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Carolina Journal Radio No. 845: Disagreement over new fund in school construction debate

Carolina Journal Radio / Donna Martinez and Mitch Kokai
The Truth Network Radio
July 29, 2019 8:00 am

Carolina Journal Radio No. 845: Disagreement over new fund in school construction debate

Carolina Journal Radio / Donna Martinez and Mitch Kokai

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July 29, 2019 8:00 am

One of the sticking points in this year’s state budget debate involves the State Capital and Infrastructure Fund, or SCIF. Legislators propose using SCIF instead of a statewide bond to fund school construction projects. Gov. Roy Cooper objects. Joseph Coletti, John Locke Foundation senior fellow, analyzes the SCIF. He explains how it can work better, faster, and cheaper than a bond package. Some state lawmakers want to take another look at what they call an “opportunity gap” in N.C. public schools. You’ll learn details of their proposed study and hear reaction from Terry Stoops, John Locke Foundation vice president for research and director of education studies. A bill dubbed Sam’s Law is designed to improve the prospects of students who suffer a seizure inside a public school. You’ll hear highlights from legislative debate of the measure. A measure dubbed the First Step Act would give judges more discretion in sentencing criminal defendants charged with drug trafficking offenses. Supporters say the measure makes sense for dealing with drug addicts who aren’t large-scale drug dealers. But the proposal is drawing significant opposition. You’ll hear pros and cons from opposing members of the General Assembly. Efforts to improve North Carolina’s criminal code continue in the General Assembly, Mike Schietzelt, John Locke Foundation criminal justice fellow, explains why the current code causes problems for ordinary citizens and the criminal justice system.

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From chair to current tack and the largest city to the smallest and from the statehouse into the schoolhouse Carolina Journal radio your weekly news magazine discussing North Carolina's most of public policy events and issues welcome to Carolina Journal radio why Michiko got during the next hour, Donna Martinez and I will explore some major issues affecting our state of North Carolina. Lawmakers want to take a closer look at an opportunity gap in the states public schools will hear the proposal and reaction from the John Locke foundation's education expert Bill dubbed Sam's law aims to help students who suffer seizures in school to learn details controversy surrounds a proposal, dubbed the first step act.

You'll learn why lawmakers are giving mixed reviews to a plan that would give judges more discretion in drug trafficking cases and you'll hear more about efforts to clean up North Carolina's complicated, confusing criminal code.

Those topics are just ahead.

First, Donna Martinez joins us with the Carolina Journal headline, Gov. Roy Cooper wants to take on debt to build new schools in our state. The general assembly, however, prefers the pay-as-you-go model and the dispute has been front and center as our states. Leaders sought to agree on a new state budget Joe Colletti has taken a close look at the two different approaches to paying for schools and he joins us now to share the analysis.

Joe, of course, is senior fellow for the John Locke foundation.

Welcome back to the program at the governor's philosophy.

At first he wants a bond.

