches."


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posted by David at 2:23 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (3) ::

Our State Legislature Has Been Busy

The Senate has signed onto the House bill that will make it so that you as an adult have to buckle up even in the back seat. The bill is off to the governor's desk. No word yet on the thousands of kids that ride in state owned buses back and forth to state owned schools without seatbelts. My question still is, is it for safety or for money?

Also this week with a lot of finger pointing and name calling the Senate 49-0 (after a second call, when lt governor Purdue refused to break a tie) passed the House version of the pledge bill. The House pledge bill allowed time each school day for the Pledge of Allegiance to be recited (if a student wanted to say it). The Senate republicians wanted this plus a time devoted to civics and NC symbology. Off to the governor's desk it goes.

The Senate also has passed a ban on third party checks and incomplete checks for campaign contributions. They also made it so that anyone donating over $50 will be revealed.

The North Carolina Medical Board has been granted more powers on what they can to do doctors that don't follow board approved methods of treatment.

NC minimum wage will be raised for the first time in 10 years. Easley is waiting for this one to cross his desk. So while low wage workers will gain $1 an hour their employers will loose money and this lost will most likely be passed onto the consumer or employees in the form of layoffs or cutbacks on benefits. Way to go!

And let's not forget that 1 week after the start of the fiscal year Easley has signed our state's huge $18.9 billion budget! Bureaucracy lives on in NC.


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posted by David at 1:53 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (3) ::

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Laughable

According to MediaDailyNewsABC execs don't think people will mind if you can't fast forward commericals on future DVRs.


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posted by David at 3:23 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (1) ::

The 2004 State Constititional Amendment Bites Again

News & Observer

State officials gave 375 law enforcement agencies $2.4 million that should have gone to schools from North Carolina's tax on illegal drugs, and legislators are requiring that it be repaid.

Revenue Department spokeswoman Kim Brooks said the error was an oversight. The department was uncertain about a 2005 ruling by the state Supreme Court on whether fines went to schools.

"It's something that happened, and it's something that we're going to correct," Brooks said.

The ruling said penalties on the drug tax should be paid to schools, and the tax and interest could be divided with the state and law enforcement agencies.

Legislators voted to require that the department repay the schools with its own funds and that it must repay itself by withholding money from law enforcement agencies.

"This is a way to correct a mistake that was made," said state Sen. Kay Hagan, a Democrat from Guilford County.

The largest overpayment was $342,000 to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police, and the smallest was 13 cents to the Andrews Police Department.

My question is, how is APD going to raise 13 cents?


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posted by David at 3:16 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (2) ::

Blogger Post Template

The News & Observer reports that our state Senate has passed a bill that limits 527 groups political power.


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posted by David at 3:13 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (3) ::

Wal-Mart Sues NC Over Taxes

WRAL

Wal-Mart has sued the state of North Carolina, contending it paid $30.2 million too much in corporate income tax because the state combined income from Wal-Mart with 112 stores in the state and two separate businesses.

The lawsuit was filed in Wake County Superior Court. The state has filed a request to dismiss the lawsuit, but had no comment on the case.

The corporation said the state shouldn't have combined income taxes on Wal-Mart, Wal-Mart Real Estate Business Trust and Wal-Mart Property Co.

Wal-Mart attorney Jack Cummings said he also has filed a lawsuit seeking a $3.5 million refund for Sam's Club stores in North Carolina.

The lawsuit said Wal-Mart Property didn't conduct business in the state.


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posted by David at 3:11 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (4) ::

Why To Go New York

NewsMax

New York's Department of Motor Vehicles can require immigrants to prove they are in this country legally before allowing them to have driver's licenses, a state appeals court ruled.

The 5-0 ruling Thursday by the Appellate Division in Manhattan reversed a decision by Justice Karen S. Smith, who ordered the DMV last year to stop denying driver's licenses to immigrants who didn't have Social Security numbers or proof they were legal.

In dismissing the illegal immigrants' complaint, the appeals court said Smith had erred in barring the identity procedures DMV Commissioner Raymond Martinez put in place and said they were "within his authority and enforceable."

The court noted cases in which one Social Security number was used to get licenses for 57 people and another in which one taxi driver used two numbers to get two licenses - one for insurance and the other for traffic tickets.

Now if only our own state will do this.


