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DECEIVE April 2013 • Vol. 5, no. 4

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DEMONIZE

DESTROY

Memo Exposes Left’s ‘Blueprint’ BY susan myrick

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It’s just been a few weeks since the Charlotte Observer ran a story about a leaked strategy memo that exposed the game plan for liberal groups to demonize the Republican Governor and leaders in the Republican-led House and Senate. The public exposure of a scandalous memo lifted the veil of secrecy that shields the large network of liberal non-profits in North Caro-

lina. The leak allows us to see how these organizations collaborate on deceptive tactics to achieve their goals, attempt to destroy their opponents, and even defy the law. For once we have proof of what has long been suspected: left-wing non-profit groups wield an alarming amount of power in the media, state politics and government. The memo’s source was a liberal non-profit organization that acts as a coordinating group for the left – Blueprint North Carolina. Blueprint NC held the twoday meeting of over 50 liberal nonprofits where the strategy plan was circulated. continued on pg. 8

A Project of the Civitas Institute

Above is just a selection of the liberal groups that have been linked to Blueprint NC.

100 South Harrington Street Raleigh, N.C. 27603-1814 Vol. 5, No. 4

In This Issue

Civitas President Francis De Luca Explains Why Photo ID Would Update and Safeguard Voting Page 4


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April 2013

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•F R O M THE

EDITOR•

Avoiding the Obamacare Train Wreck BY jim tynen

Jim Tynen, Civitas Capitol Connection Editor

With every passing day, it becomes clearer that North Carolina should stay as far away from Obamacare as possible. Liberals pitched a fit when the North Carolina General Assembly and the governor acted to resist Obamacare by refusing to expand Medicaid and set up health exchanges as the feds demanded. (See Senate Bill 4, No N.C. Exchange/No Medicaid Expansion.) But Obamacare (a.k.a. the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) will be a train wreck. As National Review Online put it, “it will neither protect patients nor provide for affordable care.” Fiscally, the federal takeover of health care will only add to the backbreaking national debt. The law in the long run will add more than $6 trillion to the national debt that already threatens us with bankruptcy. Contrary to President Obama’s promises, it will make health insurance more expensive,

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and millions of people will lose the coverage they now enjoy. Other workers will be shoved into part-time jobs because their employers can’t afford to provide insurance under the new dictates from Washington. Even on its own terms, Obamacare is falling apart before our eyes. Here are just some of the newest revelations: • The law was passed to make sure everyone has health insurance. Yet even apologists for the plan now admit that even when Obamacare takes effect 30 million Americans still won’t have health insurance. • The president and his lackeys assured us that it would provide an array of health insurance options to small businesses and their employees. But the New York Times just reported that, oops, Obamacare will provide only a “one size fits all” health plan. It turns out -- you’ll never believe this – that it’s darned hard for federal bureaucrats to craft a multitude of health insurance plans for thousands of businesses and millions of people. • Obamacare originally offered an early retiree health insurance fund that was supposed to operate into 2014, Reason magazine said. But, uh-oh, it ran out of money a year early and shut down Dec. 31. • And remember how liberals said Obamacare would help people with preexisting conditions? Well, one of the first parts of the program to go into effect subsidized in-

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PUBLISHER Francis X. De Luca Francis.Deluca@nccivitas.org MANAGING EDITOR Jim Tynen Jim.Tynen@nccivitas.org GRAPHIC DESIGNER Tiffany Taylor Editorial & Advertising 100 S. Harrington Street Raleigh, NC 27603 phone: 919-834-2099 fax: 919-834-2350

surance for such people. In February -- surprise! – that program stopped accepting patients. It turns out that it’s both expensive and difficult

format to handle medical insurance needs in 50 states, all with their own distinct rules and computer systems. Also adding to the task are

the only place to get help is from the Post Office or the DMV. Then multiply that by 300 million, because the system will be han-

to give insurance to people who are already sick. • Obamacare may not even be able to process the paperwork it demands. Author Michael Barone has noted how Obamacare requires putting thousands of pages of regulations into a digital

the government’s own red tape and mandates, such as making sure that enough transgendered, asthmatic albinos are hired as programmers. So imagine the hassles you have setting up a home computer or dealing with a problem. Then imagine that

dling all the health needs of every American. Obamacare is going to be a disaster purely on practical terms. North Carolina will be better off staying away from it as much as possible. That will make the process of recovering from the resulting disaster easier.

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All non-advertising content published in Civitas Capitol Connection may be republished as long as appropriate credit is given and it is published in its entirety. © 2013 by John W. Pope Civitas Institute

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3

A ‘Bad Bill’ Only Al Gore Could Love This issue’s Bad Bill of the Week is NC Senate Bill 362, Study Energy Efficiency Standards. Sponsored by Sen. Eleanor Kinnaird (D-Orange), this bill would create a study of an ineffective “tiered” billing format for electricity, set impossible goals for electricity-use reduction, and impose an ambiguous “pollution tax.”

Tiered electricity rates mean that the more electricity you use, the higher per kilowatthour rate you pay. It would also charge higher rates during peak energy use times. Such a mechanism is popular in other states such as California, but according to the Los Angeles Times, “A growing body of research suggests that not only does tiered pricing fail to meet these goals, it is counterproduc-

tive: It neither encourages conservation nor helps low-income people pay for power.” SB 362 also states that such tiered pricing would decrease total electricity consumption in the state by a whopping 60 percent below 2010 levels – and in just 10 years. In a state with a growing population, that seems especially unrealistic. Imagine attempting to curb your electricity use by

60 percent; do you really leave that many lights on? Moreover, the bill also raises the potential for “a pollution tax on certain appliances” – those deemed as not meeting “energy star” status. There are also proposed taxpayer handouts for “energy efficiency activities,” whatever those may be defined to be. Clearly, these last provisions are designed as a boondoggle for politically-

correct appliance makers, at taxpayers’ expense. SB 362 is an attempt to further micromanage our daily lives and empower politicians with more control over everyday comforts of living we enjoy. Such an intrusion into our lives and use of private property is unacceptable, and that is why SB 362 earned its status as a Civitas Bad Bill of the Week.

NC Voter Photo ID Support I support the requirement that voters present government-issued photo identification before being allowed to cast a vote in North Carolina. By its very nature, in-person voter fraud is virtually undetectable without a photo ID requirement. A voter photo ID will secure North Carolina elections for all voters.

Name (First, M.I., Last)

Street Address

City

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County

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Signature

Date

Name (First, M.I., Last)

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Date

Cut out and mail to: Voter ID c/o Civitas Institute, 100 S Harrington St. Raleigh, NC 27603 • Please make copies of this form for others to sign

County

We deeply appreciate the efforts of everyone who has previously signed a Civitas petition on this vital topic. If you have already signed a petition that has been sent to us, you do not need to sign another one. If you’d like to do more to help, please consider having a family member or friend sign it and mail it in. Again, thanks from all of us at Civitas!

