As Joe warned earlier today, an alarming proposal to create a new taxpayer-funded benefit for targeted biotech companies is heard for a final Senate vote today. Senate Bill 580, "N.C Life Science Development Corporation Act," would create a special loan fund.
Sen. Eddie Goodall, R-Union, says five or more states have similar funds. Who will be the investors? Taxpayers will assume the risk.
Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand says: "Secretary Tolson is in charge, and he'll be sure the people's interest is protected." We need this for jobs.
The bill passes third reading, 39-4 with Sens. Andrew Brock, R Davie; Don East, R-Surry; Neal Hunt, R-Wake; and Eddie Goodall, R-Union, voting no.
This is a new slush fund that would guarantee returns with state tax credits for investors in selected start-up companies. No one knows where the money will come from or how much it will cost the taxpayer.
Cost the taxpayer? Oh, who cares? Apparently not the Senate.
The bill now goes over to the House. We'll see if anybody over there cares about the taxpayer.
Don't hold out a lot of hope. These are the same folks fighting over $1.6 billion in tax increases.
The Raleigh News & Observer reports that Senator Albertson is proposing legislation that would clarify that commercial wind turbines are prohibited in the mountains.
The article states:
"The legislation bans all windmills except single units that generate
electricity only for private use. Such units could not be hooked up to
the power grid to sell excess power, a condition that wind energy
advocates takes away a key incentive for building wind turbines."
First, as of now, the legislation being discussed in the article is not available to the public. This legislation though is supposed to be added back into Senator Albertson's bill, SB 1068, which currently only addresses wind power on the coast.
Previous versions of SB 1068 did address the Mountain Ridge Protection Act, the law that prohibits tall buildings and structures from being built in the mountains. Any reasonable interpretation of the Ridge Law would lead one to conclude that wind turbines are prohibited in the mountains. Even the Attorney General, Roy Cooper, agreed that the Ridge Law prohibits commercial scale wind turbines.
The earlier versions of SB 1068 would have actually weakened the Ridge Law by expressly allowing "wind turbines for the generation of electricity having less than 100 kilowatts rated capacity" to be built in the mountains. The new legislation discussed in the N & O article sounds even worse. The only thing that currently would be allowed under the Ridge Law is, as the AG's office wrote is, "“the solitary farm windmill which has long been in use in rural communities."
In other words, Senator Albertson would actually be weakening the Ridge Law, not clarifying existing law. I don't have a problem though with amending the Ridge Law so that smaller scale non-commercial wind turbines would be allowed. However, many people in the mountains will mind.
The wind extremists though aren't even satisfied with Senator Albertson's proposed weakening of the Ridge Law--they want commercial wind turbines on the ridgelines. These are the same people that heaviliy criticized Roy Cooper for properly interpreting the law and at one wind workshop I attended, one audience member even "joked" about imposing bodily harm on Roy Cooper.
As I wrote in a paper, the amount of ridgeline required for 1,000 MW of electricity generation (not maximum capacity) from wind power would require an astonishing 300 miles of ridgeline--this is what the extremists want.
I commend Senator Albertson for taking action that would prohibit massive industrial wind turbines in the mountains and now he should do the same thing for the coast.
There's no reason why the mountains would be protected but the coast would be burdened with 500-foot
industrial wind turbines that could even be placed offshore. Of course, if the extremists have their way, there will be massive wind power plants on the coast and in the mountains.
Bev Perdue issued an executive order today directing state employees in the executive branch to save e-mail for 24 hours so that it can be archived. She encouraged other parts of state government to implement similar policies.
Bill sponsor Rep. Nelson Cole, D-Rockingham, says we're going to have to change the way we travel and move goods. We can't build roads fast enough - rail is the answer.
Rep. Margaret Dickson, D-Cumberland, talks about sitting in traffic at stoplights and describes traveling between two tractor-trailer trucks as "scary." This resolution maintains and enhances the state's rail system.
Rep. Ray Rapp, D-Madison, says this is recommended by the 21st Century Transportaion Committee, and says it would improve service to our ports and to Fort Bragg.
Rep. Curtis Blackwood, R-Union, asks how much money will be expected from N.C. taxpayers? Cole responds that the money will come from federal stimulus grants. No state money.
Rep. John Blust, R-Guilford, reminds legislators that the federal stimulus money was borrowed from China. Where is the money going to come from? Are these projects worth the debt? These are not shovel-ready projects. He suggests canceling all these projects and reduce the federal borrowing.
Rep. Marilyn Avila, R-Wake, asks about right-of-way issues. She says there is a good reason that you haven't hopped a train because we don't live in a train-oriented culture. This is a waste of time, money, and resources. Lawmakers can't fight human nature. They need to provide people what they want — reduced congestion and safe roads — not what legislators want.
