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Consumers Cheer Microsoft Settlement
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Press Release

Consumers Cheer Microsoft Settlement

Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE) today saluted D.C. Circuit Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly’s acceptance of the settlement between Microsoft Corp. and the Dept. of Justice. CSE published two books about the litigation, and actively engaged its members and the public with a broad grassroots campaign defending consumer interests in the case. CSE’s President, Paul Beckner, commented:

11/02/2002
Voters Decide Bond Issue
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Voters Decide Bond Issue

BY Theo Helm

Every morning at 10:30, eighth-grade students at West Yadkin Elementary School file into the cafeteria - for lunch. Because the cafeteria seats about 260 and the school has about 850 students, West Yadkin has had to extend lunchtime from 10:30 a.m. to 1p.m., said Principal James Sheek. Eating that early affects students' productivity later in the day, he said. "You find that kids get hungry earlier, so you have to come up with another feeding time for them." Educators and the Yadkin County Board of Education point to that - and the six mobile units on West Yadkin's campus - as examples of why the county needs to alleviate overcrowding by passing a $20 million bond package to build two new high schools. But tension between the school board and commissioners has caused some to question what is needed. Opponents say that schools aren't growing that quickly and the county can't support the 12-cent property-tax increase to finance the bond package. Both sides have just a few days remaining to sway undecided voters before the election Tuesday. School officials say that the schools are running out of room for students. Enrollment has increased by about 100 students a year, from 4,913 during 1993-94 to 5,766 during 2000-01, and the system has 26 mobile units, school officials said. "We're running out of room," Superintendent Barbara Todd said. "The costs are going to go up and we're going to be paying more and more for mobile units." School-board members say that building and furnishing two high schools by the 2005-06 school year would cost about $27 million. The bond package would provide $20 million - the maximum amount commissioners said they would put on the ballot. The school board has $2 million saved to furnish the schools. Commissioners would have to come up with some way of raising the remaining $5 million, school officials said. If the bond package passes, the property-tax rate in the county would increase 12 cents, from 64 cents to 76 cents, for each $100 of assessed property value. If bids for the high schools came in at more than $25 million, however, the project would be stopped. Converting the middle schools would cost an additional $3 million each. The schools have a $3 million Qualified Zone Academy Bond to pay for the conversion of Starmount High School. That money must be paid back, but it is interest-free. Officials don't know where money to renovate Forbush High School would come from. Mark Gentry, the chairman of the school board, said that building two high schools is the best way to ease overcrowding. Building new middle schools or elementary schools would not alleviate crowding at the high schools, he said. School officials say that the county also needs middle schools. Yadkin County is one of four school systems in North Carolina that do not have middle schools. Each of its eight elementary schools houses students in kindergarten through eighth grade. J.P. Van Hoy, the principal of Yadkinville Elementary School, said that middle schools would offer better electives because teachers would not have to travel from school to school. "Here (electives) are only offered two or three times a week," he said. "Teachers spend too much time traveling between schools. It's not efficient." Officials say that adding to the schools is not an option because all the elementary schools - except Forbush Elementary School - are landlocked. Van Hoy said that Yadkinville, which has five mobile units, has limited expansion possibilities. "All that would be left would be parking lots or the corner of a ballfield," he said. Todd said that waiting will make building more expensive. "Because of the economic conditions, this is the very best time to do this." But tension between county commissioners and the school board, apparent in meetings leading up to the election, has surfaced. Thomas Wooten, the chairman of the county commissioners, said that problems started when the commissioners asked the school board to lower its $27 million request but the board came back and asked for the same amount. Todd agreed, but said that the school board couldn't build what was needed for