As Greg Mankiw has pointed out numerous times, either the public plan competes on a level playing field, which is pointless; or it has a taxpayer-subsidized advantage over private plans, which means it will become the only insurer.
Here's an upcoming schedule of some very important property rights bills that will be considered in the House:
Eminent Domain Amendment
When and Where: Tomorrow, 10:00 am, 415 LOB
House Appropriations Subcommittee on Justice and Public Safety
HB 1268 is a poorly drafted constitutional amendment that I have explained would be worse for property owners if passed than if the legislature did nothing.
The bill would authorize the abuse of blight laws in the state constitution. It also would fail to keep the government from making end runs around any prohibition.
The amendment needs to define blight properly (something like "property that is a clear harm to the health and safety of the public") and should require that the government have the burden of proving that a taking is really for a proper public use (also, it should be required to show that a taking wouldn't have occurred but for that valid public use).
Annexation "Reform" Bill
When and Where: Thursday, 8:30 am, Room 544 LOB
House Finance Committee
The question is whether the House Finance Committee will show the same disrespect for citizens that the Judiciary II Committee did--as you will recall, the J-2 Committee not only failed to pass a single amendment that provides any real reform, but also intentionally tried to prevent anyone else in the House from amending the bill (HB 524).
The Dirt is More Important than People Act of 2009 (not the official title, but should be)
When and Where: Thursday, Noon, 643 LOB
House Committee on Environment & Natural Resources
Should the government be able to seize your house even if it has satisfactory alternatives to taking your house? To date, the legislature has answered this question in the affirmative.
To add insult to injury, this bill (SB 600) shows more concern for a mushroom than a family and its home. I have written more about this here and here.
The bill should require the government to show it has no feasible alternative to seizing a property (this includes all types of property, not just those with conservation easements).
Maybe the most important meeting of them all will be next Tuesday (2:00 pm, 1228 LB) when the House Water Resources and Infrastructure Committee will discuss SB 967 (Creation of Yadkin River Trust). This bill would position NC so it could seize Alcoa's hydropower dam. The issue is as much about nationalization of an industry as much as eminent domain.
These photos show the special parking at the new Best Buy store in Waynesville, NC. No one was parking in these spots, it is WNC where snow is common in the winter and a lot of folks need four wheel drive to get around on mountain roads, so do these spots create any value?
I've read this column five times and can only conclude hackers are to blame. The last thing North Carolina needs is further attempts to game the property tax system, an imperfect levy to say the least, but one with its roots in the very formation of civil society.
The property tax has never pretended to be a user fee, a proxy income tax, or anything else besides a tax on the value of real property. That it is occasionally painful to citizens is a very good thing, as it reminds them of the cost of government. Income tax withholding was a previous move to lesson the pain of taxation, and how has that worked out for the cause of limited government?
Besides, if occupancy is to be a significant taxable event with regard to the property tax levy, what of empty apartments, offices, rooms-for-rent? Why the bias toward new construction, with fairness and simplicity a stated goal?
And amended epigram suggests itself: When you lie down with rent-seekers, you get up baffling.
Today, the Senate considers the Continuing Resolution, a.k.a. Senate Bill 311 which was sent over from the House last night. Sen Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, asks about the increase in Community College Tuition increases. Tuition increases from $42 to $50 per credit hour. With no more debate, the Senate agrees to the changes that the House made with 35 voting yes and 13 voting no. The continuing resolution is now sent to the governor, who is expected to sign it into law this afternoon so state government can continue at least until July 15.
The House Insurance Committee considers a new (and improved?) Beach plan today. House Bill 1305, Beach Plan Changes makes various changes to the law that controls "the market of last resort that makes property insurance available to people who are unable to buy insurance through the standard or voluntary market.". There have been concerns and problems with the plan, as explained in a JLF report by Eli Lehrer. This new bill proposes some solutions to the problems facing the Beach Plan.
