The first day of one-stop voting has boosted the number of ballots cast statewide for North Carolina’s September 10th General Election. Yesterday over 5,200 North Carolinaians participated in one-stop voting, according to data from the North Carolina State Board of Elections. To date, 5,981 votes have been cast statewide. Besides yesterday’s one-stop voting totals, all other votes were from mail-in ballots. Learn more about North Carolina election data and trends at Vote Tracker.
“Tax revenues don’t belong to the government, they belong to the people who earned it.”
This was the justification from Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) on a proposal, announced today, to return tax money to North Carolinians from the recently announced $900 million surplus.
Revenue surpluses occur when the actual amount of tax revenues collected exceeds the predicted collection totals. Sen. Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) want to use this year’s surplus to bolster the state’s Rainy Day fund, then return the rest directly to taxpayers.
Under this proposal, known as the Taxpayer Refund Act, a single filer would receive a refund of up to $125. A couple filing jointly would receive up to $250. Anyone who paid taxes under those thresholds would receive a full refund of the amount they paid. For example, a single filer who only paid $100 in state taxes would receive their full $100 back, but would not be eligible for the full $125.
The refund program would utilize around $663 million of the $900 million surplus. Sen. Berger’s office reports that over 5.1 million North Carolina taxpayers would be impacted by the program. Press reports from Sen. Berger’s office do not provide details on for how the other $240 million dollars of the surplus will be used, although they stated at the press conference that some of the money will be going into the state’s Rainy Day fund.
Results from the 13th annual Education Next Poll were released earlier this week and the findings should be of interest to anyone interested in American education.
The national poll includes responses from a representative sample of over 3,000 adults, as well as “an oversampling of teachers, African-Americans and those who identify themselves as Hispanic.”
The poll asks questions on a variety of topics including school spending, accountability, school choice, teacher unions, collective bargaining, common core and school grading.
Five key highlights from this year’s poll include:
- Vouchers and Tax Credits. Support for students to cover the cost of tuition at private schools has increased from 37 percent in 2016 to 49 percent in 2019. In addition, support for tax credits for donations to organizations that give scholarships to low-income students continues to climb; with support registering at 58 percent in 2019, up from 53 percent in 2016.
- Teacher Pay. While teachers continue to garner public support for higher wages, support levels vary. Among respondents who were not provided information on current salary levels, 72 percent of respondents said teacher salaries should increase, an increase of 5 percentage point over the previous year. Among respondents who had been provided information about current salary levels, 56 percent of respondents said salaries should increase, an increase of 20 percentage points in the past two years.
- Charter Schools. Support for charter schools has rebounded over the past two years. In 2017, 39 percent of respondents expressed public support for charter schools; in 2019, that number climbed to 48 percent. Hidden behind those totals however, is a growing divide among Democrats about Charters. While 61 percent of Republican respondents voiced support for charter schools, only 40 percent of Democrats support charters. A third of white Democrats (33 percent) favor charters. However, support is considerably higher among African American Democrats (55 percent) and Hispanics Democrats (47 percent).
- Federal, State and Local School Spending. Public views on spending are a mixed bag. Respondents are more apt to support an increase in K-12 spending at the federal level than to support spending increases at either the state or local level. When told the share of state, local and federal dollars in school spending, 66 percent of respondents said, the federal government should contribute more to school spending. When respondents were told current spending levels, half of all respondents said the state should contribute more. Likewise, only 36 percent of respondents thought local districts should increase their expenditures.
- Free College. An idea very popular among millennials and Democratic presidential hopefuls is gaining support with the public. A full 60 percent of respondents want to make public four-year colleges free. Support for free-tuition at two-year colleges is even higher at 69 percent. Among Democrats, 79 percent support free college tuition at four-year colleges. When considering free tuition at two-year colleges, support jumps even higher to 85 percent of respondents.
The 2019 Education Next Poll offers a wealth of information about what the public thinks about their schools, American education and how public opinion has changed over time.
Find out more here.
This article was updated to reflect a correction
There have been a host of redistricting reform proposals submitted in the General Assembly this session. While most are remarkably bad bills that have only narrow partisan support, there are a couple that enjoy at least some support from legislators in both parties. One of those is HB 140.
