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New EPA Rule Could Clean Up Power Plants by 2030

4024864398_f86182024c_oPower plants in North Carolina could be required to “clean up their act” by 2030. The EPA has proposed the new carbon emission limits for existing power plants. If adopted, the rules are expected to help curtail global warming by reducing the pollutants known as greenhouse gases. John Robbins, owner of Greathorn Properties in Concord, says the protection goes beyond safekeeping for the environment.

“Wildlife and tourism are good business for North Carolina as well and so, by protecting our wildlife resources, the habitat, etcetera, we protect a very important economic element in this state.”

Robbins is also a member of the group, Environmental Entrepreneurs and vice chair of the North Carolina Wildlife Federation. Both groups spoke out in support of the emission guidelines under the Clean Power Plan. The rules would require that North Carolina cut its carbon emissions by almost 40-percent of current levels by 2030.

Opponents of the new EPA rule warn it will have a chilling effect on some parts of the economy, by placing a costly burden on energy providers that would be passed along to customers. Joshua Saks with the National Wildlife Federation says there were bound to be critics.  “I don’t think there is any regulation that the President could put forward – even one that would give free candy and cookies to every American – that wouldn’t be assailed by certain people for purely political reasons.”

A recent poll by Environmental Entrepreneurs found 54-percent of small business owners in North Carolina believe reducing carbon pollution would be good for the state’s economy. Robbins is one of them.

“I think the potential is there for these rules to generate jobs in the renewable sector as we march towards meeting the goals laid out in the carbon plan.”

The same poll also found that 55-percent of the business owners polled want state lawmakers to take steps to address climate change. The EPA now takes public comment on the rules for the next four months.

Common Core In NC

NorthCarolinaSealNorth Carolina legislators are revving up the debate over whether to set aside nationally developed academic standards the public schools already have embraced. The House Education Committee scheduled for its Tuesday meeting agenda a proposal that would direct the State Board of Education to replace Common Core standards for math and language arts. A legislative study committee recommended the replacement after hearing concerns about losing local control from teachers and parents, and even Lt. Gov. Dan Forest. But Gov. Pat McCrory has spoken publicly in favor of Common Core. Common Core has been accepted by more than 44 states, but some are having second thoughts.

Comedian Louis CK is just one of many who have expressed his concern for the standard taking to Twitter to make jokes such as this tweet: “My Kids Used to Love Math. Not it makes them cry. Thanks Standardized testing and common core.”

Common core has students and teachers being judged on results, many say. Some proponents think common core is being adopted to go along with No Child Left Behind which has federally mandated tests.

Advocates say it is being taught new ways to arrive at old answers. It sets unified expectations for what k-12 students should know and be able to do in each grade in preparation for college and the work force. Common core has a new emphasis on breaking down numbers into their component parts so kids can better understand what it means to add, subtract, multiply and divide. The adoption of common core will see a rise in equality of what is being taught across the nation. It will make moving easier, which is one reason why the US Military has advocated for common core. Other countries with high performing students use national standards.

The bill would create a commission to help the education board come up with new standards. The Senate Education Committee plans similar bill debate Wednesday

A Vote on Medical Marijuana

cross.onlyA state lawmaker wants to put the issue of medical marijuana before North Carolina voters as a proposed constitutional amendment.

Rep. Kelly Alexander, D-Mecklenburg, filed House Bill 1161 last Tuesday calling for a referendum on the November ballot to legalize the cultivation and use of marijuana in North Carolina to treat more than two dozen “debilitating medical conditions,” from cancer and Lou Gehrig’s disease to incontinence and sleep apnea.

Alexander filed a medical marijuana bill last year that was quickly defeated in committee. He said putting it to a statewide vote should give lawmakers some cover in voting for a controversial measure.

 

Alexander noted that some polls show a majority of North Carolinians favor legalizing medical marijuana and called on fellow lawmakers to let everyone decide instead of snuffing out the issue in the General Assembly.

Constitutional amendments are extremely difficult to pass, requiring super-majorities in both the state House and Senate before going to the voters.

Teacher Raises Come with Cost

NorthCarolinaSealNorth Carolina Senate leader Phil Berger released the details of his 2014 education budget Thursday, which would provide teachers with an average 11 percent increase in pay beginning this fall.

But there is a catch — those who would like to take home the significant pay raise, which amounts to somewhere between $5,000 and $6,000 for many teachers, will have to give up their career status, also known as tenure. Lawmakers have been trying to squash tenure for some time, and the General Assembly repealed it during last year’s legislative session.

