Voter ID bill=busy email inbox

The authors of the voter ID bill (H351) held a public hearing on it Tuesday afternoon. As you might imagine it’s creating quite a stir.

The six part bill requires a photo id to vote or cast a provisional ballot. Supporters point out you need an id to drink, buy smokes, cash a check or get a job, so why not require it for something as important as voters. Opponents feel otherwise. My mailbox was flooded with response from Democrats and opponents. Here’s a few snippets from those emails.

"It is ironic that the bill is entitled (Restore Confidence in Government, yet it would raid the very public financing programs that are designed to
address one of the leading issues — special interest cash in elections —
that causes voters to lose faith in the election system," said Damon Circosta from the NC Center for Voter Education.

"The only thing this bill restores is the politics of the 1800s," said NC Democratic Party Chair David Parker. "They want to spend $20 million transforming the Board of Elections into a photo ID generating nightmare version of the DMV – an entirely new state bureaucracy. Yet they’re also arguing that we can’t afford teachers aides, Smart Start and 10,000 educator salaries."

"Meanwhile, tens of thousands of seniors, newly married women, students, and the homebound disabled will be forced to navigate this new bureaucracy just to exercise their constitutional right to vote."

Supporters believe it will prevent voter fraud.

"We wanted to address what we believe to be a variety of issues that hurt the confidence of voters in this state," said Rep. David Lewis, who co-authored the bill.

There was no vote and it appears a vote won’t come until next week at the earliest.

Watch Political Connections this Friday at 6pm and Sunday at 11am for an in-depth look at the issue.

ON JONES STREET- “R” “D” or who cares? Judicial election questions

RALEIGH — There are a couple of bills floating around the general assembly that signal a big change for how judges are selected in the state. The senate is tackling the first bill- which would make judicial races partisan (currently, candidates don’t declare a party affiliation). Both President Pro-tem Phil Berger and Minority Leader Martin Nesbitt talked about this today. Surprisingly, they both seem to be on the same side-ish. But BOTH say they probably don’t have their full caucus behind them on this issue. This is probably an issue that will get a lot of debate before it is ever voted on. Here is a little of what Berger and Nesbitt had to say:

Charlotte Douglas Airport one of fastest growing in world

Is busy better?  News that CLT is one of the fastest growing airports in the world is no surprise to folks who use the airport.   Last year, the airport opened up a 4th runway and that alone increased capacity by 15% according to the aviations director.  

This puts Charlotte in the running to get a new airport control tower.   Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood all but said the Feds would pay for it a few weeks ago.
The increasing crowds is pushing the airport to the brink.  There are no plans to expand the terminal into the arrival/departure lanes of traffic and then push the traffic into the current hourly parking lot area.  That’s a lot of time and money.   As I blogged about a couple of weeks ago, much of that construction will be underway in 2012 during the DNC Convention.   Of course, more passengers equals more revenue which equals more money to spend on expansion.   It’s a revolving door.
Most companies who recently announced relocation/expansion plans in Charlotte said the biggest reason was the airport and its hundreds of non-stop destinations around the world.   It’s one of the biggest selling points from the Charlotte Chamber, CRVA, etc.  
The eventual plan is to build a multi-model station near the airport so air freight can quickly become train freight and moved across the region.
All of this sounds good, except on those stormy days when I’m sitting on the tarmac and the pilot comes on the speaker and says, "We’re 18th in line for takeoff."   Ugh, thanks for growing CLT.

Tobacco tax bill in the works?

RALEIGH — There’s word a tobacco tax increase is being discussed in the General Assembly and there are plans afoot to introduce a bill Tuesday to raise the tax to a dollar a pack.

It’s a touchy subject in the state tobacco built, and Winston-Salem based RJR Tobacco has traditionally opposed any increase — saying it would impact tobacco companies, growers and the thousands of North Carolinians who rely on tobacco for jobs. Supports say it could potentially raise hundreds of millions of dollars and cut down on young people smoking.

North Carolina’s cigarette tax is currently 45 cents a pack, among the lowest in the nation, but in the past, a hike has been unpopular among legislators and probably has little chance of getting out of committee with the current economy.

