Senators remove pay raise to themselves
South Carolina senators have removed a pay raise for lawmakers from their budget plan and given the money to local governments instead.
The Senate voted Tuesday to remove $2 million from the Finance Committee’s spending plan, which provided legislators $1,000 more per month toward in-district expenses. The proposal doubled the stipend to $24,000 yearly for each of the 170 legislators.
Senate Finance Chairman Hugh Leatherman says legislators haven’t received a raise since 1995, while the cost of gas has tripled since then, making it more expensive to travel around districts that can span multiple counties.
But Republican Sen. Paul Thurmond of Charleston argued the pay hike sends a message that legislators believe their raise is more important than government services.
His amendment adds the money to the local government fund.
Bill would OK card games, dice
The South Carolina House has advanced a measure to overturn an 1802 anti-gambling bill by allowing card games and dice in social clubs and homes.
A committee on Tuesday unanimously approved the bill already passed by the Senate and spurred by state police warning Sun City Hilton Head last year that bridge and canasta social clubs advertised by the retirement community violates state law.
Under strict reading of state law, any playing of social games could be considered as gambling and could result in liquor licenses being revoked.
Previous efforts to legalize games such as bridge and kitchen-table poker have been blocked over fears of the re-emergence of video poker and gambling.
Sponsoring Republican Sen. Tom Davis of Beaufort has threatened to challenge the law if the bill isn’t passed.
Wofford honors Panthers owner
Wofford has honored former player, alumnus and NFL owner Jerry Richardson with a statue on campus.
The school dedicated the statue this week. Richardson played football and graduated Wofford in 1959. He went on to own the Carolina Panthers and has held summer training camp at Wofford’s facilities since before its inaugural season in 1995. Wofford says about 375,000 people have attended Panthers’ practices in those 19 years.
Sculptor Todd Andrews fashioned a likeness of Richardson in stride. It stands on a patio between the football stadium and the Richardson Physical Activities Building.
Richardson is a member of the Wofford board of trustees.
Wofford College President Nayef H. Samhat said Richardson is deserving of such an honor because of the impact he’s had on the school and the community.
VA Center workers put on leave
Two employees at the Durham VA Medical Center are on administrative leave for what officials call inappropriate scheduling practices.
The announcement from the Department of Veterans Affairs is the latest in an increasing number of scheduling incidents involving Veterans Affairs hospitals across the country. VA workers in Wyoming, Texas and Colorado are being investigated for allegedly manipulating scheduling systems to hide the fact that veterans actually waited months for appointments.
According to the department, a Durham VA employee indicated some workers may have falsified appointment records between 2009 and 2012. An audit team will review the allegations at the hospital this week.
A Senate hearing is scheduled for Thursday in Washington on the issue, and Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki is slated to appear.
Cooper: Better teacher pay plan needed
Attorney General Roy Cooper joined fellow Democratic leaders in the legislature Tuesday in calling on Republicans to come up with a plan to raise public school teacher salaries in North Carolina to the national average in the next few years.
Cooper’s written comments, released on the eve of this year’s General Assembly session, are significant because he’s assembling a run for governor in 2016 and has been critical of the policy agenda pushed by the GOP and Gov. Pat McCrory.
The governor announced a teacher plan proposal last week that would raise veteran teacher salaries on average by about 2 percent and envisions a new pay schedule that would raise pay more quickly, retain bonuses and reward the best performing teachers over time.
In a veiled reference to McCrory’s proposal, Cooper said the state doesn’t need “Band-Aid solutions, one-time bonuses and pilot programs” that may take years to raise pay for some teachers.
“It’s time to demand action from the governor and the legislature, not just talk,” Cooper said in an email to supporters urging them to sign a petition.
Cooper’s statement mirrored the message of House Minority Leader Larry Hall, D-Durham, and Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue, D-Wake, at a Tuesday afternoon news conference. Hall said there is a teacher pay “crisis” and called the average 2 percent pay raise offered by McCrory for next year “pitiful.”
North Carolina’s average teacher pay of $45,737 during the 2012-13 school year ranks 46th among the state and District of Columbia.
Underage drinking focus of panel
A new task force announced by Gov. Pat McCrory will try to reduce underage drinking and substance abuse in North Carolina.
McCrory signed an executive order Tuesday creating the Substance Abuse and Underage Drinking Prevention and Treatment Task Force at East Carolina University in Greenville.
According to the governor’s office. ECU is one of six state universities participating in a pilot program which will focus on prevention, treatment and enforcement.
The task force will include members from multiple state agencies, including the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission and the UNC system and build on past efforts to crack down on businesses that sell alcohol illegally.
McCrory said substance abuse often starts in a person’s youth, which is why the state is targeting its efforts on early intervention and treatment.
6 men arrested for molesting girl
Six brothers are in a northeastern North Carolina jail after authorities said they molested a young girl for nearly a decade.
The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk reports the men were arrested last week on charges ranging from statutory rape to sexual assault and rape of the alleged victim, who is now 16.
Perquimans County Sheriff Eric Tilley said the alleged attacks occurred from the time the girl was 4 until she was about 14, Court records show the abuse occurred from January 2003 through December 2012.
The men were identified as Eric Jackson, 27, and five of his brothers – Jon, 25, Matthew, 23, Nathaniel, 21, Benjamin, 19, and Aaron, 18. Tilley confirmed one of the brothers came forward in December 2012 to confess the crime after speaking with a pastor, but he wouldn’t identify which one.
The brothers are in the Albemarle District Jail under secured bonds of up to $150,000. There was no information on whether they had attorneys.
The men’s parents also were charged with felony child abuse and released after posting a $15,000 secured bond. Tilley said they were charged because they were aware of the abuse and failed to take action.
When word spread of the police investigation, the family moved to Colorado, said Tilley, who added that the defendants agreed to return to North Carolina rather than await extradition.