State House votes to change BB gun law for Harnett County

Originally printed in the Fayetteville Observer on Tuesday, June 17, 2014 By Paul Woolverton Staff writer RALEIGH - When state Rep. David Lewis of Harnett County learned recently that it's illegal for his 10-year-old son have BB guns and air rifles unsupervised, he decided it's time to change the law. On Tuesday, the state House voted for a Lewis-sponsored bill to delete Harnett County and four other counties from a list of 17 where BB guns, air rifles and air pistols are considered to be "dangerous firearms" that children younger than age 12 must not have access to without parental permission and adult supervision. The bill is now pending in the state Senate. "I intended to decriminalize the acts of literally hundreds, if not thousands, of young people in Harnett County who enjoy shooting their BB gun," Lewis. "I think this is a radical government overreach to regulate it, and Harnett County being removed from the very small list that forbade this conduct puts us with the mainstream and with most of the counties in the state." Lewis said Harnett County was added in the "BB guns are firearms" list in the 1960s, but he does not know why. Cumberland County is also on that list. "I can't tell you the hours and hours that I spent, growing up in Cumberland County, playing army with by Crosman(CQ) 760 air rifle. And apparently, my parents were breaking the law the law the whole time," Lewis said. "When I found that out, I said that's something we ought to be able to fix, and that's what this bill does." Parents should decide what's appropriate for their children, Lewis said. Only one lawmaker spoke against the bill. "The average (is) about 20,000 injuries a year in our country, three-quarters of whom are children, from these air guns, pellet guns and BB guns," said Rep. Pricey Harrison of Guilford County. "I just noticed there are many states that regulate this as the same as firearms." It's legal in Guilford County for children to have these guns. But it remains a class-2 misdemeanor in Cumberland County. Lewis said he would leave it to lawmakers from each county to decide whether to change the law for their communities. Rep. John Szoka of Cumberland County said he wants change the law for Cumberland, but the bill handling the issue is a "local bill" - one that is allowed to pertain to no more than five counties. All five slots were taken. Szoka said he plans to run similar legislation for Cumberland County next year. Ronnie Mitchell, the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office attorney, was uncertain of why BB guns and air guns are considered firearms in some counties but not others. Noting that many of the counties in the list of 17 are urbanized, Mitchell said the purpose may be "basically to limit the danger of there being an accident with a BB gun." Children shooting BB guns in urban areas run a greater risk of injuring someone or damaging property than those in rural areas, Mitchell said. But that doesn't explain why rural counties also treat BB guns as firearms, he said. The issue on Tuesday caught the attention of Sheriff Moose Butler, Mitchell said, who intends to discuss it soon with Cumberland County lawmakers. It's likely that many parents in Cumberland County are breaking the law by letting their children use BB guns unsupervised, Mitchell said. But it's not been something that the Sheriff's Office has been getting complaints about. Regardless, "We don't have the personnel to be out running around enforcing it," he said. Meanwhile, Lewis said he is looking forward to his son legally enjoying his BB gun. "My son does indeed have a genuine Daisy Red Ryder, just like Ralphie wanted in 'A Christmas Story,'" Lewis said. "And he takes very good care of it. He knows how to engage and disengage the safety. He puts it up in a secure location when he's not using it. And that's the way that's it's used, that I, along with I think hundreds of other dads and moms, spend time with their kids."

Budget Includes Pay Raises, Efficient Spending

The House unveiled a $21 billion budget proposal raising teacher and state employee salaries. This was accomplished through responsible budgeting measures and action on the part of the General Assembly over the past several years-specifically by improving North Carolina’s unemployment rate and fixing a $2.5 billion budget deficit. The House proposal includes: • Teacher starting salaries will begin at $33,000 per year • Average 5% salary increase for teachers • $1000 salary increase to most state employees • Restores step pay for eligible State Troopers • Restores Master’s and higher degree supplements for educators • Full funding for K-3 teaching assistant positions • Funding for Closing the Skills Gap Initiative in Community Colleges • Establishes a $117.8 million State Risk Reserve for Medicaid • Additional funding for Pre-K and mental health crisis centers • Provides $1.8 million and 25 positions for coal ash management • Supports entrepreneurship through The Support Center and One North Carolina Small Business Program • Streamlines all law enforcement agencies under the Department of Public Safety and saves $1 million • Continues to support North Carolina government efficiency and innovation through funding the Information Technology Fund • Improves the ability for NC to provide safe and reliable roads to its citizens

