Pricey Harrison

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Hurricane Katrina Fundraiser Tonight

DonorsChoose is having a fundraiser in Durham tonight to benefit students and teachers displaced in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Please visit http://www.donorschoose.org/event_nc.php to learn more about the event.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Gasoline

As gas prices rise across North Carolina and the country, North Carolina Attorney General, Roy Cooper, suggests North Carolina consumers watch out for price fixing by gas stations and to take steps to save money at the pump.

North Carolina has laws against price fixing, which can occur when competitors agree together to raise or fix their prices. Any consumers who have evidence of price fixing by gas stations in their area are encouraged to file a complaint with the AG’s office. You can do so by visiting www.ncdoj.com or by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM. Cooper also wrote to the Federal Trade Commission asking it to monitor the gasoline market in North Carolina for any illegal practices.

Consider the following tips you can follow to save money on gas:

Shop around. Encourage competition by taking your business to gas stations with lower prices.
Slow down. Keeping your speed down means you're burning less of that expensive gas. Using cruise control and the overdrive gear on your car can also help.
Tune up. To increase your miles per gallon, keep your engine tuned, replace clogged oil and air filters, and make sure your oxygen sensor works properly. Using the right grade of motor oil for your car and keeping your tires properly inflated will also help.
Stick to regular gas unless your owner's manual specifies you need a higher grade.
Plan your route. Combine trips to save gas. For example, run errands while on your way to work or while taking your kids to school. Also, consider carpooling or use public and alternative forms of transportation.
Pick the right vehicle. If you own more than one car, drive the one that gets the best gas mileage.
Don't idle. Turn off your engine if you plan to sit for awhile.
Don't overload your trunk. Clear unnecessary things from your trunk and avoid hauling large items on your roof to improve your gas mileage.

Schools:K-12-Universities

Superintendent June Atkinson and the State Board of Education organized a coordinated effort among NC school systems and schools as well as DPI and the SBE to provide assistance.North Carolina school districts have already begun to receive students for enrollment from the Gulf Coast states affected by Hurricane Katrina. Thank you for what you have already done to help these students and their families. It is our goal to serve these children and their families when they move to our state.Many of these youngsters will not have immunization records, school records or otherpaperwork with them, but State law (115C-366(a3)(1)e) specifically authorizes a student who is not a domiciliary of a local school administrative unit to attend based on the un-inhabitation of the student's home as the result of a natural disaster. A student meeting these criteria should be admitted and registered (NC WISE) or enrolled (SIMS) as a visiting student.

UNC President Molly Corbett Broad announced that the 16 campuses of the University of North Carolina are committed to assisting students enrolled at universities that have been forced to close as a result of Hurricane Katrina. All campuses will accommodate impacted students on a space-available basis.Preference will be given to North Carolina residents who are attending one of the affected universities, but accommodation shall be as extensive as the campus can reasonably provide. As for our own faculty, staff or students personally impacted by the disaster, we are prepared to assist them during this difficult time.The Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools is maintaining a listing of institutions offering assistance to affected students, including all 16 UNC campuses at http://www.sacscoc.org/.For specific information about accommodations provided by UNC campuses, please visit the corresponding campus website.

Donations and Volunteering

Citizens in North Carolina who want to donate money to help with relief efforts in other states can call the N.C. Disaster Hotline toll free at 1-888-835-9966 between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. The money that is collected will be sent to the other states to use for their immediate needs.

The N.C. Disaster Relief Fund is managed by the Governor’s Office in partnership with United Way of North Carolina. There is no administrative cost associated with the fund, and 100 percent of the donated funds will go to the victims. Make checks payable to the N.C. Helping Neighbors Fund and mail to:
N.C. Helping Neighbors Fund
Office of the Governor
20312 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-0312

Based on experience with previous disasters and what we hear the federal government, the best form of assistance is cash donations. Donations of food and clothing are particularly difficult to coordinate over long distances. See the information below. Also please remember that your municipality or county cannot contribute cash.

Voluntary organizations are seeking cash donations to assist victims of Hurricane Katrina in Gulf Coast states, according to Michael D. Brown, Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Emergency Preparedness and Response. But, volunteers should not report directly to the affected areas unless directed by a voluntary agency.

Cash donations are especially helpful to victims," Brown said. "They allow volunteer agencies to issue cash vouchers to victims so they can meet their needs. Cash donations also allow agencies to avoid the labor-intensive need to store, sort, pack, and distribute donated goods. Donated money prevents, too, the prohibitive cost of air or sea transportation that donated goods require."

Volunteer agencies provide a wide variety of services after disasters, such as clean up, childcare, housing repair, crisis counseling, sheltering and food.

