By L.A. Williams
Christian Action League
December 5, 2013
RALEIGH — Jim Gardner made it clear when he was appointed to the state’s Alcohol Beverage Control Commission Chairman (ABC) in February that underage drinking was one of his biggest concerns. The former lieutenant governor appealed to the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Justice and Public Safety last month for more Alcohol Law Enforcement funding; and sources say he’s also lobbying lawmakers to earmark some $2.35 million for a new initiative to combat the problem of underage drinking.
According to The NC Insider, Gardner wants to model North Carolina’s program on one credited with reducing underage drinking in Utah.
Parents Empowered, a collaborative, state-sponsored educational and community mobilization campaign, was launched there in 2006 and uses electronic media and other mass communication to help parents take action to keep kids alcohol-free.
Focusing on helping moms and dads develop a three-sided approach of “bonding, boundaries and monitoring,” the initiative has been credited with a measurable decrease in youth binge drinking rates, 30-day use rates, and lifetime use rates among high school students.
“Parents are the No. 1 influence in a youth’s life,” Susannah Burt, program manager with Parents Empowered of Utah, told the Deseret News late last year. “They are the No. 1 reason that children choose not to use alcohol or any other substance.”
Another aspect of the program, called EASY (Eliminate Alcohol Sales to Youth) stems the flow of alcohol to minors at off-premise retail locations via compliance checks and standardized employee training.
Parents Empowered received the 2012 National Exemplary Award for Innovative Substance Abuse Prevention Programs. In Utah, the program is funded largely through liquor revenues, another aspect that Gardner would like to see mirrored in North Carolina, where he is reportedly asking lawmakers to dedicate 2.5 percent of excise taxes collected on beer and wine. Importers or wholesalers pay the excise taxes at a rate of 61.71 cents per gallon of malt beverage; 26.34 cents per liter of unfortified wine; and 29.34 cents per liter of fortified wine. In addition to the 2.5 percent, which is about $2.35 million, the ABC Commission would also apply $500,000 from its budget to the initiative.
“Godspeed to Jim Gardner’s efforts,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “We know the budget is tight and dedicated revenue sources are not popular in North Carolina, but in a state where the sale of alcohol exceeds $5 billion a year and about half a billion dollars goes into the state’s general fund, we can afford to set aside these funds to help parents keep their kids away from alcohol.”
He said the money would be a wise investment considering that underage drinking costs the state some $1.5 billion annually, not to mention contributes to an average of one driving fatality per week.
Insurance Commissioner, Wayne Goodwin opposes proposed Catawba Casino
In other news, Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin has joined officials across the state in asking the Bureau of Indian Affairs to deny the South Carolina-based Catawba Indian Tribe’s request to build a casino across the North Carolina line in Cleveland County.
“I sent this letter because, quite frankly, I do not believe the Catawba request is right for North Carolina. When news of the Catawba plan emerged, I immediately had general opposition; more specifically, though, I had serious concerns because this is an out-of-state (South Carolina) tribe attempting to leap-frog over in-state tribes,” Goodwin said Thursday. “As my letter explains in greater detail, if the federal government approves of what the Catawba tribe wants to do, then in my opinion it violates North Carolina’s state sovereignty and sets precedent for other out-of-state tribes to do the same here.”
He said such a move would destroy the intent of existing law and harm state sovereignty.
“Hypothetically, if the Catawba Tribe were allowed to pursue gaming and casino operations in North Carolina under the current circumstance, then what would prevent a plethora of other federally-recognized tribes from choosing to purchase land in North Carolina even though they have had little to no connection here in the last century or more?” Goodwin asked in his letter.
In a move being heralded as a potential economic boon to Cleveland and surrounding counties, the Catawba Nation has applied to put 16 acres near Kings Mountain into federal trust, the first step in building a huge casino complex. While county officials have pushed for the project, more than 100 state lawmakers in addition to the Governor have signed letters in opposition. Goodwin’s missive is among the most recent.
“During my prior years of legislative service, I also actively fought the spread of video poker in this state,” Goodwin said. “So, my stance on this issue should come as no surprise.”
He said it is too early to gauge any feedback the Dec. 3 letter might generate, but that, “given the public statements made by many state legislators and our Attorney General, I anticipate that my opinion letter will be well-received by most North Carolinians.”
Dr. Creech commended Goodwin for joining the opposition, which he hopes will continue to mount as the Bureau of Indian Affairs considers the matter.
“The last thing North Carolina needs is another casino,” he said. “We must all stand against this effort, despite promises of jobs and wealth. In the long run, gambling never pays off.”
To read a copy of Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin’s letter, click here.