Leaders Push to Restore Historic Tax Credit

CONCORD — A big push is underway to save a tax credit to save historic buildings. The Republican-led legislature ended the historic tax credit at the beginning of the year, and now another group of Republicans, including Gov. Pat McCrory, is traveling around the state to bring it back.

They say it’s critical to revive small town USA.

When you walk through downtown Concord, some buildings are vacant. Hotel Concord is included among those buildings. The upper floors of the century-old building remain vacant, just waiting. McCrory recalled visits to Hotel Concord for brunch in his 20s, and said he noticed changes to Main Street.

“It was very discouraging to see Main Street start going down as other Main Streets throughout North Carolina and the United States start going down,” he said.

Concord Mayor Scott Padgett credits a 16-year-old incentive program for helping to revitalize small towns.

“Fifteen years ago, downtown was a ghost town, and now we’ve got a very low vacancy rate. We’re very proud of that. None of that could have happened without the historic tax credit,” said Padgett.

Some buildings, like the Bell and Harris-Maxwell Brothers Furniture store, are months away from being converted into apartments. Some of the funding to make that possible came from state and federal tax credits. Developers say the renovation will bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars of revenue to Concord. It’s a trend some lawmakers say will die unless businesses and homeowners have help to preserve their buildings.

“It’s especially critical for the small rural areas, it’s their only hope,” said Susan Kluttz, the Secretary of the NC Department of Cultural Resources.

Lawmakers argue having the credit in place has brought in more than $1.6 billion in private investment to North Carolina.

The tax credits are for historic properties on the National Register of Historic Places. McCrory said the key is stepping up to save little pieces of history like Hotel Concord.

It’s a chance to restore small town USA. Some lawmakers want to get rid of all tax credits saying it puts the state in the business of picking winners and losers. McCrory said he will include historic tax credits in his initial budget to the North Carolina legislature.

– Carly Stephenson

Gov. McCrory Campaign Has Nearly $1.6M; Cooper About Even

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and potential Democratic 2016 election rival Roy Cooper were about even with campaign cash entering 2015.

Their campaign committees disclosed fundraising totals for the final six months of 2014 on Friday, the deadline for candidates not on last year’s ballot.

The governor reported raising $554,000 and having nearly $1.6 million in his campaign coffers. Cooper is the sitting attorney general. He reported raising $310,000 and had about $100,000 less cash on hand than McCrory.

McCrory campaign spokesman Billy Constangy says the governor raised most of what he collected around early December as he began actively seeking donations. Cooper is planning a gubernatorial run but hasn’t yet called himself a candidate.

Democrat Ken Spaulding of Durham is already running. He reported raising $8,900, with $61,000 on hand.

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Capital Tonight Jan. 30: Bow Tie Caucus

The Bow Tie Caucus convenes to wrap another busy week in politics. Joe Stewart and Montica Talmadge take a look at the NC Main Street Democrats and look ahead to the State of the State address. Watch the program here.

NC Legislature Could Step in on Abortion Clinic Rule Proposal

RALEIGH—Abortion-rights groups are worried that Republican legislators will try to override rules proposed for North Carolina abortion clinics that activists contend balance patient safety with access to the procedure.

Several Democratic lawmakers and a physician spoke at a news conference Thursday at the Legislative Building. They say elected officials should not interfere with the rules offered by Gov. Pat McCrory’s health agency.

The Department of Health and Human Services released the draft rules last month mandated following a 2013 law that abortion-rights supporters at the time opposed vehemently. But now groups like Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina say they support the ensuing regulations and don’t want lawmakers to try to change them.

Rep. Rick Glazier of Fayetteville says he was pleasantly surprised by the rules offered by the McCrory administration.

Some social conservatives say the regulations don’t go far enough. The legislature could pass a bill blocking their implementation.

Two key Republicans say they did not expect an effort to block the rules, but bills could seek incremental changes.

Capital Tonight Jan. 28: Main Street Democrats Caucus

On Capital Tonight: As the General Assembly returns to begins its work, a group of Democrats are forming their own caucus to push pro-business issues. We talk with caucus leaders Sen. Joel Ford and Rep. Ken Goodman. And we ask lawmakers what’s on their wish list for the long session. Watch the program here.

Capital Tonight Jan. 27: State Superintendent June Atkinson

On Capital Tonight: State Superintendent June Atkinson tells us her priorities for public education during the new legislative session. Our Insiders Sam Spencer and Tyler Cralle discuss what the political parties must do to remain relevant. Watch the program here.

As NC Legislature Begins, Gay Marriage Takes Center Stage

RALEIGH—Gay marriage is front and center on this year’s first real work day at the North Carolina General Assembly.

The state Senate leader is proposing allowing some magistrates and register of deeds to refuse to perform same-sex marriages. In a bill filed on Wednesday, Sen. Phil Berger is suggesting that court officials may recuse themselves from performing marriages if they hold a “sincere religious objection.”

“It impacts the long held understanding in this country, that we respect people’s religious beliefs.  and that we accommodate strongly held religious beliefs,” said Berger.

The bill comes after an October ruling allowing same-sex marriages in North Carolina. Advocacy groups expressed concern about religious objection proposals- saying a bill like this one, and anticipated bill that could more far reaching- could be troublesome for the state

Advocates for the same-sex marriage community say this an effort to allow discrimination.

