- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:

April 13

Charlotte Observer on gay marriage and North Carolina:

A new Public Policy Polling survey looks like another harbinger of the end to North Carolina’s ban on same-sex marriage. The survey released last week shows North Carolinians are quickly dropping their opposition to gay unions. In the two years since voters approved a constitutional ban - needlessly since there was already a state statute banning such unions - the percent of residents opposed to gay marriage has dropped by 8 points. Where 61 percent voted for the constitutional ban in 2012, just 53 percent said they support such a ban today, according to a poll of 740 N.C. voters. Only 33 percent of young voters support such a ban.

And 62 percent of all polled support either marriage or civil unions for same-sex couples to only 34 percent who think they should have no legal recognition at all.

The state’s misguided embrace of discrimination might be on its last legal legs this year. Next month, a federal appeals court will review a February decision by a Virginia judge finding that state’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional. The appeals court decision, which legal experts say likely would apply to the Carolinas and West Virginia, could come by fall.




April 12

News & Record, Greensboro, N.C., on the state’s unemployment rate:

A falling unemployment rate might produce bad news for North Carolina residents who still can’t find work.

Changes in state law link benefits to the jobless rate. As it drops, payments run out sooner.

It has fallen fast. North Carolina’s unemployment rate dropped to 6.4 percent in February, down from 8.6 percent a year earlier.

Legislation that takes effect in July allows benefits for 14 weeks when the average jobless rate over three months is between 6 percent and 6.5 percent. The scale tops out at 20 weeks when the rate exceeds 9 percent.

This policy assumes that jobs are more plentiful when the unemployment rate drops. But even the 6.4 percent rate left nearly 300,000 North Carolina residents on the unemployment rolls in February, according to the N.C. Department of Commerce. And, the number of people employed increased only by 48,000 over a year earlier. At that rate of employment growth, it would take six years - not 14 weeks - for everyone to find a job.

The lower unemployment rate is caused not so much by greater employment but by so many people leaving the workforce who are no longer counted as unemployed. A Bureau of Labor Statistics survey indicates there are three job-seekers for every job opening in the Southeastern U.S.

Furthermore, unemployment rates of 10 percent or greater lingered in eight North Carolina counties in February. Rockingham County registered 8.2 percent. The state doesn’t grant extended benefits in those areas.

People whose benefits have run out might see some hope in Washington, where the U.S. Senate this week passed a bill to restore extended federal benefits. These were terminated last July in North Carolina and in January in other states. North Carolina was penalized for cutting its own benefits, but Gov. Pat McCrory and the legislature think losing them forced unemployed workers to take jobs that apparently had been waiting for them to fill.

Sen. Kay Hagan added an amendment to the federal bill to remove the North Carolina penalty, but the U.S. House also has to approve the measure and McCrory would have to agree to accept the assistance. The House should act soon, and the governor should reverse his own ill-considered position.

No one who can work deserves an unemployment check forever, but a paycheck requires a job. Government doesn’t slip off the hook by cutting off jobless benefits, anyway. That just means more people qualify for food stamps, Medicaid and other assistance. Children receive free lunches at school. And so on.

North Carolina cut benefits so it could more quickly repay federal funds it borrowed to provide unemployment benefits during the worst of the recession. Unfortunately, the worst isn’t over for everyone. Now that the unemployment rolls have decreased, however, the state can better afford to extend benefits a few more weeks for those who really need them. The legislature should adjust its restrictive new formula so that a falling unemployment rate helps everyone rather than hurting some.




April 15

Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal on driver education requirements:

For a parent, teaching a teen to drive can be trying.

Start with normal strains a teen puts on parents, and add the prospect of a beginner behind the wheel. It’s a recipe for anxiety.

In the past 17 years, the General Assembly has made the experience more difficult. First with the 1997 graduated driver’s license law that greatly increased the ridiculously light license requirements of previous years, and then with the 2011 law that toughened requirements even more.

Both changes required either parents or guardians to spend extra time in the car as their children learned to drive.

But the tougher standards are working. The Division of Motor Vehicles reports that teen driving deaths dropped from 183 in 2010 to 114 in 2013, according to The Associated Press. And keep in mind that, by 2010, teen crashes, injuries and fatalities had already dropped considerably.

In 2012, the N.C. Child Fatality Task Force reported that after graduated licensing was initiated in 1997, crashes dropped by 38 percent for 16 year olds and by 20 percent for 17 year old. And since the task force began recommending changes to state driver-training procedures in 1991, the death rate for teen drivers had fallen by 50 percent.

Those statistics translate into thousands of teens who were not injured or killed, to millions of dollars in auto body work not required and untold hours of mourning avoided for families.

But so long as any improvements to state law can make teen driving, or for that matter all driving, safer, the work of the General Assembly is not done.

The DMV report found a development that contradicts the otherwise good news: Teens are getting cited for more moving and seat belt violations.

The DMV rightly wants changes to driver training programs to address those issues more emphatically.

Spending as much as 72 hours teaching a teen to drive, as the law requires, is a drain on parents, no doubt. But it is far better than getting that awful visit from a state trooper bearing bad news.



Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide