19 May 2016

What Matters for Thursday, May 19, 2016

Coal ash and potable water. The Department of Environmental Quality has told Duke Energy it must dig up and close all of their coal ash basins across the state by 2024. Mark kicks off the show speaking with NC Department of Environmental Quality Assistant Secretary Tom Reeder about their efforts. Sec. Reeder tells Mark why there is a risk from coal ash basins. He says proper excavation of the basins is necessary in many cases to make sure water supplies remain clean. He tells Mark dealing with this issue has been a problem for a long time – in fact, Sec. Reeder says the coal ash ponds have been around since the Eisenhower administration and each gubernatorial administration has been kicking the can down the road until Governor McCrory. He’d just started looking for a solution when the Dan River incident occurred. This is a fantastic interview with a lot of information.

Next, Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison joins Mark to discuss the 287(g) program. Mark asks why the program was first put in place. Sheriff Harrison explains when he was first elected to office, he worried about letting people back onto the streets that were wanted for more serious offenses elsewhere. He says he met with the local Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office and they worked on the 287(g) program which allows police to ask for documentation from people they arrest. Sheriff Harrison explains they do not ask for documentation from anyone who is not under arrest. He says there are more good people coming here to work than there are those who want to do harm. Mark asks if he could ask for anything from state lawmakers, what would he request? Sheriff Harrison says more help for the mentally ill, funds for supplies and training and a little more in all first responder’s paychecks.

In the second hour, Civitas Executive Vice President Brian Balfour joins Mark. Mark asks if Brian thinks the Senate will be as quick in passing a budget as the House. Brian says there will be a lot of similarities between the two budgets with the exception of the timeline on income tax reductions. Mark asks about raises for state workers and teachers. Brian explains the raise for teachers is broken down by experience level with the newly-hired receiving approximately two percent increases. Mark asks if he thinks the Senate will have any issues with the two percent increase for state workers. Brian says with the four percent increase being recommended for teachers, it’s doubtful the Senate would lower that amount. Brian goes on to share with Mark other items in the budget which he says is unnecessary funding that could be more useful going toward other purposes.

Finally, Chief House Budget Writer, Wake County Rep. Nelson Dollar joins Mark to discuss the $22.2 billion House proposal. Mark asks how the House was able to come to an agreement so quickly. Rep. Dollar says the two chambers coming to an agreement on a spending cap was significant. He says they also just had to make tweaks to the second year of the budget they agreed on last session. Mark asks if he’s concerned about the unfunded liability of the pension and healthcare funds for state employees and retirees. Rep. Dollar says these are currently two very healthy funds which they actively manage and watch carefully each year. Mark asks about transportation funding. Rep. Dollar explains they use the gas tax, federal highway dollars and proceeds from the sale of state vehicles. He adds the state now has $440 million in additional funds to put toward transportation needs so they no longer have to raid other funds to manage DOT projects.

Moore and Randolph County Senator Jerry Tillman and Time Warner Cable News Senior Political Reporter Loretta Boniti join us tomorrow.

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18 May 2016

What Matters for Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Should a sitting house member be allowed to remain the leader of an active, issue-based organization that actively lobbies the General Assembly? That’s what Mark discusses with blogger and activist, LadyLibery1885, A.P. Dillon who brought this fact to light about Rep. Chris Sgro. Rep. Sgro is the Executive Director of Equality NC and one of the sponsors of a bill that would repeal HB2. They agree this is just not ethically acceptable.

Next, Carolina Plott Hound’s Paul Chesser joins Mark. They briefly continue the discussion on the ethics of Rep. Chris Sgro and then segue to the details of an interview with Lt. Governor Dan Forest where he says “We’ve never based laws in this country on feelings and identity; We’re always based them on facts.” They also delve into Congressman Mark Meadows’ statement to schools to just disregard the President about HB2. It’s always a blast when Paul’s on.

In the second hour, former Attorney General and Secretary of State Rufus Edmisten joins Mark. Mark asks Rufus his thoughts on the whole HB2 debate. Rufus says he thinks like former Governor Jim Martin wrote in an article recently, maybe everyone should sit down and talk calmly and rationally about the issue so it can be put to rest. Mark asks his thoughts on the Trump phenomenon. Rufus says he’s never seen anything like this in his life. He says the rules have been thrown out in this election. Mark asks about down ballot candidates and whether either presidential candidate will be helpful to them. Rufus says he’s telling everyone to handle their own campaign and not count on anyone carrying them into office – especially with both candidate’s negatives. Mark asks if Trump’s comments about women will come back to haunt him, especially in a race against the first woman presidential candidate. Rufus says he always listened to his Mother who once told him he needed to listen to more “Amazing Grace” and less “Honky-tonk Angels” meaning Trump needs to start watching what he says because it’s just not acceptable for someone who wants to lead the country.

