Hillary Clinton Officially Announces 2016 Presidential Bid

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton

CHARLOTTE–Hillary Clinton finally made it official Sunday afternoon. She’s running for president.

Clinton’s campaign chair sent an email to donors and long-time supporters around 3 p.m. letting them know that she was officially entering the race.  Minutes later, a two-minute campaign video was posted to her website.

Clinton’s video profiled stories of “everyday Americans” she said need a champion – and she wants to be that champion.

Clinton already has President Obama’s endorsement, but Davidson College political science professor Susan Roberts said Clinton needs to distance herself from the challenges of the Obama Administration and focus on the future.

“She doesn’t need more blood in the water,” said Roberts. “She has Benghazi. She has the emails.”

In anticipation of Clinton’s announcement, Republicans came out swinging on Sunday.

“You’ve seen in polls and in discussions across the country a feeling that Hillary Clinton is just not trustworthy,” said former Republican presidential candidation Mitt Romney. “This whole story about her having erased all of her emails, even though they were subject to recall and review by Congress – I think that’s made people remember that with the Clintons, it’s always something.”

Clinton is the first Democrat to officially enter the 2016 presidential race, and many political experts think her announcement will discourage other contenders.

“Barring something unforeseen, she’s the candidate for the Democrats,” said Roberts.

However potential rival Martin O’Malley, the former Governor of Maryland, said not so fast.

“History is full of examples were the inevitable frontrunner was inevitable right up until she was no longer or he was no longer inevitable,” said O’Malley.

O’Malley was in Iowa this weekend laying the groundwork for a possible campaign of his own.  That’s where Clinton plans to head this week to officially kick off her second presidential run.

“So I’m hitting the road to earn your vote,” Clinton said in her announcement video. “Because it’s your time, and I hope you’ll join me on this journey.”

Republican senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul have already announced their presidential bids.  Marco Rubio is expected to throw his name in the hat on Monday.

– Caroline Vandergriff

Ted Cruz Makes Campaign Stop in Raleigh

Ted_Cruz_announcementRALEIGH — Republican presidential hopeful Sen. Ted Cruz is making a stop in Raleigh on Monday. At noon, the Texas senator will give a speech entitled “Defense of Freedom” during a luncheon hosted by the John Locke Foundation.

In 2012, Cruz was elected as the 34th U.S. senator from Texas. He says his calling to public service is inspired largely by his first-hand observations of opportunity in America.

His mother was the first in her family to go to college. His father was born in Cuba, fled to the United States in 1957 and worked his way through college.

Last month, Cruz became the first candidate to announce his intentions to run for president. That field has grown since his announcement. Hillary Clinton became the first Democrat to officially enter the race Sunday, and Republican Sen. Rand Paul entered the race last week.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is expected to throw his name in as well. That announcement is expected Monday.

-Linnie Supall

NC Senate Considers School Bus Camera Bill

school_busRALEIGH — Drivers who break the law and pass stopped school buses beware.

A bill is now being considered by the general assembly that would expand the current law, which allows for criminal prosecution and now also allow school districts to penalize you.

Under the proposal, the cost for the violation would be $500.

Bill sponsors say that is a steep fine, but they believe it is necessary.

“We have over 13,300 buses on the road in North Carolina twice a day, every day that school is open. We had a study run and over 3,000 people were running the stop arm on those school buses everyday, which is absolutely deplorable,” said Sen. Tom McInnis.

As the proposal is written, school districts could choose if they participate in the civil penalty program.

The bill is currently being considered in committee.

– Loretta Boniti

Capital Tonight April 10: Sen. Thom Tillis

thom_tillis1On Capital Tonight: Sen. Thom Tillis visits VA facilities on a fact-finding tour and talks with Senior Political Reporter Loretta Boniti about what he’s learned and more. Larry Shaheen and Dan McCorkle debate Gov. Pat McCrory’s approval numbers as the Bow Tie Caucus convenes. Watch the program here.

Bill Would Allow Insurance to Cover More Autism Treatments

autism1RALEIGH — Senate Bill 676 is currently being proposed to allow insurance companies to cover more treatment options for autism.

A coalition of insurance companies, medical providers and advocates pushed for the bill. The bill would allow insurance companies to cover adaptive behavioral treatment.

