July 14, 2009
Racial Justice Act passes with emotional debate in the House
Posted by Becki Gray at 6:44 PM
The House debates Senate Bill 461, "North Carolina Racial Justice Act," which would provide that a death penalty conviction could be changed to life in prison without parole if the convicted could prove by statistical evidence that race was a factor in the conviction. Proponents say this is about fairness; opponents say it is a way around the death penalty.
Bill sponsor Rep. Larry Wonble, D-Forsyth, speaks in favor and cites 800 pastors and numerous groups in favor of this bill.
Rep. Skip Stam, R-Wake, talks about studies that show the death penalty deters murder. He says this bill creates another three-year moratorium on the death penalty. He claims that 120 people have died as a result of the death penalty moratorium. He suggests the logic is flawed to apply racial justice but not gender or geographic justice. He says the heart of the bill is in an irrational inference because it asks statistics to prove discrimination, perhaps that occurred many years ago. Stam has concerns about this clogging up the system. Everyone sentenced to death will file an appeal under this act. He says "it's the most foolish bill we've heard all year."
Rep. Bill Faison, D-Orange, Rep. Deborah Ross, D-Wake, and Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland, speak passionately in favor of the bill.
Rep. George Cleveland, R-Onslow, asks about district attorneys' concerns. Does it offer any avenue to get back into the judicial system after being convicted to get off death row? Womble says the prosecutor can present any evidence they want to.
Rep. David Guice, R-Translyvania, a former law enforcement officer, speaks against the bill and says the N.C. Conference of District Attorneys and N.C. Association of Sheriffs are opposed to the bill.
Rep. Frank Iler, R-Brunswick, says his district attorney is against the bill, and he'll vote against it.
Rep. Alma Adams, D-Guilford, says the bill protects those who would not otherwise have a chance. Whether we like it or not, race matters, she says. The Legislative Black Caucus fully supports the bill. Michael Jackson reminds her to look at the man in the mirror. Our state has killed innocent black men, she says, and this bill will protect them.
Rep. Susan Fisher, D-Buncombe, cites research from Ohio State that says more African-Americans are on death row. She says we decided last year that the White House was a racism free zone, and we should ensure that the courthouse is a racism free zone.
Rep. Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, says the injustice in the criminal system is for poor people, not because of race. He makes a motion to send the bill to the Appropriations Committee so the bill could be amended. (The way it is written, the title is so long and tight, it can't be amended on the floor.). Appropriations chair Mickey Michaux, D-Durham, opposes the motion.
The motion fails on a vote of 58-58.
Rep. Dale Folwell, R-Forsyth, says he doesn't know how many of the people on death row are innocent. He has to trust the judicial system. He does know that 100 percent of the victims are innocent, and that's who he represents. He holds up a pair of shoes of a murder victim. A vote for this bill is a vote against the death penalty. This is about victims of the most horrific crimes in the state. They are the invisible losers. His duty is to protect the victims of crimes — the people who wore the shoes.
Rep. Earline Parmon, D-Forsyth, talks about discrimination and being sent back from a hospital because she was black. The bill is about being fair.
Rep. Kelly Alexander, D-Mecklenburg, speaks in favor.
Rep. Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, says the people on death row are guilty of over 1,200 felonies, The worst is a man from Mecklenburg County who raped 13 people and murdered 9. These are criminals that belong on death row, regardless of their race. Dozens will apply for repeal of their death penalty conviction under this. There are already protections in place before they are convicted. How will we pay for this? Money will be diverted from crime prevention in order to provide funds for this.
Very heated and emotional comments made by Rep. Jennifer Weiss, D-Wake, in response to comments made about the Holocaust and in defense of her caring about crime victims. Folwell responds to her comments and defends his advocacy remarks for crime victims.
Majority Leader Rep. Hugh Holliman, D-Davidson, speaks about ensuring fairness in the criminal justice system. Minority Leader Stam says the statistical parameters in the bill are flawed. He says the correct way to look at it is a preponderance of the evidence and claims this is a three-year moratorium on the death penalty.