Tell us what that would entail my why does he support that approach actually is is a strange little bit. The first time around. He wanted to $3.9 million bond and to eliminate the state capital and infrastructure fund which I know will get into, but which was the pay-as-you-go approach that you mentioned the legislature wants so that was his first attempt was just all borrow note no capital funding outside of the state budget for schools is his counteroffer was to have a bond and to take some money from this and then to keep the skiff. The pay-as-you-go phone and so that's that's apparently a version of a compromise. The, the idea of it is that he wants to borrow money because he wants to use the money that would otherwise pay for capital projects. He wants you that today, and he's perfectly okay taking on debt now and taking on obligations for spending now and then having both the bond payments and the continuing spending from what is it obligated today continue on into the future and raise taxes. If the knee if the need arises, which is the opposite of what the got what the what the legislators looking so he wants to spend money that we have now that's available to either return to taxpayers or to spend on programs he wants to spend that on things but that he wants to borrow money in order to build schools, which, if you borrow then that comes with payments and interests that says future that future payments that it is committing us to the estimates are about $1 billion more interest payments over the course of the payback. On top of the 3 1/2 billion dollars of borrowing that he wants to do between public schools, community colleges, the University, and local water projects and you want and some of that money is potentially one-time money that he's looking to spend because the money is coming both from the what would go into that event. Pay-as-you-go fun and some repair and renovation money which comes so the one part of it is just continuing revenue. The other part is the on the unreserved cash balance from last year so money that we had left over like one like him like bonus payment that we that wasn't spent last year so that's pretty much one-time money and the rest of it is continuing revenues and so dad's where the tricky part comes in is that he's willing to also spent one-time money on on current programs that will continue onward. Let's talk then about the other approach, the one that said that leadership in the general assembly has taken and they refer to it as the pay-as-you-go model tells how that works. That one is that the thought that it's through a state capital and infrastructure fund which takes 4% of revenue for the year and 1/4 of that unreserved cash balance. The left over money from last year and puts all of that into a pot that will then pay existing debt service of money, money that we still owe on on on debts that we taken out in the past and put also some money into capital projects. Whether that's repairs, renovations, or new construction and they've pledged through that over the next 10 years to spend 1.5 $1.9 million on on schools sales childlike. We picture this is our with our own family budget. You got basically choice you got a certain amount of money that sitting in your checking account and the choice that we face as a state would be similar to what you face as a family we want to do with this money you want us to spend it on what we consider priority priority need in this case building schools orally want to spend it on something else, maybe a car payment or something some other repair and they go borrow the money right to build the school to be the fundamental question, how do you want to finance this there is apparently no disagreement on the need for schools right there is not one. We are at this point there. We question the need for for that because the estimates that they're using to justify the borrowing or the spending on on schools is about three years old and doesn't take into account the bond issuance that local that local school districts have done, including billion dollars in wake County and it also doesn't take into account the fact that public school enrollment has been flat and following through the state because people are opting for charter schools for home schools and for other options outside of the districts so were starting from the point of it.

Once we get to this how you pay for schools that read that assumes that were going to pay for schools and so that that argument is in really bad at play anymore, but Joe it should be a play because I know you believe it should be at play because that's a really crucial point.

If you have parents who are opting for other venues. Other education ops options other than a traditional public school classroom.

I mean how do we know into the future.

Let's say we are going to borrow money in order to build schools, how would we know what level of need for additional traditional classroom seats there would be in all these different counties.

How do we know that's another great argument for the pay-as-you-go option which is that we don't when when the estimates were made in 2016. Wake County was looking at were to have another 30 to 35,000 students by 2025 and so they said will have hundred 85,000 students in 2025 and now that wake County is estimating that out until 2027. So two years later, in the state Department of Public instruction saying that were never going to get there. That were pretty much at the peak of Roman wake County about hundred 60,000 students well below that.

And so that calls into question a lot of the need for the construction and if you if you're calling into question the need for construction. The repairs and renovations and some of the smaller school districts problem without an issue.

But if that's what you're if you're not sure about what the future holds.

As you ask then there is really no reason to commit to bought to borrowing money to pay for that obviously can you can hold back on on taking out the bonds in the future and just let them an electrically them unissued but it's much easier to just go with that, the state capital and infrastructure fund. The pay-as-you-go option and say we don't need this were not in the Senate were to put it is something else that we need pretty fascinating, particularly as you know, our colleague Dr. Terry stoops to analyze his education policy for the John Locke foundation has written recently about the surge in home schooling in North Carolina. Obviously no seat needed for a student if they are homeschooled and if that trend continues that could have been an impact on this whole discussion as well telling your writing on the comparison between the bond route.

The borrowing route versus the pay-as-you-go route you ultimately concluded that if you go with the pay-as-you-go use the money that we have right now that we can build schools faster how some of this money becomes available sooner because bond will be voted on until November of next year and then the it has to be approved by the voters, and then you have to go through the Council of State before you and the treasurer before you can even start issuing those bonds and so that leaves about a 2 to 3 year gap between today and the time that the first money can be spent from a bond and so that's about $500 million that can be spent immediately. Once the plans are in place and so once once school districts have what they want to build. You can start doing that well before the money is available from a bond you also say that pay-as-you-go ends up being cheaper.

