The North Carolina General Assembly continued to claim the spotlight last week as Republicans took control of both the House and Senate for the first time in more than a century.
In a series of articles, the Asheville Citizen-Times reported “Statehouse Power Shift to Usher in Changes.” Republicans “appear poised to lift the cap on charter schools, require identification at the voter’s booth, tighten regulations on forced annexation, reduce business regulations and start the redistricting process,” according to the paper.
Despite a projected $3.7 billion budget shortfall, party leaders have vowed to close the deficit without raising taxes. That includes letting a temporary sales-tax increase expire at the end of the fiscal year in June. It could mean big funding cuts in everything from education and human services to infrastructure improvements.
“The budget is clearly the thing that will consume a majority of our time,” said Thom Tillis, a Mecklenburg County Republican who’s the new speaker of the House.
But the first bill Republicans chose to file when they took charge Jan. 26 attacked provisions of federal health care reform. In “Republicans in North Carolina General Assembly Target Health Care Mandate,” the Citizen-Times reported that the proposed state law would nullify the federal requirement that Americans buy health insurance beginning in 2014, as well as any penalties they would face if they failed to comply. If passed, it’s unlikely that Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue would sign the bill. And even if she did, it’s unclear how it would be enforced since, under the U.S. Constitution, federal laws trump state laws.
In the online post “Republicans Step up to Bat,” Xpress reported that freshman Buncombe County Rep. Tim Moffitt was one of three co-sponsors of the bill. During his first day on the job, Moffitt also co-sponsored a bill that would amend the state constitution to prohibit the use of eminent domain for economic development.
In a sit-down with the Citizen-Times, Sen. Martin Nesbitt — the Buncombe County legislator who’s the new Senate minority leader — said that even though conservatives are now set to drive the agenda, his party is prepared to fight for its own priorities. “What you can’t let happen is a budget that cuts $3 billion out and affects health care and public schools and universities,” said Nesbitt.
Of money and guns
In other political news, “Shuler Appointed to Budget Committee,” Xpress reported in an online post.
In the wake of his recent challenge to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, 11th District Rep. Heath Shuler nabbed a spot on the powerful House Committee on the Budget. The committee helps determine the country’s spending priorities and develop the massive federal budget.
“I look forward to using my position on the committee to find common ground between Republicans and Democrats to balance our budget, cut wasteful spending, and restore fiscal discipline and restraint in Washington,” Shuler said in a statement.
It wasn’t all good news for the congressman last week, however. In another online post, Xpress reported that “Doonesbury Takes Aim at Rep. Heath Shuler.” Last week’s run of the nationally syndicated comic strip made fun of “his action hero-level firearms prowess,” according to the article. The cartoon references Shuler’s recent announcement that in the wake of the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, he would carry a concealed weapon to constituent meetings.
Calling all ye tourists
In national attention of a more positive sort, Xpress joined news outlets nationwide in reporting that “Fodor’s Lists Asheville as One of ‘21 Places We’re Going in 2011.’” The top travel publication urged its readers to “get a taste of Asheville while it still feels local and before it goes global.”
“On the edge of the alluring Smoky Mountains, the food-and-drink scene of the recently dubbed ‘Beer City USA’ is the perfect complement to the scenery,” the article gushes, going on to note the vibrant local arts-and-music scene as well as Pack Square Park. The Inn on Biltmore Estate and the Hotel Indigo get recommendations as places for travelers to spend the night.