After more than 2 1/2 hours of emotional and compelling debate with talk of Supreme Court decisions, due process, statistics, fairness, wrongful convictions, criminal justice, law enforcement and application of the death penalty, the bill passes 61-55.
The bill will remain on the calendar for a final (third reading) vote tomorrow.
Still more popular than a lame duck appointed by a suspected crook
Posted by Rick Henderson at 4:23 PM
I guess that's how the Perdue administration could spin the stunning survey released by Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling. Gov. Bev Perdue's approval rating has plunged to 25 percent, lower than any governor or senator PPP has asked voters about -- aside from Roland Burris, the embarrassing placeholder picked by tainted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (and who's temporarily keeping President Barack Obama's former Senate seat warm).
The poll notes that the biggest drop in her support has come from Democrats and that
Perdue doesn’t exceed 30% approval in any region of the state and women are giving her the same 25% level of support that voters overall are.As Under the Dome notes, the poll was taken after Perdue announced a $1.6-billion tax increase.
Dean Debnam, PPP's president, put it this way: “The big question now is when will Bev Perdue bottom out?”
Beach plan hits the House
Posted by Becki Gray at 3:40 PM
The House considers House Bill 1305, Beach Plan Changes, today for debate and the first of two votes. The debate through committees can be found here and here.
This would provide provisions to "shore up" the government subsidized insurance plan, intended as an insurer of last resort but things have gotten out of hand and the plan now has reserves of about $2 billion but is looking at damages of over $8 billion if a major storm hit the coast. The bill would require insurance companies to pay up to $1 b in damages in case if a catastrophic storm hits the coast, use the surplus in the beach plan and if damages exceed that amount, property owners would pay up to 10 percent in assessments. It would also cap coverage for houses that do not exceed $750.000 - no more million dollar beach houses. This is only a beginning and a stop gap measure through the hurricane season with major changes needed in the plan. Basically the government needs to get out of the property insurance business.
Reps Van Braxton, D Lenoir, and Jerry Dockham, R Davidson, speak in favor of the bill.
Rep Grier Martin, D Wake, asks why residents across the state have to pay. Answer is they don't until $1 billion in claims have been paid and then could be assessed no more than 10 percent of their premiums.
Rep Pat McElraft, R Carteret, explains the hardships on her constituents on the coast. Says insurance companies are making good profits and should assume more of that risk. She'd like to raise the cap to $2 B before citizens' rates increase and proposes an amendment. Bill sponsor Hugh Holliman, D Davidson opposes the amendment and says at $1 B, NC is way higher than other states.
Amendment fails 52 - 63.
Vote on the bill 89 - 27. Will be voted on again tomorrow for third reading. And then go over to the Senate.
House endorses Beach Plan bill
Posted by Mitch Kokai at 3:40 PM
The House voted 89-27 to endorse changes to the Beach Plan coastal property insurance program, after a smaller majority rejected an amendment that would have doubled the cap placed on the amount of money insurance companies would have to pay after a catastrophe such as a hurricane.
Excellent spoof on Obama's health care proposal
Posted by George Leef at 3:16 PM
This clip asks, "What if auto care were run the way health care will be if it's politicized?
Alcoa talks continue
Posted by Becki Gray at 3:15 PM
The House Water Resources continues its discussion-only consideration of Senate Bill 967, Yadkin River Trust, setting up a trust under which the state would assume the federal license to operate a hydro-electric plant, a license that has been held by Alcoa for the last fifty years.
Gene Ellis with Alcoa speaks in response to last week's comments. Says bill proposes a government takeover of a private company, that they built and have maintained for 50 years. Will cost $500 million. Control of water? State already has that. Re-licensing won't change control either.
Environmental issues? Fish advisory signs were decided by Health Dept. They were concerned about the way the study was conducted. They have long been responsible stewards. These sites pose no threats to health or environment. State already has the authority to make them do anything they think appropriate. Support? Many state agencies, lakefront property owners, local government and federal agencies support Alcoa. Ellis says this bill threatens NC's business environment because it is a taking of private company, and will cost at least $500 M.
