Carolina Journal Weekly Report

March 27, 2005

Carolina Journal Weekly Report

For the week of March 27, 2005 -

Reaction of the Week

Gov. Mike Easley’s administration and legislative leaders may have violated a state law in the distribution of discretionary funds to projects of nonprofits and local governments that had been considered but turned down by the General Assembly.

General Statute 143-16.3 says that the state government may spend "no funds from any source…for any new or expanded purposes, positions, or expenditure" which the legislature has already considered but failed to enact earlier in the same fiscal period.

Because nine projects were considered earlier in the budget process but rejected as lawmakers approved the final budget, their funding under the discretionary process may have been illegal.

Meanwhile, former state Republican House Appropriations Co-Chair Debbie Clary of Cherryville says that discretionary funds controlled by General Assembly leaders constituted a justified reward for their districts, because of the extra hours they put in to pass the budget.

Clary supported the 2003 power-sharing coalition of Democrat House Co-Speakers Jim Black and Republican Richard Morgan, said entrusting the funding of members' special district projects to General Assembly leaders was the only way to get them passed in the budget.

News Features

Easley halts donation of building
RALEIGH — Gov. Mike Easley squelched a legislative deal Thursday to give the James K. Polk building in uptown Charlotte to Johnson & Wales University and instead arranged to sell the building to a Charlotte firm for $5.3 million. It was also disclosed Thursday that Easley moved up the deadline for bidding on the building in order to block the Johnson & Wales deal. That move, however, apparently left the state losing out on a bid nearly $2 million higher.

Lobbyists' parties prompt disclosure drive
RALEIGH — Zeb Alley, one of the most prominent lobbyists in the state capital, won the battle of the St. Patrick's Day power broker parties. Alley tuneful shindig drew a much bigger and higher-ranking crowd of lawmakers than a downtown reception at the same time sponsored by the state's largest business lobby, N.C. Citizens for Business and Industry, whose dessert trays were packed with baklava and cannoli. Both parties, though, exemplified the socializing among lobbyists and legislators that feeds a public perception of a culture of sucking up and shaking down.

Piedmont customers may cover losses
CHARLOTTE — Taxpayers financed construction of a $188 million pipeline in eastern NC. Now Piedmont Natural Gas customers may wind up covering the project’s multimillion-dollar annual losses. Piedmont wants to buy out its nonprofit, 50% partner in the pipeline, called Eastern North Carolina Natural Gas. This month, the utility is expected to ask regulators to include the money-losing project in its overall operations when Piedmont asks for a rate increase. 

Payday loan 'loophole' criticized
RALEIGH — A study by the Center for Responsible Lending, to be released today, says North Carolina's payday lending businesses target African-Americans. The state law regulating payday lending expired in 2001, and state officials told companies to stop making the loans. But companies affiliated with out-of-state banks still offer them, saying those banks are the actual lenders. Consumer groups have lawsuits pending against five payday loan companies that use partnerships with out-of-state banks. 

Smokies air quality showing improvement
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The air is a little cleaner and the view a little brighter in the Great Smoky Mountains, but it’s still considered the most polluted national park in the country. Scientists monitoring the volume of manmade smog and soot in the Smokies — not to be confused with the natural mist-like clouds for which the park was named — are cautiously optimistic a turnaround is under way. 

Easley comments on Dell contract dispute
GREENSBORO — Gov. Mike Easley said that he would have preferred Dell pick a NC-based contractor for its plant in the Triad, though he understands why the computer giant went with the low bidder. Easley made a visit to the Triad Monday that included an announcement at Volvo Group about an expansion by the truck manufacturing company. Volvo will expand its headquarters, adding 150 jobs during the next three years and investing $10 million. 

Nation, state address ID security breaches
WASHINGTON — Banks and other businesses can decide when to tell customers about information security breaches under federal regulations and N.C. legislation announced Wednesday. But N.C. consumers could get some additional protection under a sweeping ID theft-prevention bill that would allow them to put virtual padlocks on their credit reports. No federal law and just one state - California - require businesses to tell customers about security breaches. 

State unemployment rises to 5.4 percent
RALEIGH — Led by a drop in construction jobs, the state's unemployment rate in February rose four-tenths of a percentage point to 5.4 percent. The shift pushed the state's jobless picture in line with the national average - also 5.4 percent. The state and national unemployment rates are adjusted for seasonal factors. "There is no positive spin on it," said Mark Vitner, an economist for Wachovia in Charlotte. The increase in the jobless rate was the biggest since May 2001, when the rate jumped five-tenths of a percent compared to the month before. 

Growth continues after county moratorium
CONCORD — The moratorium on new residential subdivisions in Cabarrus County has not slowed the pace of growth, according to county data. The president of a local building-industry group said he believes any slowdown in construction will not become apparent until later this year. Any projects that filed applications before the moratorium was adopted Dec. 20 are permitted to proceed, and there was a jump in such applications just before the deadline. 

