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Proposals would affect hunting, crime victims, taxes, judges, elections and ethics – From the Asheville Citizen Times

Mark Barrett, Asheville Citizen Times 
There are six proposed amendments to the North Carolina Constitution on the ballot this fall. One deals with voter ID requirements. Here are summaries of the five other constitutional amendments North Carolinians are being asked to vote for or against in the Nov. 6 election.

Mark Barrett, Asheville Citizen Times   PublishedVote 12:00 p.m. ET Oct. 14, 2018 | Updated 10:20 a.m. ET Oct. 15, 2018    This is copied from the AC-T.  Read the full article here.

Hunting and fishing

What the ballot says: “Constitutional amendment protecting the right of the people to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife.”

Background: The amendment would prohibit restrictions on hunting and fishing except for laws or rules to “promote wildlife conservation and management … and preserve the future of hunting and fishing,” according to the text of the amendment.

Supporters say: The percentage of the United States population that hunts or fishes has declined and both practices have received more criticism in recent years. Proponents say the amendment would keep anti-hunting or anti-fishing sentiment from resulting in unreasonable laws restricting the practices in the future.

Opponents say: There have been few, if any, legislative threats to either practice and the amendment is unnecessary. They say the state Constitution should speak to more fundamental topics, not details the General Assembly can handle, and the amendment is just an attempt to increase Republican turnout.

Crime victims’ rights

What the ballot says: “Constitutional amendment to strengthen protections for victims of crime; to establish certain absolute basic rights for victims; and to ensure the enforcement of these rights.”

Background: The state Constitution already gives victims of serious crimes rights, including the right to be informed of and be present at court proceedings, to be heard at sentencing of the accused, to receive restitution, to confer with the prosecutor and for information about the outcome of a case or the escape or release of an offender.

The amendment would expand those rights to apply to all crimes against the victim personally and all felony property crimes and would include crimes committed by juveniles. It would also clarify existing law in some cases to say the justice system must make reasonable efforts to uphold victims’ rights and that the legislature must provide a procedure whereby victims may assert their rights. Victims would still not have the ability to challenge verdicts or sentences of those convicted.

Supporters say: Some prosecutors do a good job of informing victims of the progress or a case and some do not. They say the changes will improve the chances that victims will be told of hearings or a prisoner’s status after conviction. They also note that, unlike the other amendments on the ballot, this amendment was placed on the ballot with support from wide majorities of both Democrats and Republicans in the legislature.

Opponents say: The law would slow down court proceedings and make them more expensive and victims’ rights already listed in the Constitution are sufficient. One state agency estimated the annual cost of implementation at $30.5 million a year. Legislative staffers said it would be $11.2 million a year but there are some indirect costs it could not estimate. There are also concerns that it is not known how the legislature would implement the law.

Income tax cap

What the ballot says: “Constitutional amendment to reduce the income tax rate in North Carolina to a maximum allowable rate of seven percent (7%).”

Background: The personal income tax rate is currently 5.499 percent, so passage of the referendum would not lower anyone’s taxes today. It would prevent the state from making the tax rate higher than 7 percent. The limit now in the Constitution is 10 percent.

Supporters say: State government has been able to operate well with a lower rate and lowering the cap on the rate would keep the General Assembly from overtaxing in the future.

Opponents say: The cap would increase the chances the state will continue to under-fund education and give it less flexibility to fund state government in times of disaster or recession.

Judicial vacancies

What the ballot says: “Constitutional amendment to change the process for filling judicial vacancies from a process in which the Governor has sole appointment power …”

Background: When a judge’s job becomes vacant today, the governor has the sole power to appoint someone to serve out the judge’s unexpired term in office. The amendment calls instead for the governor, legislature and chief justice of the state Supreme Court to appoint a commission to evaluate nominees without considering party affiliation. Then the legislature would recommend at least two of the nominees to the governor, who would have to pick one of the nominees to serve out the term or let the legislature choose one. In some cases, the chief justice would pick a temporary judge.

Supporters say: Governors have too few restraints on their ability to pick judges and sometimes have put political cronies on the bench. They say the change would reduce political considerations in choosing judges and improve the quality of the judiciary.

Opponents say: The measure is yet another step to transfer power from the governor  to the legislature. They say the process would still be political and would require candidates to lobby legislators whose laws they would have to one day rule on.

Elections board changes

What the ballot says: “Constitutional amendment to establish an eight-member Bipartisan Board of Ethics and Elections Enforcement in the Constitution to administer ethics and elections law.”

Background: Today, each major political party nominates six members to the board that runs elections and handles ethics issues involving state officials. The governor chooses four members from the six nominees. The eight people chosen nominate two unaffiliated voters and the governor picks one to serve on the nine-member board.

The amendment would have the General Assembly choose eight members, four from each political party.

Supporters say: The governor has too much power over the electoral process and dividing the board’s membership equally between the parties would require the board to come up with bipartisan decisions.

Opponents say: The change is another power grab by the legislature, would leave the board hopelessly deadlocked and cuts out unaffiliated voters. The result, they say, would be weaker enforcement of election and ethics law.

Look for more coverage of the proposed constitutional amendments in future editions of the Citizen Times and at

True Facts About 4 Real Estate Reality TV Myths

Many of us are guilty of plopping on the sofa and binge-watching reality TV home flipping shows. The allure of buying and selling homes for big profits with no boss looking over our shoulders has major lifestyle appeal.

True Facts About 4 Real Estate Reality TV MythsMany of us are guilty of plopping on the sofa and binge-watching reality TV home flipping shows. The allure of buying and selling homes for big profits with no boss looking over our shoulders has major lifestyle appeal.