BY brian balfour


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April 2013

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Photo ID Would Update, Safeguard Voting BY francis de luca

A government-issued photo ID would go a long way toward updating and safeguarding the integrity of North Carolina elections. Until recently North Carolina was primarily a rural state and our election system relied on small precincts with election officials who knew the precinct’s voters. We are no longer rural – and we no longer vote in our home precincts. In the 2012 general election, over 2.5 million voters out of the 4.5 million voters used One-Stop Voting sites. These sites, in many cases, are staffed by temporary help – not local precinct election officials. Voters can use any site anywhere in the county and can register and vote at the same time. The days of poll workers knowing voters ended in 2000 with the start of One-Stop Voting. With Same-Day Registration starting in 2008, OneStop poll workers did not even have a complete list of potential voters. One-Stop voting and Same Day Registration com-

bined with the increased urbanization and mobility of the population have rendered obsolete the ability of poll workers to serve as an effective check on voter impersonation.

But this safeguard was rendered null when the NC State Board of Elections allowed verification mailings to be sent first to P.O. boxes and then to out-of-state addresses.

Other safeguards put in place to protect our voter rolls have been mostly stripped away. When the 1995 National Voter Registration Act, also known as the Motor Voter Act, opened up the voter registration process, an important safeguard against fraudulent registrations – the requirement of a “verification” mailing to the voter’s residence address — was put into place.

“While we need to make sure all legal voters are given an unfettered opportunity to exercise their franchise, we must also ensure that those very same voters do not have their votes cancelled by illegitimate votes.”

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Another safeguard was in the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), which required new voters to submit either a driver’s license number or the last four digits of a Social Security number to be legally registered. The State Board, however, no longer requires validation of Social Security numbers or driver’s license numbers in order to vote. Nor has any effort to systematically clean up and correct voter rolls been undertaken. Another complication in our election system is the different classes of voters with differing requirements as to proof of identity. If voters register by

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mail they must show some sort of ID the first time they vote. But if they register any other way (including voter registration drives) they do not. The deadline to register to vote in North Carolina is 25 days before the election, unless you don’t, and then you may register during the 17 days of One-Stop Voting. Your address must be validated by a verification mailing, unless you vote first, then it doesn’t have to be verified – it is counted! This contradiction in law is due mostly to allowing voters to register at the same time they vote during One-Stop Voting and because

registration ends 25 days before an election – not before OneStop Voting. There simply isn’t enough time to complete the required verification process. In changing the law we have created inequities in how we treat voters depending on how and when they register to vote. While we need to make sure all legal voters are given an unfettered opportunity to exercise their franchise, we must also ensure that those very same voters do not have their votes cancelled by illegitimate votes. I would like to touch on an immediate benefit of a requiring a photo ID for voting. People who currently lack a photo ID will be brought more fully into daily life. We require an ID for many activities, be it buying cold medicine or cashing a check. Those opposed to requiring the common-sense requirement for a government-issued photo ID to vote like to talk about voter disenfranchisement. What they never mention is by helping these folks get a valid government photo ID, we will be helping them get more fully integrated into society. Or is it that many opponents of photo ID really don’t care if people on the fringes fully participate in life? Is it that they just want these folks to show up once every couple of years to vote and slip quietly back into the shadows? The General Assembly should do the right thing for everyone – pass photo ID. —–————— This article is adapted from Civitas President Francis De Luca’s testimony to the North Carolina House Committee on Elections on March 13. ­——— His full testimony is available online at nccivitas.org

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Things are always moving quickly in Raleigh. Civitas is working to keep you updated on what your legislators are doing.

Keep up with us on the web at your favorite site: Facebook.com/CivitasInstitute Twitter.com/NCCivitas YouTube.com/CivitasInstitute Also check out: NCCivitas.org (Our Main Website) CivitasReview.com (Our Blog) CarolinaTransparency.com (Stats on the State)


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April 2013

5

Common Core: Four Truths You Need to Know BY bob luebke

In June 2010, the State Board of Education adopted Common Core (CC) standards in math and English. Last fall teachers started bringing those standards into the classroom for the first time. In a recent Civitas Poll, 68 percent of respondents said they were “not very aware” or “completely unaware” of Common Core State Standards now being implemented in North Carolina public schools. There’s an old saying: what you don’t know, can’t hurt you. Nothing could be further from the truth – especially with regard to CC. Here are four things that you should know about Common Core that you probably won’t hear from your child’s school.

Common Core represents a top-down effort to control what is taught in American public schools.

Advocates preach that CC is a state-led effort. Don’t believe it. CC was developed by two private interest groups, the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, with help from Achieve Inc. a non-profit education group that has worked with many progressive education reform groups. CC standards were developed not by public employees or elected officials but by so-called experts with little if any public input. Much of the funding for the development of Common Core standards was put up by the Gates Foundation. To help get states to buy into CC, the Obama administration tied the receipt of Race to the Top funds and waivers for No Child Left Behind to the adoption of CC. There was little if any public input into the development of the standards. And only action by the State Board of Education was required to totally change what our children were being taught. In North Carolina the State Board of Education is not even an elected body. A state-led effort? Hardly.

DECEMBER 2012

MORE JOBS,

BIGGER

PAYCHECKS A Pro-Growth Tax Reform for North Carolina

Executive Summary

Under Common Core, Washington bureaucrats will be dictating what every elementary school student studies.

Common Core standards are less than rigorous.

They are no magic bullet to enhanced student achievement. Parents are constantly told national standards are needed to better prepare students for college and careers and a global economy. The fact is, there is no evidence to suggest that a national curriculum leads to enhanced student achievement. Worse yet, none of the standards that states have been coerced to adopt have ever been tested. The math and English standards have been criticized by many experts. Since Common Core emphasizes that students should understand the “why?” of math before learning concepts like multiplication or algebra, students will actually gain less exposure to important skills and concepts. With regard to Common Core standards for English, Professor Sandra Stotsky of the University of Arkansas – and one of the authors of the highly regarded Massachusetts academic standards -- calls Common Core standards “empty skill sets that weaken the basis of literary and cultural knowledge needed for authentic college coursework.”

Common Core will cost money – lots of money.