Governor McCrory said he had problems with the proposal. A court ruled recently that lawmakers can’t strip tenure from teachers. McCory disagreed with the budget on other fronts too including impacts on the Department of Transportation, environmental protection, commerce and health and human services. The budget would also include 14.8 million to build a crime lab in WNC. Extra spending comes from the cuts some of which include eliminating teachers assistants in second grade classrooms across the state.

A bill must pass 3 readings but can’t be voted on the same day. The short session has made it difficult for the public to be involved. Senators have been told to stay in Raleigh on Saturday signaling a vote could come as early as just after midnight Friday.

NC Ranked Among Worst For Obesity and Diabetes

mid section view of a man sitting on a bench in a parkOverweight, obesity and diabetes are among the most costly and harmful health problems in North Carolina. Presently, North Carolina has some of the worst rates in the nation. NC is ranked 17th most obese state and 9th for diabetes in this country. The rates are increasing at alarming speed.  65% of NC residents are overweight or obese. 1 in 10 residents is a diabetic. These issues are all closely related. Obese adults are 4 times more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes than healthy weight adults.

Poor eating habits and physical inactivity are among the leading causes of overweight and obesity. In 2011, 86% of North Carolina Adults did not consume 5 or more fruits, vegetables or beans daily the recommended amount by the Center for Disease Control. It was also reported that 56.5% of adults drank one or more sugar sweetened beverages or more a day.

The Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation (CHLPI) of Harvard Law School will release its 2014 New North Carolina State Report: Providing Access to Healthy Solutions (PATHS) – The Diabetes Epidemic in North Carolina: Policies for Moving Forward. The report is funded through a grant from the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation and was released during the CHLPI Diabetes Leadership Dinner on May 29 and Strategy Forum on May 30 in Raleigh. The report will also be presented to the North Carolina Diabetes Advisory Council (NCDAC) at its spring meeting on Friday May 30. The NCDAC advises the state government on diabetes prevention and management.

NC Writer Maya Angelou Passes On

5 22 2010 Anstiss Krueck PartyA literary voice revered globally for her poetic command and her commitment to civil rights has fallen silent.

Maya Angelou died at her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, on Wednesday, said her literary agent, Helen Brann.

The 86-year-old was a novelist, actress, professor, singer, dancer and activist. In 2010, President Barack Obama awarded her the Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor.

One of Angelou’s most revered books was “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”

Writer Julian Mayfield is said to have described the autobiography as “a work of art which eludes description.”

Affectionately referred to as Dr. Angelou, the professor never went to college. She has more than 30 honorary degrees and taught American studies for years at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem.

Fracking Gets More Steam

fracking_17A key committee in the North Carolina House has advanced a bill that would lift the state’s moratorium on fracking for natural gas. The House Public Utilities and Energy Committee passed the Republican-backed measure Tuesday with several Democrats in the minority voting no.

The bill was amended to remove a provision directing the first drilling permits be issued in July 2015, replacing it with language allowing permits to be issued 60 days after the final regulations for the industry are approved.

Fracking is used by the energy industry to extract oil and gas from rock by injecting high-pressure mixtures of water, sand or gravel and chemicals.

The bill was approved by the state Senate last week. The legislation’s next stop is the House Finance Committee.

Jackson County is one of several western counties that will see carbon testing as early as August. If the legislation passes, fracking permits will be issued as soon as July 2015.

NC to Receive $4 Million in Grants for Veteran’s Homeless Shelter

Geary-chartGovernor Pat McCrory announced one of the largest federal community development block grants in the state’s history today, a $4.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to create a facility for homeless veterans.

 

An unused state building in Butner will be transformed into the Veterans Life Center, a facility where homeless veterans will find the services they need to become independent once again. The building will provide clean, safe housing, as well as access to life-affirming services such as  vocational education and mentoring.

The center will offer health and wellness services such as counseling for substance abuse and mental health and nutrition services, as well as professional counseling services and life skills development.

 

The goal of the program is to achieve self-reliance for up to 150 veterans in two years or less. The project will benefit homeless veterans from all areas of the state.

The North Carolina Department of Commerce has awarded these funds to the nonprofit Veterans Leadership Council-CARES of North Carolina, which assists veterans across the state by creating private-public partnerships between government agencies and volunteers.

The VLC is based in Raleigh and has been in operation since 2009. Its executive director, John Turner, is a former Army officer and decorated Iraq combat veteran. Marine veteran Jeff Smith also leads the organization.

Governor McCrory also thanked U.S. Senator Richard Burr for his unceasing dedication to the project. Burr, the ranking member on the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, has been a chief advocate in Washington of the project since its inception.

Elections in North Carolina

election2014The State Board of Elections Thursday authenticated results for the May 6 Primary.