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posted by David at 3:07 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (0) ::

Friday, July 07, 2006

Seat Belt Law, Safety or Greed?

The legislature has a bill that makes it the law for everyone in a car to buckle up, even adults in the backseat. They say it's to make it safer to drive and to protect the driver. My question is what about all the kids that ride on state owned school busses twice a day without a selt belt? Is it for safety or to increase the number selt belt tickets written?


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posted by David at 5:36 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (4) ::

House Passes Budget

WRAL

An $18.9 billion state spending plan is headed to Gov. Mike Easley on Thursday after the General Assembly gave final approval to a budget that cuts some taxes, spends more on education and sets aside money for the next crisis.

In approving the budget bill for the second time in as many days, the House voted 82-31 and the Senate 31-15 to spend nearly 10 percent more than last year, although more than $560 million of the $1.7 billion increase is set aside in reserve.

The rest goes toward large state employee and teacher raises, $206 million in pay-as-you-go construction and $163 million for more than 27,000 new students expected this fall.

The Democratic-led Legislature also used more than $160 million to begin reducing a pair of "temporary" tax increases first approved in 2001 and extended twice.

A huge budget surplus for the previous fiscal year -- the largest as a percentage of the budget in at least 35 years -- gave budget-writers the confidence to begin phasing out a half-penny increase in the sales tax and a 0.5 percent increase in the individual income tax.

Easley has not said yet whether he will sign the bill into law, but he praised the budget when it emerged from final negotiations late last week, especially its education programs.

I'm sure Easley did praise it since it's 1 10% growth in the size of our large bloated state government.


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posted by David at 5:31 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (2) ::

Duke Lacrosse Hearings Are Monday

WRAL

The hearing date for three players charged in the Duke lacrosse rape case has been moved up.

The hearing has been changed from Thursday, July 20 to Monday, July 17 at 2:30 p.m. Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty and David Evans have been charged with rape and kidnapping during an off-campus party in March. Those players do not have to appear in court for the hearing.

Another hearing involving members of the Duke lacrosse team will take place Monday.

Lawyers will be in court to argue that District Attorney Mike Nifong should not be given personal information regarding players who were not charged in the case.

Nifong had asked to get the players' home addresses, along with information from their Duke University access passes.


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posted by David at 5:29 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (2) ::

NC Senate Goofs On Minimum Wage

WRAL

With Gov. Mike Easley's signature, the minimum wage increase will become law to $6.15 an hour. The increase will become effective on January 1, 2007. The last time the state's minimum wage was increased was in 1997.

Another sad day in NC politics.


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posted by David at 5:28 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (0) ::

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Searchable Federal Spending Database

News & Observer

Exasperated by his party's failure to cut government spending, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., is seeking cyberhelp.

Coburn wants to create a public database, searchable over the Internet, that would list most government contracts and grants -- exposing hundreds of billions in annual spending to instant desktop view.

Type in "Halliburton," the military contractor, or "Sierra Club," the environmental group, for example, and a search engine would show all the federal money they receive. A search for the words "Alaska" and "bridges" would expose a certain $223 million span to Gravina Island (population 50) that critics call the Bridge to Nowhere.

While advocating for openness, Coburn is also placing a philosophical bet that the more the public learns about federal spending, the less it will want.

I like this idea a lot.


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posted by David at 3:02 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (4) ::

14 Ex-legislators May Get Pension Raise

News & Observer

Fourteen former state lawmakers, including a U.S. congressman and a former state auditor, could see their retirement pay increase up to 88 percent if a pending bill becomes law.

The estimated cost to taxpayers could be as much as $2.1 million.

The big winner appears to be N.C. Court of Appeals Judge Bob Hunter, who could see about $39,000 more each year. The runners-up are Buncombe Superior Court Judge Dennis Winner, who could see a jump of about $21,500, and former state Sen. James Richard Conder, D-Richmond County, who could get $20,000.

The 14 were excluded three years ago when legislators beefed up retirement pay for colleagues who had also been state employees or judges at least five years.

Lawmakers have their own retirement system, but it is the least lucrative of the state's three plans, which include one for state employees and teachers and another for judges.

Lawmakers, by transferring their years as part-time public servants to one of the other retirement plans, reaped thousands.

