Erin Zureick

Education, politics and observations from Sanford

Lee County’s annual United Way campaign to kick off Thursday

The United Way of Lee County announced today it will kick off its annual campaign season from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Depot Park in downtown Sanford. The event will be just before the summer’s last “Function at the Junction” concert

The campaign’s theme is “Back to Basics,” and the kick-off event begins at a Business After Hours gathering organized by the Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce. The two-hour social also marks the beginning of “Giving Change That Makes Cents,” a combined effort by the United Way and Downtown Sanford Inc. to curb panhandling downtown and provide homeless people help.

This year’s campaign focuses on providing “basic” services like food, shelter and medical care, said United Way Executive Director Jan Hayes in a press release.

“Obviously, many families have been hurt by the economy,” Hayes said. “Not everyone, by any means, but you can read about all of the lost jobs, and you can imagine how devastating it can be when you’re struggling to get by and then lose a good share of your family income.”

The popular “Automobile Give-Away” also returns this year. Anyone contributing the equivalent of one hour’s pay per month — or making an annual donation of $500 or more — may enter a drawing to win a new car. About 70 finalists in last year’s event received a prize donated by area businesses, with Ed Angel driving off with the grand prize.

Local band RN5P will take the stage in Depot Park for this season’s “Function at the Junction” finale after the campaign event. RN5P, spearheaded by band member David Spivey, is known for its renditions of beach music and classic rock.

August 24, 2009 Posted by | politics, Sanford | , , | Leave a comment

Love’s end-of-session Raleigh Report

I received the end-of-session Raleigh Report from Rep. Jimmy Love Sr’s (D-Lee) office. In it he takes some time to go over some highlights of the session and some of the final issues legislators dealt with for the summer session. (See the last post about the Raleigh Report for budget information).

Here are Love’s thoughts in his own words:

The 2009 session of the General Assembly has adjourned, but not before we finished up work on a number of important matters. Since passing our budget, we have concluded work to strengthen criminal laws, reform the state’s coastal insurance plan, improve transportation and clear the way for more efficient use of energy.

As I have shared a number of times, this has been a difficult session. The global economic crisis reached North Carolina this year and hurt our workers and businesses. The work by those of us in the General Assembly was in large part a response to this crisis, and I am happy to have supported a number of measures that create and protect jobs, help people protect their homes and ease the burdens on small business owners.

I will share more detailed information about the work of this session in the weeks ahead. In the meantime, thank you for your interest in state government and please let me know if I can be of any assistance.

Here are some of the highlights Love mentions:

  • Sex offenders would be prevented from driving a bus with children under a bill that has been ratified by the General Assembly (HB 1117). The bill has now been presented to Gov. Perdue to be signed into law.
  • Taking indecent liberties with a student would be added to the list of sex offenses that require registration under the sex offender and public protection registration program under a bill that has been ratified by the General Assembly (HB 209). The bill has now been presented to Gov. Perdue to be signed into law.
  • Smoking would be prohibited on the premises of correctional institutions under a bill that has been ratified by the General Assembly (SB 167). The legislation would also prohibit the possession of tobacco products or cell phones outside of a locked vehicle on the premises of correctional institutions and make it a criminal offense to provide tobacco products or cell phones to inmates. The bill has now been presented to Gov. Perdue to be signed into law.
  • State lawmakers have ratified legislation that improves the state’s Coastal Property Insurance Pool, presently known as the Beach Plan (HB 1305). Among other things, the bill would decrease the maximum coverage limit per home from $1.5 million to $750,000 and caps the amount of money that private insurance companies who participate in the plan are liable for at $1 billion. Homeowners outside of the 18 coastal counties that participate in plan could be asked to pay up to 10 percent more a year only if storm damage in a season exceeded $2.4 billion. The most the plan has ever paid out in claims in a previous year is $150 million. The bill has now been presented to Gov. Perdue to be signed into law.

August 19, 2009 Posted by | Education, politics, Sanford | , | Leave a comment

Commissioners meet tonight

Tonight’s August meeting of the Lee County Board of Commissioners (6 p.m. at Lee County Government Center on Hillcrest Drive) has a shorter agenda than recent meetings, but there are a few items of interest that officials are slated to discuss.