Speaking to the committee:
Lisa Martin, Home Builders Association expresses concerns with fairness of requirements,
Mayor of Kure Beach speaks of a need to protect the coast,
Rick Zechini with NC Realtors asks for a balance of affordability and availability of insurance and concerns with flood insurance expansions and mitigation credits in the voluntary markets. Also speaks to a need for transparency and openness.
John Maltti with Travelers Insurance says the marketplace is getting tighter, need to move quickly, and looking positive so far. Insurance companies still have to pay more in assessments in NC, should be capped as in other states.
John Bode, Independent Agents lobbyist says need something that prepares for a hurricane that we all know is coming. Need to move this bill along.
Questions from the committee:
Rep John Blust, R-Guilford, asks about 10 percent increase in insurance charges for homeowners across the state. Holliman says it will be cheaper than if all the insurance companies leave the state.
Homeowners in the piedmont (and elsewhere across the state) will be assessed to pay for cleanup on the coast if hit by a catastrophic storm.
The bill does the following:
Renames it "Coastal Property Insurance Pool"
Requires that the surplus be retained to pay losses, purchase re-insurance and operating expenses and not distributed to member companies
Sets max limits by statute - $750,000 for homeowners and limits contents coverage to 40 percent for building value
Increases homeowners coverage by 10 percent for separate wind and hail coverage and 20 percent if part of a homeowners policy
Additional charges can be applied to dwelling and commercial policies, not just homeowners.
The Assoc has to file a schedule of credits for mitigation and construction features and an installment plan for premium payments.
When losses exceed $1 B, they can institute a 10 percent recoupment assessment on property owners statewide, not to exceed an aggregate amount of 10 percent of the annual policy premium.
Reporting requirements of the amount of homeowner's insurance in the Plan. The NC Rate Bureau will monitor and review territories in the beach and coastal areas.
Public notice in at least two newspapers with statewide distribution of filings for increases in the rates.
All the provisions in the bill will become effective when it becomes law. A lot of the debate indicates an urgency to get something in place before NC's coast is hit by a major storm.
The committee votes the bill out of the Insurance Committee and it moves along to House Finance.
The House Judiciary I committee considers Senate Bill 461, NC Racial Justice Act. Chairman Ross calls this "the main event" of today's meeting. Staffers from Speaker Hackney's office are in the audience, monitoring the debate and counting votes.
This controversial bill allows for a challenge to a death penalty decision if that decision was made because race was a factor. Burden of proof is on the defendant and the decision would be made by a judge. The proof is based on statistical data. If successful, the sentence would be changed to life without parole.
Sen Floyd McKissick D-Durham, sponsor of the bill explains the bill. Reps Larry Womble, D-Forsyth and Earline Parmon, D-Forsyth are sponsoring the bill in the House. Rep Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford is a co-sponsor.
Rep Skip Stam, R-Wake asks why anyone on death row would not file for this petition and raises concerns about cost to the state. Racial justice has a long history but why not a sexual justice act as more men have been executed than women? He questions the appropriateness of the data used, ie why use data of people on death row rather than those who have been executed.
Rep Angela Bryant, D-Nash, says we need this because we have racial discrimination in criminal justice and the system needs to be fair.
Rep Annie Mobley, D- Halifax, questions time frames of the bill. What if someone is in a coma and misses the one year time period to file a petition? They would be represented by someone to protect their interests. Is the judge's decision appealable? Yes, could appeal directly to the NC Supreme Court.
Rep Sara Stevens, R-Surry, asks about overlap with this bill and constitutional protections. This act allows statistical evidence to be used which is different from the constitutional protections.
Rep Womble knows of no one who is opposed to the bill. Rep Stam says the conference of district attorneys is opposed. Rev. Barbour of the NAACP says race is a factor in the death penalty, racial justice is about justice and asks for a unanimous vote.
By a show of hands, the bill passes 7-6. Looks like straight party lines, with Ds voting yes, Rs voting no. The bill now goes to the House Appropriations.