Sen Fletcher Hartsell, R-Cabarrus, speaks again in favor of his bill. He's fed up with talk of a takeover. It just sets up an entity that sets up a mechanism to compete for a license. The lease is up, conditions should be reconsidered, cost estimate of $500 m is a figment of someone's imagination. Re-captured number is $24 million, disputes other numbers. As far as he knows, no other municipality pays a utility company for the use of its water. Fish advisory issue is still in contest.
Staff member responds to concerns about the use of water resources. Richard Whisnant, UNC school of Government and author of the 2008 water allocation study, appears to try to answer water resources questions. Water law, how it's controlled and how it's not controlled is of particular interest. What difference would it make if it were owned by the government as opposed to a private company? Five differences: Federal interest in this river. Will be a federal license.
Operational discretion: How much? Private firm goal is to maximize return with getting every benefit from every drop of water. Government would look at flood control, water usage and withdrawals.
Adaptive management: What will the market look like in 50 years? Private and public will look at this differently.
Withdrawals: FERC staff decisions. It will make a difference if public or private.
Clean up? It would take large resources to clean up. Would private or public money be used?
Stakeholder in future discussions of what will happen in that water basin. Private and public roles would be different. Who will best protect the interests of the water basin?
Who's at the table will make significant difference in decisions.
Hartsell thinks it is important to hear from Faison Hicks, the governor's licensing guy, who is in charge of the litigation and filed the motion to intervene. Anticipated that this trust would be a valuable resource that belongs to the people and the GA will harness this to protect the public benefit. Wants to defeat Alcoa's re-licensing efforts. Wants to re-capture the license and would like to have the trust — it would be very helpful in the lawsuit to have this in place. Rep Mitch Gillespie, R-McDowell, asks about the 401 permit, what is process going forward. Governor asked in April to become a party in the re-licensing. Alcoa opposed. On May 7, DENR issued a 401 certification opening the door for Alcoa to get the new license. There are oxygen problems in the water due to Alcoa's outdated turbines. Alcoa has not yet replaced them.
Rep Bruce Goforth, D-Buncombe, asks about costs. Beyond legal costs, he doesn't know. He says it's $24 m. Goforth asks how is this not eminent domain and aren't we setting this up for Duke or Progress to do this all over the state? Hicks say this is a public asset. Doesn't answer the question. Will we develop the land (38,000 acres) that Alcoa owns? He doesn't know. Fletcher says the bulk of that land is not part of the deal.
Rep Hugh Blackwell, R-Burke, observes that the fiscal note says cost would be between $22.2 million and $500 million. Seems like a wide range. Fiscal research says they don't have the resources to figure out accurate estimates. Not essential to know what the price will be but necessary to have this legislation in order to prevail in the FERC proceedings. Blackwell asks about if the state should intervene in all 401 proceedings - is this setting a precedent. He doesn't know.
Gene Ellis, speaking to questions dealing with process, says in order for a next step, there has to be a federal takeover of the licensing, and other unique steps that would end with the feds handing the plant over to the state.
Gillespie says he wants to discuss the bill, has plans to amend it. Management of this entity will determine the policy - wants review of the policy and legislative oversight. Need to look at the revenue bonds.
At the next meeting, they will hear public comments and hope to have a vote next week. Members are asked to submit amendments as early as possible.
Dan Rather shows his true colors
Posted by Dr. Michael Sanera at 3:13 PM
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I would replace "legendary newscaster" with "infamous newscaster." I am sure that The Nation supporters will fall for Rather's version of the Bush National Guard papers.
One More Thing
Posted by Daren Bakst at 12:44 AM
Notice that the GOP touted the annexation bill (HB 524) without mentioning its sham vote provisions. Does this mean they support it without a vote? Does this mean they are finally admitting the vote provision was a sham?
I Spoke too Soon about the GOP and Property Rights
Posted by Daren Bakst at 12:34 AM
The press conference was fine. Now let's look at a press release the GOP is sending out on property rights (Note HB 524 is the sham annexation reform bill):
"While the bill [HB 524] was not completely satisfactory to most members, it makes significant progress in providing fairness to property owners in areas proposed to be annexed. Key provisions in the bill that provide more equitable treatment under our annexation laws include:
- Requires extension of water and sewer lines within 3 years to annexed area – annexed residents are no longer subject to municipal property taxes if this deadline is missed
- Prohibits use of “shoestring” annexations
- Requires cities to meet a threshold of meaningful services before involuntary annexation
- Extends to 20 years the time for property owners to pay any assessments
- Requires more information and structured public hearings provided to residents in proposed annexation areas."
It is amazing that this comes from the same legislators that spoke at the press conference.
The bill hurts annexation reform--in its current form, it would be better if the entire bill was gutted, at least it wouldn't hurt property owners. If they took out everything they mentioned above, the bill would be OK--not that it would help, but at least it wouldn't hurt. I address the bullet points in order:
1) The three year water and sewer line requirement is bad for property owners because it mandates that they pay for the water and sewer even if they don't want it or need it.
2) Courts already have made shoestring annexations illegal (thanks for nothing).
3) This is the biggest flaw of the bill! Reformers would want this language removed, not kept in the bill--in fact, the GOP would probably get points for taking it out. It would allow a city to provide one extra cop to an annexed area that has excellent police service and that would be considered meaningful! As I mentioned before, these legislators still don't get or refuse to get what is meant by meaningful services.
4) Yes, this is a minor tweak that is beneficial. Annexed property owners still are forced to pay for the costs of water and sewer infrastructure in order to get water and sewer service they never wanted or needed in the first place. Now though, they get 20 years to pay for something they shouldn't be paying for in the first place.
5) Great, now annexation victims will have better information on how they will be forcibly annexed against their will.
As John Hood argued today:
Is this a case of the perfect being the enemy of the good? No. In its current form, the 2009 annexation bill is a missed opportunity, little more than a way to provide political cover to nervous incumbents. There’s still time to save the situation, via amendment. But not much.
Well said. Unfortunately, there's not much chance of it being saved by amendments if the ones likely to try to amend it already are happy with the bill.
Since I don't want this to be completely negative, the GOP press release does say the eminent domain amendment has been changed to read:
“Private property shall not be taken by eminent domain except for a public use. Public use does not include the taking of property in order to convey an interest in the property for economic development. The preceding two sentences do not apply to takings for access to property. Just compensation shall be paid and, if demanded, shall be determined by a jury."
This would be a horrible amendment offering little protection, but at least it took out the blighted language that would have weakened property rights.
Yes, we are now at the point when legislators should be commended for not hurting property rights in the name of protecting property rights. If I commend them for this weak eminent domain amendment, I think it is pretty obvious, with my low standards, that the annexation bill must really be bad.
North Carolina's Insurance Regulations get a D-
Posted by Alex Pitsinos at 12:12 AM
In May, the Competitive Enterprise Institute and The Heartland Institute released their 2009 Report Card on state insurance regulations. In that report, they try to answer two questions: "How free are consumers to choose the property and casualty insurance products they want?" and "How free are insurers to provide the property and casualty insurance products consumers say they want?"
North Carolina did not make the grade. The report gives North Carolina's insurance laws a "D-". Only seven states received a worse grade, placing North Carolina's insurance regulations as the 8th worst in the nation. (Note: The grades are awarded based on deviations from the average score.)
The report goes on to suggest that North Carolina's poor score is largely due to its "antiquated and unfair auto insurance system" and claims that the system "borders on government price control."
Clothesline bill dies a dirty death
Posted by Becki Gray at 12:10 AM
In a busy meeting, the Senate Commerce Committee considers another Harrison/Samuelson bill, HB 1353, that provides that no city or county ordinance can prohibit the installation of clotheslines. One committee member sums it up nicely, "You can't legislate everything."