  • County Manager John Crumpton will give a report to commissioners about the financial impact of issue no-interest construction bonds and how much debt the county can handle (see my Sunday story in The Herald for more details on that.)
  • Commissioners also will consider adopting a resolution that states if November’s quarter-cent sales tax referendum passes, the money generated would be used solely for Lee County Schools and Central Carolina Community College construction needs.
  • Lee County Health Director Howard Surface will talk about preparations for swine flu vaccinations.

August 17, 2009 Posted by | Education, politics, Sanford | , , | Leave a comment

Love’s Raleigh Report (budget edition)

Rep. Jimmy Love Sr., D-Lee, issued what likely will be his second-to-last weekly Raleigh Report for this year’s session of the General Assembly. Both houses of the assembly passed a two-year state spending plan that Gov. Bev Perdue signed into law this week.

The report is rather long this week and goes over most of the budget areas, so I have taken the liberty of parsing it down some.

From Love:

This year, the General Assembly was forced to make difficult and unprecedented decisions regarding the state budget. We cut more than 500 line items and eliminated more than 50 programs to shrink our state budget by $2 billion compared to last year.

This smaller budget includes federal stimulus money ($1.3 billion) and additional tax revenue ($990 million), which together cover about half of our more than $4 billion shortfall. The other half is covered by real, tangible cuts. We are in no way growing government.

The information below shows both how we have significantly cut spending across the board and how we have tried to preserve or expand vital programs in our state.

Budget Reductions

  • State Employees: The budget eliminates 2,191 state employee positions, 726 of which are currently filled.
  • Education: Funding has been reduced for about 100 programs; 23 programs have been eliminated.
  • Health and human services: Funding has been reduced for about 125 programs; 13 programs have been eliminated.
  • Natural and Economic Resources: Funding has been reduced for about 75 programs; five programs have been eliminated.
  • Justice and Public Safety: Funding has been reduced for about 80 programs; 10 programs have been eliminated.
  • General Government: Funding has been reduced for about 80 programs; two programs have been eliminated.
  • Transportation: Funding has been reduced for about 30 programs; one program has been eliminated.

August 8, 2009 Posted by | politics, Sanford | , , | Leave a comment

State budget coming down to the wire

It looks like state legislators might have broken through a budget impasse that lasted more than a month. Details about the proposal still are coming out (the Senate and House hope to take a first vote tomorrow), but the plan is expected to protect K-3 education.

But it’s still unclear what the plan could mean for upper grades and where local administrators would find cuts (and just how deep those cuts would have to be).

A compromise was halted last month when Gov. Bev Perdue insisted that cuts to K-12 education not be as harsh and objected to an income tax surcharge proposal.

A new version of the budget should be released today or early Tuesday. Check back here and at The Herald Web site for more updates.

August 3, 2009 Posted by | Education, politics, Sanford | , | Leave a comment

Can the sales tax referendum pass?

The Herald’s Sunday spotlight this week was on the quarter-cent sales tax referendum that the Lee County Board of Commissioners decided to places before voters again in November. (It failed in May 2008 with 55 percent of people voting against it.)

Read the stories to get more of the details on lessons learned last time and if additional taxes might be passed regardless of the referendum’s outcome.

And weigh in for this poll:

July 26, 2009 Posted by | Education, politics, Sanford | , , | Leave a comment

4-H treats commissioners to ice cream

Elissa Neal greets Lee County Commissioner Chairman Richard Hayes at the 4-H Centennial Reception before presenting the Centennial Proclamation at the meeting.

Elissa Neal greets Lee County Commissioner Chairman Richard Hayes at the 4-H Centennial Reception before presenting the Centennial Proclamation at the meeting.

Members of the Lee County Board of Commissioners and residents attending their Monday meeting got a tasty treat when the Lee County 4-H Club served ice cream beforehand  to commemorate the group’s 100th anniversary.

The ice cream was a “campfire” flavor with graham cracker ice cream mixed with marshmellow topping and chocolate chunks — meant to resemble s S’more made around campfires.

A 4-H member also read the proclamation out loud to commissioners during the meeting.

4-H members serve ice cream before the commissioners meeting.

4-H members serve ice cream before the commissioners meeting.

