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Headline Roundup: NC Commerce Secretary Resigns; Lucas Elected SC House Speaker; More

North Carolina Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker is stepping down. Her replacement will be current Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources John Skvarla. Decker is leaving to work for Nuray Picture, a digital media company that restores and preserves of film and television.

Rumors of Decker’s resignation had been circulating for most of this year, but Decker said she planned to see out the transition to a public-private Commerce Department partnership created by Governor McCrory to oversee the state’s business recruitment efforts.

That  public-private partnership Governor McCrory created announced a new leader yesterday.  Christopher Chung will be chief executive officer of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, which began operations in October.

The 38-year-old Chung previously launched a similar public-private entity in Missouri. The North Carolina non-profit partnership is set to receive about $17.5 million a year in state funding. Chung will be paid an annual salary of $225,000, of which $120,000 will come from public funds.

Skvarla is a Raleigh businessman who described the environment agency's role as being a "partner" to those it regulates, which he described as "customers." McCrory says he will look at candidates from inside and outside of state government to become the new head of DENR.

Chester County Council Meeting Tense As Sheriff Asks For Resources To Address Gang Problem
Tensions were high last night at the Chester County, South Carolina Council meeting. The Rock Hill Herald reports Sheriff Alex Underwood asked council members for more patrol officers and a gang investigator. Underwood says a growing gang problem in the county, population 33,000, puts his officers’ lives at risk.

The County Council last night proposed forming a task force to study the gang problem. Sheriff Underwood responded by saying “the time for talking is over.”  The debate turned heated, with the sheriff interrupting several council members. Chairman Carlisle Roddy asked if the sheriff was threatening him. Another council member called the exchange “embarrassing.”

Law enforcement say Chester City Councilman Odell Williams was killed last month in a gang-related drive by shooting.

Dominion Resources: Pipeline Would Bring $25+ Million Annually
Energy provider Dominion Resources says a proposed natural gas pipeline would provide more than $25 million a year in property tax revenues to local governments in North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia. The 550 mile pipeline is a joint venture with several other utilities including Duke Energy. Richmond-based Dominion estimates the pipeline would bring North Carolina local governments $6 million a year in annual property tax revenue.

Scott Sworn In As First Black Senator From SC Since Reconstruction
South Carolina Republican Tim Scott was sworn in this morning as the first black U-S Senator elected from the South since Reconstruction. Scott has served in the Senate since January of 20-13, when Governor Nikki Haley appointed him to replace Jim DeMint. Voters last month in a special election chose Scott to fill the rest of DeMint’s term. Scott faces re-election for a full six year term in 2016.

Jay Lucas Elected SC House Speaker, Replacing Bobby Harrell
The South Carolina House has elected Jay Lucas to be its next speaker. House members are in Columbia today for a special two-day organizational session. Lucas, a Republican from Hartsville, has been the only candidate for the job since two other Republicans withdrew in September.

As speaker pro-tem, Lucas has been acting speaker since Bobby Harrell suspended himself September 11. That was after a grand jury incited Harrell for campaign finance violations. Harrell pleaded guilty in October to six misdemeanors and then resigned. Lucas has been second-in-command in the South Carolina House since 2010. He wants to change House rules to lessen the speaker’s power.