scharrison's blog

Wynn confirmed; Diaz still in holding pattern

A promotion eleven years in the making:

After months of his nomination's languishing on the U.S. Senate calendar, Judge James A. Wynn Jr. of Raleigh was confirmed late Thursday to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a position for which he was first nominated in 1999.

Wynn, 56, was confirmed as part of a procedural move known as "unanimous consent," in which a motion proposed on the Senate floor passes barring an objection by another senator.

He was first nominated for higher court under President Bill Clinton, but he was blocked by Sen. Jesse Helms.

NC loses court battle over air quality

A victory for less-clean smokestacks:

The act also directed state agencies to “use all available resources and means, including ... litigation to make other states and entities, including the Tennessee Valley Authority,” achieve comparable reductions in harmful emissions.

U.S. District Court Judge Lacy Thornburg, a North Carolinian, last year ruled in the state’s favor. But a three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals unanimously overruled Thornburg last week.

(The three judges hail from Maryland, Virginia and South Carolina, underscoring the fact that North Carolina remains under-represented on this court as nominees James Wynn and Albert Diaz are stalled during their U.S. Senate confirmation proceedings.)

TARP funds to aid unemployed homeowners

Bail out the people, not the banks:

The Obama administration plans to send $600 million to help unemployed homeowners avoid foreclosure in five states: North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island and South Carolina. The states estimate their efforts could help up to 50,000 homeowners. The initiative will be financed through the government's Troubled Assets Relief Program.

North Carolina is set to receive $159 million to test new approaches to helping borrowers save their homes from foreclosure.

I wish they had done this sooner, but better late than never.

Martinez spews garbage about veterans and PTSD

I can't believe the N&O actually printed this mess:

Not all veterans are created equally. Combat vets are special, and the burdens they're forced to bear deserve priority status.

That's why I was disheartened to see the Department of Veterans Affairs significantly relax the requirements for a veteran to receive benefits for post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. The change was made without much fanfare or discussion earlier this month.

Without much discussion? Are you really that dense, or are you putting on an act? Veterans have been fighting for this change for decades, and entire libraries can be stocked with the testimony and Q&A's from Congressional sub-committees and Federal lawsuits.

Developers to recoup Cary impact fees

Another good idea thwarted:

The town illegally required developers and homebuilders to set aside money for schools in exchange for approving their projects, the N.C. Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.

The ruling, reaffirming a lower court decision, means Cary may have to pay close to $1 million to a group of builders - and that others may request similar refunds.

Cary enacted the ordinance for schools in 1999 and a few years later attached a fee to developments that didn't get certificates from Wake County schools.

Howard Coble joins Tea Party Caucus

Via Mark Binker's blog Capital Beat:

Even though he faced opposition in his recent primary from Tea Party-backed candidates, U.S. Rep. Howard Coble (R-NC) said he has decided to join the new House Tea Party Caucus. Founded by Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN), the Tea Party Caucus will promote many of the same ideals that Congressman Coble says he has advocated during his long tenure in Congress.

Congresswoman Bachmann said she formed the House Tea Party Caucus so everyday Americans could express their views to their members of Congress. “Congressmen will not be setting the rules;” the Minnesota Republican stated, “rather, Americans are encouraged to share their thoughts and frustrations with the direction our country is heading.

Build it, and they will ride

Midday train between Raleigh and Charlotte is a hit:

The state Department of Transportation announced on Monday that the Piedmont midday service between Raleigh and Charlotte helped increase ridership by nearly 200 percent over last June from 5,258 to 15,426.

The new train service began on June 5. It builds upon the existing Piedmont service, which runs morning and evening trains between the cities. The new service is expected to attract 43,000 new passengers in its first year.

I have to admit, I thought this "lunchtime" run would only attract a few stragglers. Shows what I know.

Republicans ride avalanche of money into November

And you'll never guess who's behind the money pile-up:

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the biggest collection point for corporate contributions, has increased its spending for the congressional election in November from $35 million in 2008 to a projected $75 million this year. Officials say it may go even higher.

The chamber has been joined by new conservative fundraising organizations — such as American Crossroads, affiliated with Republican strategist Karl Rove — that have committed to raising tens of millions of dollars.

Here's a little missive from American Crossroads about its mission:

Richard Burr: "I already spent that money!"

Billionaire Republican crooks finally facing charges:

Fraud and insider trading charges against two Texas billionaires have created a political snag for the GOP. Samuel and Charles Wyly, brothers who founded Sterling Software and sold it for nearly $4 billion in 2000, have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republican candidates in recent years.

Samantha Smith, a spokeswoman for Burr, said the $4,000 he accepted from Charles and Dee Wyly in 2004 was spent in that election cycle. “It’s money that was spent in 2004,” she said. “If Democrats are asking for us to return the money, it’s already gone.”

But you knew it was bad money even back then, didn't you?

Let the Sunshine in: open government in NC

On the heels of last week's reflections on the psychological impact of transparency in government, an exploration of the natural and legal challenges associated with opening up government is in order.

I sat down with Elon University Associate Provost Dr. Connie Book the other day, who also serves as the Executive Director of the NC Open Government Coalition's Sunshine Center. The interview was illuminating to say the least, and I'd like to share with you some of the things Connie and I discussed.

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