Here is a list of phone numbers set up solely for cash donations and/or volunteers:

DONATE CASH:
American Red Cross
1-800-HELP NOW (435-7669) English, 1-800-257-7575 Spanish;
Operation Blessing
1-800-436-6348
America's Second Harvest
1-800-344-8070

DONATE CASH AND VOLUNTEER:
Adventist Community Services
1-800-381-7171
Catholic Charities, USA
703 549-1390
Christian Disaster Response
941-956-5183 or 941-551-9554
Christian Reformed World Relief Committee
1-800-848-5818
Church World Service
1-800-297-1516
Convoy of Hope
417-823-8998
Lutheran Disaster Response
800-638-3522
Mennonite Disaster Service
717-859-2210
Nazarene Disaster Response
888-256-5886
Presbyterian Disaster Assistance
800-872-3283
The Salvation Army
1-800-SAL-ARMY (725-2769)
Southern Baptist Convention -- Disaster Relief
1-800-462-8657, ext. 6440
United Methodist Committee on Relief
1-800-554-8583

For further information: visit the website for the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD) at: http://www.nvoad.org/.

Local Efforts-Hurricane Katrina

The State Emergency Management Team has been coordinating potential local aid for Katrina (State or Federal). They have been asked to follow certain protocol, as folks who show up to help may cause additional hardships because there are no accommodations for them either.
All requests for assistance will come from the State of North Carolina, and will filter down to the local emergency teams.
This information came from Mike Guzo, Search and Rescue Coordinator, Assistant Coordinator Emergency Services, North Carolina Division of Emergency Management. He states that Police and Fire are currently on stand-by, in a readiness mode. If any request for deployment is received from the State, he will notify local governments ASAP.

Statewide Efforts To Aid Katrina Victims

The N.C. Division of Forest Resources (NCDFR) has dispatched 27 employees trained in disaster relief to Louisiana. They will partner with another eight Division employees, who were sent last week to Florida to help that state recover from Katrina. The 35 NCDFR staff will assist FEMA teams who are receiving and distributing ice, bottled water, ready-to-eat meals, canned foods, portable lights, batteries, first aid kits and other relief supplies to victims of the hurricane.
The N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT) has offered assistance with bridge repairs, debris removal and traffic control in affected states. NCDOT crews are on standby and ready to respond as needed.
The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ (NCDENR) Division of Forest Resources has dispatched a total of 80 employees trained in disaster relief to the Gulf Coast to help victims of Hurricane Katrina. The staff will assist FEMA teams who are receiving and distributing ice, bottled water, ready-to-eat meals, canned foods, portable lights, batteries, first aid kits and other relief supplies to victims of the hurricane.
NCDENR’s Division of Environmental Health is assembling teams of state and local food specialists and onsite wastewater specialists to leave as early as Sunday for Louisiana for a two-week period. These individuals will assist Louisiana officials in determining if restaurants are safe to reopen and septic systems are viable for use.

The N.C. Department of Commerce (NCDOC) is offering its experience regarding disaster recovery programs, particularly related to hurricane and flood damage, to the Departments of Commerce in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. These programs will work to bring quick relief to businesses owners and shorten the turnaround time to get the businesses back in operation. The NCDOC is also ready to offer states affected by Hurricane Katrina advice and technical assistance with state business assistance programs.
The N.C. Department of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s (NCJJDP) Center for the Prevention of School Violence will provide technical assistance and expertise on disaster recovery to the Mississippi Safe Schools Center. Officials in Mississippi have stated that, “32 out of 152 school districts in Mississippi are out of operation with major structural damage.” NCJJDP is awaiting a list of needs from Mississippi to determine next steps with its technical assistance provision.

In addition, the Division of Emergency Management has offered staff to assist with damage assessment and donation management. The divisions of Facility Services and Emergency Management also are preparing to send a field hospital with a team of physicians, nurses and paramedics to the region later this week.
The N.C. Department of Crime Control and Public Safety (NCCCPS) and the N.C. National Guard are deploying 300 troops to the Gulf region. Troops will help rescue stranded refugees, provide assistance to the sick and injured, hand out supplies of food, water and ice, and provide traffic and crowd control.
The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services’ (NCDHHS) Division of Public Health has 21 employees on standby to join recovery efforts. In addition, the division has provided the affected states with hurricane educational materials that were developed during Hurricanes Fran and Floyd. The NCDHHS Division of Facility Services is coordinating a portable 110-bed hospital deploying this weekend to serve survivors in the New Orleans area. Sixty medical specialists from across the state, ranging from surgeons and anesthesiologists to nurses and paramedics, will join this effort.

