The Locker Room

July 7, 2010

Poll gives GOP an edge in House District 51

Posted by David N. Bass at 4:10 PM

A Civitas poll has more good news for Republicans. GOP candidate Mike Stone is leading incumbent Rep. Jimmy Love, D-Lee, by a 47-43 percent margin in the state's 51st House District. Eleven percent are undecided.

The district leans slightly Republican, according to Civitas' partisan index.

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At least we're not Illinois yet

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 4:00 PM

Illinois has $5 billion in unpaid bills and state comptroller Dan Hynes doesn't see the legislature or governor doing anything to fix the problem. Kind of a shame he lost the Democratic gubernatorial primary in that state. No wonder Republican Bill Brady is leading Democrat incumbent Pat Quinn.

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Welfare for politicians back on the calendar

Posted by Rick Henderson at 2:55 PM

You can bet the final hours of any legislative session will be chock full of shenaningans and hijinks.

This short session's no different. Just review the past few days of the Locker Room.

Next comes word that the House had moved Senate Bill 20, aka tax-funded welfare for politicians, to its calendar today. The bill would expand "pilot" matching fund schemes for municipal elections and put the race for state treasurer under the public-financing regime.

As we've pointed out repeatedly, the state's existing matching funds system probably violates the U.S. Supreme Court's 2008 Davis v. FEC decision.

SB 20 would merely double down on an already suspect law that stifles political advocacy. And guarantee litigation that will cost taxpayers money they don't have for a case the state will almost certainly lose.

Other than that, it's a stellar idea.

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General Assembly on another LSD trip

Posted by Rick Henderson at 2:33 PM

Backers of House Bill 530, Life Sciences Development Act, are itching to score another fix of corporate welfare before the short session adjourns.

They're passing around these talking points (PDF) to lawmakers.

Among my favorites:

• All funds in the loan pool will be provided by private investors through structured low-interest investments with assured rates of return [And giving a private company the power to tax (or reduce the taxes of) citizens.]

• The  entire administrative structure, including the management of the loan pool, is designed to minimize the need for tax credits in lieu of investments returns ["Well, that's how it was designed, anyway"]

• Vest ultimate control of the new nonprofit corporation in the Governor and Treasurer [Elected officials in charge of private companies. Just like Venezuela!]

Carolina Journal analyzed the bill in June.

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More bad news from John Goodman

Posted by Dr. Michael Sanera at 12:36 AM

NCPA president John Goodman explains the relationship between ObamaCare and the national debt here.

 As I explained at The Health Care Blog the other day, here’s the bottom line: Our entitlement problems all stem from the fact that these programs are run like Bernie Madoff chain letters. Since payroll tax revenues are spent rather than invested, workers are accumulating benefits that are not paid for. Implicitly, we are creating huge obligations for generations not yet born — people who never agreed to be part of the scheme and who will surely be worse off if they participate.

But don't despair, the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (A truly Orwellian title) will solve the crisis.   

The worst possible outcome from the Commission would be a value-added tax (VAT) and other measures that have no other purpose than to temporarily shore up the Ponzi schemes and push the can down the road a bit. Real reform means converting our pay-as-you-go systems into funded systems for both Social Security and Medicare. Real reform means creating systems in which each generation saves and invests and pays its own way.


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Governing magazine handicaps N.C. legislative races

Posted by David N. Bass at 11:40 AM

Louis Jacobson, writing for Governing magazine, handicaps key legislative races around the country, including in North Carolina. His prediction:

In this purple-to-red Southern state where the Democrats control the governorship and both chambers of the legislature, Democrats are arguably overrepresented in state government. So Republicans can expect gains in 2010, especially in the state Senate, where Democratic turnover is high. Both chambers lean Democratic, with the Senate more likely to flip, but these ratings could well shift in the GOP's direction by fall.

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DNA and Security Myths

Posted by Daren Bakst at 11:35 AM

It's bad enough to push for collecting DNA from arrestees (see my report and this op-ed I wrote with Sarah Preston of the ALCU of NC), but to use misleading or inaccurate arguments to push for this dangerous intrusion into the lives of innocent citizens is inexcusable.

The N & O's recent work provides some evidence of what I'm talking about.

1) The Exoneration Myth

In a surpising editorial yesterday supporting the collection of DNA:

A 2003 state law already requires that people convicted of felonies provide samples.  That earlier measure, Cooper says, has helped solve crimes - and exonerate people wrongly convicted in the past. [Emphasis added].