“In this nation, we as citizens do not have to pass any government employees personal religious test in order to receive government service. And that is exactly what a magistrate does—provide a government service,” said Sen. Jeff Jackson, a Mecklenberg County Democrat.

Chris Sgro with Equality NC said that broad religious refusal could mean that a hotel owner that objects to cohabitation outside of marriage could ultimately refuse to provide a room to an unmarried couple. He went on to say that even a landlord that believes a man should be head of household could refuse to rent an apartment to a single mother.

Bills have just begun to be introduced this legislative session. The process of debating legislation will begin later.

Senate to Begin Hearings for President Obama’s Attorney General Nominee

WASHINGTON—Confirmation hearings begin Wednesday for U.S. Attorney General nominee and North Carolina native Loretta Lynch.

Lynch is from Greensboro and is currently the U.S. Attorney for the eastern district of New York. She is scheduled for two days of confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, where she is expected to face tough questions on immigration and polcie misconduct among other issues.

Earlier this month the Judiciary Committee released the evaluations by the executive office for United States attorneys.

The report found no significant problems with morale in her office and said she was ‘exceptionally well-qualified’ for her current position.

Education Leaders Address NC Teacher Shortage ‘Crisis’

CARY, N.C. — State education leaders and lawmakers are working to address North Carolina’s shortage of high quality teachers, something they’re calling a crisis.

More than 200 people gathered in Cary on Tuesday for the UNC Board of Governors Education Summit.

“We can do better, and we must do better,” said UNC System President Tom Ross.

“We have a crisis in North Carolina,” said UNC Board of Governors Chair John Fennebresque. “The number of students seeking a career in teaching in our system, 4,300 is significantly inadequate to meet the demand, [and] 10,900, that’s a crisis.”

UNC System data compiled by SAS shows that the number of college students in education majors dropped 12 percent from 2013 to 2014.

Over the past five years, the number of college students studying to become teachers in North Carolina has dropped nearly 27 percent.

Members of the UNC Board of Governors, university leaders within the UNC System, the State Board of Education and lawmakers gathered to talk about ways to address the crisis, by recruiting, training and retaining high quality teachers in North Carolina.

“This is not just about money,” Fennebresque said. “That helps [but] it’s about respect, appreciation and celebration.”

Education leaders are recommending more accountability for teacher training programs, better preparation for the teaching profession focusing on more training time in the classroom before becoming a teacher and improved support for new teachers.

“Teaching conditions, teacher preparations, and salaries; it matters,” said Ellen McIntyre, dean of the College of Education at UNC-Charlotte.

For more information, visit: http://www.northcarolina.edu/sites/default/files/documents/subcommittee_on_teacher_quality_recommendations.pdf

– Heather Moore

Google Expanding Fiber Service to Charlotte, Raleigh

CHARLOTTE – Google Fiber is coming to Charlotte and the City of Oaks after the company announced the expansion in both the Queen City and Raleigh Tuesday afternoon, offering customers another option for high speed internet.

Company officials claim the service features speeds up to 100-times faster than normal broadband speeds.

“This is a major, major win for our city ,” said Charlotte Mayor Dan Clodfelter.

In a press conference, he joined other elected officials who said they hoped the service will help continue to bridge the digital divide and one day attract new business to the area.

“We think Google Fiber will put Charlotte on par with some of the fastest cities in the world like Tokyo, Seoul, and Zurich,” said Jill Szuchmacher, Director of Expansion.  “Given that the U.S. is still 14th in the world for speeds, this is a big deal.”

Szuchmahcer could not give an exact timetable for the service to be up and running.

“This is a huge step in an announcement of what the city’s going to be in the next century,” said Raleigh mayor Nancy McFarlane.

Later this year, crews will begin the complicated installation of 6-thousand miles of fiber optic cable and other infrastructure.

“Just for the network here in Charlotte, the number of route miles will have to go from here to Canada and back, so it’s a very enormous effort and a lot of detail that we need to plan,” said Szuchmahcer.

The combined gigabit internet and TV package will run you about $120 per month with Google Fiber.

Within the past several months, competitors Time Warner Cable and AT&T announced they were also increasing internet speeds.

“Google coming is going to lead other internet providers to really kick up their game,” said city manager Ron Carlee. “Products are going to really begin differentiating themselves and the service they provide, by their speeds and by their pricing.”

In a statement, Time Warner Cable said:

“Today, our most popular Internet plans offer consumers the best value across our entire Charlotte/Triangle service areas, not just select neighborhoods.  And we’re innovating for tomorrow: TWC Maxx will bring Internet speeds up to 6x faster for every Time Warner Cable Internet customer in the Charlotte/Triangle area this year, with a top speed up to 300 Mbps.  We have the people, products and local service to compete with anyone, anytime, anywhere.”

AT&T submitted submitted this statement:
“We’re excited about the initial feedback we’ve received about U-verse with AT&T GigaPower in Charlotte and our work is on track. U-verse with AT&T GigaPower’s fiber-enhanced speeds open up new possibilities for innovators and businesses, as well as consumers who want faster speeds for surfing, shopping, gaming, social networking, business transactions and more. U-verse with AT&T GigaPower provides customers access to the fastest Internet available from AT&T, featuring speeds up to 1 gigabit per second. We’ve launched U-verse with AT&T GigaPower℠ in Raleigh, Cary, Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Winston-Salem, in addition to Austin and Dallas-Fort Worth, Tex. We welcome additional competition because it strengthens customer offerings and drives innovation.

-Becky Bereiter