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Carolina Journal Radio No. 922: COVID-19, government lockdowns create special challenges for businesses that sell alcohol

Carolina Journal Radio / Donna Martinez and Mitch Kokai
The Truth Network Radio
January 18, 2021 8:00 am

Carolina Journal Radio No. 922: COVID-19, government lockdowns create special challenges for businesses that sell alcohol

Carolina Journal Radio / Donna Martinez and Mitch Kokai

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January 18, 2021 8:00 am

From extended COVID-19 shutdowns to unexpected government fines, owners of alcohol-related businesses in North Carolina have faced special challenges in the past year. John Trump, Carolina Journal managing editor, recaps some of the industry’s key concerns. Bar owners and operators across North Carolina filed lawsuits just before the Christmas holiday. The suits challenge the executive orders Gov. Roy Cooper has used during the COVID-19 pandemic to keep bars shuttered. Jessica Thompson, attorney with the Pacific Legal Foundation, discusses the suit she filed on behalf of owners of a popular Greenville bar. It has been closed for more than nine months because of government mandates. The U.S. House of Representatives recently voted to decriminalize marijuana. Among those objected: U.S. Rep. Dan Bishop, R-9th District. During a speech on the House floor, Bishop outlined his concerns about potential negative consequences of changing marijuana’s legal status. Voters selected Mark Robinson to serve as North Carolina’s first black lieutenant governor. The second-highest-ranking office in state government’s executive branch marks Robinson’s first job as an elected official. During a recent online forum for the John Locke Foundation, Robinson highlighted his top priorities for his new role. The head of North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality, Secretary Michael Regan, has been nominated to lead the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under President-elect Joe Biden. Former DEQ Secretary Donald van der Vaart, now a John Locke Foundation senior fellow, discusses Regan’s potential impact at the EPA. Van der Vaart also discusses his own reappointment to the EPA’s Science Advisory Board.

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From Cherokee to Kuretuk, from the largest city to the smallest town, and from the statehouse to the schoolhouse, it's Carolina Journal Radio, your weekly news magazine discussing North Carolina's most important public policy events and issues.

Welcome to Carolina Journal Radio, I'm Mitch Kokai. During the next hour, Donna Martinez and I will explore some major issues affecting our state. Bar owners across North Carolina are challenging COVID-19 shutdown orders in court.

You'll learn details about a suit involving a popular Greenville bar that has been closed since March. The U.S. House of Representatives voted recently to decriminalize marijuana. You'll hear from one North Carolina congressman who raised red flags during a speech on the House floor. North Carolina voters have elected their first black lieutenant governor. You'll hear him share his top priorities for his new job. And we'll hear from a former state environmental official.

He's earned reappointment to a board that offers science advice to federal regulators. Those topics are just ahead. But first, Donna Martinez joins us with the Carolina Journal headline. Among the North Carolina businesses hardest hit by Governor Cooper's COVID-19 shutdowns are bars, taverns and distillers.

Very few customers, if any, means very little, if any, revenue to pay the bills, keep the doors open and pay your employees. But some are fighting back and not only here in North Carolina. John Trump is managing editor of Carolina Journal.

Carolina Journal, of course, has been following the plight of these business owners very, very closely. John joins us now to talk about where we are. John, welcome back to the program. Thanks. What do you hear in general, John, from North Carolina bar and tavern owners as you've been not only following, but writing columns and news stories about this?

The biggest word is just frustration. There's nothing they can do. They've been closed basically for all intents and purposes since March when Cooper put in the lockdowns. And bars really have been the only businesses not to open, you know, and bars, restaurants. I mean, you know, common sense tells you a restaurant is a bar, can be a bar. But bars typically have just been shut down. And there's he put in limited seating, but most of them don't have the capacity. And it's just like, for example, Coughlin's downtown off Fable Street just closed. Zach Medford announced yesterday.