Finally, Grand Poobah/Director of PR & Communications with Ben & Jerry’s, Sean Greenwood, joins Mark to discuss their campaign in association with the state chapter of the NAACP to register voters and push to repeal the voter ID law. In association, they also introduced a new flavor of ice cream called “Empower Mint.” Mr. Greenwood explains the company decided to take on this campaign because they felt North Carolina has a long history of making great strides in civil rights issues. Mark says he would like the company to take a more thorough look at the voter id law before making sweeping statements about the state and those that are allegedly being discriminated against.

Assistant Secretary of the NC Department of Environmental Quality, Tom Reeder and Civitas Executive Vice President Brian Balfour join us tomorrow.

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17 May 2016

What Matters for Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Trying to clear the haze of the competing lawsuits over HB2, Campbell University Political Science Professor Gregory Wallace joins Mark. Professor Gregory explains the lawsuits filed by the Governor and the DOJ. Professor Wallace says the question is going to turn upon how sex discrimination is defined under Title VII and Title IX. No one thought about gender when the original statutes were put in place. However, the Obama administration stretched this definition to include gender. Mark asks if Congress will take this on. Legislation has been introduced in Congress over the years to add both sexual and gender identity to both statutes but have not chosen to do so. Professor Wallace finds it disingenuous for the President to push his agenda on the American public. Mark asks if the same justices will be adjudicating all the lawsuits. Professor Wallace says there have been a number of cases of conflicting interests and privacy has trumped equality in the majority of them. He adds there has been a trend to unilaterally change the law toward societal values which he says is not the role of the court. He says that is the role of legislative bodies, not judicial.

Next, SEANC President Ross Hailey joins Mark. He tells him about what the group recommended to State Treasurer Janet Cowell concerning her sitting on boards of companies with which the state invests which was if she wants to sit on these boards, she should resign as Treasurer or drop the positions on the boards. Mr. Hailey says Treasurer Cowell is responsible for approximately $87 billion dollars which she has used to invest in risky, high fee funds. Mr. Hailey tells Mark a recent audit conducted by SEANC showed $8-9 billion dollars that was paid out in fees alone. Mark segues into a question about his thoughts on pay raises for state employees suggested in the House Budget. Mr. Hailey says it’s like lawmakers prefer one child over another when it comes to raises for state employees and teachers. He explains that state employees haven’t had a real raise in years. Currently, Mr. Hailey says, salaries for state workers are lagging at least 10% behind average. Mark asks why there aren’t more lobbyists for higher wages for workers at the GA. Mr. Hailey says, “We’re at work.” Good answer.

In the second hour, AFP State Director Donald Bryson joins Mark. Mark asks about AFP’s unusual stance against a congressional candidate. Donald says the reasons they did this was because of her spending record and her support of the Export-Import Bank. He says her support of omnibus spending bills increased spending caps in the billions of dollars. Mark asks what happened to the former tea party favorite. Donald explains there’s more to be a fiscal conservative than not supporting Obamacare. Donald says the only other time they’ve done express advocacy was in 2006 against Senator Kay Hagan. They’ll be knocking on doors, talking to people in the community, sending out mailers and making phone calls in their effort to educate voters about Congresswoman Ellmers record. Donald says AFP has found the most effective way to get the word out is knocking on doors.

Finally, Daily Signal Editor-in-Chief Rob Bluey joins Mark to discuss a meeting being held with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg concerning whether conservative content has been excluded from the website. Mr. Bluey says this a key demographic, millennials, use FB as their main source of news and information and its reach is global. This has conservatives concerned if their message isn’t getting through. Mark asks if writers at ‘The Daily Signal’ have seen examples of content being excluded from newsfeeds. Mr. Bluey says with over 600-thousand likes on FB, it’s quite disconcerting if content is being filtered. They understand tweaks have been made to the algorithm, but if it filters out conservative sources of news.

Tomorrow, former state Attorney General and Secretary of State Rufus Edmisten and Carolina Plott Hound’s Paul Chesser join us.

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16 May 2016

What Matters for Monday, May 16, 2016

Misinterpretations and assumptions. A Rowan County school board member’s statements on females having pepper spray to keep them safe in restrooms was not quoted in its entirety by the media. Mark speaks to Charles Hughes, the man who made the actual comment, about the responses he’s received since his words hit the national press – incorrectly. He says it didn’t take long for him to start receiving death threats.