The new bill would allow the 14 people to get on board if they return legislative retirement pay they've already gotten. Despite the repayments, taxpayers could be on the hook for more than $2 million.


Former five-term Rep. Ruth E. Cook, a Raleigh Democrat, says she lobbied lawmakers to introduce the bill because she believes it is not fair that she and the 13 others are being excluded. "We're being penalized," Cook said last week.

Seems to me that life ain't fair.

"I have no idea what you're talking about," said former state Rep. Judy Frances Hunt, a Watauga County Democrat and former utilities commissioner.

While aware of the issue, Hunt said, "I never really worked on it because I felt so grateful for being a commissioner. I couldn't imagine asking legislators to do anything more for me." She added: "I was just grateful to get the retirement I was getting."

This is what a good public servant should say.


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posted by David at 2:59 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (1) ::

Bill Graham Speaks Out Against Illegals

WRAL

McLennan said Graham, with the guidance of former Raleigh Mayor Tom Fetzer, has a "knack" for jumping on hot-button issues. His latest target: illegal immigration.

A statewide media blitz began Monday that calls for a tougher stance on illegal immigrants that includes legislation. Graham, chairman of North Carolina Conservatives United, said illegal immigration is burdening taxpayers and jeopardizing the integrity of the state's elections.

As you may know I supported Bill's gas tax fight and I support him in this too.


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posted by David at 2:51 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (5) ::

State Budget Goes To the Governor's Desk

A few highligts are:

* 5.5% pay increase for state employees with teachers getting another 2.5% pay increase.

* Capping of Medicaid expenses paid by counties was locked at 2006 fiscal rate. Also $34 million is to be didivided by the counties with large populations on the 'caid' (Columbus County is one of them with over 25% of our residents eligible).

* The state sales tax will drop to 4.25% from 4.5% (in 2001 the state had temporary sales tax increase of a half cent to help in hard times. This was suppose to be gone in '03. So why in '06 after having a surplus of do they only drop it a quarter cent?). Our sales tax is now 6.75% down from 7%.

* Can't find any cuts in it, but I don't see waste being added to the budget.


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posted by David at 2:47 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (2) ::

Tax Rate Hike For Columbus County

The News Reporter

Property owners will pay more taxes under a county budget approved 6 to 1 on Friday, just one day before the July 1 deadline.

The official budget calls for a tax increase of 3.5 cents per $100 value. The rate changes from 73 cents to 76.5 cents per $100 value. Commissioner James Prevatte was the sole opponent of a complex motion for the budget that included a tax increase. Other motions that kept the tax rate steady all died.

Residents with property valued at $100,000 will pay about $765 in property taxes –up $35 from last year. The figure does not include the average fire tax of 10 cents per $100 value or special water taxes in districts 2 and 3.

The new tax rate is estimated to generate an additional $1.8 million. Commissioners hope cutting “non-essential” spending by 5 percent across the board will generate the additional $1.8 million to balance the budget without going into the savings account called the undesignated fund balance.

To balance the budget, about $3.9 million was needed. The Health Department contributed $1 million –primarily from home health revenue, that left $2.9 million to be taken from fund balance.

Taking from the fund balance, not reconciled since September 2005, was risky. No one was sure of the amount available after deductions of $2 million to correct a DSS day care funding error, $1 million for under-budgeted Medicaid, and $1 million for a solid waste shortfall, plus departments that may have overspent their budgets, officials said.

The agreed tax rate was a compromise after a number of different proposals.

County Manager Jim Varner guesses there is $5 million in the fund balance. In fiscal 2004-2005, $12 million was in the fund, according to retired finance officer Gail Godwin, who was asked to help with the budget dilemma.

The unknown fund balance figure left commissioners at playing chance.

“We may zero out in December,” Memory warned of raiding the fund that plays a big role in the county’s ability to borrow money. Memory proposed the tax increase, a compromise to a suggestion of raising it as much as 7 cents. He was opposed to added positions that he said could be added later if the financial situation allowed it.

“I’m willing to take that chance,” said Commissioner Amon McKenzie, “I really do believe the fund balance is in pretty good shape.” McKenzie was in favor of the new positions but not the tax increase.

More from this article in the extended section.

Rate increases

Water districts 2 and 3 will see a $3 rate increase. The minimum bill rises from $22 to $25 per month.