More North Carolinians voted early and within fewer days compared to 2010, the most recent non-presidential primary year. Early voting also formed a greater proportion of overall participation. The May Primary was the first election held under a compacted 10-day early voting schedule. Average votes-per-hour at one-stop polling locations increased 34% over 2010.

Statewide participation increased to 15.8% of registered voters compared to 14.4% in 2010.  More than 148,000 additional voters cast ballots in 2014 than in 2010.

Second primaries will be held Tuesday, July 15 to decide 19 contests in 37 counties.  Early voting begins Thursday, July 3.  No statewide ballot item required a second primary. Republican Candidate for Jackson County Sheriff Curtis Lambert will face challenger Jimmy Hodgins in a run off on the 15th.

The State Board unanimously denied the appeal of an elections protest filed by Bruce Davis, former candidate for the Democratic nomination in the Sixth Congressional District. Board members also voted unanimously to reprimand Jerry Wallin of the Madison County Board of Elections regarding a Facebook “like” of a candidate’s page.

The Agency’s review of county abstracts confirmed that the State Board’s website accurately displayed results submitted for each race.  The site had intermittently displayed an incorrect number of precincts reporting on election night.

Mosquito Illnesses in Horses

horseVaccIt’s the beginning of mosquito season in North Carolina, which means it’s also time for equine owners to talk to their veterinarians about vaccinating animals against mosquito-borne diseases.

West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis are endemic across North Carolina and can cause illness or death in equine, but can be prevented with a sequence of two vaccines. Last year, there were two reported cases of WNV and 13 cases of EEE, but veterinarians expect that the actual number is higher.

Symptoms of EEE in equine include impaired vision, aimless wandering, head pressing, circling, inability to swallow, irregular staggering gait, paralysis, convulsions and death.

Symptoms of WNV in horses can include loss of appetite and depression, fever, weakness or paralysis of hind limbs, convulsions, impaired vision or hyperexcitability.

People, horses and birds can become infected from a mosquito carrying the diseases, but there is no evidence that horses can transmit the virus to other horses, birds or people through direct contact.

“Play On” Paying Off Statewide

Raleigh, N.C. – Governor Pat McCrory announced Wednesday that the North Carolina tourism industry generated record visitor spending in 2013. The $20.2 billion in domestic visitor spending represents a 4.1 percent increase over 2012.

“The growth of our tourism industry gives us a lot to celebrate,”Governor McCrory said. “We attracted 52.5 million travelers from across the United States last year because of our great tourist destinations.The money they spent while visiting our mountains, beaches, cities and places in between directly supported nearly 200,000 jobs and more than 40,000 businesses. We can be proud that the quality of North Carolina’s travel experiences makes us the sixth most visited state in the nation.”

Governor McCrory, who proclaimed May 3-11, 2014, as Tourism Week in North Carolina, will discuss the new figures from the U.S. Travel Association at a news conference on Thursday, May 8 at the Outer Banks. Preliminary results from the study show that direct tourism employment grew 2.1 percent and that state tax receipts as a result of visitor spending rose 4 percent to top $1 billion. Visitors spent more than $55 million per day in North Carolina last year and contributed more than $4.4 million per day in state and local tax revenues as a result of that spending.

“Everyone in North Carolina can feel the benefits of the tourism industry’s success,” Secretary Decker said. “Tourism means jobs in all of the state’s 100 counties. In addition, each North Carolina household saves $435 annually in state and local taxes as a result of taxes generated by visitor expenditures.”

Tourism Week in North Carolina is part of National Travel & Tourism Week, which also runs May 3-11. The state’s nine Welcome Centers will host activities throughout the week.

Tourism Facts

Domestic travelers spent a record $20.2 billion in 2013, up from $19.4 billion in 2012. That’s an increase of 4.1 percent.
In 2013, total visitor volume was 52.5 million, up nearly 16 percent from 2012. North Carolina is the sixth most visited state for domestic travel.
North Carolina’s domestic market share increased from 4 percent to 4.3 percent.
For every $1 invested by the Division of Tourism in paid media advertising, North Carolina receives $191 in new visitor spending, $10.31 in new state taxes and $6.25 in new local taxes. This is nearly a 17-to-1 return on investment of tax dollars.
For every $1 invested by the Division of Tourism is paid media advertising, one trip is generated to the state.
More than 40,000 businesses in North Carolina directly provide products and services to travelers, with travelers directly contributing more than 25 percent to their total products and services.
Visitors to North Carolina generated more than $3 billion in federal, state and local taxes in 2013.
State tax receipts as a result of visitor spending passed the $1 billion mark in 2013. The figure represents 4 percent in growth over 2012’s $970 million.
Local tax receipts from visitor spending grew 3.1 percent to $597.3 million.
Direct tourism employment in North Carolina increased nearly 2.1 percent, to 197,700. The majority of the growth was in lodging, transportation, food service and retail employment.
Direct tourism payroll increased 3.8 percent to $4.6 billion.
Visitors spend more than $55 million per day in North Carolina. That spending adds more than $4.4 million per day to state and local tax revenues (about $2.8 million in state taxes and $1.6 million in local taxes).
Each North Carolina household saves $435 in state and local taxes as a direct result of visitor spending in the state.

