NC Senate Bill Could Give Undocumented Students In-State Tuition

comm_collegeCHARLOTTE — Undocumented high school students in North Carolina could soon have more options for college.

“One of the biggest challenges for undocumented immigrants is that being undocumented, they are considered not residents of North Carolina,” said Hector Vaca with Action NC.

Vaca said if they are able to apply an in-state school, current law forces them to pay out-of-state costs. Students at UNC Charlotte pay a little more than $3,000 per semester for in-state tuition, out-of-state students pay almost $10,000.

“Which is out of reach for many of the undocumented families. Many of them don’t have the kind of resources other families may have,” said Vaca.

A bill recently introduced by Republican NC Sen. Fletcher Hartsell Jr. proposes giving undocumented immigrants in-state tuition.

“I see this as a really wonderful step,” said Vaca.

To qualify, a student must have attended a school in North Carolina for three consecutive years immediately before graduation and received their diploma, or have a North Carolina GED.

“In general I think its a bill worth exploring,” said newly appointed chairman of the Mecklenburg County GOP Curtis Watkins. “With any bill, when you put it there, it gives you an opportunity for debate.”

Watkins said he understands voters may be surprised a Republican proposed the bill, but it gives the party a chance to shine under a different immigration light.

“As Republicans we really do want everyone to see succeed in this country, and the fact that it was introduced by a Republican senator is indicative of the fact that we are looking for way to reach out and making sure we have a positive impact for all citizens of this country.”

Vaca agrees, “To tell the truth, it’s actually, it’s kind of refreshing.”

– Vanessa Leon

Two TV Productions, Movie to Get $10 Million in Grants From NC

Film_grantsRALEIGH—Three productions will receive all the state funding from the film and entertainment grant.

They include Under the Dome, which will continue filming in Wilmington. A Lionsgate television project that will film in the western part of the state and the third is a project on Davidson’s campus.

The General Assembly only alloted the grant $10 million per fiscal year. Industry leaders as well as officials with the City of Wilmington opposed the grant in favor of the old tax incentive program that allowed up to $20 million in tax rebates per motion picture.

Fox’s Sleepy Hollow already stated it will not continue to film in the Port City. Last month, lawmakers from the coast introduced bills to the General Assembly that would raise the grant to $66 million.

Presidential Hopeful Ted Cruz Campaigns in SC

010EDCE8ROCK HILL, S.C. — Texas republican senator Ted Cruz was the first person to jump into the 2016 presidential campaign, and he is wasting no time asking for votes. Cruz traveled to South Carolina on Friday.

He asked voters at the town hall meeting to choose a true conservative as their next President of the United States.

“Democrats passed legislation to gut that fundamental protections of our religious liberty. I am sorry to tell you, out of 56 Democrats in the Senate last year, every single one voted to gut our religious liberty,” said Cruz.

Cruz is the first and so far the only person to officially declare his candidacy for the 2016 presidential campaign. In South Carolina, he was not shy about letting his supporters know where he stands on the IRS.

He told his supporters that he wants to reform the tax policy and abolish the IRS. Cruz condemned the potential nuclear deal with Iran. And he criticized his democratic colleagues.

“That they are unwilling to defend the first amendment. They are unwilling to defend the right of every Christian, every Jew, every American, to seek out and worship god and live according to the dictates of our faith,” said Cruz.

Many voters in the packed room agreed with Cruz.

“State vs. federal rights. Certain rights as a state to regulate religion… to regulate marriage,” said Glenn Kramar, who attended the event.

Others said they do not support the Texas senator’s view, especially on immigration.

“Especially you know coming from Texas where the Bushes are from, they had a better understanding of the importance and the impact that immigrants have. You gotta work with them in the community. They bring in a lot of money. They pay a lot of taxes. They contribute a lot, but you just want to cut them completely off… that just astonishes me,” said Alma Hernandez from Action NC.

Nobody else has officially announced that they will run in 2016. Several names like Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, Rick Perry and on the democrat side, Hilary Clinton, have come up, but there’s no official announcement yet on these potential candidates.

Capital Tonight April 2: State Ferry System

Ferry_tolls_PKGOn Capital Tonight: An in depth look at the future of the North Carolina ferry system. What changes are in store? The presidential primary date will soon be released. We talk with an Appalachian State University professor about the presidential primary date and why it matters. Cheaper electricity rates are on the horizon for thousands of North Carolinians. Watch the program here.

HUD Secretary Castro Announces Investment in Charlotte Pilot Program

jobs_plus_pilotCHARLOTTE — The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is investing $24 million into nine public housing authorities nationwide, and Charlotte is one of them.

HUD secretary Julian Castro, along with Rep. Alma Adams, made the announcement Thursday at one of Charlotte’s public housing communities. Charlotte Housing Authority will recieve $2.2 million for a Jobs Plus pilot program to connect public housing residents with employment.

Also, instead of raising their rent when their salary increases, the program will help them save money.

