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N.C. liquor law update

The Asheville Citizen-Times provides an update on various bills before the General Assembly to change how alcohol is sold in North Carolina. A brief summary from the article:

State law requires that all sales of liquor by the bottle be in the network of ABC stores that are owned by and benefit local government. Brewers selling more than 25,000 barrels of beer a year also must use a third-party distributor, instead of selling their products directly to bars and grocery stores.

Bills filed in the legislature this year would allow the state’s growing distilleries to sell one bottle per year per person of their product at their distillery and let ABC stores hold free tastings so people could sample different kinds of alcohol.

There are also proposals to relax limits on smaller breweries’ ability to sell beer to bars, restaurants and grocery stores without using a third-party distributor and to allow a brewery to sell a visitor a glass of wine.

But, none so far have advanced beyond the House Alcoholic Beverage Control Committee. The liquor bills are parked, along with scores of others on a wide variety of topics, in the Senate Rules Committee chaired by Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson.

The committee is sometimes a graveyard for bills Senate leadership does not want to consider. Apodaca did not return a request for comment on whether the bills will get a hearing.

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The Panthers’ biggest cap number

Charles Johnson at $20,020,000 million. As ESPN’s David Newton reports, that’s the third highest cap figure for any player in the NFL this year. Is Johnson a really good defensive end? Yes. Is he anywhere near being the third best player in the league? No. And who can we blame for Johnson’s contract? Marty Hurney of course.

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C-130 force structure update

I’ll be writing a column on this for Carolina Journal, but for now here’s a quick summary on the latest U.S. Air Force C-130 fleet plan, which was just presented to Congress. The 440th Airlift Wing at Pope AAF in Fayetteville is still toast. The N.C. Air National Guard here in Charlotte will still loss two of its C-130Hs, to bring the unit down to eight planes, which is the standard size for National Guard and Air Force Reserve C-130 units. (The manpower impact is likely to be minimal, as the NCANG gained almost no jobs when the unit gained those two planes in the last BRAC round in 2005.) And the Air Force wants to retire a total of 28 additional C-130Hs in FY2017 and FY2018, though it wasn’t announced yet which units would be losing planes as a result. I doubt Charlotte would be where those cuts take place if approved by Congress, but you never know.

You can read the force structure plan here via the Fayetteville Observer.

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The skies above Charlotte are always sunny, item #5,978,134

The UPoR had a piece over the weekend on how Charlotte Douglas International Airport ranked last year. Problems in the story? Absolutely. Consider this passage, the last paragraph of the story:

Last year, Charlotte Douglas added two new airlines, Frontier and ViaAir, and gained new flights. American Airlines, which merged with US Airways in 2013, added domestic flight between Charlotte and Evansville, Ind.; Fort Wayne, Ind.; Grand Rapids, Mich.; Tulsa, Okla.; and Oklahoma City, Okla. American also added a second daily flight to London’s Heathrow Airport.

You got to take the good with the bad. The airport also lost service to Sao Paulo last year, Rio de Janeiro early this year while the summer-seasonal flights to Frankfurt (second flight), Brussels, Manchester, England, and Lisbon won’t return this summer.

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Belk’s challenges

Local papers often don’t do a good job covering complex business stories — to do the story right, you have to follow an industry very closely, and non-national publications typically don’t have those sorts of resources. So its refreshing to see the UPoR produce a good summary of some of the issues Belk faces as the largely family-owned company considers its future options.

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Supreme Court Ruling on Pot Highlights Partisan Divide

My court story of the month for Carolina Journal:

RALEIGH — The issue of warrantless search and seizures by police was again before the N.C. Supreme Court in a case underscoring the divergent judicial philosophies of the high court’s Republican and Democratic members.

On May 5, 2011, the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office received an anonymous tip that Jerry Grice Jr. was growing marijuana. Two detectives were sent to Grice’s house to talk to him about the claim.

Grice’s front door was unusable, as it was covered by plastic and blocked by furniture. The officers noticed a side door that appeared to serve as the building’s main entrance. No one responded to a knock at the door despite the presence of a car in the driveway. While standing in the driveway, an officer saw three containers with marijuana plants about 15 yards away. The detectives seized the plants to prevent their destruction; a search warrant was obtained later and the house and yard were searched the next day. Grice admitted that the plants seized the previous day were his.

Grice eventually was convicted of manufacturing a controlled substance and was sentenced to a suspended term of six to eight months in prison with supervised probation.

The N.C. Court of Appeals overturned Grice’s conviction, holding that the detective’s warrantless seizure of the plants violated his Fourth Amendment rights. The state then sought review before the Supreme Court.

Exigent circumstances?

The Fourth Amendment states “[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” U.S. Supreme Court precedent recognizes that the Fourth Amendment extends to a house’s “curtilage,” the area “immediately surrounding and associated with the home.”

The N.C. Supreme Court reinstated Grice’s conviction. “Defendant chose to grow marijuana in his yard, plainly visible to any visitors to his home. The law enforcement officers who visited defendant’s home carefully limited the scope of their intrusion, and their seizure was justified under the plain view doctrine and supported by exigent circumstances,” wrote Chief Justice Mark Martin for the majority.

In reaching this conclusion, Martin held that the site where Grice’s marijuana plants were located, 15 yards from his house, in an unfenced area, and not behind a fence, does not qualify for protection under the Fourth Amendment. Even if it did, the plants still would have been easily visible from a portion of the property — the driveway — that by custom and tradition does not enjoy Fourth Amendment protection.

The majority also determined that the seizure without a warrant of the plants was justified by “exigent circumstances.”

“Reviewing the record, it is objectively reasonable to conclude that someone may have been home, that the individual would have been aware of the officers’ presence, and that the individual could easily have moved or destroyed the plants if they were left on the property,” wrote Martin.