July 23, 2009 Posted by | Education, politics, Sanford | , | Leave a comment

On the agenda

There are a couple of county government meetings early this week. First, the Lee County Board of Commissioners will meet at 6 p.m. Monday in the Lee County Government Center. The Lee County Board of Education will meet the same time and place Tuesday.

Both meetings have some interesting items on the agenda. Here is a brief rundown of what to expect:

Board of Commissioners:

  • Residents on North Plank Road will petition commissioners to get a water extension line. They live out in the western, rural part of Lee County and rely on well water. (See a full story here.)
  • Tax Administrator Dwayne Brinson will give a presentation about tax collection rates (this year marked the best percentage in recent county history).
  • Commissioners will consider applying for federal bonds available from the stimulus package passed by Congress this year. The bonds would be zero-percent interest and help finance school construction such as renovations to Lee County High School.
  • County Manager John Crumpton will discuss his five priority issues for the county.

Board of Education:

  • The school board will consider adopting academic attire, or a stricter dress code at Deep River Elementary School. (See story)
  • School staff will make a presentation about preliminary standardized testing results.

July 19, 2009 Posted by | Education, politics, Sanford | , , , | Leave a comment

Love’s Raleigh Report

State Rep. Jimmy Love Sr.

State Rep. Jimmy Love Sr.

The weekly report from the desk of State Rep. Jimmy Love Sr. is included below. The main focus of the General Assembly the past few weeks has been negotiating budget details as lawmakers try to make more than $4 billion worth of cuts.

Deliberations continued in Raleigh this week with members of the House and Senate negotiating a spending proposal and a change in the state’s tax laws. We are making progress, but our work is slow in the face of this great challenge.

We continue with important policy work and have passed several pieces of important legislation. I am including some discussion of this legislation below.

I hope you will contact me if you have questions, or if I can be of service. Thank you as always for your support and your interest in our state.

  • Protecting Homeowners: North Carolinians who have been victimized by predatory mortgage lenders would be helped under a bill that has now passed both bodies of the legislature (HB 1523). The primary intent of the S.A.F.E. Mortgage Licensing Act is to ensure that mortgage loan originators operate ethically. The legislation gives the Commissioner of Banks broad authority to enforce this law. The bill will now go to Gov. Bev Perdue to be signed into law.
  • Health: State lawmakers have voted in favor of legislation that authorizes the Department of Health and Human Services to release confidential data in the Controlled Substances Reporting System to state medical examiners for the purpose of investigating deaths (SB 628). The bill would also make changes pertaining to confidentiality of prescription information. The legislation will now go to Gov. Perdue to be signed into law.
  • Crime: State lawmakers have amended the law regarding trafficking in methamphetamine and amphetamine to clarify that the charge of trafficking is based on the weight of the entire powder or liquid mixture, rather than the weight of the actual amount of the controlled substance in the powder or liquid mixture (SB 1091). The intent of the bill is to strengthen the state’s drug laws. It will now go to Gov. Perdue to be signed into law.
  • Social network sites: The General Assembly has ratified legislation to clarify that commercial social networking sites cannot be held civilly liable for actions stemming from communications on the site as long as the operators of the site have made a good-faith attempt to screen out convicted sex offenders (HB 1267). The bill has now gone to Gov. Perdue to be signed into law.
  • Miscellaneous: Public school teachers with four years of experience will now have the right to receive an explanation as to why they will not receive tenure under a bill that has passed both bodies of the Legislature (SB 962). The legislation will also give those teachers the right to a hearing before the local school board votes on the decision. The bill will now be sent to Gov. Perdue to be signed into law.
  • Military: Legislation that will make it easier for soldiers, reservists and National Guard members to renew their drivers’ licenses has been ratified by the General Assembly and sent to Gov. Perdue to be signed into law (HB 98). Currently, North Carolinians may renew their drivers’ licenses as much as six months prior to the expiration date. Under the new law, members of the armed forces will be able to renew their licenses upon receipt of deployment orders. The legislation will also allow a 30-day grace period for the renewal of an expired license upon release from active duty.
  • Open government: The “Open Government Act” has passed the House, and is headed to the Senate (HB 1134). The legislation creates the Open Government Unit of the Department of Justice, which will further the goal of transparency in government and the principle that public records are the property of the people. The legislation will also establish a fee for services of moderation and mediation by the Open Government Unit, and will provide that the successful plaintiff in a public records dispute is entitled to reasonable attorney’s fees.

