This week's column

This week's Exile on Jones Street print column looks at the first, uh, 42.5 hours of the new congress, that and some thoughts on Joe Hackney and school construction. In print Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2007.

Here's the text:

It has been difficult to sort out the new Congress without a scorecard, but if anything was noticeable in the first week or so, it was the splitting of what had been a solid GOP bloc.

The best evidence of that in the state GOP delegation came on a vote to raise the federal minimum wage. Eighth District Rep. Robin Hayes of Concord and Sixth District Rep. Howard Coble of Greensboro joined 80 other Republicans in voting for the hike. Coble and Third District Rep. Walter Jones also announced they would oppose the president's call for 21,000 more troops in Iraq.

A few more highlights from those first 100 hours:

* Tenth District Rep. Patrick McHenry tussled with Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank in McHenry's new self-appointed role as GOP pit bull. If you've seen the clip, the word pit bull does not come to mind. The phrase "Hey, Spike!" does.

* Eleventh District Rep. Heath Shuler won a deputy at-large whip post, but that didn't stop him from voting against a leadership-sponsored bill supporting stem cell research. Fellow Democrat Seventh District Rep. Mick McIntyre and all of the state GOP delegation except for Howard Coble also voted against the measure.

* McIntyre has introduced a resolution that calls for federal recognition of the Lumbee, which could send hundreds of millions in federal aid to the tribe. It would also allow the tribe to enter into a casino contract with the state of North Carolina for a shiny new gaming palace just off of I-95.

* Jones finally got paid back for coming out against the war too early. He was skipped over for a key Defense Committee post. Jones didn't break stride, though, and has introduced a measure requiring specific congressional authorization for any attack on Iran.

* Rumblings out of Charlotte this week have revived speculation that Ninth District Rep. Sue Myrick might not seek re-election, possibly to run for governor.

* Twelfth District Rep. Mel Watt will take over as chair of the oversight subcommittee of the Financial Services Committee.

Fair and balanced
I suppose I could call Joe Hackney and ask him how he feels about being described as "prickly," "frosty" and a "Chapel Hill liberal." But, I'm not gonna. It's the kind of thing that makes him prickly.

I thought it was a little weird that the people calling the likely next speaker such names soon after his nomination weren't his enemies, but rather members of the press. Maybe it's because I wrote for the hometown paper, that I've never found him to be as recently described. Judicious with his opinion? Yeah. Not fond of political chit-chat? Sure.

But get him talking about something he's interested in, like the relationship of air quality to childhood asthma rates or whether the legislature has the right to tell the university what to teach, and he'll tell you plenty.

If, as predicted, Hackney is named speaker when the legislature convenes Jan. 24, the state will have someone much more interested in ideas and policy than the political chessboard.

Acronym alert
The General Assembly session hasn't started yet, but committee work has and a group looking at school construction needs last week studied proposed legislation that would set up a new array of revenue streams, including a real estate transfer tax. The legislation would also increase regulatory authority, allowing counties to create adequate public facility ordinances, or APFOs.

Each county would have to hold a referendum on whether to opt into the new system. Counties that already have local option real estate transfer taxes and special impact fee arrangements would have to choose either the new system or their current one.

The adequate public facilities ordinances would allow counties to tie construction permits to available seats in the classroom.

Look for a major battle over this as the powerful homebuilders and real estate lobbies get involved. Any kind of transfer tax or impact tax has been met with fierce opposition because it captures the value of the home.

Rest of the team
In addition to voting in Hackney as their speaker nominee last week, Democrats chose Hugh Holliman of Lexington to fill Hackney's old post of majority leader. William Wainwright of Havelock, co-chair of the House Finance Committee, was named speaker pro tem.


Can't wait

*fingers crossed* for Joe to take up the reins of leadership in the House. One of his first tasks will be to decide what to do with the "$50,000 History of NC House Speakers" that Black is shielding from public view.

Black-crony and erstwhile historian Ann Lassiter wrote the 20- page paper, but Black is apparently too embarrassed to let it be seen. My guess is it's a worthless piece of nothing that cost $2000 per page.

Joe Hackney should immediately release the history without comment to his colleagues in the House. It is a public document in every sense of the word.

Will somebody please tell Jim Black to go away?


Looks like the Old Reliable is

We are not amused.


Thanks for syndicating your column here. Yesterday I counted to ten but after that I kept getting more and more annoyed. Thank you for being a Thomas Edison in the brave new media world.

I just tried to be nice

...fair and balanced, or imbalanced as the case may be..... It's new ground and I was tring to follow Kirk's lead in staying calm.

Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.

Vote Democratic, the ass you save may be your own.

Google coming to NC

Google is coming to Caldwell county.....this from the Observer.

Nice column btw.

Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.

Vote Democratic, the ass you save may be your own.

Good post Kirk

Lumbees - haven't they promised not to open casinos if they are recognized? Also, I don't understand what is meant by this =

Any kind of transfer tax or impact tax has been met with fierce opposition because it captures the value of the home.

Does this add to the price of the home but the realtors don't get a cut?

No matter that patriotism is too often the refuge of scoundrels. Dissent, rebellion, and all-around hell-raising remain the true duty of patriots.


Lumbees - haven't they promised not to open casinos if they are recognized?

That's not what I've been told, Mo. And they'd be crazy if they promised that. Robeson County needs that revenue.

"Be the change you wish to see in the world." - Gandhi

I find the whole debate over gambling fascinating.

I mean, alcohol destroys many more lives than gambling ever would, and it doesn't create as many jobs, yet we did away with prohibition but not the ban on gambling?

Where are the candidates?

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.

fees and taxes

Are different in that fees are flat, set amounts and taxes are based on the price of a transaction in this case a home.
Fees are often set low because they are regressive while taxes in this case are progressive in that the more you pay for a house, the bigger the amount.