“Adaptive Behavioral Therapy is a term used to describe a lot of different types of therapies,” said Tracey Sheriff, CEO of the Autism Society of North Carolina.

Elizabeth Lucret-Siano of Holly Springs says that type of treatment is crucial for her 3-year-old son, who was diagnosed with autism last year.

“It teaches them how to function daily, how we should interact with them. Just makes his life a lot more manageable.”

She says medical costs average around $15,000 a year. But for many other families, it could cost up to twice that.

It took awhile for insurance companies to come to an agreement with medical providers. Advocates say they expect the bill to be revised as it moves forward in legislation.

The bill has to undergo several more votes before being approved. It’s being sponsored by senators Tom Apodaca and Joyce Krawiec.

You can view the bill here: http://www.ncleg.net/sessions/2015/bills/senate/pdf/s676v1.pdf

VA Facilities Across NC Struggle With Delays Amid Rapid Influx of Patients

VA_hospitalFAYETTEVILLE—North Carolina is home to Fort Bragg, Camp Lejeune, and nine of the 50 Veterans Affairs medical facilities where patients are most likely to encounter a long wait for care.

The Associated Press analyzed six months of appointment data at 940 VA hospitals and clinics nationwide to identify the ones struggling the most to deliver prompt care. Eastern North Carolina was among the places where waits are worst.

At the VA clinic in Jacksonville, 16 percent of the appointments completed between Sept. 1 and Feb. 28 failed to meet the VA’s timeliness standard, which calls for patients to be seen within 30 days.

That’s nearly six times the national average of 2.8 percent.

VA officials in North Carolina say they are working to address the problem.

Lawmakers Consider Proposal to Modify Home Inspection Procedures

building_inspections1RALEIGH—A proposal before the state legislature would make some significant changes to new home inspection and building code procedures.

Some people are blasting the proposal saying it could make homes less safe. But supporters say this is an effort to streamline and make uniform the building code process.

North Carolina has a standard statewide building code for all new residential structures. But the enforcement of that code varies from place to place.

“If we have a uniform building code in North Carolina, why are there so many different interpretations across the state,” said Rep. Mark Brody, a Union County Republican.

Brody is proposing a bill that would reform the current building code process. House Bill 255 would eliminate mandatory plan reviews for new homes. Right now that is discretionary.

The proposal would raise the threshold for when a building permit is required from $5,000 to $15,000 and says fees from inspections are only meant to be used by the inspection department—they are not a money making venture for cities and counties.

The bill also defines actions that are the basis for disciplinary action against code inspectors. But city leaders say that definition is vague and won’t accomplish the intent of the law.

“But we think that by creating a formal, quick internal appeals process… that is a much more effective way to allow supervisors to learn when builders have a complaint and if those builders believe if builders are not following the code in the law,” said Scott Mooneyham, of the NC League of Municipalities.

The insurance institute for business and home safety has much stronger dislike for this bill.

They released a statement saying:

As many states are looking for ways to strengthen their communities by building stronger and safer homes. This bill would cause North Carolina to take a step backward putting residents at risk.”

It points to the provision removing required plan approval, saying it could increase costs for homebuyers if code corrections have to be made after construction begins and says stronger, better enforced building codes help communities flourish.

The bill also creates a new residential code committee. This new sub group would make recommendations on code changes. As it is written, the bill does not include anyone from the fire fighting industry on that group. The association says that needs to be corrected.

“Most people who die in fires, die in residential structures and our firefighter injury rate are much higher in a residential setting than they are commercial. So thats our problem: residential,” said Tim Bradley, of the NC State Firemen’s Association.

Firefighters have asked for a seat at the table if this change is approved. Bill supporters say, in the end, even though there are some concerns with the bill,  this is meant to make the home building process easier for the construction industry by streamlining the process.

“There’s nothing to stop a builder from going and deciding to building something that exceeds the building code. There is nothing to stop them from doing that. What we have to stop is municipalities from deciding they want to exceed the building code,” said Rep. Brody.

This bill has been approved by one House committee, and is scheduled to be considered by the House Finance Committee next week.

– Loretta Boniti

As State Fracking Law Takes Effect, Business Interest Fades

frackingCHARLOTTE– So far, it’s been a slow start to North Carolina’s fracking industry.

