art frWhen the clock struck midnight this past New Year’s Eve, a new North Carolina state tax took effect.

“This isn’t a tax reform, it’s a tax shift,” said Rep. Joe Sam Queen, D-Waynesville. “It’s just part of the shift by the Republican legislature on revenues. They cut taxes on big business, then entertainment, tourism and nonprofits, who do so much with so little, and are the engine of our economy, get taxed while those huge tax breaks are given to those who contribute to the call.” 

Business license fees will disappear in North Carolina following the recent passage of the Omnibus Tax Law Changes. Currently, towns and cities use any of a number of schemes for calculating how much a business must pay for the privilege of doing business in municipal limits. The majority of legislators agreed that this patchwork of regulations was too inconsistent, led to exorbitant taxes and needed to be addressed.  

fr pigeonfundIt’s been more than a month since seven of the Pigeon River Fund Board’s nine members learned that a dictum from Raleigh was booting them off midterm, but the restructured board is still raising eyebrows and ire. Typically, the board recommends replacements to fill vacancies when a member’s three-year term ends in August, and the secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources approves them. This go-around, however, that didn’t happen. 

fr frackingNatural gas drilling is one step closer to becoming reality after the North Carolina General Assembly delivered a newly ratified bill to Gov. Pat McCrory’s desk on Friday, May 30.

When North Carolina Republicans arrive at Harrah’s in Cherokee the first week of June for their annual convention, they will likely leave the din of discontent far behind. The rallies — the restless and the rowdies — and the realities of Raleigh will fade in the rearview. 

op frBy Martin Dyckman • Guest Columnist

Occasions such as Memorial Day and the D-Day anniversary remind us of the fallen and the freedoms they died to protect. Speeches and commentaries extol the rights specified in the Constitution, religion, speech, assembly and press among them.

But the right to vote is rarely mentioned. If you’re crafting remarks based on the Bill of Rights, voting is nowhere to be found. The architects of the United States left it to the states.

fr nccatThe North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching is sweating out the legislative short session. Gov. Pat McCrory didn’t include any funding for the Cullowhee-based center in his proposed budget, and unless legislators carve out a place in the final budget, the center will close June 30. 

Hospitals in North Carolina face a catch-22 of the worst kind: the $600 million kind, the kind they have no control over, the kind that involves politics.

Hospitals in North Carolina are seeing a financial hit they can ill-afford after state lawmakers in the General Assembly turned down the federal government’s offer to expand Medicaid last year. It would have added 500,000 uninsured poor to Medicaid rolls.

Republican lawmakers in North Carolina are standing by their controversial decision last year to deny Medicaid expansion to 500,000 low-income people who otherwise lacked health coverage.

Some Democrats in the General Assembly are pushing to revisit Medicaid expansion, however. The legislative season had barely gotten underway last week when a group of Democratic lawmakers introduced a bill that would reverse course on Medicaid expansion.

Local school leaders and educators are celebrating last week’s court ruling declaring a 2013 law that doles out a small raise for 25 percent of the state’s teachers — no more and no less — unconstitutional. 

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