by Keith T. Barber and Jordan Green

LegisLature votes to ban internet sweepstakes parLors

After a long and heated debate, the NC House passed a statewide ban on internet video sweepstakes parlors on July 7. The measure was approved by a margin of 86-27, and now goes to Gov. Beverly Perdue for her signature. If HB 80 becomes law, all video sweepstakes gaming operations in the state would be shut down by Dec. 1.The bill makes it illegal for anyone to own, lease or operate an electronic machine for the purposes of conducting a sweepstakes operation. Violations of the law would bring stiff penalties. A first offense would be considered a misdemeanor, while additional offenses would be considered felonies. Those found in violation of the ban could have their machines confiscated by authorities. The bill’s proponents said the measure will close loopholes in state bans on video poker passed in 2006 and 2008. several members of the legislative Black Caucus spoke in opposition to the ban, including Earl Jones (D-Guilford). Jones expressed concern over the loss of revenue to municipalities that currently tax video sweepstakes operations. Kelly Alexander (D-Mecklenburg) said Apple has developed applications for its iPhone that could be seen as video sweepstakes games. “You are setting up a situations where cell phones could be confiscated by sheriffs. You have just created a gateway to virtual gambling,” Alexander said. Melanie Wade Goodwin (D-Richmond) responded, pointing out that the bill’s language speaks specifically to those business operators that are “conducting a sweepstakes.” “How would an iPhone and an [application] fall into that category?” she asked. — KTB

gpD reports DecLine in serious crimes

Mid-year crime statistics released by the Greensboro Police Department indicate a 25 percent drop in homicides, a 24 percent decrease in violent crime and a 10 percent reduction in property crime from this time last year. Overall, the department announced an 11 percent reduction in serious offenses, including murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and auto theft. A police press release stated that Chief Tim Bellamy credited the relationship between the citizens and the police and the efforts of department employees, quoting him as saying, “The police department and its employees are committed to providing our citizens with a safe city to live and work.” — JG

perDue announces reforms for highway patroL

Gov. Beverly Perdue met briefly with the leadership of the NC Highway Patrol on July 7 before holding a press conference to announce reforms to the state law enforcement agency. The reforms include a “zero tolerance” policy for illegal and unethical behavior by state troopers. The highway patrol has come under increased scrutiny in recent weeks as stories of misbehavior by troopers have emerged. Three weeks ago, NC Crime Control secretary Reuben Young announced that a highway patrol major had resigned after sending hundreds of inappropriate text messages to a patrol secretary married to a trooper. Recent stories of troopers charged with drunken driving have also marred the agency’s reputation. Perdue made her zero-tolerance policy clear during the July 7 press conference: “If you betray your oath to uphold the law or betray the patrol code of conduct, you will be dismissed,” Perdue said. Under the governor’s reforms, all troopers and supervisors will be required to take an ethics class and sign a code of conduct. Perdue also demanded that Young and Highway Patrol Commander Colonel Randy Glover present a plan to restructure the agency’s leadership in the next two months. During the July 7 meeting, Young announced several immediate changes to the organization including a review of the agency’s personnel policy, a new reorganization and redeployment strategy, enhanced focus on sexual harassment and ethics training, increased oversight of troopers by supervisors, increased number of in-car cameras, and closer monitoring of phone records for stateissued cell phones. — KTB

young puLLs a miD-summer staff reshuffLe

Following the passage of Greensboro’s budget, City Manager Rashad Young has reshuffled some staffing positions in the city’s middle management ranks. Young appointed Dan Curry to a new position “primarily funded through a federal grant” to lead the city’s sustainability efforts. An official press release states that the position was created to coordinate Greensboro’s efforts “to achieve higher levels of energy efficiency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, conserve natural resources, and develop green jobs,” along with implementing a $5 million energy efficiency as a Pathway to Community Health and Wealth project funded by the Us Department of energy. Curry was previously the acting director of the housing and com munity development department. He took that job, when his boss, Andy Scott, was promoted to acting assistant city manager. The city is in the process of merging its planning and its housing and community development departments. Sue Schwartz, who previously managed the housing and community development department’s neighborhood planning division, has been appointed interim director of that department. Young also appointed Barbara Harris, previously a planner for housing and community development, as interim manager of its development division. Harris will be responsible for managing Greensboro’s redevelopment and housing efforts, along with its brownfields remediation program. The three employees’ salaries will remain the same. Curry earns $96,712; schwartz, $75,700; and Harris, $55,170. — JG