Magnet Schools Attract Busing Woes
GREENSBORO — Winter in the Piedmont region of North Carolina presents challenges for school transportation officials, especially in Guilford County. The county is on the dividing line of many weather systems, so it’s hard to predict whether it will snow, sleet, or rain. Trying to decide whether the roads are safe to transport students to school is a difficult call. But this year, there have been many more difficult transportation decisions for Guilford County Schools. GCS has 26 magnet schools and is feeling the pinch as it deals with disproportionate increases in transportation costs for magnet programs. 

Upcoming Events

Tuesday, March 29, 2005 at Noon
Headliner Luncheon
with Dick Morris
Will Hillary Run? A Look at the Coming Elections

Monday, April 04, 2005 at 12:00 noon
Shaftesbury Society Luncheon
with Dr. John E. R. Staddon
God and Darwin in the U.S.A.

John Locke Foundation Carolina Journal Online
The Locker Room Carolina Journal Radio

Capital Quotes

Please do not make children feel like I did.
— Guilford County third-grader Jimmy Carson as quoted by the Greensboro News & Record explaining to the county education board his frustration and boredom in classes that are not academically challenging enough for the gifted student. The board disagreed with Carson and voted to delay offering gifted classes until the fourth grade. 

It'll come to the floor because there's going to be a select committee on the lottery - and I'll be selecting.
— NC House Speaker Jim Black as quoted by the Winston-Salem Journal explaining his support for a House vote on a state-run lottery within the next two weeks. 

Imagine that your daughter is part of a new busing plan, and you go and ask for a copy of the plan. They say, You can't have it and we're going to sue you for asking.'
— Raleigh media attorney Amanda Martin as quoted by the Associated Press describing a push by NC cities and other government agencies to sue citizens who seek public records. 

We’re paying the price for living where most of the country wants to live.
— Wrightsville Beach resident Mary Dowcett as quoted by the Wilmington Star-News describing a 10 percent increase she and other coastal residents are expecting in homeowners insurance.  

Every day.
— Selma store manager Judy Wilhelm as quoted by The Charlotte Observer describing how often customers take advantage of a state law that allows the purchase of up to 299 cartons of cigarettes at a time. Smokers from up and down the East coast stop in North Carolina to take advantage of the state's comparatively low tax on smokes.   

Things like being on a bus or a train is part of an experience for them that they get excited about, especially for smaller children. It can be an extension of the excitement of the game.
John Tallmadge, director of commuter resources for the Triangle Transit Authority, as quoted by the Durham Herald-Sun explaining his support for extending transit service to the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. 

The trouble is, everyone thinks their project is the best in the state. We sprinkle (money) out region by region, not by choosing the best projects in the state.
Dave Hartgen, University of North Carolina at Charlotte transportation professor and author of a study on highway spending efficiency, as quoted by The Charlotte Observer explaining that one of the reasons he ranked North Carolina 36th in his study is the state's spending formula, which spreads funding equally throughout the state instead of concentrating it in the most needed areas.

We exceeded our (2004) mission, and we are already on glide path for this year.
Sgt. Maj. Marissa Capel as quoted by The Fayetteville Observer explaining how the 18th Airborne Corps and the 82nd Airborne Division, both based in Fort Bragg, are exceeding their re-enlistment goals.

On The Air This Week…

Carolina Journal Radio

This week on C J Radio…
Join host John Hood for the most informative news hour on the North Carolina radio waves. This week Pope Center for Higher Education Policy Director George Leef will discuss how property rights disputes were handled in the not-so-Wild, Wild West. Then, Susan Dudley, director of the Regulatory Studies Program at the Mercatus Center will discuss her talk given to the Shaftesbury Society entitled "The Regulatory Leviathan." Next, Free Market Minute author Karen Palasek will discuss the economic theories on self-sufficient markets and ask listeners 'Orange you glad some of us don't grow potatoes?' And last, NC Education Alliance Director Lindalyn Kakadelis will talk about the state cap on the non-traditional public schools called charter schools. Parents and students are clamoring for more, so will the State Board of Education lift the cap? 

NC Spin

This week on NC Spin…
Join moderator Tom Campbell for another week of political discussion and debate on the most intelligent television talk show in the state. This week’s panelists include: former Secretary of State Rufus Edmisten, Brad Crone with Campaign Connections, Chris Fitzsimon with NC Policy Watch and John Locke Foundation president John Hood. This week's topics are: Slush funds with legs, Giving school boards taxing authority, Beach re-nourishment & Medical Malpractice. 

At Issue

This week on At Issue…
Triangle viewers can tune in as host Monty Knight moderates another panel discussion with Carolina Journal's Donna Martinez and the Carolinian's Cash Michaels. This week, panelists discuss the Terri Schaivo case with Dr. Glenn Pickard, a member of the bioethics committee of the NC Medical Society and a faculty member at UNC-Chapel Hill's medical school, and Christopher Schroeder, law professor at Duke University. Then they will take up the debate over hate crime law with Jon Sanders of the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy and Ed Farthing with Equality North Carolina.


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