However, now that leftists smell blood with the Common Cause vs Lewis partisan gerrymander case heading towards an eventual date with a NC Supreme Court controlled by a 6-1 Democratic majority, they are throwing bipartisanship out the window. A typical example is NC Policy Watch’s Rob Schofield, who sees no reason to “settle” for a bi-partisan compromise like HB 140 when total victory seems so close.
Interestingly, Schofield came out against including a constitutional amendment this session, claiming that the legislature can do all that needs to be done “merely by passing a statutory change.” Of course, what the General Assembly gives by statute it can take away by statute. Once the state Supreme Court mandates Democratic Party-friendly districts and the Left takes over the General Assembly, they can change the redistricting statutes to cement their power under the some imagined “fair” redistricting process.
Having a constitutional amendment limiting partisan gerrymandering would also give the state Supreme Court less freedom to impose districts on the state; it is harder to justify making up redistricting rules to help the Democratic Party based on unrelated parts of the state constitution when there are specific rules regulating the process.
And, of course, constitutional amendments are not subject to veto, meaning that Gov. Roy Cooper could not dominate the process.
So far, there are only two redistricting proposals that have bipartisan support in the General Assembly: HB 140 and HB 69. If people on the left like Schofield start coming out against HB 69 as well, it will be final proof that what they want is not “fairness” but power.
As we near 2020, North Carolina continues to affirm its role as a political battleground state. This is evidenced in our Council of State races, which led to the election of a Democratic governor, a Republican lieutenant governor, a Democratic attorney general, and a Republican treasurer in the 2016 election. We’re a state that gave President Donald Trump 15 electoral votes by a fairly small 173,300 vote margin. As a result, things will likely become increasingly animated over the next 15 months.
Civitas recently commissioned two statewide polls to gauge where North Carolinians currently stand on various political issues. As always, polls are a snapshot in time, with the very real potential for variance between now and the time of an election. However, when viewed in the context of previous data, one can often discern a trajectory that helpfully informs the policy discussions as candidates and elected officials seek to understand their constituencies.
Below is a list of media coverage the latest Civitas Poll has received. Our next statewide public opinion poll will be released on September 18th, 2019. We will hold a special poll lunch in Wilmington to coincide with the release. You can reserve your ticket for the lunch here.
Statewide Civitas Poll among likely voters from all political parties
Statewide August 2019 Poll by Harper Polling by Civitas
Trump v. Biden by RealClearPolitics
NC Survey: Voters prefer Trump & Cooper, says NC & US on wrong track by Fayetteville Observer
Civitas Poll: NC divided over Medicaid expansion, watch Cooper-Trump voters by Carolina Journal
Gubernatorial match-up coverage by Daily Kos
Statewide Civitas Poll among likely Democratic primary voters
Democratic primary poll by SurveyUSA by Civitas
Former VP Biden, leading in NC polls, coming to Charlotte this month for fundraiser by Charlotte Observer
Civitas Poll shows Biden with substantial lead in NC by PoliticsNC
Obviously, there is considerable pressure for lawmakers to embrace gun control, particularly what some are calling “red flag laws.” The legislation essentially gives authority to the police or law enforcement to quickly seize a weapon from somebody that may be considered a threat. Then the accused would receive their day in court to defend themselves, but after the seizure of the weapon(s) has already occurred.
Red flag laws are another name for gun-violence restraining orders, a type of legislation that continues to surge in popularity in many liberal states. Some conservatives too, perhaps for well-intended purposes or possibly to just appear like they are doing something, embrace them as well. Last year David French at National Review wrote an entire piece favorable to gun-violence restraining orders.
For many, the laws are seen as a possible solution in deterring mass shootings. The pressure can be intense on conservative or constitutionally minded lawmakers, as activists and many media figures aggressively pivot towards anti-gun rhetoric following any shooting that makes headlines. In the General Assembly, the legislation has routinely been introduced to implement gun-violence restraining orders by some Democrats. Gov. Roy Cooper is a supporter of the bill.