Next, Catawba College Professor of Politics & History, Provost, Interim Dean of Students, and Pre-Law Advisor, Dr. J. Michael Bitzer, joins Mark. They delve into the Trump effect. Dr. Bitzer says there are a lot of unknowns remaining regarding Trump, but he doesn’t feel there will be any down ballot candidates riding the “coattails” of either Trump or Clinton as there was in past elections. He tells Mark in North Carolina’s primary, Trump gained more votes from unaffiliated and republican voters without a higher level of education. Dr. Bitzer says it’s unlikely Romney will actually enter the race for president on the republican ticket.

And, it’s Mayor Monday so Mark speaks to Jamestown Mayor Keith Volz. He describes all the happenings in and around town. Mayor Volz says his town was around before Greensboro and High Point. Mark asks Mayor Volz why he decided to get into politics. Mayor Volz says after he and his wife raised their girls, he decided to run for office. He explains his wife thought he was crazy to want to be in politics, especially after he lost the first election in which he ran. When he ran a second time, he won. Since that time, he’s continued to run for progressively higher offices. Mark says he thinks everyone should run for some kind of office at least once because it’s truly eye-opening. Mayor Volz agrees. Mark asks about legislation passed by the General Assembly that may have affected the town. Mayor Volz says he tries to keep in close communication with both his state Senator and Representative to make sure they know what the town needs. The Mayor says they’ve also figured out new ways to raise revenue besides raising taxes on citizens – like looking for grant money.

In the second hour, Civitas President Francis De Luca joins Mark. Francis describes the public records request delivered to the Attorney General’s office regarding correspondence with the DOJ and PayPal’s decision not to locate its global operations center in Charlotte. Mark asks if there has been any response. Francis says it has been too soon, but, the NC Values Coalition also submitted a public records request to the AG for any correspondence between him and the city of Charlotte. Mark reads a quote from the AG concerning transparency in government. Francis says he wants to see if the AG indeed practices what he preaches. Mark asks his thoughts on the President’s threats to withhold federal funding over HB2. Francis says the President has used his position to push his agenda and fundamentally transform the government and country. Mark segues into the topic of polling and cell phones. Francis explains there’s a difference between using automated and live polling. Civitas uses both while many, like Public Policy Polling uses automated services only. He says he is against calling people’s cellphones to conduct polling – at least at this time.

Finally, how is the best way to control the rising cost of healthcare? And are subsidies legal? According to a federal judge’s ruling last Thursday’s on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) subsidies to health insurers were funded unconstitutionally as Congress had not appropriated them. Mark speaks to American Enterprise Institute legal expert and health policy scholar Tom Miller who explains the impact of the decision. Mr. Miller says optimally you should be able to get the insurance you want to buy instead of buying what you don’t, streamline subsidies if you’re going to offer them at all, and make it possible for a buyer and seller to get together and agree on a way to do business.

Campbell University Political Science Professor Gregory Wallace and AFP State Director Donald Bryson join us tomorrow.

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13 May 2016

What Matters for Friday, May 13, 2016

Heroin addiction. It’s becoming a growing problem across the nation and our state, so much so a bill has been put forward to allow anyone to get a “stop shot” simply by going to a pharmacist and asking for one because you or someone you know has a drug problem. State Health Director, Dr. Ronnie Williams joins Mark to discuss how Narcan works and the number of lives it can save if this bill is passed. If you don’t much about the spread of heroin in our state or how lawmakers and the Department of Health and Human Services are working to reduce the number of addicts and deaths.

Next, Ret. Army Col. Jay Stobbs joins Mark. He describes what it would take for an enemy to hit the U.S. with an EMP. He tells Mark about a test conducted in the mid-1960’s that caused a disruption of power across most of Honolulu, Hawaii. This was just a test of a nuclear device fired off in space. Mark asks if we are at risk of this kind of attack. Col. Stobbs says it wouldn’t take much for a country to get a scud missile, arm it with an EMP device and fire it off the coast of Los Angeles and take out all electronic devices in the western half of the U.S. Mark asks about national defense under either a Clinton or Trump administration. Col. Stobbs says he’s not sure about Mr. Trump’s plan for national defense, but he served under General Colin Powell during the first Clinton administration and saw the decimation of the military. He says he doesn’t think a second Clinton administration will be much different.

In the second hour, Time Warner Cable News Anchor Tim Boyum joins Mark. Mark asks Tim about his conversation with Art Pope about not backing Donald Trump. Tim says Pope has said he also will not vote for Trump. Tim says Pope floated an interesting idea about putting a moratorium on HB2 and forming a blue ribbon committee to evaluate the law. Mark asks if this is in opposition to the Governor since Pope was his former budget director. Tim says he doesn’t think so. They also discuss the lack of details revealed from the House about their budget this week. Tim says he thinks it will include raises for state employees and teachers.

Finally, it’s got to be NC when it comes to fresh fruit and vegetables. Mark shares his passion for North Carolina’s apples, peaches and strawberries.