And I think Ariel reported 100, at least 100 in a triangle have closed. And there's been some relief money, but rents exorbitant, like the poor houses tried to, you know, supplement with a record shop. And they're trying to be creative about it. But they've, I think, without a doubt been hardest hit by this. You mentioned Zach Medford, he also leads an organization that kind of coalesce to try to get the ear of the public, the governor legislators, the North Carolina Bar and Tavern Association, I believe is its name. But they for some reason have not been able to get people who have the juice to do something about it, frankly, to help them or to look at the issues and about seating and comparing them to hotels, etc. Right. And, you know, they've tried to move the needle.

He's held protests. And I mean, like I say, some bars have done what they can put up partitions, so on and so forth. But they have to be a restaurant, too. So if you're just a bar, which in technically North Carolina is no such thing as a bar, I mean, it's a private club, you know, in a word, screwed.

And they just tried. They've talked a lot. Like I said, they've met with the governor. And for whatever reason, I think throughout this pandemic, bars have been the target because they're seen as a gathering place. And I think the picture of a bar, we all see it differently.

But I think the picture of the bar is what you see on Glenwood South on Saturday night where people huddle together. And, you know, in fact, I know of a brewery which is always packed and they're all open because, you know, make their own product and a bar next to it, right next to it, they share the same courtyard, theoretically can't serve drinks, although they do. And they've kind of moved into the space. So, I mean, they tried to get around it.

But it's unfortunate that I think the governor unilaterally has put them in this position. And in fact, some are fighting back beyond talking about it and trying to let the public know what's going on with their businesses. We have, for example, a couple of lawsuits. One of them, Greenville Bar, is suing. And then there's a suit of a coalition of a handful of other bars also suing. Do they have a chance legally? I mean, before, I mean, the bowling alley sued and then it got to the point and a couple of other lawsuits got to the point that with the friendly Supreme Court on Cooper's side, it wasn't going to go anywhere.

I think now the courts are friendlier. However, looking at it realistically with the variants, with the COVID variants now and the numbers shooting through the roof, there, I mean, quite honestly, not a lot of hope until there's a vaccine. Until the vaccine and we have, you know, community herd immunity, nothing will happen.

And I'm afraid Cooper talks and he may go back. Well, in fact, there's been a lot of attention now on the slow rollout of the actual vaccination plan, because the vaccines are now available in limited supplies, yes, but they have been shipped now for a number of days to states. And in fact, Governor Cooper now it looks like at the urging of at least one Democratic state lawmaker calling out the National Guard to try to get this thing going. A really frustrating and fascinating, frankly, development on this whole issue of bars, et cetera, at the federal level came up a few days ago and you wrote about this, John, at

We had some of those manufacturers who said, hey, I can't open. I got to do something. We're in the middle of a pandemic.

I'm going to make some of this hand sanitizer. Tell us the story of what has happened to them. Well, they were, you know, shut down. They couldn't really, their tasting rooms were closed. Right. And, you know, they, a lot of them opened bars to serve cocktails.

Well, that's closed. So and I think a big part of it was let's help out. We have the ethanol we can make ethanol. Right.

Which is the base for alcohol and the base for hand sanitizer. And I said, let's jump in and do this. And many did and most of them gave them away or sold it for, you know, at cost, basically, to just try to keep going and try to help the community. As Scott Maitland, who owns Topo, told me the other day, he's like, we're in a pandemic.

We're just trying to help. I'm not in the business of making hand sanitizer. And I think it was Reason who broke Reason magazine that broke the story that these distillers got hit with a fourteen thousand dollar tax bill or a fee from the FDA.

For what? Because they were making an over-the-counter drug. During the CARES Act, they reclassified the hand sanitizer as an over-counter drug. And so it's part of it. All of a sudden they're making hand, they're not distillers, they're hand sanitizer manufacturers, so they have to pay this fee for the drug.

So the federal government wants money out of it. Right. Right. I guess it was just the way, hey, they're doing this.

And, you know, it's one of those things when you get a bill, you can slip something into it. And I think that's what they did. But as you mentioned, the folks at Reason, they really picked that up.

And what's happened now? They called them out and discussed distillers of, you know, the association in the United States, you know, screen bloody murder, so to speak. And the health and human services stepped in and said, oh, this is more of a legislative rule. They overstepped, the FDA overstepped and let some. But I mean, they're not going to have to pay the fourteen thousand dollars fee. Let's drop it. No, it was dropped. It's important, like, you know, in parts of the media to say, look, this is happening.