The Division of Public Health has 21 employees on standby to join recovery efforts. In addition, the division has provided the affected states with hurricane educational materials that were developed during Hurricanes Fran and Floyd.

The Department of Cultural Resources has offered its resources to FEMA and will work with the N.C. Museums Council, the Southeastern Museums Conference and the American Association of Museums to organize support for art museums, archival collections, and historical museums in affected states. Help can include technical assistance, refrigeration for archival materials, climate controlled storage space for objects and archival materials, communications and other appropriate measures.

Gov. Mike Easley has ordered select N.C. National Guard armories to open Monday morning as storm shelters to provide refuge for those fleeing the path of the then-Category 5 hurricane. Shelters remain available in Asheville, Gastonia and Charlotte.

Brenda Hodge, communications officer for the Louisiana Senate, has provided the following Internet link for anyone who may be interested in helping with Katrina relief efforts: http://2theadvocate.com/livepages4/830.shtml.

Michael D. Brown, Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Emergency Preparedness and Response and head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), urged all fire and emergency services departments not to respond to counties and states affected by Hurricane Katrina unless requested and lawfully dispatched by state and local authorities under mutual aid agreements and the Emergency Management Assistance Compact.

The U.S. Fire Administration, part of FEMA, asks that fire and emergency services organizations remain in contact with their local and state emergency management agency officials for updates on requirements in the affected areas.

FEMA prepares the nation for all hazards and manages federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates mitigation activities, trains first responders, works with state and local emergency managers, and manages the National Flood Insurance Program and the U.S. Fire Administration. FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on March 1, 2003

In The News...Hurricane Katrina

We have heard from a number of people who want to know how to provide assistance to governments, communities and families affected by Hurricane Katrina. Please let your county emergency management agency know that you have assistance available. Then go to www.ncmutualaid.org and respond to particular requests for assistance. The League of Municipalities and the Association of County Commissioners will be working with appropriate state and federal agencies to coordinate requests for assistance.

It may take some time to determine exactly where and what assistance will be needed. Mutual aid needs to be coordinated through North Carolina's Emergency Management Division in order for a local government to qualify for reimbursement under the Stafford Act. Remember that this disaster is a different situation from disasters that have previously occurred within the state.

Greetings From Raleigh 9-06-05

I hope you find this special blog update with information about Hurricane Katrina useful and that you'll contact me about your views. You can reach me in Raleigh at (919) 733-5771 or by sending me an e-mail at this address. You can also send mail to me at the NC Legislative Building, Room 2119, Raleigh, NC 27601-2808.

Let’s keep the people of New Orleans in our thoughts and prayers. Hope you had a good Labor Day Weekend!

Cheers,

Pricey

Friday, September 02, 2005

In Other News...(9-02-05)

The House completed work on several remaining bills this week before adjourning for the year. Below is a quick snapshot of some of the bills that were approved by the House and/or the Senate in the last several days:

Meth Lab Prevention – One of the most important accomplishments of this year’s session is passage of the Meth Lab Prevention Act, which seeks to reduce the growing crime problem across our state. The House passed what was described as the most comprehensive anti-meth lab bill in the country on Tuesday, which was slightly different that a version previously approved by the Senate. When it became clear that the Senate would not return to vote on the House approved stronger bill, the House approved the Senate's rewrite of HB 248 on Wednesday in order to have an anti-meth law before next May. We hope to have a stronger measure, summarized below, approved next year.

The unanimously approved legislation would keep certain cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine and ephedrine, which are used in the illegal manufacturing of meth, behind a pharmacy counter. Gel caps and products intended for children under 12 would remain on shelves, although a state commission would have the power to restrict those items further. Consumers will need to show photo identification and sign a log before buying the medicine, and would be limited to no more than two products at once and three a month. The bill now awaits the Governor’s signature to become law.

Law-enforcement officials say that small, home labs for making meth have become more common in recent years. There were nine meth labs discovered in 1999, and 322 in 2004, according to the Attorney General’s office.
The House and Senate passed different versions of the legislation earlier in the session and have worked together over the last several weeks to reach a compromise.

