Statement on the Passing of Rep. Jim Fulghum

Representative Jim FulghumThe following statement is from House Speaker Thom Tillis (R-Mecklenburg) regarding the death of Rep. Jim Fulghum (R-Wake):

“I am saddened to learn of the passing of Rep. Jim Fulghum this weekend. The residents of Wake County were lucky to have Dr. Fulghum represent them – his leadership as a legislator was second only to his compassion and expertise as a doctor serving his constituents and the state of North Carolina. He was a friend who will be missed by me and our entire chamber and my deepest sympathies go to his family and friends during this very difficult time.”

Repealing Common Core

books_lgThe General Assembly voted this week to exercise North Carolina’s constitutional authority over academic standards by replacing Common Core with age-level and developmentally appropriate curriculum. An appointed 11-member advisory board, in cooperation with the State Board of Education, will bring together teachers, principals, parents and subject matter experts to develop standards that will replace Common Core. The new statewide academic standards are expected to be among the highest in the nation, enabling North Carolina students to succeed academically and professionally.

North Carolina schools began implementing Common Core in 2010 as part of a national movement. However, statewide efforts to repeal Common Core standards soon followed when parents and educators found that it’s related testing requirements and teaching methods to be confusing and often age-inappropriate.

The bill passed this week is a compromise between similar House and Senate versions. The final bill allows the advisory board to consider keeping parts of Common Core if they believe they serve the best educational interests of North Carolina students. Current standards will remain in place until the new standards are completed.

The passage has already been lauded by the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce who has long fought to bolster the state’s workforce with higher educational standards. The measure now goes to Governor McCrory for final approval.

Don’t Feed the Trolls

Legislation passed the House unanimously last month that, if signed into law, would protect business-owners from frivolous lawsuits by predatory patent-holding companies — often referred to as “patent trolls.” The bill now awaits action in the Senate.

Patent trolls assert patents on commonly used technologies (e.g. the aggregation of news stories into podcasts, sending photocopies to email, scanning documents to email, the use of shopping carts on a website, etc.) and then sue other companies for “infringing” on their patents in an attempt to collect fees.

These companies (non practicing entities, or NPEs) don’t actually otherwise manufacture products or provide services themselves — they exist for the sole purpose of suing other companies, who are then put in the untenable position of defending themselves against these meritless claims or settling out of court. With litigation in these cases running into the hundreds of thousands (or in some cases, millions) of dollars, it’s usually cheaper for a company to just settle than to pay the exorbitant costs associated with proving their innocence.

In the event that a targeted company makes the decision to defend itself against a baseless charge of patent infringement and eventually prevails, the victory is a hollow one. Honor and innocence may be restored, but at a cost which then comes out of the company’s bottom line and costs that are passed along to the consumer. Patent trolls use the costs associated with the litigation to force settlements from the operating companies, and for smaller companies, it could result in shuttering their business.

Currently, there is no legal mechanism for the injured company to recoup the enormous expense associated with defending its innocence; in North Carolina, we do not have a “loser-pays” system. In an attempt to deter these predatory practices, House Bill 1032 changes North Carolina’s Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act to allow for the civil punishment of clear and demonstrable “bad faith” patent infringement litigation.


Throwback Thursday: Coal Ash

Oh my!Rewind six months ago to the tragic accident in Rockingham County that spilled 32,000 tons of coal ash into the Dan River. Coal ash is a by-product of coal-fired plants that produce electricity; and leachate from coal ash contains toxic metals and other hazardous substances. There are 14 coal-fired plants in North Carolina, including the one in Rockingham County, and around 30 or so other coal ash ponds and pits.

Environmental groups, bloggers, and advocacy journalists pounced: social media lit up with criticism of the Republican legislature and a flurry of fundraising emails squawked about how it was obviously all Governor Pat McCrory’s fault for not properly regulating coal ash ponds.

To hear them tell the story, the coal ash problem began when Republicans, who assumed control of state government for the first time in 140 years, could finally realize their nefarious dreams of destroying the environment — in this case, by poisoning the water supply.

It’s a convenient fundraising narrative in an election year. But as with everything in politics, there’s always another side to the story — and it’s one that’s conveniently forgotten by activists and not mentioned by our friends in the media.

Let’s rewind further back to 2006, when the state placed a moratorium on all new landfill permits. At the time, Democrats controlled both chambers of the General Assembly, the Governor’s office, and the Department of Environmental Resources. So, what did the Democrats do? They specifically exempted hazardous coal ash basins from the new environmental controls. [See Session Law 2006-244; S353; Section 3(5)]

In 2007, when solid-waste regulations were tightened, what did the Democrats do? Then, they exempted hazardous coal ash pits yet again — allowing dangerous coal ash to be placed in unlined landfills. [See Session Law 2007-550; S1482; Section 8(b)(5)]

When the most catastrophic coal ash spill in the nation’s history occurred at a TVA facility in 2008 (spilling over 1.7 million tons of coal-ash) what did the Democrats do? Nada. Not a single bill on the coal ash crisis ever emerged from committee in the North Carolina General Assembly.