No interest to pay back no interest or hood on debt and you have better financial controls as well. Joe Colletti is a senior fellow with the John Locke foundation Joe fascinating discussion. Thank you for joining us talk about it, thinking that statement is so much more Carolina journal radio to come in just a moment tired of fake names tired of reporters with political axes to grind.

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You won't be disappointed. It's fresh news if you'd like a heads up on the daily news sign up for our daily email do that Carolina Carolina journal rigorous unrelenting old-school journalism. We hold government accountable for you. Welcome back to Carolina journal radio language coca North Carolina policymakers continue to worry about and opportunity gap what they mean is the apparent gap in public school student performance based on race or socioeconomic status. A bill moving to the Gen. assembly would set up a new group to study that gap Republican representative Hugh Blackwell of Burke County explains, many years ago in my use. I served eight years on the school board and I remember even those years ago. Less talking about what we referred to then as the achievement gap. Years later I came to the legislature were still talking about the achievement gap. I been here for a while still talking about it. So Blackwell came up with the idea of a new opportunity gap task force. The idea behind this legislation is, is to try to come up with a plan that is specifically targeted at identifying what does and doesn't work by looking at what has worked elsewhere to work on this problem.

Blackwell says the task force will look into some of the basics of public education in North Carolina. Most of us have heard over the years that our school calendar is related to our agrarian past. I think it's also fair to say that the school schedule in terms of the way it's organized in the classroom is related to early 20th century manufacturing techniques where you move people through systematically your eight years. All we put you in the third grade for a specified number of days and then you move on whether you mastered what you need to be prepared to take advantage of the education offered you in the fourth grade.

So our approach here is to try to get a broad group of individuals together as a task force. In addition to that, we recognize that there other frequently referred to as stakeholders and groups in the in the state that we have asked that they be sure to listen to in the process of developing proposals. We've suggested some things in particular such as best practices in public education, professional development, technology, and asked them to come up with this report to us. The idea for an opportunity gap task force has bipartisan support democratic representative Cecil Brockman of Guilford County is a primary sponsor of the task force. Bill we all know there students in our public schools. For whatever reason, that are not as successful as they need to be and believe this bill is going to be a great to lead us to make sure all of our students are successful. Brockman offers some sobering statistics in our rural districts. We have 62% of our students who are on free and reduced lunch and in our urban communities is 46% and we all know how much poverty plays a role into a student success right now and our public schools, 40% of African-American students are on grade level, or proficient in our counties or in total.

All of our county's 58% of our students from grades three through eight are proficient in great interior 362% of our students are proficient in tier 259% of our students are proficient in our tier 1 counties only 51% of our students are successful and so that I think really speaks to what we really need this democratic representative, Charles Graham of Robison County offered a word of caution to his colleagues going to support this, but I will. I want to touch base on the online issue and I think Revson to Brockman may have touched on that just momentarily, and that is poverty in our rule Eastern North Carolina communities until we address that issue and do it with urgency and due diligence. A committee like this will not produce the kind of results of things were looking for.

We have to address poverty first and foremost, Brockman responded, I completely agree with you. Reserve Graham, but I would also like to give you some other statistics.

Another statistic that I actually just found out about. We got 1500 tier 1 counties per seasoning title I schools and over 900 of those schools are FC and above so I believe the stereotype that just because they're a title I school that are not going to be successful is wrong.

So just because it's we do have issues of poverty. That doesn't mean that our students cannot be successful. I have to live in one of those will counties. There is 40 public schools, public policy is pervasive across the county and and I know I know we've had these task force meetings before I participated in those task force meetings of 430+ years and we are talking about performing another task force to look at the same issue of been there and I've done that and the issue underlying issue is poverty representative Hugh Blackwell challenged the notion that poverty is destiny for North Carolina public school students. I think part only what we are expecting is that research seems to support the idea that because a child comes out of poverty. It does not mean that they cannot be taught successfully.

