Thursday, November 30, 2006

Assistance For Riegelwood Tornado Victims

Governor Mike Easley and other state officials are encouraging all North Carolinians to help the families in Riegelwood who have suffered so much. The November 16th storm, which was the state’s second-deadliest tornado in 50 years, claimed the lives of eight people and damaged or destroyed at least 35 homes, leaving about 100 people homeless.

For those wanting to help the tornado victims, the Community Foundation of Southeastern North Carolina has set up the Riegelwood Disaster Relief and Recovery Fund. Tax deductible contributions can be sent to: Community Foundation, 321 North Front Street, Wilmington, NC 28401 or visit the foundation’s website at The Red Cross and Salvation Army are also accepting donations that should be designated “Riegelwood Tornado.” For information about the recovery or how to donate to the relief efforts, the public can also call the Governor’s Emergency Bilingual Hotline, 1-888-835-9966.

Please feel free to continue to contact me on matters of concern to you.

Best wishes to you and your family for a wonderful holiday season.



Opportunities For High School Students To Be A Legislative Page

The N.C. House Page program offers high school students (ages 15 to 18 or those currently in the ninth grade) the opportunity to see firsthand how laws are made by participating in the legislative process. I am permitted to sponsor up to five pages from my district for the upcoming session, which begins on January 24. Pages will serve for one week with duties such as participating in daily session and committee meetings. To read more about the House Page program, please visit Interested students should contact my office at 919-733-5771 or for an application. Due to the popularity of the program, it is best to submit an application as early as possible.

Laws That Take Effect December 1st, 2006

Following are brief descriptions of new laws that take effect on December 1, 2006 which will better protect our children and families and make our neighborhoods safer. Please feel free to contact me if you would like additional information on these issues or any others that were considered by the General Assembly during this year’s session.

Protecting Children from Sex Offenders (S.L. 1006-181, HB 1896): Sex offenders will face much stricter registration regulation in North Carolina beginning December 1. The new law also prohibits a sex offender from living within 1,000 feet of a school or daycare center and bars offenders from working or volunteering in a position where they would interact with minors. Some of the worst predators face lifetime satellite monitoring under a new global positioning system (GPS), and all offenders must comply with tougher registration requirements, which will give authorities more opportunities to update addresses and photographs.

Legislators also included $1.5 million in the budget to upgrade the state’s sex offender registry, implement the global positioning system (GPS), and establish an email notification program so citizens can be notified when a registered sex offender moves into their neighborhood.

Cracking Down on Drunk Drivers (S.L. 2006-253, HB 1048): North Carolina’s drunk driving laws will get tougher beginning December 1. The new law will better protect the public from the dangers of drunk drivers by strengthening existing driving while impaired (DWI) laws and making sure they are applied fairly and consistently throughout the state.

The new law limits a judge’s discretion to find a DWI defendant not guilty if the breathalyzer test results show a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or greater. It requires prosecutors to document and report their reasons for dismissing DWI cases, which the Administrative Office of the Courts can post on its website. It expands the definition of impaired driving to include the presence of any amount of illegal drugs in the blood.

It also adds to the list of DWI-related crimes, including a new category of charges when an individual who is driving while impaired injures a victim. The law also adds new categories and stiffer penalties for those with DWI convictions who injure or kill others in accidents. The new categories and penalties are:
Felony Serious Injury – A person who unintentionally causes serious injury while driving impaired is guilty of a Class F felony; Aggravated Felony Serious Injury – A person who intentionally causes serious injury while driving impaired and has an impaired driving conviction within seven years of the offense is guilty of a Class E felony; Aggravated Felony Death – A person who unintentionally causes the death of another while driving impaired and has an impaired driving conviction within seven years of the offense is guilty of a Class D felony; Repeat Felony Death by Vehicle Offender – A person who has a previous conviction for causing a death while impaired and is convicted a second time for a felony death by vehicle is subject to punishment under the second degree murder statute, which is a Class B2 felony.

In addition to current bans against under-aged possession and purchase of alcohol, the new law makes it illegal for a person younger than age 21 to consume alcohol. The law previously prohibited only under-aged possession and not necessarily consumption. The bill also requires anyone purchasing a keg of beer to first obtain a permit from the vendor to help trace beer purchasers.

Seat Belt Use Enhancements (S.L. 1006-140, SB 774): All vehicle passengers, including those in the back seat, will now have to buckle up in North Carolina. The new law mandates seatbelt use for all riders in a passenger vehicle. The law takes effect on December 1, but for the first six months – until next July – law enforcement officers will not issue tickets, only warnings. Beginning on July 1, 2007, back-seat passengers who are not wearing a seat belt would get a $10 ticket; however, it would only be a secondary violation, meaning law enforcement cannot stop a vehicle solely for a seat belt infraction.