“We have confidence that this investment in the Charlotte Housing Authority will make a great difference in the lives of the public housing residents,” said Castro. “We have confidence that the grant will be well managed and executed and result in great outcomes for the people that we care about and we serve.”

The pilot program will target Charlotte’s Southside Homes community. The Charlotte Housing Authority will have a building in the neighborhood staffed just for job training and development.

New Bill Would Fine Slowpoke Drivers in the Passing Lane

slowpoke_billCHARLOTTE — Driving too slowly could soon cost you.

State Sen. Jeff Tarte, a lawmaker from Mecklenburg County, thinks drivers who don’t go fast enough in the passing lane should be fined. He is sponsoring the Slowpoke Bill, which would make it illegal to drive in the left lane at less than the speed limit.

“Frustrating,” said Charlotte driver Maurice Overton. “Makes me want to jump around them, then I have to jump back in the fast lane.”

If Tarte gets his way, it would soon be illegal to drive too slowly in the fast lane.

“It’s one that the state Highway Patrol and other law enforcement agencies have been concerned with,” said Tarte. “It causes congestion issues, and we also have road rage. So it’s kind of addressing those common issues.”

Under the bill, the fine would be $200 fine for going less than the speed limit in the passing lane. That number didn’t sit well with Charlotte drivers.

“I don’t think a $200 fine,” said Overton. “I’d say $100 or something like that.”

“I think $200 may be just a little too drastic,” said Chiquela Adams.

Tarte said he’s flexible and that amount could be changed.

“There’s a happy medium somewhere,” said Chuck Lehning with Jordan Driving School.

He says driving slowly in the passing lane can be dangerous. They teach drivers to stick to the right and let the faster traffic pass on the left.

“Driving in the righthand lane has been the rule of the road since I’ve been driving,” he said. “That’s just common courtesy.”

And if some drivers don’t follow the etiquette of the road, Adams says it’s just one of those things you have to deal with. That’s why some drivers believe a bill to address the issue is unnecessary. Tarte is moving forward with it, though. He said he is working on the language of the bill with the North Carolina Highway Patrol to make sure troopers will be able to enforce the law if it passes.

The bill passed first reading the senate on Monday. Tarte said it hasn’t been assigned to a committee yet.

– Caroline Vandergriff

NC Democrats Seek to Re-Instate Earned Income Tax Credit

EITCRALEIGH—State Democrats say they are going to continue to fight to re-instate North Carolina’s Earned Income Tax Credit.

The program was meant to help low wage earners keep more of their paycheck. The credit ended in 2013, and Republican leadership has shown no signs of considering to bring it back. But Democratic leaders say they will continue to speak out in support of it.

“Of the valuable nature of this tool for all of our communities and for our state of North Carolina, our families, and those folks who are working hard everyday to make ends meet.  Especially in an environment where we have raised our gas tax, we now come back and say, the earned income tax credit more than ever is important to the citizens of North Carolina,” said Rep. Larry Hall, a Durham County Democrat.

Nearly 1,000,000 North Carolinians claimed the earned income tax credit in its final year of availability. State House Democrats have filed a bill to have the credit restored.

– Loretta Boniti

Capital Tonight April 1: NC Mayors on Tax Changes

ncct_040115On Capital Tonight: Some changes to the state tax laws have left cities shortchanged when it comes to their budgets. State leaders promised help, but is it coming? City leaders aren’t so sure. We ask Huntersville Mayor Jill Swain and Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo. Our Advocates Donald Bryson and Perry Woods hash out the issues of the week. Watch the program here.

Bill Aims to Move NC Presidential Primary to March

primary_billRALEIGH — A bill has been filed in the state House to move North Carolina’s presidential primary to the first Monday in March.

An election law from two years ago moved the presidential primary from May to just three days after South Carolina’s, which takes place in February. However, the February primary would break national Republican Party rules.

Bill sponsor and Republican National Committee delegate David Lewis, of Harnett County, says it is important to have an earlier date than before, but to honor the national party’s rules.

“The national party rules are saying if we don’t move back our date, we will lose a majority of our voting strength. We can’t let that happen, so we filed the bill to start the conversation,” he said. “I do expect we will take it up in the next couple of weeks and I think we will move back to an acceptable date in March.”

If the date is not changed, North Carolina’s delegates at the national convention would shrink from 72 to 12. It is unclear if the Senate is willing to make the change to a March date.

– Loretta Boniti

NC Lawmakers Say Vaccination Requirement Changes Dead

VaccinationRALEIGH–Three lawmakers say their proposal to update North Carolina’s childhood vaccination regimen and eliminate an immunization exemption on religious grounds is dead less than two weeks after their bill was filed.

The state senators announced Wednesday their measure has already reached a dead-end in the two-year session after hearing “serious concerns” from constituents and other citizens.

Opponents of the proposal inundated the bill sponsors with messages and visited the Legislative Building days after the bill was filed, with some citing their right to choose what’s best for their children. Parents of homeschoolers also have fought the measure.

The sponsors said they were concerned about the liberal use of the religious exemption and what they see as an increased public health risk. The measure would have required immunizations for more illnesses.

– Associated Press