Senate Proposes to Scrap Driver’s Ed

The state Senate’s proposed budget would scrap the requirement that 15-to-17-year-olds have to complete driver’s education in order to get a learner’s permit. That would mean young drivers, like everyone else, could get a learner’s permit after the vision and multiple choice tests.

In place of driver’s ed., the proposed budget increases both the number of supervised driving hours required and the number of correct answers needed to pass the written driving test.

It’s a proposal that doesn’t sit well with Todd LoFrese, Assistant Superintendent for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools.

“We think it’s a public safety interest to make sure that students receive driver training,” LoFrese said. “It’s a public safety issue.”

Spruce Hill Republican Ralph Hise added the amendment after the Senate proposed to remove the $65 cap on driver’s ed. course fees and move driver’s education out of the public school system and into community colleges. The amendment, Hise said, is meant to ensure teens who can’t afford the drivers ed. fee or make it to a community college can still get a learner’s permit. LoFrese agrees with the sentiment.

“Not every county has a community college, and it’s difficult for students to get there,” he said.

But LoFrese says he hopes driver’s ed. remains both required and accessible to young drivers in public schools.

“Hopefully with the state budget process, it gets resolved and funding is provided for the program. But if it’s not, we need to be prepared to make the necessary changes,” he said.

The House has already passed its own appropriations bill. The two chambers and the governor will be in negotiations for weeks before they settle on a final budget.

Art Pope Resigns As State Budget Director

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North Carolina State Budget Director Art Pope is leaving the position after taking the Legislature through two budget cycles under the leadership of Republican Governor Pat McCrory.

Gov. McCrory made the announcement Wednesday at a press conference naming Raleigh banking executive Lee Roberts as his successor effective sometime in the first week of September.

The Governor told the media that Pope agreed to one year as budget director when he signed on. However, Gov. McCrory asked him to stay through the end of this short session to develop another budget, which the Governor says he will soon sign.

WCHL’s Aaron Keck spoke with NC House Rep. Graig Meyer (NC House District 50) about Pope’s resignation and what it means for state government.

20 Arrested At Moral Monday

RALEIGH — Nearly 20 people were arrested outside the doors of the state Senate chamber at the North Carolina General Assembly, two days after a judge struck down building rules regarding demonstrations.

Hundreds of protesters streamed into the second and third-floor rotunda of the Legislative Building Monday, taking full advantage of a ruling in Wake County Superior Court regarding rules enacted this year. The group celebrated the court decision with loud singing, chanting and shouting just before the Senate met.

The arrests during the weekly “Moral Monday” rally focused on collective bargaining and raising the minimum wage.

One protester who was arrested said she hopes state senators hear voices like hers who have to struggle to make ends meet as a single mom working at a fast-food restaurant.

Listen Live: Rep. Meyer Preparing For 2014 Election

ORANGE COUNTY – Your newest state representative has his work cut out for him in 2014 as he’ll have to fight for his seat before ever officially sitting in it.

Representative Graig Meyer was appointed to the House 50 seat in late October and was sworn in on November 7. However, the General Assembly doesn’t reconvene for the short session until May 14, and the 2014 Primary is May 6.

Rep. Meyer replaced Valerie Foushee who replaced Sen. Ellie Kinnaird in Senate District 23. Both seats were highly sought after as five OrangeCounty residents announced their intention to fill the House seat; seven people said they wanted the appointment to the Senate.

The filing period for the North Carolina Legislature this year is February 10-28.

Tune in to the WCHL Morning News at 7:06 a.m. as Ran Northam talks with Rep. Meyer about his plans for 2014 as far as securing his seat in the House.

Chatham Legislator Resigns Amid Tax Charges

RALEIGH – A North Carolina legislator has been arrested on felony tax charges.

The N.C. Department of Revenue announced Wednesday that Rep. Deborah H. McManus, D-Chatham, faces three counts of embezzlement of state property. The first-term lawmaker from SilerCity is alleged to have used her position working as a bookkeeper for a medical practice to embezzle more than $47,000 that had been withheld from employees to pay state income taxes between January 2011 and July 2013.

The agency said the 56-year-old had appeared before a magistrate at the WakeCounty jail and placed under a $150,000 bond. Her first appearance in Wake County District Court is scheduled for Thursday. It’s not immediately clear if she has an attorney.

Rep. Meyer: “Gvt. Needs To Serve All People”

HILLSBOROUGH – Orange County resident and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools’ Director of Student Equity and Volunteer Services, Graig Meyer says he will lead you from his House 50 seat with integrity, intention, and inclusion.

“I truly believe that whether it’s as a representative in Raleigh or in the work that I do in education that you start with integrity, you’re intentional about your decisions, and one of the things that you’re intentional about is how to be inclusive of all people,” Meyer says. “Our government needs to serve all people.”

Meyer was sworn in by State Senator Valerie Foushee who represents District 23. She resigned from the House 50 seat to fill the position Ellie Kinnaird left after 17 years in office.

The Historic Hillsborough Court House saw a standing-room-only crowd Thursday night. Meyer says it’s not for the spotlight and the politics, but for the people that he has chosen to serve.