All the changes come with a price tag. Teachers will need additional training to learn the standards and new teaching techniques. New textbooks will be required; assessment requirements will necessitate significant investments in infrastructure and maintenance. How much will all this cost? Experts estimate to implement CC across the nation for the next seven years (2013-2020) will cost $15.8 billion. The same study estimates the costs for North Carolina over the same time period will be $525 million, or $75 million per year. Where will the funding come from? There is no money from the federal government to cover implementation costs. If additional money is provided from the federal government or private organizations, you can be sure additional strings will come with it. Right now, Common Core is in large part one massive unfunded mandate.

Common Core will result in the sharing of large amounts of students’ private data.

In 2009 Federal stimulus dollars were awarded on the assumption that states would develop a Student Data Longitudinal System (SDLS) to aid in state assessment efforts. A nonprofit startup called inBloom Inc. has contracted with nine states, including North Carolina, to build the student database. The database will include information on such far-ranging topics as academic records, health care history, family income, family voting status, religious affiliation, blood types and even homework completion.

What do the polls say?* 68% Total Not Aware 32% Total Aware

North Carolina public schools are implementing a new curriculum called “Common Core State Standards” in every classroom. How aware are you of this curriculum? Would you say you are... Very Aware? Somewhat Aware? Not Very Aware? Completely Unaware? Don’t Know

Arduin, Laffer, & Moore Econometrics explains the benefits of tax reform in “More Jobs, Bigger Paychecks: A Pro-Growth Tax Reform for North Carolina.” The full report and summaries are available at www.noincometaxnc.org

Under normal circumstances, parents and students would not have to worry that their personal information would be collected and distributed or sold without their permission. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) protected personal identifiable information from being released to other organizations. However, new regulations allow transmission of student information without parental consent to any governmental or private entity designated by the government as an “authorized representative” who needs the data to evaluate an educational program. Thus, under Common Core standards there are no limitations on who the data can be shared with and parents have no right to object. Despite assertions from state agencies that student data will be protected and not personally identifiable, the truth is assessment consortia received federal funding with the express purpose to develop a strategy to make student level data available. Common Core Standards represent ideas at odds with the principles of limited government and the idea that parents – not the government – are responsible for the education and upbringing of their children. Thankfully, as parents find out more and more about Common Core Standards, opposition to these ideas is growing. Currently 14 states are considering legislation to either slow down or rescind the implementation of Common Core standards. As we begin to learn more about Common Core, let’s hope North Carolina is added to that list of states.

*Data is from a Civitas Poll of 600 registered voters conducted March 19-21 by National Research, Inc. of Holmdel, NJ


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April 2013

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Civitas

More Bad News for North Carolina’s Workers North Carolina’s unemployment rate went up in January, with every county and metro area showing increases. Statewide unemployment rates were announced by the North Carolina Department of Commerce Labor and Analysis Division in its March 18 news release. The state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased in January to 9.5 percent, up 0.1 percentage points from the previous month’s annual revised rate of 9.4 percent. Nationally the rate also rose by 0.1 points to 7.9 percent from December’s 7.8 percent. In January, the number of people in North Carolina em-

None of the state’s 100 counties had unemployment rates are or below 5 percent, and 24 counties had unemployment rates between 5 and 10 percent, leaving 76 counties with rates at or above 10 percent. There were only 31 counties at or below the state’s

Orange County had the lowest unemployment rate at 6.6 percent, while Graham County had the highest rate at 20.4 percent. Among the metro areas, Rocky Mount at 14.1 percent experienced the highest rate and Durham-Chapel Hill at 7.7 percent had the lowest.

ployed (according to smoothed seasonally adjusted estimates) increased 2,888 to 4,323,089 over the month, an increase of 83,518 over the past year. The number of people unemployed grew 6,243 to 453,276 in January. The number of people unemployed grew by 2,634 over the year. The widespread nature of the unemployment trend was shown on March 22 when the Labor and Analysis Division released another report that included North Carolina’s county and area employment figures. (The county and area figures are not seasonally adjusted.) In January, all 100 counties saw unemployment rate increase and all 14 of the state’s metro areas experienced rate increases.

by susan myrick

not-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 10.2 percent. The states with the highest unemployment rates are California, Mississippi and Nevada at 9.6 percent followed by Illinois at 9.5 percent and North Carolina and Rhode Island at 9.4 percent.

Metro Unemployment Rates, January 2013 (Not Seasonally Adjusted) 16.0% 14.0%

14.1%

12.0% 10.0% 8.0%

10.2% 7.7%

6.0%

8.0%

8.4%

9.6%

9.8%

9.9%

9.4%

10.8%

10.0%

10.0%

10.0%

11.1%

11.5%

4.0% 2.0% 0.0%

State Unemployment Rates, January 2013 ALLEGHANY 12.6

CAMDEN GATES VANCE NORTHAMPTON 9.4 CURRITUCK STOKES ROCKINGHAM CASWELL PERSON 8.3 13.8 WARREN 12.1 9.0 10.5 12.9 11.7 10.4 11.1 HERTFORD PERQUIMANS HALIFAX WATAUGA 11.5 GRANVILLE WILKES 11.1 14.7 9.5 FORSYTH PASQUOTANK 10.3 YADKIN 11.7 ORANGE GUILFORD CHOWAN 9.4 AVERY 12.4 10.1 FRANKLIN BERTIE 6.6 MITCHELL 13.7 10.3 11.3 9.6 13.5 DURHAM 15.5 CALDWELL NASH ALAMANCE 7.9 DAVIE MADISON YANCEY 12.0 ALEXANDER TYRRELL 12.7 EDGECOMBE 10.0 9.3 MARTIN 13.8 16.6 10.2 10.1 WASHINGTON 13.0 DAVIDSON 12.0 IREDELL WAKE BURKE 13.5 10.7 MCDOWELL WILSON CHATHAM 7.8 11.6 CATAWBA 10.4 BUNCOMBE DARE 11.9 ROWAN 13.0 7.5 RANDOLPH HAYWOOD 11.6 8.1 20.1 10.3 11.1 10.2 SWAIN JOHNSTON PITT LINCOLN GREENE LEE RUTHERFORD GRAHAM 19.0 8.9 9.9 BEAUFORT 10.8 9.8 CABARRUS HYDE MONTGOMERY 12.7 14.7 HENDERSON 20.4 11.8 HARNETT WAYNE JACKSON 9.4 15.7 11.1 POLK 7.9 11.5 9.8 11.3 CLEVELAND GASTON MOORE STANLY 8.2 LENOIR 11.1 MECKLENBURG CHEROKEE CRAVEN MACON TRANSYLVANIA 11.3 10.1 10.1 10.8 PAMLICO 14.1 10.8 CLAY 13.3 11.5 9.7 11.2 10.6 JONES HOKE CUMBERLAND RICHMOND SAMPSON 10.7 UNION 9.7 11.0 ANSON 13.6 CARTERET 9.0 DUPLIN 8.6 12.8 10.6 SCOTLAND 10.6 ASHE 13.8

