The Locker Room

June 25, 2009

Annexation Reform LIVE (Dead)

Posted by Daren Bakst at 6:21 PM

The House Judiciary II Committee just shot down amendment after amendment and have passed a annexation bill that hurts annexation reform and helps municipalities (I believe all the meaningful amendments were shot down on party lines--R's favored annexation reform, the D's didn't). 

The D's even went further and made sure nobody else in the House will be able to amend the bill!

If you think annexation is just about whether there is a vote, you'd be wrong (the Committee of course rejected a vote as well).

The committee, headed by Rep. Glazier who individually rejected all the amendments that provided any reform,  apparently believes:

1) Municipalities should be allowed to annex areas even if the area doesn't need services.

2) There's no need for real oversight.

3) Municipalities shouldn't pay for the costs of water and sewer infrastructure--the annexation victims that don't want the services should pay for it.

4) Best of all: Nobody else in the House should be able to amend the bill!  

The committee (or I should say the D's) rejected an amendment that had the audacity to allow legislators outside the committee to amend the bill (I don't want to get into the details of the House rules).

That's right--the J-2 Committee rejected an amendment that would have ensured that the rest of the legislators (the rest of the House) could try and amend the bill (there may be some way that amendments could be possible, but my understanding is that it is highly unlikely).

Rep. Jones when arguing against the amendment that would have allowed other House members to have a say on annexation reform explained that it wasn't necessary because "democracy is already chaotic enough."  I agree, who needs democracy anyway--it is such a pain when you can have an oligarchy like we do in NC!

I had heard before the meeting that the League was bragging that they already had killed any annexation reform.  I guess they were telling the truth.

This is just more evidence that North Carolina can proudly call itself the state that is "First in Corruption."

I genuninely am really sad for the 4.1 million North Carolinians that live in unincorporated areas and are now or will be victims of forced annexation.  The House J-2 Committee and the House leadership showed today that the League not only is more important to them than the citizens, but the citizens don't even deserve the scraps from the tables where the back-door deals go down.

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What’s wrong with a “public option”?

Posted by John Hood at 4:36 PM

Congressional leaders and the Obama administration want to include in their sweeping health-care legislation a new government “competitor” to private health insurance for nonpoor, nonelderly adults. Advocates say it would be just a “public option” and that private insurers shouldn’t be afraid to compete with it. NCPA President John Goodman debunks both notions in a new Health Care News article. Here’s one of his main points:

For competition to work, both competitors must be on a level playing field. In thinking about what this might look like, some people point to the current arrangement under which private Medicare Advantage plans offer seniors an alternative to participation in conventional Medicare. The trouble with this analogy is the playing field is in no sense level.

As an entitlement program, conventional Medicare has a blank check drawn on the U.S. Treasury. No matter how sick a senior gets, no matter how many resources are used in treatment, no matter how high the costs mount, Medicare can always count on the Treasury to pay the bills. No such blank check is available to private plans.

On a level playing field, every player has the same chance to succeed or fail. This means the (risk-adjusted) premium to be paid on behalf of every potential enrollee is fixed in advance. The only way a plan can get income is by attracting the enrollees along with their premium payments.

But if every plan’s revenues are determined only by their success in attracting enrollees, every plan can potentially fail. If public plans can fail just as private plans can, they are “public” in name only and in reality indistinguishable from private plans.

There’s more good stuff. Go read it.

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Annexation Meeting: Finally

Posted by Daren Bakst at 4:13 PM

It appears that the House Judiciary II Committee will finally meet to consider the annexation bill and the proposed amendments to the bill.

The committee was supposed to meet Tuesday, but the meeting was cancelled at the last second.  The committee was then supposed to meet yesterday, but again it was cancelled at the last second.  The excuse: budget meetings. 

Was it a coincidence that by cancelling the meetings, the Committee was able to drive down the number of people that are going to be at the meeting?  After all, there's only so many times people from across the state can drive to Raleigh for a J-2 committee meeting.  Also, it helps to provide enough time to do back-door deals (and for the League and the leadership of both parties to "educate" the J-2 Committee members).   I'll leave it to you to decide whether the NC House, a model of ethics, would do anything so unethical.

