Under the Dome

Dome: Lawmakers bring back NC-SC hoops rivalry

May 21, 2013 

North Carolina lawmakers will challenge their South Carolina counterparts to a game of hoops Wednesday evening at Reynolds Coliseum. The game is the first in four years between lawmakers from the two Carolinas.

Rep. Burt Jones, a Rockingham Republican who will coach the North Carolina squad, helped revive the tradition. “The games in the past were pretty competitive,” he said.

The team includes big men Jeff Collins, a Rocky Mount Republican, and Chris Millis, a Hampstead Republican. Collins played with UNC great Phil Ford in high school, Jones said. “They are pretty good for being legislators,” he said.

The scouting report for the North Carolina team: a deep bench and desire to win, Jones said, will need to overcome the fact that “some of us are old and out of shape.”

The JV squad – composed of lobbyists who work the N.C. legislative halls – plays at 5 p.m. Lawmakers take the court at 6:30 p.m. The event is free but volunteers will accept nonperishable food and cash donations. Rep. Jacqueline Schaffer, a Charlotte Republican, will sing the national anthem, and other female lawmakers will cheer on the team. The North Carolina lawmakers are wearing gold “NCGA” jerseys.

New mental health director

Dave Richard, executive director of the ARC of North Carolina, will be the next director of mental health, developmental disabilities and substance abuse services at the state Department of Health and Human Services.

He replaces acting director Jim Jarrard.

Richard has been at the ARC of N.C. for nearly 25 years. He starts his new job May 28.

“His extensive expertise in program implementation, public education, government affairs, and his deep understanding of individual and community needs will help us improve customer service as we seek to help every North Carolinian fulfill their potential,” DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos said in a statement.

As ARC executive director, Richard was an outspoken critic of the Medicaid managed care system for mental health that now governs payments and treatment.

He said recently that he liked the plan for the statewide Medicaid waiver that Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration is pursuing.

Little support for tax plans

Only one in 10 North Carolina voters support a sales tax on groceries, according to a new Public Policy Polling survey, and many appear uninterested in the House and Senate tax plans.

The Senate tax plan would levy a 6.5 percent state and local sales tax on food – 14 years after state lawmakers repealed it. Local governments currently can tax food at 2 percent but the state doesn’t receive the revenue.

The Democratic firm’s poll of North Carolina voters found that 81 percent oppose the Senate’s idea and 9 percent are undecided. The House tax plan doesn’t touch the food tax.

Asked if they support the Senate’s tax plan (without description of what it did), 44 percent opposed the plan and 42 percent were undecided. Only 14 percent support it. Likewise, the House plan – which debuted Thursday – fared about the same with just 11 percent supportive and 41 percent opposed. An additional 48 percent were undecided.

The numbers echo anecdotal interviews with numerous taxpayers about the tax overhaul that found widespread concerns, even among those who would save money. Together, they illustrate the persuasion campaign state lawmakers may need to convince a skeptical public.

Staff writers John Frank and Lynn Bonner

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