The more comprehensive and stronger anti-meth bill which was passed by the House on Tuesday would have restricted the sale of all medicine containing pseudoephedrine by putting the medicine behind either a pharmacy counter or behind a single locked cabinet at a retail store if no pharmacy counter is present. The bill also required security measure such as video surveillance of sales areas or anti-theft devices on the medications. Individuals buying cold medicine would be required to register their name and address in a logbook and would not be permitted to buy more than 2 packages in one transaction and no more than 3 packages per month. In addition to the restrictions on purchases of cold medicine, the bill also included requirements for all wholesale distributors to report transactions involving pseudoephedrine products to the State Bureau of Investigation every month.
The legislation also would increase penalties on those arrested for meth production. Under the stronger bill, any person arrested for the manufacturing of meth or for possession of chemicals believed to be used for the production of meth can be denied bail if that person is dependent on the drug or has a pattern of meth use. This provision would assure the safety of the community by not allowing a known offender immediately back out on the street.
North Carolina’s meth problem has increased tremendously over the past few years, and legislators, the Governor, and Attorney General Roy Cooper have been working to battle the spread of secret drug labs that produce the dangerous drug. In 2004, 124 children were found living in meth labs in the state. Children in these homes are threatened by toxic chemicals, fire, and explosions, and are often neglected or abused. Thus far in 2005, more than 50 children have been removed from homes where meth was being made.

Military Support Act (SB 1117) – The Legislature gave final approval to the 2005 Military Support Act, which will help the careers of military spouses, the schooling of their children, and the morale of those left behind during deployments. The Senate voted unanimously in favor of changes made Monday night by the House to the 2005 Military Support Act. The measure now goes to Governor Easley for his signature. The bill would set aside $1 million apiece for conservation easement purchases around the installations and quality-of-life and morale programs for the military. The bill attempts to make college tuition less expensive for the dependents of retired military personnel by giving them the in-state rate. The legislation would also work to ease state licensing requirements for military spouses who have professional licenses issued in other states.


$150 Bonus for State Employees (HB 575) – The House overwhelmingly approved a bill on Monday night that would give a $150 bonus to state employees making less than $50,000 per year. This increase was suggested during the final budget discussions several weeks ago, but was not supported by Gov. Mike Easley and the Senate. The House voted 109-3 for the legislation; however, it will not be considered by the Senate until next May at the earliest.


Additional Anti-Crime Measures (SB 61) – The House approved legislation on Wednesday that seeks to strengthen the laws against impaired driving by increasing the punishment for felony death by vehicle and to expand the number of judges and assistant district attorneys in several jurisdictions. The measure also would allow a victim of a sexually violent offense or the victim’s family to obtain a civil no-contact order against a registered sex offender who resides or works within a quarter mile of the victim’s residence, school, place of employment, or other specific location.


Global Warming Study Commission (SB 1134) – The General Assembly gave its final approval to legislation that creates a legislative commission to study global warming’s impact on North Carolina. The House and Senate agreed to a compromise worked out that would create a 32-member commission. The panel could recommend a pollution-reducing goal when it reports to the General Assembly by November, 2006. The panel membership includes members of the public, representatives of the state’s top power companies, as well as industry and environmental groups and universities. The bill now goes to the Governor for his signature.


Local Vote for Additional Education Funding – The House passed a series of bills at the end of last week and on Monday night that would allow 45 counties across the state to hold a local referendum on increasing their sales tax by one-half percent to raise money for school construction. The ½ cent increase would only occur if voters approved the measure. The bills will not be approved during this year’s session due to the Senate’s refusal to take up the measures before adjourning.

If the Senate approves the bills next May, the following counties would be able to include a referendum on the ballot for public schools and community college construction: Alexander, Anson, Beaufort, Bladen, Buncombe, Camden, Carteret, Catawba, Chatham, Columbus, Craven, Cumberland, Currituck, Davidson, Davie, Duplin, Edgecombe, Granville, Guilford, Halifax, Jackson, Johnston, Jones, Lenoir, Martin, Mecklenburg, Montgomery, Nash, Pamlico, Pasquotank, Pender, Pitt, Richmond, Sampson, Stanly, Surry, Swain, Tyrrell, Union, Vance, Wake, and Wilson. Chatham, Franklin, Lee and Vance Counties would have a referendum for public school construction only, and Haywood County would have a referendum for community college construction only. The combined state and local sales tax is now 7 percent in all counties except Mecklenburg, which is 7.5 percent.

And Finally, House Adjournment- The House passed the joint resolution for adjournment on Wednesday afternoon and the Senate concurred during its session this morning. The resolution requires that the General Assembly return for the 2006 short session on Tuesday, May 9th.

