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Out of Sight, Out of Mind?
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Press Release

Out of Sight, Out of Mind?

As a potential war with Iraq and a stock market rally push corporate wrongdoing and bankruptcy out of the headlines, the Bush administration appears to be plodding along with a proposal to address some of the real lessons brought out by the implosion of Enron and WorldCom.

09/10/2002
The Cause of Freedom
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Press Release

The Cause of Freedom

Editor’s Note:

09/10/2002
New Jersey Needs Auto Insurance Reform
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Press Release

New Jersey Needs Auto Insurance Reform

For consumers in New Jersey, times are tough and getting tougher. I’m not talking about the nation’s economic slump; I’m referring to the state’s automobile insurance mess, which is reaching new lows. After 20 years of political meddling, over-regulation, and central planning that would make the Politburo blush, the system is collapsing. More than 20 insurance companies have already fled New Jersey, with five of the ten largest insurers in the nation refusing to write policies in the Garden State. Now State Farm Indemnity, one of the major carriers in the state, is throwing in the towel. Beginning this month, the insurance company will be dropping 4,000 policies a month as part of the exit order from the state.

09/10/2002
Washington DC After 9/11
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Press Release

Washington DC After 9/11

Congress this Week Due to the September 11th observances Congress will be keeping a relatively light legislative schedule this week. The Senates expects to spend most of the week on H.R. 5005, the Homeland Security Bill. Additionally, they will continue to debate the FY 2003 Interior Appropriations bill. The House will debate a resolution commemorating September 11th as Patriot Day and then at the end of the week will consider H.R. 5193, the “Back to School Tax Relief Act of 2002.” This legislation, introduced by Rep. Bob Schaffer (R-CO), would create a $3,000 above-the-line tax deduction for low-income families for K-12 educational expenses.

09/09/2002
Plans Pitched to State Voters
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Plans Pitched to State Voters

BY Terrence Stotz

AUSTIN - Better schools and bigger insurance bills - two surefire topics for politicians wanting to get the attention of voters this year. And in the hotly contested race for lieutenant governor, those subjects have become the central themes of the two major candidates seeking that post. Democrat John Sharp and Republican David Dewhurst are trying to sell voters on their respective plans to improve educational opportunities and reduce insurance rates - though each has a different emphasis. Mr. Sharp, the former state comptroller, is pitching a program to offer a free college education to every Texas student who graduates from high school with a B average and who maintains at least a B average in college. He also wants to offer a free college education to the children of any teacher who works in a public school for a least 10 years - a proposal designed to ease the state's teacher shortage "A high school diploma used to be enough for most Texas jobs. Today, more than half of all new jobs demand at least some college or post-secondary training, and half of those require a college degree," he said. Mr. Dewhurst, the state land commissioner, is promoting his plan to curb runaway insurance premiums by a combination of lawsuit restrictions and new state supervision of rates. His main targets are homeowners insurance and medical malpractice insurance, which have become much more expensive in the last year. "There is a crisis in homeowners insurance and in medical malpractice insurance. The rates are spiraling out of control. It is threatening the right of Texans to own a home and to have access to affordable health care," he said. Mr. Sharp's scholarship proposal is a holdover from 1998, when he narrowly lost his bid for lieutenant governor. "We have one group of politicians that does a lot of good things for rich kids and another group of politicians that does a lot of good things for poor kids," Mr. Sharp said. "And nobody is doing anything for middle-class kids. Nowhere is this more true than paying for a college education. "Their families earn too much to qualify for needs-based scholarships and not enough to shoulder the costs of college on their own." His plan, based on the similar Hope Scholarship program in Georgia, would cost about $ 850 million in the next two-year budget. He would pay for it using proceeds from the Texas lottery - money that already is dedicated to public education. Mr. Sharp also has a proposal to reduce insurance rates, and Mr. Dewhurst has a plan to offer interest-free loans to college students. But Mr. Sharp identified the college scholarship proposal as his best idea, and Mr. Dewhurst tapped his insurance proposal as his leading idea. Mr. Sharp said a better educated workforce is key to Texas' future and that "it's up to us to decide if the Texas of this new century will be an economic dynamo or an economic backwater." Proposal criticized A self-proclaimed conservative group active in textbook selection and other education issues sharply questioned his proposal. "We would support and like to see more people go to college, but there has to be a better way than paying for it out of taxpayers' pockets. I am not sure Texas can afford it," said Peggy Venable of Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy. Ms. Venable said that with the state budget as tight as it is, "We should be shrinking government programs, not expanding them." Nick Voinis, a spokesman for the Dewhurst campaign, raised doubts about the funding source, because lottery proceeds go to public education. "How will he repay public schools after he raids their funds?" Mr. Voinis asked. "He has offered no proposals to replace the money he takes away from public schools." Mr. Sharp disputed that, saying he has made clear that if elected he first wants to deal with the projected $ 5 billion deficit in the next state budget. After that, he said, he will talk about new programs, such as his college scholarship plan. "After we fix this financial mess we're in, we're going to do this for middle-class kids in Texas," he said. Mr. Dewhurst is pitching a plan to cap jury awards in certain civil lawsuits, which he said have fueled rising insurance costs. "If there is one issue that might set me apart, it is my focus on driving down insurance rates," he said. Dewhurst's plan He wants to limit punitive, non-economic damages to $ 300,000 in lawsuits filed by homeowners against insurance companies and in medical malpractice lawsuits filed against physicians. The other major part of his plan would set up state supervision of insurance rates - including auto and homeowners - until the market becomes more competitive. The insurance commissioner would have to approve all rate increases. "We are seeing way too many frivolous lawsuits," he said, claiming that 60 percent of all medical malpractice suits are thrown out of court. "We can solve this problem by passing a fair tort reform act that protects the rights of people who are legitimately injured." Critics say the idea would punish consumers and help big insurance companies. 'Ridiculous' idea Dan Lambe of Texas Watch, a consumer group, said the lawsuit restrictions "sound like an idea that would be on the wish list of insurance company executives." "It is largely the insurance industry that has caused the crisis, and to reward them by limiting their responsibility to homeowners is one of the most ridiculous ideas I have heard," he said. The Sharp campaign declined to comment on the Dewhurst proposal. Mr. Dewhurst said there is a link between higher insurance rates and lawsuit judgments, such as the $ 32 million award won by an Austin-area family against Farmers Insurance Group. The suit was filed after the family's home was devastated by toxic mold. The same is true for medical malpractice insurance, where premiums have skyrocketed because of the large number of lawsuits filed against doctors, Mr. Dewhurst said.