Greensboro may put redistricting on hold

Interesting twist in Greensboro’s redistricting – the city sent out a news release Monday saying the "City might put redistricting process on hold." The release says that while the latest Census figures show Greensboro’s population has grown, city staff evaluations report that the increase across all the districts, so changes may be needed. The city’s still holding public meetings for discussion. For more information, including a map of the district population counts, visit

Update on UNC football investigation

I know this is a UNC sports story, however Secretary of State Elaine Marshall is investigating sports agents as well. Recently she said she had talked with Wichard on the phone but would not say if she was going to meet with him in person.

It’s unclear how this might impact the investigation. Here is the release from a PR agency representing his agency.

Westlake Village, CA. – Gary Wichard, 60, longtime NFL agent, died this morning (3/11) of complications resulting from diabetes and pancreatic cancer, at his home in Westlake Village, CA. His wife, Maire and two daughters, Dana and Jessica were by his side.

Over the last 25 years, Wichard was one of the most widely respected and accomplished agents in the sports world. A graduate of LIU-CW Post, Wichard was drafted by the Baltimore Colts.

Born March 24, 1950 in Brooklyn, New York, Wichard opened his sports agency, Protect Management, more than 30 years ago and built one of the most successful firms in the sports world. He represented many NFL superstars including Jason Taylor, New York Jets; Dwight Freeney, Indianapolis Colts; and Terrell Suggs, Baltimore Ravens.

His wife Maire stated: “Gary was a family man first and foremost. He also considered his clients to be like family as well.”

Services are pending. Donations can be made to the American Diabetes Association and the Pancreatic Disease Network.


Airport will attempt to ‘cover warts’ for 2012 DNC Convention

CHARLOTTE — The first thing DNC conventioneers will notice when that land in Charlotte, a lot of construction.

The ever expanding Charlotte-Douglas International Airport is set to begin expanding its main terminal in the next year. To do so, the airport will have to tear down parts of a parking garage, and the arrival/departure lanes of traffic.

Aviation Director Jerry Orr sat down with News 14 Carolina earlier this week and said, "We’ll do everything we can to cover up our warts, and look as good as we can."

During the 2008 RNCC in St. Paul, the welcome at the airport was huge. There were signs all over the place, welcome baskets and a lot of people asking you if you need help.

While I’m sure Charlotte will put on a similar display, it will be hard to cover up all of the orange and yellow tape around the airport.

If nothing else, at least the delegates will think Charlotte is expanding and getting bigger.

ON JONES STREET- Veto override? What veto override?

After a whirlwind day of veto override attempts on Wednesday- you would think state lawmakers were tired out. But no. On Thursday, surprise (yes, another republican surprise move this week), there is a way to try that override again. The first step was to recess session late morning- even though only two non-controversial bills remain. Step two- tell democrats those are the only bills that will be heard. Step three- democrats head home, or to the ACC tournament, or wherever else they may go on their "legislative Friday". Step four- call the bill back up for a vote when session reconvenes in the afternoon. But wait… the Republicans did have some remorse… and decided to stop before step four, and instead get Democrats to join hands with them and lift a house rule. That rule says reconsideration of vetoes has to happen the day after the first vote. The dems, knowing the reps had the three fifths majority, joined in in allowing this rule change. Which means from now until the session ends, the Reps could call this bill back up for reconsideration of the veto override. Confused??? You probably should be. You need to have a flow chart to figure out where House Bill two stands now.

Greensboro redistricting – can’t complain unless you participate

The city of Greensboro has a meeting set this coming Monday, March 143th to discuss redistricting for City Council Boundaries. That comes as a result of updated population counts reported in the 2010 Census. The process requires shifting City precincts between districts in an effort to create the necessary population balance needed to meet redistricting criteria. Residents are invited to attend and provide feedback in the process, that could impact who represents them in the future. That’s set for 5:30 pm, Monday, March 14, in Room 4 of the Greensboro Coliseum Special Events Center.

City leaders continue fight to bring new hotel to Wilmington

City councilors hope the fourth times a charm when it comes to bringing a new hotel to downtown Wilmington. Plans to build a hotel beside the brand new convention center have fallen through three times due to lack of financing during tough economic times. This week, the city announced it’s issuing a new call for privately-funded hotel proposals. City leaders would like a high-end hotel with a minimum of 200 rooms. The hotel would help accommodate large conventions with out-of-town visitors. Check out the entire proposal on the city’s website.