SURRY 11.1

January 2013

County Unemployed %

17.8

6.6 - 8.6

ROBESON 13.9

8.61 - 10.6 10.61 - 12.6

BLADEN 13.6

COLUMBUS 13.8

12.61 - 14.6

ONSLOW 9.6 PENDER 11.5

NEW HANOVER 10.4

BRUNSWICK 12.2

14.61 - 20.4

2008-2012 Unemployment Rate Comparison County Alamance

Oct-08 Jan-13 7.1

10

Alexander

7.9

Alleghany

6.6

Anson

County

Oct-08 Jan-13 11

County

Cumberland

6.8

Johnston

10.2

Currituck

3.6

10.5

12.6

Dare

4.2

20.1

9.5

12.8

Davidson

7.4

10.7

Lenoir

Ashe

6.3

13.8

Davie

6.9

9.3

Avery

5.6

13.7

Duplin

5.9

10.6

Beaufort

7.3

11.8

Durham

5.4

7.9

Oct-08 Jan-13

County

Oct-08 Jan-13

6.1

8.9

Randolph

6.7

11.1

Jones

6.8

10.7

Richmond

9.5

13.6

Lee

8.2

12.7

Robeson

8.1

13.9

7.8

10.8

Rockingham

7.9

11.7

Lincoln

7.2

10.8

Rowan

7.2

10.3

Macon

5.3

13.3

Rutherford

8.7

14.7

Madison

5.7

10.1

Sampson

5.4

9

Scotland

Bertie

7.5

13.5

Edgecombe

11.4

16.6

Martin

6.9

12

11.7

17.8

Bladen

8.1

13.6

Forsyth

6.3

9.4

Mcdowell

8.1

11.9

Stanly

7

10.1

Brunswick

6.9

12.2

Franklin

6.7

9.6

Mecklenburg

6.6

9.7

Stokes

6.1

9

Buncombe

5.1

8.1

Gaston

7.7

11.1

Mitchell

7.7

15.5

Surry

8.3

11.1

Burke

8.6

11.6

Gates

5.2

8.3

Montgomery

8.3

11.1

Swain

5.5

19

Cabarrus

6.4

9.4

Graham

8.2

20.4

Moore

6.4

10.1

Transylvania

5

11.5

Caldwell

8.3

12

Granville

7

10.3

Nash

8.6

12.7

Tyrrell

6

13

Camden

5.4

9.4

Greene

7

9.8

New Hanover

5.4

10.4

Union

6

8.6

Carteret

5

10.6

Guilford

6.7

10.3

Northampton

7.7

12.1

Vance

9.8

13.8

Caswell

8.2

10.4

Halifax

9.7

14.7

Onslow

5.8

9.6

Wake

5

7.8

Catawba

7.9

11.6

Harnett

7.1

11.5

Orange

4.2

6.6

Warren

9.7

12.9

Chatham

5.5

7.5

Haywood

5.7

10.2

Pamlico

5.7

11.2

Washington

7.2

13.5

Cherokee

8.7

14.1

Henderson

5.1

7.9

Pasquotank

6.4

12.4

Watauga

4.1

9.5

Chowan

8.5

11.3

Hertford

6.6

11.5

Pender

6.4

11.5

Wayne

6.3

9.8

6

10.6

Hoke

6.3

9.7

Perquimans

6.7

11.1

Wilkes

8.2

11.7

Cleveland

8.5

11.3

Hyde

4.6

15.7

Person

7.3

11.1

Wilson

7.9

13

Columbus

8.1

13.8

Iredell

6.5

10.4

Pitt

7

9.9

Yadkin

6.1

10.1

Craven

6.2

10.8

Jackson

4.3

11.3

Polk

5

8.2

Yancey

7.2

13.8

Clay

*Data is from the North Carolina Department of Commerce Labor and Analysis Division


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April 2013

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7

Bill Aims to Aid Families of Victims BY angela hight

Getting the phone call that Sen. Thom Goolsby (RNew Hanover) was going to announce a bill pertaining to the death penalty and the Racial Justice Act made my heart race. I thought, “Is this really the beginning of the end?” The first thing I did was to call the Lowry and Turner families, who have been affected dramatically by both the moratorium on the death penalty and the Racial Justice Act, to let them know there may be a light at the end of the tunnel. Ed Lowry was a state trooper gunned down, along with Cumberland County Sheriff’s Deputy David Hathcock, in 1997. Roy Turner Jr. was a Fayetteville police officer slain in the course of duty in 2001. The Lowry and Turner families are just two of the families whose loved ones’ murderers had their death sentences commuted to life without parole by Judge Greg Weeks. Goolsby filed SB 306 Capital Punishment/Amendments to end the de facto moratorium

Jim Davis is the brother-in-law of slain Highway Patrol Sgt. Ed Lowry. At CLC, he advocated repealing the Racial Justice Act and restoring the death penalty in North Carolina.

es, and pharmacists faced when dealing with executions. The participants would not have to fear punishment from state boards any more as they had been since the North Carolina Medical Board issued a statement to that effect in 2007. There are many parts of the bill that committees are still

At CLC, Al Lowry recalled his brother, Highway Patrol Sgt. Ed Lowry, slain in 1997. His moving story was a reminder of how the RJA continues to torment the families of survivors.

on the death penalty here in North Carolina. There are currently 152 inmates on death row, yet in North Carolina we have not had an execution since 2006. Families who thought justice would be served are still waiting for the horror story to end. In a press release, Goolsby said, “We have a moral obligation to ensure death-row criminals convicted of the most heinous crimes imaginable finally face justice. Victims’ families have suffered for far too long. It’s time to stop the legal wrangling and bring them the peace and closure they deserve.” SB 306 begins to answer legal concerns that doctors, nurs-

debating, but under Section 5 the Racial Justice Act would be repealed. Section 5(b) reads, “The intent and purpose of this section, and its sole effect, is to remove the use of statistics to prove purposeful discrimination in a specific case.” Another key part, Section 5(d), states: …this section is retroactive and applies to any motion for appropriate relief filed pursuant to Article 101 of Chapter 15A of the General Statutes prior to the effective date of this act. All motions filed pursuant to Article 101 of Chapter 15A of the General Statutes prior to the

effective date of this act are void; however, this section does not apply to any case in which there is a final order issued by a court of competent jurisdiction, issued prior to the effective date of this act, which resentenced a petitioner to life imprisonment without parole pursuant

to the provisions of Article 101 of Chapter 15A of the General Statutes. What does this mean for families? Unfortunately, it means the cases that have already been heard and decided by Judge Weeks will not be repealed. The good news going forward is that families will

not have to go through any more Racial Justice Act hearings if this bill passes. For example, Marsha Howell has been vocal in both the press Conference and the Committee Meeting about SB 306. Ms. Howell’s family (which is African-American) has been affected by both the death penalty moratorium and the Racial Justice Act. Ms. Howell’s daughter was murdered and her son was left physically handicapped after an attack by an African-American man. They have been waiting for over 21 years for justice to be served. “The Racial Justice (Act) has brought this case right back to start over.… How many more years can we suffer?” Howell said, according to starnewsonline.com. As Gary Frank, the Davidson County DA, said, capital punishment “is the law of the land.” This bill is not about debating whether or not we should have the death penalty. Rather, SB 306 puts death penalty back into effect, as called for by the laws of North Carolina.