less. "This is the cheapest long-term (solution)." Gentry said that the tension comes from the commissioners having to balance the schools' needs with other county needs. "There's tension because we're asking for a lot," he said. Wherever the tension started, only Commissioner Brent Hunter has said that he would vote for the bonds, and Commissioner Lloyd Davis, who did not return calls for this story, voted in July against putting the bonds on the ballot. At the time, he said that the package was not specific enough and that it would be too much of a tax burden. Other commissioners will not say how they plan to vote. "I think that's a decision that the voters need to make for themselves," Commissioner Josh Baity said. "They don't need an elected official to tell them how to vote." Those in the schools don't care about the source of the tension. They just want it fixed. "I sometimes feel like it's the school board vs. the county commissioners," Sheek said. "(Schools are) kind of caught in the middle and held ransom." The numbers used by supporters and opponents of the bond package muddy the waters even more. When the school board originally looked at new high schools, it learned that it would cost about between $60million and $70 million for block-and-brick buildings. Wooten said that first figure has been a sticking point for many people. "I think that threw a lot of people into shock," he said. When the board presented its $27 million plan later, "it caused too many people to question what is the truth, what is the need. It has been a hard sell to overcome." Gentry said that the school board has tried to explain how it can build schools for less money. "But they specifically told us to sharpen our pencils. We did what they wanted us to do." The school board looked at Wilkes County where Pinnacle Architecture built four middle schools for about $37 million. Pinnacle uses steel-frame construction, which lowers the cost because construction takes less time, said Frank Williams, the president of Pinnacle. The company proposed building Yadkin's two high schools for $25 million. Some residents say they wish that the school board would be more specific regardless of the cost. Brady Wooten of Hamptonville has spoken against the bond package at several public meetings. He said he wants to know exactly what the tax rate will be and how many classrooms the schools will have. Gentry, though, says that's impossible to answer without the bond being passed, putting the project out for bids and seeing how the commissioners will come up with the additional $5million. Peggy Boose, the Yadkin County coordinator of the N.C. Citizens for a Sound Economy, has distributed 3,000 fliers raising questions about the bond, each with a drawing of the taxman holding a gun on the taxpayer. Some of the information on the flier lists a source. Some of it does not, including a statement that $20 million will not complete two high schools. "They're not stating the whole thing," Gentry said. The school board has never hidden the fact that two high schools will cost more than $20 million, he said. "That probably is a true statement, but the school board is only telling the good side of the story," Boose said. People need to know that $20 million doesn't cover everything, she said. The flier also says that the school board used money from a 1986 bond package to build a new administration building, which Todd said was not true. "None of the funds were misappropriated," she said. State money for the building became available and was lumped with money for the bond package, she said. Boose also questions the schools' growth projections. She said that enrollment has slowed the past two years to just several dozen a year. "That's not no humongous growth," she said. "We need to look at what the trend is the last two years." Todd said that it was better to look at a longer time period. "We looked at 10 years and we did an average," she said. "That's probably going to give us the history." Others say they think that the school board could expand in less expensive ways. Jimmy Fallin of the Council of Conservative Citizens said that rooms should be added to schools. "It looks like plenty of land to me." Some have said that taxpayers are shouldering the cost for illegal aliens. At a commissioners' meeting, Fallin said, "No commissioner or school-board member was elected to educate the children of South America, Brazil and Mexico." Van Hoy said he doesn't think it's a majority of people, just "a pretty vocal group of people," who blame the growth on Hispanic students. "We're going to educate everyone that comes in that door the best we can," he said. Officials agree that overcrowding won't go away if the bond package is defeated. "Obviously, there is a need," Baity said. "Whether the school bond passes or fails, that need is going to have to be addressed."

