On April 9, 2013, legislation was introduced in the General Assembly to protect property owners from excessive regulatory overreach by local governments — who are often under the mistaken impression that they can over-regulate certain land uses that do not, by intent or in practice, violate the rights of others.
That legislation, House Bill 632, spawned a legislative study committee, whose first meeting was this morning in Raleigh.
The North Carolina Supreme Court has consistently held that land-use regulation can pose an undue restriction on the reasonable exercise of property rights. The Court has also said that land-use regulations should be narrowly construed against the government and liberally construed in favor of the free use of land, thus protecting citizens from excessive governmental power. Any ambiguity in the laws, rules, or regulations should be resolved in favor of the property owner.
Overzealous state or local government regulators often interpret and enforce land use regulations far beyond the scope of the law or ordinance. The House Committee on Property Owner Protection and Rights was formed with an eye to the negative impact excessive regulations have on the citizens and businesses of North Carolina.
It’s important to keep in mind a point made this morning by Professor David Owens:
“Local governments in North Carolina have no inherent power. Municipalities and counties are created by the state and can exercise only those state powers that have been delegated to them by the General Assembly. The General Assembly can delegate or revoke such authority as deemed appropriate and may set procedural requirements for the use of delegated authority.”
The committee began its examination this morning by looking at the various types regulations and the impact they have on our private property rights. A wide-range of expert testimony was provided to the committee by various scholars at UNC’s School of Government and we include links to their informative statements below.
To download the School of Government’s Powerpoint presentation on Property Owner Protection and Rights, click here.
Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood issued an injunction Friday that paused North Carolina’s new Opportunity Scholarship Program, a private school voucher program for low-income families. At that point, the North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority had received over 4,700 applications for approximately 2,400 vouchers made available by the N.C. General Assembly’s $10 million appropriation last year.
But for the plaintiffs who sued the state to block the voucher program, this is not a case about low-income families or the North Carolina Constitution or what constitutes a “sound, basic education.” Their objection to the voucher program has little to do with the low-income families that they claim to champion. Rather, the goal is to protect a handful of entrenched and well-funded advocacy organizations that rightfully fear that educational choice will further loosen their grip on schooling in the state.
The Left won this battle, but they will lose the war. In fact, the injunction may strengthen the resolve of the over 4,700 parents who applied for an Opportunity Scholarship for their children.
My optimism is grounded in history and facts, not disposition. (In fact, I am a pretty miserable person — an Eeyore, if you will.) There is little doubt that educational choice is here to stay. More parents than ever choose to enroll their children in a charter school or a private school. Tens of thousands opt to educate their children at home.
The demand for charter school seats continues to outpace supply. Tens of thousands of families remain on waiting lists for charter schools that cannot expand fast enough to accommodate the demand. Most new charter schools meet their enrollment caps within one or two years of operation. I suspect that charter school enrollment will exceed 55,000 students this year.
Moreover, the N.C. Division of Non-Public Education estimated that nearly 96,000 children attended private schools and approximately 88,000 attended home schools last year. It’s just a matter of time before North Carolina’s private and home school populations reach 100,000 students, respectively.
Parents have voted with their feet. They want more, not fewer, educational options.
The demand for options will strengthen as parental dissatisfaction with the district school system grows. And there are plenty of reasons to be dissatisfied. Consider the following:
In Halifax County, only nine of one elementary school’s 180 students earned proficiency in reading or math last year. Again, that is nine students, not 9 percent.
Of the approximately 127 students who attended a community college immediately after graduating from one Guilford County high school, 115 (91 percent) required remediation in math, reading, and/or English.
Last year, only about half of the low-income students attending one high school in Vance County graduated on time.
Both Halifax County high schools had average SAT scores that were more than 200 points lower than the state average.
The irony is that the Left professes to champion choice and opportunity for the poor, yet actively opposes educational options that would provide both.
Too many low-income children are confined to low-performing public schools. School choice proponents want to open the door. Opponents want to throw away the key.
How much longer will parents tolerate district schools that fail to educate their children adequately year after year? If North Carolina’s history of expanding school choice is any indication, they may not have to tolerate them much longer.
Thom Tillis Speaker of the House Contact: Anna Roberts, Communications Director: 919-733-3451
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, February 21, 2014
Opportunity Scholarship Ruling Limits Options for Underprivileged North Carolina Families
Raleigh – Speaker Thom Tillis released the following statement after a Superior Court judge issued an injunction on Friday blocking low-income families from participating in North Carolina’s opportunity scholarship program:
“My disappointment in the court’s decision is only outweighed by the impact this will have on the families that had already applied to participate in this program next year. This will only serve to trap underprivileged children in low-performing schools where they will continue fall behind their peers.”
