TWC: purging

From the people who brought you massive purges of voter rolls in Florida, Ohio and elsewhere, some helpful suggestions about North Carolina’s electoral system. Seems the feds think we have too many voters on the rolls and we ought to get to whacking some folks off.

That helpful federal advice comes from the Department of Justice’s Voting Rights Division, which last time we checked was having a little trouble explaining why some of its executives decided to violate long-running DOJ policy and intervene ahead of the vote in places with close elections. Read more

Catching up part three

Just about caught up now. . .

Crisis found
If this state could have planned a crisis in mental health, it likely could not have come up with a better scenario than that which is unfolding this summer.

The long-running, underfunded reform we’ve been promised has had its legs cut out from under it.

Mismanagement led to a loss of confidence in the legislature, led to a lack of money to do the job, led to cuts to programs, more mismanagement and now downright mistrust that the state can salvage the strategy of shifting to community-based systems and away from centralized hospitals. Read more

Catching up part two

More in the series of columns I got too busy to post.

Way sneaky
This has been a hard stretch to follow, but as near as I can tell, state Senate leaders have cleverly cornered GOP legislators by putting together a budget that offers up a nice range of tax breaks for high earners and businesses while underfunding soft-hearted issues like health care for kids. Nearly every GOP senator took the bait, which proved so tempting that when the bill got back to the House there was a stampede of elephants crossing the aisle.

House Minority Leader Skip Stam said he thought it was probably the best deal the party could get and urged support, setting up one of the more interesting concurrence votes the legislature has seen, along with the prospect that for the first time a governor might veto a budget bill.
At press time, House Dems were promising to stand firm, setting up, well, the usual budget process, which involves a giant committee, quiet promises and lots of pizza and Char-Grill burgers. Read more

Catching up part one

Behind in posting my columns (again). Ah newspaperin’. Keeps ya busy.

here ya go:

Halfway there – well sorta.
The release of the House budget followed in quick succession by the crossover deadline (even though it was extended) marks a traditional midpoint in the legislative session. But this year, it’s more of a scene setter for the debates and battles ahead.

For after meeting for more than a month together, House and Senate budget writers parted company about a month ago and began meeting separately.

Read more

AHEC/ Horace Williams hearings

As Ed might say, this from the day job:

Powerful testimony today from AHEC doctors and pilots about concerns over the move to RDU.

Dr. Bill Henry, chair of UNC’s pediatric cardiology division, set out the case against the move calling the university’s stance that it’s either Horace Williams or RDU “a false choice.”

Henry, noting that appearing at the legislature in opposition of the move to RDU was not a “career enhancing” move, said that while the  university says it has thoroughly looked at the issue, there are many who disagree with the conclusion that RDU is the right place for Medical Air. He encouraged legislators to ask the hard questions.

“Ask the people participating (in AHEC) and you’ll get a very different view,” he said.

University officials, led by Carolina North Executive Director Jack Evans and chief lobbyist Kevin Fitzgerald, reiterated the school’s position on the move and its support of AHEC. Pressed by Rep. Rick Glazier of Fayetteville, Evans seemed to leave the door open to opening the search for an another alternative.

……developing

Here’s the original story:

Legislature to hold AHEC/ Horace Williams hearing
By Kirk Ross
Staff Writer

University administrators, Area Health Education Centers officials and a host of physicians from UNC Hospitals will appear before a joint House and Senate committee today (Thursday) to review plans to close Horace Williams Airport and its impact on the university’s Medical Air program.

The North Carolina House and Senate appropriations subcommittees on Education and Health and Human Services called the hearing at the behest of House Speaker Joe Hackney, after some doctors recently reiterated their objection to plans to move flight operations for AHEC to Raleigh Durham International Airport, according to AHEC director Dr. Thomas Bacon.

Bacon said in an interview Wednesday afternoon that Hackney asked Orange County Rep. Verla Insko to convene the meeting after receiving objections from Dr. Bill Henry, chair of the Department of Pediatrics, Division of Pediatric Cardiology.

Bacon said Henry has been critical of the move.
“They’re the biggest users of the planes,” Bacon said. “The main concerns are over travel time and time taking off and landing.”

Bacon said that Henry and other doctors estimate the RDU base of operations could add one hour a day to their travel time to and from the airport, more than the time originally estimated by a consultant AHEC worked with to find the best spot for the move.

Bacon said AHEC and the university remain committed  to the move though, and have been working on plans for a new facility at RDU.

“We have no plans to go elsewhere,” Bacon said. “We’re totally focused on RDU.”

The hearings were part of a deal struck last session after some legislators resisted the closing of the airport, mostly out of concern about how the move to RDU would affect AHEC. A vigorous lobbying effort by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, which advocates on behalf of private pilots, also caught the ear of legislators.

The UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees passed a resolution in May of 2005 saying they would not close the airport and move AHEC’s Medical Air operations until they were ready to start the Carolina North project.
An analysis using Federal Aviation Authority standards done in the early stages of the planning for Carolina North said that the airport would conflict with the design and use for the buildings envisioned. Since then, university officials have indicated that the flat, already-paved airport grounds would be a prime spot for the early stages of Carolina North.

In March, the Board of Trustees approved a plan for construction of a new hangar and office space for Medical Air at RDU near an existing Department of Transportation facility. The project is expected to cost roughly $3.5 million.

In addition to Drs. Henry and Bacon, also scheduled to testify at the hearing are Kevin Fitzgerald, executive associate dean for finance and administration, UNC-School of Medicine; Carolina North executive director Jack Evans, pediatrics professor Dr. James Loehr, Dr. Marianne Muhlebach, Dr. Ali Calikoglu, Duke oncologist Dr. Linda Sutton, Medical Air Operations director Jim Hotelling, Medical Air chief pilot Alan Fearing and WCHL owner Jim Heavner, a pilot and plane owner who has been critical of the university’s move to close the airport.

Horace Williams hearings

A joint session of the House and Senate Appropriations Health and Humans Services subcommittee is going to hold the long-awaited hearing on the closing of Horace Williams Airport on Thursday morning.

Look for, perhaps, some real surprises. From the calendar:

APPROPRIATIONS 643 8:30 am
H.B. 73 Improve State Construction Process.
S.B. 1119 State Budget Act/Technical Correction.
APPROPRIATIONS/Education (JOINT) and 643 9:00 am
APPROPRIATIONS/Health and Human Services (JOINT)
Discussion on the planned closing of Horace Williams Airport.

Shaking my head

Just watched Headline Saturday and I’m sorry to say that it had one of the more in-depth segments on the real estate transfer tax debate. Sorry because it was horribly shallow.

The real estate transfer tax debate is an example of inside baseball in Raleigh having a detrimental effect on the rest of us.

Nothing but a bunch of hyperbole and scare tactics and talking points and a truly flaccid press standing on the sidelines playing on-the-one-hand-on-the-other-hand.

The big money people are trying to make it seem like they’re standing for the little folks — that they’re the only ones keeping big government from your wallet.

Here’s a couple of alleged facts I heard unchallenged:
– 81 percent of the public is opposed to a real estate transfer tax.
– The pay for cops in the Triangle is $17 an hour. (Well, yes, if you’re a rookie in Raleigh coming in around the minimum of the range.)
– The seller pays the tax. Well, that’s true, but are most sellers such idiots that they aren’t going to add the tax to the price of the house?

And why is it that Angie still has no last name. When is the N&O‘s truth in advertising squad going to tell us a little about this strong-willed southern gal. Has she really ‘heard an earfull?” Is she really driving around in that gas guzzler pickup at $3.30 a gallon?

C’mon y’all. Stop letting them play games with people like this.