Solid waste user fees increase to offset the estimated $450,000 fuel surcharge. Rates increase from $177 to $193 for county residents and from $90.48 to $106 for municipalities.

The new fees are based on a 96 percent collection rate. The current collection rate is 81 percent.

Godwin said the fiscal 2004-2005 solid waste shortfall was fuel surcharges of $400,000 and uncollected user fees in the amount of $600,000.

Positions and salary

Funding for the Department of Social Services and the Sheriff’s department goes up to provide for added positions.

Five positions related to the new jail are budgeted at $113,610. Three bailiff positions are appropriated at $100,000. The sheriff’s department will use bailiff funds to pay overtime, Chairman Kip Godwin said.

Social Services is allotted eight new positions at $174,361. One-half will be reimbursed by the state, Godwin said.

County employees receive a 3 percent salary increase and 2 percent 401k contributions.

Hire accounting firm

The administration staff is to “immediately seek” an accounting firm with government experience to bring its books in order, under a recommendation made part of the adopted motion.

Other action

Varner was appointed county manager. He has been the interim manager since September 2005.

The one-year contract draft provides that Varner’s base salary is $81,000 a year.
Under the terms, he will be provided a vehicle “when available,” county benefits, and 1,208 hours of accrued sick time.

The county salary schedule has been amended to meet state compliance. The new schedule lists a minimum, mid-point, and maximum salary for grades 50 to 88.

The grade-50 salary range is from $11,327 to $23,181. The grade-88 salary range is from $73,991 to $151,416.

Department heads must get prior approval from the county manager before offering new employees a salary above the minimum. This includes salary increases for new employees after probationary periods.

Department heads are not allowed to give increases above 2.5 percent without approval.

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posted by David at 2:10 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (2) ::

Sunday, July 02, 2006

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Charlie Daniels

Sad Day

It is a sad day in America when things have become so political
that when a murdering monster like al Zarqawi is done away with the Democrats act as if it means absolutely nothing just because it was done under a Republican administration.

If it had happened under Bill Clinton they would have been jumping over the Washington Monument. I am so disgusted with Harry Reid and his ilk who stand back and make mealy mouthed statements criticizing how the war is being fought and when some headway is obviously made they act as if nothing had happened.

Men and women risked their lives to put an end to one of the world’s most vicious terrorists and they are so politically bent and warped they can’t even give them credit for it. You people disgust me beyond words.

It’s almost as if these people would be willing to lose the war just so they can win political points and that’s just downright sickening. You criticize every move the military makes regardless of how right it is, all they’re concerned with is gaining seats in the Senate and the House and they don’t care how much they encourage the terrorists.

Not agreeing with the war in Iraq is every American’s right but to be so committed to a political agenda that you can’t even acknowledge a victory is downright pitiful and this bunch must have to cover the mirrors in their bathrooms.

You’re disgusting guys, you’re a do nothing Senate and from the Immigration bill you guys tried to stuff down our throats maybe it’s a good thing you don’t get anything done. I wish that everyone of you lily-livered, milquetoast, gonadless, spineless, self-serving, do- nothing knot heads would have to come home and get a real job.

In case you’ve forgotten you’re supposed to be serving we the people not your confounded political party, you’re supposed to be taking care of the business of the country, not pandering for votes.

I just wish that you could see yourselves through the eyes of the people you’re supposed to be serving. You’re doing a bad job and you all deserve to be fired. You waste our money on your silly pork barrel junk. You squander our security for political reasons and you absolutely refuse to do anything about the sieve our southern border has turned into.

I have three suggestions for you.

1. Fix the border
2. Fix the border
3. Fix the border

If the dam is leaking do you go around dipping water out of the lake with a spoon? Well the dam is leaking, in fact it’s breaking and you people sit around with your fingers up your nose or some other orifice and refuse to do anything about it.

The military has done away with one of the world’s most dangerous terrorists and all you want to talk about is what has gone wrong.

The price of gasoline is going through the roof and you don’t have the guts to stand up to the environmental extremists so we can harvest our own oil and build the refineries to process it.

And you have the nerve to vote yourselves a pay raise?

Pray for our troops.

What do you think?

God Bless America

Charlie Daniels
June 30, 2006

I ran across that tonight and thought it was right on the mark.


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posted by David at 10:04 PM :: Permalink :: Comments (4) ::

My Two Cents: Flag Burning

I know I'm little late on this issue this year but better late then never.

