Friday, April 20, 2007

Keep Insurance Rates Low - Oppose SB 901 and HB 1430

If when you read this the 2007 session of the North Carolina General Assembly has not adjourned, then please contact your legislators and share your position relative to the resolution below:


WHEREAS, the Insurance Commissioner is a constitutionally-elected officer of the State and one of the members of the Council of State;

WHEREAS, the duties of the Insurance Commissioner include, among other things, (1) the setting of maximum rates for various types of insurance sold to citizens and businesses in North Carolina, (2) prevention of unlawfully discriminatory or unreasonable or unjustifiable insurance premiums, and (3) ensuring that the market for insurance in the State remains viable so citizens and businesses may purchase insurance at a reasonable cost while allowing a fair profit for insurance companies;

WHEREAS, Insurance Commissioner Jim Long has saved much more than $4 BILLION for the consumers of this State during his time in office by preventing unjustified insurance premium increases from going into effect;

WHEREAS, North Carolina has the 5th lowest automobile liability insurance premiums in the United States of America, bested only by several small states, and the 20th lowest homeowners' insurance premiums in the nation;

WHEREAS, Insurance Commissioner Jim Long declares that the system is not broken and, even if it needs correction, certainly does not justify giving insurance companies everything they demand, something which Senate Bill 901 and House Bill 1430 would do;

WHEREAS, legislation has been filed this year in the North Carolina General Assembly that would dramatically change the role of the Insurance Commissioner and provide insurance companies with an automatic right to increase their rates with a lessened ability of the Insurance Commissioner to protect the public;

WHEREAS, if insurance companies had had the benefit of their proposed changes to the law in 2006 then North Carolina's coastal homeowners would have suffered a 125% increase in their homeowners' insurance premiums and other parts of the State would have experienced increases of more than 50% in one year alone.

WHEREAS, the proposed legislation also reduces the amount of the refunds to which consumers are entitled if insurance companies are found to have charged unlawful, excessive or unjustifiable premium rates.

BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED that this county convention hereby calls for the defeat of Senate Bill 901 and House Bill 1430 in that these bills, if passed in their current form, would eliminate North Carolina's Commissioner of Insurance from the rate-setting authority (which are presently subject to legal challenges by the insurance industry), and would allow insurance companies writing insurance policies for automobile, homeowners, and workers' compensation to automatically allow increases in insurance rates (making them subject to legal challenges by the Insurance Commissioner).

FURTHERMORE, BE IT RESOLVED that this county convention firmly believes that shifting the burden of proof from the insurance industry to the Commissioner of Insurance is a dramatic change in the law that will enable insurance carriers to charge basically whatever they want, and that this shifting of the burden of proof will also put the costs of legal challenges on the State - that is, the taxpayers - rather than on insurance companies.

MOREOVER, BE IT RESOLVED that this legislation, if passed, would sharply restrict the ability of the Insurance Commissioner to protect the State's consumers and small businesses, disrupting a rate-setting system that has worked well for decades.

AND, BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED that this county convention expresses its opposition to Senate Bill 901 and House Bill 1430 and strongly encourages its legislative delegation to do all in its power to oppose and defeat this legislation or any other legislation like it - this session and in any future session. This legislation does nothing except guarantee insurance premium increases for most consumers and small businesses, and strip the Insurance Commissioner of his authority.

This the 21st day of April, 2007.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio? Or, This Looks Like a Job for ...

Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?
Or, This Looks Like a Job for …
March 11, 2007
By Wayne Goodwin

I remember quite vividly as a child and teenager eagerly poring over the usual action comic books expected to be on the reading lists of all American boys. Superman, Batman, Spiderman, Green Lantern, The Flash. Their adventures fighting against evil and for the usual “truth, justice, and the American way” certainly helped provide the escapism one needs at that age.

Growing up in the 1970s and 80s, most of the foes faced by these superheroes were super-villains and occasionally a thug or mobster or evil scientist. Decades ago the bad guys were the Nazis or even the Communists, story lines that mirrored the times then. Even with comic book enemies who were real – such as Adolf Hitler – an element of fantasy still remained in reading how someone like Captain America would subdue the foes of democracy. Even in those plot lines with actual persons involved, a science fiction edge persisted in combination with willing suspension of disbelief.