From an N & O article today:

Rep. Rick Glazier, a Fayetteville Democrat, said he had some reservations about collecting DNA before a conviction. Glazier, a lawyer, represented Lesley Jean, a former Marine who was falsely convicted of a 1982 rape. DNA eventually proved he was innocent.

Facts: To exonerate someone, such as the Marine that Glazier discusses, one only needs the DNA from the individual and then to compare that DNA to the DNA collected at the crime scene.  A massive DNA database is completely unrelated to exonerating people.  It is true that a bigger database could theoretically help in rare instances to help figure out who did commit a crime, but that has nothing to do with exonerating someone.

2) DNA Samples Won't Provide Much Information to the Government

From the same N & O article:

Currently, DNA is collected only from those convicted of a felony. Samples would include only information that could identify a person and not information such as health predispositions or family traits.
Facts: This is inaccurate and I'm surprised it would even be in the article.  A DNA sample can provide an endless amount of information.  The reporter is trying to get at the argument that the tests run on the samples look to what is called "junk DNA."  It is critical to understand that the DNA samples themselves are still available for more extensive DNA analysis.  As I wrote in endnote 10 in my report:

While DNA profiles are created using “junk DNA,” this information is still believed to be capable of providing sensitive information. As the Human Genome Project has stated “single tandem repeated DNA bases (STRs), which are not known to code for proteins, in the future this information may be found to reveal personal information such as susceptibilities to disease and certain behaviors.” Further, the DNA samples themselves still are available for more extensive DNA analysis.

The legislature may soon pass HB 1403, which would be a huge step towards Big Brother government.  If legislators are going to support this misguided bill, they should at least have the facts.

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Your Wednesday morning Alcoa/UNC-TV media update

Posted by Rick Henderson at 11:19 AM

John Hood isn't the only person declaring a pox on all the houses along Senate JII Lane.

News & Observer columnist (and news director at WPTF, State Government Radio, and NC News Network) Rick Martinez says the demise of public broadcasting as an independent media voice would destroy "an important style of journalism .... More than any medium, public broadcasting gives its reporters the luxury of time, reflection and the exploration of nuance."

The Greensboro News & Record's editorial board says "the damage has been done. UNC-TV bowed to the contention that it is a state agency and not an independent news organization. That may seem obvious to some, but the question deserved to be tested in court. Now, its future endeavors to produce objective news programming will raise doubts. Will information be turned over to legislators or other state officials to serve political agendas? Will those officials use their funding authority to influence the content of news programs?"

The Salisbury Post's editors asked

What if UNC-TV were doing an expose on ethical lapses in the legislature? Would senators feel entitled to a sneak preview of the contents?

And WUNC-FM's Laura Leslie takes no prisoners on her blog:

[UNC-TV reporter Eszter] Vajda claimed in her affidavit [to JII] that she has decided to cooperate “without waiving my right to exercise my journalist’s privilege.” That’s like deciding to have a car wreck without waiving your good driver’s discount.  You can’t have it both ways.

(CJ's Don Carrington photographed Vajda at the JII hearing last night.)

Leslie continues:

UNC-TV rolled over in record time with barely a whimper, citing legal advice that the state’s power to demand information from its agencies supersedes its journalists’ shield law rights. That’s a pretty creative read of the shield law statute, which makes no such allowances. And it sets a nasty precedent that sends chills down the spines of other journalists in public broadcasting, including me.

WUNC-FM really does investigative reporting, as Martinez pointed out in his column. So if I were a serious journalist working for any of the outlets that are part of the UNC public broadcasting umbrella, I'd be nervous, too.

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UNC-TV and new bailouts

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 10:48 AM

Proponents of a government rescue of newspapers might want to reconsider their arguments in light of the thuggish tactics of Fletcher Hartsell against UNC-TV. One item that stood out for me was why the state public television caved. As the Wilmington Star-News explained (with my emphasis),

UNC-TV lawyers decided not to fight the subpoena because it is a public agency and may not fall under North Carolina's 1999 press shield law protecting reporters from revealing information that hasn't been printed or broadcast.

Got that? UNC-TV is not an independent news organization. It is a public agency. I have great respect for the reporters and producers at UNC-TV, but as Rick Martinez wrote, "Granted, the near-term ramifications of Howe's decision for UNC-TV will probably be negligible. The network has produced scant hard-hitting journalism lately. That's not a criticism, just an observation. Howe is given wide latitude to execute UNC-TV's public obligations."