Debate includes questions about condominiums and other common living areas. Sen Tony Rand, D-Cumberland, asks if there is any kind of dress code required when hanging up your clothes. Sen Bill Purcell, D-Scotland, shares that his wife says cotton sheets should not be dried in a dryer. Sen Tom Apadoca, R-Henderson, suggests they roll that into an amendment.
Mercifully, Committee chair, R.C Soles, D-Columbus, calls for a vote and by a very loud voice vote, the bill fails. At least for today, government stays out of the laundry rooms of North Carolinians.
Married prefer elephants to donkeys
Posted by David N. Bass at 12:00 AM
Whether someone is single or married “remains one of the most reliable predictors of party identification among major demographic variables” in the United States, according to polling from Gallup.
The analysis finds:
The percentage of all Americans who identified as Republican in June was 28%, but is higher at 33% among those who are married, and a lower 21% among unmarried Americans. On the other hand, Democratic identification in June was at 35% overall, but 31% among married Americans, and 41% among those who are not married. This marriage gap in party identification is evident across races as well as age groups.
Gallup found that Americans living in a domestic partnership and those who are single/never married, separated, or divorced tend to prefer Democrats. Married whites tend to prefer Republicans.
Some possible reasons for the disparity:
Marriage is a predictor of conservative ideology and conservative positions on social issues, which in turn predict high levels of Republican identification. Being unmarried is a predictor of more liberal ideology and more liberal positions on social issues, which predict higher levels of Democratic identification. Marriage is also associated with religious intensity, including church attendance and importance of religion in one's life. These measures of religion, in turn, are important predictors of party identification. But it is uncertain whether religion, ideology, and party lead to choice of marital status, or whether marital status leads Americans to different ideological, religious, and partisan choices.
Lottery is just too unseemly to sell at check cashers or advertise to high schoolers
Posted by Becki Gray at 11:56 AM
The Senate Commerce Committee considers House Bill 1289, would forbid retailers who primarily are check-cashing businesses to sell lottery tickets. It would also prohibit the lottery commission from advertising at any high school sporting event.
Bill sponsor, Rep Pricey Harrison, D Guilford, says it's unseemly to sell lottery tickets in check cashing stores.
This came about when in January the Lottery Commission signed an agreement with Check cashers and said they could do it because it was not against the law. Currently 8 check cashers sell lottery tickets. This bill would forbid cash checking businesses from selling lottery tickets. Bill co-sponsor, Rep Ruth Samuelson, R Mecklenburg, says the only thing check cashing stores sell is lottery tickets - their other business is to provide a service. Tom Sheehen, lottery director speaks to the committee. He does not object "except that they are excluding a business from the free enterprise system, what business could be next?"
There are questions about what businesses would be affected - grocery stores where checks are also cashed? Convenience stores that issue money orders?
Sheehan says they never advertise in areas where there are predominantly minors. Have no intention of advertising to anyone under the age of eighteen. If they feel like they need to prohibit advertising at high school sports events, that's okay but they didn't intend to advertise there anyway. Rep Eddie Goodall, R Mecklenburg, asks about some of their advertising with cartoons or seems to appeal to minors. Sheehan says they don't use cartoons. Harrison says she thinks it's safe to put this prohibition into law. Which begs the question - if there is no problem, why do we need to legislate it?
Vote on the bill - 11 yes; 8 no.
Re: GOP Press Conference
Posted by Daren Bakst at 11:50 AM
The GOP legislators are saying the right things and seem to understand annexation reform. Unfortunately, HB 524 doesn't do any of the things they discuss are needed for real reform. If the bill comes out of the House in its current form, it won't get better in the Senate, it will only get worse.
Hopefully, they will understand that passing a bill that hurts annexation reform just so the issue is kept alive isn't doing anyone, except the League, any favors.