But last week, in a strong bipartisan vote, the Republican-led House of Representatives passed the Coal Ash Management Act of 2014 to finally deal with the problem at long last. The bill is a collaboration between the House and Senate, and members from both chambers worked proactively to create a comprehensive and sensible plan to address the threat of coal ash in every pond statewide. The bill’s chief architect was Representative Chuck McGrady, himself a national past president of the Sierra Club. No one in the entire legislature has better environmental bona fides.


Tillis Statement on Most Recent N.C. House Budget Offer

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

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Tillis Statement on
Most Recent N.C. House Budget Offer

Raleigh – The following statement is from House Speaker Thom Tillis (R-Mecklenburg) regarding the most recent budget offer from the House to the Senate:

“The House was pleased to present the fifth House offer to the Senate this morning that included our revised lottery position, increased teacher pay to an average of six percent and maintained the House’s commitment to preserving existing teacher assistant positions without impacting Medicaid eligibility. We will continue to move towards a budget compromise that fulfills the promises we made to teachers while maintaining classroom resources across the state.”

Copies of the most recent offer are available through Rep. Nelson Dollar (R-Wake).

Facts are stubborn things

From Fred Lucas at The Blaze:

The Blaze: Critics Who Claim Voter ID Laws Are Racist Won’t Like the Results of This StudyCritics Who Claim Voter ID Laws Are Racist Won’t Like the Results of This Study

If there was a hidden agenda behind North Carolina’s voter ID law to suppress minority turnout – as the law’s opponents claim – it hasn’t worked, based on a study showing not only more voters overall, but an increase in black voter turnout especially, after the law’s implementation.

The findings came before a scheduled hearing next week where the U.S. Justice Department will ask a U.S. District Court for an injunction against the law going into the November midterms. The Obama administration has argued that such a law will make it more difficult for minorities to vote.

Comparing May 4, 2010 North Carolina primary election data with the May 14, 2014 primary data, the study found that voter turnout increased across the board, but particularly among black voters, where it increased by 29.5 percent, compared to an increase of white voter turnout of 13.7 percent. The findings were based on Census Bureau data and public names who signed the voter rolls.

“Comparing May 4, 2010 North Carolina primary election data with the May 14, 2014 primary data, the study found that voter turnout increased across the board, but particularly among black voters, where it increased by 29.5 percent…”

Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group, commissioned the study and included the findings in an amicus brief for the July 7 hearing. Judicial Watch was joined in its legal brief by the Allied Educational Foundation and by former Buncombe County commissioner candidate Christina Kelley Gallegos-Merrill.

The North Carolina law also eliminated same-day voter registration, which is why Gallegos-Merrill joined the brief. She alleges that her close loss in the state resulted from ineligible same-day registrations.

North Carolina adopted a law in line with 37 other states that don’t allow same-day voter registration, Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said.

“The recent election in North Carolina shows that the Obama administration is engaged in a race-baiting canard when it suggests that voting integrity measures suppress minority votes,” Fitton said. “It is high time that the Obama administration comes into line with the majority of the American people who want to strengthen rather than weaken ballot box integrity.”

One expert prediction from the federal court filing projected that 915,426 North Carolina voters would be burdened in off-year, non-presidential elections. Specifically, this was projected to mean 209,959 black voters and 710,567 white voters facing burdens that might dissuade them from voting.

Steven A. Camarota, research director for the Center for Immigration Studies, led the study and analyzed the data.

The brief asserts these finding “fundamentally undermines” the Justice Department’s case for an injunction against the law, which includes about 900 pages of predictions and probabilities of how voter turnout would go down. The brief says the “expert reports are unreliable, because they predicted the opposite of what happened.”

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed the bill into law in August 2013.

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of voter ID in a 6-3 decision in 2008. Since that time, 34 states have adopted some form of ID laws, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures…

The preceding article first appeared in The Blaze on July 1, 2014 and was written by White House correspondent Fred Lucas. Follow him on Twitter at @FredVLucas3.

North Carolina Got It Right on Unemployment Benefits

WallStreetJournal-logoFrom the Wall Street Journal:

A year ago, North Carolina became the first state in the nation to exit the federal government’s extended-benefits program for the unemployed. Facing the prospect of job-killing hikes in payroll taxes to pay back Washington, Gov. Pat McCrory and the state legislature instead reduced the amount and duration of unemployment-insurance benefits, which had been higher in North Carolina than in most states. As a result the state lost its eligibility to participate in the extended-benefits program on July 1, 2013.

Unemployment in the Tar Heel State dropped by 17% in the second half of 2013 after extended benefits expired.

National media and liberal activists pounced. Citing the decision and several other “outrages” by the state’s first Republican-led government since Reconstruction — such as adopting a pro-growth flat tax, clearing out the state’s regulatory thicket, and rejecting ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion — left-wing critics subjected the Tar Heel State to months of invective and ridicule.