Taxes should be fair, simple; privilege license tax wasn't

Appeared in the Charlotte Observer on June 4, 2014 From Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, who is in his sixth term as a member of the N.C. House. He is the House Finance Committee chairman. Imagine being asked to open a grocery store in an economically distressed area of Raleigh, making the investment to serve the underserved area, being cheered by Raleigh news outlets and the people for bringing much needed goods to a struggling area and then finding out an unfair, arbitrarily applied tax threatened your ability to operate the store. With the opening of your business – in this case a low margin grocery store in an underserved area – you notice that you have to pay a percentage of your gross receipts for the privilege of doing business in Raleigh. Meaning, a difficult year might mean paying thousands of dollars in taxes after little profit was made. You realize these taxes are a disincentive to do business in the new area, because other high-margin businesses like law offices are exempt from the same tax that is perhaps crippling your business. This is the story of Mack McLamb, owner and operator of 15 Carlie C’s IGA, a local grocery store in Dunn, N.C. Mack has several stores in Harnett County where the fees assessed for the privilege to do business are minimal and relatively consistent. Seeing an opportunity, he decided to build a store that would serve an impoverished area in Raleigh. Come to find out, Mack was assessed a tax in excess of $6,000 from the city of Raleigh just for the privilege to do business – a fee that was calculated from the total cost to do business, not just on revenue made. All businesses pay property taxes and fees to the cities for the services they receive. This is consistent with the conservative principle that taxes should be assessed to as broad a base as possible and at the lowest possible rate. Keenly aware of the responsibilities cities and towns face, the General Assembly broadened the sales tax base which produces more revenue for nearly every municipality – a reality rarely reported surrounding the debate on the privilege license tax. Just the other day, Dan Clodfelter, a Democrat and mayor of Charlotte said, “the tax is archaic and difficult to administer fairly.” He went on to say he would not support the repeal or alteration of the privilege license tax without “providing a comparable substitute.” Current legislation passed will hold cities harmless for one year while they have time to adjust their revenue and budgeting procedures. Critics of changes in the privilege license tax typically use inflated numbers because they do not include the expanded revenue they will receive from the broadening sales tax base in House Bill 998. Taxes should be fair and simple. Policies that are crafted with these principles in mind will strengthen our economy and create an environment for growth. The privilege license tax should be a fair and flat tax policy for each business it affects. It’s people like Mr. McLamb who bring to light the inequities in our current tax system, and bring to light the unfortunate consequences of doing nothing.

Energy Exploration

This week the House and Senate passed The Energy Modernization Act (SB 786), which expands the ability for energy exploration in North Carolina. We must take advantage of the economic opportunity and prosperity that lies beneath our great state. This is a jobs bill that will bring high paying jobs to North Carolina and tap our vital energy potential. Energy development is not a partisan issue; in fact, it is a common sense issue that produces high economic growth and low unemployment. After years of debate on the issue of natural gas exploration and studying the best practices across the nation, we are ready to move forward with proper environmental oversight. Time to bring jobs, energy and opportunity to the state of North Carolina.

Early Voting Myths

        Despite what critics of the election reform changes of the 2013 long session have been saying, the  North Carolina State Board of Elections authenticated the results of the May 2014 Primary Election and show an increase in the voter turnout rate. The chart above shows that there was an increase in the number of voters from the last midterm election in 2010. The changes from last session's legislation did not reduce the number of hours open at the polls, but compacted them within a shorter number of days. In fact, the early voting participation increased 34% over the 2010 primary election.   The overall turnout rate rose from 14.4% in 2010 to 15.8% in May 2014. Early voting is still a popular option for North Carolina voters, and we intend to keep access to this important vehicle in our election process. As you can see from the voting spread, compacting the early voting saves the county and state funds while still allowing more access to early voting than most other states.   The information and graphics above are from the North Carolina State Board of Elections May Primary Authentication Press Release    

An Above Average Score

It is the 24th Consecutive Month there has been a drop in the NC unemployment rate, or that its held steady. In fact, we have the 2nd largest drop (2 points) in the nation, only behind our neighbors to the south. With a growing economy, I continue to recognize that there are several factors that contribute to economic growth: a simplified tax system, reduced regulatory burdens, and a predictable business climate. Legislation like the Tax Simplification and Reduction Act are steps in the right direction to adding jobs to the North Carolina economy.  