Then came September 11, 2001.

That day I worked in my law office by myself, trying to settle a case or two before the necessary drive to Raleigh for the night’s legislative session.

While on the phone with opposing legal counsel, he said “did you hear about the plane that crashed into the World Trade Center?”

“No,” I replied. Intrigued, I quickly jumped onto the Internet after completing my call and saw live streaming video. I scanned the developing news reports on CNN and MSNBC. Then I heard – maybe I saw it on the screen, it’s all a blur now – almost instantly as the second plan hit the other tower. Soon there was news about the Pentagon and the field in Pennsylvania. People falling – jumping – out of windows 100 floors high? The towers collapsing? Where was the President? What is going on?

Due to the state of emergency I recall jumping in my car and driving to Raleigh, my heart racing almost as fast as my car engine. With the world seemingly crumbling around us, was it even safe to go to the Legislative Building and the State capitol? I also remember thinking to myself and then sharing with a few others that perhaps the culprit was Osama Bin Laden. After all, he had threatened death to Americans and western democracy for quite awhile. Soon thereafter we learned he and Al Quada were, in fact, the source of these attacks on American soil.

In the days that followed, it was if the pages of any number of comic books had come to life. A super-villain had attacked us, killing thousands and threatening to cause even greater harm. Life had become surreal.

Yet Superman was not to come.

For almost six years now, our modern day Lex Luthor has remained at large, continuing to taunt us on occasion, daring us to catch him and promising even greater calamity for truth, justice and the American way.

But that is only part of the storyline.

For decades – increasing in frequency and seriousness each year – we on Earth have heard about the damage we humans are doing to our planet. I recall reading in 4th grade back in 1976 that we would run out of oil early in the 21st century and that we needed alternative fuels soon. Then there was also the buzz, no pun intended, about “killer bees” that were going to swarm in from South America and devastate and kill people in the southern United States. About the same time we learned about a new unparalleled malady called AIDS, and how Earth’s ozone layer was disappearing. The number and intensity of hurricanes and the number of 100+ degrees Fahrenheit days dramatically increased. But yet, many in business and industry and in government denied what was going on.

Even as scientific evidence and mountains of data proved that mankind was killing itself by dumping carbon into the atmosphere, the naysayers grew louder and yet smaller in number. Eventually it seems as if only Americans deny what is at stake.

Just as in the lore created by Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel, on Krypton the scientists denied Jor-El’s scientific findings and warnings. They refused to listen to reason. “You are dooming our planet and our people,” Jor-El said time and again. “Save us while there is time.” His pleas fell on deaf ears and he had no choice, as Krypton began to explode under the light of its red sun, but to send his son in a rocketship away from the devastation. In that vessel was Kal-El, whom we later know became Clark Kent and Superman. In the comic books, that is.

Now we, too, are in a struggle for survival.

Scientists tell us that it would take a super-sized Manhattan Project or a mega-Apollo Moonshot effort to prevent cataclysm. Even the naysayers – not all of them yet – have succumbed to the fact that we must eliminate our reliance on non-renewable energy and do everything to stop the extinction of life as we know it. This is for real and not fantasy. Is it too late, just like it was on Krypton?

Meanwhile, we keep hearing more and more about asteroids that are likely to slam into Earth as they travel through our orbit. NASA tells us that many remedies would require us to address such threat years in advance. The space missions would require international cooperation and trillions of dollars. Can we do it in time? Will we?

Where are you, Superman?

Through a twist of fate, there is one person on Earth now who heroically leads the way, doing his mightiest to bend not steel bars but political will toward the “inconvenient truth” that our planet faces these days. Coincidentally, during his nascent 1988 campaign for President he was described as Superman because of his looks and demeanor.

Al Gore is here to save the day.

A parlor game it might be, but I firmly believe this Nation and Earth would have been on a much different course had every vote been counted in Florida in 2000.

