News

One Fish New Fish

Rendering for illustration purposes only. The final design must be approved by the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles and the N.C. State Highway Patrol.From the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission:

Brook trout are the only native coldwater trout in North Carolina. These trout generally exist in cold, clean mountain streams above 1,500-feet in elevation; however, most populations of wild brook trout are in streams over 3,000-feet in elevation.

In 2013, the General Assembly authorized the creation of a special license plate to promote the Native Brook Trout. All proceeds from the sale of this plate will be used to fund public access to and habitat protection of brook trout waters in the state. (The final design will be very similar to the prototype pictured.)

The Commission’s 2013 North Carolina Trout Resources Management Plan identified increasing public access and habitat protection as two primary program areas. The funds generated from the sale of this special license plate will support projects to pursue permanent easements or property acquisition to conserve brook trout and provide angling access. Funds also may be used to remove or replace stream barriers for brook trout passage, stabilize stream banks to limit sedimentation and limit the effects of acid deposition in high-elevation streams.

Mountain trout fishing is an important component of North Carolina’s economy. Based on a 2008 report, North Carolina had 92,789 mountain trout anglers who had a total economic output of $174 million.


Click here to download an application to apply for the Native Brook Trout License Plate. The above rendering is for illustration purposes only and the final design must be approved by the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles and the North Carolina State Highway Patrol.

For the Record

Speaker Thom Tillis

During the 2012 legislative session, Speaker Tillis and House Republicans made a promise to fix government — a government which had left North Carolinians struggling under a faltering economy, crushing state debt, a bloated and inefficient bureaucracy, costly and over-burdensome regulations, and an outdated and confusing income tax structure. After 140 years of near-unilateral control of state government by the other party, some serious reforms were in order.

Speaker Tillis and his colleagues in the legislature have kept their promise. Certainly, some difficult decisions had to be made along the way. But as a result, more North Carolinians are going to work now than ever before — and the State has a balanced, fiscally responsible budget that will preserve our “Carolina Comeback” for years to come.

What follows is a brief synopsis of the significant accomplishments of the last two years; the General Assembly has passed more than 500 new pieces of reform-centered legislation in the last biennium session alone. To learn more about individual subjects (too numerous to mention here), click on any of the hundreds of links located down the right-hand side of the website (we’d also urge you to click on the individual category links at the top of each story). There are also useful links in the menu bar under the website’s masthead.

Economic Recovery & Tax Reform

  • The General Assembly restructured North Carolina’s uncompetitive tiered tax rates to a lower, flat rate. Among all neighboring states, North Carolina now has the second lowest personal and corporate rates;
  • As a result of these significant tax cuts, we are beating national employment trends for the first time in years and putting money back into our citizens’ pockets. Unemployment rates since Republicans took over the legislature have declined by almost 40 percent;
  • According to Americans for Tax Reform, North Carolina’s state business tax climate ranking jumped from 44th to 16th after cutting more than $1 billion in taxes over the next five years — the most improved in the nation, according to The Wall Street Journal;
  • North Carolina’s five percent corporate rate in 2015 will be among the lowest in the Southeast;
  • These pro-business tax cuts have helped North Carolina secure fourth place in the Forbes Magazine’s “Best States for Business” rankings.

Streamlining Government Regulations

  • For years business costs in North Carolina had been steadily rising due to unnecessary compliance expenses, legal fees, and red tape — without improved safety and service to communities;
  • Agencies are now required to regularly review regulations in order for them to remain in effect;
  • Unless approved by unanimous vote, local governments are restricted from creating regulations more stringent than state and federal laws determining employer’s benefits, worker transportation, or environmental controls.

Prioritizing Teacher Pay

  • Five years ago, Democrats froze pay and put teachers on unpaid furloughs. The Republican-controlled General Assembly passed a budget containing one of the largest teacher pay raises in a generation;
  • North Carolina teachers are now among the highest paid in the region after receiving an average seven percent raise;
  • Classroom funding flexibility has been maintained, allowing superintendents to spend allocations according to their district needs — giving them the final say in Teacher Assistant and classroom funding decisions;
  • Every teacher in North Carolina will be making more money than he or she did last year, and starting pay will be among the highest in the Southeast.