New Voting Rules Protect Sacred Right

By Rep. David R. Lewis As it appeared in the Greensboro News & Record Sunday Edition May 18, 2014 Voting is among our most sacred rights. The ability to come together as a society, to make our voices heard by casting our respective ballots, and to have confidence our votes count equally with those cast by our fellow citizens is a cornerstone of our Republic. To improve the real and perceived integrity of our election system, North Carolina adopted voting rules that better guarantee the protection of all citizens’ rights and move our election system closer to the mainstream of states throughout the nation. First, we passed a requirement that by 2016 most voters will need to present photo identification to poll workers to make it easier to verify they are who they say they are. This common-sense reform will aid poll workers and election officials in making sure the person standing before them is the person rightfully registered to cast that vote. While we know nearly everyone has a photo ID, we also put provisions in the law to provide an ID — free of charge — to registered voters who may not have one, and we allowed more than two years for voters without an ID to get one. Further, the N.C. Board of Elections and Division of Motor Vehicles are working diligently to make sure all voters are aware of the requirement and have what they need to fully participate in our democratic process. Although many politically motivated accusations have been lobbed against the idea that people should be easily able to prove they are who they say they are by showing a photo ID, absolutely no one across the country has been successfully able to prove that the requirement to show an ID prevented them from voting. Our election system is important, and taking precautions against the potential for abuse and lessening the opportunity for mistakes by poll workers mean each of our votes is treated fairly and equally. Other common-sense improvements added to our election process include allowing our citizens to vote up to 10 days prior to Election Day. While 30 states lack any traditional early voting, North Carolina offers 10 days. After studying the patterns of citizens voting early, we are confident that these days will offer an adequate opportunity for all citizens wishing to vote early to do so. Many counties, like my own, have opened additional early voting sites to make voting more accessible to all citizens. And, since our goal is to provide equal access to the polls to all people, we required that all early voting sites within a county be open the same days and hours. Our efforts appear to be working as we witnessed an increase in individuals who voted early in the May 6 primary election — compared to the previous midterm election, 2010; overall turnout increased as well. We did end the questionable process of allowing people to register and vote the same day because there was no way to verify those people had registered to vote properly before their votes were actually counted in the election. Does it not make sense, if we require registration, to allow time to make sure the registration is valid? We also asked the state board to compare our voter rolls with those of other states. I am willing to bet most reading this have received the same email or identical sales flier from a sender. No matter how hard election officials may work to prevent it, some voter registrations are inaccurate, improperly recorded, or not removed when they should be. Shouldn’t we take the common-sense approach and compare our voter rolls with those of other states just to make sure? Of course, such cross-checks of lists should be done. Now they are being investigated further. And yes, it may be only coincidence that exact matches of an individual’s first and last names, birthdate and the last four digits of his Social Security number have been discovered registered to vote in both our state and another. But it’s certainly worth further investigation to make sure people aren’t diluting your vote and mine by voting more than once. We made other important changes, too. For example, we ended the practice of using tax dollars to support political campaigns and political parties; we prevented lobbyists from handling campaign contributions; and we made sure voters are fully exercising their right to vote by preventing voting out of precinct — except, of course, at the properly equipped early voting sites. All in all, the changes passed last year should give all voters more confidence in our election system. It bears repeating: We want every voter to have equal access to the polls and to be fully able to participate in the election process equally. One person. One vote. Open and transparent elections lead to a stronger society and more confidence in our government. Rep. David Lewis, a Republican from Harnett County, is chairman of the N.C. House of Representatives Election Law Committee and co-chairman of the Joint Legislative Elections Oversight Committee.

The 765? Lets Continue to Investigate Them

Raleigh, NC- Recent findings by the North Carolina State Board of Elections have sparked widespread debate about the integrity of the voter rolls and elections process in North Carolina. The findings, revealed from participation in a cross state consortium, that 765 voters with the same first and last name, date of birth, and last four digits of their social security number were registered in North Carolina and at least one other state and had cast ballots in both states in 2012. The larger number uncovered that over 35,000 voters were found to have the same first and last  name and date of birth that were registered in North Carolina and at least one other state. The goal all along has been to clean the voter rolls to reflect those active voters who reside in North Carolina in order to maintain the integrity of our election system. Bob Hall of Democracy North Carolina released a report with concern about the nature of the investigation ongoing at the State Board of Elections. We echo the concerns that our voter rolls need common sense, 21st century solutions to keep them up to date and accurate. The report goes to show that we need to take a closer look at the data found by the Board of Elections in order to secure the integrity of our voting system. Solutions like cleaning the voter rolls as well as requiring the presentation of photo ID at the polls will verify an individual’s identity so that each person’s vote will count once, and that those will cumulatively determine the winners and losers of elections. We believe that the solutions passed through legislation last session will improve and update our outdated elections procedures. We welcome solutions from Democracy NC to ensure the integrity of our elections process for example: more poll worker training, electronic poll books and closer verification of signatures on the election forms. Implementing the voter ID law will be done in a manner that ensures access to a state approved identification at no cost to the individual and is not fully required until the 2016 elections. This is only part of the process and we applaud Mr. Hall for championing the effort continuing to address potential double voting in North Carolina. Rep. David Lewis is in his sixth term of the North Carolina House of Representatives and is the Chairman of the House Elections Committee and Chairman of the Joint Legislative Elections Oversight Committee, the committee responsible for reviewing the findings of duplication in North Carolina’s voter rolls over the interim.

On PBS Newshour with Gwen Ifill

On the Sean Hannity Radio Show

Early last month, I was on the air with Mark Simone, a guest host on the Sean Hannity Radio Show, to discuss the State Board of Elections findings in the recent multi-state cross check of the voter rolls. 00:00 00:00

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