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NC Memo Uncovers Liberal Schemes continued from pg. 1

The strategy memo was notable for four reasons: 1) it was a clear indication that the Democratic Party was no longer in charge of the left in North Carolina. 2) It implied coordination between liberal advocacy groups with Democrats in the Legislature. 3) It

intentionally used overtly aggressive language to describe its tactics. 4) It took aim at highprofile targets -- namely the newly elected Republican Governor and the Republican leaders in the General Assembly. Included in the memo’s suggestions to fellow progressives were suggestions to “eviscerate the leadership and

weaken their ability to govern” and “pressure McCrory at every public event” and to “slam him when he contradicts his promises.” They went on to suggest that the left’s effort should concentrate on “crippling their leaders (McCrory, Tillis, Berger etc.)” and to use “private investigators and investigative reporting, espe-

cially in the executive branch …”. Discovery of the strategy memo set off a media firestorm. It took six days for the non-profit group, America Votes, to take responsibility for the controversial memo. Blueprint NC Director Sean Kosofsky at first took credit for its distribution, but then,

The Blueprint NC Memo Advises Liberals: The most effective way to mitigate the worst legislation is to weaken our opponents’ ability to govern by crippling their leaders (McCrory, Tillis, Berger, etc.). Eviscerate the leadership and weaken their ability to govern.

Blueprint for Activists Blueprint is just one of the liberal non-profit organizations in the vast network of more than 100 such groups in North Carolina. In 2006, the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation created Blueprint NC in order to help liberal advocacy groups coordinate activities and messaging. According to www. guidestar.com, since 2009 ZSR has supplied $1.7 million to Blueprint NC, which has a $1 million yearly budget. The contributions were made either directly or through the NC Justice Center, which originally started and housed Blueprint

WRAL-TV reporter left out the deep connections WRAL has with Blueprint NC through its owner, Jim Goodmon; former employees; and donations. In 2010 alone, the A.J. Fletcher Foundation gave $35,000 to Blueprint NC and $380,000 to the NC Justice Center, which initially housed Blueprint NC when it was formed. The Goodmon family, which owns WRAL, has four family members on the board of the Fletcher Foundation, including Jim, the chairman of the Fletcher board, and his wife Barbara, the foundation’s President.

Pressure McCrory at every public event: PNC style visibility, audience questions at any town hall Track every campaign promise he made 4 years ago and in 2012 and slam him when he contradicts his promises NC with the assistance of a grant from Reynolds. While the media reported on the strategy memo and some of the groups involved, it left out important facts, even some facts that would connect the media itself to the controversy – especially WRAL, the flagship of the Raleigh-based Capitol Broadcasting Co. It fell to Francis De Luca, President of the Civitas Institute, to point out the relationship between WRAL and Blueprint in an article written a day after the scandal broke. De Luca explained that in an initial story about the memo a

De Luca also revealed that WRAL-TV has taken ownership of one the items in the strategy memo. The memo on calls for tracking Gov. Pat McCrory’s ”Campaign Promises” and recommends activists “slam him when he contradicts his promise.” WRAL launched the “Pat McCrory Promise Tracker” on the WRAL-TV website, complete with skull & crossbones symbols. The Blueprint fiasco is just one example of how left-wing groups have gained power following the decline of the Democratic Party in North Carolina.

Democrats’ Decline The party’s loss of influence and prestige can be tracked in a long list of failed politicians and a state party embroiled in controversy, including a sexual misconduct scandal that led to the forced resignation of the Executive Director, and the failed attempt to replace the chairman for more than a year ahead of the 2012 election. There is little doubt that as the state party failed, ultra-liberal groups gained in number and power. Here is a list of some of North Carolina’s Democratic political figures who have been embroiled in scandal in recent years: • Meg Scott Phipps, daughter of former Governor Bob Scott, was elected Agricultural Commissioner in 2000. In 2003 she had stepped down from her position and pleaded guilty to perjury, obstruction of justice, fraud and witness tampering. She was sentenced to four years in federal prison. • Frank Ballance, Jr. served as a Congressman from 20032004. In 2004 he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and money laundering and was sentenced to four years in prison. • Jim Black, former Speaker of the North Carolina House, spent nearly four years in federal prison after being convicted on federal corruption charges in 2007. • Mike Easley, two-term Democratic Governor and former State Attorney General, was convicted of a felonious campaign finance violation in 2010 by entering an Alford plea. Under an Alford plea,

the defendant does not admit guilt but admits that sufficient

a few days later, said that he misunderstood the question and changed his answer, suggesting that “dirty tricks were involved.” While America Votes is not an official partner of Blueprint NC, it does share the same office address along with another Blueprint partner, Project Ricochet. The offices are in a building owned by Debnam Properties, a firm headed by Dean Debnam, founder, president and CEO of Public Policy Polling, a polling firm that invariably works for Democrats and which also shares the office space. This is further evidence that these liberal advocacy groups are so intertwined that it is no wonder they were confused about who authored the attack memo. the 2008 campaign. The third has entered a not guilty plea to an obstruction of justice charge and causing the Perdue Campaign to file a false report.

Organize a brain trust that can identify opportunity for procedural tricks, strategic amendments, direction action, etc. Staff of video trackers follow the targets’ every move (McCrory/Tillis) Private investigators and investigative reporting; especially in the executive branch Direct action at the legislature and other appropriate targets (Days of Action, etc.) evidence exists that the charge will most likely be proven by the prosecution. The defendant will then be convicted of the crime(s) he/she is accused of. The deal Easley made with federal prosecutors effectively put an end to a state and federal investigation. • Former Gov. Beverly Perdue’s campaign was investigated for campaign finance violations similar to Easley’s and she left office after only one term. Three of her high-ranking campaign aides have been indicted, two of which have pleaded guilty for violating campaign finance laws relating to unreported airplane flights during

Time after time, the party that controlled North Carolina since 1898 had abused its powers and failed to honor its promises. It is no wonder that in 2010 Republicans gained control of the State Senate and the State House. In November, Republican Pat McCrory was elected Governor. So it’s not surprising that left-wing groups would try to bypass the party, and the public political process, and instead find ways to covertly control North Carolina elections and the machinery of state government. In the next Capitol Connection, we will look at how they schemed to make that happen.