09/08/2002
Campaign of Ideas
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Campaign of Ideas

BY Terrence Stutz

What the candidates for lieutenant governor say is their most creative idea: Republican David Dewhurst Wants to curb insurance premiums by placing new restrictions on civil lawsuits, limiting attorney fees and establishing new state supervision of insurance rates. It would require legislative approval. HOW IT WOULD WORK A cap would be established for punitive, non-economic damages in lawsuits brought by homeowners against insurance companies and by medical patients against doctors. Those damages would be limited to a maximum $ 300,000, including $ 250,000 to the homeowner and $ 50,000 to a new state fund to monitor insurance industry practices. The same limits would apply to medical malpractice cases, but the $ 50,000 would go to a new state fund to pay premiums for doctors in underserved and low- income areas. Also, state supervision of rates would be established for auto, homeowners and medical malpractice insurance, with all premium increases subject to approval by the state insurance commissioner within 120 days of a rate filing. THE COST No estimates are available. CRITICS SAY "This plan will not solve the insurance crisis in Texas," said Dan Lambe of Texas Watch, a consumer group. "It is largely the insurance industry that has caused the crisis, and to reward them by limiting their responsibility to homeowners is one of the most ridiculous ideas I have heard. The only people you punish are consumers, and the only people you help are insurance companies." THE CANDIDATES SAY "There is a crisis in homeowners insurance and in medical malpractice insurance. The rates are spiraling out of control. It is threatening the right of Texans to own a home and to have access to affordable health care." Democrat John Sharp Wants to offer a free college education to every Texas student who graduates from high school with a B average. The program also would offer a free college education to children of veteran public school teachers. It would require legislative approval. His proposal is aimed at middle-class students who sometimes have a more difficult time financing a higher education than students from high-income families and low-income families - who often have access to numerous grant programs. It is patterned after the Hope Scholarship program in Georgia, where thousands of students have taken advantage of it. Students would have to maintain a B average to keep their scholarship, which would pay tuition and fees for up to 120 credit hours at any state university or college. The scholarships would pay part of the tuition at private schools. For children of teachers, the teacher would have to agree to work in a public school for at least 10 years. About $ 850 million. Mr. Sharp said the program would be considered only after legislators deal with the projected deficit in the state budget. "We would support and like to see more people go to college, but there has to be a better way than paying for it out of taxpayers' pockets," said Peggy Venable of Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy, a self-proclaimed conservative group active in textbook selection and other education issues. "I am not sure Texas can afford it. We should be shrinking government programs, not expanding them." "Nobody is doing anything for middle-class kids. Nowhere is that more true than paying for a college education. After we fix this financial mess we're in, we're going to do this for middle-class kids in Texas."

09/08/2002
Business Digest
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Business Digest

