News

Standing up for our Police Officers

NCPBAYet more troubling events in Asheville have prompted renewed calls for the General Assembly to reconsider and pass House Bill 643 — bipartisan legislation intended to extend “whistleblower protection” to full-time certified law enforcement officers at both the city and county level.

Forty-four officers of the Asheville Police Department (nearly a quarter of their force) delivered a four-page petition on October 16 to Police Chief William Anderson demanding the APD’s leadership problems be addressed immediately and it outlined how problems at the department are creating a threat to public safety. Several veteran officers have also called for Anderson to resign.

The petition came on the heels of an investigation by WLOS Channel 13 News exposing problems that included an officer shortage, morale issues and expired radar guns. According to the report, although only 44 officers signed the petition, “twice that number have endorsed it but will not add their signatures for fear of retaliation.”

Those supporting this change to the law have argued that local law enforcement should have the same guarantees the state and federal law enforcement enjoy.  The North Carolina Police Benevolent Association (NCPBA), the state’s largest law enforcement association, is in favor of the bill and worked with House members to get it introduced last year. According to a statement released on October 20, The NCPBA’s Mountain Chapter has asked City Council to investigate “possible unlawful malfeasance.” NCPBA President Randy Byrd went on to say that “The Asheville Police Department officers that have come forward to allege possible corruption by Chief Anderson deserve to have their jobs protected. They protect the citizens of Asheville every day. They deserve no less.” He added, “We are calling on the General Assembly to act on this important legislation as soon as they come back into session.”

HB643 would protect municipal police officers and deputy sheriffs from being disciplined, demoted, or fired for reporting violation of state and federal law, fraud, misappropriation of state and local government resources, substantial and specific danger to the public health and safety, gross mismanagement, a gross waste of monies, or gross abuse of authority.1

These kinds of safeguards have been available for many years at the federal level, and whistleblower protection has been the law for state employees since 1989.

Fired officers could go to court if they were subject to retaliation for reporting corruption. A court can order an injunction, damages, reinstatement of the county law enforcement officer, the payment of back wages, full reinstatement of fringe benefits and seniority rights, costs, reasonable attorneys’ fees, or any combination of these.

If an application for a permanent injunction is granted, the officer would be awarded costs and reasonable attorneys’ fees. If in an action for damages the court finds that the officer was injured by a willful violation of HB643, the court must award as damages three times the amount of actual damages plus costs and reasonable attorneys’ fees against the person or employing agency found to be in violation.

Critics of the reform, including the North Carolina Association of Chiefs of Police and the North Carolina Sheriff’s Association, say the measure in unnecessary. They lobbied vigorously against the bill, which was ultimately killed by just two votes in March 2013.


Endnotes

  1. Southern States Police Benevolent Association, “NCPBA calls for Whistleblower Protection

Restrictions on Sex Offenders

NC-DOJ-seal

Legislation to further protect children from registered sex offenders passed the General Assembly last year with overwhelming bipartisan support and was signed into law by Governor McCrory on June 24, 2014.

State law already prohibited registered sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school or child care facility, and the new law — House Bill 777 — expands the definition of “child care facilities” to now include the more than 100 Boys and Girls Clubs of America locations throughout North Carolina.

“We’re happy that the state has realized that we have a lot of kids here and that they need to be protected, and that they have enacted a bill that adds one more measure of safety to help us keep these kids safe,” said Jeff Green, Director of Brigade Boys and Girls Club in Wilmington.1

Certain people who have been convicted of sex offenses or crimes against minor children are required to register with the North Carolina Sex Offender and Public Protection Registration Program2 and the North Carolina Department of Justice maintains a website to help people track registered sex offenders. For more information on the kinds of places that sex offenders are prohibited from residing (or even visiting), please read this article from the UNC School of Government.


