Federal regulators now have premium cigars in the regulatory crosshairs — along with the thousands who are employed in the industry. Carolina Journal’s Dan Way reports.
If Food and Drug Administration regulators adopt new regulations that would place premium, hand-made cigars under the jurisdiction of a law originally passed to regulate cigarettes, sellers of the premium cigars say the changes could put them out of business.
The federal agency is considering adding premium cigars, as well as electronic cigarettes, pipe tobacco, certain dissolvable tobacco products that are not “smokeless tobacco,” nicotine gels, and water pipe tobacco to the Family Tobacco Prevention and Control Act of 2009.
This has the makers and sellers of premium cigars in North Carolina concerned.
Premium, hand-made cigars, unlike cigarettes and mass-produced stogies made by machine, are 100 percent tobacco and do not contain the additives that are the chief concern of the FDA, though some blends may add flavoring. Cigarettes, however, may have hundreds of additives.
Tom Kakadelis, who owns two premium cigar stores in Charlotte, was hoping to expand his small, hand-made cigar business, but if the proposed new regulations apply to premium cigars they could become too expensive to carry in his shop, causing him, and other small shop owners, who employ tens of thousands of people nationwide, to shut their doors.
Just what the sputtering national economy needs, right?
Here’s another one of the stories I love — stories that illustrate how the capitalist economic system and — rich people! — help those of more modest means realize their dreams.
For example, these gentlemen pitched their idea for a quirky grilled cheese sandwich shop to the “Shark Tank” investors, and now they’re coming to Carrboro.
Can’t wait to try it.
Carolina Journal’s Barry Smith reports on the status of the Opportunity Scholarship program, where Big Education supporters in North Carolina are using the legal system to obstruct low-income parents from having the educational choice that wealthier parents already enjoy.
Parents of nearly 1,900 students who had been awarded Opportunity Scholarships that were ruled unconstitutional last month by Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood are sending their children to private schools anyway.
They’re hoping that an appeals court will put Hobgood’s order on ice while the legal wrangling over North Carolina’s fledgling private school voucher program goes through the appeals process.
“There have been many private schools saying we’re going to keep them regardless,” said Darrell Allison, president of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina, which supports educational choice, who also said he believes that opponents of the voucher program strategically calculated the timing of their legal efforts to try to disrupt the program. “We’ll just try to make it work.”
Hobgood’s ruling came just days before most traditional public schools in the state opened up for the 2014-15 school year. Some private schools had already started.
Weep for the children not being served by a traditional public school classroom, and who could be trapped with nowhere to turn, thanks to progressives’ view that the system trumps all.
Occupational licensing may sound like a topic only of interest to eggheads, but not so. Occupational licensing — in which the state requires a person who seeks to practice a certain trade or craft — is, at its core, a way for the industry to fend off competition. JLF’s Jon Sanders has written extensively on this issue.
“In practice, occupational licensing tends to be motivated more to protect current members of a profession from competition and thereby make them wealthier,” Sanders added. “One study suggests licensing boosts earnings for current practitioners by 15 percent. In higher-wage licensed occupations, the wage premium can reach as high as 30 percent. Instead of being a case of the state versus the professionals, licensing actually helps the two sides work in concert against the interests of new competitors and consumers.”
In this Wall Street Journal piece, published late last month, the writer describes a case the U.S. Supreme Court will decide this session.
The case, to be heard at the nation’s highest court in mid-October, started with a dispute over teeth-whitening that erupted between the Federal Trade Commission and the North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners.
The dental board—comprised of six licensed dentists, a hygienist and one consumer member—is accused of improperly thwarting competition while the state wasn’t paying attention. The board issued nearly 50 cease-and-desist letters over the past decade to beauty parlors, spas and other small businesses that offer teeth-whitening services. The letters warned that only licensed dentists can legally provide those treatments.
Will the high court support these anti-competitive regulatory webs?