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Bill would Protect Legislature Tackles Perdue’s Dubious Dix Deal NC Taxpayers’ Rights Now BY clark riemer

The State Senate has passed a bill to end the lease of the Dorothea Dix property to the City of Raleigh, a lease made by Gov. Bev Perdue in the waning days of her administration. The City is planning to place a large

Department of Administration as required by law for any major state land conveyance. This caused State Auditor Beth Wood, a Democrat, to abstain from the deal due to the short amount of time available to review the arrangement, plus the likelihood her office would have

state the expense of acquiring new office space and moving workers. The bill would allow for the lease on most of the property to be renegotiated at fair market rate with the city of Raleigh given the right of first refusal on the property. According to

The Dorothea Dix Hospital was closed in 2012. A Senate bill aims to end the lease of its campus to the city of Raleigh.

park on the property, which is near NC State’s campus in central Raleigh. The bill, filed just two weeks before its passage by the Senate, is expected to encounter little opposition in the House. According to a Civitas Poll taken in March, 44 percent of North Carolinians support ending the deal, versus 33 percent who oppose it. While opponents of the bill have described the bill as breaking the lease, the bill in fact exercises the state’s power of eminent domain over the property. As such the bill provides for the ability of the city of Raleigh to file in court for “just compensation.” Indeed, Section 10 of the lease specifically notes the power of the State to take by condemnation all or any part of the leasehold interest. The original deal was widely seen by pundits in Raleigh as a last-minute attempt by the widely unpopular Gov. Perdue to build a legacy for her administration. The deal was pushed through quickly in November and December 2012 by the Governor and was approved by members of the Council of State. The lease was not examined by the

to issue an audit on it. The deal was opposed by Republican Council of State members Commissioner of Labor Cherie Berry and Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler. Proponents of the bill state that the lease given to the City of Raleigh has a cumulative value well below market value of the land. Under the current agreement, the city only pays $68 million over the next 75 years for the 325 acres in central Raleigh. They also point to the original deed for the Dix property that called for the land to be used “in trust for the use and benefit of the North Carolina State Hospital for the Insane,” which according to the text of the bill is “a purpose given no attention in the December 28, 2012, lease.” The current lease would also end the use of the land as state offices. Over 1,800 NC Department of Health and Human Services workers work on the property, and would have to be moved within 15 years under the current agreement. Proponents of the bill hope to preserve a small section of the property for the use of state workers, sparing the

the bill, all proceeds from the new lease would be put aside in a special fund “for mental health purposes consistent with the purposes in the underlying deeds transferring the Dix property to the State.” In effect, a renegotiated lease would likely require the city of Raleigh to pay more for slightly less than the 325 acres currently leased. Opponents of the bill have claimed that reneging on the lease will cause businesses and local governments to question the value of promises made by the State of North Carolina. Capital Broadcasting/ WRAL owner and park proponent Jim Goodmon told a Senate Committee looking at the deal, “The notion that you can come in and take a lease and just say ‘well, no we’re not going to do it,’ is remarkable.” His comments led to a testy exchange with Sen. Tom Apodaca (R-Henderson), who said he felt threatened by Goodman’s remarks and had “been somewhat intimidated with the comments made by Capitol Broadcasting … I felt threatened by you, sir, when you said your ownership of Capitol Broadcasting.”

BY brian balfour

North Carolina’s tax structure is almost surely going to receive an overhaul in 2013. It is vital, however, that while addressing the revenue side of the state’s ledger, the governor and legislature don’t ignore the spending side. The need is urgent. North Carolina’s state budget – even after adjusting for inflation – more than tripled in the 30 years (1979-2009) preceding the current recession. Moreover, inflation-adjusted state spending grew at more than three times the pace of population growth during that time. The cost of state government has risen much faster than the overall cost of living, which rose by 165 percent from 1981 to 2011. By comparison, per capita state spending grew by 265 percent in that time span. Moreover, state spending trends have resembled a roller coaster – soaring during flush economic times followed by rapid drops when recession hits. What North Carolina des-

The basic premise behind a Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) is to install sensible restrictions on state spending by limiting the growth of the budget each year so that it does not exceed a combination of inflation and population growth. To ensure that it isn’t easily sidestepped by future budget writers, HB 274 would amend the state constitution to include the TABOR provision – subject to voter approval. Rather than ratcheting up of spending by 8 or 9 percent annually during healthy economic times, a TABOR would limit these annual growth rates to a more sensible 4 or 5 percent in most years. The extra revenue collected would be set aside in a rainy day fund. Under a TABOR, the next time a recession hits state lawmakers wouldn’t need to panic. There would be plenty of funds set aside to draw upon to balance the budget without punishing taxpayers with another massive tax hike. Moreover, because spending growth would have

The NC Department of Revenue in Raleigh

perately needs is legislation that will both rein in out-of-control spending growth while smoothing out the wild swings in expenditures. Fortunately, the recently introduced House Bill 274 – titled “Taxpayer Bill of Rights” – would do that.

been curbed during the growth years, any budget deficits that may materialize during recessions would be much smaller. A TABOR is an essential tool for smoothing out the vicious roller coaster ride the state budget has experienced for decades.


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CAPITOL CONNECTION

Polls Show Sen. Kay Hagan Vulnerable BY clark riemer

Civitas polling shows that while U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan is vulnerable in North Carolina, her defeat in the 2014 election is far from certain. According to a March Civitas Poll, Hagan is viewed favorably by 40 percent of North Carolina voters versus 32 percent who view her unfavorably. While that puts her approval ratings in positive territory, she is well south of the 50 percent approval rating that is traditionally the mark sought before a seat is declared “safe” by pundits. While the race in 2014 is still almost two years away, it is already drawing national attention with ads being run in North Carolina almost immediately after the 2012 election. Hagan’s major difficulty seems to be her low profile. According to the poll, 28 percent of North Carolinians had either no opinion or had never heard of her. This large group of persuadable voters will provide any Republican

opponent the opportunity to define Hagan for these voters, in much the same way President Obama did with Mitt Romney. But she is working to shore up her standing with Democrats by supporting liberal ideas, such as gay marriage. On March 27, Hagan announced she had changed her position and now supported marriage for same-sex couples. The announcement, made after the Civitas Poll was taken, was greeted with heavy media coverage which could have affected her profile with voters, especially progressive Democrats who had been rumored to be cool to her candidacy. Democratic consultant Thomas Mills has argued in a March 25 blog post that “before Hagan focuses on winning a narrow middle, she needs secure the support of her base.” He believes that with the decline of moderate voters, the election will become centered on each side turning out its base. According to Mills, “In a state with