Though nominally nonpartisan, campaigns for the court are generally de facto partisan affairs. Martin, as well as the three justices that joined in his opinion — Robert Edmunds, Paul Newby, and Barbara Jackson — are Republicans.

Democrats dissent

Justices Robin Hudson and Cheri Beasley, both Democrats, dissented from the majority holding.

“The state argues, and the majority agrees, that because the marijuana plants in defendant’s backyard were in ‘plain view,’ their seizure was justified under the ‘plain view’ doctrine,” wrote Hudson.

“Because I conclude that this determination is based upon a mistaken assumption about how the doctrine applies when the view and seizure occur from outside a constitutionally protected area, a ‘pre-intrusion’ scenario, I respectfully dissent.”

Hudson argued that the case fell under a different line of court precedents. In her view, the officers simply had no right to enter Grice’s yard without either a warrant or probable cause and exigent circumstances. She did not believe that exigent circumstances existed in this case, and the detectives should have obtained a warrant before seizing the plants.

“Usually, the suspect and the contraband are in one location, and the officers are in a different location — as in, the officers are outside the house and the suspect is inside with the contraband, contemplating potential destruction of it. Here, on the other hand, it is the officers and the contraband that are together, and the suspect is nowhere to be seen. If these circumstances support a finding of exigent circumstances, it is difficult to imagine when a simple sighting of portable contraband would not.”

In Hudson’s view, Grice’s Fourth Amendment rights were violated, and he should receive a new trial without reference to the marijuana plants — which she concluded were seized improperly.

The court’s seventh justice is Sam Ervin IV, a Democrat who joined the court in January. The case was argued in November 2013, more than a year before he joined the court.

The case is State v. Grice, (501PA12).

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US Airways/American Airlines CLT summer flight preview

US Airways and American Airlines summer schedules are now more-or-less set, so it’s time for a comparison of this summer’s flight levels as compared to last summer’s service levels:

The big picture:

Thursday August 7, 2014: 670 flights with 71,027 seats

Thursday, June 18, 2015: 659 flights with 69,506 seats

US Airways added three domestic destinations plus a second London Heathrow flight right after the end of the 2014 peak summer season. How can we still be down 10 flights a day? The answer lies in cuts to the most exotic and least exotic destinations from Charlotte (international flights and flights to smaller cities throughout the Southeast).

Specifics:

New European flight added in September 2014: London Heathrow (2nd flight)

International routes eliminated: Brussels; Lisbon; Manchester, England; Ottawa; Rio de Janeiro; Sao Paulo plus the second (summer-seasonal) flight to Frankfurt.

Summer-seasonal international destination that’s now weekend only: Bermuda

The (only) new destination added in 2015: Albuquerque, NM — summer seasonal that runs from early June to mid-August

New destinations added in September or October 2014: Evansville, IN (3 flights a day); Ft. Wayne, IN (1); Grand Rapids, MI (2)

Domestic cities up a flight a day in 2015 compared to 2014: Austin, TX (4th flight); Detroit (8th); Manchester, NH (2nd); Memphis (7th); Pensacola, FL (4th); Providence, RI (5th); Tampa (9th) plus San Diego (3rd) in July and August only

Domestic destinations down two flight a day in 2015 compared to 2014: Dallas/Ft. Worth (down to 12 flights a day); Florence, SC (4); Hilton Head, SC (5)

Domestic cities down a flight a day: Chattanooga, TN  (to 6 flights); Chicago O’Hare (10); Fayetteville, NC (6); Ft. Walton Beach, FL (3); Greenville, NC (4); Gulfport/Biloxi, MS (2); Huntington, WV (3); Indianapolis (8); Jacksonville, NC (7);  Montgomery, AL (2); New Orleans (6); Savannah (8); Johnson City, TN (5)

The reduction in flights to regional destinations is not associated with a reduction in 50-seat regional jet or turbo-prop flying from CLT. Flights up aircraft seating 50 or less are actually up one in June 2015 compared to August 2014. Rather what we are seeing is fewer large regional jets flown to regional markets.

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RadioShack lives

And the New York Times describes their new business model as:

RadioShack will slim down to become an electronics convenience store of sorts, focusing on things like Bluetooth headsets, chargers and other accessories that shoppers may need immediately rather than waiting a day or two for shipment of a web order.

And:

In an interview, Ron Garriques, a former Dell and Motorola executive chosen last week to lead the new RadioShack, said the chain would also focus on small cities with populations of 5,000 to 100,000, where demand still exists for a neighborhood electronics store.

When he and the Standard General team studied the old RadioShack’s 4,200 stores by profitability, they found that the best-performing stores were not in big cities or fancy malls, where the rents are high and competitors also sell electronics. Most of those stores will close. The number of stores in Manhattan, for instance, will fall to just three from more than 30.

But in many smaller communities, Mr. Garriques said: “RadioShack is part of the neighborhood.  We are the ‘go to’ store for electronics.”

Interesting. Looks like the chain will keep three stores in the Charlotte area (UNCC area, Matthews, and Park Road Shopping Center).

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Fewer southern accents in the Triangle

So reports the Daily Tar Heel, based upon research by an N.C. State linguistics professor. The key point:

Although the main stimulant of the withdrawal of the Southern accent came with new people, existing residents also changed their dialect, [ N.C. State associate professor of linguistics Robin Dodsworth]  said. A bad connotation started to accompany the Southern drawl, and as a result, some younger Raleigh residents might try not to speak with a Southern accent.

The next step in the research is to extend the study to Charlotte.

H/t: JMH

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Belk for sale?

As the Charlotte Observer reports, the retailer is examining the possibility of selling itself off.

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