Whether he pursues a changed world with his Oscar and a future Nobel prize in the private sector only, or as a returning Presidential candidate in 2008, Al Gore is the closest thing we have to a superhero right now. Though ridiculed for his stalwart position, he alone among national political leaders championed the cause of the environment, nuclear nonproliferation, and technological and global communications advances such as the Internet.

And unlike those chicken hawks in the White House right now, Al Gore would not settle for Osama bin Laden to go free and get away with his heinous crimes.

In my opinion, what would help Superm- I mean – Al Gore in his battle would be for him to don the cape of Presidential candidate and run not only for the White House but as the planet’s best hope at saving itself. He would have the swagger and fortitude to go after bin Laden and religious terrorists, but also the gravitas and intellect to lead America and the world to safety.

If only it were that easy.

Sadly our lives have become the stuff of DC Comics or Marvel.

Yet, there is hope: The superheroes today are the political activists and the voters demanding change and getting it piece by piece. They are the bloggers, the precinct walkers, the candidates and officials sticking out their necks for the truth, justice and American way that we all know it to be and not the “American way” the Bush-Cheney White House, the once-Republican Congress, and Fox News have created.

To save the world and this great Nation we must do more of what we have been doing in recent years: Organizing, educating, inspiring, rallying, funding, and leading.

This fight – this struggle – will not be easy, but then, again, any superhero is up to the challenge.

Onward to 2008!

# # #

Richmond County Dems Hold Convention, Excited about 2008

Yesterday I concluded my role as interim Chairman of the Richmond County Democratic Executive Committee, at least my fourth tour of duty in the last 13 years.

More than 75 delegates attended, all pumped with energy and excitement about 2008.

Among those presenting remarks were State Senator Walter Dalton, candidate for Lt. Governor; State Senator Bill Purcell; Representative Melanie Wade Goodwin; Larry Kissell, our 2006 Democratic nominee for Eighth District Congressman and the presumptive 2008 nominee; Svea Strong, new county chairwoman; and myself.

I was most impressed with what Walter, Melanie, Larry and Svea had to say.

Walter was in campaign mode and delivered one of the best stump speeches I've ever heard him give. Having served with him in the legislature myself since 1996, his oratorical skills have improved exponentially (not that they were bad ten years ago at all). He expounded on why we Democrats should cast their votes for him in the 2008 primary. In addition to keeping everyone's rapt attention, Walter also threw some Democratic red meat to the attendees and they devoured it hungrily.

Melanie - and I am a little biased, of course! - gave a very passionate presentation on what the Democrats were doing in Raleigh for the betterment of Tar Heels and how it is vital that voices like hers continue to be there on behalf of young, professional mothers and businesswomen. Everyone agreed with her assertion that any one who calls North Carolina and North Carolina Democrats unfriendly to business is downright lying.

Larry is received where ever he goes with kudos and congratulations for having almost knocked off Robin Hayes from his Congressional perch last year. Neither the campaign and nor being a candidate has negatively changed Larry whatsoever; he remains our neighbor from Montgomery, a school teacher and long-time textile worker, and, as he said, "one of us." Larry inspired enough people in the room to find those remaining 330 votes he lacked last November.

Finally, Svea presented her goals for the Richmond County Democratic Party. These include more grassroots precinct work and locating a permanent headquarters. I am confident in her abilities to get things done. She also has a great team of vice chairs and other officers backing her up, including our own Jeff Joyner, the North Carolina Commander of the American Legion.

For more on the convention and remarks made by Dalton and Kissell, go to these links to news articles appearing in today's Richmond County Daily Journal:

Merely copy the links into your Internet web browser and you'll find them.

And, if you haven't already read it, you may want to consider the results of a presidential straw poll that I conducted among Democratic delegates and activists at our county convention. It is posted separately on this blog.

If you attended or have a comment about the above, do join in the discussion.

Open Thread - Any Topic of Interest - Your call

To the new folks who've been reading the blog for the first time in the last month and asked for a chance to chime in on any topic, here's your chance ...