Lt. Gov. Dan Forest is balking at the proposal. Below is his August 9 statement in full:
While solutions to address the problem of mass murders in our country are way past due, I have yet to see a ‘red flag’ bill that adequately protects the constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans. Instead, what we get are overly broad, undefined plans that could lead to government gun confiscation.
We’d be better served as a nation by addressing the root causes that are driving people to violence — the breakdown of the family, mental illness, social isolation and the refusal to recognize the dignity of human life. This is hard, much harder than scoring political points. But this kind of approach will be the most effective in solving a defining issue of our generation.
Detractors of “red flag” laws say it violates due-process and an individual could potentially have firearms seized without their knowledge. One of the major problems is that some states continue to expand upon their ability to seize or confiscate weapons once they get an initial bill passed. Another problem, some of the bills out there have so many loopholes that allow for neighbors, ex-spouses, girlfriends, or even more distant relatives to blow the whistle, making gun seizure relatively easy. You can read more about my own concerns with gun-violence restraining orders in a much more extensive piece on gun-control titled “Toxic Agenda: The push for California style gun-control in North Carolina.”
Forest’s second part of his statement is the much more interesting and important one in my mind. While some in media and almost every activist will ignore it, or poke fun at it, Forest hits on the true causes of violence and rage we are currently seeing today. It’s not terribly surprising that many of these mass shooters do not seem to have father’s or even male role models to help guide them or even face the failure or rejection experienced in life. This is especially toxic when combined with the amount of social isolation we are seeing today, where many pseudo relationships or online connections only seem to exacerbate the hollowing out of community.
Unless we address the larger issues Forest brings up, it’s certain that gun laws or gun-confiscation measures are going to do little to prevent this kind of violence. Following state or federal gun laws is not a focal point for somebody who would use a weapon to destroy the lives of the innocent.
Important too is our Constitution. When it comes to inherent rights, nothing in America is as heavily regulated as firearms. A healthy society is one where people act positively in a way that no government can ultimately enforce, except maybe by brute tyranny and oppression. There are nearly 100 million legal gun-owners in America and the vast vast majority exercise their right safely on a daily basis. For that to continue unobstructed is a healthy test for our capacity for self-government. It’s an essential signal that the citizenry still believes they are masters and not servants of the government.
The editorial board at the Capital Broadcasting Company – owners of WRAL – are upset at the thought of hardworking taxpayers being returned some of their own money.
In this editorial, the mere thought that NC citizens should be allowed to keep more of the fruits of their labor is completely appalling to the authors. Greatness can only be achieved when the subjects turn over more of society’s scarce resources to the ruling class, according to them.
It is the hallmark of the legislature’s leadership – a triumph of mediocrity.
This isn’t just about spending more money. It is about meeting our obligations and operating a state government with high standards and accountability.
In a sense, they are right. It isn’t about just spending more money, its about who spends the money: the taxpayers who earned it or the politicians who take it by coercion. The CBC editors sneer at the thought of lowly citizens spending their own money as they see fit.
Meeting the basic needs of the state are well beyond even the surplus. Berger and his allies CHOOSE to short our state’s citizens and the quality services they are entitled to.
In the eyes of the CBC editors, NC citizens are being “shorted” because they will have some of their own money returned to them. Only a mindset that elevates the ruling class as owners of all of society’s resources could come up with such an upside-down notion.
Moreover, if taxpayers are allowed to keep more of their own money, they will be able to acquire more “quality services” of their own choosing, rather than what the political class chooses for them. They complain about “unmet needs” regarding government spending, but don’t think for a second about the unmet needs of taxpayers when they are forced to pay taxes to the state.
This editorial is highly revealing. It demonstrates how elitist the CBC editors are: they are blatantly telling the citizens of North Carolina that if they are allowed to keep more of the money they earned, their decisions for how to best care for themselves, their families and communities will lead to “mediocrity.” Only the wise rulers of the political class should be allowed to make those decisions for us.
If we learned nothing else from the much-too-short hearing on alleged absentee ballot fraud in Bladen County during the 2018 election, it is that North Carolina desperately needs to combat absentee ballot harvesting.