Endnotes

  1. WNCN, “Changes to law keeps sex offenders 1,000 ft from Boys and Girls Club of America
  2. North Carolina Department of Justice: The North Carolina Sex Offender and Public Protection Registration Programs

Top of the Class

From Forbes Magazine:

Why North Carolina Got The Highest
Grade On Cato’s Fiscal Report Card

Forbes-logoIn less than two years, North Carolina’s governor and legislature have helped to revive the state’s economy. The economy is growing and adding jobs, improving the well-being of North Carolina residents.

Governor Pat McCrory took office in January of 2013, joining a Republican legislature. For the first time since Reconstruction, North Carolina’s executive and legislative branches were controlled by Republicans, and they had a large mandate for reform. In 2011, the state’s economy grew at an anemic 0.3 percent. It was well below the national rate of 1.6 percent and one of the lowest in the Southeast. The state’s growth lagged many of its peers in 2012 as well. Individuals wanted change.

The new government took action to repair the state. The biggest item on the agenda was tax reform. McCrory and the legislature’s plan passed one of the most impressive tax reform packages in any state in years.

First, the plan consolidated brackets and cut the individual income tax rate. The overhaul replaced three individual income tax rates ranging from 6.0 to 7.75 percent with a single rate of 5.8 percent. In 2015, the rate will be cut again to 5.75 percent. Cutting taxes returns money to the pocketbooks of individuals and small businesses in the state.

Larger businesses also gained from corporate tax reforms. The corporate income tax rate was cut from 6.9 to 6.0 percent in 2014, and is scheduled to fall to 5.0 percent in 2015. The rate will continue to drop over the next several years if budget targets are met.

The tax reforms also increased the income tax standard deduction, repealed the estate tax, and expanded the sales tax based to cover more services, eliminating favoritism among industries.

In totality, this package puts North Carolina on a pro-growth trajectory with a low, broad tax structure. The reforms will vault North Carolina from 44th to 17th in the Tax Foundation’s State Business Tax Climate Index. All told, these tax cuts reduced the burden of taxation on North Carolina residents by $700 million annually, or 3 percent of state tax revenues.

Tax reform did not stop there, with more tax cuts passed in 2014. The state eliminated the local privilege tax. The burdensome tax added unnecessary complexity to North Carolina’s tax code. Three hundred of North Carolina’s 540 cities charged the tax, but it was calculated differently across the state. Some localities assessed a flat fee, others charged a tax that varied by the business’s size or employment structure. Eliminating the tax freed North Carolina firms from needless paperwork allowing each firm to concentrate on their businesses core function.

To complement the tax reforms, the state has also controlled spending growth. Actual general fund spending increased at half the national average in 2014. The state also reformed unemployment insurance and Medicaid, and eliminated several thousand state employees too.

All of these reforms seem to be making a difference and North Carolina’s economy is responding. In 2013, North Carolina’s economy grew 30 percent faster than the national average. The state added jobs at a quicker rate than the national average too. During the same time period, private-sector jobs grew by 4 percent, compared to 3.4 percent nationally.

For his efforts, Governor Pat McCrory received an “A” in the Cato Institute’s newest edition of its “Fiscal Policy Report Card on America’s Governors.” The report card assigns grades of “A” to “F” to the nation’s governors based on their efforts to restrain government and cut spending. McCrory tied for the highest score of any governor.

Under the leadership of Governor McCrory and the state legislature, North Carolina is poised for economic success. Limiting the growth of spending and passing tax reform is putting the state on a path of fiscal responsibility.


The preceding article was written by Nicole Kaeding, a budget analyst at the Cato Institute in Washington, DC. It was first published in Forbes on October 8, 2014 and appears here with the gracious permission of the author. Ms. Kaeding’s  full report “Fiscal Policy Report Card on America’s Governors: 2014” is available here.

Registration Deadline is Tomorrow

october10From the State Board of Elections:

The deadline to register to vote in North Carolina is 25 days before the date of an election (for this year’s general election, the deadline is tomorrow — Friday, October 10).

