Under the Dome

Dome: Career soldier Kelly Thomas named commissioner of motor vehicles

rchristensen@newsobserver.comSeptember 24, 2013 

Kelly J. Thomas, a career soldier, has been named commissioner of motor vehicles by Transportation Secretary Tony Tata.

Thomas has 32 years of experience in leadership, logistics and customer service with the U.S. Army. He served most recently as deputy chief of staff for personnel for the U.S. Army Forces Command, where he was in charge of providing support and services for soldiers and their families.

“Kelly’s extensive experience in team building and strong customer focus make him an excellent choice to lead DMV,” Tata said in a statement. “As we continue our DMV transformation that includes expanding evening and Saturday hours and other enhanced customer-focused reform, Kelly Thomas will continue to fuel DMV’s climb to the highest level of efficiency and effectiveness among state service providers.”

DMV oversees the issuing of more than 2.2 million driver’s licenses annually, the registration of 8.7 million vehicles across the state, and vehicle safety and emissions inspections.

Hagan promotes bills to protect newborns

U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan on Tuesday touted two bills designed to reduce infant mortality by improving screening of newborns and the training of those who care for new babies.

“As a mother, I cannot imagine the pain of losing a child, especially when that death may have been easily prevented,” Hagan, chairwoman of the Senate Subcommittee on Children and Families, said in a conference call from Washington.

One measure, which Hagan co-sponsored with Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Democratic Sen. Diane Feinstein of California, reauthorizes a program to provide training for child care providers on CPR, first aid and other safe practices.

Hagan said the bill is designed to address what historically has been nearly 4,500 sudden unexpected infant deaths per year across the country, including about 100 in North Carolina. The measure passed the Senate Health and Education Committee last week.

Hagan will hold a hearing Thursday on a second bill, which reauthorizes a 2008 law that provides federal support for screenings for newborns.

As part of that effort, North Carolina now screens newborn infants for 28 different potential birth defects such as sickle cell and cystic fibrosis. Hagan said such screenings allow doctors to more quickly treat the conditions.

Among those who will testify before Hagan’s committee is Joye Mullis, a Raleigh mother, whose son’s life was saved when screening detected a heart defect.

Former state GOP officials join Harris

The Rev. Mark Harris won’t officially enter North Carolina’s U.S. Senate race until next week. But he has already snared another former official of the state Republican Party, Mark Rusher, to run his campaign.

Rusher, former chief of staff for the state GOP, joins former state party Chairman Robin Hayes, who will co-chair the Harris campaign.

Harris is pastor of Charlotte’s First Baptist Church and president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. He plans a fly-around announcement tour Oct. 2, starting in Wilmington and ending in Charlotte.

Rusher headed the national GOP Victory Campaign in North Carolina in 2012. Before that, he was an aide to state Senate leader Phil Berger. The announcement of his position with the Harris campaign comes a day after Berger formally bowed out of the Senate race.

Harris will be the fourth Republican to announce for Hagan’s seat, joining House Speaker Thom Tillis, Cary physician Greg Brannon and Wilkesboro nurse Heather Grant.

Staff writer Rob Christensen and Charlotte Observer staff writer Jim Morrill

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