Turkeys and Turkeys, a Post Thanksgiving Raleigh Report

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Remember Animal Farm? Some Are More Equal Now

The rule of law has always been a key to American prosperity. Without the law, there was little incentive for many people to strive since someone more powerful could take whatever they created. The idea of equality before the law is a key American concept and one of the foundations of our freedom.

Unfortunately, this concept is rapidly being eroded. I've received complaints from North Carolina natives who were required to return home to get additional documentation to obtain a drivers license while people with far more dubious documentation were assisted in obtaining fake identification cards (licenses). DMV examiners have been told that it is none of their business whether the applicant is in this country legally, or even whether he or she can speak English well enough to read or understand directions.

One of the dangers of this lenient approach to licensing is that more and more drivers are unable to speak English. Now, according to a recent article, “Across the Triangle, judges are finding motorists not guilty of drunken driving and refusal charges because law enforcement officials weren't able to read their rights or guide them through sobriety tests in Spanish.”

According to the article, “A 2000 University of North Carolina study shows Hispanic drivers are more than twice as likely to be involved in alcohol-related crashes as non-Hispanics and about 3 1/2 times as likely to be charged with drunken driving. Researchers say these phenomena can be explained in part by the lack of enforcement of drunken driving in some of the immigrants' countries of origin. “

The lack of law enforcement in other countries should not be permitted to erode the law in this one. I first became of the extent of the illegal immigration problem in NC when a policeman told me about the “catch and release” program for illegal aliens. According to him, there's no point in arresting some people for DUI because they'll get a new license rather than show up for court. Many already have several. Now it appears that even if they make it to court, they may be given a “free ride” at public expense because they claim they can't speak English.

Wake County's prosecutor suggested that if law enforcement personnel were required to take Spanish, “we might as well make them start studying Magyar, Yiddish and Chinese.” He's right.

In George Orwell's Animal Farm: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” Let's hope North Carolina doesn't permit that warped logic to prevail.

California is Conservative Compared to North Carolina

For years I've observed that it seems North Carolina's liberal leaders are determined to follow California's crazy ideas … from banning phonics to stealthily embracing ebonics (see the August 11, 2003 Raleigh Report showing the decline in grammar skills) to taking on long term debt to pay current state operating costs. But in one area it has long seemed California is downright conservative compared to NC.

California's former governor vetoed legislation that would permit people in this country illegally to obtain drivers licenses because he recognized the threat to national security posed by helping people break the law. Only when threatened with recall did he relent and sign a bill that would help people break the law. Apparently he thought he saw political benefit in helping people break the law, but he was obviously mistaken.

North Carolina's governor, even when attorney general, apparently is more liberal than Davis. He sees no problem with helping people break the law. The Democrat leaders who control the legislature evidently support his position, since they will not permit legislative action to end the practice of issuing drivers licenses without requiring real proof of identity or residence.

Earlier this year, in an attempt to highlight the danger posed by North Carolina's current lax license issuance policies, I invited Peter Gadiel, the father of 23 year old James Gadiel, one of the victims of the 9-11 bombing, to visit North Carolina. He addressed the legislative committee to which my bill requiring proof of legal residence to obtain a drivers license was assigned, begging them to act on the bill, and warning that if they failed to act they might be viewed as responsible in the event of another terrorist incident. Unfortunately the Democrat leadership had decreed that no vote would be permitted so their members could avoid responsibility for helping people break the law.

A recent N & O poll suggests that the Democrat leaders might want to reconsider their position. Apparently three-fourths of North Carolinians believe there are too many legal immigrants and a similar number think those here illegally should not be permitted to remain. It seems clear that the majority of North Carolina's legal voters are not likely to support helping people break the law.

The federal government sets the level of legal immigration. The state government sets the rules for drivers licenses. It is absurd for the state to help people violate immigration laws.

“A Spoonful of Sugar Makes the Medicine Go Down”

On November 20, 2003, I had the opportunity to participate in a forum on medical malpractice as part of the North Carolina Public Policy Symposium sponsored by the Student Bar Association of the University of North Carolina School of Law. The other panelists were Senator Fred Smith and Senator Tony Rand. We were invited to discuss Senate Bill 802, which passed the Senate on a strictly party line vote and has not been taken up yet by the House of Representatives. Senator Rand supported the bill. Senator Smith and I opposed it.

Both Senators Rand and Smith are attorneys. I am not, although to become a CPA I did have to study law and pass a test on commercial law, and as a CPA I have spent a great deal of my time working in the area of tax law. I would never claim to be a lawyer (which is probably a good thing politically), but I can still recognize a tax when I see one.

Should we tax patients so trial lawyers will have deeper pockets than those of the doctors in high-risk specialties and their insurance companies to pay for non-economic damages awards? Sounds preposterous, doesn't it? But don't dismiss the idea too quickly because every Democrat in the North Carolina Senate recently voted to indirectly tax North Carolina patients for the benefit of their trial lawyer contributors. That's right; Senate Democrats apparently want people who are already hard pressed to pay their medical expenses to pay even more.

If anyone doubts the extent of trial lawyer influence on the Democrat party, this attempt to add costs and confusion in order to avoid a cap on non-economic damages shows the trial lawyers' power. It also shows how special interests influence public policy.

Most people are unaware of the tax hidden in what was supposedly a reform bill. The Democrats have stressed the positive items in S802 and the press has dutifully reported those positives. There is no point in repeating them. There is a little “sugar” in the bill for the medical community.

But the “sugar” simply hides a new assessment on all health care professionals, which will be used to fund a new state-mandated (and appointed) reinsurance company that will simply add to existing insurance costs. Not surprisingly, a large number of health care organizations opposed the bill. It will be interesting to see whether their members can generate pressure to offset that brought to bear by the trial lawyers.

Turkeys & Thanksgiving Just Seem to Go Together Well

When told there were rumors a special session of the legislature to handle redistricting would be called the week of Thanksgiving, I told a reporter that I couldn't imagine the legislature's leaders would leave themselves open to the inevitable jokes about turkeys. Guess I was just indulging in wishful thinking. Obviously when people are planning evil deeds they don't want too many witnesses, so it made sense that they would call a last minute session for the biggest travel holiday of the year. They hoped to avoid scrutiny.

The session wasn't called until Sunday afternoon, with an assembly time of 9:30 AM the following morning, and maps not even available in anything like final form until late that day. But by the simple expedient of cutting off debate, the leaders were able to push through their latest attempted gerrymander in less than two days.

While the current leaders had the votes to force through a bill that included what appears to be an unconstitutional attempt to intervene legislatively in a pending case, neither they nor any other leaders will ever have the votes needed to repeal the law of unintended consequences.

The vote for the bill in the House was not that close: 72 aye and 42 no with 4 not voting. (The bill or the vote may be accessed at www.ncleg.net.) In the Senate, however, things were closer than the leaders expected.

Senator Tony Moore, who had long been known as a conservative and who often seemed to have more in common with the Republicans in the legislature than the Democrats, officially changed his registration to Republican and voted against the gerrymander. This was the first of many unintended consequences of the ill-conceived attempt of those in power to retain it without regard to the public.

But Senator Moore's switch still left the balance at 27 Democrats to 23 Republicans. What made the vote even closer was Senator Larry Shaw's decision to vote against the plan on its merits. The plan barely passed, 26-24.

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