This is not right because of this source. So just hit with this fourteen thousand bill dollar bill. What's crazy? Well, back here to North Carolina, John, really, what's the future for bars and taverns and distillers? As you and I are talking, we are at this point where we're trying to speed up the vaccinations through the National Guard.

Is that really what it's tied to? We are. It's unfortunate because we are on such a harsh, hot streak. Distillers were going wild. You know, the Kraft cocktail in downtown Raleigh before the pandemic. I mean, it was a haven for Kraft cocktails and breweries.

Brewers are going great. Some of them still are. But we'll have to see. I don't think there's going to be any more movement as far as the General Assembly goes. They've done, you know, expanded the takeouts and things like that. But there won't be much more.

So we'll see after the pandemic. We'll just have to wait and see if as more and more North Carolinians are vaccinated, if the restrictions imposed by Governor Cooper will be relaxed a bit or what it means ultimately for these hardworking businesses. John Trump is managing editor of Carolina Journal. You can read the piece he wrote about this hand sanitizer fee at Of course, all of his reporting and commentary on the alcohol industry in North Carolina. John, thank you very much.

Thanks. Stay with us. Much more Carolina Journal radio to come in just a moment. Tired of fake news?

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I'm Mitch Kokai. North Carolinians have been living with lockdowns and other restrictions tied to COVID-19 for more than nine months. While most of us have had to adjust our lives in some ways, some business owners have been forced to shut down and stay closed the entire time. Owners of one of those businesses are going to court to fight the shutdown and joining us to explain why is their attorney.

Jessica Thompson works with the Pacific Legal Foundation. Welcome to the program. Thank you, Mitch. Tell us about the business that you're working with. This is a popular bar in Greenville.

That's right. So I'm working with my clients, Crystal and Rob Waldron, and they run Club 519. It's a private bar in downtown Greenville, home of the ECU Pirates.

And they're popular with locals and graduate students alike. What happened to them when Governor Cooper declared the state of emergency? So they've been forced closed since March 17th. And that's over nine months now since Governor Cooper's state of emergency.

They don't do not have an outdoor patio space. So even under the governor's most recent orders that allowed small, small patrons to gather on outdoor spaces without an outdoor patio space, Club 519 has still been forced closed. And then I understand is part of your legal argument that Governor Cooper shut down a lot of businesses at the beginning of this pandemic, but since then has allowed a number of businesses that sell alcohol to reopen, but not all of them. And your clients are among the losers in this whole arrangement. Yeah, we'd like to say that he's been picking economic winners and losers.

And unfortunately, we've been on the losing end. He's allowed not only bars and restaurants, but bars at breweries, wineries, distilleries, even bottle shops to open. And you'll note that in many of those places, you don't even have to serve food. So there's no reasonable distinction between these businesses.

We think it's just pure economic favoritism. Part of the issue here is that your clients Club 519 are what's called a private bar. And that's different from other types of establishments that sell alcohol, right? So under North Carolina's laws, private bar is essentially a bar without a kitchen. But there are many other bars that do not serve food in North Carolina that have been allowed to open such as breweries, distilleries and wineries.

So unfortunately, that's really the only distinction and that's not a reason to keep them closed. So you are making a constitutional argument. Tell us a little bit about what what you are telling the court as the reason for why Governor Cooper's orders should be struck down.

Sure. So not only do North Carolinians enjoy the rights to the fruits of their labor, which means that they enjoy the right to pursue a common occupation, including owning and running a small business and, you know, being a bartender. And it's also unconstitutional under North Carolina's constitution to treat like businesses differently. The private bars are no different from the bars inside of a restaurant or any other establishment that's been allowed to open.

And they're just fighting to have equal treatment under the law. So basically, you would have no case if Governor Cooper had forced all bars to remain closed and stay closed because everyone would have been treated the same. But he's been treating different bars or different establishments in different ways, which which makes the case. Well, I think that makes our case particularly strong and it makes it, you know, a moral outrage, to be honest. But there are more things, you know, whenever I was saying that we have a right to pursue a common occupation, that's for all restaurants.

