• Biotech Failure Blamed on State

    RALEIGH — State officials botched the recruitment of a biotechnology company because of a power struggle between the Department of Commerce and an economic development agency in northeast North Carolina, officials of the company say. Documents also show that rather than helping the company in negotiations, North Carolina’s Northeast Partnership continued a practice of seeking equity in the companies it recruits. Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight appears to wield strong influence over the Partnership, sometimes determining whether and how businesses get state incentives.

  • NC Ports Get Security Overhaul

    RALEIGH — Accessing North Carolina’s seaports in Wilmington and Morehead City will get more complicated over the next few months, but the short-term inconveniences will lead to physical and technological improvements state and local officials believe are necessary for long-term security from terrorists. One security analyst said it would be a mistake for ports to screen cargo the way airlines screen people and baggage, because it would severely impede commerce in an era when the United States is becoming more dependent on maritime trade.

  • Who Wants a Pest Control Facility?

    RALEIGH — A “structural pest control training facility” for North Carolina State University was included in this year’s state budget, even though university officials say the project wasn’t a priority. Lawmakers allocated the project $310,000, to be paid for with borrowed money. The facility consists of a modest classroom building and a concrete foundation upon which the Department of Entomology will simulate various styles of construction found in the state. Instructors will use the slab and faux structure to demonstrate proper treatments for subterranean termite prevention and extermination.

  • How the State Budget Deal Got Done

    RALEIGH — Lawmakers on June 30 heralded the “balanced” budget they produced through bipartisanship, which surprised many because it emerged before the beginning of the new fiscal year July 1. However, as in recent years, legislators depended on tax increases and nonrecurring revenues, including $551.6 million in federal aid. State government spending will grow by 3 percent in 2003-04 and 5 percent by 2004-05. More than $1 billion in higher taxes will be collected through the end of fiscal 2005.

  • Investigation of Ballance Intensifies

    RALEIGH — A few months after being sworn in to Congress, Rep. Frank W. Ballance, Jr. (D-1st District) is trying to answer questions about accounting procedures of a nonprofit foundation of which he is the chairman. The foundation failed until recently to file financial statements required by the state and the Internal Revenue Service. The State Auditor and the IRS are investigating the organization and its substance-abuse program. In addition, the State Board of Elections is investigating Ballance for his failure to respond to requests that he explain discrepancies on his 1999 and 2000 Financial Disclosure Reports.

  • On Being a Substitute Teacher

    RALEIGH — On a typical day in North Carolina, hundreds of substitute teachers take control of classes in the state’s 117 public systems, filling in for faculty that are sick, on vacation, or attending conferences. Parents may hear a passing reference to these stand-ins as children give a synopsis of their day. Other than that, substitutes are largely unnoticed by the public, but they have tremendous responsibility. I know firsthand. For four months last year, I was a substitute teacher in the Orange County School System.

  • Scholars make the case, apparently, for sex studies at UNC-Chapel Hill

    A new academic program has been proposed for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It would be a certificate program, similar to a minor, in the field of "sexuality studies." According to the News & Observer (July 29), students in the program would take five courses that "delve into issues of sexual identity, sexual ambiguity and the role of sex in society, politics, art, law, history and religion."

  • Health Care Honesty & Hooey

    In North Carolina and elsewhere, policymakers in health care are debating whether limiting or expanding coverage of prescription drugs, home health, and other services will save money. The answer is: it depends.