11/02/2002
Appeals Court Reinstates Challenge to Florida's Tort-Reform Law
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Appeals Court Reinstates Challenge to Florida's Tort-Reform Law

A trial court in Florida erred in declaring unconstitutional a series of tort-reform initiatives enacted by the state, an appeals court has held, saying there was no live controversy between the parties. State of Florida et al. v. Florida Consumer Action Network et al., No. 1D01-787 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App., 1st Dist., Oct. 9, 2002).The lower court had ruled that the laws ran afoul of the "single-subject" requirement of Article III, Section 6, of the Florida Constitution.The dispute arose after a group of organizational plaintiffs filed a challenge to the enactment of a comprehensive tort-reform law. The new package of laws includes requirements that the parties mediate certain types of actions and that the state create trial-resolution judges. The laws also placed caps on punitive damages and imposed sanctions for unsupported claims or defenses.The plaintiffs sought a declaration against the state of Florida, alleging in 16 counts why they considered the law unconstitutional. Among the grounds raised, the plaintiffs claimed the law violated the single-subject requirement of the Florida Constitution "by embracing a myriad of subjects and thereby becoming a vehicle for logrolling by a variety of special interests that sought specific and unrelated protections from liability concerns," the appeals court said.The defendants filed a motion to dismiss, claiming there was no live controversy between the parties.The trial court denied the motion and subsequently entered summary final judgment for the plaintiffs, finding the law to be a violation of the state constitution's single-subject requirement. In reversing that decision, the Florida First District Court of Appeal said the plaintiffs' asserted claims of injury were "nonspecific and hypothetical," and did no more than question the constitutionality of the tort- reform legislation based on "vague, general fears of possible future harm."Further, the court said, the plaintiffs failed to identify how any particular provision of the legislation would directly affect or harm them, nor did they dispute the meaning or impact of any individual provision or law.Instead, the appeals court said, the plaintiffs apparently only want the tort-reform law struck because they oppose its substantive content."The sole doubt they expressed was whether they have to obey the laws that they contend affect them, because, in their opinion, the legislation is unconstitutional," the court said. "Obviously, such allegations cannot make out a proper case for the exercise of a court's declaratory judgment power."Based on this analysis, the appeals court reversed the grant of summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs and remanded with instructions that the trial court should dismiss the case with prejudice.The court then certified for appeal to the state supreme court the question of whether a justiciable issue exists as pleaded by the plaintiffs.The plaintiffs include the Florida Consumer Action Network, the Coalition for Family Safety Inc., the Florida League of Conservation Voters, the Florida AFL-CIO, the Association of Flight Attendants, DES Action USA, the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers, the Florida State Conference of NAACP Branches, the Florida National Organization of Women, the Children's Advocacy Foundation Inc. and the Florida State Council of Senior Citizens.In addition to the state, the defendants include Publix Supermarkets, Citizens for a Sound Economy, the Associated Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Florida Institute of CPAs, the Florida Retail Federation, the Florida United Business Association, the National Federation of Independent Business, the Association of Community Hospitals and Health System of Florida, the city of Orlando, Dade County, the Florida Association of Counties, the Florida League of Cities, the Florida Sheriffs Association, Tort Reform United Effort, the Florida Farm Bureau Federation, Usher Land & Timber Inc., M.A. Rigatoni Inc., Dietrich Brothers Inc. (also known as Flying "D" Ranch), and H. Fred Dietrich III.

11/01/2002
Candidacy: Choice and a Chance
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Candidacy: Choice and a Chance