They have a constitutional right to be open unless there is a strong reason and it's tied to a particular government interest. And here is just not closely tied whenever bars and restaurants can institute new safety precautions to take care of their clients and keep them safe from COVID-19. So even if there weren't this distinction, you'd probably still be pursuing this as something that the governor is pursuing that really does violate some basic constitutional rights.

That's right. And another point I should raise is, you know, we're nine months into the state of emergency. And it's really the legislature's role to be crafting a policy response to the public health crisis caused by COVID-19.

It's not the role for the executive for one man to decide the entire policy for the whole state. And we're also bringing constitutional challenges along those lines. Now, tell us a little bit about what has happened with your clients, because obviously, the constitutional issues are important, but we're talking about real people and real impacts.

How has this shutdown affected your clients? Well, it's had a huge economic and emotional toll on them. This has been their pride and joy for the last 18 years. This is their primary source of income. And so for the last nine months, they've had to take on other jobs to help make ends meet. They've been lucky to receive a PPP loan and unemployment as well, but those funds have run out.

And so they are really desperate for the courts to step in and to allow them to open with reasonable restrictions. How about their workers? Obviously, it affects them, but anyone who was working there as a server, bartender, any other type of job, they can't be working either.

Right. In fact, some of those employees have left for other states where they were able to, you know, continue their work as servers or bartenders. Now, we know that there have been a number of cases challenging Governor Cooper's executive orders.

And so far, none of them have borne fruit in the ultimate decisions that are made either at the state Supreme Court level or lower courts. Why do you think that this particular case is going to be able to succeed? Well, I'm lucky to work with the Pacific Legal Foundation. And we are representing Crystal and Herbarr Club 519 pro bono.

And so what that means is we're offering it to our services free of charge. And we're willing to go the distance. We're willing to take these cases to the North Carolina Supreme Court to vindicate their constitutional rights. And we also believe that the length of this state of emergency has just gone on so long now. We're nine months in.

It's not the same situation that it was three months into the emergency. And we're hopeful courts will recognize that. One of the things I noted in some of the material that came out as part of this was a discussion of the way that Governor Cooper has gone about instituting these orders. We know that Lieutenant Governor Dan Forrest took him to court over ignoring the Council of State.

Does that play any role in your suit as well? Well, we think that the Emergency Management Act, which Governor Cooper purports to grant him authority to issue these orders, that they grant too much power to the executive, if they do indeed support his use of that statute to issue these orders. So we are making some similar constitutional arguments, although not the exact same from the lieutenant governor's case. But it sounds as if regardless of the case, based on your reading of what's happened, you'd like to see the General Assembly take some action on the Emergency Management Act to help address this.

Yes, that would be great. And you know, it's unfortunate that the General Assembly tried to do just that in May and June of this year, but Governor Cooper vetoed those efforts. And so we're hopeful that the courts can step in and mediate this dispute between the two branches, and also vindicate the constitutional rights of all North Carolinians. Obviously, as an attorney working with a client, the main thing you want is to get a win for your client, allow them to open back up. Are there some other things that you hope come out of this lawsuit in terms of how the governor proceeds in the future or how executive orders are treated, that sort of thing? Yeah, so I would say there's two things that we really hope that come out of this lawsuit. One, we would like to reassert the fundamental right of all North Carolinians to earn a living. And we would also like to reassert that the separation of powers in our constitutional government is for the protection of individual liberty.

Jessica Thompson is an attorney with the Pacific Legal Foundation. Jessica, thanks so much for joining us. Thank you, Mitch. We'll have more on Carolina Journal Radio in just a moment. If you love freedom, we've got great news to share with you. Now you can find the latest news, views, and research from conservative groups across North Carolina all in one place. It's one-stop shopping for North Carolina's freedom movement. At, you'll find links to John Locke Foundation blogs on the day's news, reporting and quick takes, Carolina Journal radio interviews, TV interviews featuring CJ Reporters and Locke Foundation analysts, opinion pieces and reports on higher education from the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, commentary and polling data from the Civitas Institute, and news and views from the North Carolina Family Policy Council.