Rep. Verla Insko, D-Orange, says other areas where trains are used are successful. "We are about to step into a better future with this bill."
Rapp continues ... AMTRAX, C and X, and Norfolk Southern will be paying for parts of the system. We can collect more services from our ports if the trains are better. We need to think about homeland security and about train service of the future. When you're running trains at 90 mph, people will get on board.
Bill sponsor, Rep Bruce Goforth, (D-Buncombe) says it's been 50 years since annexation laws were written and to date, no reform. "This bill leaves everybody upset, so it must be good bill." Has time limits on when service has to be provided, doughnut holes of poorer areas can't be excluded, spells out meaningful services, provides oversight by LGC (same folks who oversaw the Randy Parton Theatre). Interestingly he doesn't mention the referendum charade (see previous posts on the charade).
Appropriations Chair Mickey Michaux (D-Durham) asks if there is a fiscal note. No, is the answer, because there is no cost to government. Michaux says there will be a cost to local government and the LGC added responsibilities. Goforth says LGC has not said it will cost more so it must not. Rep Rick Glazier (D-Cumberland) says they'll need additional staff and probably software so a fiscal note is needed.
Hackney asks if the request is under Rule 36.1. Michaux as Approps. Chair can request that it come back to Appropriations Committee and upon inquiry from Speaker Hackney says he will return the bill promptly to the full House. A group of 8 -10 legislators gather around the podium.
Request from Appropriations Chair has to be honored. Michaux makes a motion to remove the bill from today's calendar, and send back to Appropriations Committee for "examination" and a fiscal note, after which, the bill could be sent back to the House floor.
Another option is to displace the bill, have a fiscal note run and presented to the floor, and then return the bill to the House for a vote tomorrow, or whenever the note is complete.
Michaux makes the argument that costs to the LGC may require changes to the title (which can only be done in committee).
Rep Dale Folwell (R-Forsyth) reminds everyone that there have been motions to have oversight by county commissioners or the Joint Committee on Municipal Incorporations, but no one wanted that. LGC said they were qualified and comfortable with oversight responsibilities. They never raised or objected to additional costs.
Glazier says we have to know what the cost is going to be.
Michaux's motion to send the bill to Appropriations for a fiscal note is 59 to 59. Speaker breaks the tie by voting yes. Annexation reform is delayed again - goes back to the House Appropriations Committee for a fiscal note.
Becki blogged this morning about House Bill 1134, which is intended to make it easier for North Carolinians to obtain public records from government agencies by involving the Attorney General's office and, in certain circumstances, allowing citizens to recover their legal costs should they sue successfully to obtain public records.
First off, I'll recommend Scott Mooneyham recent column on the issue. As a longtime reporter at the state and local levels of government, Scott has plenty of experience dealing with public records and open-meetings disputes. He relates some personal stories:
two decades ago, I trooped to the office of the then-superintendent of
Goldsboro City Schools to let him know that I could see nothing in the
open meetings law that would allow the school board to debate behind
closed doors a measure that would lead to merger of the system.
night, the school board did it anyway, deciding the issue in a closed
session. The next day, I wrote two stories for the Goldsboro
News-Argus, one about school merger and one about the board violating
the open meetings law.
A couple of years later, I would
regularly argue with the lawyer for the Cumberland County school board
about that board's proclivity for closed sessions under questionable
Sometime later, while attending a social
gathering at my mother-in-law's home, I ran into the late Stubbs Hight,
who for three decades was Vance County's attorney. Hight was charming
fellow, and before long we started chatting about government meetings
and closed sessions.
He was blunt. Essentially, he thought
closed meetings were stupid. A good reporter would find out what
happened anyway. A lawyer could advise clients to follow the law, but
couldn't make them take the advice.
Perhaps increasing the
likelihood of financial consequences will make at least a few elected
officials more apt to take some that advice.
Second, as I explained in a column I wrote back in April, the legal-fees element of the bill is reasonable even though it may cost taxpayers more in the short run.
Check out the Pope Center's latest where I argue, UNC Chapel Hill's online education is in need of reform.
The enthusiasm (for online education) may be justified, but my
experience taking online courses at UNC-Chapel Hill makes me wonder. In my view, the
content is too easy, the online discussions are pretty much worthless,
and the professors are rarely around.
Democrats who control the levers of power in Washington are divided over whether to push for more deficit spending to end the recession and stem job losses, complicating the possibility of a second stimulus bill.
“We need to be open to whether or not we need further action,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, told reporters yesterday. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada countered that “there is no showing to me that another stimulus is needed.”
Translation: our spendthrift ways have turned a dire situation into an economic tsunami, so no need to pile on further.