Jamestown Mayor Keith Volz, Civitas President Francis De Luca, and Catawba College Professor of Politics and History and Provost Dr. J. Michael Bitzer join us Monday.

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12 May 2016

What Matters for Thursday, May 12, 2016

Hate, bigotry and bullying, oh my! Mark opens the show sharing an interview The Daily Signal’s Kelsey Harkness did with Lt. Governor Dan Forest on the Public Facility Privacy and Security Act (HB2). The Lt. Governor told Harkness the Obama administration’s Jim Crow claim concerning HB2 is shameful. Mark also shares a story about a restaurant in Charlotte that is serving some unique sandwiches that take aim at the Governor.

Next, Brenda Berg, President and CEO of BEST NC joins Mark to discuss the latest on the budget, specifically when it comes to teacher pay. Ms. Berg says one of the efforts House members is trying to push are recruitment scholarships. She explains it costs a lot to become a teacher. Mark asks about a program aimed at principals. Brenda says it’s a lot different leading a group of adults and leading a group of children, but the same person has to do just that. She says show her a superior principal and you’ll see a great performing school. Mark questions the need to alter how the state calculates school performance grades. Brenda explains why these grades were developed and how they are calculated. She adds that students in low-performing schools tend to be in lower income areas. Mark asks what the mood is in the education profession. Brenda says currently, it’s generally low.

In the second hour, Civitas Senior Education Policy Analyst Dr. Bob Luebke. They delve into a bill put forth by Senator Tom Apodaca that freezes college tuition in the UNC system for eight to ten semesters to allow them to complete an undergraduate or graduate degree. Bob says the bill seems to be a good one for those who actually want to apply themselves and get their education in four-five years. He tells Mark the bill also lowers the amount schools can charge in fees. He explains that the state has kept tuition rates relatively low, but has not set any limit on the amount schools can charge in various fees. This bill seeks to rein in these amounts. Mark asks how some struggling institutions can remain viable if tuition is frozen. Bob says they can’t. He adds he doesn’t think setting tuition is something lawmakers should be involved in.

Finally, Heritage Foundation’s Vice President, Foreign and Defense Policy Studies, E. W. Richardson Fellow, and Director of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies, Dr. James Carafano joins Mark. He delves into the threat of an electro-magnetic pulses. Dr. Carafano tells Mark the only way to create a large EMP strike would be detonate a nuclear weapon in the atmosphere. He says that would create science weather, a real term. The other would be a significant solar flare. He says the last time one happened that was large enough to notice was in the mid-19th century when the only form of communication was the telegraph and only caused a few fires in telegraph offices. You can hear more about the EMP threat at Dr. Carafano’s lecture on May 17th as part of the ICON Lecture Series.

State Health Director Dr. Randall Williams, Member of the Chatham County GOP Executive Committee, the NC GOP Executive Committee Col. Jay Stobbs, and Time Warner News Anchor Tim Boyum join us tomorrow.

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11 May 2016

What Matters for Wednesday, May 11, 2016

When you think of the blue collar worker before you make every decision, it becomes a much clearer one to make. That’s what former state Representative and Deputy Secretary of the Department of Employment Security now candidate for State Treasurer, Dale Folwell, says he thinks about when he considers spending or investing taxpayer dollars. Mark opens the show speaking with Dale about how it looks for State Treasurer Janet Cowell to sit on the board of companies in which the state invests.

Next, Carolina Plott Hound’s Paul Chesser joins Mark. They discuss an article on Senator Burr’s saying the Governor was wrong to call for Congressional involvement on HB2 which differs from the majority of his peers. They also talk about Baltimore’s Mayor being the latest to get on the bandwagon to ban travel to the state, among many other topics.

In the second hour, Pender and Onslow County Representative Chris Millis joins Mark. He breaks down the details of a bill he filed Tuesday that would ask voters to decide in November whether to redirect $490 million of the proceeds from the two billion dollar March bond referendum from the university system to transportation projects. If the referendum is passed, it would take about half the money designated for projects in the UNC system and instead use it for transportation projects that are next in line for funding based on a state formula. Mark asks if the Connect NC bonds have been purchased yet. Rep. Millis explains how the legislature approves and is allowed to alter the usage of bonds. Mark questions whether his county would benefit from this change. Rep. Millis says he purposely put wording in his bill that requires funding to go to projects determined by a state formula. Mark asks him a final question about the budget. Rep. Millis says they are currently having committee budget talks and they hope to have a House proposed budget document by the end of next week.

Finally, do you think our lawmakers should get a raise? Mark delves into the latest being bandied about at the General Assembly after last year’s long session, concerning increasing how much members of the GA get paid per year, their travel expenses and per diem.

Civitas Senior Education Policy Analyst Dr. Bob Luebke joins us tomorrow.

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