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I'm Mitch Kokine. The U.S. House of Representatives voted recently to decriminalize marijuana nationwide. The measure is dubbed the Moore Act. While the idea won support from a majority of the House, critics included North Carolina's 9th District Congressman, Republican Dan Bishop.

The fact that the Moore Act is on the floor at this time epitomizes Democrats' misplaced priorities. But it also puts on display their inclination to reckless disregard of consequences. Just like the clarion call to defund the police, followed rapidly by astonished surprise over the ensuing surge in violence, Democrats rush to legalize marijuana without any heed or response to the rising epidemic of drug driving across the country would mean more dead and injured Americans on our highways. Consider this, since 2013 in Washington State, the number of fatal crash drivers who tested positive for THC has more than doubled. In Vermont, since 2010, fatal crashes linked to marijuana use have skyrocketed by 173 percent following that state's decriminalization. Forty-seven percent of Oregonians who died in a car crash in 2018 tested positive for marijuana, according to the Oregon State Police. More Indiana drivers in deadly car crashes test positive for drugs than for alcohol.

The data are clear. When governments liberalize marijuana laws, motorists and passengers die. Law enforcement tells us they lack a reliable roadside test to detect marijuana use or a uniform standard to measure marijuana toxicity. Yet our defund the police Democratic colleagues rush to change the status quo across the entire country while refusing even to consider my common sense amendment that would require the Department of Transportation to develop and prescribe best practices for testing drivers suspected of marijuana impairment. My amendment would help law enforcement keep people safe, but Democrats would rather prioritize criminals. A North Carolina sheriff recently called drug driving, quote, one of the leading killers in our state.

Just like Democrats efforts to defund police, the more acts unintended consequences will include increased danger for our families. I urge my colleagues to support Americans safety by voting against this bill. That's North Carolina's 9th District Congressman, Republican Dan Bishop, speaking on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Bishop explained recently why he opposed the MORE Act. It's a bill to decriminalize marijuana across the country. We'll return with more Carolina Journal Radio in a moment. We're doubling down on freedom.

At Carolina Journal Radio, we're proud to bring you stories that impact your life and your wallet. And now get twice as much freedom when you also listen to our podcast, Headlock, available on iTunes and at slash podcast. Now Headlock is a little bit different.

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I'm Mitch kokai. North Carolina voters have elected Republican Mark Robinson to serve as the state's first black lieutenant governor. Robinson discussed his new job during a recent online presentation for the John Locke Foundation. It's just amazing to me. You know, we have a lot of people in this country that like to talk about how bad this nation is and all the problems that this nation has. But when I look at my story from where I've come from, the walk that I've walked in this in this in this country, coming from being the ninth of 10 children and growing up the way that we did seem like you know what it looked like to a lot of people that our situation was hopeless to now actually making history in this country and doing it in a short transition period. I mean, two and a half years ago, and I'd say this all the time, two and a half years ago, I was working in a factory and I was studying history at a university and now I am making history and about to go to Raleigh to work for the people of North Carolina.

It's an amazing story. And only with God and only in America could something like this happen. And we just can't say it enough. Robinson would like to see more public involvement in important state government decisions. One of the things I would like to do is I would like to urge the governor to open his office up and allow all of us to be involved in the decision making. I think what we're seeing a lot of and I think what North Carolinians are so frustrated about is it seems like all these directives are coming from just one or two people from the very top level of government when it should be a combination of folks who should be coming to the table to make sure that all the voices are heard. The most disturbing thing to me about it is this is that the control has been taken out of North Carolinians hands.

I've said this several times. I have confidence in the people of North Carolina. I don't believe the people of North Carolina are childish or foolish or incapable of making decisions that can keep their employees safe, their customers safe, their families safe, their parishioners safe.

I believe that those folks have common sense and wisdom, understand how to run their churches and their businesses. And we should put that control back in those folks' hands. And that's a message that I would desperately like to relay to our governor. As a member of the statewide elected Council of State, Robinson will have a chance to offer regular input to Democratic Governor Roy Cooper.