Read more...

Statement on Eugenics Payment Distribution

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, October 27, 2014

Tillis Statement on Eugenics Payment Distribution

Raleigh – The following statement is from House Speaker Thom Tillis (R-Mecklenburg) regarding the distribution of payments to North Carolina eugenics victims:

“I am proud to be a North Carolinian this week as our State is the first in the country to award long-overdue payments to victims of North Carolina’s forced sterilization program. While no amount of money will ever make up for the injustice these citizens and their families suffered at the hands of the State, it’s time for the qualified recipients to receive their compensation.

This day would not be possible if it had not been for the leadership of former Rep. Larry Womble who was dedicated to seeing compensation for these victims even in the face of opposition by members of his own party. I also want to thank the State agencies and community groups that worked to find the victims eligible for compensation.”

Excellent Employment News for NC

The latest federal employment report delivers excellent news for North Carolina. That’s the assessment from the John Locke Foundation’s chairman, who notes that state employers added 14,000 new jobs in September. That means a net employment gain of 108,500 over the past year.

“That’s a year-over-year growth rate of 2.7 percent, far higher than the national average of 1.9 percent, the Southeast average of 1.9 percent, and the growth rates of all our neighboring states,” said JLF Chairman John Hood.

North Carolina’s official unemployment rate for September was 6.7 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That rate is down 0.1 percentage point from August and down 1 full percentage point from a 7.7 percent unemployment rate in September 2013. The national unemployment rate for September 2014 is 5.9 percent.

Hood’s analysis is based on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ establishment survey of employers. He notes that other September data reported from a household survey don’t paint as good a picture.

While the unemployment rate dipped to 6.7 percent, both the employment and labor force counts also dipped. From September 2013 to September 2014, the household survey shows a drop of 49,000 in unemployment and an employment gain of 18,000. “That trend is wildly out of sync with the more-reliable jobs count from the establishment survey, which shows an employment gain nearly 10 times as big over the past year and has a much larger sample size in North Carolina and other states,” Hood said.

This statistical discrepancy between the household and establishment surveys is apparent in a number of other states, particularly in the Southeast, Hood said. That discrepancy has been the source of considerable debate and speculation by reporters and economists. “The general consensus is that the establishment survey is far more likely to provide an accurate depiction of the labor market.”

Hood also applies the latest data to the ongoing argument about the economic impact of recent state government reforms. “While it remains too early to draw any firm conclusions about the tax reform and other economic policies enacted by the General Assembly last year, it’s not too early to look at longer-term trends in the performance of the state’s economy compared to the predictions of those opposed to conservative reform.”

“Since the enactment of the new Republican-led legislature’s first budget, tax, and regulatory policies in mid-2011, North Carolina has added some 252,700 net new jobs,” Hood said. “That employment gain from June 2011 to September 2014 amounts to a growth rate of 6.5 percent. Again, this is higher than the national (5.8 percent) and regional (4.8 percent) averages.”

Other economic measures confirm the trend, Hood said. “From 2011 to 2013, North Carolina’s gross domestic product grew by an annual rate of 2.4 percent in inflation-adjusted terms, higher than the national (2.2 percent) and regional (1.8 percent) averages,” he said. “During the same period, per-capita incomes rose 2.9 percent in North Carolina, 2.8 percent in the nation as a whole, and 2.3 percent in the Southeast as a whole.”

It’s important to put North Carolina’s latest employment data in the proper context, Hood said. “Compared to past economic recoveries, North Carolina’s growth rate remains underwhelming — but this is a national phenomenon, not one limited to our state,” he said. “Obviously governors and legislatures can’t offset the effects of the national and international forces that dominate economic trends.”

“But compared to our regional peers and the national average, North Carolina’s economy is doing well,” Hood added. “Those who predicted a different economic outcome back in 2011 and 2012, when the General Assembly began adopting its conservative fiscal and regulatory policies, should be held accountable for their lack of foresight — although they probably won’t be.”


Latest Employment Report Features ‘Excellent’ News for N.C.” was written by John Hood, president of the John Locke Foundation. It was originally posted on October 21, 2014 and appears here with permission.

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.