The governor said the legislation would create more than 1,000 jobs when he signed the legislation last year. Environmentalists said it would spur pollution and hurt the environment.

At this point, neither is right, because companies aren’t interested right now.

When he signed the fracking bill last year, Gov. Pat McCrory trumpeted a soon-to-be roaring drilling industry.

“We’re going to unleash the resources of North Carolina and produce jobs in North Carolina, and help our country become energy independent,” he said at a June 2014 news conference.

But his roar is turning out to be more of a whimper.

According to the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, not a single group has applied for a drilling permit since the moratorium was officially lifted in March.

Wells Fargo Securities Energy Analyst Ross Payne says it’s about economics.

“Natural gas prices have been down about 42 percent year over year, kind of following what we’ve seen on the oil side, which is down over 50 percent,” he said.

Payne says we’re oversupplied on gas. That makes new gas an unattractive investment.

“As a result, we’re going to see both oil and natural gas production start to plateau, and the next step is probably down somewhat,” said Payne.

Several companies, including WhitMar drilling out of Colorado, have mineral leases around Lee County.

Whitmar says they’re now letting those leases expire. Officials in the county say interest has dried up.

Ross says that could change as the United States gets into natural gas exports two years from now.

“We’ll probably start to see a stability of production, and potentially an increase as exports start to ramp up,” he said.

Even if gas prices rise, companies say there’s more gas in states like Pennsylvania, where they already have infrastructure to get it out of the ground, on the road, and to the consumer.

The stagnation in North Carolina hasn’t been free. The state spent an undetermined amount of money on the fracking push, spending untold amounts on man hours and field studies, which turned into a 484 page report.

If things do turn around, the boom might be short-lived anyway.

A 2012 U.S. Geological Survey study says Tar Heel gas would only last about 5.6 years.

Ross says further exploration could find more, though that may not happen if prices stay low.

Time Warner Cable News tried to contact the original bill sponsor, Sen. Bob Rucho. He did not respond. The governor’s office also did not immediately respond.

Duke Energy says they plan to use more natural gas in the future, but they’re looking toward a pipeline to import gas from other states, instead of using North Carolina-produced natural gas.

A spokesperson for the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources released the following statement:

A total of $650,000 has been allocated to the state to study the potential for oil and gas exploration activities in North Carolina since 2011. Here’s a breakdown of the money allocated to the state since 2011:  

Study ($100,000)

The General Assembly allocated $100,000 to DENR for a study of shale gas and oil exploration in 2011. DENR conducted the eight-month study of the potential environmental, social and economic impacts of shale gas exploration and development in North Carolina. This study was directed by Session Law 2011-276, which required DENR to study the issue of oil and gas exploration in the state and focus on the use of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing to extract shale gas. Some of the money for the study went to the U.S. Geological Survey to support their efforts to identify private water wells in the Lee and Chatham counties. About $20,000 was for specific tests on cores and rock samples from the Deep River and Dan River basins.

Test drilling ($550,000)

The General Assembly allocated DENR $300,000 in fiscal 2013-14 and $250,000 in fiscal 2014-15 to obtain new information about the potential for oil and gas exploration in the Deep River, Cumberland-Marlboro basin and Dan River basin. Test drilling is planned in the next few months for the Dan and Cumberland-Marlboro basins. With the test drilling, DENR will try to determine the existence of oil and gas and what the potential is for those resources. The state has sufficient information about the potential for oil and gas resources in the Deep River basin.   

Capital Tonight April 9: State Libertarian Party

libertarian_party1On Capital Tonight: We talk with the state and national Libertarian parties ahead of the state party convention this weekend. Sens. Michael Lee and Mike Woodard discuss incentives plans and more in our Lawmakers segment. Watch the program here.

Capital Tonight April 8: Charlotte Mayor Dan Clodfelter

clodfelter1On Capital Tonight: Charlotte Mayor Dan Clodfelter joins us to talk about his decision to run for a full term as mayor, and how the General Assembly is affecting the Queen’s City’s finances. Our Advocates Chris Sinclair and Brian Lewis take a look at the new polling numbers for Gov. Pat McCrory. Watch the program here.