Applications for the new opportunity scholarship program began on February 1, 2014. To-date, approximately 4,300 families had applied to the program that would award around 2,400 scholarships for the 2014-15 school year. Sixteen other states plus the District of Columbia already have similar, successful programs.
Standing on the grounds of our state capitol in Raleigh is a life-sized statue of George Washington, whose birthday we remember today. The bronze figure, by French sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon, quietly tells a remarkable story that eclipses all the mythology that famously surrounds our nation’s first president.
The year was 1783. Under the command of General Washington, the rag-tag Continental Army had defeated the British, finally securing American independence. In gratitude and admiration, many called on America’s first hero to become America’s first king.
But Washington turned them down. In December, he resigned his commission in a letter to Congress: “Having now finished the work assigned to me, I retire from the great theatre of Action; and bidding an Affectionate farewell to this August body under whose orders I have so long acted, I here offer my Commission, and take my leave of all the employments of public life.”
In his biography of Washington, Joseph Ellis underscores the truly exceptional character of Washington’s act: “Oliver Cromwell had not surrendered power after the English Revolution. Napoleon, Lenin, Mao, and Castro did not step aside to leave their respective revolutionary settlements to others in subsequent centuries. … Whereas Cromwell and later Napoleon made themselves synonymous with the revolution in order to justify the assumption of dictatorial power, Washington made himself synonymous with the American Revolution in order to declare that it was incompatible with dictatorial power.”
When England’s King George III was told what the celebrated American general planned to do, he said that history would consider Washington “the greatest man in the world.”
Houdon’s statue depicts Washington as both a soldier and a citizen, dressed in his Continental army uniform and holding a walking cane in his right hand, a sign of his life as a civilian. To his left and behind him is a farmer’s plowshare. Washington’s left hand rests on a fasces, a bundle of rods that is an ancient symbol of authority. The sculptor included thirteen rods in the bundle, alluding to the original thirteen colonies.
These objects portray Washington as a modern-day Cincinnatus, a farmer and general who — after leading the Roman army to victory — also relinquished his power and retired to his farm to live a peaceful life.
In 458 BC, Lucius Titus Quinctius Cincinnatus was plowing his fields on a farm outside Rome when messengers arrived to tell him that he had been named dictator to defend the city against an invading army. Leaving his plow behind in the field, Cincinnatus took up the supreme command and went on to defeat Rome’s enemies in just 16 days of battle. But Cincinnatus chose to hold power only as long as was necessary to deliver his country to peace; like General Washington would do more than a thousand years later, he then resigned his command and returned home to work on his farm.
On this President’s Day, George Washington still stands as shining example of the citizen-patriot. He rose to the occasion when his beleaguered nation called — and then, foregoing all vainglory and power, retired to his former station when his country’s good fortune had been secured.
Gov. Beverly Perdue today ordered unpaid furloughs for all state workers, public school teachers and higher education employees, in an effort to balance the state budget in a struggling economy.
All state employees will see their paychecks in May and June reduced by a total of one half of one percent of their annual salary. An employee making $50,000 per year would see his or her pay reduced a total of $250 during the next two months. An employee making $30,000 would see a salary cut of $150 … There are no guarantees that there will not be further state employee furloughs, layoffs or pay cuts. The legislature will adopt a budget for the fiscal year starting July 1 and is looking at a series of reduction options, including furloughs.
She decided to raid the state’s $780 million rainy day fund reserve fund that is used for emergencies such as hurricanes and epidemics. The state is already taking $250 million from the rainy day fund to subsidize the state employees health plan. Now Perdue said she plans to draw down an additional $300 million to $350 million to pay for the day-to-day operations of state government … Perdue said she considered exempting lower income state workers from the pay cuts. But she said both legal and administrative considerations caused her to call for across-the-board cuts.
Most state workers will see their paychecks reduced over May and June. For an employee earning $50,000 per year, they would see $125 reduced from their May pay check and another $125 reduced from their June pay check.
Employees who don’t work the full-year — such as many teachers and university employees — would see their pay cut before their last paycheck of the school year.