What does Robinson think about that role? We're not sure if we can change the governor's mind. We're certainly going to try.

We're certainly going to try to work with him as much as we can in that vein. But if we can't change the governor's mind, we at least want to make sure that the people of North Carolina are aware of what's going on. And in the future, do not elect someone who's going to act like a dictator because, you know, in many ways, that's what a lot of people feel like. They feel like the governor has cut the rest of the Council of State out, has cut out the legislature and is simply using his executive power far too heavy handed. And so we need to make sure the people of North Carolina understand that they need to remain in control. And in the future, they need to elect a governor that's going to be more forthcoming with the rest of the Council of State and with the legislature to make sure that they're not acting single-handedly or single-mindedly. As far as changing Governor Cooper's mind, again, I'm not sure if we can do that, but we're certainly going to try.

That's North Carolina's new Lieutenant Governor, Mark Robinson, speaking recently in an online presentation for the John Lott Foundation. Despite his concerns about Governor Roy Cooper's actions, Robinson thinks people of all political persuasions can support some common goals. One of the things that we want to start working on immediately is something that we talked about during our campaign is trying to increase veterans' care, the level of veterans' care in the state. We call it trying to make this North Carolina gold standard of veterans' care in the nation and being that shining example. I don't think that there's anybody in ROC that would be against that, setting the course to make sure that North Carolina sets the standard in the nation for how veterans are cared for.

And I think if there's any issue that's going to be able to bring us together in the legislature, any issue that the governor can see eye to eye on us with, it's going to be that one issue. And it's something that's near and dear to my heart because I think for far too long in this state and too many other states around this nation, we have put veterans on the back burner and we see the dreadful effects of it. We talk all the time about how they're, you know, 0.2 veteran suicides a day, and it's increasing. You know, I talked to many veterans across the state and they really do feel left out. They feel like they have not gotten what they have earned on the battlefield and in service for our nation.

And it's time for us to do something about it. And I really believe that that is the one issue that can bring Republicans and Democrats together. The very first thing I would like to try to work on, there are nine states in the nation that do not tax veterans' pensions at all.

There is no tax on veterans' pensions. I would very much like to see North Carolina start the process of becoming number 10. I think that's the very first thing we can do. We can do it to make a big statement to the veterans of North Carolina that we respect you, we love you, we honor your sacrifice, and that would be the perfect jumping off point for setting that gold standard of care. Robinson is interested in tackling regulatory burdens for veterans. One of the things that I've been talking with with some veterans is trying to ease some of the restrictions that employers have on the training that folks receive in the military. You know, some of these folks come out and they're highly qualified people, but they don't have the civilian training they need to move into these jobs.

I think we need to look into some ways where we can ease those restrictions so that the experience that these folks have, the great experience that they have, that they've gained in the military can be easily transferred into civilian life. Switching gears, Robinson also addressed school choice and opportunity scholarship vouchers for low-income students. When you talk about opportunity scholarships, I say it like this, there's no reason why, I don't believe any reason why any politician, any elected official should be against this because the bottom line is this, public education has been declining for many years and we all see, we all see the problems of public education, we all understand it's a complex, it's a complex issue that's going to take many years to fix. We understand that those issues do need to be fixed, but we do not need to allow children who have the opportunity to succeed, we do not need to let them fail because we have failed our public schools or because our public schools are failing. It is too important to their future. Those children that need a way out and have a way out should be given a way out and we should allow them to get an education that's going to be commensurate with their talents. You know, those folks that oppose us always talk about empowering people and they always talk about, you know, how there's talent everywhere and how we should seek out talent and give that talent opportunity. They love those words, but then when it comes time to actually give up the opportunity in the form of an opportunity scholarship, they're all of a sudden, they're opposed. So it really confuses me about whether or not they are actually forgiving these children opportunities or whether or not they simply want them to continue to fail under these old systems. As Lieutenant Governor, I'm going to fight hard for these children. The new Lieutenant Governor highlighted another key priority. One of the most crucial things I think we've got attacking right now is law enforcement and law and order. I mean, it is getting out of hand. My hometown, Greensboro has recently been ranked as the number 10th most dangerous city to live in in the United States.