This is about serving those students and any other students who are currently not having the opportunity whether the opportunity gap is created by poverty or by a home situation by the availability of resources. Whatever it is, and our hope is that this is going to be sort of a comprehensive thing we been talking about it as you say.

For many years.

This is one more effort, but maybe this time will get it right. Dr. Terry stoops, the vice president for research and director of education studies of the John Locke foundation what you think doesn't make sense to have another look at this opportunity gap. Absolutely when you look at the achievement gaps in North Carolina. They remained rather large, barely half of North Carolina students are proficient in reading and math. But when you start breaking it down into the various ethnic and racial subgroups, you find that four and 10 of those students are usually proficient in reading and math.

So I think it really makes sense for us to begin looking at what factors are involved in perpetuating this gap and then what kind of intervention schools can incorporate into their instruction to address one of the criticisms that we heard during the committee meeting was it's all just poverty. It all comes down to poverty. If we address poverty. We will solve this problem that was pushed back saying no, there are ways to help kids were poverty what you think. Well we look at some schools that are successful are raising student achievement with kids in poverty. These are usually charter schools in the low income areas. We've had success with that Chain of charter schools is been very successful raising student achievement for low income students. So we have models out there that show us the way and I would say that those who argue that it's just poverty need to be careful because if poverty really is the problem they're wasting a lot of money throwing it at the education system we should be throwing it in social programs that address the poverty issue.

Is there one particular thing you're hoping to see this group well. I'm hoping that we start to see individuals focusing on the student achievement in reading and math those gaps and those measures that can really make a difference. This is things like direct instruction. This is things like getting back to math instruction using standard algorithms. These are very basic time-tested principles that allow us to help those that are struggling to achieve what they should be achieving in math and reading were talking about a proposed opportunity gap task force that would need support from both the House and Senate to become law overturned with North Carolina journal radio just a moment if you love freedom we 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 North Carolina It's one-stop shopping for North Carolina's freedom movement and North Carolina

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So now not only will you enjoy what you buy also support freedom. Don't forget log on to today, something nice and help defend freedom, help support the John Mott foundation will go back to Carolina journal radio why Mitch coca it's enough to scare any parent student has a seizure at school and no one knows what to do.

That's the scenario that prompted Sam's law Republican representative Steve Jarvis explains what this does is actually gives the teachers. It gives the school direction a school system can create a their policies in order to create training which can be video training.

I think there online through the Association for the different employees and then I can have an action plan set in place for those that do have seizures that they know about the reason for the, the instruction to all of the employees or volunteers is because sometimes some students may not have may not have epilepsy, but may end up having a seizure in the classroom and I've spoken to several teachers that have been in that situation and they said that it was a very scary thing and they didn't know what to do, so that's that sort of their region.

Origination of court came from and due to the fact that we do have 15,200 students in our school systems today that are known to have epilepsy.

That's the reason I bring the bill before you Democrat Greg Meyer supported the idea with one request I think that seizure disorders are worth paying attention to. I have one request for your room a bill for seizure action plan that is requested. Schools already have something called an individual health plan that is a format to use to be able to address individual health needs. I would just ask that you work with the Department of Public instruction to make sure this doesn't create a duplicate process to that and that the individual health plans could be qualified to meet the standards that you're setting up Jarvis raised no objection.

He also answered a question about costs.

All of the training and all of the documentation for posters are online on the epilepsy foundation and available for free legislative staffer group Detrol had addressed concerns about liability is a limitation on liability for that covers every body, including employees, volunteers, agents, members of the school and governing body who have heard that a standard language that we have and other statutes that are similar where as school personnel or volunteers or somebody else's Navy having to administer asthma medication say that sort of the limitation on liability for somebody who has the authority to do something but then for whatever reason, if there is a mistake than that they are not held liable for that you been listening to discussion of Sam's law calls for school plans to help students at risk for epileptic seizure term with more Carolina journal radio in a moment where doubling down on freedom at Carolina journal radio were 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 Locke is a little bit different. It's a no holds barred discussion that challenges softheaded ideas from the left and the right light. Carolina journal radio headlock is smart and timely but with headlock you'll hear more about the culture wars and you get some more humor as well.