The one thing that I still don't think the GOP gets is the issue of meaningful services. Rep. Dollar spoke about municipalities needing to provide services above what the annexed area already has.
If a bill says services are needed that are above what is being received, or as HB 524 says a "higher level of service," this will mean that a city could contract with the county to provide one extra deputy for an area that has excellent police service and that would be good enough. In fact, HB 524 expressly uses the one police officer example as constituting a "higher level of service."
If the bill did this, it would basically be reversing the holding in Nolan v. Village of Marvin. In that case, the NC Supreme Court said that municipalities must provides services that are of a meaningful or significant benefit to property owners.
The issue of meaningful services therefore is about making sure that a municipality demonstrates that just one service is necessary for the area, or the service provides a significant benefit.
That's not a lot to ask, yet opponents of annexation reform think municipalities should be able to annex even without providing just one service that provides a significant benefit to property owners.
Regarding third party oversight, I was happy to hear the legislators finally talk about county oversight. This is the logical form of oversight and serves as a true compromise between the League's extreme positions against a vote and the property owners that want a vote.
Finally, as it relates to the eminent domain amendment, if Rep. Stam is able to take out the physically blighted language in the amendment, it would make a big difference.
GOP lawmakers discuss property rights issues, death penalty, Democrats' 'incompetence'
Posted by Mitch Kokai at 10:34 AM
Republican legislative leaders used their regular weekly news conference to cover topics ranging from high-profile property rights legislation (annexation, eminent domain) to the death penalty to evidence of Democratic "incompetence."
Click play below to view the 25:46 briefing from House Minority Leader Paul Stam, R-Wake, Senate Minority Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, and Reps. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake, Efton Sager, R-Wayne, Pat Hurley, R-Randolph, Curtis Blackwood, R-Union, and Dale Folwell, R-Forsyth.
Another good Reason piece on federal bailouts
Posted by John Hood at 10:23 AM
In the same issue of Privatization Watch I mentioned earlier, longtime JLF pals Sam Staley and Adrian Moore have a piece that is well worth your attention. It questions the economic value of the infrastructure component of the federal “stimulus” bill (a component that was a relatively small part of the bill to start with). As is often the case, Keynesians and other leftists like to deal in broad categories and aggregates rather than in specifics. Obviously, some infrastructure projects are valuable, in that they alleviate bottlenecks or create new opportunities for investment or entrepreneuership. But other projects do little but waste dollars that could have been more-productively employed elsewhere.
Focusing tax dollars on high-value infrastructure investment means accepting reality as it is, rather than dreaming up enviro-wacko flights of fancy. For example, they write:
The highway and road system must meet the needs of a globally competitive, dynamic, services-based economy. Today approximately 80 percent of all goods, by value, are shipped by truck in this country. Only 15 percent of travel on our nation’s roads is traditional commuting, and 97 percent of our total travel is by automobile. Americans don’t just get up and go to work. We combine and “chain” our trips to include errands, non-office business, personal appointments, and to meet friends for coffee or happy hour. Our demand for flexible and adaptable models of transportation, primarily the car, has skyrocketed, placing unprecedented demands on the transportation system. At the same time our investment in the network has languished. Travel demand on our roads has outstripped additions to capacity by 3-to-1 over the last three decades.
Remember, by the way, that transportation is primarily a private industry, not a government monopoly, when all its components are properly accounted for. For more details on North Carolina‘s transportation needs, click here and here.
How big is Bailout Nation?
Posted by John Hood at 10:19 AM
Anthony Randazzo, a policy analyst at the Reason Foundation, writes in a recent edition of the newsletter Privatization Watch that federal bailouts to date of banks, automakers, borrowers, state governments, and other institutions add up to a staggering $10.8 trillion in taxpayer obligations. The figure includes dozens of individual programs and interventions, including but not limited to:
• $1.5 trillion to insure certain bank debts.
• $1.8 trillion to shore up the commercial-paper market.
• $787 billion for the “stimulus.”
• $500 billion to insure non-interest-bearing deposit accounts.
