NC Budget and Tax Center

13% of NC households would face a tax increase under Senate GOP tax plan

A new report finds that the Senate tax plan, which was just introduced on Nov. 9, would raise taxes on some families while giving the largest share of tax cuts to wealthy Americans and foreign investors. According to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, of those tax cuts that would benefit households in the U.S., more than a quarter would go to the richest 1 percent and half would go to the richest 5 percent.

The middle fifth of income earners in America, households that are literally America’s middle-class, would get just about a tenth of the tax cuts.

In North Carolina, analysis shows that 50 percent of the federal tax cuts would go to the richest 5 percent of residents, and 13 percent of households would face a tax increase, once the bill is fully implemented. Importantly, as the report states, “One might think that the richest Americans would receive the largest tax cuts simply because they have most of the income. But even when measured as a share of income, the tax cuts for the richest five percent of Americans are more generous than the tax cuts for other income groups.”

In North Carolina we also find that, between 2019 and 2027, many middle-income households would see an increase in their tax load under the Senate proposal.

Over the next 10 years, middle-income households–those with incomes between 48,000 and 82,000–in our state would be affected the most: Their share of the tax increases in the plan would nearly double, going from 7 percent in 2019 to 13 percent in 2027. This contradicts what many Republican Congressional leaders have said regarding its effort to target the middle class with tax cuts.

We have previously written that the House and the Senate in Congress are currently rushing tax legislation to pass it right around Thanksgiving and ensure President Trump has a bill on his desk around the holidays. Based on this latest analysis, it is clear that rushing to pass these flawed proposals will be no gift to everyday North Carolinians.

Luis A. Toledo is a Public Policy Analyst for the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the North Carolina Justice Center.

Commentary, News

Even Burr and Tillis telling Roy Moore it’s time to go

The Alabama special Senate election is four weeks from today and the walls appear to be closing in on Roy Moore. Today, even North Carolina’s usually-late-to-the-party senators weighed in to call for his withdrawal in light of revelations about alleged sexual misconduct.

This is from a story on WFAE.org in Charlotte:

“North Carolina’s two U.S. Senators have joined a growing group of Republican colleagues in Congress calling on Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore to withdraw from the race.

Their statements came after a fifth woman accused Moore of sexual misconduct when she was a 16-year-old waitress in the 1970s.  In a Twitter post, Thom Tillis called the allegations against Moore ‘disturbing,’ and said he should immediately drop out of the race.

The Raleigh News & Observer reported that Richard Burr’s office issued a statement saying he thinks Moore should ‘do the right thing and withdraw.'”

Good for Burr and Tillis for speaking up, though one wishes that: a) they’d done so earlier given Moore’s reprehensible record in countless other areas in his public life, and b) they’d muster the courage to take a similar stand vis a vis another certain serial prevaricator and part-time sexual predator who occupies an even higher office in our nation’s capital.

Courts & the Law, News

Special master in racial gerrymandering case releases first round of redrawn legislative districts

A special master appointed almost two weeks ago by a federal court to examine and potentially redraw parts of the state House and Senate maps released his proposed plan to correct unconstitutional racial gerrymanders.

Stanford Law professor Nathaniel Persily’s maps redraw Senate districts in Cumberland, Hoke and Guilford counties and House districts in Sampson, Wayne, Mecklenburg, Guilford and Wake counties.

The legislature already redrew state House and Senate districts to correct areas found by the court to be unconstitutional racial gerrymanders. The court, however, remained concerned about the constitutionality of several districts and ordered Persily to further examine and possibly redraw them.

His report is due to the court by Dec. 1. He wrote in the order released Monday that he released his plans early to “give the parties time to lodge objections and to make suggestions, as to unpairing incumbents or otherwise, that might be accommodated in the final plan to be delivered to the Court by December 1.”

Persily did not take account incumbency in the “draft plan” he released because the plaintiffs and legislative defendants only just released their incumbent lists last week — there are two lists because of a dispute about whether Larry Bell (D-Duplin, Sampson, Wayne) is an incumbent. He signed a declaration to the court that he is not running for reelection.

Both lists are the same with the exception of Bell’s name, which is included in the plaintiffs’ list but not the legislative defendants’.

The parties in North Carolina v. Covington are asked to “propose alterations” to the draft plan to incorporate incumbency. However, the final plan will only accommodate such changes if they do not degrade the courts’ specific orders to correct constitutional violations, Persily’s order states.