Supporters of the legislation said 70 percent of back-seat passengers who died in North Carolina accidents in recent years were not wearing a seat belt. Currently, only 36 percent of passengers use seat belts in the back seat, compared with 86 percent in the front seats. Of the more than 1,100 deadly crashes in 2004, seatbelts are credited with saving more than 600 lives. Almost 20 other states, including South Carolina, have passed back-seat belt use laws, which was also a major recommendation of North Carolina’s Child Fatality Task Force.

Cell Phone Use Prohibited for Drivers Under 18 (S.L. 1006-177, SB 1289): Teenagers will now be prohibited from talking on their cell phones while driving. Motorists under the age of 18 caught using a cell could face a $25 fine and an extension to their graduated driving period. Like other graduated licensing rules, this law is designed more as a tool for parents than a tool for law enforcement. The bill makes exceptions for teenagers speaking with parents, law enforcement and spouses. According to supporters of the bill, more than 21 percent of all highway fatalities occur in crashes involving teenage drives. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among North Carolina teens, with more than 400 killed in the past five years. Drivers using mobile phones are four times more likely to be involved in a crash than those who aren’t. The legislation was recommended by the N.C. Child Fatality Task Force.

Disorderly Conduct During a Funeral or Memorial/Military Service (S.L. 1006-169, SB 1833): Anyone who displays visual images, yells, or uses abusive language within 300 feet of the funeral or memorial site will be guilty of a misdemeanor under a new law aimed at protecting families from protests at funerals. The bill originally targeted military services, but now covers all funerals. The protest ban would begin one hour before the funeral and end one hour after the conclusion of the funeral. According to bill sponsors, 31 states this year have filed similar bills, with 14 signed into law. The federal law, enacted earlier this year, applies only to national cemeteries; state laws would have a broader effect.

Increased Penalty for the Assault of a Handicapped Person (S.L. 1006-179, SB 488): The criminal penalty for a simple assault or battery on a handicapped person will increase from a Class 1 to a Class 1A misdemeanor.

Early Holiday Gift: Sales Tax Cut Goes Into Effect December 1st, 2006

North Carolina consumers will see savings at the checkout counter due to a cut in the state sales tax rate that goes into effect Friday, December 1 – just in time for the upcoming holiday shopping season. Legislators approved a reduction of the state’s sales tax earlier this summer, reducing it from 4.5 percent to 4.25 percent. It is estimated that this tax cut will save our state’s taxpayers $140.1 million during the next seven months. Additional tax cuts take effect on January 1, 2007. You may remember that a temporary sales tax was enacted in 2001 during the height of the recession; this reduction and the additional cut on January 1, 2007 represent the expiration of that temporary tax.

Greetings From Raleigh 11-30-06

Following the November 7 election, my attention was quickly claimed again by work and responsibilities related to my current term. Interim committees have regained momentum as we work to wrap up the study mandates legislated during the 2006 session. I am sitting on the following study commissions: the Environmental Review Commission; the House Select Committee on Capital Punishment, the House Select Committee on Complementary and Alternative Medicine; the Legislative Committee on Global Climate Change, and the Joint Legislative Commission on Land and Water Conservation. I have also been working with Representatives Alma Adams, Maggie Jeffus, and Laura Wiley on the Eastern Guilford High School situation, in addition to other local issues including proposed new rules impacting parents who serve as guardians of their disabled adult children.

I’m very proud of the progress we made during the short time we were in Raleigh this past summer on education, health care, the economy, our environment, and reducing crime. Several of the new laws that we approved will go into effect tomorrow, December 1st.

The Legislature will reconvene on Wednesday, January 24, 2007 at noon. I will be hosting a reception in the space adjacent to my office that day prior to the swearing in ceremony.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Thank You!

I am deeply grateful for the support of every constituent in the 57th District who went to the polls on November 7 and voted for me to represent them in the North Carolina House for the next two years. I pledge to every citizen my wholehearted attention to your concerns and ideas about how we can make our city, county, and state a better place in which to live.

Needless to say, I could not have succeeded without my friends who worked enthusiastically and tirelessly as volunteers. Their time and energy were awesome and made the difference in the outcome. I am humbled by the number of people who volunteered and the number of hours they gave to my campaign.

I promise to “keep my sleeves rolled up” and work hard so that those who voted for me will be proud they did. It was a solid win and a show of support for the work we started in my first term.

THANK YOU for your support!!