Perdue’s executive order does not cover elected officials…
Jamestown, N.C. – North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis joined Governor Pat McCrory, Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest and Senate Leader Phil Berger on Monday at Ragsdale High School in Guilford County to announce a unified strategy to make North Carolina’s starting teacher salaries among the highest in the Southeast. This is the first step in their shared commitment to improve teacher and state employee salaries.
“After months of working together, we are announcing the first phase in our effort to address teacher salary issues and raise starting teacher pay from its current level of $30,800 to $35,000 over the next two years,” said Speaker Tillis. “The entry-level pay plan is a starting point to ensure North Carolina can recruit and retain the best and brightest entering the teaching profession.”
The plan, endorsed by Republican members of the State House, will increase pay for teachers just beginning their careers by over 13 percent in the next two years, approaching the national average and making North Carolina a leader in the Southeast for starting teacher pay.
“There’s no greater investment we can make than in preparing our kids for the future, and there’s no question that high-quality teachers lead to better student achievement,” said McCrory, Forest, Berger and Tillis in a joint statement. “That’s why we are committed to boosting starting teacher pay to $35,000 over the next two years.”
“Making North Carolina a regional leader and nationally competitive will help us attract the very best talent to our schools and brand our state as a teaching destination, not a layover.”
Funding for the proposed raises will come from additional and available revenues and will not require a tax increase.
“I am pleased to see our state’s leaders come together, focus on finding solutions and commit to reversing the long-time trend of noncompetitive salaries in the teaching profession,” said Liz Jones, an eighth grade science teacher and department chair at Roland Grise Middle School in New Hanover County. “This step will greatly improve our ability to recruit and retain the best and brightest to educate our students.”
The leaders also announced plans to extend supplemental pay for teachers with Master’s degrees to those who have completed coursework in a graduate program as of July 1, 2013.
State leaders intend to announce pay increases for more teachers and state employees as the costs of the Medicaid entitlement, revenue streams and budget savings become clearer in the coming weeks and months.
In response to Democrat opposition to teacher pay raises, Senate Leader Berger and House Speaker Tillis issued the following joint statement:
“North Carolinians should be embarrassed (but not surprised) by Democrat leaders’ opposition to increasing starting and early career teacher pay by almost 14 percent over the next two years – after all, they’ve opposed every teacher pay raise in the last six years.”
Entry level and early career teachers are not the only teachers who will receive pay raises in 2014. The General Assembly passed Pay for Excellence as part of the Excellent Public Schools Act included in section 9.5 of the 2013 State Budget. Pay for Excellence will raise pay for another 25 percent of the teaching workforce (between 22,500 and 25,000 teachers), and only experienced teachers (going into their fourth year or more of teaching) are eligible. Pay for Excellence will give North Carolina’s best teachers a total of $5,000 in additional pay over the next four years through $500 per year permanent raises.
This nonpartisan Fiscal Research Division document outlines the history of teacher and state employee pay raises over the last 40 years. Typically, teachers have not received across-the-board pay raises. One example is in the 2002-2003 budget, when North Carolina was coming out of the last recession. In that budget, some teachers received no pay raises while other teachers received raises up to 5.85 percent.
Finally, the information below, put together by the Fiscal Research Division, shows the number of teachers impacted by the $4,200 increase in entry and early career pay:
Click here to watch a video of today’s press conference from WRAL.
Three years ago this week, former Governor Bev Perdue went on YouTube to announce that the state’s expected budget deficit for 2012 would only be $2.7 billion. At the time, this was accepted as good news.
To the address this startling budget shortfall — among the highest in the nation — liberal advocacy groups insisted that the General Assembly raise taxes as a solution. They predicted that cutting spending would “put tens of thousands of public-sector and private-sector employees out of work, negate federal economic recovery efforts, and prolong the current recession in North Carolina.”
But Speaker Tillis and the newly-elected majority took a different approach: they cut taxes, reduced spending, and began to root out the waste and bloat of a state government mismanaged by others for over a century. So what happened? Contrary to the dire predictions, the sky didn’t fall. And in just a few short months, North Carolina’s budget deficit of $2.7 billion was completely erased.
(The state’s $2.7 billion deficit was in addition to the $2.8 billion debt which North Carolina taxpayers also owed to the federal government because of the state’s badly managed Unemployment Insurance system. Legislation passed last year by the General Assembly will reform North Carolina’s Unemployment Insurance system to pay off this massive UI debt by the third quarter of 2015. For more information on those reforms and why we owe an additional $2.8 billion to the federal government, please click here.)