Compared to other states in the region North Carolina has the highest top marginal rate for individual taxpayers: 7.75% at earnings of $60,000 or greater. South Carolina tops out with 7% at $13,150, Virginia 5.75% at $17,000, and Georgia with 6% at $7,000. Tennessee and Florida do not have a state level income tax.
While our top marginal rate comes into effect at a higher earnings level, our lowest marginal rate (6% for any amount earned) is higher than many states top tax bracket.
Not only is our top marginal tax rate higher than any other state in the Southeast, it is one of the highest in the country. The highest maximum rate is Hawaii’s, at 11%, one of ten states that have a higher top rate than North Carolina.
The high level of the top marginal tax rate in North Carolina is one of the factors that reduces the states economic competitiveness; according to a 2008 Tax Foundation report, which measured how state tax laws affect economic performance, out of the fifty states North Carolina ranks 39th, a poor performance to which the disincentive of the high marginal tax rate contributes. The high level of the top marginal tax rate, in combination with other state and federal taxes, has a negative effect on economic growth as well as on retaining top earners in the state.
The N.C. House budget contains proposals to add two new tax brackets, at 8.25% and 8.5%, legislation that would significantly damage the state’s economy. Learn more about this proposed tax hike here and here.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, has introduced legislation that would expand access to the federal government’s free and reduced-price lunch program – even though doubt remains about the number of ineligible (read: wealthy) students who nevertheless participate in the entitlement.
Despite the impressive local and statewide statistics, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that 14 percent of eligible students are not enrolled in reduced school meal programs.
Most students or their parents that do not register cite reasons from the complicated application process to the “social stigma” some students feel comes with being enrolled in the low-income lunch program.
Brown's proposed $2 billion legislation is geared to reduce paperwork and administration costs by having school districts use data from Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program to directly enroll students in the meal programs.
It’s noteworthy that Congress and school systems are looking for new ways to get students signed up for F&R lunch, but no one is addressing the question of cheating. That’s the case even though a report by Mathematica Policy Research found that 15 percent of students receive too many benefits, and verification summaries suggest fraud, too.
Closer to home, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools recently developed new ways to get more students signed up for F&R lunch. The school system cross-referenced a list of students who receive food stamps with those enrolled in the school lunch program, which resulted in 1,000 more students getting on the F&R lunch dole.
Meanwhile, the school system has declined to examine the possibility of fraud in the system after a verification summary suggested that as much as 68 percent of students enrolled might be ineligible.
The sovereign extends its arms about the society as a whole; it covers
its surface with a network of petty regulations—complicated, minute,
and uniform—through which even the most original minds and the most
vigorous souls know not how to make their way… it does not break wills;
it softens them, bends them, and directs them; rarely does it force one
to act, but it constantly opposes itself to one’s acting on one’s own …
it does not tyrannize, it gets in the way: it curtails, it enervates,
it extinguishes, it stupefies, and finally reduces each nation to being
nothing more than a herd of timid and industrious animals, of which the
government is the shepherd.
George Will concludes his discussion of the Supreme Court's Ricci decision with this:
The nation shall slog on, litigating through a fog of euphemisms and
blurry categories (e.g., "race-conscious" actions that somehow are not
racial discrimination because they "remedy" discrimination that no one
has intended). This is the predictable price of failing to simply
insist that government cannot take cognizance of race.
On Friday, the Washington Post ran an op-ed (registration may be required) that made a few dubious claims. Michael Kinsley claims that "more and more Americans have no health insurance at all," and that Americans consider "the best possible health care to be a right." He then goes on to argue that we shouldn't worry about government rationing of health care, because, really, the only services that will be cut out are the unnecessary, costly ones.
Today, the Washington Post printed my letter to the editor. While I wonder how the financial collapse and fallout affects the number of uninsured, the most recent annual report of the Census Bureau does not back up Kinsley's claim. Both the number and percentage of uninsured fell according to that report, and the 2007 percentage is a full percentage point lower than the 1998 figure. Moreover, if Americans believe that government provided health care is a right, I ask if rationing would not be a rights violation.
