Civitas Review

The Great Debate: Real Tree or Artificial?

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Dec
03

Here's a real question for the Christmas season: to put up a real tree or an artificial one?Christmas_Tree

You can register your own opinion at our online poll at nccivitas.org.

Nationally, tradition holds: Real tree sales hold a two-to-one margin over artificial tree sales most years, with both segments doing more $1 billion each year.

The National Christmas Tree Association said Americans bought more than 26 million real trees last year.

That's good for the Old North State.  Our Christmas tree industry is No. 2 in the nation (after Oregon)  in number of trees harvested — producing about 20 percent of the trees sold nationally, valued at $75 million.

Who's Scanning Your License Plate?

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Dec
02

CCTV Camera or surveillance Operating on traffic roadDid you know that a new technology allows police to scan a stream of license plates as cars and trucks go by?

And did you know that, until yesterday, no state law regulated how police could use that data?

Some worry that the authorities could use that data to track what you are doing: when you are going to church, or the store, or wherever.

Police counter: what would the public say when it came out that we could have tracked a killer or kidnapper's car, but didn't dare use this new technology?

Online at NC Capitol Connection, Matt Caulder has the scoop right here.

Duke Energy: Renewable Energy Mandates Keeping Rates Higher

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Dec
01

This press release from Duke Energy delivers some good news to NC households – rates are going down. But thanks to the renewable energy portfolio standards (REPS), however, rates will be higher than they would have been otherwise.  

Duke Energy Progress customers in North Carolina will see a decrease in overall rates effective Dec. 1, 2015. The lower rates reflect annual adjustments to charges for fuel, compliance with the state's renewable energy portfolio standard (REPS) and a new Joint Agency Asset Rider as approved by the N.C. Utilities Commission (NCUC).

Delivering fuel charge savings

Total fuel costs projected for the upcoming year are declining due to a drop in commodity prices. In addition, a decrease in the prior period true up served to further lower the fuel charge.

….

Duke Energy Progress filed for an increase in the charge to customers for the utility's compliance with the state's renewable energy portfolio standard. As approved, the REPS charge will increase $0.34 per month for residential customers,$0.55 per month for commercial customers and $36.30 per month for industrial customers.

The increase to the REPS charge reflects increases in actual and projected compliance costs driven by the increase in the utility's overall compliance obligation. The REPS requirement increases from 3 percent of North Carolina retail sales in 2014 to 6 percent of North Carolina retail sales for years 2015-2017, with additional step ups effective in 2018 and 2021. (emphasis added)

The bottom line: your electric bill will be higher thanks to state government mandates requiring utilities to use "renewable" energy.

NCAE membership numbers; the wait continues

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Dec
01

NCAE

Regular readers of this web site know that over the years we’ve chronicled the decline in NEA/NCAE membership.

Our interest in these numbers stems from the radical views of both organizations as well as the common practice of both organizations of making political contributions to candidates whose views are at odds with those of its members. If those problems weren’t enough, let’s also say, NCAE has proven to be one of the biggest obstacles to real education reform in North Carolina.

So how big is NCAE?

That’s a good question. Over the weekend AP reporter Gary Robertson penned an article chronicling NCAE’s struggles to stay relevant in an era of  Republican majorities in the legislature. When Robertson asked about NCAE membership, Tim Crowley, a spokesman for the group said the organization does not release membership numbers. It is interesting to note that Robertson said figures on the NCAE web site list membership at 70,000.

The exchange did not escape the watchful eye of Mike Antonucci at the Education Intelligence Agency. Yesterday Antonucci blogged on what he thought of the NCAE membership numbers.

If you never update your web site, that means membership losses never happened, right? Fortunately you don’t have to rely on NEA’s state affiliates to release membership information.  NCAE’s total membership has never been as high as 70,000. It peaked at 64,341 in 2001. The trend over the last five years has been disastrous. NCAE lost more than one-third of its’ total membership, and even worse, almost 46 percent of active its members. It’s total membership fell below 40,000 in 2014.  Fewer than 26,000 of that number are actually working in North Carolina public schools. Unofficial numbers for 2015 indicate total membership continued to fall, descending below the 38,000 mark.

 Why are NCAE membership numbers significant?  Under North Carolina law, NCAE must maintain a membership level of at least 40,000 to qualify for the dues checkoff benefit.  NCAE has fought hard in court to maintain the dues check off benefit. The State Auditor is required to publish an audit certifying NCAE membership numbers but has yet to do so this year.

Earlier this year Civitas asked NCAE President, Rodney Ellis to provide membership numbers. We also sought to obtain the same numbers by contacting local school districts. To date we have received no response from NCAE. Our inquiries to local school districts have met with limited success.

Antonucci’s unofficial numbers for 2015 show membership below 38,000. If those numbers are accurate,  NCAE would not qualify for the dues check off benefit.  NCAE certainly has the right to dispute the numbers. However, so far they haven't.

In the meantime, we continue to wonder why the state continues to confer a benefit when the organization refuses to provide information that demonstrates NCAE is in compliance with state law.

NCAE or the state auditor can easily resolve the matter. Meanwhile, we continue to wait.

Most Popular Posts in November

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Dec
01

The most viewed stories on the Civitas Institute's website for the month of November were:

Thank You, Governor McCrory  – this page thanked the governor for his request to the federal government that they cease sending Syrian   refugees to North Carolina

Will NC Students Have to Share Bathrooms, Locker Rooms with the Other Sex?  – this article examined possible implications from a lawsuit in Chicago in which the federal Dep't of Education claims a Chicago school as violated Title IX civil rights by not allowing a male student to enter the female restrooms

New Study Shows "Free" Federal Funds Actually Quite Expensive – this article highlights the findings from a newly-released study evaluating the impact of accepting federal funds on state and local taxes. The result, unsurprisingly to many, is that accepting more federal funds is associated with higher state and local taxes. In NC, the research showed that for every dollar in federal funds the state accepted, state and local taxes and fees increased by 81 cents.

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