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NCAE: charter school bill pulled

Posted by Dr. Terry Stoops at 10:29 AM

Via Twitter, the North Carolina Association of Educators reported that Senator Tony Foriest (D-Alamance) pulled a bill from the Senate Education/Higher Education Committee that would have raised the cap on charter schools by six schools.

Special interest wins again.

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Bubba and Barry botching it

Posted by David N. Bass at 10:26 AM

Oh, how the tables have turned. In 2008, Republicans would rather have been pegged with a salacious scandal than have George W. Bush join them on the campaign trail. In 2010, two years after Barack Obama’s cakewalk to victory, polling data suggest that Democratic candidates should adopt a similar approach to their own president.

After analyzing endorsements in five states, the left-leaning firm Public Policy Polling concludes that “it’s looking more and more clear that there’s just about nowhere Democratic candidates would benefit from having the President come to campaign with them.” Ominously for Democrats, that aversion to the prez was felt among independents, too, who “are completely unimpressed by an Obama endorsement.”

Could it get any worse? Yes. The Democrats’ secret weapon, Bill Clinton, is nearly as toxic as Obama (but not quite). In terms of the benefits of his endorsement, Clinton’s negative-positive spread ranged as large as 24-percentage points in Louisiana and Wisconsin.

Could we be seeing a replay of the Bush implosion, but at a much faster pace? Bush maintained decent popularity years into his presidency before nose-diving in his second term. Obama is not even halfway through his first term. Already, he’s a political liability.

Update: Gallup finds that Obama's popularity among independents has dipped to 38 percent. His total approval rating was just 44 percent, tying his lowest three-day average to date.

It's getting rough in Hopeville.

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NEA votes "no confidence" in Obama education program

Posted by Dr. Terry Stoops at 10:20 AM

National Education Association (NEA) delegates voted "no confidence" in President Obama's first major education initiative, the Race to the Top competitive grant program.

Expect Obama to placate his NEA union buddies.

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Gingrich asks whether the president will face facts

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 10:03 AM

Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich poses the following question in his latest Human Events column: "Will President Obama face the facts?" 

Three weeks ago, the White House promised America a government-spending-fueled “recovery summer.”   What we’ve seen thus far, however, is big government’s true, destructive impact on the natural resiliency of the American economy:  By spending too much, growing government too fast, and threatening to raise taxes, President Obama and the left-wing Democratic leadership in Congress have created a climate of fear and uncertainty amongst job creators that has decisively hurt the economy, not helped it.

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GOP legislators list items left undone

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 09:41 AM

Top legislative Republicans used what could be their last regularly scheduled news conference of the year to outline more than a half dozen items left unfinished during the 2010 legislative session.

Since the session has at least a couple days left, House Minority Leader Paul Stam, R-Wake, and Senate Minority Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, say they hope at least some of the items can be addressed before the General Assembly adjourns.

Click play below to watch the 13:13 briefing.

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Latest dispatches from the campaign trail

Posted by David N. Bass at 09:30 AM

  • U.S. Sen. Richard Burr has a 5-percentage point lead over Elaine Marshall, a new survey from Public Policy Polling finds.

  • Vice President Joe Biden will be in Chapel Hill later this month for a Democratic Party fundraiser.

  • columnist Jillian Bandes discusses the Etheridge-Ellmers race in N.C.'s 2nd Congressional District.

  • A PPP survey finds that Democrats will be in better shape if Obama and Bill Clinton stay off the campaign trail.

  • WaPo’s The Fix lists N.C.'s 8th Congressional District race as a potential addition to its list of competitive races (and it includes an open poll).

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You'll never be a success without a college degree

Posted by George Leef at 09:29 AM

That's what most people say, but the truth of the matter is that quite a few highly successful individuals never earned college degrees. Some have created great companies that ironically now require college degrees for jobs far less demanding than that of their non-college CEOs.

In this week's Pope Center Clarion Call Jenna Ashley Robinson writes about people who are very successful but who don't have any college credentials.

Maybe a future piece should be about people who have college degrees but can hardly even keep a low-skill job.

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New Carolina Journal Online features

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 07:02 AM

The latest Carolina Journal Online exclusive features Karen McMahan's report on the N.C. House's rejection this year of proposed education tax credits. 

John Hood's Daily Journal focuses on the free-press fiasco associated with a fight over a proposed stae takeover of Alcoa's Yadkin River dams.

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