The voter registration application must be received by the applicant’s county boards of elections by this date. If an application is received after the deadline, the application may still be timely if it was mailed and it is postmarked on or before the voter registration deadline; otherwise, the application will not be processed until after the election. Persons who register at the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles or another voter registration agency will be considered registered as of the date the application is given to the agency. As long as this date is on or before the voter registration deadline, then the application will be deemed timely for an upcoming election.


Qualifications to Vote

To register to vote and vote in a North Carolina county, a person must meet the following qualifications:

  • Must be a U.S. citizen.
  • Must be a resident of the county, and prior to voting in an election, must have resided at his or her residential address for at least 30 days prior to the date of the election.
  • Must be at least 18 years old or will be 18 by the date of the next general election.
  • Must not be serving a sentence for a felony conviction (including probation or on parole). If previously convicted of a felony, the person’s citizenship rights must be restored. Citizenship and voting rights are automatically restored upon completion of the sentence. No special document is needed.
  • Must rescind any previous registration in another county or state.

How to Register to Vote

To register, a person who meets the voting qualifications must sign and complete a voter registration application. When completing the application, applicants must provide their full name, residential address, date of birth, and citizenship status. In addition, the application must be signed. Failure to complete a required field on the form will delay the processing of the application. After completion, the application should be mailed to the board of elections in the county in which the applicant resides. If the application is for new registration in a county, the form must be submitted prior to the voter registration deadline. The board of elections must receive the original signed application.

If the application is complete and the person is qualified to vote, the county board of elections will mail a voter registration card to the applicant to provide notice of the registration. This mailing is non-forwardable and also serves to verify the applicant’s address. If a voter card is returned by the postal service as undeliverable, then a second mailing will be sent to the voter. In the event that that second mailing is also returned as undeliverable, then the applicant’s voter registration may subsequently be denied.

Voter registration applicants, who have met the voter registration deadline, should expect to receive their voter card within 1 to 2 weeks. Applicants should contact their county board of elections if they do not receive their voter card within two weeks. Note: The applicant must have transmitted the registration application by the registration deadline; otherwise, the voter card will not be mailed until after the completion of the election.


Voter Registration and Party Affiliation

There are three recognized political parties in North Carolina: Democratic, Republican and Libertarian. Voter registration applicants may choose one of these political parties when completing a voter registration application, or they may choose not to register with a political party affiliation. In this case, the voter’s party affiliation will be designated as Unaffiliated. North Carolina has a semi-closed primary system. In a partisan primary, voters who are affiliated with a political party may only vote the partisan ballot for the party for which they are affiliated; they are closed from voting in another party’s primary. Unaffiliated voters may vote in any one recognized party’s primary. In a General Election, all voters who are assigned to a precinct will receive the same ballot style and may vote for the candidate(s) of their choice, regardless of the candidate(s) party affiliation. There is no longer straight-party voting in North Carolina. Voters must make a separate selection for each contest separately.


Where to Register

Click here download and print a fillable North Carolina voter registration application. Once completed, the application should be printed, signed and then mailed to the county board of elections in the county where the applicant resides.

In addition to the printable voter registration application accessible on this website, voter registration applications are available at the following locations:

Further, the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA) requires certain agencies in this state to offer voter registration services when at these locations for agency services. These agencies include:

  • North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles (NC DMV)
  • Public Assistance Agencies
    • Departments of Social Services (DSS)
    • Departments of Public Health (WIC)
  • Disability Services Agencies
    • Vocational Rehabilitation offices
    • Departments of Services for the Blind
    • Departments of Services for the Deaf & Hard of Hearing
    • Departments of Mental Health Services
  • Employment Security Commission (ESC)

For more information, including polling places, one-stop lookup, voter records, and more please visit the State Board of Elections website.