“To hear the things that they say…that the people who are here tonight aren’t here because I’m a politician, they’re here because they know me and they express their belief in me, it’s very joyful and very humbling,” Meyer says.

Meyer is married with a daughter in college at UNC Charlotte and two sons in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools system.

*Correction: Meyer’s boys are enrolled in the Durham Public Schools system where his wife, Jen, teaches.

He says his top role model is his father. But he says his top political role model stands out for the politician he is and for the father he is.

“I never really had another strong role model until I saw Barack Obama,” Meyer says. “When I saw him, I admired that he came out of a community-organizing background the same way as I came out of a social-work organizing background, and I admired the way that he approached the balance in his life between being a public leader and a private father. I really wanted to emulate his ability to do that.”

Meyer joins Rep. Verla Insko and Sen. Foushee in Raleigh as your newest representative. For more information on Meyer and to contact him, click here.

Sen. Foushee: “I Didn’t Run To Campaign, I Ran To Serve”

CHAPEL HILL – The short session of the North Carolina General Assembly doesn’t begin until June, and Senator Valerie Foushee says she’s taking the time to meet with the people she represents both in Raleigh and out in the community.

“I’ve established office hours in Raleigh, and I’ve also engaged in town hall meetings; I’ve had two of them now: one in Hillsborough, and one in Pittsboro,” Sen. Foushee says. “It’s been exciting getting to meet new people and having the opportunity to reconnect with others that I’ve served before and just hearing their concerns.”

Sen. Foushee was appointed to the District 23 seat replacing 17-year senator, Ellie Kinnaird. She left the House of Representatives District 50 seat which was recently filled by Graig Meyer.

The legislative shuffle leaves Sen. Foushee and Rep.-appointee Meyer finishing out the terms that expire in December 2014. That puts the primary election one week before either will officially govern from their new seat.

“I didn’t run to campaign, I ran to serve,” Sen. Foushee says. “I serve every day. So, I don’t give too much thought about who’s going to run or what’s going to happen. Every day when I step outside, I’m thinking about how I’m serving the people of District 23.”

Click here for Meyer’s plan for fighting to hold onto the House 50 seat.

Hopeful municipal and school board leaders are currently fighting that fight in Orange County, as Election Day is Tuesday.

If the early voting period is a sign of things to come, Sen. Foushee says she’s concerned about this year’s turnout in Orange County.

“I’m hoping that people are not developing complacency, because this is critical that we do exercise our right to vote,” Sen. Foushee says.

And she says it’s important to get the right people in office, not just for governing you at the local level.

“One of the ways we prepare leaders for state and national levels is to be involved at the local level, because all politics is local,” Sen. Foushee says.

Tune in to the WCHL Sunday Morning News to hear about a town hall meeting Sen. Foushee is holding in Chapel Hill Next week.

She says you can meet with her Wednesdays from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. in the Legislative Office Building

NC Lawmakers Pass Sweeping Changes To Gun Laws

Photo by Daniel Weber

RALEIGH – North Carolina lawmakers have approved a bill greatly expanding where concealed handguns are legally allowed.

The Republican-backed bill approved by both the House and Senate on Tuesday allows concealed-carry permit holders to take firearms into bars and restaurants and other places where alcohol is served as long as the owner doesn’t expressly forbid it.

The measure will also allow concealed-carry permit holders to store weapons in locked cars on the campus of any public school or university. Guns will also now be allowed on greenways, playgrounds and other public recreation areas.

The final bill dropped a controversial provision that would have repealed the long-standing law requiring a background check and permit issued by county sheriffs for handgun purchases.

The measure now heads to Republican Gov. Pat McCrory’s desk.

Charter School Changes Approved By NC Legislature

Photo by Brian J. Matis

RALEIGH – Legislation heading to Gov. Pat McCrory allows North Carolina charter schools to follow the lead of local traditional schools on criminal history checks for employees.

A negotiated final version of the bill passed the House and Senate on Tuesday. The measure creates more rules to govern a growing number of public charter schools, but drops plans to create a separate panel to oversee them. The legislation would essentially retain an advisory commission already in place to make recommendations to the State Board of Education.

The proposal retains the current requirement that at least half the teachers at charter schools meet state certification requirements. Earlier versions of the bill would have allowed charter school directors to decide whether to check job applicants for any criminal history.

NC Lawmakers Hone Rules For Gas, Oil Drilling

RALEIGH – North Carolina lawmakers are honing rules that would govern underground natural gas drilling and encourage offshore oil drilling.

The Senate gave final approval Tuesday to legislation intended to spur the state’s energy. It now goes to Gov. Pat McCrory.

The measure removes an earlier idea to begin issuing permits in March 2015 for underground gas drilling using a method called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The existing law directs state agencies to craft rules for oil and gas exploration by October 2014 and requires the legislature to act before issuing any permits.

The legislation also directs McCrory to negotiate an offshore energy alliance with the governors of South Carolina and Virginia.

Republican Rep. Mike Stone of Sanford says lawmakers want to tell the energy industry that North Carolina welcomes drilling.