MANUFACTURING Company opens branch ASHEVILLE -- Heat Transfer Sales of the Carolinas has opened a Western North Carolina branch office located at 70 Woodfin Place, Suite 117B. HTS is a manufacturers representative firm specializing in commercial, industrial and institutional hydronic HVAC equipment and engineered plumbing systems. HTS has been covering the Carolinas for more than 30 years and stocks a wide variety of TACO and Weinmann hydronic pumps, Raypak boilers, steam condensate pumps and many hydronic and steam specialty items in the 17,000-square-foot Greensboro warehouse. The WNC branch office covers Hickory, Boone, Asheville, Hendersonville and counties west to the Tennessee state line. The office telephone number is 225-6608 and is staffed by Randy Mills, PE. BUSINESS GROUPS Freedom luncheon set ASHEVILLE -- The John Locke Foundation and Citizens for a Sound Economy will sponsor a "Freedom Agenda 2002" luncheon featuring Roy Cordato, the foundation's vice president for research. It will begin at noon Friday at the Renaissance Hotel, One Thomas Wolfe Plaza. Cordato will discuss river-buffer regulations, the new Clean Smokestacks bill and other policies he says sacrifice property rights and sound economics. Cost is $10. For reservations, call Thomas Croom at (866) 553-4636 or e-mail tcroom@johnlocke.org. Tourism group to meet ASHEVILLE -- The Asheville Area Tourism Association will meet at noon Wednesday at Blue Ridge Motion Pictures, 12 Old Charlotte Highway. Members will tour the facility, which is being developed as a production location for the motion picture, television and sound recording industries. For information about the meeting or joining, call Doug Sherry at 298-3719. For lunch reservations call the Comfort Inn at 298-9141. The cost is $12. SEMINARS Investment program WEAVERVILLE -- Bill Boughtton, an Edward Jones representative, will host a live program on stock investment opportunities broadcast on the company's private satellite network. It will begin at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Jones' office in Weaverville. To reserve a seat for the free program, call Boughton at 645-0341.

09/08/2002
Educators Say System is on Brink
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Educators Say System is on Brink

BY R. A. Dyer

AUSTIN--Increasing expenses coupled with an inability to increase revenues could lead the Texas public school system to its doom, according to warnings issued Thursday by two education groups pushing for more funding for schools. In a report aimed at Texas lawmakers in advance of the 2003 legislative session, the Texas Association of School Boards and the Texas Association of School Administrators say that the school funding system cannot continue absorbing the escalating expenses of enrollment, utilities, fuel, insurance and supplies. Key lawmakers said there is little chance of a school finance overhaul in the upcoming session. But without more help from the state, "Texas' entire public school system as we know it today will collapse," says the "Report Card on Public Education," which the organizations began distributing this week. "As those who are closest to the education system, we are trying to call attention now to the fact that Texas education, as successful as it has been in recent years, is running headlong toward disaster," the report continues. "No public school district will escape. ... The scenario we describe is imminent. It will transpire over the next two or three years. This report card is not an exaggeration." But Peggy Venable, director of Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy, questioned the organizations' conclusions. "The so-called report card ... is long on hype and short on reality," Venable said. "The apocalyptic gloom-and-doom report projects disaster in our schools but claims no responsibility by the education community." The state's $24 billion-a-year school funding system depends on a combination of revenues from local school district property taxes and revenues provided by the state. The organizations say that that complicated system can't meet increasing demands. For instance, a tax cap limits the ability of local districts to increase revenues through local property taxes. At the same time, the state's proportional share of funding for schools has decreased through the years. The groups say that districts could eventually begin making severe cuts just as students begin taking new high-stakes tests. Citing comments by Texas Education Agency Commissioner Felipe Alanis, the groups say that test failures will increase. "With classrooms that are overcrowded today and a growing shortage of qualified teachers, Texas schools will become increasingly ill-equipped to prepare students for the [new test]," the organizations say. "As fall 2003 approaches, the problems will spiral out of control. ... If the Texas Legislature doesn't come to the rescue, the fate of Texas public schools will be doomed." An organization spokesman said the report is meant to widen legislative and public support for education spending growth. The organizations also call upon lawmakers to pledge support for such increases. Bill Miller, a spokesman for both organizations, said the situation will only worsen if lawmakers wait beyond the 2003 session. Several lawmakers have said a sweeping funding overhaul is unlikely next year given an expected multibillion-dollar budget shortfall, as well as a possible change in political leadership. Acting Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff, architect of the school funding system and the only lawmaker to propose a specific plan to overhaul it, questioned whether the Legislature would ever act without the threat of court action. "We haven't done it [overhaul the system] before -- not until the Supreme Court threatened to shut off all the funds and close the schools," said Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant. "What it will finally take is for the political pain of not doing something to become worse than the political pain of doing something." State Sen. Teel Bivins, co-chairman of the Joint Select Committee on Public School Finance, also downplayed the possibility of action in 2003. "Before we have a clear picture of the state's fiscal situation, it is impossible to predict what action the Legislature will take," said Bivins, R-Amarillo.

09/06/2002
Oregon Ad Airs the Facts: “Taxing Ted” Kulongoski’s Record
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Press Release

Oregon Ad Airs the Facts: “Taxing Ted” Kulongoski’s Record

Oregon Citizens for a Sound Economy, an Oregon-based grassroots issue advocacy organization with 12,000 members, has launched a $150,000 advertising and grassroots campaign to educate citizens about Democratic candidate Ted Kulongoski's record in support of higher taxes. On numerous occasions, Kulongoski has told media outlets like The Oregonian that he favors higher income taxes and higher car taxes. He's just one more typical tax and spend politician looking for higher office.

09/05/2002
CSE Mailbag Sept. 10, 2002
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Press Release

CSE Mailbag Sept. 10, 2002

Restoring America

09/04/2002

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