We guarantee great information and a good time that's listen to Carolina journal radio each week and listen to headlock to remember, you can listen to or subscriber download each week iTunes Carolina journal radio and headlock just what you need to stay informed and stay entertained both brought to you in the name of freedom by the John Locke foundation will go back to Carolina journal radio why Mitch coca, some state lawmakers are pushing a measure dubbed the North Carolina first step act deals with criminal punishment for drug offenders generated plenty of debate. In a recent committee meeting Republican representative Holly Grange made the case for the measure. It is modeled almost word for word after provision in the federal first step act that was signed into law in December 2018 and what the bill dies, it allows the sentencing court to deviate from the minimum and maximum sentences that mandated sentences for drug trafficking offenses.

It allows a it also allows a person who is sentenced solely for trafficking or conspiracy to commit trafficking. It allows them to file a motion for appropriate relief to have their sentence modified and it also authorizes the Department of information technology and the administrative office of the courts to study the collection of criminal justice data Sen. Bob Steinberg supports the bill, he places it in a larger context. This is another ongoing effort on the part of those of us of the Gen. assembly to try and take a hard look at our judicial system are Department of Corrections are sentencing and move things so into the 21st century and really consider something that is not very often considered in these matters. That is mercy.

One of the things that we have found I have found in talking with literally hundreds of people about this particular issue are the lives that have been really destroyed simply because of a forced sentencing aspect or all of the considerations that the judge might have previously been able to take into consideration before applying a sentence. These mandatory sentencing guidelines. Knowledge made that impossible and taken all the discretion away from the judge, Grange and Steinberger both Republicans, but they faced some criticism from GOP colleagues, Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown spelled out his concerns.

I really think there's only some unintended consequences with this and I ran to build up a distribution and this seems to be going in the other direction. In my opinion, drug trafficking offenses here with structure sentencing. What I see was some consistency by the judges all want to impose penalties are imposed.

This PO is my understanding some of these are under structure sentencing. But I think you'll see a wide variety of sentencings across the state. Depending on the judge under this act and I just think that just creates problems down the road and you and I'm just struggling with this bill to be quite honest, waiting for that very reason.

Sen. Chuck Edwards raised his own objections to the bill since the real disparity in the philosophy of the Gen. assembly. It seems to me like we've done an awful lot over the last couple of years including this session to strengthen drug laws into two to say that were serious in North Carolina in in the holy accountable and punishing those folks that are out there selling this poison and contributing so ferociously towards the problem that we have today since that this is just a rule, softening on the position and in direct conflict of so many of the other things that we've been trying to do here. I'm having a hard time supporting this as well. Edwards comments prompted a response from fellow Republican Bob Steinberg. This particular bill is not is not a bill that is so going soft on crime. This is not a bill that is lessening the punishment for drug pushers folks are out of the street selling drugs that that is that it's not like this bill is all about.

This bill is is basically about folks were caught up in some level of this and I think the bill points out very clearly that this is not for the big dogs that are out there pushing narcotics and so on and so forth. A lot of these folks are one-time people who may have been caught up with this thing on and Josh others.

Other information that comes to light. We know it's so nobody wants to be soft on crime.

I certainly don't have a soft on crime either, but like everything else, there are two sides to everything. Why would the federal government be embracing this and I haven't even embraced this. If this were going soft on crime. I don't think our president is soft on crime and he is the biggest advocate for this first step back so I think we need to keep that in mind, and those folks were continuing to push these drugs and and just sell these drugs. I'm for a funeral drawn up in jail and throw the key away but that's that's not where we are. That's not who this bill is trying to address Steinberg's words didn't convince his Republican Senate colleague Chuck Edwards because the federal government is doing.

It is probably one of the worst arguments that have ever heard of. I think we have to do what's right for forkful, North Carolina, and I for one would like to make the statement that this these behaviors are behaviors that are just not tolerable or and if they're detecting the end they are punishable and in and regardless of how we want to position it on. I believe that yes it is. It is being soft on crime and I believe it's up to the Gen. assembly to decide is as it has been for hundreds of years what the punishment should be for various crimes. Instead of allowing a judge to make exceptions to to to those so on. Again you I appreciate your position.