BY Kathy Hartkopf

I am Kathy Hartkopf, candidate for North Carolina House. I believe my candidacy represents both a choice and a chance for the people of our new district. I live with my husband and two daughters in Hillsborough. I am employed by Calvary United Methodist Church as the director of their Parents Morning Out program and am involved in a great number of volunteer and civic organization including being the chair of my older daughter's PTA Fundraising Committee and the president of my younger daughter's school Parent Council. My candidacy represents the first chance northern Orange County has had to have their voices heard in the General Assembly. Those same citizens deserve a representative who will work to help them have a voice on the Orange County Board of Commissioners. Equally, Person County citizens deserve a representative who will be responsive to their needs and wishes. We all deserve a representative whose chief concern is the constituents of their district as opposed to the leadership of their party or the lobbyists who visit their office. North Carolinians deserve: The best schools in the nation. A balanced budget without the additional burden of new tax increases A return to our AAA bond rating A taxpayer protection act. Our farmers, our teachers, and our state employees deserve our protection and our support! I believe that I am the best candidate to represent the people of northern Orange and Person counties because I have the values, the experience and the passion necessary to do the job. For the past six years, I have been a presence at the General Assembly. Not because it is my job, but because I care, I go to Raleigh to make a difference. My legislative experience shows that I am effective with both legislators and legislation. I have been called instrumental in building diverse coalitions, across the aisle for the greater good of North Carolina. I am known as a fiscal conservative. I am known as an advocate for families and taxpayers. I am known as an advocate for the average Joe Taxpayer. I was instrumental in forming the Orange County chapter of Citizens for a Sound Economy and I have proudly signed their no new tax pledge for the 2003-2004 legislative session. I was the spokesperson for Citizens for a Better Way, a group that opposed Orange County's 2001 bond package. While there were some very needed and worthwhile elements included in the package, there was waste, inequitable distribution of monies, and a $ 75 million price tag for a county whose tax rate was already among the highest in the state. In principle, I am neither anti-tax nor anti-bond. I do however, believe that tax increases need to be wisely considered and carefully implemented. I have been in Rep. Gordon Allen's office in Raleigh. I believe that he is a very nice man. He has not, however, been a friend to the average citizens of his district. He has not been a friend to farmers. He has not been a friend to state employees. He has not been a friend to taxpayers. Although Mr. Allen has bombarded you with mailings, he has not bothered to visit us and get to know the good people of Orange County. In fact, while Mr. Allen's mailings decry the excesses of big corporations, he has accepted tens-of-thousands of dollars for his campaign from out-of-state corporations and their political action committees. How can he possibly understand our needs and wishes? Next week, please make the choice for a representative who will listen. Please make the choice to return North Carolina to a state with a balanced budget and a premium bond rating. Please make the choice to cut wasteful spending and put families first. Please vote - Kathy Hartkopf for N.C. House.

11/01/2002
Fort Worth's Taxpayers To Underwrite $120 Million Hotel?
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Press Release

Fort Worth's Taxpayers To Underwrite $120 Million Hotel?

You have probably read about it. The City of Fort Worth is in the process of building a 600-room, $120 million hotel downtown complete with a restaurant, health club and 500 parking spaces. But city taxpayers have had no input into the project nor have they been provided opportunity to vote on the taxpayer-subsidized project.

10/31/2002
New Hampshire Ad Blitz: “Jeanne Shaheen is a Taxing Machine!”
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Press Release

New Hampshire Ad Blitz: “Jeanne Shaheen is a Taxing Machine!”

CSE is spending tens of thousands of dollars in a state-wide campaign to let Granite State voters know Jeanne Shaheen’s terrible record on taxes, which includes past support for: The creation of state sales and income taxes "Last year, Shaheen proposed a 2.5 percent sales tax that would have lowered the statewide property tax but increased some business taxes. After the sales tax failed, she agreed to sign an income tax, which failed as well." "Shaheen May Leave Fighting to Rivals," -The Concord Monitor, 2/10/02

10/31/2002
North Carolina Ad Blitz: “Seniors Trust Dole on Social Security!”
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Press Release

North Carolina Ad Blitz: “Seniors Trust Dole on Social Security!”

CSE is running a state-wide campaign to let North Carolina voters know that they can trust Elizabeth Dole on Social Security. On this issue alone, in North Carolina CSE is: • Running a state-wide radio spot “Dole Will Protect Social Security” • Going door-to-door to deliver 25,000 cards on Social Security • Placing 1,250 outdoor Social Security signs across the state • Making 100,000 targeted telephone calls to NC voters • Mailing out 25,000 color brochures on Dole’s record on Social Security

10/31/2002
Texas CSE Calls for Vote on Subsidized Downtown Fort Worth Hotel
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Press Release

Texas CSE Calls for Vote on Subsidized Downtown Fort Worth Hotel

Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy today endorsed the efforts of the citizens group, Citizens for Taxpayer Rights, to collect enough signatures to ensure that the City holds a public referendum on plans to issue $130,000,000 in Certificates of Obligation to fund a proposed downtown Fort Worth Convention Center hotel.

