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by Keith T. Barber and Jordan Green

Perdue vetoes NC Healthcare Protection Act

Gov. Beverly Perdue vetoed NC House Bill 2, otherwise known as the NC Healthcare Protection Act, on March 5. The bill would have exempted the state from enforcing the provisions of the federal Affordable Health Care for America Act. The NC General Assembly ratified the bill on Feb. 23. Perdue’s veto of House Bill 2 marks only the third time she’s utilized veto power during her two years in office, but her second veto of legislation passed by the Republican-controlled General Assembly in as many weeks. On Feb. 22, Perdue vetoed Senate Bill 13, which she claimed would have been harmful to the state’s efforts to attract businesses and create jobs.

In a statement, Perdue defended her veto of House Bill 2, claiming the legislation is contradictory to the federal constitution and would have had unintended consequences for the state’s Medicaid recipients, children and college students.

“The attorney general and solicitor general have talked to me and the leadership of the General Assembly and explained clearly that there are some unintended consequences of House Bill 2 that dramatically affect our [Medicaid] program, potentially hurting the children’s health insurance program, attacking our process of requiring uninsured motorists to have insurance, attacking college students for having insurance,” Perdue said. “This is an ill-conceived piece of legislation that’s not good for the people of North Carolina.”

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger (R- Rockingham, Guilford) criticized Perdue’s veto, stating that the governor’s action protects the interests of Washington Democrats, “but it hurts North Carolinians by forcing them to follow an unconstitutional law.” — KTB

Public invited to weigh in on Greensboro redistricting plan

Greensboro Councilman Zack Matheny, who represents District 3, will present information about the city’s redistricting process at the Greensboro Neighborhood Congress’ regular meeting at the Nussbaum Room at the downtown branch library on Saturday at 9 a.m. Members of the public are welcome to attend and participate in discussion.

“Our first interest is that there be public discourse,” neighborhood congress advisor Donna Newton said. “We want it to be transparent to the community, which was our concern about the way redistricting was decided the last time [in 2008]. We want there to be opportunity for the public to talk about it and offer input.”

A second public input meeting, this one sponsored by the city, is scheduled for March 14 at 5:30 p.m. at the Greensboro Coliseum Special Events Center.

At-large Councilman Robbie Perkins, who plans to run for mayor this year, expressed misgivings about Matheny’s appointment by council to lead the redistricting process in a widely shared e-mail on Sunday.

“In my opinion, the perception that something important to the entire council is being driven by one member without discussion from the body is flawed,” he said. “The council as a whole should be given the same data and allowed to discuss the potential outcomes.”

Perkins added that he would like to see district lines redrawn to allow so that more district members hold a stake in downtown, which is currently largely represented by Matheny.

“It is imperative that we build a strong base of support for downtown Greensboro as we debate future projects,” Perkins wrote. “If we are successful in our downtown development efforts, there will be large capital investments that will need public money. As you know, public-private partnerships have been important in revitalizing downtowns throughout the country. Although I appreciate district members advocating for their respective areas, nothing in our community is as important as a thriving downtown.”

Matheny counters that three out of five district representatives already hold a stake in downtown, not to mention the mayor and three at-large members. Matheny’s district covers a majority of downtown — an area bounded by Wendover Avenue to the north, NewBridge Bank Park to the west and is demarcated by railroad tracks to the east and south.

District 2, represented by Jim Kee, includes the southeast corner of downtown, including Southside and an area at the intersection of Elm and Lee streets that is slated for redevelopment. District 1, represented by Dianne Bellamy- Small, includes a sliver of downtown wedged between Lee Street and the railroad tracks.

Matheny said he recently met with representatives of a Raleigh company called Momentum that is interested in developing an outdoor restaurant and an office suite at the end of Barnhardt Street in District 1.

“One of our premier potential developments is in Dianne’s district,” Matheny said in an inter view.

“There’s nothing else that I know of that’s going on downtown as far as development right now.” — JG

Alcoa: Yadkin Project generated $31.4 million in 2010

Alcoa Power Generating, a subsidiary of Alcoa, announced last week that the Yadkin Hydroelectric Project, which is composed of the High Rock, Tuckertown, Narrows and Falls dams, generated $31.4 million in revenues for the aluminum maker. The net income of the Yadkin Project is estimated at $8 million, according to an independent audit by Price Waterhouse Coopers. In 2008, the Yadkin Project had net income of $7.9 million on revenues of $28.7 million, and in 2009, net income was $7.3 million on revenues of $28.3 million. Over the last three years, Alcoa says it has spent $41.1 million on capital expenditures at the Yadkin facilities.

“It’s important that people have a proper perspective on the complex nature of running a hydropower project,” Kevin Anton, Alcoa’s chief sustainability officer said in a statement. “A close look at the Yadkin Project’s financials shows that only a skilled operator with a long-term outlook can be successful, particularly given the substantial investments in the Yadkin Project that APGI is planning.”

Alcoa, which has operated the Yadkin Project for more than 90 years, is looking to retain control of a 38-mile stretch of the Yadkin River that encompasses the four dams for another 50 years.

The NC Division of Water Quality dealt a serious blow to Alcoa’s re-licensing bid in December.

Colleen Sullins, director of the state regulatory agency, sent a letter to Alcoa officials stating that the company had submitted “incorrect” information to the division as part of its application for a new license and “intentionally withheld information material to determining the project’s ability to meet the state’s water quality standards for dissolved oxygen.”

Alcoa spokesman Mike Belwood said the company plans to appeal the license revocation. — KTB

Correction

An item in last week’s “Scuttlebutt” incorrectly identifies Nelsie Smith, administrative assistant to the Greensboro city manager, as the author of an analysis comparing municipal tax rates and fee structures. In fact, the analysis was performed by the city’s budget and evaluation department.

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