GANG LEGISLATION: The Senate moved toward strengthening the state's anti-gang laws while also boosting gang prevention programs. The Senate Rules Committee approved legislation that would toughen penalties for people who commit crimes as part of their affiliation with a gang. The panel also approved a bill that directs county Juvenile Crime Prevention Councils to work on gang prevention programs.
ROAD TO NOWHERE: The Senate agreed 45-4 to create a special trust fund for Swain County should it receive money from the federal government for a road promised 65 years ago but never finished. The county could spend the interest and any investment income, but no principal unless two-thirds of county voters agree. The bill now goes to the House.
CONSERVATION FUNDING: Land for Tomorrow, a coalition of environmental groups, asked the General Assembly to increase funding for conservation programs by $66 million in next year's budget. Reid Wilson, executive director of the Conservation Trust for North Carolina, said protecting watersheds and stream buffers will help the state to meet its water supply needs as North Carolina's population continues to grow.
ANNEXATION MORATORIUM: Republicans say a one-year moratorium on involuntary annexations would allow a thoughtful review of state law to ensure that the rights of homeowners are protected. House and Senate GOP leaders held a news conference to promote the moratorium idea, which was approved Monday by a special House committee that met for several months before the session.
IN THE HOUSE:
* H2345, to establish a cost-share program to help North Carolina farmers recover from last year's drought and set aside more than $6 million to carry out the program and assist landscape and turfgrass industries. Sponsor: Rep. Ray Rapp, D-Madison, and Arthur Williams, D-Beaufort.
* H2286, to increase the maximum amount a governor can offer as a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of a person who commits a felony from $10,000 to $100,000. Sponsor: Rep. Jim Harrell, D-Surry.
* H2284, to allow the General Assembly to consider a bill that would require photo identification at polling precincts. Sponsor: Rep. Joe Boylan, R-Moore.
* H2363, to establish a special fund for local grants for public transportation and give local tax options to more urban and suburban counties for public transportation. Various sponsors.
IN THE SENATE:
* S1705, to change the name of the N.C. Education Lottery to the N.C. State Lottery. Sponsor: Sen. Harris Blake, R-Moore.
* S1754, to give half of North Carolina's remaining share of the national tobacco settlement money to a dedicated Infrastructure Trust Fund, instead of to the Golden Leaf Foundation. Sponsor: Sen. David Hoyle, D-Gaston.
INTRODUCED IN BOTH CHAMBERS:
* H2340 and S1734, to prevent children under 16 years old from riding in the back of a pickup truck, instead of the current law under 12, and to remove current exemptions. Sponsors: Rep. Jennifer Weiss, D-Wake, and Sen. Bill Purcell, D-Scotland.
* H2338 and S1733, to require hospitals and doctors to report serious non-accidental trauma injuries of children to law enforcement. Sponsors: Rep. Jennifer Weiss, D-Wake, and Sen. Bill Purcell, D-Scotland.
* The people who run public elementary school cafeterias lobbied legislators for $20 million to pay for more of the nutritious meals that lawmakers have mandated. The School Nutrition Association of North Carolina says it costs more to offer more healthful breakfasts, lunches and snacks. The General Assembly has ordered elementary schools to serve the more healthful meals by June 2009.
ON THE AGENDA
Today: A coalition of 40 nonprofit groups advocating for mental health care changes will hold its annual rally at the Legislative Building. The groups say there's more than $100 million in critical needs they want met by the General Assembly during this year's session.