The N&O’s former cartoonist just couldn’t sit out this legislative session, not with all the fun things to draw. He’ll be offering his view every Sunday in The N&O during the session. Here’s this week’s cartoon.
Here's a batch of letters that got overrun by other issues before we could get them in.
Long-time reader Ginger Nelles of Knightdale, in a letter to the editor Wednesday, says our Sunday story about sexual tension at the legislature was offensive and sexist. The story, "Power, temptation a seductive mix at the legislature," by reporter Mandy Locke, said sometimes at the legislature, the lines between work and play get blurred.
The sexual tensions are subtle yet palpable, Locke wrote: "The lobbyist who addresses a lawmaker as 'sweetie.' An arm brushed. A rear end admired. The off-color joke shared." Among other things in the story, Nelles objected to "a rear end admired." I don't know why that sentence would be sexist: It didn't say who was doing the admiring or who was being admired. It just said a rear end was being admired.
Which was true, I'm sure. Locke's story helped explain the recent news about social relationships between lobbyists and legislative staff. Anyone who spends time with legislators and their staff members (I covered the legislature for five years) knows there's a strong nightlife culture. Locke gave various reasons in her well-reported story for the sexual tension: The legislature can be an intense workplace with long hours. Legislators, many of whom have big egos, are away from home, usually with time (and many social opportunities) at night. "There is down time and alcohol and egos," said Rep. Deborah Ross of Wake County. "It's easy to see what happens."
"What happens" isn't purely social. The relationships among lobbyists, legislators and staff members can affect public policy. As one lobbyist told Locke, "If the person you know is a lobbyist and is a personal friend you are sleeping with, you are going to take their call and hear what they are doing." That's why this story was worth publishing. --John Drescher
North Carolina legislators are considering easing the rules on leaking underground gas storage tanks that represent a half-billion-dollar problem.
As the state House and Senate wrap up with a marathon session today, a pair of incentives bills that could draw big business investment to North Carolina remain a key priority for leaders.
Two bills are on the agenda that cover a host of incentives programs. The rules require votes on such bills to be taken on separate days, so both bills are expected to get a final vote after midnight.
The bills come amid rumors that several major companies are looking to invest in North Carolina.
Though state officials refuse to name names thus far, companies including Microsoft are believed to be considering opening new facilities within the state.
Keith Crisco, secretary of commerce, told members of the state House Tuesday that the projects covered by the bills represent potential investments worth up to $2 billion and 1,200 jobs.
Join the North Carolina Conservation Network, its allied organizations and citizens from across the state on Wednesday, June 23 for Clean Water Lobby Day.
Under the 21st Amendment to the Constitution, which repealed nationwide Prohibition, each state sets its own policies for the distribution and sale of alcohol -- and do they ever.
The result is a thoroughly mixed case. The 50 states' systems and regulations wander all over the lot, ranging from wide open to tightly capped, with North Carolina leaning toward the latter category. Now there's a move here to pour it on, liquorwise. A bill in the state Senate would allow liquor stores, by county option, to sell booze on Sundays.
Here's hoping that sober heads in the legislature put a cork in the bill. This change is unneeded and undesirable.
I write from neither a prohibitionist point of view nor as a fan of North Carolina's daffy system of government-run liquor stores supplied from a state warehouse. But you don't have to oppose alcohol sales in general to appreciate the case for retaining some of the traditional limits.
Sunday-sales bans, after all, are rooted in our history. They harken back to the early days of colonial settlement, particularly in New England, where Puritan values became embedded in state laws (not always a good thing, granted). They reflect also the widespread anti-alcohol impulse that arose in the 19th century as a result of the excesses of an alcohol-fueled society (and which in 1919 led to national Prohibition). And they are in harmony with religious values, particularly those of the conservative Protestants long predominant in our state. So why change?
Money, say state Sen. Tony Rand and liquor industry lobbyists. There's an estimated $5.5 million in annual tax revenue to be collected if Sunday sales at ABC stores could be added to the current six-day total. Plus, people today, living and working on notably odd schedules, are inconvenienced when the liquor store doors are closed.
Well, maybe. But more tax revenue assumes more consumption, which either would happen — and is that a good thing? — or wouldn't — are folks really likely to buy more booze per week if they can shop on an additional day? As for the lifestyle issue, are Sunday closing such a hardship? You'd think that both casual and serious drinkers could satisfy their thirst for buying bottles of whiskey, vodka or gin over six days.
And yes, rest up on the seventh, along with the ABC employees. I'd like to see more, not fewer, workers be able to do the same, rather than labor in big box stores or in franchised eateries.
So here's to Chick-fil-A (a praiseworthy holdout to seven-days-a-week workstyles) and, at least for now, North Carolina's never-on-Sunday liquor stores.