I did not support the constitutional ban on flag burning. I do believe it is a first amendment protected activity. I don't see myself burning the flag in protest, but that doesn't mean I want to take that right from someone else. I do support burning the flag as the proper way to dispose of an old tattered flag. Old Glory is mistreated everyday, worn tattered flags hanging in a rainstorm is not showing the proper respect it is due. Also the flag isn't suppose to be used on clothes or as advertisment but it is everyday. I believe that proper flag handleing should be taught in civics class and that everyone of us should do our best to make sure the flag is treated with respect.


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posted by David at 1:26 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (87) ::

NC House Ignores The People

The News & Observer

A House committee on Tuesday refused to consider a constitutional amendment that would ban the use of eminent domain for the sake of economic development, instead sending it to another committee.

Just weeks after approving a regular bill on the same issue, seven Democratic lawmakers decided in a partisan vote to move the constitutional provision to the more powerful rules committee.

"No reason has yet to be given as to why people should not be protected in the constitution," said Rep. Paul Stam, a Wake County Republican and the architect of the constitutional amendment.

Rep. Mickey Michaux, a Durham Democrat who is chairman of the House Rules Committee, called the constitutional amendment "done."

"We don't like to tinker with the constitution unless it's absolutely necessary," said Michaux, echoing the arguments of Democrats who changed their position in committee. "The changes in statutes that we already passed make the law very clear."

Michaux was referring to another eminent domain measure, which the House unanimously approved earlier in the month. But the Senate on Monday took the bill to the floor only to send it back to committee, with Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand asking about the proposal's purpose.

While Rand later said the bill will likely come to the floor before the end of the short session, Republicans fear the measure won't make it to the governor.

Yes a law was passed that patched NC eminent domain for a while. But anyone who follows NC politics knows how fast our leadership will change a law to fit thier current mood. An amendment to our state constitution is needed to truely protect property rights in NC. Put the issue before the people and let us decide what's best for us.


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posted by David at 12:53 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (1) ::

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Supreme Court Gito Decision

I believe the Supreme Court made a bad decision the other. My views are sumed up pretty good in this article at RealClearPolitics. The jest of it is in these 3 paragraphs:

There you have it. We can now turn to international common law to find out what our laws require. Who better than the Iraqis and North Koreans, Khaddafi's Libya, Mugabe's Zimbabwe and Chavez's Venezuela to tell us what our laws command? That's the Court's reading of the law. To make matters worse, by making Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions (the linchpin of this analysis) both legally enforceable and dependent on international common law, the Court has opened a door to criminal liability for American citizens, soldiers, and government officials on terms we cannot predict and would never approve.

The President may not have made perfect choices on the procedures used for these trials. He may not have perfectly balanced concerns over fair process with concerns over national security. But the President, not the Court, has expertise on this subject.

Justice Breyer's concurrence says that Congress didn't give the President a blank check to fight the war on terror. But the Constitution also doesn't give the justices a blank check to write the law. It especially doesn't give them a check drawn on a foreign bank.


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posted by David at 3:48 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (0) ::

Columbus County Budget Woes

The News Reporter

This time, the million-dollar question is worth a little more.

The county is reaching into an unknown fund balance hoping to pull $2.9 million out of it to balance the fiscal 2006-2007 budget and hold the tax rate steady at 73 cents per $100 value.

But with a fiscal 2005-2006 budget that has not been reconciled since Sept. 2005, Interim County Manager Jim Varner is not certain the money is there.

The budget deadline is Saturday, and despite much discussion at a special called meeting on Monday night that was recessed and continued on Wednesday night, commissioners have not approved the budget or set the tax rate.

They were not won over with the suggestion they do away with solid waste fees to customers and increase the tax rate by 10 cent per $100 value either.

Solid waste fee increases to cover fuel surcharges were needed, Varner said. County resident fees would increase from $177 to $193 a year. Municipality resident fees would increase from $90.48 to $106 a year.

Varner compared current tax rates with the solid waste fees at the increased rate and the suggested 83 cent tax rate without the solid waste fee to customers.

Figures showed that residents with property values under $200,000 paying an 83 cent tax and fire tax of 10 cents would save money by not having to pay the solid waste fee.