Berger, Tillis Respond To U.S. Supreme Court Affirming N.C. Election Reforms

speaker-seal-250
Thom Tillis
Speaker of the House
Contact: Anna Roberts, Communications Director: 919-733-5917

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Berger, Tillis Respond To U.S. Supreme Court Affirming N.C. Election Reforms

Raleigh – Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) and House Speaker Thom Tillis (R-Mecklenburg) issued the following joint statement Wednesday in response to a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that affirmed the state’s election reform law, allowing it to remain intact for the upcoming 2014 election cycle:

“Today, in bipartisan fashion, our nation’s highest court affirmed North Carolina’s election reform law by allowing it to move forward for next month’s elections. The court’s ruling restores the clarity and certainty to the election process that has been in place since the May primary and was disrupted at the eleventh hour. These commonsense reforms will help support voter integrity in North Carolina while protecting every citizen’s constitutional right to vote.”

Background

North Carolina’s election reform law guarantees at least the same number of overall hours for early voting as in previous elections unless a bipartisan group of election officials chooses to modify those hours – in sharp contrast to several other states, including New York and Michigan, that do not allow early voting at all.

According to the State Board of Elections, the 2014 general election will have more early voting locations across North Carolina than in any prior off-year election and nearly 70 percent more evening hours for early voting than in 2010, the most recent non-presidential general election.

The law allows time to verify voter information by repealing same-day registration, ensuring accuracy and bringing North Carolina in line with 30 other states that do not have same-day registration.

It also requires voters to cast ballots in their own precinct, ensuring their votes are counted for every race, not just statewide races. If out-of-precinct ballots are allowed, votes for local races could be invalidated.

Tillis, Berger To Defend Will Of N.C. Voters

speaker-seal-250
Thom Tillis
Speaker of the House
Contact: Anna Roberts, Communications Director: 919-733-5917

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, October 6, 2014

Tillis, Berger To Defend Will Of N.C. Voters

Raleigh – House Speaker Thom Tillis (R-Mecklenburg) and Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) announced Monday they intend to formally intervene to defend North Carolina’s constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

More than 60 percent of North Carolina voters cast a ballot to add the marriage amendment to the state constitution in May 2012.

“The people of North Carolina have spoken, and while the Supreme Court has not issued a definitive ruling on the issue of traditional marriage, we are hopeful they will soon,” said Tillis and Berger. “Until then, we will vigorously defend the values of our state and the will of more than 60 percent of North Carolina voters who made it clear that marriage is between one man and one woman.”

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to weigh in on appeals from five states, including Virginia. Suits challenging similar laws across the country have not yet reached the Supreme Court. After a federal court ruled against a constitutional amendment supported by Virginia voters earlier this year, Attorney General Roy Cooper said he would no longer defend North Carolina’s broadly-supported law.

Berger, Tillis Respond to 4th Circuit Ruling

speaker-seal-250
Thom Tillis
Speaker of the House
Contact: Anna Roberts, Communications Director: 919-733-5917

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Berger, Tillis Respond to
4th Circuit Ruling

Raleigh – Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) and House Speaker Thom Tillis (R-Mecklenburg) issued the following joint statement Wednesday in response to a ruling by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals:

“We are pleased the court upheld the lion’s share of commonsense reforms that bring North Carolina in line with a majority of other states, including the implementation of a popular voter ID requirement supported by nearly three quarters of North Carolinians.

“However, we share the concern of Judge Diana Gribbon Motz – the panel’s senior judge – that rewriting reasonable rules requiring people to vote in their own precinct and register in advance will strain our voting system, confuse voters and disrupt our general election that is only a month away. We intend to appeal this decision as quickly as possible to the Supreme Court.”

Background

North Carolina’s election reform law guarantees at least the same number of overall hours for early voting as in previous elections unless a bipartisan group of election officials chooses to modify those hours – in sharp contrast to several other states, including New York and Michigan, that do not allow early voting at all.

According to the State Board of Elections, the 2014 general election will have more early voting locations across North Carolina than in any prior off-year election and nearly 70 percent more evening hours for early voting than in 2010, the most recent non-presidential general election.

The law allows time to verify voter information by repealing same-day registration, ensuring accuracy and bringing North Carolina in line with 30 other states that do not have same-day registration.

