Under the Dome

Marshall, Burr volley over jobless benefits

July 21, 2010 

Democratic Senate candidate Elaine Marshall on Tuesday accused Republican Sen. Richard Burr of helping block the extension of unemployment benefits for millions of North Carolinians.

Marshall, the secretary of state, held a news conference outside Burr's Winston-Salem office, where she delivered a petition of 15,000 signatures urging Burr to end his opposition.

"For months my opponent has been working against our working families - blocking the extension of unemployment benefits," Marshall said in prepared remarks. "Because of this partisan obstruction, more than 2.5 million Americans have been cut off (from) unemployment benefits they desperately need to survive."

She was accompanied by several unemployed North Carolinians.

Burr's office released a statement saying that he agrees with President Barack Obama's statement last November that benefits must be extended in "a financially responsible way" that does not add to the national debt.

Burr said Republican proposals to pay for extended benefits by making cuts elsewhere in government had been blocked by Democrats four times.

"I think everyone agrees that we should extend unemployment benefits, but one party is using this as a political tool while the other party wants to extend the benefits and pay for them," Burr said.

Meanwhile, the state Democratic Party released a Web video of Burr giving a C-SPAN interview in March in which he said automatically extending unemployment benefits for 12 months would be a "discouragement to individuals out there to actually go out and go through the interview process."

Sweepstakes ban is law

Gov. Bev Perdue signed the sweepstakes ban into law Tuesday afternoon. There was no public ceremony for the signing of the controversial bill, which passed the legislature this month.

The law, which will go into effect Dec. 1, will make illegal the games played on computer screens that feature slot machine interfaces or hands of video poker. The games had been legal because they had predetermined outcomes.

The sweepstakes industry had waged a fierce fight against the ban, saying the law would put 900 parlors out of business and cause the loss of 10,000 jobs across the state. The industry had asked Perdue not to sign the bill, saying the industry could easily generate $500 million a year in tax revenue - money the state desperately needs right now.

Diversity study begun

The N.C. Association of Educators said one of its lobbyists worked early in the legislative session to get a school diversity study going.

The Wake County school board's decision to kill the diversity policy was the impetus for the legislative study. Democratic legislators who support the study commission said they want to see whether there's a connection between diversity and student achievement.

Republican supporters of the Wake school board majority suspect the study won't be fair.

According to an NCAE bulletin, one of its lobbyists, Marge Foreman, met with key legislators early in the session to plant the seed.

Scott hospitalized

Jessie Rae Scott, wife of late former Gov. Bob Scott, is at Duke Hospital after suffering a bad fall.

Scott fell during the weekend and was taken to an Alamance hospital and then to Duke, The Times News of Burlington reported. One of her grandsons, Andrew Cagle, told the newspaper that Scott isn't expected to come home soon. He said the family is asking for no visits or phone calls.

Bob Scott, who was governor from 1969 to 1973, died in 2009. The Scott family is the state's most famous political dynasty.

By staff writers Rob Christensen, Benjamin Niolet and T. Keung Hui

rob.christensen@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4532

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