July 15, 2009 Posted by | politics, Sanford | , , | Leave a comment

This week’s Raleigh Report

Highlights from the N.C. General Assembly via the desk of Rep. Jimmy Love Sr., D-Lee:

The General Assembly continues to work on a budget proposal and has directed state agencies to operate at a 15 percent reduction until a final plan is approved.

As I’ve said before, this is an extraordinarily difficult year to craft a budget. We are cutting more than $2 billion in spending and would have to scale back even more if not for some one-time federal stimulus money the state will receive. We are making these cuts as strategically as we can and in ways that will do the least harm.

While we have remained busy working on the state’s budget, we have also worked hard to pass legislation that we hope will improve your lives. The following information highlights some of the legislation that has made it through the House this week.

I hope you will contact me if you have questions, or if I can be of service. Thank you as always for your support and your interest in our state.

Improving Government

  • Lawmakers have passed a bill that will transfer the functions and funds of the North Carolina Turnpike Authority to the Department of Transportation (HB 1617). The change means the turnpike authority will now be under the direct supervision of the Secretary of Transportation. The intent of the legislation is to conserve expenditures and improve efficiency. The General Assembly created the Turnpike Authority in 2002 in response to concerns about congestion and growth. The authority was granted permission to develop and operate up to nine projects.
  • State facilities that provide mental health, developmental disabilities, and substance abuse services will now be required to disclose certain information about death reports, facility police reports, and incident reports (SB 799). The intent of the legislation is to improve transparency. The bill now goes to Gov. Perdue to be signed into law.
  • Legislative drafting offices and state agencies will now be directed to use certain respectful references to people with disabilities in the preparation of legislation and rules. The legislation, known as “People First,” has passed both bodies of the legislature and will now be sent to Gov. Perdue to be signed into law (SB 208).

Jobs/Economy

  • On Tuesday, members of the House voted to extend the sunset of the Job Development Investment Grant Program, commonly known as JDIG (HB 1516). The intent of the program is to foster job creation and investment in the economy of this state. In the years that JDIG has been in effect, the state of North Carolina has taken in significantly more money than has been expended on the program. JDIG has proven to be a valuable asset to the state, especially during these uncertain economic times. Job Development Investment Grants are awarded only to new and expanding businesses and industrial projects whose benefits exceed the costs to the state and which would not be undertaken in North Carolina without the grant.  Since the first grant was awarded in 2003, the program has been responsible for creating commitments for more than 30,000 jobs and $5 billion in investment in North Carolina.

Miscellaneous

  • Legislation that would assist owners in recovering lost pets, relieve overcrowding at animal shelters, and facilitate adoptions of animals from shelters has now passed both bodies of the legislature (SB 467). Among other things, the bill will establish procedures for animal control officers to scan animals for owner information on microchips; require that euthanasia be conducted according to rules approved by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, if such rules exist; and require that, before animals are sold or put to death, they be made available for adoption under procedures that allow the public to inspect them, unless they are found to be unadoptable due to injury or defects of health or temperament.
  • The NC Board of Medicine will now be required to publish certain judgments, awards, payments, and settlements involving physicians. The legislation, which has passed both bodies of the legislature and been signed into law, requires disclosure of medical malpractice lawsuits that were settled for a total of $75,000 or more (HB 703).
  • All municipalities and counties will now be authorized to give a single annual notice to chronic violators of their public nuisance ordinances before the local government can act. A chronic violator is a person who owns property whereupon, in the previous calendar year, the city gave notice of violation at least three times under any provision of the public nuisance ordinance. The bill, which has passed both bodies of the legislature, will now go to Gov. Perdue to be signed into law (SB 564).
  • Probation officers would be allowed to transfer low-risk misdemeanants with no special conditions to unsupervised probation under a bill that has now passed both bodies of the legislature (SB 1089). Such a transfer to unsupervised probation will not relieve the misdemeanant of the obligation to continue making court-ordered payments under the terms of the misdemeanant’s probation. The bill will now go to Gov. Perdue to be signed into law.

July 7, 2009 Posted by | politics, Sanford | , , , | Leave a comment