Friday, November 03, 2006

Committee Work Continues

Even though the Legislature is not in session, we’re still busy at work in Raleigh on numerous study committees, which are meeting during the interim and will make recommendations for legislation when the General Assembly reconvenes in January. I’m serving on several interim standing and study committees including the Environmental Review Commission, the Legislative Commission on Global Climate Change, the House Select Study Committee on Capital Punishment, the Joint Legislative Commission on Land and Water Conservation, and the House Select Committee on Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Topics being studied by other committees include high school graduation and drop out rates, school construction needs, the rising cost of health care and increasing access to affordable care, landfills, Internet predators, and issues related to senior citizens and aging. Below is an update on several recent committee meetings.

Ø The House Select Committee on High School Graduation and Drop-Out Rates has held several meetings in Raleigh, with plans for meetings around the state, as it studies ways to ensure students receive a quality education and graduate. The committee is looking at the benefit of raising the current compulsory attendance age above 16 years old, the effectiveness of high school reform efforts in recent years, effective education programs in other states, and the economic, social, and criminal impact on a student’s life if they drop out of school.

Education Week Magazine recently cited a national study showing North Carolina’s high school graduation rate at 66 percent. Among African American males it is 49 percent and Hispanic males graduate only 47 percent. North Carolina is ranked 45th in the nation in the percent of ninth graders who graduate four years later, with only 41 percent entering college and 19 percent graduating with an associate or bachelor degree within six years. Our state’s dropout rate also has a tremendous impact on our economy and society. A high school dropout in 2000 had less than a 50 percent chance of getting a job. That figure drops to 25 percent for African-American students. The dropout’s job will earn less than half of what the same job earned 20 years ago. Wages are increasing only for those with at least a college education, and a lack of education is increasingly correlated with incarceration and a dependence on welfare.

Governor Easley and legislators have created several new programs in recent years aimed at increasing high school graduation rates and encouraging more students to attend college. The Learn and Earn early college high schools initiative provides high school students the opportunity to graduate in five years with a high school diploma and an associate’s degree or two years of college credit. North Carolina launched the New Schools Project to assist in the creation of small, economic development-themed high schools across the state. The smaller high schools focus on growing economies and job sectors by offering classes in health care, computer technology, biotechnology, and engineering based on a student’s interests and possible future career.

Ø The House Select Committee on Public School Construction is studying ways the state and counties can build the schools needed to accommodate tens of thousands of new students each year. North Carolina will need to spend close to $10 billion over the next five years on school renovations, new buildings and furniture. The $2,372,013 from lottery proceeds recently allocated to Guilford County for school construction will supplement local school construction funds.

The legislative panel, as well as other organizations across the state, has held several recent meetings to discuss possible options for financing school construction projects, bond referendums, public-private partnerships, lottery funds, and the possible use of alternative facilities, such as empty buildings like grocery stores, for schools. Since 2000, the rate of enrollment in the state’s high schools has increased three times faster than in elementary and middle school, but experts expect the trend to change in the next five years. Elementary enrollment in the next five years is expected to grow twice as much as middle schools and eight times larger than high schools, according to a state survey. According to a recent facility needs survey, North Carolina has more than 7,000 mobile units and temporary classrooms, which act as classrooms for about 178,000 students.

Ø The Joint Select Committee on Environmental Justice, a panel created to evaluate the impact of present and future landfills on minorities and the poor, recently heard testimony regarding a study on the location of landfills across our state. Adjusting for population density, the report found solid-waste facilities were twice as likely to be located in a community where more than 10 percent of residents were minorities. The odds of a community having a landfill were 40 percent higher in an area with average home values less than $100,000 compared with more than $100,000. However, since 1990, landfills were permitted less often in low-wealth housing areas without landfills.

The Select Committee on Environmental Justice was created by legislation passed this summer, which I pushed for, that placed a one-year moratorium on permitting new landfills in North Carolina. The ban, which took effect August 1, delays development of at least four proposed mega dumps that would expand the state’s narrowing landfill capacity. The panel is expected to recommend early next year how to ensure that human health concerns and citizen equity are protected when landfills are considered. The Environmental Review Commission, on which I sit, is examining how to improve rules on permitting landfills.

Please be in touch if you have questions or comments.



School Saftey Measures To Be Reviewed

In the wake of recent school violence across the nation, Governor Mike Easley has asked Secretary Bryan Beatty of the Department of Crime Control and Public Safety and Attorney General Roy Cooper to coordinate a comprehensive review of North Carolina’s school safety programs. They will work with the Department of Public Instruction (DPI), the State Board of Education, and the Department of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to assess current efforts and determine if additional measures should be taken to better protect the state’s school students.

As part of the effort, Easley also asked the State Board of Education and DPI to ensure that school superintendents across the state begin an immediate review of their district’s safety plans for completeness and coordination with local emergency response agencies. Governor Easley also asked Health and Human Services Secretary Carmen Hooker-Odom to provide assistance due to the emotional impact the recent school violence incidents may have on students. In addition, the Governor urged Messrs. Beatty and Cooper to examine the use of technology and protocol measures, student and faculty response, as well as the communication between classroom and administrative offices to perceived problems. Governor Easley has asked Messrs. Beatty and Cooper to report back to him with recommendations for needed improvements as quickly as possible.

