Under the Dome

Dome: NC lawmakers fail environmental tests

jfrank@newsobserver.com rchristensen@newsobserver.comSeptember 29, 2013 

Environment North Carolina gave 112 lawmakers a failing grade this session. Only one Republican received a passing score.

The group’s 2013 legislative scorecard put 65 percent of the 170-member N.C. General Assembly in the failing category based on nine contested votes in the House and 13 in the Senate. Nearly two-thirds of the Senate didn’t pass the environmental advocacy group’s test.

“This year, the Senate approved extreme measures to rush the state into fracking, do away with protections for our beaches, rivers and lakes, and dismantle our environmental commissions,” Elizabeth Ouzts, Environment North Carolina state director, said in a statement. “Given all the Senate’s attacks on the environment this year, their dismal scores are disappointing, but not all that surprising.”

Among the votes counted: Dix park, repeal of Jordan Lake cleanup standards, lifting the fracking moratorium and remaking environmental commissions.

The group also found:

• Rep. Chuck McGrady of Asheville was the only Republican to earn above 50 percent, with an 89 percent score. The next closest: Sen. Tamara Barringer of Cary at 17 percent.

• 30 Democratic members earned a perfect score (25 in the House, five in the Senate)

• The lowest scoring Democrats were Rep. William Brisson of Dublin (20 percent) and Sen. Mike Walters of Fairmont (44 percent).

Ad promotes voting hotline

The North Carolina NAACP State Conference has begun airing a new radio ad across the state urging people who think they have difficulty voting to call a toll-free hotline at 855-664-3487.

In the ad, the Rev. William Barber, the state NAACP president, said the new voting regulations passed by the legislature and signed by Gov. McCrory are among “the most restrictive voting measures in the country.”

“The law will make it harder for seniors, students and people of color to vote and their ballots counted.”

The ad is being paid for by the Advancement Fund, a civil rights group.

Most of the provisions of the law do not take effect until 2014 elections and photo IDs will not be required to vote until the 2016 elections.

Merritt resigns from state Ethics Commission

State Ethics Commission member Les Merritt submitted his letter of resignation Friday, addressing concerns about a conflict with his work as an N.C. Department of Health and Human Services contractor.

“I have certainly enjoyed my tenure and consider serving on the Ethics Commission a privilege,” he wrote. “The work of the commission is very important and I know all the commission members and staff are honorable people, serving the state of North Carolina for the right reasons.

“In that regard, I do not want even the ‘appearance of a conflict of interest’ to cast a shadow on the integrity of the commission,” he concluded.

DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos hired Merritt under a personal services contract in the division of mental health. He is expcted to make $312,000 under the year-long contract, according to state records. Merritt is a Republican who was elected in 2004 as the state’s auditor. He served one term.

The resignation was effective immediately. Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger will name his replacement.

Croom appointed as administrative law judge

Craig Croom, a former Wake County judge, has been appointed as an administrative law judge by Chief Judge Julian Mann.

Croom replaces Joe Webster who left late last year become U.S. magistrate judge in the Middle District.

Croom, who has been in private practice since January, had served as a special Wake County Superior Court judge in 2011-2012, as a Wake County District Court judge from 1999-2011, and as an assistant district attorney from 1995-1999.

He also worked as a Wake County deputy sheriff for two years.

Staff writers John Frank and Rob Christensen

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