You have a change of mine. This is easy to sink out of position and say this is where we are without making any exceptions at all, and I don't think that's very realistic in the judicial system and that's one of the reasons why we have judges for judges to take a look at what is going on.

What are the particulars of the situation and then giving that judge the latitude to be able to adjust a sentence. According to the information he has and that the force in the way maximum and disregarding absolutely everything else that he knows of the truth and other Republican Sen. Ralph ties shared with colleagues. A recent conversation he had with his longest-serving local sheriff's job to protect community and talk about spending years to build the case and these are quite frankly trafficking cases. These are for those who are having amount beyond personal use this for individuals who are selling or trafficking in narcotics and to get to that level of certainty that this charge can get someone off the street for certain number of years because quite frankly, the stores that are to the community to be able now to have any judges out there, be able to get change that once the individuals convicted. I think that's a huge problem for communities. I think it's a huge problem to come to send that message out there that you were to give that kind of forgiveness to particular judges and justice becomes the luck of the draw off of the judge that you happen to get today we seen enough of that North Carolina all kinds of issues where particular jug which will take these opportunities that another would not be listening to debate about the North Carolina first step back. It targets criminal sentences linked to drug trafficking will return with more Carolina journal radio in a moment real 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 in 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, healthcare, 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 is how policymakers make decisions that ensure you keep more of what you are. 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 time.

Donna Martinez constitutes a crime in North Carolina isn't really as obvious as you think. So how can that be our next guest links the confusion to an antiquated and ineffective criminal code that spread across 100 chapters of the North Carolina Gen. statutes. In a recent piece published in the North State Journal, Mike sheets out who is the John Mark foundations legal fellow focused on two examples that illustrate the point that a lot of work to do in this regard might welcome back to the program. Thank you first explain to us what is the criminal code only say that someone at least when I'm writing about the criminal code and I think the way most people understand the criminal code is what is a crime and in North Carolina. What allows the criminal justice system to punish you for violating one of these laws for engaging in prescribed behavior that proscribed behavior. You're not just talking about breaking and entering, or violent crime you're talking about anything in in state law or state code it says that to you could be held legally accountable for doing something that the state is said is illegal absolutely and there's a handful sources of that we all think of chapter 14 in the. The criminal chapter of the general statutes. But as you mentioned well over 100 chapters of the general statutes that contain crimes within them. You have agency rules that are passed by various departments in the executive branch that are criminalized by more general statutes, then you have ordinances local ordinances that are made criminal by default unless the local body makes them not criminal and you have some crimes like someone you mentioned that are defined by the common law, which means judicial opinions are not defined by statute or by ordinance or anything are not written down except in judicial opinions.

This I think is pretty fascinating because you are an attorney. I am not an attorney and I'm thinking when I hear the word crime obviously and in a civil peaceful society.

You know that to go knock someone over the head with a baseball bat would be a crime you know that stealing someone's car would be a crime but how is someone like me supposed to know what is a crime if it's not in the area of a violent offense and that's one of the problems were working on what constitutes proper notice of what is criminal behavior and a lot of times there's just there's really no way to know it would be an all-consuming task to try and find out what's criminal in your area and we've seen particularly in our study of local ordinances that there are just some crazy things out there that can be punished with a class III misdemeanor it for not having a screen on a window in your house that you used open and close that could be. That's crazy. That's crazy having a bus stale birdbath out in the yard. That is a breeding ground for mosquitoes or an old tire that's laying out there having grass that grows too tall on whether it's 10 or 12 inches in some localities, or 24 inches in other localities having too many dogs on your property. There are a lot of things that are criminalized and it's different from county to county from town to town, you have more than 600 counties and municipalities added up together and they have more than 600 opinions on what should be criminal. This is why you're focusing on this here is an online foundation because some not only are they antiquated in some cases crazy but they're different all over the place so there's really all this collection from over years and years and years and you have been trying to get to policymakers to kinda focus on this and say we couldn't make this better. We can make a more understandable, we can maybe cut out some of the things that we can now decide don't really need to be a crime and things like that you had a really fascinating piece that published in North State Journal and you gave us a couple of examples of how this can be unfair to people in very interesting ways talk to us a little bit about what happened in Greensboro with the woman who was charged with family felony littering right sets of that's a very interesting case because here you had clear wrongdoing that went unpunished.