Governor Signs Lottery Bill

North Carolina is set to become the final state on the East Coast to start a lottery after Lieutenant Governor Beverly Perdue broke a Senate tie Tuesday, voting to create a lottery that supporters have sought for more than 20 years. As you remember, the House approved the lottery on April 6 by a vote of 61-59. The State Senate finally approved the House lottery bill earlier this week, which is projected to raise approximately $400 million. The vote was deadlocked at 24-24 before Perdue, the Senate’s presiding officer, cast the deciding vote. Perdue got the chance to vote because Sens. John Garwood, R-Wilkes, and Harry Brown, R-Onslow, did not make it to Raleigh for the session, after having been told last week that the Senate would take up no more business before the short session. Both Senators could have used a parliamentary procedure that would have allowed their votes to count if paired with a Senator with an opposing vote, which possibly could have defeated the bill; however, neither chose to do that, although it is alleged that Senator Garwood planned to pair his vote and was talked out of it at the last minute. Governor Easley signed the lottery bill into law on Wednesday morning at the State Capitol.

The Governor and Speaker Jim Black have stressed the importance of ensuring that lottery proceeds are only used to further improve and expand education programs and do not supplant or replace existing education funds. The two leaders are floating the possibility of passing a constitutional amendment, which could appear on the ballot next year, to put in place additional funding safeguards.

Easley administration officials estimate that a lottery will generate approximately $425 million in net proceeds during the 2006-07 fiscal year and would be allocated in the following way: 5% of revenues off the top would be placed in the “Education Lottery Reserve Fund,” which could be tapped if lottery profits do not meet expectations in a bad year. The reserve would be capped at $50 million. Half of the proceeds would go to class-size reduction in early grades and to expand pre-kindergarten programs for at-risk children. Forty percent would go toward local public school construction. Ten percent would go for college scholarships of up to $4,000 annually for students in low-income families. The school construction funds would be allocated in the following way – 65% according to average daily membership (ADM) and 35% to counties that have property taxes that exceed the state average. Any “overage” in the expected annual lottery proceeds would be split evenly between scholarships and school construction.

Advertising of the lottery will initially be limited, with a cap of 1% or less of total proceeds, and ads could not target minors or specific groups, must include resources for responsible gaming, and must mention the odds of winning. I don’t anticipate the current advertising restrictions, already lifted in part in this year’s budget, lasting too long. Our surrounding states are already scheming about keeping their current North Carolina customers. The Lottery Commission will also be required to provide information to the public about gambling addiction and treatment and would have $1 million per year for such addiction education and treatment.

Once the lottery commission is appointed it is expected to take six to nine months before the first scratch-off tickets will be sold at retail stores in North Carolina. The commission will decide which kind of games will be offered. With the commission’s approval, the director can enter the North Carolina lottery into multi-state agreements such as Powerball or Mega Millions.

Background facts: North Carolina’s first neighboring state to adopt a lottery was Virginia, in 1987. Georgia came next in 1992, followed by South Carolina in 2001 and Tennessee in 2004. Nationwide, 41 states and the District of Columbia now operate lotteries, although they have consistently proven to be an unreliable and diminishing source of income.

Greetings From Raleigh 9-02-05

It has been another busy week in the North Carolina House with lengthy sessions since Monday. As a result of the long hours and late night sessions of the past two weeks, we finished work on many remaining issues and passed an adjournment resolution on Wednesday afternoon, which was expected to be the last vote of the session. With the Senate leaving Tuesday after approving a lottery bill, the General Assembly formally adjourned today.

My colleagues and I will return to Raleigh May 9, 2006 for the short session, but will continue to work in Raleigh during the interim on study committees that will focus on numerous important issues and make recommendations for legislative action next Spring.

The House has stayed in session and completed work on numerous important bills despite the fact that the Senate left on Wednesday morning of last week and weren’t expected to return except to adjourn. However, the Senate reversed course at the end of last week and decided to come back to Raleigh on Tuesday to complete work on several bills that had already pass the House – the most important being the lottery.

The House also completed work on the Meth Lab Prevention Act, which would increase regulation of certain cold medicines that are used in the making of the highly destructive and illegal drug. And, we passed the usual end of session bills such as an adjournment resolution, the technical corrections bill, which makes changes or clarifications to previously passed legislation, and the studies bill, which lists potential committees that will meet during the interim before the start of next year’s session. The House was hopeful that the Senate would take up these important bills before adjourning, but it now appears that Senators will put off the work until next May.

My colleagues and I have worked together during this year’s long session to protect the priorities and values that will help Guilford County and all of North Carolina grow and prosper for years to come. I’m extremely proud of the many accomplishments and progress that we have made on numerous important issues in recent months, which I will discuss further in upcoming email updates. Stay tuned for my recap of this year’s session and highlights of legislation that will impact your life and your community…

As I’ve said many times before, I hope you will continue to let me know how you feel about the issues that are being debated by the North Carolina Legislature and the challenges you and your family are facing each day.
It continues to be an honor and a pleasure to serve you in Raleigh.

Cheers

Pricey