But wait, that can't be it! Remember that stimulus bill passed by Congress in February? Well, it didn't work because it wasn't big enough:
The U.S. should consider drafting a second stimulus package focusing on infrastructure projects because the bill approved in February was “a bit too small,” said Laura Tyson, an adviser to Obama during last year’s presidential campaign who now sits on the White House’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board.
Shortly after his release from prison, former North Carolina Congressman Frank Ballance sat down for a 30-minutes interview with WRAL's David Crabtree. Ballance maintains that he didn't receive a fair trial.
Wake County Commissioner Stan Norwalk just doesn't get the point of online transparency. Stan "said county employees are likely to be bombarded with so many requests for information from groups such as the fiscally conservative Wake Taxpayers Association that they will spend too much time dealing with frivolous inquiries."
Billionaire oil and gas man T. Boone Pickens pulls the plug on a massive wind farm he had planned to build in Texas, citing an inability to raise capital to build the transmission lines to bring the power to the grid -- and an absence of taxpayer subsidies to stuff Boone's wallet, er, delays in new measures to boost renewable energy. From The New York Times:
"Two crucial provisions to aid renewable energy in the stimulus package
passed in February have yet to be introduced, Keith Martin, a tax and
project finance specialist with the law firm Chadbourne & Parke,
Boosting renewables was always the sideshow in the Pickens Plan. Boone's eventual goal was a federal mandate to produce 20 percent of energy from renewable sources -- primarily wind -- which would line his pockets as utilities flocked to purchase power from his wind farms. Mainly he was looking for additional government incentives pushing automakers to build more cars fueled with natural gas. Where the billionaire happens to have a lot of his fortune invested.
And for today's musical interlude, let's hear it from David, Nigel, and Derek:
Remember the outrageous conduct of Mike Nifong, who wanted so badly to convict the Duke lacrosse players that he violated numerous laws himself? Hard to forget it. (Anyone know what the scoundrel is up to these days?)
Well, similar cases are easy to find. Attorney Harvey Silverglate has a book forthcoming on the prevalence of abusive prosecutions. And professor Bill Anderson writes here about a current case in Charlotte where it seems that a Nifong clone is working.
Anderson's piece reveals several gaping holes in our "justice" system, among them the way the government can virtually ensure conviction by freezing the assets of the accused. Are any of our elected "representatives" interested in changing the law to stop that?
The NC House is considering a proposed joint resolution urging the NCDOT to apply for part of the $8 billion federal teaser offered for high-speed rail. Nothing could be more irresponsible.
None of the 23 "Whereas" clauses in the resolution mentions that the NC taxpayers are on the hook for this long- range project. None of them mentions that the trains will average only 55-75 mph in NC. None of them mentions that the system offers virtually no environmental or congestion relief benefits because it will have few riders. And none of them mentions that the huge cost is really a subsidy for mostly well off downtown workers such as bankers, lawyers and government employees.
Yet the FRA [Federal Railroad Administration] has no estimates how much high-speed rail will ultimately
cost, who will ride it, who will pay for it, and whether the benefits
can justify the costs. A realistic review shows that high-speed rail
will be extremely costly and will add little to American mobility or
The best available data indicate that the FRA plan will cost about $90
billion, or roughly one-fifth the inflation-adjusted cost of the
Interstate Highway System. This plan will provide trains with average
speeds of 140-150 miles per hour (mph) in California, 75-85 mph in
Florida, and moderate-speed trains averaging 55-75 mph in North
Carolina and 30 other states.
House Finance committee considers House Bill 1134, Open Government Act which allows a successful plaintiff to recover attorney fees in a public records dispute. It also sets up an open government unit in the Dept of Justice which would offer moderation and mediation in matters regarding disputes for a fee.
Bill sponsors Rep Winkie Wilkins, (D-Person) and Rep Margaret Dickson (D-Cumberland) speak about their experiences with record requests as a small newspaper and broadcast media, respectively. The public wants the information and it is the legislators responsibility to make it available while making sure it is not unduly burdensome on government agencies.
Concerns and Questions from committee:
Mediation is non binding.
Rep Van Braxton asks about extremely broad requests? Would the agency be compensated for additional staff time required to fulfill the requests?
Some of those will occurr. The requester has to pay for the records and are often given the records where the agency just hands them over.
What is covered under this? Everything including local governemnt units. The only exemption is the Judicial Dept.
The attorney general's office opinions can be used.
How many public records law suits were filed in the last year? Unknown
Rep Pryor Gibson (D-Anson) says "This is not a good bill. It will change the way we do government." He has concerns about the "pajama jihad" (bloggers who scutinize everything they do).