Imagine a balmy autumn evening. You and your family or friends have plans to go out for dinner. The restaurant that you have in mind offers you the chance to grab a table outdoors on the sidewalk. Have you ever wondered about what arrangements are made by the restaurant and governmental agencies to make “eating out front” possible? Maybe not. But if you are curious about these arrangements, and are willing to read a rather long blog, then read on.
This past summer the General Assembly adopted legislation (Session Law 2013-266 (HB192)) that would permit local governments to enact sidewalk dining ordinances affecting sidewalks located within the right-of-way of North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) streets and highways. The act allows NCDOT to grant the administrative right to local governments to regulate sidewalk dining within their respective zoning jurisdictions according to standards set forth in the act. Below are a few questions that have arisen. Special thanks to Jill Moore and Michael Crowell, my colleagues at the School of Government, and John Nance from the North Carolina Department of Transportation for help in answering some of them.
Haven’t people been eating around tables on sidewalks in this state for years? Doesn’t that mean cities have been regulating this activity for some time?
North Carolina cities have actively regulated sidewalk dining for decades. Wilmington adopted a sidewalk dining ordinance with respect to city-maintained streets in the early 1990s. It is also true that unapproved encroachments on North Carolina public sidewalks have occurred for a long time. Read more...
A message from Phil Berger, President Pro Tempore of the North Carolina State Senate:
State Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson is calling on the legislature to repeal the requirement that North Carolina third graders learn to read before being promoted to fourth grade.
The requirement is part of the Read to Achieve program, a new accountability initiative passed by the General Assembly in 2012 to ensure literacy among third grade students. Providing a safety net for third graders who have not yet learned to read is the program’s key focus, which uses early diagnostic assessments that allow teachers to spot students with learning problems and provide them the attention they need to make a mid-course correction.
In 2010, Superintendent Atkinson led a charge to end accountability measures that required third, fifth and eighth graders to pass reading and math tests in order to be promoted to the next grade in favor of methods similar to those used in Read to Achieve. At the time, she said:
“The gateways were initially put in place with good intentions to address the problem of students being promoted before they were ready, but the policy has not had the intended effect. The new accountability model being developed and implemented over the next few years has a much stronger focus on early diagnostic assessments. Our goal is to make sure that teachers spot student learning problems early when there is plenty of time to make a mid-course correction.”
Senate Leader Berger responded by issuing the following statement:
“One out of every three North Carolina fourth graders is reading below the basic level on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, and research shows children who leave third grade unable to read are on a path to academic failure and life-long economic hardship. Superintendent Atkinson’s continued insistence that we keep advancing kids who can’t read into fourth grade is disturbing and could amount to an economic death sentence for those students. We – the legislature, the Department of Public Instruction, educators and parents – can no longer accept allowing even a single child who has the ability to learn to leave third grade unable to read.” Read more...
A new law reforms and modernizes how major road projects are prioritized and funded in North Carolina. The Strategic Transportation Investments Act, sponsored by Representative Bill Brawley of Mecklenburg County, will govern the use of state and federal funds for state transportation construction and capital needs. (Click here for an informative interview of Representative Brawley with Legislative Week in Review’s Kelly McCullen about the landmark Transportation legislation.)
The old distribution formula, which dates back to 1989, relies heavily on clout, favoritism and political patronage to determine which roads, bridges, and highways get built — and it’s been more a function of politics than of any real demonstrable need. For years, areas with powerful members of the General Assembly have benefitted from new transportation infrastructure while other areas of the state have languished.
“We’re not taking money away from rural areas…what we are doing is connecting rural areas to urban areas in a way that benefits everybody.” — Representative Bill Brawley
The new law changes that dynamic by prioritizing each new project based on its objective economic development value, removing politics from the process. “Businesses want to invest where states have their act together and where they have a strategy and a long-term vision, and that is exactly what we have done,” said Governor Pat McCrory.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation (DOT) presented the Governor with a set of statistical projections that ultimately required the legislature to make substantial reforms in infrastructure investment for the long term and the Strategic Transportation Investments Act is their response to this challenge.
The new law sets out a vision that addresses emerging economic and cultural realities, provides a model for reaching solutions, and moves the whole of North Carolina to a more sustainable path. The reforms include careful consideration of economic development, the impact on job creation, public and private funding mixes, changing construction needs, and the use of data-driven metrics and local input for planning and setting priorities. Read more...