Within the state, the so-called Moral Monday movement drew thousands of protesters to the capital on a nearly weekly basis. Hundreds of arrests were made for violating the rules of the state’s Legislative Building. Outside the state, liberal media outlets excoriated North Carolina for ending extended benefits. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman called it a “war on the unemployed.” Even some conservative columnists and policy analysts criticized the decision as unwise and inconsistent with the principles of their new “reform conservatism” movement.

North Carolina didn’t descend into the Dickensian nightmare critics predicted. For the last six months of 2013, it was the only state where jobless recipients weren’t eligible for extended benefits. Yet during that period North Carolina had one of the nation’s largest improvements in labor-market performance and overall economic growth.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of payroll jobs in North Carolina rose by 1.5% in the second half of 2013, compared with a 0.8% rise for the nation as a whole. Total unemployment in the state dropped by 17%, compared with the national average drop of 12%. The state’s official unemployment rate fell to 6.9% in December 2013 from 8.3% in June, while the nationwide rate fell by eight-tenths of a point to 6.7%.


The Declaration of Independence

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IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.


House Passes Comprehensive Plan for Coal Ash Management

speaker-seal-250From Speaker Thom Tillis:

The NC House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 729, “The Coal Ash Management Act of 2014”, on Thursday in a 94 to 16 bipartisan vote, which requires all coal ash ponds to be cleaned by 2029.

Like the Senate version, the House bill creates a Coal Ash Management Commission to oversee the assessment, planning and clean-up of all coal ash ponds across the state.

Ponds will be assessed and grouped into one of three classifications based upon risk to surrounding water supply.  High-risk ponds will be required to be cleaned by 2019.

“We have a responsibility to safeguard North Carolina’s greatest natural resource, our water,” said Speaker Thom Tillis (R – Mecklenburg).  “I am proud of our members who crafted this comprehensive bill, and I am confident that this plan will create a framework to protect North Carolinians now and in future generations.”

Other key components of the House coal ash bill include:

  • Requires an emergency action plan in the event of a future spill
  • Requires every pond in NC to be classified in one of three clean-up prioritization categories
  • Mandates a quarterly written report to the Environmental Review Commission and Coal Ash Management Commission on the status of coal ash clean-up

“This coal ash plan is the result of collaboration between the House, Senate and Administration to provide a permanent solution for handling the coal ash that has been generated in our state over the past 80 years,” said bill sponsors, Rep. Ruth Samuelson (R – Mecklenburg), Rep. Chuck McGrady (R – Henderson) and Rep. Mike Hager (R – Rutherford). “This comprehensive plan we developed for North Carolina will be the foundation of coal ash management across the nation.”

The bill will also encourage the development of creative and innovative solutions for coal ash use statewide while creating parameters that ensure safe beneficial use.

Several changes were made to the Senate version of the bill including:

  • Moves the proposed Coal Ash Management Commission to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)
  • Extends the moratorium for rate cases related to coal ash clean-up to the end of 2016
  • Requires DENR to study deadlines listed in the Act and report the findings back to the Environmental Review Commission by the end of 2014
  • Shortens the required response time from 30 days to 24 hours to provide potable drinking water in the event of drinking water contamination

Coal ash cleanup was a legislative priority of the House and Senate for the short session. The bill now heads to the Senate for concurrence.

The Carolina Comeback

Flag of the State of North Carolina
From the Charlotte Business Journal:

North Carolina returns to CNBC’s
Top States for Business, claiming No. 5 spot

Story by Jen Wilson, Associate Editor/Online Charlotte Business Journal

Call it a “Carolina Comeback,” if you will. CNBC counted down its annual Top States for Business ranking throughout the day Tuesday, and North Carolina has reclaimed its place among the best.

In fact, the Tar Heel State landed at No. 5 in the 2014 overall ranking, after falling out of the top 10 for the first time ever to rank No. 12 last year.

“A year later, the state made a charge like one of its Panthers, pushing its way up to No. 5 — scoring a total of 1,569 points out of 2,500,” an entry on the countdown post says. “North Carolina posted some powerful numbers, having the fourth-best economy as well as workforce — which is mostly nonunion. Last year, the Old North State’s economy was 13th.”

CNBC credits the state’s rise in part to “some substantial fiscal policy changes that have been made, such as a reduction in individual income and corporate tax.”

Those words will no doubt make Gov. Pat McCrory smile ­— after all, a debate has been raging between the Republican governor and critics on the other side of the aisle over whether said policies have been helpful or harmful to the state’s economy.

Neighboring South Carolina came in at No. 24 overall this year, slipping one spot from No. 23 last year. Georgia took the top spot.

Says CNBC of its methodology: “Each year, our Top States study rates all 50 states on more than 50 metrics in 10 categories of competitiveness. We weight the categories based on how frequently they appear as selling points in state economic development marketing materials. That way, we hold the states to their own standards.”

Those categories are cost of doing business, work force, quality of life, infrastructure, economy, education, technology and innovation, business friendliness, access to capital and cost of living.

Jen Wilson coordinates the Charlotte Business Journal’s online operations and social-media efforts, chronicles local events for CBJ Seen and takes photographs.