9.5 percent unemployment, her stance on the [Keystone] pipeline probably makes sense; dodging gay marriage and immigration reform probably do not.” Voters for whom those are defining issues are activists and partisans and she needs supporters firmly on her side. The Civitas Poll found that Hagan was known by 96 percent of self-identified liberals and enjoyed a healthy 69 percent approval rating among them. How much further support Hagan can gain among them is questionable. Furthermore, the Civitas Poll indicates that moderates still make up around 33 percent of the North Carolina electorate, compared to 17 percent liberals. This indicates any moves Hagan makes to further shore up the left a dangerous exercise that could alienate the much larger middle of the electorate. In their effort to win back the Senate, many Republicans see Hagan as a possible easy target, but this view underestimates her po-

litical strengths. Of the voters who have an opinion on her, Hagan remains popular. This popularity could easily spread once the race comes into full swing. Also, any Republican nominee for the seat will likely have to survive a long primary fight and could come out damaged. Indeed, Republicans should remember that Sen. Hagan’s situation has many parallels with Sen.

Richard Burr’s 2010 reelection. He went into the race with fairly low name recognition, making many Democratic strategists feel that he might be vulnerable, but he ultimately cruised to an easy reelection. While little is certain about a race this far away, it seems certain that North Carolina will once again be a major political battleground that commands national attention.

What do the polls say about Kay Hagan?* Now I am going to read you a list of people and organizations active in politics. After I read each name, please tell me if you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of that person or group. If you never heard of them, just tell me and we’ll go on to the next one…

40% Favorable to Sen. Hagan 13% Very Favorable

27% Favorable

32% Unfavorable 14% Unfavorable

18% Very Unfavorable

28% No Opinion/Haven’t Heard of Her

McCrory Budget Avoids Tax Increases BY brian balfour

“Changing policy through our budget.” That’s how Governor Pat McCrory described his first state budget proposal when he unveiled it in March. McCrory’s plan would increase year-overyear spending by nearly half a billion dollars while not raising taxes. Total General Fund expenditures for fiscal year 201314 under McCrory’s proposal would be $20.6 billion, up 2.2 percent over the current year’s authorized spending total of $20.16 billion. Education: McCrory’s budget plan allocates $7.9 billion in state funds toward K-12 education, marking a year-over-year increase of just under 1 percent. Over the next two years, 1,800 additional teachers will be hired, largely to accommodate projected increases in the number of children attending public schools. Offsetting this increase in teachers will be a $117 million reduction in funding for teacher assistants. McCrory’s education budget also completes the phase-out of state funding for the Teaching Fellows scholarships and North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching.

Gov. Pat McCrory announces his first proposed budget for North Carolina.

Disappointingly, nowhere does McCrory’s budget set aside funding for school choice initiatives. Health and Human Services: The major funding priority in McCrory’s HHS budget is shoring up North Carolina’s Medicaid program. The budget increases the line item for Medicaid by $185 million in FY 2013-14 and by $390 million the fol-

lowing year. The budget also sets aside $90 million a year over the next two years into a Medicaid risk reserve. Economic Incentives: McCrory’s budget plan unfortunately continues the policy of targeted government privileges and taxpayer handouts to select companies. For instance, the Governor’s budget plan allocates $9 million to the One North Carolina

Fund, and another $14 million to the Job Maintenance and Capital Development (JMAC) program. State Employees and Retirees: Gov. McCrory’s budget provides for a 1 percent acrossthe-board pay raise for teachers and state employees. The budget plan also provides a 1 percent cost of living increase for state retiree pension benefits. Also included in the bud-

*Data is from a Civitas Poll of 600 registered voters conducted March 19-21 by National Research, Inc. of Holmdel, NJ

get plan is a “salary adjustment reserve” held for pay increases and bonuses for “key employees who are not receiving market wages.” How government officials are to determine “market wages” for employees performing non-market work (i.e., work not subject to market forces) is left unexplained. The Budget also: • Aggressively sets aside $200 million in the coming year to the state’s “rainy day fund.” This fund has been woefully neglected for decades. • Would transfer $130 million to the “repair and renovations account” dedicated to fixing up state-owned buildings and facilities. Disappointingly, the budget includes no discussion of selling off underutilized state assets. • Repeals the NC Public Campaign Fund, which diverts $4.1 million to the General Fund. This is the money used for taxpayer-funded political campaigns. Also repeals the NC Political Parties Financing Fund, freeing up another $1 million to the General Fund. • Provides $10 million to compensate victims of the state’s eugenics program.


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Confessions of a Young Hispanic Conservative BY victoria wakefield

My name is Victoria Wakefield, I am 21, Hispanic, and conservative. To many people, this is puzzling; to some, it is downright silly. In fact, many a Thanksgiving dinner has been thick with the tension because my own family members just cannot understand why I would support conservative ideals. My name may not show it, my face may only hint at it, but my cultural background permeates my entire being. I am a first-generation, American-born Hispanic, proudly raised here in North Carolina by parents born in South America. I grew up watching my parents face the ups and downs of owning a small courier business. They came from nothing and were filled with a passion to give their children a better life than their own. When I told my parents I wanted to work in politics and attend law school, their support and encouragement was amazing. Such

Civitas intern Victoria Wakefield (left) assisted syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin during her appearance at the Conservative Leadership Conference in March.

throughout the event. I admired how down-to-earth she was, and did my best to remain strictly professional during my time with her. Then we started talking about our hair. Michelle was standing in front of the mirror, trying to tame her long Filipino mane, when I first mentioned that

rates me, I believe what I believe and I am obligated to say that loud and proud. What all Americans, regardless of religion, race, or creed strive to obtain the American Dream. The Hispanic community has worked incredibly hard to get where they are and they continue to work hard because they

“The Hispanic community has worked incredibly hard to get where they are and they continue to work hard because they want better lives for themselves, for their children, for their grandchildren. This is a fundamental ideal of conservatism!” pursuit of the American Dream is at the heart of conservatism. But many people I encounter, Hispanics and non-Hispanics, conservatives and liberals, look at me and my political views as if I am a lab specimen with two heads. During the Civitas Institute’s Conservative Leadership Conference in the beginning of March, I spent time with an incredibly influential conservative who happens to be a member of a minority group – Michelle Malkin. My assignment at the conference was to be her “handler,” escorting her

