The Locker Room

July 17, 2008

Monkey business in the House

Posted by Becki Gray at 4:36 PM

There is a new committee substitute for House Bill 2440. It takes money out of the state's Rainy Day Fund to plug the hole in the state Health Plan: $100 million. House Minority Leader Paul "Skip" Stam, R-Wake, introduced an amendment to mandate that the governor cut spending 1 percent, with the usual exceptions, not to exceed he $100 million needed to fund the Health Plan. This is also known as a 1 percent reversion of the state budget.

Speaker Joe Hackney, D-Orange, ruled that the amendment would change the title and is not allowed to be considered under the rules. Stam made a motion to suspend the rules.

During debate, Rep. Dale Folwell, R-Forsyth, asked the senior appropriations chairman (budget writer), Rep. Mickey Michaux, D-Durham, if he would have adjusted the budget to pay for this. Michaux says, no, he wouldn't have — he would have just taken it out of the Rainy Day Fund.

Less than 24 hours after the governor signed the budget, we're already in trouble and having to take money out of the state's saving reserves. Instead of cutting back on spending, the House votes to raid the savings account by defeating the motion to consider the amendment. Forty-eight representatives voted yes, while 62 voted not to consider the amendment.

Rep. Leo Daughtry, R-Johnston, made a motion to send the bill to the Appropriations Committee for a full discussion of how to solve this revenue shortage and fix the shortfall in the state Health Plan. That discussion would include cutting spending. Once again, the House decided not to consider options. The vote to send the bill back to committee is 47 yes, 64 no.

The vote on the bill to take $100 million out of the state's Rainy Day savings account — instead of cutting spending by less than 1 percent — to plug the hole so the state's Health Plan has enough money to provide benefits for current and retired state employees and terachers is 107 yes, 3 no.

Those voting no: Folwell; Rep. Ric Killian, R-Mecklenburg; and Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett.

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Preventive care and health

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 4:27 PM

I have been criticized recently for questioning the value of preventive care. In a new study, Janet Currie, et al., "find that while increases in contemporaneous Medicaid/SCHIP eligibility have strong effects on access to care, they do not increase the probability that an older child is in good health."

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Revkin rips Gore

Posted by Geoff Lawrence at 3:09 PM

Andy Revkin at the NY Times is ripping apart Al Gore's latest global warming speech in Washington.

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Tough questions for McCain

Posted by George Leef at 1:42 PM

Reason senior editor Radley Balko suggests some tough questions for John McCain here.

The question I'd like to ask any candidate for anything: Would you list for me five laws that you think it's most important to repeal.

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Another PCS makes its mark

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 1:22 PM

Earlier in this forum, we discussed the legislative creature known as the proposed committee substitute, or PCS. This is a tool lawmakers use to incorporate proposed changes in legislation as it winds its way through the political process.

In a committee meeting, legislators can choose to consider the original bill, an adopted committee subsitute (which started life as a PCS in another committee), or a new PCS.

There's nothing inherently bad about a PCS. It can help lawmakers correct typos or clean up unclear language. But in the wrong hands, a PCS can lead to situations in which the sponsor of a bill might end up opposing his own legislation.

Take this example from "Under the Dome":

Rep. Marvin Lucas isn't sure if he's going to vote for his own bill.

When the Cumberland County Democrat first filed House Bill 359 in February of 2007, it was entitled a bill to "Restore Flexibility to School Calendar."


The bill passed the House in April of 2007, but when it came back from the Senate this week all mentions of school calendars had been stripped. The new title: "An Act to Promote American Citizenship Efforts by Encouraging Voting by Eligible High School Students."

"It's been gutted," Lucas said. "It no longer bares any resemblance to the one we sent over."

He said he'll have to read the bill to see what's in it before he decides whether to vote to concur with the Senate version this afternoon. 

I'm not suggesting there's anything wrong with either bill, or that Senate leaders attempted anything underhanded by gutting Lucas' bill. What I'm saying is that the PCS opens the door to potential legislative mischief. 

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Laughing at Obama is good for the country

Posted by Jon Sanders at 11:12 AM

My latest Townhall column makes the case for clowning even the messiah:

According to the New York Times, which rumor has it is a newspaper of some repute in New York City, professional comedians can find very little to joke about concerning Sen. Barack Obama. ...

Comedians perform a crucial civic service. They help us to laugh at politicians and ourselves. In doing so, they keep us all aware of our humanity. This is of prime importance in a government of the people, by the people, for the people. To be human is to be laughable sometimes; to know that is to have humility. As Mr. Bennet puts it in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, "For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?"

Afterwards I try to help jump-start the idle comedians with a few back-to-the-basics Obama jokes:

  • How many Barack Obamas does it take to change a light bulb? Just one. He holds the bulb, thinks the world revolves around him, and calls it change you can believe in.
  • Why did Barack Obama cross the road? To tax the other side.
  • A rabbi, a priest, and Barack Obama walked into a bar. The rabbi and priest both said "Ouch." Obama said nothing. See, messiahs don't get hurt walking smack into a bar.
  • Barack Obama dies and goes to heaven. St. Peter meets him at the Pearly Gates.

    "So this is heaven," Obama says. "What's it like, healthcare up here?"

    St. Peter misunderstands him as saying he'd "like Hell and didn't care for it up here," so he shrugs and sends him down there.

    "Cool," Obama says upon arrival. "It really IS just like Canada's!"

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Re: Bullying bill discriminates

Posted by Daren Bakst at 11:07 AM

I don't think a bill is necessary, for many of the reasons stated on this blog.  I also think if a bill does go through, it should be limited to bullying in general, without mentioning specific groups.  However, assuming that the group list is going to happen, there is an alternative to the current approach.

Instead of requiring the government to enforce rules in favor of select groups, as the bill does, the government should be prohibited from applying a general anti-bullying provision in a discriminatory manner.

This is similar to a positive rights/negative rights argument--although I'm not sure if it perfectly fits.  The idea is that the current bill creates a positive right where the government is required to protect certain classes of people.  The negative right approach is to ensure the government refrains from actions that discriminate against certain classes of people.

In plain English, the bill could have a general anti-bullying provision as has been suggested and still protect groups that some of the legislators are concerned about.  The law could simply state that a school may not discriminate against a bullying victim due to sexual orientation (among other things--the list should be expressly clear that it is not exhaustive). 

This revised legislation also wouldn't have to get into figuring out the intent of the bully, as it apparently tries to do now.  The current legislation focuses on the actions of the bullies in regards to the sexual orientation of the victim.  It instead should be focusing on the actions of government when it comes to sexual orientation of the victim.

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Drought punnery

Posted by David N. Bass at 10:18 AM

I realize we're nearing (hopefully) the end of the short session, and reporters on the General Assembly beat are getting tired, but the attempts at cuteness in reports, especially regarding the drought management legislation, are running thin.

There is another example in this editorial in the News & Observer: "Legislators have water on their minds as they aim to wrap up business this week. That's not to say they're all wet."


Of course, a topic like drought is bound to generate some puns, and I find myself falling into the trap of attempted wittiness often. But at least I make some effort to resist the temptation whenever possible.

So, my advice to reporters and editors is this: A little dry humor, along with the avoidance of parched language, would make these drought stories much better. Readers are thirsty for some originality, so you need to pump up your skills and do a better job of streamlining your stories. But don't fret...not all your copy is washed-out. It's better to look at the cup as half full rather than half empty.

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New politics?

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 10:15 AM

Whether you agree with them or not (and people with a conservative or classical liberal perspective will find plenty with which to disagree), Christopher Cooper and Gibbs Knotts have compiled an interesting new book with The New Politics of North Carolina.

Its essays focus on North Carolina's government structure, political party competition, media, lobbying and interest groups, and other elements of the state's political picture.

Cooper and Knotts discussed key findings recently with the John Locke Foundation's Shaftesbury Society. You'll also hear them in an upcoming edition of Carolina Journal Radio.

I don't think I'll spoil the book for you by quoting its final passage, in which the author/editors compare North Carolina in 2008 to the post-World War II North Carolina described by political scientist V.O. Key:

Not surprisingly, the new politics of North Carolina differ substantially from politics during Key's time. Two-party competition is alive and well, and increasing number of African American and women officeholders have changed the ways the state is governed. New voters are pouring into the state in record numbers, and these voters do not look like the old ones — they are more likely to be Hispanic, less likely to be African American, more likely to have grown up in the Northeast, less likely to be born-again Christians, and more likely to have graduated from college. In addition, the emergence of new and different policy areas as provided opportunities for innovative Tar Heel politicians. At the same time, remnants of the old politics remain. Traditionalistic strands still exert influence, particularly in the realm of social issues and policy outcomes. Therefore, the new politics of North Carolina represents a combination of new and old. New opportunities and challenges have forced the state to change, but the old culture remains a powerful force.

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Re: Bullying bill discriminates

Posted by Dr. Terry Stoops at 09:36 AM

The State Board of Education has had a bullying policy (Safe Schools Program Guidelines, SS-A-007) in place since 2004, and it does not include a list of protected classes. It states, in part,

The Department of Public Instruction shall provide guidance and technical assistance to local boards of education to develop policies and procedures to prevent, intervene, investigate, document and report all forms of harassment, bullying, and discrimination. The State Board of Education shall require each LEA to designate an individual(s) to participate in the Department of Public Instruction training pertaining to anti-bullying, anti-harassment, and anti-discrimination. This individual(s) will provide leadership and training to the school district in developing policies and procedures.
This policy is clearly sufficient, but, as we know, the proposed bullying legislation has little to do with bullying and everything to do with advancing the agenda of organizations like GLSEN.

HT: Michael Lowrey

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The return of the "Fairness Doctrine"

Posted by George Leef at 09:09 AM

Ken Blackwell writes about the ugly prospect of a return of the so-called Fairness Doctrine in his column today.

The Fairness Doctrine is a leftist ploy to regulate talk radio into impotence.

If Pelosi and her allies go through with this, we can only hope that the Supreme Court would rule that the Fairness Doctrine is not consistent with the First Amendment.

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Bullying bill discriminates

Posted by David N. Bass at 08:33 AM

A story in today's News & Observer reports that Howard Lee, chairman of the N.C. Board of Education, opposes language in a proposed anti-bullying policy currently before legislators that would add "sexual orientation" to other protected classes.

"Bullying is bullying," Lee told the N&O. "I don't care who it's against and under what circumstances."

Lee has a great point here. As pointed out previously on this blog, what about the many other characteristics and classifications among students that generate bullying and teasing? By establishing a specific list of protected classes, legislators would be saying that students who fit these descriptions are somehow more worthy of protection than others.

So, a bill that is meant to fight discrimination has the reverse effect of establishing protected classes and excluding those who don't fit the appropriate description...hardly a fair policy.

What would be a fair policy? As Lee says, crack down on bullying period. Eliminate all the distinctions and have a uniform policy...students will be punished for bullying regardless of whether the target is male or female, black or white, fat or skinny, light hair or dark hair, Christian or Muslim, homosexual or heterosexual.

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Teacher pay, 2008 - 2009

Posted by Dr. Terry Stoops at 08:06 AM

The state salary schedules for next school year are set.

Not including any local supplements or pay increases, the average pay raise for a certified teacher with a bachelor's degree will be $1,166. On average, certified teachers with a master's degree will receive an additional $1,261. Between year one and year seven, the average pay raise will be $1,600 for a bachelor's level teacher and $1,691 for a master's level teacher. No certified teacher in North Carolina will earn less than $30,430 a year.

I am not sure how modest these pay raise are, but I know that teacher pay in North Carolina is pretty competitive, even without these pay increases.

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Latest dispatches from the political trail

Posted by John Hood at 06:38 AM

Politico picks up on the “Under the Dome” item from the N&O about the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee reserving $6 million of TV airtime to run ads supporting Kay Hagan's challenge to Elizabeth Dole. Republican consultants Carter Wrenn and Marc Rotterman comment. Dole draws no support for a move to name a federal bill on global AIDS relief for Jesse Helms but has more success with efforts to direct $34 million of federal money to coastal NC projects.

• Via email, Richard Moore endorses Beverly Perdue two months after losing to her in the Democratic primary for governor. Both Perdue and Pat McCrory comment about new anti-gang legislation out of the General Assembly. McCrory talks about job creation during a campaign swing in Wilkes County.

• The Triangle's ABC 11 is soliciting questions from viewers to be used for its McCrory-Perdue debate.

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Today's Carolina Journal Online features

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:36 AM

Today's Carolina Journal Online exclusive features Jane Shaw's report on efforts to boost the small number of black male students on college campuses. 

John Hood's Daily Journal criticizes the Golden LEAF Foundation grant that aims to help bring a biodefense lab to North Carolina. 

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The Water Police are Coming!

Posted by Daren Bakst at 00:36 AM

Today, the Senate will take up the fatally flawed drought management bill.

Until water supply issues are addressed, and it is determined whether solutions to supply-side issues would solve  potential drought problems, no demand-side legislation should be enacted.  This is a knee-jerk, hastily drafted bill that tries to divert any blame away from the government and its failure on water supply management, and instead increase governmental power to violate property rights, limit freedom, and create the water police.  

Here are just some things the bill would allow:

- A "water shortage emergency" would exist if there is a water shortage that poses a minor threat to a poisonous weed.  This is just one example--I can come up with others.  The definition of "water shortage emergency" is so broad it could cover tons of unimportant issues.

- The bill provides zero oversight over the Governor when he makes a decision that an emergency exists.

- Private well owners almost certainly could be regulated under the latest version of the bill.  The bill doesn't have to expressly state that regulation of private wells is allowed for the regulation to be permitted.  Language that expressly prohibited regulation of private wells was removed by the Senate--think that's just an innocent change?

- The government would be able to force private water companies to provide water to the government when a public water system is experiencing an "emergency."  It would be possible for one water system to be forced to give up so much water that instead of one system with an emergency, both systems would be faced with an "emergency."

One point about a related provision that apparently already exists in the law: 

A member of the Environmental Management Commission (EMC) has the right to go onto any private property to check watersheds.  It doesn't matter if there isn't a problem with the watershed, so long as it helps study water issues.

At the end of the day, North Carolina will be one step closer to having the water police--and no, they do not live inside of my head.

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