• $300 billion for FHA mortgage relief.
• $1 trillion for the Term Asset-Backed Loan Facility program (TALF).
• $900 billion for the Term Auction Facility (TAF) lending program.
• $700 billion for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).
• $600 billion for a program (MMIFF) to insure money market mutual funds.
As we have learned numerous times in the past, you know American liberty and free enterprise are in peril when you start seeing government bureaucrats creating new acronyms.
Temporary tax increases haven't been
Posted by Joseph Coletti at 10:13 AM
As a brief refresher on how the last temporary tax hike left us with a permanently higher sales tax rate, I direct your attention to the following.
2001: JLF Spotlight expects temporary or permanent tax hikes. Budget includes “temporary” half-cent sales tax hike and 8.25% income tax rate.
2002: John Hood warns twice not to be fooled that the temporary taxes will end in 2003.
2003: Tax hikes renewed until 2005. Donna Martinez reports on other taxes adding to the burden.
2004: Paul Chesser notes that temporary money keeps coming back. Donna Martinez sees local governments get in the "temporary" game. John Hood sees the problem of financing government growth with temporary taxes. Gov. Easley counts it all as just one tax hike.
2005: Paul Chesser again sees Gov. Easley extend the temporary sales and income taxes.
2006: Chad Adams comments on Gov. Easley’s continuation of some temporary taxes despite a $2.4 billion surplus. Civitas Institute polling shows 48 percent of voters would be less likely to support a candidate who voted to continue the temporary taxes.
2007: With the final quarter-cent of sales tax set to expire, Gov. Easley balks in favor of even bigger government and taxpayers face a potential billion-dollar tax hike. Paul Chesser finds a column from the Chapel Hill News in 2002 titled "Tax Lies" as the temporary sales tax is set to become officially permanent. In three Civitas polls, 75 percent of voters consistently oppose the temporary tax or say it should expire.
2009: As expected, Gov. Perdue says we can trust her to keep new temporary taxes temporary because she’s the governor, even though she was the lieutenant governor through all of the last eight years and most of the legislators are the same, too.
HT: Jacob for digging through the archives.
Another study reaches a self-evident conclusion
Posted by David N. Bass at 10:06 AM
Those who opt to walk or bike rather than drive a car are more likely to be physically fit -- and yes, we needed a study to reach this conclusion, even though I could have told you as much (in fact, I just did).
The AP reports on the research that appeared in the Archives of Internal Medicine:
Walking or biking to work, even part way, is linked with fitness, but very few Americans do it, according to a study of more than 2,000 middle-aged city dwellers.
In what may be the first large U.S. study of health and commuting, the researchers found only about 17 percent of workers walked or bicycled any portion of their commute.
Those active commuters did better on treadmill tests of fitness, even when researchers accounted for their leisure-time physical activity levels, suggesting commuter choices do make a difference.
For men in the study, but not women, the active commuters also had healthier numbers for body mass index, blood pressure, insulin and blood fats called triglycerides. Women walked or biked shorter distances and they may have done so less vigorously, the authors speculated.
This is akin to saying that people who spend 30 minutes on a treadmill each day will be more physically fit than couch potatoes. Well, yes!
Taxpayer funded loans for Government Energy programs
Posted by Becki Gray at 10:06 AM
House Bill 1389, Finance Energy Improvement with Assessments, is brought to the committee by bill sponsor, Rep Susan Fisher, D Buncombe. The bill started as a request from city of Asheville and the county of Buncombe quickly signed on. Others involved in crafting the bill include: The UNC School of Government, city of Raleigh, city of Winston Salem, Duke university (Nichols Institute, I'm sure), Sierra Club, NCSEA and the Local Government Commission has signed off on it. No mention of how taxpayers feel about their money being used like this.
This bill authorizes cites and counties to create a program to finance the installation of renewable energy sources or energy efficiency improvements that are permanently fixed to real property through loans that are repaid by contractual assessments on the real property.
