State Laws

Coffee with Local Legislators – April 11

Have Coffee & Conversation With Local Legislators on April 11

Here’s your chance to ask questions of and make suggestions to your local legislators

before the N.C. General Assembly convenes in May. Sen. David Hoyle, Rep. William Current

and Rep. Wil Neumann are scheduled to participate in a Chamber Coffee & Conversation

on Friday, April 11, at Queen of The Apostles Catholic Church Family Center, 503 N. Main St., Belmont.

david-w-hoyle.jpg Hoyle   wil-neumann.jpg Neumann

bill-current.jpg  Dr. Current

Coffee and juice and a light breakfast will be provided starting at 7:30 a.m. The program will start promptly at

8 a.m. and end at 9. The cost is $5 at the door. Registration is requested by email to info@belmontchamber.com.

For more information, call 704-825-5307, or go to the Chamber website at www.belmontchamber.com.

Hotline to help North Carolinians facing foreclosure

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HOPE hotline will connect callers with local non-profits to help people keep their homes

Raleigh –  Help for North Carolinians who are at risk of losing their homes to foreclosure is now just a telephone call away, Attorney General Roy Cooper and the Office of the Commissioner of Banks announced today.

“It’s tragic when families lose their homes, especially when it could be prevented,” Cooper said.  “One toll-free call could give them the advice they need to stop foreclosure.”

North Carolinians can call the HOPE Hotline toll-free at 888-995-HOPE 24 hours a day, seven days a week to receive free counseling on options to avoid foreclosure.  The hotline will connect callers with non-profit housing and credit counselors in their local community who can advise them about options such as modifying their loan, selling or refinancing their home or setting up a repayment plan with their lender.

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“Homeowners struggling to pay their mortgage need to know there are resources available to help them avoid foreclosure.  Call the NC HOPE Hotline and you may be able to save your home,” said Deputy Commissioner of Banks Mark Pearce.

While North Carolina has not experienced the wave of foreclosures seen in many other states due to our strong laws against unfair loans, foreclosures are on the rise in the state.  Foreclosure starts were up 9.4 percent in North Carolina in 2007 and are expected to increase by 10 to 20 percent in 2008, according to the Commissioner of Banks’ office.

According to research by Freddie Mac, more than half of all homeowners who experience foreclosure never contact their mortgage company to try to avoid unnecessary foreclosure.  Mortgage servicers and lenders have a strong incentive to help homeowners avoid foreclosure because they stand to lose $40,000 to $50,000 in net value when a typical home loan is foreclosed.  Finding a solution to foreclosure can be in the best interest of both the homeowner and the lender.

Cooper and the Commissioner of Banks have teamed up to provide $300,000 in seed money to reimburse counselors who are able to help prevent unnecessary foreclosures for North Carolinians who call the hotline, with more reimbursement going to counselors who are able to help homeowners keep their homes.  Additional funding from Congress and the General Assembly could expand access to local counselors through the hotline.

Local non-profits will also be able to connect hotline callers with other resources as needed, such as referrals for legal help when there is evidence that the homeowner may have been the victim of predatory or abusive lending practices.   The Attorney General’s Office will be notified when there is a pattern of lending abuses and can take action to enforce North Carolina’s strong laws against predatory lending. 

Counselors can also help connect homeowners who qualify with Federal Housing Administration secure loans.  In some cases, non-profits may be able to purchase a home before it is foreclosed upon and then lease it back to the homeowner, applying their lease payments to the purchase of the home.

The national Hope Hotline is a joint project between NeighborWorks America, a non-profit organization chartered by Congress, and the Homeownership Preservation Foundation, a non-profit organization based in Minnesota.  The Commissioner of Banks and Attorney General Cooper are working together to select and support more than 20 high-quality counseling agencies across the state to accept referrals from the national Hope Hotline.  These local counselors will be able to provide assistance not currently available through the national hotline.

“Foreclosures are hurting families across our state and damaging our neighborhoods and communities,” said Cooper.  “It’s in all of our interest to help homeowners find a way out of foreclosure when possible.”

More information about the hotline and the organizations involved is available at www.ncforeclosurehelp.org.

WHAT? !!!

Permit guns in schools to stop massacres

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Yeah, that’s the title of a community columnist in today’s Charlotte Observer.

Mr. Lane is an older person, having grown up in a completely different age and time. His assertion that when researching his opinion for the above article link, that, “…What changed? When guns were readily available to students, when they were often actually inside the schools themselves, there were no killings — none! …”.

With all due respect for the Observer, offering opinions such as this person proposes, just brings out the nut-jobs and wackos from our area society.

no-gun-left-behind.pdf

We already have school resource officers (county or local police officers) in most — if not all — middle schools, and every high school. We believe that “arming a responsible adult” is achieved by this practice in Gaston County already. We don’t need teachers, certified/tenured, or substitutes, packing heat in the hallways.

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Belmont Not Meeting Water Restriction Guidelines

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With Stage 3 water restrictions in place, Belmont must just be ignoring the severity of the drought.

In October, Governor Easley called on the municipalities throughout the state to cut water useage by 50%. According to the NC Drought Monitor, Belmont just isn’t meeting that goal.

gov-easley-water-consumption-monitor-10-22-07.pdf

Belmont’s average daily useage as of August 2007 was 2.4 million gallons per day.  