Rep Bill Owens (D-Pasquotank) has an amendment that will gut the bill. He proposes allowing the government to recover legal fees if they prevail. He says it makes it two ways and fair. The reality is it would allow government to intimidate parties seeking public records. Rep Deborah Ross (D-Wake) opposes the amendment, Rule 11 discourages frivolous lawsuits. The amendment does not level the playing field but chills the right of people to seek access to their records. Government doesn't think about paying their attorneys the same way that individuals do.
Rep Johnathan Rhyne (R-Lincoln) speaks in favor of the amendment. Rep Thom Tillis (R-Mecklenburg) and Rep Larry Hall (D-Durham) speaks against as a fairness to the public. Rep Edgar Starnes (R-Caldwell) says "Since when is fighting city hall a level playing field. Government has resources not available to citizens.". Rep Owens makes the argument that the amendment protects the taxpayer.
Rep Owens' amendment vote is 13 -13. It fails.
Of note: Rep Dale Folwell (R-Forsyth) is reading the latest issue of Carolina Journal during the slow parts of the meeting.
By a voice vote, the bill passes the House Finance Committee and will go to the floor next.
The retiring general counsel for the National Education Association has complained that conservative "ba----ds" are picking on his powerful union, which boasts more than 3 million members who contributed "hundreds of millions" of dollars annually to its causes.
The comments came from Bob Chanin, who gave a speech at last week's convention on the occasion of his retirement.
According to Linda Harvey of Mission America, "His prepared remarks were peppered with profanity and reflected an arrogant, in-your-face attitude about NEA's well-known political involvement. Just listen to the You Tube. Advance to 16:00 and begin listening there."
I have to admit that it is a pretty entertaining speech. Then again, I am one of those conservative "ba----ds" that are picking on the NEA and North Carolina's NEA affiliate, the NCAE.
Ross Douthat at the NYT makes an interesting point about Palin here. (The N&O reprinted this op-ed with the wonderful title: "Doesn't play well with elites.")
Palin’s popularity has as much to do with class as it does with
ideology. In this sense, she really is the perfect foil for Barack
Obama. Our president represents the meritocratic ideal — that anyone,
from any background, can grow up to attend Columbia and Harvard Law
School and become a great American success story. But Sarah Palin
represents the democratic ideal — that anyone can grow up to be a great
success story without graduating from Columbia and Harvard.
ideal has had a tough 10 months. It’s been tarnished by Palin herself,
obviously. With her missteps, scandals, dreadful interviews and
self-pitying monologues, she’s botched an essential democratic role —
the ordinary citizen who takes on the elites, the up-by-your-bootstraps
role embodied by politicians from Andrew Jackson down to Harry Truman.
But it’s also been tarnished by the elites themselves, in the way that the media and political establishments have treated her.
What are the lessons to be learned by a female candidate following the democratic ideal who challenges the elites?
Here are lessons of the Sarah Palin experience, for any aspiring
politician who shares her background and her sex. Your children will go
through the tabloid wringer. Your religion will be mocked and
misrepresented. Your political record will be distorted, to better
parody your family and your faith. (And no, gentle reader, Palin did
not insist on abstinence-only sex education, slash funds for
special-needs children or inject creationism into public schools.)
commentators will attack you for parading your children. Female
commentators will attack you for not staying home with them. You’ll be
sneered at for how you talk and how many colleges you attended. You’ll
endure gibes about your “slutty” looks and your “white trash
concupiscence,” while a prominent female academic declares that your
“greatest hypocrisy” is the “pretense” that you’re a woman. And eight
months after the election, the professionals who pressed you into the
service of a gimmicky, dreary, idea-free campaign will still be blaming
you for their defeat.
All of this had something to do with
ordinary partisan politics. But it had everything to do with Palin’s
gender and her social class. (emphasis added)
Sarah Palin is beloved by millions
because her rise suggested, however temporarily, that the old American
aphorism about how anyone can grow up to be president might actually be
But her unhappy sojourn on the national stage has had a different moral: Don’t even think about it.
Some folks might suspect that NCTransparency.com exists just to give the John Locke Foundation another tool for bashing government.
On the contrary, the site will recognize state and local agencies for taking steps that make more public information accessible to people online.
Wake County's new Wake Accountability Tax Check (WATCH) site is an example of the type of program that would boost the letter grades county, city, and state government agencies earn from NCTransparency.com. (Wake's B grade already placed it among the state's highest-rated county governments.)
Still, it's not surprising that some people just don't get it.
Commissioner Stan Norwalk, who was elected to the board in November,
cast the lone vote at a meeting Monday against activating the new site.
He said county employees are likely to be bombarded with so many
requests for information from groups such as the fiscally conservative
Wake Taxpayers Association that they will spend too much time dealing
with frivolous inquiries.
I wonder what Terryhas to say about this latest pronouncement from the commissar ... er, commissioner.