“Underlying the Court’s prohibition on examining election returns or prioritizing incumbency is reliance on a bedrock principle that the Special Master’s Plan shall be constructed in a nonpartisan fashion,” the document states. “This is not to say that the plan will not have partisan, incumbency-related, or other electoral effects — all redistricting plans do. Rather, the principles that guide the production of the plan must be nonpartisan in nature and the changes to the districts must be explainable on that basis. The Special Master’s Draft Plan was drawn without consideration of the location of incumbents’ residences, so that the incorporation of incumbency in the final plan can be achieved on a nonpartisan basis.”

Pictured are the special master’s proposed plans for Senate districts 19 (Cumberland) and 21 (Hoke) compared to GOP enacted redraws.

At first glance, Persily’s maps are obviously different than GOP lawmakers’ initial redraw with more compact districts and less squiggly lines. He explains the changes in each district in the Monday order.

In Senate districts 19 (Cumberland) and 21 (Hoke), Persily moved Hoke County north and took in all of Spring Lake “and just enough of Fayetteville so as to comply with one person one vote.” He wrote that by drawing the districts in that way, it avoided “the jutting arm into Fayetteville.”

In Guilford County, Persily wrote that his lines were more compact.

“The newly drawn district is contained almost completely within the city (CDP) of Greensboro, and is made up of whole precincts,” the order states.

Persily smoothed out the border in House district 21, which contains Sampson County, “thereby avoiding the selective inclusion of heavily African American precincts that characterized the 2011 and 2017 versions of the district. The District continues to retain its configuration in Wayne County, which is principally defined by the boundaries of Goldsboro.”

Pictured is the special master’s plan to redraw House district 57, Guilford County.

He moved House district 57, Guilford County, north and west to create a compact district in north Greensboro, the order states. Previously, the district retained “a backwards ‘L shape’ along the eastern side of Greensboro, according to the Court, it perpetuates the racial predominance of its predecessor district by over-concentrating the African American population in the area.”

Unlike the other House districts, areas in Wake and Mecklenburg counties were redrawn to comply with a state Constitution provision that prevents lawmakers from mid-decade redistricting.

In his order, Persily requests that the parties in Covington submit their proposed objections and revisions by the end of this week with replies due by Nov. 21.

GOP legislative defendants objected to Persily’s appointment. The state of North Carolina was ordered to pick up his tab at $500 per hour, or half his usual rate.

The federal judges presiding over the case in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina are U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Eagles and Thomas Schroeder and 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge James Wynn. Eagles and Wynn were appointed by former President Barack Obama and Schroeder by George W. Bush.

agriculture, Courts & the Law, Environment

In a setback to Murphy-Brown, hog nuisance suits can go on, federal judge rules

Ham produced by Smithfield, which is part of Murphy-Brown (Photo: Amazon)

This story is part of a larger series on the national pork industry that NC Policy Watch is co-publishing with Environmental Health News. The series, Peak Pig, begins at EHN today.

On Wednesday, Policy Watch will examine the history of nuisance suits, plus swine waste-to energy technologies, and more.

The 26 nuisance lawsuits against hog giant Murphy-Brown can proceed to trial, a federal district court judge ruled last week. While the decision marks a brief victory for the residents living near the industrialized hog farms, the litigation might be the last of its kind in North Carolina.

In his 33-page ruling, Senior US District Court Judge Earl Britt undercut some of Murphy-Brown’s arguments, while allowing others: Britt did seal several pieces of evidence because it purportedly contained confidential business information. And he agreed to hear a motion in December that would separate the cases.

That strategy could make the lawsuits more expensive for the plaintiffs. And should one plaintiff lose, legal precedents might arise in court that could then jeopardize future rulings.

Mark Anderson, attorney with McGuire Woods, which is representing the pork producer, did not return an email seeking comment.

But Britt did set a tone that partially favored the plaintiffs. He discounted Murphy-Brown’s contention that their farms are immune from nuisance litigation under the state’s Right to Farm law. That law essentially shields industrialized livestock operations from nuisance suits if the plaintiffs have “moved to the nuisance”; in other words, precedence generally goes to whoever was there first, the residents or the farm.

In this case, many of the plaintiffs are living on land that has been in their families for generations.