It also requires voters to cast ballots in their own precinct, ensuring their votes are counted for every race, not just statewide races. If out-of-precinct ballots are allowed, votes for local races could be invalidated.

Suppressing Voter Inconvenience

vote-button2Remember all that shrieking a while back about the General Assembly’s evil plot to do whatever it could to stop people from voting? The hysteria from the left regarding supposed “voter suppression” was the outrage de jour.

But what really happened? In the May 2014 primary, the first election after the new voting reforms were passed into law, voter turnout increased — and among African-American voters, voter turnout increased by nearly 30 percent.

With just over a month to go, we thought it would be useful to know what the changes in the law means for our citizens before the upcoming General Election on November 4th. This recent press release from the State Board of Elections outlines some of the effects that the new voting law actually has on Early Voting in North Carolina this year. The table below compares things like number of early voting sites, availability of Saturday and Sunday voting, and evening hours from their levels in 2010 (the last mid-term election) to what they are this year. Under the new law, for instance, the number of evening hours (those after 5 p.m.) has increased by 88.5%. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, the number of counties offering one-stop voting on at least two Saturdays has more than doubled.


From the State Board of Elections:

General Election One-Stop Schedule Comparisons

Throughout the 2014 election cycle, civic organizations and media outlets have requested data regarding the availability of one-stop early voting throughout the state. With changes to one-stop early voting processes effective this year, State Board administrators have paid particular attention to one-stop availability as compared to 2010, the most recent non-presidential General Election cycle. A summary of increased one-stop utilization during the 2014 May Primary is available online. One-stop early voting runs October 23 through November 1, and we will continue to track participation through the General Election.

The below chart compares one-stop schedules from the 2010 and 2014 General Elections: *

2010 2014 Change
Number of one-stop voting sites 296 366 +23.6%
Cumulative one-stop voting hours 26,579.5 25,735.5 -3.2%
Aggregate number of one-stop voting days 3,402 3,014 -11.4%
Number of counties offering one-stop voting on at least two Saturdays 34 80 +135%
Aggregate number of Saturdays one-stop sites open (counting each day that each site is open on a Saturday) 428 592 +38.3%
Number of counties offering one-stop voting on Sundays 7 10 +42.9%
Aggregate number of Sundays one-stop sites open (counting each day that each site is open on a Sunday) 39 46 +17.9%
Number of counties offering evening hours for one-stop voting (after 5 p.m.) 52 98 +88.5%
Number of evening hours offered for one-stop voting (after 5 p.m.) 2,149.5 3,629 +68.8%

*Mecklenburg County’s one-stop early voting plan was unanimous (including its total hours), however, the County is finalizing the location of one of its 21 sites. Final approval by the State Board is pending, and the submitted plan has been used in the above calculations.


Some important deadlines to remember: the Voter Registration Deadline for the General Election this year is on October 10, early voting begins on October 23, the last day to request an absentee ballot by mail is October 28, and the deadline to return an absentee ballot by mail is November 4 at 5:00 pm. Click here to find the early voting locations in your county.

For more information on the changes to election law passed last year by the General Assembly, be sure to read this engaging and informative article on our website: Viva la VIVA!

The $500 Million Lie

WLOSIt’s election time — and you know what that means. Political candidates are talkin’ trash.

Probably the biggest lie on the airwaves this cycle — repeated over and over again — is that the General Assembly “cut” $500 million from the education budget this year.

They didn’t. According to the non-partisan Fiscal Research staff, the state actually increased spending on public education this year by $302,966,430 — and over the last four years, education spending has increased by $967,610,737 — that’s nearly a billion dollars. And for what it’s worth, the last two years the other party was in charge, they cut $610,926,774 from public education. (See chart.)