Farmers who sell their locally-grown and homemade goods at tailgate markets in the mountains have run afoul of state inspectors, reports the Asheville Citizen-Times. It seems some merchants have not spent their $50 and registered their recipes with the state. (gasp!) Then there's the farmer who's been selling eggs for 35 years and feels a little harassed by the government rules.
Wayne Uffelman, who operates Blue Hill Farm in Marshall, sells about 300 dozen eggs a week and keeps booths at the North Asheville and downtown markets, where he sold out of eggs Wednesday.
“Even though I turn my eggs over every three days, the law is that they have to be at 45 degrees when I sell them,” said Uffelman, who's been selling eggs for 35 years.
An expensive cooling system for market sales is unnecessary, he said. He understands the state has to protect the public, but he says he's been keeping customers happy for years without the interference.
“For 30, 40 years there's been an onslaught of laws passed to put us small farmers out of business,” he said.
From tariffs on sugar to agribusiness subsidies to $50 recipe registration fees, Wayne Uffelman seems to have a point.
Wall Street Journal's James Taranto analyzes the Supreme Court's Ricci decision here. Justice Scalia gets to the heart of the issue below.
This is a very modest holding. It leaves the door open for permitting "intentional discrimination" in cases where there is
"a strong basis in evidence" for disparate-impact liability. By framing
the question as a conflict between statutory provisions, the court
avoids addressing the question of whether New Haven's actions are
constitutional, as Justice Antonin Scalia notes in a lone concurring
opinion (citations omitted):
[The] resolution of this dispute merely postpones the evil
day on which the Court will have to confront the question: Whether, or
to what extent, are the disparate-impact provisions of Title VII of the
Civil Rights Act of 1964 consistent with the Constitution's guarantee
of equal protection? . . .
The difficulty is this: Whether or not Title VII's
disparate-treatment provisions forbid "remedial" race-based actions
when a disparate-impact violation would not otherwise result--the
question resolved by the Court today--it is clear that Title VII not
only permits but affirmatively requires such actions when a disparate-impact violation would
otherwise result. But if the Federal Government is prohibited from
discriminating on the basis of race, then surely it is also prohibited
from enacting laws mandating that third parties—e.g., employers,
whether private, State, or municipal--discriminate on the basis of
race. . . .
The war between disparate impact and equal protection will
be waged sooner or later, and it behooves us to begin thinking about
how--and on what terms--to make peace between them.
Regarding the concept of judicial "empathy," Taranto notes:
Ginsburg opens her opinion by observing that "the white firefighters
who scored high on New Haven's promotional exams understandably attract
this Court's sympathy." To which Alito replies:
"Sympathy" is not what petitioners have a right to demand.
What they have a right to demand is evenhanded enforcement of the
law--of Title VII's prohibition against discrimination based on race.
And that is what, until today's decision, has been denied them.
Presumably if the plaintiffs belonged to a group for which Ginsburg
had "empathy," she would have been more inclined to rule in their
favor. "Sympathy," by contrast, is an empty sentiment offered to
disfavored classes in lieu of equal protection. Such distinctions
between classes of people cannot be reconciled with equality under the
law. "Sympathy" is the new "separate but equal."
The committee that oversees the state's dropout prevention grant program will change the way they award and evaluate grantees.
From the News & Observer,
The dropout prevention committee, whose members are appointed by the governor and House and Senate leaders, met Monday to review its new application criteria. One of the committee's goals is to find successful programs that can be replicated, said Bill Farmer, a committee co-chairman. Some members said they wanted programs to better target students who are at risk of dropping out. Applicants will have to describe specific, measurable and realistic goals. "We want to have a more disciplined approach to dropout prevention," Farmer said.
I have written three evaluations of dropout prevention grants and have been the most outspoken critic of the initiative. (Get the evaluations here, here, and here.) In my third evaluation of the grants, I wrote,
Programs should not receive additional funding and/or replication based on anecdotal evidence. Instead, grant recipients should be able to quantify their program’s ability to retain students and significantly increase the district or school dropout rate.
