Under the Dome

Dome: NC lawmakers weigh in on opossums' rights

cjarvis@newsobserver.comjfrank@newsobserver.comFebruary 6, 2013 

The House bill that would clear the way for a popular New Year’s Eve “possum drop” in Brasstown now has a companion bill in the Senate, where its comedian authors have dubbed it “The Opossum Right-to-Work Act.”

SB60 is sponsored by Republican Sens. Jim Davis of Franklin and Stan Bingham of Denton.

The House went with the more staid title, “Captivity License and Permit Amendments.”

The bills would give the state Wildlife Resources Commission the authority to issue permits for wild animals to be used in “scientific, educational or exhibition purposes.”

Last year, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sued and stopped the state from allowing a opossum to be trapped for the event.

Eminent domain for the ballot

House lawmakers are reviving an effort to put a constitutional amendment before voters that prohibits governments from taking private property for economic development through eminent domain.

The amendment – approved by a House committee Wednesday and headed to the full House next – would appear on the November 2014 ballot. Other provisions would make changes to state law effective upon passage. The House passed a similar version in the previous legislative session by a wide margin, but the Senate didn’t vote on the legislation.

The bill would put protections into the state constitution that prevent local governments from taking land for “public benefit” and limit such claims to “public use.”

The main questions on the amendment involved whether it would affect fracking.

State Rep. Chuck McGrady, a Hendersonville Republican, replied: “No, not to my knowledge. There’s nothing in this bill that would provide additional powers to the state or local governments to get into the fracking business.”

Benefits debate set for Tuesday

The bill restructuring the state’s unemployment system is on track to be debated on the Senate floor Tuesday after winning a committee endorsement. The Republican-backed bill sailed through the Senate Finance Committee Wednesday, winning approval by a voice vote, after two amendments proposed by Democrats were rejected.

Pre-K director opposes pre-K

The state’s new director of child development and early education has spent the past 12 years as president of a nonprofit that advocates against early childhood programs.

Dianna Lightfoot, whose appointment was announced Tuesday by Aldona Wos, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, has been president of the National Physicians Center since 2001.

A policy paper – signed by Lightfoot – on the organization’s website states: “Encouraging parents to entrust their children to an institution may result in some being less responsible and reliable. In the long run, there is great potential for early learning institutions to foster more dependency on the government (i.e. taxpayer) and more of an entitlement mentality.”

The paper also says that demand for childcare is overstated, and cites a 1997 Glamour magazine poll that found that 88 percent of women would want their child at home if they could afford it.

Lightfoot, who starts Monday, will be in charge of NC Pre-K, earning $110,000 annually.

The N.C. Democratic party criticized Lightfoot’s appointment: “For Governor McCrory, who stated his support for Pre-K during the campaign, and Secretary Wos to appoint someone who actively advocates against Pre-K, who believes that educating our children will result in ‘an entitlement mentality,’ demonstrates a total lack of respect for the educational process and a willingness to sacrifice North Carolina’s future a political goal.”

In response to questions, DHHS issued a statement: “Ms. Lightfoot was selected for this position because she has extensive expertise in healthcare, child welfare and education. … Ms. Lightfoot will work closely with the Secretary to carry out the department’s mission to protect the health and well being of all people, especially young children.”

Staff writers Craig Jarvis, John Frank, David Ranii and Mary Cornatzer

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