That is absolutely atrocious. I watched Greensboro come back from the depths of despair. I mean, I watched the downtown when I was growing up was a place that was desolate, closed down, boarded up, dangerous. And I watched our city council, a bipartisan city council work hard to build our downtown into something we could be proud of, full of parks, full of independently owned shops, a place where you could walk with your family. You go down into the downtown now when businesses are boarded up with graffiti all over them.

There's graffiti in the streets. We had riots. Our mayor, our city council wouldn't stand up for our police department. And we see this shift all across the country of people demonizing law enforcement, spreading these false narratives about our police officers, that our police officers are racist and violent.

And we simply know that the data doesn't back that up. Somebody in the capacity of elected officials has got to stand up for law and order and law enforcement. That's Mark Robinson, Republican elected as North Carolina's first black lieutenant governor. He delivered these remarks during an online presentation for the John Locke Foundation. We'll return with more Carolina Journal Radio in a moment. You'll influence.

You either have it or you don't. And at the John Locke Foundation, we have it. You'll find our guiding principles in many of the freedom forward reforms of the past decade here in North Carolina. So while others talk or complain or name call, we provide research, solutions and hope. Our team analyzes the pressing issues of the day, jobs, health care, education and more. We look for effective ways to give you more freedom, more options, more control over your life. Our goal is to transform North Carolina into a growing, thriving economic powerhouse, the envy of every other state. Our research has helped policymakers make decisions that ensure you keep more of what you earn, expand your choice of schools for your kids, widen your job opportunities, improve your access to doctors. The recipe for stability and a bright future for truth, for freedom, for the future of North Carolina.

We are the John Locke Foundation. Welcome back to Carolina Journal Radio. I'm Donna Martinez, president elect Joe Biden's choices to lead key federal regulatory and energy agencies, choices that include a North Carolinian named Michael Regan to head the EPA.

Well, all those choices could spell trouble for North Carolina farmers, landowners and businesses. Now, our state's former lead regulator, Dr. Don Vandervar, now a senior fellow at the John Locke Foundation, joins me now to explain what could be ahead, not only for our state, but for the entire country due to a Biden administration. Don, welcome back to the show. Thanks for having me. Before we talk about the president elect's choices for these key agencies, congratulations are in order to you because you have been reappointed to a key scientific advisory board for the federal EPA.

Congratulations. Tell us what you do. Well, it's a large group of some 40-odd scientists from around the country. And what the board is actually – it's a FACA board, so it's very formalistic. But what we do is essentially advise the administrator of the EPA on scientific questions. Now, those questions can be asked by the administrator or they can even be put forward by the board itself.

And essentially, we put reports together and make recommendations. And this is your second term. You served one.

Apparently, you didn't offend anybody. They asked you back. So you will be serving for another three years, I believe.

That's correct. You said something, Don, that I think is important for our listeners to know. I mentioned that you are the former lead regulator here in North Carolina.

You were the secretary of the Department of Environmental Quality during the Pat McCrory years when he was governor. But you are a scientist, and that is important. I know that you consider yourself not only an educated scientist with multiple degrees but also an environmentalist.

Some people might think, how is that possible? Being that you are a free marketer, you're more on the conservative side. Help us understand that. Well, it's actually – for those of us who actually care about the environment for the sake of the environment, not for political purposes, we recognize that the only way you can have a robust environmental management program is to have a robust economy.

And the two really don't – you don't see the kind of environmental protections we have here in this country in countries that don't have the kind of economy we've got. So it doesn't make sense. And in fact, here in North Carolina, another one of your roles is that you sit on a keyboard here in our state regarding environmental management. Tell us about that.

Right. That's the board that actually has the authority to pass rules for the department. And that's a very formalistic group and it has representatives that have been put on there by both the governor and the General Assembly. And it's a very good group. It has a lot of robust discussions.

Obviously, your background, your experience, your education, you're highly sought after. You're here at the Locke Foundation as a senior fellow doing a lot of writing. By the way, you can follow that at So interesting that the new presidential administration, Joe Biden, has been selecting key position holders. One of them actually is your successor here in North Carolina at the Department of Environmental Quality.