More troubling is the possibility that amendments that were provided to the committee last week and reviewed by committee leadership and staff may magically be deemed to be out-of-order.  One legislator (that we know of) who was pushing a meaningful reform amendment all of a sudden has changed his/her support of the amendment.

We will see in moments whether the members of the J-2 committee are going to continue playing games with North Carolinians that want real annexation reform.

The J-2 Committee would have to reject numerous meaningful amendments (or rule those "problematic" amendments as "out-of-order.")  I have faith they are capable of ignoring their constituents and not even passing modest reforms.

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Word of the Year surfaces in health-'care' bill talk

Posted by Jon Sanders at 2:29 PM

It's back again! The Word of the Year! Per the AP:

A bipartisan group of senators at work on health care reported progress Thursday in holding the cost of legislation to their $1 trillion target, but Republicans quickly added there was no agreement on even the outlines of a bill.

No word yet on when Obama will reassert his ownership of the "Fiscal Responsibility Mantle."

By the way, although there may be no agreement on the outlines of the bill, there is agreement that Congress and Obama's Extra Special Friends, the unions, will be exempted from it.

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Sanford/Edwards hypocrisy

Posted by David N. Bass at 1:47 PM

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford and John Edwards have much in common, it would appear. Both are adulterers, both were at one time prominent and respected members of their respective parties, and both have absolutely no political future anywhere near 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

I've been struck, however, by the chorus of liberals singing the hypocrisy ode with regarding to Sanford (I'll refrain from linking to any examples since I want to avoid sending any Web traffic their way). The South Carolina governor is pro-life and supports traditional marriage. The fact that he cheated on his wife just goes to show, they argue, that conservatives with such beliefs are a bunch of hypocrites.

Well dang, Skippy, then let's apply that standard to North Carolina's disgraced favorite son. Edwards is renowned for his fight against poverty -- the "two Americas" refrain has been commonly heard from him on the campaign trail. But he hardly lives the life of an individual in the "other America" he so often harps about. Does that make him a hypocrite, too?

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DPI fantasyland

Posted by Dr. Terry Stoops at 12:10 AM

DPI is making a big deal out of the fact that North Carolina has received the "21st Century Skills Practice of the Year Award" from a national organization, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills.

The Partnership wasted no time awarding North Carolina this honor. The "Practice of the Year," North Carolina's Writing Instruction System Pilot project, is less than a year old.

Moreover, in an April 22, 2009 memo, DPI folk wrote,

Feedback from the field regarding the new System has thus far been mixed, with several clear messages emerging regarding what needs to change to improve the System, the means by which it is implemented, and the manner in which DPI supports LEAs in their implementation.
So, the Partnership gave the "Practice of the Year Award" to North Carolina for an initiative that received "mixed" reviews from the field and will be changed accordingly. Perhaps most telling is the finding that school systems did their own thing. DPI staff found,
The purpose of the System was not always clear to LEAs. Consequently, LEAs have implemented the System in ways other than how it was intended. In many cases, this has taken the form of treating the assignments more as tightly controlled standardized assessments than as authentic, classroom writing assignments.
Now, back to that national organization, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills. They gave awards to only those states that participate in their programs - nobody else. In North Carolina, the North Carolina Business Committee for Education (NCBCE), which is located in the NC Governor's Office, is the organization affiliated with the Partnership. Eight other states participate in PF21CS programs.

The bottom line: Among the nine states that work with the Partnership, six received the "21st Century Skills Practice of the Year Award." And North Carolina received the award for a program that is less than a year old, received mixed reviews, will be changed, and was implemented improperly by school systems.

Got it.

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Govt's Greatest Hits: Vol. LXXII

Posted by Jeff A. Taylor at 10:31 AM

This time from Muncie, Ind.:

A low-cost upgrade of computer equipment at fire stations will eliminate the costly expense of firefighters using fire trucks to deliver paperwork to the chief's office. ...The city administration estimates a $1,500 cost to taxpayers every time a fire trucks makes a run, based on the 6,066 runs made last year at a $9 million budget expense. ...[new] equipment that would allow firefighters to transmit maintenance, training and other reports electronically to the chief's office, now at City Hall, instead of having on-duty firefighters deliver paperwork by fire truck.