A county taxpayer with a property value of $100,000 with the $193 solid waste fee would pay $1,023 at the current tax rate. Under the 83-cent tax rate and no solid waste fee, that same taxpayer would pay $930.

While the proposal would benefit taxpayers in the brackets under $200,000, many commissioners questioned the burden it would place on those above the bracket and especially farmers with large tracts of land.

“In municipalities, people are paying for disposal, not collection,” Memory said, insisting it was not fair to residents in the city of Whiteville, Town of Lake Waccamaw, Fair Bluff and other municipalities either.

“I see where it would save people money—but when you put in the paper we are going to raise taxes 10 cent they [taxpayers] are going to go ballistic,” James Prevatte said.

Hopes that state legislators will pass some form of Medicaid relief and free up some of the county budget still linger. A cap alone would save the county about $1.5 million next year, Varner said. But for most commissioners the reality is they cannot wait for Medicaid relief.

“I just don’t think we can count on Raleigh for anything,” Memory said.

“We don’t have enough ingredients to pass the budget,” commissioner Amon McKenzie insisted on Monday. He didn’t get the ingredients he was looking for at the Wednesday meeting either. McKenzie is one of many commissioners who suggested the county look into passing some kind of interim budget to determine fund balances and see if Medicaid relief is passed.

“Why couldn’t we pass an interim budget until we see what Raleigh is going to do?” commissioner David Dutton asked.

Chairman Kipling Godwin said even with $1.2 million in the house budget for Medicaid relief the county budget would still be more than $1 million short.

“It’s an accounting nightmare when you do an interim budget,” Varner cautioned.

“We are already in an accounting nightmare,” Godwin responded.

The next budget meeting is planned for 8:30 a.m. on Friday in the commission chambers.


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posted by David at 1:08 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (0) ::

More Drama From Our DSS

The News Reporter

DSS board ends spat over new member

By NICOLE CARTRETTE

The Columbus County Department of Social Services (DSS) board appointed Ruth Storms to the board in a 3 to 1 vote at a special called meeting Tuesday at DSS.

The appointment comes after a deadlock vote, 2 to 2, in consideration of Charles Hammond and Carlton Campbell for the seat left vacant by Pat Pascal who resigned in February.

Chairman Kenneth Skipper, and board members Amon McKenzie and Guillermo Noguera voted in favor of Storms. Michael Lewis was opposed.

Process questioned

McKenzie, a DSS board member and county commissioner, said the board “agreed to go back and accept resumes of a female” after public input at a June 13 meeting. Social Services Director Marva Scott, who transcribes the minutes from a recorder and has done so since Paschal resigned, indicated that the board agreed to accept more resumes.

Lewis questioned the legality of the decision to start the appointment process over at the Tuesday meeting and said he did not agree with the board’s decision.

Lewis cited a section of N.C. General Statutes 108A that addresses Social Services. A portion of the statute reads: “If a majority of the four are unable to agree upon the fifth member, the senior regular superior court judge of the county shall make the selection.”

Board attorney Don Viets said the decision was proper if the majority of the board was in agreement.

Official minutes from the meeting in question are not available because the board had not reviewed and adopted the minutes, Viets indicated. “Having not been approved, I don’t know that they are really official minutes or anything,” Viets said.

McKenzie said that because Tuesday’s meeting was not a regular meeting the adoption of minutes was not planned.

The unofficial minutes of the June 13 meeting, although requested, were not provided to The News Reporter. The News Reporter believes the minutes are a public document and plans to make a formal request for them.

Storms’ background

Storms is a registered nurse with an extensive background in public health, her resume indicates. She is a 1958 diploma graduate RN from the Brooklyn Hospital. She has a BSN from UNC-Charlotte, an MS in health administration from Central Michigan University, and a certificate in Parish Nursing from Duke University.

Storms served as the Columbus County Health Department director of nursing from 1987 to 1992. Prior to that she worked as pediatric nurse practitioner with the county. From September 1992 to January 1996 Storms was a public health nurse manager for the Manillaq Association in Kotzebue, Alaska.

From July 1996 to August 2004 she served as a school nurse consultant for the state of North Carolina, assisting school nurses in 17 county school districts with protocols, policies and procedures and developing care plans for students.

Storms is former president and current secretary for the District 16 North Carolina Nurses Association, a member of Healthy Carolinians, and a volunteer parish nurse.