It appears that those in charge of the grants are finally listening.
As we approach the confirmation hearing for U.S. Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, I’ve been reading a recent book about the case that made Supreme Court proceedings such a big deal: Marbury v. Madison.
Authors Cliff Sloan and David McKean also marvel at the political skills Chief Justice John Marshall exhibited when crafting his opinion in the case:
Now 47 years old and chief justice slightly more than two years, Marshall, the first justice to have served in all three branches of government, sought an opportunity to enhance the role of the Court and elevate it to the status of co-equal branch. He inherited and institution that was little more than a laughingstock, with no dignity or stature. … Marshall had taken the first steps to forge a strong institution … but he was looking for the chance to take a major leap.
Yes, there's nothing quite like putting a calculating politician in a position that requires an impartial judge. Those calculations are far from the deliberations associated with the concept of originalism.
To their credit, Sloan and McKean offer an interesting history lesson, reminding the reader of the humble conditions the Supreme Court faced in the early 19th century (no building of its own, its justices doubling as circuit-court judges) and sharing amusing anecdotes. Local readers might enjoy the reference to John Marshall’s travails during one trip to the 700-person community of Raleigh.
The authors also do a fair job outlining the objections to Marshall’s Marbury ruling, including one paragraph in which they describe Thomas Jefferson’s synopsis of the various ways in which the ruling was wrong.
Regardless of your take on the Marbury ruling, you might appreciate learning more about the case’s history.
The latest cover story in National Review features Jonah Goldberg’s explanation of why American policy should include more domestic oil drilling. Goldberg outlines the “futility” of Democrats and environmentalists fighting that option:
We are constantly told that America must “take the lead” on global warming in order to persuad the rest of the world to cut their own emissions. But America has restricted domestic drilling for decades. Has anyone — anywhere — followed our example? No. Everywhere in the world, governments jump for joy when they discover new oild fields to exploit. Tell a Brazilian official that he should stop drilling because drilling is just wrong, and, once he realizes you’re not joking, he’ll throw his caipirinha in your face.
No serious student of energy and development economics thinks that oil will become less important in at least the next several decades. Every forecast shows demand — domestic and worldwide — going up steadily, or even sharply. Perhaps more importantly, this is also true of coal. China, which is building a new coal-fired power plant every 10 days, has surpassed the U.S. to become the biggest CO2 emitter in the world, and very soon India and Brazil will overtake America as well. They have not intention of abandoning cheap, reliable, and powerful fossil fuels — that they own — in favor of incredibly inefficient, unproven, and expensive “alternative” energy that they’d have to buy from America or Europe. This is true not only because fossil-fuel energy is cost-effective in its own right, but also because they’ve already paid for the infrastructure.
In the latest Fortune (within an article that’s not yet posted online), Geoff Colvin starts his latest column with the following: “Sometimes what’s politically irresistible is economically nonsensical.”
His topic is the Obama administration’s efforts to force corporations to pay more taxes on overseas earnings. Colvin draws attention to the administration’s attempt to use a “smooth bit of political rhetoric” to equate international corporations with people who dodge American taxes by parking income in foreign tax jurisdictions.
The average citizen had to conclude that most big U.S. companies are tax cheats. Only a dedicated student of accounting would figure out that the term “tax haven” as defined by the Treasury Department means any country with a lower corporate tax rate than America’s, which is all counties except Japan.
… [C]urrent rules create incentives for U.S. companies to operate anywhere but here, at the cost of U.S. jobs. The White House therefore proposes charging all American companies full freight — the whole difference between their overseas taxes and the U.S. corporate rate — on all their profits as soon as they’re earned, no matter where. This measure, in their minds, would bring jobs home.
If the logic eludes you, you’re not alone. The bottom-line effect of the change would be a steep tax hike — more money vacuumed out of corporate coffers. Would that make U.S. companies competing in a global economy more inclined to hire additional workers in the highly expensive U.S.? The answer is clear.