Friday’s Follies

By: - August 19, 2005 6:11 am

Governor Mike Easley has an opportunity to take a stand for sanity and common sense by vetoing a bill that would require clerks of court to tell victims of domestic violence how to get a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

That’s just what we need, more guns involved in domestic violence cases. The head of the domestic violence committee for the National Sheriff’s Association opposes the plan, saying “I don’t think you out a fire by throwing gas on it.”  

The head of the state’s Domestic Violence Commission points out that the state doesn’t require court personnel to give domestic violence victims any other information, like where to find counseling or shelter.

The bill was the brainchild of Grassroots North Carolina, a hard-line pro-gun organization. The group’s president says the bill would deliver a message that “when people can’t protect people, they are capable of protecting themselves.”

Easley needs to send a message too, with his veto pen, that we need to protect victims of domestic violence with laws and more resources for the police who enforce them, not by making sure more guns are available.

Anybody else wondering if the Governor thinks the recently passed budget is the best education budget he has seen as Governor, then why do we need the lottery for education so badly?

The UNC Board of Governors is trying to regain some respect after Senate President Marc Basnight and former UNC President Bill Friday all but coronated Erskine Bowles as the next president of the UNC system. Board Chair Brad Wilson recently said that the selection of Bowles was not a done deal and the Board would still conduct a national search.

That’s the right position of course, but it’s hard to imagine Wilson actually believes it. Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight made it clear what he thinks of the selection process, telling reporters, “I think he is the only one. Erskine should be it.” And remember Basnight not only controls the UNC budget, but who is elected to the Board of Governors, this past year engineering the end of the Molly Broad’s tenure as UNC President.

That might account for why some of the Board members upset about Basnight’s comments asked not to be identified in news stories about their complaints. It is the latest reminder that we need a new process to select the 32 members of the Board of Governors.

Currently, 16 members are elected by the General Assembly every two years, making it unlikely that a board members seeking reelection would stand up to the wishes of Basnight or other powerful legislators.

This year’s battle over the cigarette tax is over, it will rise 30 cents a pack by next year. Health advocates will continue to fight for a higher tax to reduce teen smoking and help the state recover some of the health costs associated with tobacco use. 

Here’s another way to think about the tax cited by a doctor in a recent column in the Roanoke Daily Herald. One pack of cigarettes sold in the state contributes $3.15 to the state’s economy but ends up costing the state $5.90 in health care costs. That means taxpayers pay $498 a year per household to cover the costs to the state. Seems like there is a lot of room there for a higher tax.

Finally, a correction—sort of. Last Friday’s Fitzsimon File mentioned a published report that House Speaker Jim Black had inserted a provision in the budget that would help the state’s chiropractors. That’s true and Black defends it. The File also mentioned that Black has received $145,000 in campaign contributions from the chiropractors. That’s true again, as reported in the News and Observer.

But the contributions came over the last 16 years, not all in the last two, and while $9,000 a year or $18,000 an election is a significant amount of money to give a campaign, it is far less than the $145,000 the File implied was given recently. The provision does not belong in the budget and Black deserves some heat for that. But it was unfair to suggest that $145,000 alone made him do it.

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Chris Fitzsimon

Chris Fitzsimon, Founder and Executive Director of N.C. Policy Watch, writes the Fitzsimon File, delivers a radio commentary broadcast on WRAL-FM and hosts "News and Views," a weekly radio news magazine that airs on multiple stations across North Carolina. [email protected] 919-861-2066