Led by President Obama, progressives are pushing for a mandate to force businesses to pay entry-level workers $10.10 per hour. But George Leef, commenting about an AEI post, poses this key question — and challenge — for progressives.
Those same progressives often call for increased taxes on things they want to stop, such as smoking, but for some reason can’t understand that the economic laws that will lead to less smoking will also lead to less hiring.
Excellent question, but are progressives listening?
JLF’s Terry Stoops, director of research and education studies, used his latest newsletter to analyze some of the new data released this week by the state Department of Public Instruction. Here’s a very interesting piece of information.
Nearly 75 percent of North Carolina schools met or exceeded their academic growth goals, as determined by N.C. DPI. Although academic growth is an indispensible statistic, it requires context. For example, a school that meets or exceeds growth expectations may still enroll few students that score at or above grade level.
What about charter schools?
Of the 33 charter schools that reported graduation rates in 2014, over two-thirds of them had a rate that exceeded the state average. Twelve had graduation rates that were at or near 100 percent. The graduation rate for all charter high school students was around 90 percent last year.
According to a preliminary analysis of state test scores, charters have outperformed district schools for the fifth consecutive year.
Public charter schools have earned — and deserve — our respect. Will progressives ever face the data and support charters as a worthwhile option that is proving its value?
The golf industry is struggling — for all sorts of reasons. Younger people aren’t being introduced to golf. There are few professionals — such as Tiger — who can make or break tournaments with their presence. The equipment to play can be costly. Precision and practice are required to play well. And, perhaps most importantly, a round of golf takes half a day at a time when the attention span of many people is down to mere minutes. So what’s the industry to do when market forces threaten your existence? They adapt, and that means experimenting with different ideas and innovations. Triangle Business Journal features one of these ideas: foot golfing.
Footgolf is cheaper to play, takes half the time and still includes the same etiquette that is expected on the golf course, he says. Footgolf courses are established on top of golf courses, and designed so that the two games don’t conflict.
Some golfers don’t hate the idea. In fact, they are embracing the alternate golf concept as an additional stream of revenue that brings younger players to their clubs.
PGA President Ted Bishop is a proponent of footgolf and says he thinks the sport can help golf in the long run.
Not even an average teacher pay raise of 7 percent is deemed enough by the Big Education status quo monopoly. No, instead, the head of the Chapel Hill/Carrboro public school system writes yet another attack on Republican legislators who have dared to begin to reform the state’s K-12 system and who have given teachers a gigantic pay raise. Here’s part of the anti-Republican rant from Tom Forcella:
Teacher dissatisfaction has been on the rise as a result of actions taken by the North Carolina legislature over the past few years. When the state budget began experiencing shortfalls, teacher salaries were frozen. As of the start of this fiscal year, our state ranked 46th in the nation in teacher pay (this was prior to recent legislation that did raise salaries, but mostly for beginning teachers).
Recent legislative actions reduced funding for teacher assistants, removed some pay incentives for teachers who further their education with advanced degrees, scrapped the N.C. Teaching Fellows program and failed to provide adequate funding for textbooks and technology. Bills were even introduced to create pay raises only for teachers willing to relinquish “career status.”
Teachers feel attacked.
The most recent teacher turnover report from the state Department of Public Instruction, which covers 2012-13, showed the number of teachers who resigned to teach in another state has been increasing since 2010-11.
So let’s look further at the teacher turnover issues. I recently talked about it with JLF’s Director of Research and Education Studies, Dr. Terry Stoops. Here’s part of our Carolina Journal Radio conversation.
Stoops: Well, the data show that around 14 percent, or 13,000 teachers, left their teaching position last year. This is the 2012-13 school year. And I say “leave their position” because some of these teachers just went to go teach in other school districts or in charter schools. Others retired. So this doesn’t represent the turnover as it’s traditionally understood by a lot of people — someone leaving the profession completely. These are mostly teachers that left the profession or retired.
Martinez: So, for example, a teacher could have been teaching in Durham County and decided that they got a better offer over in Buncombe County, and off they went. That person goes into this report?