I am Hispanic. We shared a quick joke about our exotic hair — textured hair is much more difficult to maintain, as I’m sure you know — then we headed off for her speech. During her keynote dinner speech, Malkin spoke about the hardships of being a minority-group member who is also conservative and I felt so energized by her words. It also was reassuring to know that even despite her prominent role in conservative politics, she too finds herself going head-to-head with her own family. It does not matter what anyone calls me or who be-

want better lives for themselves, for their children, for their grandchildren. This is a fundamental ideal of conservatism! The Marco Rubios, Michelle Malkins, Artur Davises, and Ben Carsons of the right are leading the charge for conservative minorities. But they cannot be responsible for doing it alone. When my grandmother came to our great nation and established citizenship, I remember seeing her cry, full of joy and pride to call herself an American. I would be hard pressed to find anyone else who loves this nation

more. So when I ask her why she considers herself a Democrat and she candidly replies that Democrats help “our” people, and Republicans do not, my heart breaks. I explain to her, again and again, in English and in Spanish, that the right does care. I am proud to say that my dear grandmother did not vote for a certain someone’s reelection in 2012, and she even told me that she thinks she is less of a liberal than she previously thought. I am disappointed with my comrades on the right, however, because they do not take similar action to fight liberalism’s caricature of conservatism Likewise, Hispanics will have to reconsider their community’s status quo. When I was younger, my dad would always tell me a story about a group of crabs. The poor little crabs were all put into a pot, about to be cooked. But one crab was determined to get out. As he climbed and struggled to the top, however, the other crabs pulled him back down into the bottom of the pot. Whenever I was dubbed an outcast from my Hispanic heritage or forced to prove just “how Hispanic” I was, I felt like the crab being pulled back down. To my Hispanic community: We cannot be the crabs. It is our duty to support one another and encourage “our” people. We cannot chastise those who choose to think differently, but rather we should open

ourselves to all ideas before committing to a side. We are a hot commodity — we can make politicians show us why we should share their ideals. To my conservative friends: We cannot give this up. Do not merely tell Hispanics about how conservatism works, show them. Our duty is not to get Hispanics to vote for conservatives, but rather to show them which policies and politicians truly support them. They will be surprised to discover how many conservative ideals can help Hispanics succeed in life. I listened intently to Israel Ortega of the Heritage Foundation during his riveting CLC session on engaging the Hispanic community. Questions were being launched across the room and emotions were running high when someone brought up the novel idea of getting involved in apolitical efforts to truly see what the needs and wants of the Hispanic community are. Light bulbs lit up above heads all over the room. Volunteerism is crucial. If we involve ourselves in Hispanic communities, we will see benefits. For example, many ESL classes are offered in the evenings for adults but have low attendance due to a lack of childcare. Perhaps there is a neighborhood near you that simply needs that kind of involvement. Entrench yourself into the community. Not only will you develop an understanding of the community, but they will develop an understanding of conservatism. I encourage readers to rethink your roles. Your role may seem pretty clear if you are Hispanic, but you should still challenge yourself to understand your own beliefs. Moreover, you should challenge politicians, think tanks, and interest groups. If you are a conservative, challenge yourself to analyze and update your policies and stances, and reach out to the Hispanic community instead of waiting for them to come to you. I’m Victoria Wakefield and I only have one head. And I think it is screwed on straight. —–————— Victoria Wakefield is an intern at the Civitas Institute.


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SCANDAL

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Putting the Public back in Public Records BY bob luebke

Access to public records is one of the most important tools North Carolina citizens have in the fight against corruption, ensuring government transparency and giving the public a window into the inner workings of state and local government. That’s why the flaws in the open records laws are an ongoing scandal. The details of public records – what defines a public record along with the numerous exceptions -- are laid out in Chapter 132 of the North Carolina state statutes. However, you don’t have to be a lawyer to figure out the most

ever, the law does not match reality. A 2012 State Integrity Investigation, a project by several public-interest groups which ranks states by their corruption risk, gave North Carolina an “F” on public access to information. Among the 50 states, North Carolina ranked 43rd in public access to information. When asked about the state’s low ranking, Angela Hight, a policy analyst at the Civitas Institute, who on two recent occasions canvassed all 100 counties with public records requests, said, “It doesn’t surprise me. There needs to be greater clarification in the law regarding who is responsible for fulfilling the request and enforcement.”

“As there are no penalties for failure to comply with records requests, governments can frequently be heavy-handed and uncooperative.” important sentence in the entire chapter: “The public records and public information compiled by the agencies of North Carolina government or its subdivisions are the property of the people.” Good government advocates are quick to point to the pronouncement. Sadly, how-

Hight’s comments echo the common criticisms among those who frequently use public records. The current law fails to provide a mechanism for enforcement, penalties for those who fail to comply with public record requests, or any means for appealing denied requests in an economical and timely manner.

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State law says official records “are the property of the people.”

Such realities make for an uneven playing field. And both sides in the battle over information know it. I’ve had simple public records requests that have stayed open for months. As there are no penalties for failure to comply with records requests, government officials are frequently heavy-handed and uncooperative. True, many state and local agencies are responsive, cooperative and professional in meeting such requests. However, the law does not allow for exceptions in how the law should be administered. Sadly, this is not a new problem. In 2007, the National Freedom of Information Coalition and Better

Government Association gave North Carolina an F for responsiveness to records requests. Not much has changed since then. Several years ago, in hopes of limiting litigation, a mediation process was approved at the county level to handle public records disputes. However, in order for the process to work, both parties have to agree to the process. If a party is hesitant to release a record, however, the law provides few reasons to enter mediation. If there are no penalties for noncompliance, there is no incentive for the party to even come to the table. State agencies know that most of those who make re-

cord requests do not have the time or resources to get into prolonged and expensive legal disputes. Our office routinely has public records requests that remain open for three months or longer for all sorts of odd reasons. We get the usual lame responses: “The records are being processed.” “If you want those records they will cost...” Or, “It’s taking us longer to get the records together.” Translation: We’re going to wait you out. Fortunately help may be on the way. Earlier this year state Sens. Thom Goolsby (R-New Hanover) and Tom Apodaca (R-Buncombe) sponsored legislation to make it a class 3 misdemeanor to violate public records and open meeting laws. Penalties like fines or jail time are a credible deterrent. Such measures could go a long way toward not only ensuring government officials pay a price for putting themselves above the law but in also underscoring for everyone that public records truly are the property of the public. —–————— Scandal is a regular column in Capitol Connection that will explore public corruption in NC Government. ­——— Have a local corruption story? Email corruption@nccivitas.org or call 919-834-2099

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Civitas Capitol Connection April 2013