- See more at: http://governor.nc.gov/newsroom/press-releases/20140507/governor-mccrory-celebrates-record-visitor-spending-and-impact#sthash.nBgrGXaE.dpuf

Push to Ban Teens From Tanning Beds in NC

Tanning_bed_in_useThursday, May 9, Western North Carolina doctors and skin cancer survivors will kick off Skin Cancer Awareness Month by calling on the state Senate to pass legislation to prohibit kids under 18 from using indoor tanning beds.

Dr. Daniel Zivony, an Asheville dermatologist, will speak about the dangers tanning poses to teens’ health. Heather Downs, a Waynesville melanoma survivor, will also tell her story.

Tiffany, a 33 year old from Haywood County, who declined to use her last name told WRGC News about her teen experience, “I tanned from from 13 to 25. Although the tanning beds are different now I had moles and skin spots come back bad when I was 25. Once I stopped tanning in the beds and sun, I stopped having to have my “spots” checked.” Tiffany supports the passage of the bill. She says she no longer tans because of the serious risks involved.

During the 2013 session of the General Assembly, HB18, the Youth Skin Cancer Prevention Act passed the N.C. House of Representatives with a strong bipartisan vote of 94-22. Supporters of HB18 hope to convince the North Carolina Senate to approve the bill this year.

A coalition of North Carolinians supports this legislation and protecting kids from skin cancer. The number of cases of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is on the rise with odds being diagnosed today just 1 in 74. 30 years ago it was 1 in 250. Indoor tanning has been associated with  75% increase in the risk of melanoma. In fact, just one tanning session raises melanoma risk by 20% according to the website www.preventskincancernc.org.

Mid-Term Primary Elections Tuesday

NorthCarolinaSealVoters across North Carolina have until 7:00 pm on Tuesday, May 6th, to cast their ballots. Though it’s a mid-term election there is plenty at stake particularly on a local level. In Jackson County alone, there are 6 Democratic candidates running for Sheriff.  Voters will also be choosing on school board candidates as well as N.C. House and Senate races.

Early voting began in April and ran through May 3rd. The 17 day one stop voting period was shortened to 10 days this election.

Currently, there are 26, 364 registered voters in Jackson County. On a state level mid-term primaries usually see 10-12% voter turn out.

DMV Customer Service Improvements

NorthCarolinaSealGovernor Pat McCrory formally opened the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles’ new flagship state-of-the art office today in Huntersville and highlighted improved DMV customer service across the state. As part of those changes the governor also announced that, starting today, most newcomers to the state will no longer have to take a written test to obtain a North Carolina driver license.

With the elimination of the written test, newcomers and North Carolina residents only have to present a valid driver license that has been expired less than two years, and take the eye test and road sign test to apply for a license. The change is expected to dramatically cut the time many have to spend in the DMV office. First-time drivers and applicants whose licenses have been expired more than two years will continue to be required to take the written test.

NCDMV piloted numerous changes during the past year based on a “Voice of the Customer” study aimed at improving customer service, efficiency and technology, and eliminating bureaucracy

Operation Drive to Live Successful

Troop GThe State Highway Patrol concluded Operation Drive to Live after a week-long education and enforcement campaign.  The campaign, which began on Monday, April 21st and ended on Friday, April 25th, was focused on promoting safe driving awareness to teenage drivers.

During Operation Drive to Live, Troopers enforced all traffic laws around the state’s high schools and conducted traffic safety education programs. Troopers were actively looking for violations such as, speeding, following too closely, careless and reckless driving and any violation of the motor vehicle laws that can result in serious injury or death. In addition, troopers presented over 91 traffic safety education programs to students across the state.

Mile for mile, teenagers are involved in three times as many fatal crashes as all other drivers.  In 2013, the Highway Patrol investigated over 47,013 motor vehicle collisions involving drivers and passengers who were between the ages of 15 – 19. Of those collisions, 86 resulted in one or more fatalities.