After several months of seeing proposed election reforms that were half-measures, largely useless, or that would make ballot harvesting worse, legislators finally filed a meaningful reform proposal in June. The bill, SB 683, unanimously passed the Senate but has languished in the House Rules Committee for over a month. However, it appears that a version of the bill will soon come up for a vote and advance for a vote in the full House.
I have already written a summary of the bill, so I will briefly state here a few of the major differences between version that was proposed in the Senate and the version of the bill being considered in the House:
- In the original version, standard absentee ballot request forms signed by the voter were eliminated in favor of request letters written by the voter. The current version brings back forms, but requires that the year of the election be clearly indicated. This prevents ballot harvesters from making copies of absentee ballot requests for their targets year after year.
- The new form would have “A unique identifier, applicable only to the voter completing that written request form.” However, the bill does not specify what that identifier is.
- It is made a felony for any election official to release the register of absentee ballot requests before Election Day. (The bill also makes absentee ballot requests confidential until the voters casts a ballot, although the new version also includes a provision for a public lists of applications as a back door to make that information publicly available.)
Rep. David Lewis has also released a proposed committee substitute for the bill that would include requiring voters who cannot make a copy of their ID to provide either their NC driver’s license or the last four digits of their Social Security number with their absentee ballot request.
While not perfect, SB 683 is a good bill that addresses a major problem.
An article in today’s NC Insider (subscription needed) discusses Sen. Phil Berger’s public comments that the state’s sizeable revenue surplus should be returned to taxpayers in the form of a refund.
Senate leader Phil Berger says the state’s recent $896.7 million budget surplus should be refunded to taxpayers. Berger spoke about the surplus, which came in larger than expected, in an interview last week with the Spectrum News program “Capital Tonight.” “I actually think that the right thing to do with that is to send that money back to the people that sent it to us,” Berger told Spectrum. “What we ought to be doing is thinking about how we can provide a refund to the taxpayers of the state of North Carolina. If they sent us more money than was needed last year for the budget, then I think they deserve to have some of it back.”
According to the article, Berger spokesman Pat Ryan said his office is “still crunching the numbers, but it would probably be a few hundred dollars for a couple filing jointly.”
No legislation has been introduced, but Ryan added “If we think there is a path forward, we’ll release more information once we’ve done some more homework.”
The ongoing budget stalemate, according to Ryan, may help facilitate action on a refund. “If Gov. Cooper maintains his refusal to sign any budget unless Medicaid expansion first becomes law, and if the House is unable to override his veto, it would seem to make sense that we return some of this money to the people who sent it to us,” Ryan said.
The base political hackery that is Gov. Roy Cooper’s treatment of the NC State Board of Elections (SBE) continues apace.
Gov. Cooper has lost three SBE chairs since December. Andy Penry resigned under fire for his overly partisan conduct in December, Josh Malcolm withdrew his name from consideration for reappointment in January after the SBE failed to disclose the “frequent contact” he had with a “figure in NC-09 investigation during ’18 election” until threated with legal action, and Bob Cordle resigned last month after he told a joke involving cow sexuality to several hundred local elections officials.
Undeterred by his previous failures, Gov. Cooper has gone back to the hyper-partisan well by naming Damon Circosta to the board. Circosta was the officially nonpartisan member of the previous version of the SBE. However, his conduct shows that he has been anything but that. My colleague, Brian Balfour, noted Circosta’s ties with leftist groups yesterday. Also, a quick trip to the SBE’s voter search tool finds that Circosta has only requested Democratic ballots when a choice of party primary was available. Circosta has deleted his Twitter account, but a trip through his tweets on the Wayback Machine demonstrates his partisanship again, like this gem:
Of course, I am not knocking Circosta for being a partisan. He has as much right as anyone else to work hard to turn his beliefs into public policy.
However, this new appointment reveals that Circosta’s prior appointment as the nonpartisan member of an earlier version of the SBE was a sham. He has always conducted himself as a left-of-center partisan and a Democrat no matter what label was affixed to him.
Gov. Cooper’s two appointments of Circosta to the State Board of Elections also expose the farce of so-called nonpartisan redistricting commissions. Circosta is just the kind of partisan we could expect to fill the “nonpartisan” spots on such a board.
We have already seen what Gov. Cooper means by nonpartisan; it is just another way for him to assert political dominance.