Although the $500 million lie has already been throughly debunked by several sources, including Factcheck.org, PolitiFact.com, and the Washington Post (which gave it two “Pinocchios”) — and although they certainly must know better by now — for some reason, these candidates continue to repeat the big lie in ad after ad. Maybe, like George Costanza, they don’t think it’s a lie — as long as they believe it. Or maybe it’s because, as someone once said, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”

But it certainly makes you wonder what else these shifty candidates and their partisan propaganda meisters will say just to win an election.

Anyway, even WLOS-TV in Asheville seemed to have finally had enough. On Friday, the ABC affiliate broadcast a story that hammered the point home. “For viewers and voters, the deception is disturbing,” says anchor Frank Fraboni, who interviewed people about the lie. “It bothers me when something is presented in a short ad like that as fact, and a lot of folks are going to take it as fact without doing their homework,” says Asheville resident Katie Craig. Click on the screenshot above or here to watch the entire report.

Thus Spoke Gerry Cohen

Gerry Cohen, former Special Counsel to the North Carolina General Assembly in his office (2014). Photo from WUNC.org

The following is a Facebook post by Gerry Cohen, former Special Counsel to the North Carolina General Assembly. Mr. Cohen was head of the legislature’s bill drafting department until his retirement earlier this year. His reputation for fairness and excellence has garnered him universal praise from Republicans and Democrats alike, and he is one of the most respected and beloved figures to ever work at the General Assembly.

One of the points of election law litigation currently going on was that the reduction of early voting days from 17 to 10 would disenfranchise voters. A floor amendment on the bill required (except with unanimous bipartisan approval by the State Board of Elections) that early voting be conducted with the same number of site hours in 2014 as in 2010. The State Board approved reductions in 30 smaller counties, but the final statewide total for 2014 will show 96.8% of the hours as were operated in 2010 (a drop from 26,579.5 to 25,736) Much more importantly, the 2014 hours are MUCH more convenient for voters. 98 counties have had their plans approved, Brunswick and Mecklenburg are still working out details. The issue for Brunswick is whether or not there will be Sunday voting, so I note that with an asterisk, for Mecklenburg all is agreed on except the location of one of the 21 sites. All data below is for ALL 100 counties.

TOTAL SITES: 2014 – 366, 2010 – 296, a 24% increase over 2010.

SUNDAYS: Much has been said about Sunday voting. In 2010, there was Sunday voting in Durham, Forsyth, Guilford, Pitt, Vance, Wake and Mecklenburg (7 counties). For 2014, it will be at least 10* counties – Ashe, Catawba, Durham, Forsyth, Hertford, Mecklenburg, Sampson, Vance, Wake, and Wayne. *The State Board of Elections has yet to decide on Sunday voting in Brunswick.

SATURDAYS: There has been a huge increase in Saturday hours. In 2010, 66 counties had just one Saturday, 20 had two, and 14 had three, while 2014 shows 20 with one Saturday and 80 with two.

WEEKDAY EVENINGS: In 2010, 46 counties had NO weekday hours after 5 pm (a real joke for most voters). In 2014, it’s just 3 counties that close at 5. In 2010, voting ran until 7 or 8 pm in 27 counties, in 2014 that’s ramped up to 71 counties.

I have personal issues with the lack of sites on or near college campuses, and squabbling in Forsyth, Guilford and Lincoln Counties resulted in less than desirable plans. But that’s not a legal issue.

All in all, however, I think plaintiffs are barking up the wrong tree in litigating early voting hours and days. The current State Board of Elections has adopted plans that are MUCH more useful to voters than under the old law. If you like almost half the counties closing up early voting at 5 pm, I guess the 2010 plan is the one to advocate for.


Gerry Cohen was Special Counsel to the North Carolina General Assembly for 37 years until his retirement this summer. Mr. Cohen remains in the thick of things, however, and has an active and informative social media presence. Be sure to follow Mr. Cohen on Twitter and Facebook — and to learn more about this fascinating man, have a listen to this great interview from WUNC Public Radio: Meet the ‘Encyclopedia to the Legislature’ Gerry Cohen.