Although the campaign has ended, troopers across the state will continue to educate and closely monitor teenage drivers with one goal in mind; to save lives.

An Employment Boom Hits Local Area

Consolidated Metco Inc in Bryson City has notified WRGC Radio of the need to add employees in six production divisions including assembly, material handlers, quality inspectors, finishing press, molding press and painting operators. These are good paying jobs for the local area starting at $12.00 per hour. This news comes on the heels of Hom-Tex in Sylva who last week announced the immediate need for 40 employees with an additional 60 workers to be recruited in the coming weeks. Consolidated Metco is having job fairs the first two days of May. The first job fair will be welcome news to Robbinsville who learned last week that Stanley Furniture was closing their Robbinsville plant and sending 400 workers to the unemployment line where unemployment benefits will only last for a few weeks. The second Con Met job fair will be in Sylva on May second at the State Employment Office located above the Jackson County Library in Sylva. This is also in addition to a job fair held this week by Harrah’s Casino in Cherokee. For more information on the ConMet positions check their website at www.omnisource.net

NC Meets Food Stamp Deadline

food-stampThe federal government is satisfied that North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services has met the final deadline to whittle down its backlog of food stamp applications at local social service offices. Significant strides have been made in providing service to households experiencing delays according to Robert Cochran Director of Jackson Couty Social Services.

A US Agriculture Department regulator wrote DHSS Secretary Tuesday and said her agency had met requirements to reduce its backlog by March 31. USDA had threatened the state with losing it’s $88 million to administer the program. Several thousand cases still were behind schedule a week before the deadline. An intermediate deadline was also met in early February. Jackson County employs 9 full time case managers in the Food and Nutrition program. There are around 5,500 individuals receiving food stamps in Jackson County.

Food Nutrition Services will continue to closely monitor case processing data to ensure the state remains in compliance with Federal Guidelines. The federal goal is to make it a priority to ensure eligible families receive nutritional assistance in a timely manner.

 

Same Sex Tax Filing

NorthCarolinaSealNorth Carolina’s largest LGBT advocacy group, Equality NC, held a rally to protest a new state tax policy regarding same-sex couple at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh protesting the policy from the state Department of Revenue.

The policy says same-sex spouse couples cannot file income tax returns as “married filing jointly” or “married filing separately.” That’s despite a ruling by the Internal Revenue Service directing that such filing be allowed.

The rally included speeches by tax experts and LGBT families, as well as other married couples who support their cause. This rally was held just days after the American Civil Liberties Union launched a new lawsuit against North Carolina in attempt to overturn the state’s constitutional ban recognizing same sex marriage.

North Carolina Death Penalty

NorthCarolinaSealOnce again State Punishment laws are being scrutinized, this time before the North Carolina State Supreme Court this week. The highest court listened to oral arguments on Monday in two cases involving convicted murderers whose trials were reviewed under the 2013 repealed Racial Justice Act.

The fate of four condemned prisoners resentenced to life in prison are being reviewed with the possibility of the four being sent back to death row. Marcus Robinson, Tilmon Golphin, Quintel Augustine and Christina Walters originally were sentenced to death, but a Cumberland County judge gave them reduced sentences because he believed race was a factor in jury selections.

More than 150 death row inmates sought relief from their pending capital punishment under the 2009 version of the law. Since their cases were tied up in court before the 2012 amendment or 2013 repeal, legal analysts have speculated that the inmates could argue their claims should be heard, too.

It could take weeks or months for the Justices to reach a decision. Due to the impending court cases, North Carolina has not performed an execution since 2006.

 

Sylva Bridge Park Makes Finals In Competition

You might be aware that a public place in your community (Sylva’s Bridge
Park) was entered into a statewide contest, the “Great Places in North
Carolina – People’s Choice: Great Public Place” contest, hosted by the NC
Chapter of the American Planning Association.
Not only that, but that Public Place was selected from a larger pool as one
of seven finalists to move forward to the online voting component!

Now, The Sylva Bridge Park is facing off against 6 other Public Places. The
Place with the most votes by 5pm on May 9th is the winner and will hold the
title of “2014 People’s Choice: Great Public Place!”

Visit www.greatplacesnc.org to view more information about the contest and
VOTE for your community. Just look for People’s Choice – Great Public Place
on the website.

Winning communities receive a framed certificate (usually presented at a
function like a concert, Council meeting, movies on the green, etc), are
recognized state-wide in various events and are able to use the award to
promote their Town. Finalists were chosen based on the online entry – the
judges were looking for Great Public Places that are not just a main Street,
but also a Great Place that acts as a gathering place for the community and
an example to the rest of the state.

Anyone can vote!