Civitas Review

Lowering Energy Bills and Increasing Health Care Competition: 2 Good Bills

Apr
16

Most of you are probably familiar with the Civitas Institute's Bad Bill of the Week series. Fortunately, this week also saw the focus turn to two good bills that would help lower utility bills and increase choice and competition in medical care.

HB 681 would cap and repeal the state's mandate forcing utilities to generate a set percentage of their energy from inefficient and expensive "renewable" energy.

The law says utilities have to generate increasing amounts of energy from the sun, wind and organic wastes, or from energy efficiency. It set an ultimate green-energy target of 12.5 percent of retail sales by 2021.

A bill sponsored by two chairs of the House Public Utilities committee and Majority Leader Mike Hager cuts that target by half. It makes the final target 6 percent, this year’s benchmark, and ends the mandate in 2018.

One of the primary sponsors, Pender County Republican Chris Millis, calls the standard a transfer of wealth to renewable-energy developers.

Secondly, SB 702 would repeal the state's draconian Certificate of Need laws – which require medical providers to beg state bureaucrats for permission to expand or open new facilities.

An influential state senator wants to repeal laws that were designed to curb health care costs, arguing that they have actually accomplished the opposite.

A bill introduced by Sen. Tom Apodaca, the Henderson County Republican who chairs the Senate Rules Committee, would eliminate the state’s certificate-of-need laws. Intended to prevent excessive facilities and equipment, the CON program requires hospitals and other medical providers to get state approval for expansions and major acquisitions.

But Apodaca contends that the program’s most vigorous supporters are the health care providers who are protected by them.

“If we opened it up and let providers compete, the consumers would come out better in the long run,” he said. “I think there would be more services available at less cost.”

Passage of both these bills are long overdue and would strike a blow against the state's stranglehold over these two vital industries.

Who pays taxes?

Apr
16

Yesterday was tax day. It’s the time when all Americans face the realization that there is no escaping the tax man. Rich and Poor alike must pay their fair share. Or that’s what we’re told.

Last week the Wall Street Journal ran data from the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center and found the general principle of paying our fair share in taxes really isn't happening.  Researchers found the top fifth of all income earners (above $134,300) pays about 84 percent of $1.26 trillion in federal income tax collected.

In fairness, the figures include income taxes only the results do not include social security and Medicare taxes. When those figures are included the percentage paid by the top fifth of all incomes, falls from 84 to 67 percent.  Why everyone pays the same percentage on both social security and Medicare taxes—up to a certain income.

Still, no matter how you slice it the top fifth of all earners provides 67% to 84% of all revenue generated by federal income taxes.

As much as the Left prattles on about equity and everyone paying their fair share, no one seems too upset at this imbalance. Of course you have to wonder how much longer it can continue when you realize nearly half of all households pay no federal income tax.

WSJTaxesI

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NEA numbers fail to tell whole story

Apr
15

NEAEnrollmentEmployment (1)

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NEA – the parent group of the largest teachers association in North Carolina, the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE) – has a graphic showing how school employment has not kept pace with enrollment growth (See above. Click to expand graphic). It’s a bit misleading.

This is a good example of what’s called “cherry picking”; select the data you want and leave out data that doesn’t support your predetermined conclusion. NEA fails to note that the 2004-2008 period is the tail end of a decades long expansion in education staffing..

Benjamin Scafidi of the Friedman Foundation wrote extensively about this in the The School Staffing Surge.  Scafidi notes that between 1950 and 2009 the number of K-12 public school students in the United States increased 96 percent while the number of full-time equivalent school employees grew by 386 percent.

Over a longer period of time, the trend is even more pronounced. Nationally,since 1950 the number of administrative positions at K-12 schools increased by 700 percent, seven times faster than the growth of student enrollment.

These same trends impacted North Carolina. Scafidi notes over the period 1992 to 2009, the number of students increased 36 percent while the number of non-teaching administrative staff increased 61 percent.

All this is to say that during seventies, eighties and nineties there was a strong build up in non-teaching positions. When the recession hit in 2009, the majority of personnel who lost their positions were non-certified staff.  Non-certified staff positions have declined 20 percent from their pre-recession levels, while the number of teachers have declined about 5 percent over the same time period.

I know it’s hard to keep all the numbers in your head. Just ask yourself one question: Did the staffing surge lead to a commensurate improvement in student achievement?

You decide.

Mapping the Left Alert: More Soros Money Coming to NC?

Apr
13

According to this Washington Post article, wealthy progressives are scheming to shovel still more millions of dollars to advance their liberty-crushing agenda; with a particular focus on the state level.

A cadre of wealthy liberal donors aims to pour tens of millions of dollars into rebuilding the left’s political might in the states, racing to catch up with a decades-old conservative effort that has reshaped statehouses across the country.

The plan embraced by the Democracy Alliance, an organization that advises some of the Democrats’ top contributors, puts an urgent new focus on financing groups that can help the party regain influence in time for the next congressional redistricting process, after the 2020 elections.

Donor interest in the states “has increased, but it’s a daunting task,” said Rob Stein, the strategist whose work mapping the influence of conservatives persuaded liberal billionaires such as insurance magnate Peter Lewis, financier George Soros and software entrepreneur Tim Gill to help launch the alliance in 2005.

….

The new state plan aims to replicate the strategies used in places such as Minnesota and Colorado, where well-funded networks of nonprofit groups have helped Democrats dominate politics. Similar efforts are underway in states such as North Carolina, where Republicans in recent years gained control of both the legislature and governor’s mansion for the first time since 1870.

Soros and Co. should know that North Carolina's arena of "well-funded networks of nonprofit groups" pushing progressive liberal policies is already pretty crowded. Civitas' groundbreaking website, Mapping the Left, has tracked and identified more than 140 left-wing activist organizations employing an army of nearly 2,000 activists funded by hundreds of millions of dollars.

Civitas Op-Ed in Burlington Times-News

Apr
13

On Sunday, the Burlington-based Times-News ran my opinion piece in which I argue that North Carolina's public records laws suffer from several fundamental flaws. The piece begins by noting that NC's public records laws lack any real teeth when it comes to motivating state agencies to fulfill requests:

…North Carolina’s public records laws have proven to be an impediment, rather than a gateway, to access. Despite lofty statements promising broad access, the majority of our law is dedicated to placing limitations on requestors of public records that allow government agencies to duck, dodge, and delay. Of the 15 bills introduced at the General Assembly this session affecting records access, only two — Senate Bill 636 and Senate Bill 633 — make any positive strides towards transparency.

I then go on to propose three possible remedies.

First, local governments could request opinions of the state Attorney General. While many such opinions do exist, these almost always deal with narrow issues and specific situations rather than the nature of public records in general. Still to be weighed in on are such issues as how local agencies can legally delegate their public records duties, whether local governments can be required to scan paper records into electronic format, and what constitutes an unreasonable delay in fulfilling a records request.

Second, the General Assembly could clarify what actions beyond an official denial nonetheless constitute denial of a records request. If an agency waits six months to fulfill a simple request, is this a denial? What if an agency provides records in a different format than requested, or fails to provide a breakdown of costs before making copies? May such actions be treated as denials?

Third, private attorneys could allege violations under the Uniform Declaratory Judgment Act and then vigorously prosecute their claims, even after fulfillment of the underlying requests. This is the least savory option, but may prove necessary if clarity is not otherwise provided. Should this occur, such attorneys should make an effort to focus on clarifying the law, rather than simply attacking government officials.

Read the entire piece at our website here, or view the original publication by the Times-News here.

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