Stoops: That’s right. There are three reasons — three top reasons — why teachers left the profession, according to this report, or left their position. And that is to teach in another school district, retire, or move because of family relocation. And those are the three top reasons — mostly beyond the control of the state. I mean, if a teacher wants to teach in another school district, they should be free to do so. Obviously, if a teacher is thinking about retirement, they should do so. And you can’t do much about a family relocation. So that’s what this report shows, that those are the three [top] reasons why teachers left their position.
Martinez: Here’s where it gets really, really interesting. And we’ll get back to the policy questions in a moment. But when this report was released … there were a number of media stories and advocacy groups who came out and said, “Now, see? People are leaving the profession because of all the things that the legislators have passed.” [Reforms] that these groups consider to be anti-teacher. That got a reaction from you. Tell us about it.
Stoops: It really misrepresents what the report is saying. Well, first of all, if you look at the reasons why teachers left, and if you chalk it up to teachers leaving the state or being dissatisfied with the profession, that amounts to about 1,300 teachers; 1,300 of the 13,000 that left their position did so because of, either they wanted to teach out of state — and that’s not necessarily because of the policies of the Republicans; it’s just that they found a job in another state — or they were dissatisfied with teaching. And, again, that dissatisfaction may be caused by any number of factors in their current teaching position.
But to make the causal jump — the leap — that just because these teachers are leaving the profession or leaving to teach out of state, it’s because of Republican policies — the report just does not support that conclusion. We don’t have the information. We can’t get into each of the teacher’s heads and figure out exactly why they’re leaving. So what the media did — and what a lot of the groups on the Left did — is to attribute these teachers that left the profession permanently, attribute that to Republican policies. And there’s just no evidence that that’s the case.
And so it goes.
Dr. Jenna Ashley Robinson of the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy has posted an intriguing column about the potential for cost savings in the UNC System by taking a close look at the “sacred cow” of faculty teaching loads.
When legislators and officials of the University of North Carolina and legislators consider costs, they prefer to focus on minor operational functions—such as heating bills. But that is mere nibbling around the edges.
One area is more promising for cutting costs than all the rest: faculty teaching loads. Faculty salaries are roughly half of the UNC budget; even slight adjustments could mean savings well into the tens of millions of dollars. Yet they have remained something of a sacred cow—there is never any discussion of changing the amount of teaching professors do, even though it is quite feasible.
That’s where the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy comes in—we look at potential cost-cutting measures that nobody else dares to. This year, the Pope Center’s director of policy analysis Jay Schalin took a close look at faculty workloads and found some very interesting things.
And what happened when the Pope Center’s Jay Schalin started looking at the data?
Schalin found several eye-popping discrepancies between legislated standards and the system’s claims: UNC Greensboro claimed its average professor taught 4.2 courses in the Fall of 2012, despite a legislated standard of 2.5. Our own findings for tenured and tenure-track professors duplicated the 1.7 course difference at Greensboro.
Time for some closer observation of the campuses by system officials.
From Federal News Radio’s interview with IRS Commissioner John Koskinen comes his comments about the investigation into the IRS targeting of conservative nonprofits.
“We may be overly investigating the situation,” he said in an interview on In Depth with Francis Rose, noting that the agency already has implemented the recommendations of its inspector general. “I’ve had a series of 10 fun-filled hearings in the spring and summer.”
Sarcasm aside, Koskinen, as a former Senate aide, says he is a “big believer in congressional oversight” and that the IRS is trying to respond promptly to all the inquiries. He estimates that the agency has provided nearly a million documents to various committees.
“It is important for every taxpayer to feel comfortable that they’re going to get treated fairly,” he said. “Whomever they voted for, whatever organizations they belong to, whatever church they go to, they should be comfortable that if they hear from us, it’s because of something in their tax return, and if someone else had that issue, they’d hear from us as well.”
Koskinen says he’s hopeful that “before the end of the year, we’ll put most of this to rest.”
And like any good bureaucrat, Koskinen wants more money for the agency.