10/31/2002
New Hampshire: Chamber of Retired People Debate
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New Hampshire: Chamber of Retired People Debate

Campaign Tip SheetPrimary/Filing Dates, Latest Polls, Latest Ads...Gov. Jeanne Shaheen (D) and Rep. John Sununu (R-01) met for a "lively exchange" in a suburb of Manchester 10/30 "to debate the best way to shore up Social Security" at an AARP forum before some 500 seniors. Sununu demanded: "What kind of proposals would you support to strengthen Social Security? ... Let's not talk about what we're against; let's talk about what we're for." Shaheen "fired back" that there is no crisis: "The trust fund is in good shape for the next 40 years" (Schweitzer, Boston Globe, 10/31). The two "also rehashed their oft-debated arguments on prescription drug benefits (Levinthal, Lawrence Eagle-Tribune, 10/31). Shaheen and Sununu also squared off at a Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce debate before the AARP forum. In "each contest, they wasted no time going on the attack" (Kepple, Manchester Union Leader, 10/31). RUDMAN STILL A REPUBLICAN, PRINCIPI STILL ... PRINCIPI Ex-Sen. Warren Rudman "delivered a strong endorsement" for Sununu 10/30, "praising Sununu's leadership in the areas of national defense and homeland security" (Kepple, Manchester Union Leader, 10/31). US Sec. Vet. Affairs Anthony Principi will join Sununu today, 10/31, at VFW Post 483 in Nashua. In Boscawen, Sununu and Principi "will tour the state Veterans Cemetery" (Manchester Union Leader, 10/31). DAMNED UNDECIDEDS GET TO DECIDE YET ANOTEHR SENATE RACE Manchester Union Leader's DiStaso reports, "They are neither ghosts nor vampires. Call them The Undecided. But soon they will rise and they will decide the" NH Senate race. Most "polls show The Undecided in the 6 percent range. They matter" (10/31). SOFT NEGATIVE WATCH Sununu has this positive ad up: SUNUNU: "You've seen all the attack ads. Had your fill of mail distorting my record. The truth is, I'll always support a guaranteed social security benefit. I voted twice to punish companies that go to Bermuda to avoid taxes. Jeanne Shaheen knows it. Attacks won't stop me from talking about reforming the tax code, adding a real prescription drug benefit to Medicare or strengthening social security for future generations. In the Senate, I'll always stand up for what's right for New Hampshire families and for America" (CMAG Data, 10/31). MAKING A LIST The Shaheen campaign released a top ten list of third-party groups who have come into to NH to air TV or radio ads benefitting Sununu. 10. Nat'l Right-to-Life Cmte. 9. Club for Growth. 8. United Seniors Assn [Shaheen camp notes, "Funded by Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America"]. 7. Citizens for a Sound Economy ["Funded by the oil, tobacco & pharmaceutical industries]. 6. U.S. Chamber of Commerce. 5. Americans for Tax Reform. 4. Small Business Survival Cmte. 3. 60-plus Association. 2. C.O.M.P.A.S.S. 1. Americans for Job Security. (release, 10/31). ENDORSEMENT ALERT! Lawrence Eagle-Tribune endorses Shaheen (10/29).

10/31/2002
Allen, Seeking 4th Term, Opposed by Hartkopf
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Allen, Seeking 4th Term, Opposed by Hartkopf