“Their land use had been in existence well before the operations of the subject farms began,” Britt wrote. “The fact that some plaintiffs may have used their land for agricultural purposes in addition to a residence or that other agricultural uses have pre-existed in the locality does not alter the court’s analysis.”

These lawsuits against Murphy-Brown — the nation’s largest pork producer — prompted the creation of House Bill 467. Now law, the controversial measure prohibits plaintiffs who win nuisance suits from being awarded compensatory damages, including money to pay for medical treatment related to a farm’s odor, flies and noise.

Instead, winning plaintiffs can recover only damages that cover the devaluation of their property. Given that their property values could already be decreased because of the proximity to an industrialized farm, that amount of money would likely be negligible in comparison. Plaintiffs can still be awarded punitive damages, but those claims are much harder to prove.

The justification, lawmakers said, was that the number of lawsuits would supposedly financially hobble the billion-dollar agribusiness.

“Industry can’t sustain this,” said Sen. Brent Jackson during a debate on the bill. “Without livestock there would be tumbleweed rolling down city streets.”

Considering the political and financial muscle of Murphy-Brown, that scenario is unlikely.

At one point this year, it was uncertain if the 26 lawsuits could even go on. Under the original version of HB 467, the litigation would have been tossed. That’s because the bill language would have applied the law retroactively, to cases that had already been filed. The suits were filed in 2015.

The retroactive provision threatened the bill’s viability, so it was struck. Nonetheless, earlier this fall Murphy-Brown tried to halt the lawsuits by arguing that the state legislature intended to include the retroactive language, but didn’t. Britt’s ruling doesn’t address that motion specifically, but by allowing the cases to go to trial, he appears to discount it.

Britt’s decision also undercuts some state lawmakers’ arguments that the courts needed clarity from the legislature. “North Carolina law is not clear on these kinds of nuisance issues,” said State Rep. Jimmy Dixon during a committee debate.

“Judge Britt could deduce from existing precedent” the legal remedies available for the plaintiffs,” said Will Hendrick, staff attorney for the NC Pure Farms Pure Waters Campaign, this week. “He didn’t need guidance.”

Judge Britt will hold a hearing on several motions on Dec. 4, at the federal courthouse in Raleigh.

 

Hog Order Britt Nov by Anonymous B0mRtPKjko on Scribd

News

Local attorney gets big social media response with “MeAt14” hashtag

When Raleigh attorney Catherine Lawson first posted a picture of her younger self with a hashtag to remind the world that 14-year-olds can’t consent to sex, she expected some response but nothing like the one that has taken over Twitter.

The Washington Post first reported last week allegations that Roy Moore, an Alabama nominee for a U.S. Senate seat, had sexual relations with 14-year-old Leigh Corfman four decades ago. At the time, Moore was a 32-year-old assistant district attorney.

The newspaper also interviewed three other women who accused Moore of pursuing them when he was in his 30s and they were between the ages of 16 and 18. Moore, now 70, has denied the allegations.

Many Republicans were quick to denounce Moore’s behavior and called for him to step down from the Senate race, but others have defended his alleged behavior.

Lawson, a registered Republican who works for Parker Poe, posted a picture of herself at age 14 on Twitter the day the Washington Post story came out. The caption read, “Can’t consent at 14. Not in Alabama. Not anywhere. #MeAt14”

“More disturbing than the well-sourced report about Moore were the number of people willing to justify his behavior,” Lawson said. “I shared a picture of me at 14 to illustrate there is no acceptable version of this story; teenagers can’t consent to a relationship with a grown man, ever.”

Within a day of putting out her photo, Twitter was flooded with other “#MeAt14” posts and the topic was trending on the social media site. Individuals from all over are still sharing photos of themselves at age 14 and describing what they were like, many noting their innocence and how they were totally ill-prepared for any relationship, much less one with a 32-year-old.

“I hoped people would share their pictures, but many went on to show powerful vulnerability,” Lawson said of the large response. “I’ve been incredibly moved by stories of innocence and of exploitation that remind us every child deserves a community that protects them.”

She added that she hopes “to affirm that there are lines we won’t cross in the name of party labels.”

As for her message for the young men and women who are reading or posting about “#MeAt14,” Lawson said simply that they are worthy of love and protection.

“And if your age was taken advantage of by someone who should have protected you, it wasn’t your fault,” she said.

Here are some of the responses: