- Associated Press - Thursday, February 16, 2017

Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:

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Feb. 12

The Charlotte Observer on new craft beer regulations:

The craft brewing boom in Charlotte and across North Carolina is not only a great business story, but an example of good government.



The explosion of fine local breweries - the Charlotte area now has more than two dozen - wouldn’t have happened without the N.C. legislature deciding that it was standing in the way of entrepreneurs a decade ago. Then, the Pop the Cap movement convinced lawmakers to lift an antiquated rule that limited how much alcohol brewers could have in their beers.

Now, another old rule is blocking the state’s $1.2 billion craft beer industry from becoming an even greater success.

This legislative session, brewers and industry supporters hope lawmakers will change a state law requiring brewers to use a distributor once they reach 25,000 barrels of production a year. The rule, which is unique in the N.C. retail landscape, serves little purpose but to benefit distributors.

Here’s why: A distributor acts as a middleman between brewers and the restaurants and retail outlets that sell beer. Distributors can be helpful to small brewers who want some leverage in, say, convincing a bar to devote taps to the brewer’s product.

Right now, however, brewers that cross over the 25,000-barrel cap don’t have a choice about how they distribute their beer. They have to use a distributor - and they have to pay that middleman to do something they could do on their own.

Those distributors, by the way, are backed by the powerful N.C. Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association, which has several lobbyists in Raleigh. Alcohol wholesalers have given more than $740,000 to N.C. lawmakers since 1996, according to a 2015 report from the Center for Public Integrity.

It’s a rigged system, and it might already have slowed the state’s brewing growth. According to the craft beer Brewer’s Association, North Carolina is the largest state besides Florida without a Top 50 brewery. In part, that’s because the state’s most renowned craft brewers - including Charlotte’s NoDa Brewing and Olde Mecklenburg Brewery - are discouraged from crossing the 25,000-barrel threshold and losing money.

Brewers are hopeful that will change, and their Craft Freedom movement has hired prominent Republican political consultant Paul Shumaker to help persuade lawmakers on the issue. The conservative John Locke Foundation also is on board.

Their argument should resonate with Republicans. The 25,000-barrel rule is anti-free market. Business owners, who invest their own capital and take their own risks, should be free to do business with whom they choose.

We recommend lawmakers raise the cap to at least 100,000 barrels - as one bill introduced last week would do. That would give successful N.C. brewers significant room to grow. Eliminating the cap altogether might invite macro brewers such as Budweiser to come in and set up their own distribution networks. Yes, that’s free market, too, but it’s also bad for N.C. brewers and the N.C. economy.

To this point, that economy has benefited greatly from a decade of craft brewing growth. It’s time for lawmakers to get out of the way again.

Online: https://www.charlotteobserver.com/

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Feb. 12

The StarNews of Wilmington on DWI laws:

“DWI arrests declining across Southeastern N.C., law enforcement agencies say”

That headline appeared in the StarNews last week. So did these:

“Suspected drunken driver in fatal crash possibly drove wrong way for 9 miles”

“Supply man charged with murder in DWI crash was out on bail”

We’re never quite sure what to make of crime statistics. Do fewer arrests mean fewer people are committing the crime, or could it just mean fewer people are getting caught?

What we do know is that too many people still are getting behind the wheel while impaired by alcohol or other drugs. And those actions continue to kill and injure innocent people. Even more disturbing is the number of DWI repeat offenders.

Police say Broderick Lamont Jones, 38, of Proctorville, was driving his car 85 mph in the wrong direction on U.S. 74 near Lumberton when he crashed head on into another car, killing two Wilmington teenagers. Jones will not be charged until he leaves the hospital.

In 2007, he was charged with impaired driving. His blood-alcohol level was 0.13 percent - nearly twice the legal limit - but the charge was dismissed. Last June, he was again charged with DWI. He was due in court for that charge Wednesday.

Why were the charges from 2007 dismissed? Why had more than six months passed since his last charge and his court date?

Meanwhile, William Chandler McHenry, 24, is charged with murder in a Feb. 2 crash that killed John Henry Howard, 84, of Supply.

On Jan. 14, McHenry had been arrested on a DWI charge in Shallotte. He was out on bail when he was charged in the death of Howard. McHenry also had a DWI conviction in 2011 and has a conviction from a 2009 incident in which he used a stolen handgun to shoot a 17-year-old.

Since the nationwide crackdown on driving while impaired began in the early 1980s, the number of fatalities has been halved. But we should not be content until drunk driving becomes rare. Efforts by groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving and action by state legislatures cut the number of DWI fatalities in half; why can’t we double down again and cut that number in half?

We urge our area legislators to bring this issue up in the General Assembly. It really is a matter of life and death.

Online: https://www.starnewsonline.com/

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Feb. 13

The Winston-Salem Journal on why Gov. Roy Cooper should be free to choose his cabinet:

We appreciate the discernment of the three N.C. Superior Court judges who last week issued a temporary restraining order to allow Gov. Roy Cooper to appoint his Cabinet secretaries unhindered, as the Journal’s Richard Craver reported. Their order overrides a portion of House Bill 17, which the Republican-controlled legislature passed and includes a mandate that Cooper’s appointees meet their approval.

This ruling must be made permanent when it’s heard in March. The new governor shouldn’t be stripped of powers his predecessors enjoyed, especially not because of partisan politics.

The law requiring Cooper’s nominees for state Cabinet agencies to undergo confirmation hearings was passed during the December 2016 special session and signed by then-Gov. Pat McCrory. McCrory’s department heads hadn’t been required to jump through this hoop, nor had those of his predecessors. Cooper sued and won his first round with the temporary ruling from the panel of judges.

“We need to put these partisan confirmation games behind us and get on with repealing House Bill 2, raising teacher pay and getting better jobs for North Carolinians,” Cooper said in a press release last week.

We agree. His picks for the 10 Cabinet posts under his charge are ready to get to work.

Of course, the legislature’s Republican leaders, Senate President pro tem Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore, disagreed. In a statement, they said, “Three Superior Court judges (have) attempted to dictate to the legislature when it could or could not hold committee meetings and what it could or could not consider in those meetings. Their decision to legislate from the bench will have profound consequences, and they should immediately reconvene their panel and reverse their order.”

Surely they’ll get right on that.

The judges didn’t ask for this case, as Rick Glazier, the executive director of the N.C. Justice Center, told the Journal. “These judges are just doing their duty. They came to a unanimous, bipartisan decision on issuing the temporary restraining order.”

The matter should be settled in March, and we’ll go on from there.

This is just common sense. The legislature can’t dole out, then revoke, the governor’s powers according to whether he’s a Democrat or a Republican. Voters elected Cooper expecting him to have the same powers McCrory had.

These kinds of arguments have contributed to the political division we experience today. The rules should be set, they should be fair and they should be applied consistently across the board, whether it’s Cabinet choices, legislative district boundaries or the powers afforded elected officers. This kind of political maneuvering, from either side, undermines the will of the voters.

North Carolinians are best served when members of both parties work together, not when one party - either party - overplays its hand to attain and maintain power.

Online: https://www.journalnow.com/

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