BY Rob Shapard

HILLSBOROUGH - The race for House District 55 pits challenger Kathy Hartkopf, a Republican from Hillsborough, against Democrat incumbent Gordon Allen of Roxboro. Allen is seeking his fourth term in the state House of Representatives, although he currently represents District 22. Allen also was a North Carolina senator for three terms in the 1970s. The General Assembly created the new District 55 this year as part of the redistricting that changed the house districts in Orange County and also cost the county one of its two seats in the North Carolina Senate. District 55 includes all of Person County and 12 precincts in central and northern Orange: Hillsborough, West Hillsborough, Grady Brown, Cameron Park, Eno, Cedar Grove, Caldwell, Cheeks, Efland, St. Marys, Tolars and Carr. Allen easily defeated Democrat challenger Kenneth Rothrock, a lawyer in Hillsborough and northern Orange resident, in the Primary Election earlier this fall. Rothrock got about 600 more votes than Allen in the Orange precincts, but Allen swamped Rothrock by nearly 4-1 in his home county of Person. Rothrock made a push for district representation for the Orange County Commissioners one of his campaign themes, and Hartkopf has sounded that same theme. She contends that many northern Orange voters feel they don't really have a voice among the county commissioners, who are elected at-large rather than by districts. In particular, she says that northern Orange residents are more fiscally conservative than the current commissioners, on questions such as property taxes and spending. "I do not believe that the majority of people of northern Orange County believe that the commissioners who happen to live in [unincorporated] Orange County are representing their needs," she said. "That is the thing that I hear continually when I talk to people in the county. "District representation for Orange County would not be reinventing the wheel," she said. "There are counties all across the country that do elect their commissioners by districts. It's not like the people of northern Orange are asking for something that's never been done before." In general, Hartkopf said that a taxpayer protection act is something she would work for if elected. Such an act would put a percentage limit, based on inflation, on the amount that state taxes could be raised each year. "I believe that North Carolinians deserve the best schools in the nation, a balanced budget without the added burden of new tax increases, a return to our triple-A bond rating, a taxpayer protection act, and a representative who will really listen," she said. "We all deserve a representative whose chief concerns are the needs of their district, as opposed to the leadership of their party or the lobbyists who visit their office," she said. Hartkopf herself has visited North Carolina legislators' offices in recent years to talk about various issues, although Hartkopf said she's done so as a concerned volunteer, and not a paid lobbyist. Hartkopf, 35, grew up in Pamlico County, graduated from Peace College and was a fellow at the Institute of Political Leadership at UNC-Wilmington. She lives on Uphill Court in the Cornwallis Hills subdivision with her husband, Al, and two daughters. She has been the spokesperson for Citizens for A Better Way, which formed last year in opposition to the $ 75 million bond referenda, and she helped establish a local chapter of the Citizens for a Sound Economy, a group based in Washington, D.C., that calls for lower taxes and limited government. Allen, 73, lives on Crestwood Drive in Roxboro and was principal owner of the family insurance business, Thompson-Allen, until recently when his son took over ownership. He and his wife, Betsy, have five children and 17 grandchildren. Allen is co-chairman of the House Finance Committee and serves on the Education, Environment and Natural Resources, Legislative Redistricting, Rules and Transportation committees. He also is a member of the subcommittee on community colleges and a trustee of Piedmont Community College in Roxboro, which he helped create about 30 years ago. Education has been a focus in Allen's campaign over the past few months. "I'll keep fighting for education funding and the best teachers in our classrooms," he said Wednesday. "Budget crises come and go, but our children only have one chance at a quality education. I have voted to increase teacher salaries and lower class size. I was the founding chairman and got the first appropriation for Piedmont Community College." Allen said he strongly supports the effort by Durham Technical Community College and the Orange County Commissioners to create a satellite campus in Orange for Durham Tech. In general, he has argued that northern Orange and Person face many of the same challenges, and that he therefore is well qualified to represent that part of Orange. He also touted his ranking as the seventh-most effective legislator, and his co-sponsorship of a bill that Gov. Mike Easley was expected to sign into law on Thursday, providing incentives to attract employers to the state. "We've lost our competitive edge to states like South Carolina and Alabama," Allen said. "This new act will hopefully put us back in business. "You've got to be competitive," he said. "Everybody's trying to attract industry." Allen was a platoon leader during the Korean War as an Army lieutenant, and he received the Bronze Star. Asked Wednesday about a defining moment in his life, he mentioned his realization, while in Korea in 1953 as a 24-year-old, that he wanted to settle down for good in Roxboro and raise his family there. He was born in Roxboro and came back there in 1944, after moving with his family to Wilmington and Sanford. But Allen said it was during the war that his attachment to Roxboro really hit him.

10/31/2002

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