  12/10          12/3         11/26         11/19          11/12           11/5          10/29          10/22

-34.76% -29.97% -30.18% -29.48% -17.64% -19.66% -29.31% -33.75%

So, what’s up with that?

It is not as if the state hadn’t given communities guidelines or unreasonable expectations. Back in 2002, during the last drought,  the State passed HB 1215. Section 5 of House Bill 1215 required the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to evaluate water conservation measures being implemented in North Carolina and to identify incentive programs and other voluntary programs that can help foster water conservation, water reuse, and water use efficiency.

water-use-during-droughts-and-water-supply-emergencies.pdf

At the last city council meeting, City Manager Barry Webb, spoke about the possible actions to “encourage” further water conservation, including a “temporary” water rate increase.

We all know that several businesses will be heavily impacted, and that those on “fixed incomes” will want exemptions right off the bat, if council seriously considers this added taxation.

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Isn’t this Special ?

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A suburban town just outside of New York City is offering an “opportunity” for its senior citizens to work off their property taxes.

Wow, a novel way to counteract spiralling need to reach into a homeowner’s wallet. Since we taxed your property that a lot of people want, and you can’t afford the taxes now, we can let you work for us!

We wonder – does that mean the county government payroll goes up, or are the newly minted serfs considered “contract workers”? If the community has a public bidding process, does that mean the senior citizens in the community have to publically bid for the job “opportunity”? Do the wages earned get taxed?

“There are lots of things people can do for the town and it wouldn’t cost us that much to pay them”, said Town Supervisor Paul Feiner.

laughing.jpg    No Doubt…

Minnesota “allows” its senior citizens to defer their property taxes, but not forgives them of the obligation — “This is not a tax forgiveness program – it is a low interest loan from the state. The deferred tax is paid by the state to your county. Interest will be charged on this loan. The interest rate will be adjusted annually, but will never exceed five percent. A lien will attach to your property.” — from the state web page.

OK, so now we owe interest on top of the tax, and our children pay the estate off when we pass away. Sounds like a windfall for the county — even better than the accomodations tax used to fund our community festivals and chambers of commerce.

“They’re heart-committed volunteers,” said Council on Aging Director Patricia McCarthy, to a Whitman, MA, town council. Town Administrator Frank Lynam said there could be work for seniors who want to take on light custodial work at the Town Hall.

Shur’nuf, 111 hours of peasant labor…

Gaston County offers a Homestead Exclusion, but no overtly special way to pay off the tax liability.

The qualifications for this exclusion also require the owner to make a timely application. The deadline for the application is June 1.  The major qualifications for a Gaston County resident include a minimum age or disability as of January 1 — 65 years or older or totally and permanently disabled.   In addition, the owner’s adjusted gross income (individual or husband and wife) can not exceed $19,200 for the calendar year preceding the year in which the exclusion is claimed.  Those who qualify for the exclusion can receive the greater of $20,000 or 50% of the value of their residence reduced from their tax bill.

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Since the Gazette didn’t pick up the story yet, maybe our illustrious county commissioners won’t get big ideas just yet. Oops — too late — it appears that there at least a couple county commissioners that read this blog.

40-plus N.C. laws take effect

One new law bans devices known as “alcohol inhalers,” which convert liquor into a mist that can be inhaled by the user. Lawmakers were concerned that the devices, which were assembled and distributed by a Greensboro company, were being marketed to underage drinkers. Another law establishes rules for alcohol-detecting technology, which is used in ankle bracelets worn by some defendants convicted of drunken driving. Also, people can lose their driver’s licenses for providing alcohol to anyone younger than 21. The penalty is important because many underage drinkers get alcohol from friends or family members, said Craig Lloyd, the executive director of the N.C. chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Animals

Penalties have increased for anyone who kills an animal through intentional starvation, and for anyone who kills a police animal or an assistance animal such as a seeing-eye dog.

Animal rights activists supported those two laws, although an official with the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said she objects to the idea that certain animals, such as police dogs, should be elevated above ordinary companion animals.

A third law dealing with animals legalizes a practice known as “earth-dog trials.” The practice involves placing a caged rat at the end of an underground tunnel. A dog such as a dachshund or terrier is encouraged to follow the scent of the rat through the tunnel and then bark, scratch or paw at the rat’s cage. The “trial” is said to be a simulated hunting situation and is sometimes used for entertainment.

Miscellaneous

Desecrating a gravestone or other cemetery monument is now considered a low-level felony, and the punishment has increased for people who carry a weapon while violating a domestic violence order.

There are also tougher penalties for people who steal high-priced metals, such as copper and aluminum, or who engage in the organized theft of retail merchandise with the intent to resell it.

It will be harder to get out of a speeding ticket if the speed is more than 25 mph over the speed limit. People caught speeding at that level can no longer get a “prayer for judgment continued” from a judge or plead guilty to the lesser offense of having a broken speedometer.

NC Policy Watch has a few more summaries and we have attached the entire PDF of enacted laws (all 419 pages) through November.

summaries-of-substantive-ratified-legislation-for-2007.pdf