Rep Bill Faison, D Orange, applauds the creativity of the idea. Rep Darrell McCormick, R Forsyth, asks about priority of the lien. The lien will stay with the property. Have banks been asked? No, but the same as is now done under assessments. Rep David Lewis, R Harnett, says the tax lien is paid first but this is not a tax lien so it stays with the property.
Rep Edgar Starnes, R Caldwell, asks about examples: solar panels, water cooling or heating apparatus, wind mills qualify - there is another permitting bill - windmills would qualify if they meet the criteria. City or county can designate an area where they will finance these - does not supercede any zoning or home owners' association regulations. Sometimes it's hard to see the whole picture when you're only looking at one piece. We need to also look at permitting, zoning. And financing all together. Rep Deborah Ross, D Wake, says we do have someone who works for a city and knows how these things work. Mr. Stan McLawhorn with city of Raleigh says city received federal stimulus money has $400,000 to spend and they want to sue it for this and anticipate most being used for solar panels.
Rep John Blust, R Guilford, asks what exactly is renewable energy? Fisher says Chapter 62, aka SB 3 defines it. Seems like energy efficiency could be used for anything - not defined in statute and would be up to the local governemnr to define.
Rep David Lewis asks if this will between the local government and individual property owner? Yes. Would local governments establish some kind of criteria to ensure the loans could be repaid? Yes. Concerns with cities becoming loan officers - Raleigh rep, McLawhorn says no problem - they're already doing it.
Rep Bill McGhee, R Forsyth has questions about defaulted loans. Assured there is a process in place.
Bill passes with a voice vote with Rep Edgar Starnes voting no.
Basically what we have here is taxpayers paying money to fund government's energy agenda - whether you agree with it or not. Local tax revenue will be going to install solar panels on your neighbor's house; not for police protection or to improve water and sewer service.
Senate bill 618
Posted by Becki Gray at 09:37 AM
The House Finance Committee has a full calendar this morning - not the tax package, still no movement there. With 10 bills to consider, they won't get to everything.
One of particular interest:
Senate Bill 618 that eliminates the minimum population requirement for creation of urban area revitalization municipal service districts, sponsored by Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, (R-Cabarrus). The bill would allow ALL cities to participate in urban area revitalization projects. Rep. Earl Jones asks why is this needed. Hartsell says water and sewer lines need to be replaced and this would provide for replacement of aging infrastructure. The bill permits cities to do certain types of infrastructure, impose assessments and that kind of thing. Rep. Deborah Ross, (D-Wake) says many smaller cites want to do revitalization and bring life back to urban areas. She loves the bill. Rep. Curtis Blackwood, (R-Union) asks if this allows cities to go in and tear down old buildings in the name of revitalization. Harstell says no, not now, it's for water and sewer. He can't say that would never happen, it just permits more cities to do what other cities can do. Rep. Larry Womble, (D-Forsyth) says it's voluntary and he likes the bill
Bill passes on a voice vote.
This appears to extend the power and authority of municipalities, a dangerous thing with the abuses we've seen with annexation.
Picking and choosing tax victims
Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:59 AM
Charlotte-area television viewers learned more last night about the problems associated with extending the state sales tax to selected services, while leaving others free from taxation.
Be sure to watch the WSOC story to get Joe Coletti's take on the issue.
Roy Cordato explored this issue in greater detail within his recent report on tax reform:
Boosting prosperity and freedom requires a tax
system that emphasizes "neutrality and simplicity," Cordato said. "By
neutrality, we mean tax policy should strive neither to penalize nor
favor taxpayers' decisions about how much time to work versus pursuing
leisure activities, how much money to save or invest versus how much to
spend, what kinds of goods and services to purchase, and what kinds of
investments to make."
Today's Carolina Journal Online features
Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:45 AM
Today's Carolina Journal Online exclusive features Colleen Calvani's report on a bill dubbed "welfare for local politicians."
John Hood's Daily Journal assesses flaws associated with proposed annexation reforms.
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