Fire Battalion Chief Gary Bowden said most fire department forms and reports were filled out by hand and stations did not have scanners that could be used to transmit the paper form electronically.

Until next time.

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If you want to hold on to your home, be nice to your city inspector

Posted by Becki Gray at 10:12 AM

House Bill 866, with a nebulous short title, Community Development Target Areas actually gives cities the authority to tear down private homes they think are unsafe. A city inspector would decide.  If the home appeared to be vacant or abandoned and if the inspector thinks the home would “cause or contribute to blight, disease, vagrancy, fire or safety hazard, to be a danger to children, or to tend to attract persons intent on criminal activities or other activities that would constitute a public nuisance” he or she could order that the house be torn down.  They would have to post a notice on the home and within ten days the homeowner could plead their case to, guess who? The inspector.  The inspector would then decide whether to tear the home down “as appears appropriate.”
The city then could tear the home down, sell any redeemable materials and charge the demolition costs to the property owner through a lien on the then empty lot.

The bill passed the House 109-2 in May and is now working its way through the Senate with a hearing yesterday in the State and Local Government Committee and a vote expected on the floor today.


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Market power in North Korea

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 08:37 AM

A Korean magazine that clandestinely reports on events in North Korea made it on to NPR despite its finding that markets are natural and people always find a way to create them.

"Those in power will only let the markets grow to the extent that they do not threaten them. But obviously, because of capitalism's inherent powers, the markets will continue to grow, regardless of what those in power do," she says. [emphasis added]

I echo Mitch's comments yesterday. Somehow American journalists get the truth when they see it in other countries, but miss it here in America.

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Harvard shows how to cut jobs

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 08:29 AM

Harvard University is cutting 275 jobs due to a 30% drop in the value of it endowment. Unlike the General Assembly and local governments throughout North Carolina, "The [Harvard] cuts mostly affect administrative, clerical and technical jobs."

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It's all about priorites

Posted by Becki Gray at 07:55 AM

As the budget negotiations continue and legislative leaders tell us they are struggling with how to pay teachers and provide essential services to the most needy, they continue to find other ways to use those scarce tax dollars.
Senate Appropriations Chair, Linda Garrou, D-Forsyth, took time off from her duties leading the budget conference committee negotiations to shepherd another spending bill through the Senate yesterday.  Senate Bill 943 increases the tax giveaway for film companies from 15% to 25%, courtesy of course of North Carolina taxpayers, many of whom can’t afford to go to movies these days.  The bill passed 26-19, along party lines (Ds voting yes; Rs voting no).  The bill now goes over to the House for consideration, where they have historically been favorable to corporate giveaways.

The excuse given for this giveaway, as it always is, the giveaway brings in more than it costs.  However a recent study from the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston says otherwise as reported here.  Connecticut's Department of Economic and Community Development concluded last year that one dollar of its tax credit reaped 8 cents in new state tax revenue.  Not such a great deal for the taxpayer.

Not surprisingly, the film industry likes the tax breaks. Hollywood producer Nan Morales says, “The tax credits are "a win-win situation.  Otherwise, why would every state be doing it?"

Here’s a better question:  Why won’t North Carolina step up and be a leader.  Get rid of these ridiculous, ineffective and expensive giveaways to big companies and look out for the taxpayers and small business owners of this state.  Then they’d have money to pay teachers and take care of the most needy.


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Re: Tax credits: the good and the bad according to the GA

Posted by Jeff A. Taylor at 07:48 AM

You left out the big picture on state taxes -- which is ugly, ugly, ugly.

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Tax credits: the good and the bad according to the GA

Posted by Dr. Terry Stoops at 07:22 AM

Tax credits for special needs kids: bad.

Tax credits for movies: good.

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Today's Carolina Journal Online features

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:42 AM

Today's Carolina Journal Online exclusive features Hal Young's report on Wilmington's controversial annexation of Monkey Junction.

John Hood's Daily Journal explores positive developments in American health care.

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