His name is Michael Regan. He has been the secretary of DEQ here. And Mr. Biden has selected him to head the EPA.

What's your reaction to that? What do you expect from a Regan EPA? Well, first, I'm happy to see a state regulator be selected for that role.

I think they're the best suited. His next step is to be confirmed and that's not going to be without controversy. You might recall he was part of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline debacle, which led to an investigation and, you know, whether you're a Democrat or a Republican, that really didn't have very good optics. That was an agreement between Duke and the pipeline and the administration and essentially gave $58 million for a permit and it even required a refund if the permit was later rescinded.

Whether you're a Democrat or a Republican, nobody likes to see permits for sale. So that may be a controversy that he may see in the Senate confirmation hearing. But overall, his interest I think is in environmental justice, very difficult topic.

It essentially seeks to apply environmental restrictions in a non-uniform way based on demographics. It has been around for a long time. Efforts have been around for a long time.

So far, there has been very little in the way of rules and so there's going to be a lot of interest, continued interest in that area. He had – in North Carolina, he pushed for a program to permit the agricultural industry, particularly livestock operations. He misstepped on some procedural issues and that permit program ended up being stayed by a court.

I'm sure that will get worked out. So there has been some miscues. The coal ash settlement where he essentially handed over the ratepayers to Duke, I think that's problematic. But all in all, I think the reason he was selected was his interest in environmental justice. What you're going to see in a Biden administration is you're going to see somewhat similar to when Carol Browner had the position in the White House. I think Gina McCarthy will be sort of the quarterback and their focus is going to be trying to get some kind of legislation through that looks like the Green New Deal, which as we've talked about is less to do about the environment and more to do with our economic model.

You mentioned Gina McCarthy. At the point that you and I are talking, it looks like the president-elect has selected her to be essentially a climate change czar, if you like that phrase. Also, it looks like Mr. Biden is selecting Jennifer Granholm to run the Energy Department.

So you're looking at Michael Regan, Gina McCarthy, Jennifer Granholm. Fair to say that that would be a group of like-minded people who would be interested in restricting the rights of North Carolina farmers, landowners, et cetera? I think you're going to see a large part of their program to be focused on wealth redistribution and under the guise of clean energy. But you're going to see a real effort at the EPA specifically on rolling back the definition of the waters of the US. That's something that the current administrator Andrew Wheeler worked very hard to better define, one that's more consistent with the law.

I think you're going to see a return to the Obama approach where they're really trying to extend the reach of their authority. And what you're going to see in North Carolina and other places is much of our land use to be federally dictated. Well, agriculture specifically is so important to North Carolina. Are you expecting that there will be an attempt to somehow cut back on the ability of North Carolina farmers to grow, to produce, to raise crops and animals, et cetera, to help feed the world? Absolutely. There are provisions under the Green New Deal which speak to that to restrict farming.

But an easier approach which is the one the Obama administration selected was to prohibit expansion of farm use without federal intervention and through the waters of the US definition. I think that's where you're going to see the earliest action. Dr. Don Vandervoort is senior fellow at the John Locke Foundation. Thank you very much for joining us. Thank you.

That's all the time we have for the program this week. Thank you for listening. On behalf of Mitch Kokai, I'm Donna Martinez. Hope you'll join us again next week for more Carolina Journal Radio. Carolina Journal Radio is a program of the John Locke Foundation. To learn more about the John Locke Foundation, including donations that support programs like Carolina Journal Radio, send e-mail to development at or call 1-866-JLF-INFO.

That's 1-866-553-4636. Carolina Journal Radio is a co-production of the John Locke Foundation, North Carolina's free market think tank and Carolina Broadcasting System, Incorporated. All opinions expressed on this program are solely those of the participants and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of advertisers or the station. For more information about the show or other programs and services of the John Locke Foundation, visit or call us toll free at 1-866-JLF-INFO. We'd like to thank our wonderful radio affiliates across North Carolina and our sponsors. From all of us at Carolina Journal Radio, thank you for listening and please join us again next week.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-01-02 15:06:17 / 2024-01-02 15:23:51 / 18

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