I look forward to reviewing the reports for our local schools and will work with the Governor, his administration, and other legislators to implement any needed school safety measures to ensure our students are safe.

Prescription Drug Assisstance For Seniors: North Carolina RX

Governor Mike Easley has announced a new prescription drug assistance program for North Carolina senior citizens. The program, funded for 2 years with $24 million from the Health and Wellness Trust Fund, aims to help qualifying seniors pay some or all of their Medicare Part D premiums. It also hopes to encourage some of the estimated 240,000 eligible seniors in our state who have not signed up for Part D to help them navigate the federal drug program and its medication management program involving pharmacists identifying potentially adverse drug interaction.

Under the new federal Medicare Part D program, which began last January, North Carolina seniors can choose from a variety of prescription drug insurance plans. For 2007, there will be 51 plans offered to North Carolina seniors. To participate in Part D, seniors must select a plan and pay the monthly premium. Plan premiums range in cost, from $17.80 to $85.90 per month for 2007.

North Carolina Rx will help pay premiums for seniors with incomes up to 175 percent of the poverty level ($17,150 for an individual and $23,100 for married couples). The plan also increases the amount of assets seniors may have and still qualify for assistance to $20,000 for an individual and $30,000 for married couples. Qualifying seniors who are at least 65 years old and on Medicare will receive a credit of $18 per month to help pay their premium. Approximately 50,000 North Carolina low-income seniors are expected to sign up for this benefit.

A special web site, and a toll-free hotline, 1-888-488-NCRX (6279), have been set up to provide information about the new North Carolina Rx program and coverage.

Also, Wal-Mart has announced that it is now selling generic prescription drugs for $4 in North Carolina. The plan, which covers generic, or non branded, drugs for a 30-day supply, is open to anyone with a valid doctor’s prescription. No insurance is required. Pharmacies in both Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores will offer the low-cost prescriptions on 314 medications. To view a complete list(PDF File) of eligible medications, go to: Target stores will match the $4 Wal-Mart prescriptions and Kmart is offering 184 generics for $15 for a 90-day supply.

Education Programs Receive First Lottery Money

The new N.C. Lottery made its first ever transfer of proceeds to education on October 19, seven months after the games began. The state lottery commission will make periodic transfers to the Education Lottery Fund. At least 35 percent of net lottery revenues must be used for education initiatives such as pre-K programs, reducing class size, school construction, and college scholarships for needy students. The recent $95 million transfer represents 35.6 percent of the $233.1 million total the lottery collected since July 1 and another $12 million generated before that date. The lottery also made a $50 million transfer in late June, but that went into a reserve account.

Guilford County’s public schools and other counties across the state will begin receiving these new funds in the near future. Guilford County is expected to receive approximately $2,372,013 in funding for school construction and $2,572,028 for pre-K education as part of this first installment of new education funds from the lottery. Funds for reducing class size and college scholarships will be announced in the future.

State law requires that at least 50 percent of the total proceeds from the lottery be paid out in prizes, no more than 8 percent for administrative costs, 7 percent to retailers, and the remaining 35 percent to education. Of the funds for education, 50 percent goes to cutting class size in early grades to 18 students per teacher and to the More at Four program for at-risk pre-kindergarten children, 40 percent for school construction, and 10 percent for need-based scholarships for college, university, and community college students in North Carolina. North Carolina’s lottery dedicates a higher percentage of lottery proceeds toward education than most others in the nation.

The N.C. Department of Public Instruction (DPI) will manage the distribution of the funds for the various education programs except the college scholarships, which will be handled by the North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority.

Greetings From Raleigh 11-03-06

It’s appropriate at this time, I think, to thank you again for your support during my first term as your House representative. Your concerns, ideas, and suggestions have been fundamental, important considerations in all of the decisions I’ve made on behalf of my constituents. I hope I will be honored again with your mandate and support as we look forward to the new legislative session scheduled to begin on January 24, 2007. Please continue to provide your wise counsel on issues that concern you.

After the short session ended this summer, members and staff organized and prepared for interim studies that will fill our time during November and December. Out of the studies will come proposals for legislation to be considered in 2007. Under the following topic entitled, “Committee Work Continues”, you will find my assignment to various studies, so please “weigh in” with your views on any of those topics.

During the interim, you can contact me via email at or, or by calling my Raleigh office at 919-733-5771 or in Greensboro at 336-274-5574. You can also find additional information on the General Assembly at

Please visit my new web site, WWW.PRICEYHARRISON.ORG for news and information.