Board member duties

The county board of social services selects the director of social services. It advises county authorities about policies to improve community social conditions, consults with the director about office problems, and assists the director in budget planning and administration to the board of county commissioners, according to N.C. general statute 108A-9.

Members serve three-year terms, limited to two consecutive terms. County commissioners elected to the DSS board are not subject to the consecutive terms rule.

“Other such duties and responsibilities as the General Assembly, the Department of Health and Human Services or the Social Services Commission or the board of county commissioners” may be assigned to the DSS board also, according to the statute.

Members of the board have authority to inspect certain authorized records on file in the office of the director pertaining to applications for and provision of public assistance and social services.

The DSS board meets at least once per month at the DSS conference room that can be accessed from the parking lot behind DSS. The next meeting is scheduled for July 11 at 5:30 p.m.

Confrontation

In other matters, former DSS director Larry Moore complained that an announcement of Scott’s book signing to take place at the Carolyn T. High Memorial Library should not be posted at the front door of DSS. Moore indicated he had contacted County Manager Jim Varner about the matter.

“If some of our people have a problem with it, it shouldn’t be there,” Moore insisted. He added that he was glad Scott “had found time to write a book.”

Moore’s complaint resulted in a shouting match between him, Scott’s husband and others who took offense to his remarks.

Viets was approached by some present who felt Moore should be removed from the meeting. Viets explained it was a meeting open to the public.

Whiteville City Councilmember Harold Troy appeared on the scene after the confrontation and stated later that he believed Scott was unfairly the target of personal attacks.

Troy indicated the organizations sponsoring the event, the DREAM Center and others, sent posters to several businesses and agencies.

“I don’t think she should be maligned because of her desire to be an author,” Troy said.


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posted by David at 1:05 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (0) ::

Columbus County Budget

The News Reporter



To say that this has been a bizarre budget year for the county would be an understatement.

First, County Manager Jim Varner made the revelation Monday night that the county hasn’t reconciled its bank statement since September 2005 because of the injury and loss of a staff member. Because of inaction, the county doesn’t really know how much savings it has to help balance the budget. That’s beyond bizarre; it’s almost inconceivable.

Then Varner told the commissioners that they may want to consider a 10-cent property tax hike and do away with solid waste fees. Commissioner James Prevatte was right when he said many property owners would “go ballistic.”

The idea of doing away with solid waste fees and raising taxes by 10 cents is a bad one. Granted, the numbers would work better for those who don’t own property or have lower property values, but the effects of a 10-cent increase on business, industry and farmers who have more than just a handful of acres of land would be profound for many. A 10-cent leap in taxes couldn’t be good for industrial recruitment, either.

People who use services should help shoulder the cost. That’s a basic concept.

The notion that the collection rate on solid waste fees is so bad anyway that doing away with them would be acceptable is not acceptable and needs investigation and action.

Fiscal 2006-2007 was going to be a tough budget to prepare because of the uncertainty of Medicaid relief for counties, which is yet to be resolved, but the county still has a significant shortfall to cover. The county also isn’t sure how much it may have to pay in potential lawsuit liabilities.

Coupled with last year’s borrowing of $10 million – the maximum allowed by the state – and the already low savings account that no one apparently knows the exact figure for, the county will be forced to adopt its budget on the fly and with too many variables. That’s not good business.


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posted by David at 1:00 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (0) ::

300 NC National Guard Head South

WWAY TV 3

RALEIGH, N.C. Governor Easley is deploying 300 National Guard troops to patrol the U-S--Mexican border.
His office announced today that the 252nd Combined Arms Battalion will deploy to New Mexico for two weeks starting July 22nd.

The Fayetteville-based unit had been scheduled for regular training that week at Fort Bragg.

Easley says the deployment complies with a request from the U-S Department of Defense.

In May, an Easley spokesman questioned President Bush's policies on the Guard after Bush requested up to six-thousand National Guard troops be sent to the border.

Easley said the Guard already had an expanding role with frequent tours in Iraq and increasing domestic duties.

Easley now says he would prefer to keep the state's 12-thousand troops in North Carolina, one of the nation's most hurricane-prone states, but that Guard units are spread thin in western states fighting wildfires.


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posted by David at 12:49 AM :: Permalink :: Comments (0) ::