Richmond County Democrats Take Straw Poll for President, Gov., Lt. Gov.

April 14, 2007

Results show support for Barack Obama, Bev Perdue, Walter Dalton

It appears that Richmond County Democrats – at least the 75+ activists gathered at today’s county convention – have some definite opinions about candidates and issues on their minds.

During an informal, anonymous survey distributed among all the delegates and guests, several noteworthy findings can be made.

“I thought it might be fun, not to mention a tad educational, to conduct a straw poll to see what Presidential candidates presently have the support of Richmond County Democrats,” said outgoing chairman Wayne Goodwin. “We also received some feedback on candidates for Governor, Lt. Governor, and key issues on the minds of delegates.”

To the surprise of many, U.S. Senator Barack Obama of Illinois had the support of a plurality. When one examines how many delegates had him as their second choice, Senator Obama had the support of 27% votes cast for President in the straw poll. Presidential newcomer Obama has skyrocketed in support and news coverage – not to mention fundraising – in a matter of months, and was just this week in Charlotte.

Former U.S. Senator John Edwards came in second among first choices for President but was in a dead heat with U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton of New York overall. They had 20% and 21%, respectively. Former Vice President Al Gore of Tennessee, the 2000 Democratic nominee who won the popular vote nationally, came in fourth. Gore is not actively campaigning.

Due to the closeness of the numbers, the top three preferred candidates are virtually tied.

Other candidates receiving support were U.S. Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico. U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut received one write-in vote.

Reflecting their support for President, Democrats similarly placed their choices for Vice President as Obama, Clinton and Edwards. They received 26%, 23%, and 15%. Delegates also cast votes for U.S. Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana, U.S. Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico, former Governor Mark Warner of Virginia, and U.S. Senator Jim Webb of Virginia.

Curiously, no single delegate selected former Governor Jim Hunt and current Governor Mike Easley though they were listed among the potential vice presidential selections.

Given that most delegates who regularly attend political gatherings are also following the nascent days of the Republican race for President as well, Richmond County Democrats revealed their predictions as to who the Republican choice would be. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and U.S. Senator John McCain received 28% and 21%, respectively. “Don’t Know” came in at 21%, ahead of the predictions made for Mitt Romney, Fred Thompson, Condoleeza Rice, and Newt Gingrich.

Richmond County Democrats also had opinions about who they preferred for Governor of North Carolina in 2008.

State Representative Bill Faison of Orange County, State Treasurer Richard Moore, and Lt. Governor Bev Perdue each received preferential votes. Among those three candidates, Perdue claimed 48 %. Moore received 31%.

Not surprisingly, the “winner” among preferred candidates for Lt. Governor was “Don’t Know” at 49%. State Senator Walter Dalton of Rutherford County received 38%, far ahead of Pat Smathers, Mayor of Canton; Dan Besse, Winston-Salem city councilman; and Hampton Dellinger, Raleigh attorney. For the record, Senator Dalton appeared later in the morning at the county convention so his support was likely strengthened by his presence and intermingling with delegates.

Richmond County Democrats opined on the top issues currently facing America as well. Among at least 14 potential choices, the top five in order were Economy/Jobs (18%), War in Iraq/Afghanistan (13%), Healthcare (11%), Environment/Landfills/Climate Change (9%), and Education (9%).

When asked about concerns specifically about Richmond County, Democratic delegates indicated Jobs (26%), Public schools (22%), Medicaid (20%), and Litter (11%). Also receiving some votes were a new courthouse, the need for more entertainment and a movie theater, public safety/crime, the disputed landfill, local taxes, and the county’s declining population.

“This is by far not a statistical sampling of Richmond County Democrats, but a snapshot of what is on their minds at this moment in time,” said Wayne Goodwin. “I am confident that candidates will see their numbers increase or solidify as we approach 2008. Frankly, as voters learn more about who is running and their respective platforms, it would not surprise me if there is some serious fluidity in these results.”

Whether for political activists, voters generally or merely “armchair quarterbacks” in the political game, 2008 is proving to be a most interesting year ahead.

# # #