Munger for NC Governor--2008!!

Recording the campaign activities, events, and happenings of the Munger for Governor campaign.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Gary Robertson

Gary Robertson, a reporter for AP here in NC, did an article that was picked up by Myrtle Beach Online.

I reproduce it, in case it goes down in MB:

Posted on Sat, Dec. 30, 2006

Minimum wage increase, income tax reduction lead N.C.'s new year laws

Associated Press

RALEIGH, N.C. - The new year will arrive with new rules for lobbyists, recreational fishermen and cable television system operators, as well as a little something extra in the paychecks of North Carolinians on both ends of the tax bracket.

On the same day an estimated 139,000 workers earning minimum wage will see their hourly pay rise to $6.15 per hour, individuals and small business owners with six-digit incomes will see the state's highest tax bracket fall from 8.25 percent to 8 percent. Both changes are among the more than 30 state laws taking effect Jan. 1.

"I think we need to help everybody who needs help," said Rep. Alma Adams, D-Guilford, the minimum wage bill's chief sponsor, who also voted for a state budget bill that contained the income tax reduction. "As we look at the poorest people in our state, we have just not paid attention to them ... it just appears that they're always left out."

Adams and others worked for nearly a decade to raise North Carolina's minimum wage, which had been at the federal level of $5.15 since 1997.

The increase finally cleared the Legislature last summer as Gov. Mike Easley added his support and proponents overcame the complaints of small business officials who argued the rise will lead to shorter hours or layoffs for workers.

The new Democratic-led Congress could seek to raise the federal minimum wage when lawmakers reconvene in January, and North Carolina workers would receive whichever rate is higher.

The reduction of the highest individual tax bracket applies to income earned starting Jan. 1. The new rate applies to individual fliers making more than $120,000 and married couples filing jointly who make more than $200,000.

The lower rate is the first step in a planned two-year phase-out of the state's highest tax bracket, which was created in 2001 to help narrow a budget shortfall. The tax will drop back to the original 7.75 percent on Jan. 1, 2008, although lawmakers have twice previously extended the deadline.

Also Monday, sport anglers 16 and older will need a fishing license before dropping a line into coastal waters. Previously, only freshwater anglers and commercial fishermen needed permits. The new law also removes a longtime license exemption for freshwater fishermen using natural bait in their home county.

Anglers will be able to obtain licenses Monday at hundreds of sporting goods, bait shops and other locations, online at or by phone, where N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission representatives in Raleigh will be working on the holiday.

"We're making every effort to make it as convenient as possible," said Lisa Hocutt, the commission's customer service manager.

The driver's license renewal period will be extended from five years to eight years for motorists between 18 and 53. Young drivers' licenses will expire on their 21st birthday, while older drivers will have to renew every five years.

Deregulation of the cable television industry in North Carolina begins Jan. 1, a move traditional phone companies say will make it easier for them to enter markets. Supporters of the change argue it will lead to increased competition and lower TV bills.

Franchise agreements between TV providers and local governments are being phased out. Companies seeking to start offering pay television service through cable, phone lines or broadband Internet will register with the Secretary of State's Office.

And while there are several exceptions, lobbyists will face new rules that will bar them from giving gifts or paying for private dinners with Senate and House members and executive branch leaders.

The change is part of the largest overhaul of the state ethics laws in more than 30 years, designed to reduce the impression that legislators and top agency leaders can be bought with fancy meals and other benefits paid for by corporations and other groups.

"Our hope is that it could change the culture somewhat, where the free-spending days without any accountability are over," said Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause North Carolina.

New election and campaign laws also will take effect Monday, including tighter controls on cash donations to candidates and a ban on contributions by check or money order with blank payee lines.

That issue gained notice when the State Board of Elections ordered House Speaker Jim Black and his campaign to forfeit $6,800 in donations received from optometrists for the 2002 election. Evidence indicated the donors left the payee lines blank and that other people filled them in later.

Another law provides a concession to Libertarians and other smaller political parties. A political party whose candidate receives 2 percent of the total vote in a gubernatorial or presidential race will be able to stay on the statewide ballot in the following election cycle. The threshold has been 10 percent.

The number of signatures required to initially get on the ballot - currently about 69,000 - remains among the toughest initial thresholds in the nation. But Mike Munger, a Libertarian candidate for governor in 2008, says the 2 percent retention requirement is doable.

"If we don't achieve this, it's hard to say we're a legitimate party anyway," said Munger, who is also a political science professor at Duke University.


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