Coble talks up his no-pension pledge

December 28, 2009 

U.S. Rep. Howard Coble has just about given up on trying to abolish congressional pensions.

But Coble, 78, a Greensboro Republican and the longest-serving member of the state's congressional delegation, says he'd like to see others follow his pledge to refuse his pension.

"CBS Evening News" featured Coble on a segment last week about former members of Congress who were convicted of crimes and are still eligible to receive their pensions, some amounting to six figures a year.

Coble and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, a Texas Republican, are the only members of Congress who say they won't accept their pensions. Coble said his salary is plenty.

"I figured taxpayers pay my salary - not a bad salary," he said. "And I figure that's sufficient. Let me fend for myself after the salary's collected."

New lottery ads

The state lottery commission is switching ad agencies.

The commission, sensing that the economic climate might make for a little healthy competition, decided to see whether it could get a better deal than it was getting from Charlotte-based Wray Ward, which was receiving a fee of 10 percent for every dollar spent on advertising.

In the last fiscal year, Wray Ward received $990,000 for its work on producing ads promoting lottery games. The lottery is limited to spending 1 percent of gross revenue on advertising.

Wray Ward, which could have received a one-year extension on its current contract, didn't bid against itself.

The lottery received two bids, and the commission decided last week to award a new contract to High-Point based Trone, which offered to produce lottery ads for 9 percent. The new contract would be $360,000 cheaper over the next three years.

Some commission members were reluctant to walk away from what they said was good work by Wray Ward. Lottery executive director Tom Shaheen noted that the lottery has had communication issues with Wray Ward and that the ad agency would have to be re-bid next year even if the commission stuck with Wray Ward.

It's unclear whether the new ads will keep the same themes or characters, such as the cheesy and ubiquitous "Game show Gary." Shaheen noted that the lottery owns the character and could use it in future ads.

Perdue trusts Rand

Gov. Bev Perdue says Tony Rand, her choice to lead the state's parole commission, is a "man of integrity," despite allegations swirling around him.

Rand has been accused by two men of insider trading through his role as the chairman of the board of Law Enforcement Associates, a company that has sold the state thousands of dollars worth of equipment. Rand has denied any wrongdoing.

The Fayetteville Observer reported last week that Perdue, a Democrat, said she trusts Rand, a Fayetteville Democrat who is quitting the state Senate this month to lead the parole commission.

"I've known Tony Rand as a man of integrity," she said. "I've never known him to lie to me. He's never, ever. And so I have trusted him."

Combating dropout rate

North Carolina has awarded 83 grants worth a total of $13million to help fight the state's dropout rate.

The grants will be distributed to various programs, schools and agencies across the state. House Speaker Joe Hackney pushed for the grant program, in which agencies apply for money and use it to offer services meant to keep children in school. The legislature evaluates the programs' performance with an eye on trying to replicate successful ones in other parts of the state.

Since 2007, the program has distributed 200 grants worth a total of $34 million.

According to the N.C. State Board of Education, the overall dropout rate in North Carolina fell from 5.24 percent during the 2006-07 school year to 4.97 percent in the 2007-08 school year.

By staff writer Benjamin Niolet.

bniolet@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4521

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