There was a woman who had found a a scrap metal tank and the scrap metal tank had some sort of liquid in it that made it hard to move so she dumped it out, not realizing that it was heating oil.

So to try and avoid some of the technicalities which she challenged when she went to trial. This was charged with felony littering for dumping heating oil and costing Guilford County more than $10,000 to clean it up.

She tried to argue. What I didn't know that this was heating oil, and therefore didn't have what we call mens rea. The guilty mindset, but that that should be required under the statute, the court didn't buy that argument. So she took a different line of attack at the Court of Appeals. There's a technicality in North Carolina law that allows you to challenge or indictment, at any point. The indictment is that the ticket that the prosecutor has to have to get you in the court gives the court power over you. As you can challenge it at any point, and she challenged it on appeal and wind up winning. On appeal, saying they left out of bed and an element that had no bearing on her case at all. So in this instance a a technicality herb sorry a an ambiguity in the law allowed her to challenge the court she lost there challenged a different technicality in there or even an image of an ambiguous technicality in the law at all, or on appeal and one of getting a second bite at the apple to go back and have another trial and drag this process out. That's not fair and it's not appropriately treating wrongdoers when when we allow them to take advantage of these loopholes in the law so that's that's that case and essentially how that went, working its way to visit one of your efforts them when you talk about trying to urge policymakers to review all these things and to say, do we need this or do we not is to eliminate all of that ambiguity so that it becomes very clear what the law is in you either break it or you don't want to write and it's impossible to remove every ambiguity that the language is always good to be ambiguous, to some extent we can't foresee every instance that's gonna pop up but to the extent possible.

Our criminal law needs to have bright lines so the people know what can I do what can't I do that line needs to be apparent to everyone and that's what we talk about will talk about notice that you also write in your piece for North State Journal about the case and this one also out of Guilford County where you had essentially a taproom that got him in trouble ran afoul of the law. They didn't really even know what was going on and had to do with allowing dogs inside. Yes, the joy mongers very popular establishment in Greensboro. Been there myself and it's it's a great atmosphere where people can go and have a beer they bring their dogs and they didn't apparently didn't think that they were a food establishment under the health code because they didn't serve any food, but because of the way food establishment was defined. The Guilford County health Department came in and said you can allow these dogs and that's a class III or class II misdemeanor whatever I can't member which but but a babe. Dave them basically a cease-and-desist order on these the allowing the dogs in and I created a huge public outcry to what happened in response to the public outcry well and in response the public outcry they decided what were just not to push this right now and will put everything on hold until maybe we can get a legislative fix. I think that the biggest issue there is.

That's it undermines the rule of law, it undermines the rule of law.

When we say okay will county officials that you know this is the law, but were just not gonna prosecuted because it turns out this was crazy and maybe it shouldn't of been a crime to begin with, and so you allow the crimes to be defined by public opinion, and it doesn't seem to be the best way to go about punishing wrongdoers is whether or not the public thinks they have committed some sort of a role in your point.

I'm also in one of your writings on this is that it's up to the legislature and not the public but the legislature doing the work of the people who elected them to take a look at this to review this and in fact the legislature has kinda started into this process.

Give us an update so I know the legislature passed a bill last year that was seeking more information from cities and counties about what's a crime in their local jurisdictions, not everybody responded.

So they pushed now this session there. They seem to be pushing towards getting more of that information. And with that information. What we can do is we can push a re-codification commission to rewrite the criminal laws create those bright lines might thank you that's all the time we have for the program this week on behalf of my cohost Mitch. Okay I'm Donna Martinez.

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