Shows like “Love it or List it,” “House Hunters,” “Flip or Flop” and others make it look incredibly simple. Even when they face adversity such as rotted wood or bad pipes, the way the reality TV stars overcome adversity is more of an inspiration than a deterrent. And plenty of everyday people do manage to succeed in the house-flipping industry.

But many of the myths these ratings-driven shows perpetuate could use a little busting.

Consider these four common house-flipping myths and the true facts behind them.

1: Three Viewings And A Closing

Reality TV shows tend to show viewers the industry professional looking at no more than three homes before making a flipping decision. That may play into the limited time slot they have but it’s far removed from reality.

True Facts: It’s not uncommon for potential home buyers to fall head over heels for the first property they view. After all, buyers often already like the neighborhood, school system, and home style. But the National Association of Realtors reports that the average person looks at about 10 properties before making a decision. Home flippers are additionally tasked with developing a return on investment plan. Three and done is not reality, it’s just TV.

2: Homes Linger On The Market

TV shows follow home flippers who seem to have all the time in the world before making an offer.

True Facts: Most of the purchase and sale process is simply staged for television. The homes have been pre-purchased before filming. Today, we are experiencing a seller’s market, meaning there are more buyers than inventory. Homes move quickly.

3: Open Houses Are A Sure Thing

On real estate reality TV shows, the fully renovated home is amazingly staged and sells during the first open house. Multiple offers are often floated.

True Facts: Only in a perfect world or on TV does this happen. Matching properties with potential buyers requires hard work from real estate agents. They must align purchase limits, pre-approved house shoppers, family size, school systems, location, and other expectations. Most homes are sold by real estate professionals setting up appointments and making multiple showings.

4: Homeowners Make Fast-Sell Decisions

On real estate reality TV, homeowners seem to take just moments to decide whether to love it or list it. This certainly doesn’t mirror the process of ordinary homeowners.

True Facts: Homeowners sell their properties for a wide range of reasons. These may include downsizing, retirement, relocation or an expanding family among many considerations. The vast majority of people mulling over a sale also take a long look at their next home options. It’s completely unrealistic to think someone made such a major life decision in five minutes or less.

Reality real estate TV shows are wonderfully entertaining to watch. So is science fiction. Enjoy your binge-watching and speak to real-life mortgage and real estate professionals before making any major decisions. 

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – October 8th 2018

Last week’s economic reports included readings on construction spending and labor reports on public and private-sector job growth. The national unemployment rate was released along with weekly reports on mortgage rates and weekly jobless claims.

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - October 8th 2018Last week’s economic reports included readings on construction spending and labor reports on public and private-sector job growth. The national unemployment rate was released along with weekly reports on mortgage rates and weekly jobless claims.

Construction Spending dips in September, but Residential Construction Spending Rises

Construction spending rose 0.10 percent in September, but residential construction spending fell 0.70 percent month-to-month. Construction spending was 4.10 percent higher year-over-year. January through August construction spending was 5.30 percent higher than for the same period in 2017.

Analysts estimated a shortage of approximately four million homes; which accentuates demand and drives prices up. In recent years, builders have concentrated on higher-end homes, but analysts said that a shift to building super-affordable homes may be in the works. High home prices and ever-increasing rents are squeezing moderate-income families; providing more affordable housing options could lessen demand and help home price growth to normalize.

Mortgage Rates Little Changed, New Jobless Claims Lower

Freddie Mac reported little change in mortgage rates; 30-year fixed rate mortgages averaged one basis point lower at 4.71 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was also one basis point lower at 4.15 percent. Rates for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages averaged 4.01 percent and were four basis points higher. Discount points averaged 0.40 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.30 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

First-time jobless claims fell last week to 207,000 new claims filed as compared to expectations of 213,000 new claims filed and the prior week’s reading of 214,000 claims filed. Analysts said that fewer claims were filed as the impact of Hurricane Florence diminished.

Labor Reports: Job Growth Mixed as Unemployment Rate Nears 49 Year Low

Commerce Department readings on public and private-sector job growth showed more private sector jobs, while the government reading for public and private sector jobs dropped/ ADP reported 230,000 more private-sector jobs in September; the government’s Non-Farm Payrolls report showed 134,000 new public and private sector jobs as compared to 270,000 new jobs in the prior month. Analysts expected 168,000 new public ad private sector jobs and said that the shortfall in job growth for September was a consequence of Hurricane Florence.

The National Unemployment Rate fell to 3.70 percent in September, which was the lowest reading in nearly 49 years.

Whats Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic releases include readings on inflation, core inflation and consumer sentiment. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will also be released.

5 Things To Know About Severe Weather And Homeowners Insurance

The average homeowner feels secure knowing they have insurance in the event of a severe weather calamity. Most people believe that no matter what happens, they have paid for protection against disaster.

5 Things To Know About Severe Weather And Homeowners InsuranceThe average homeowner feels secure knowing they have insurance in the event of a severe weather calamity. Most people believe that no matter what happens, they have paid for protection against disaster.

Unfortunately, not every homeowners insurance policy provides full reimbursement from severe weather losses. Hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes and other rare catastrophes may not be covered under your current policy.

Consider the impact of these extreme events and whether you are fully insured for the subsequent losses.

1: Hurricane Damage May Not Be Fully Covered

The recent national mobilization to deal with the fallout from Hurricane Florence highlights just how catastrophic severe weather can be to people and property. That being said, homeowners generally anticipate calling their insurance carrier to file a claim after returning home and assessing the damage.

It may come as a surprise, but many policies limit reimbursement to damage attributed to high winds. For example, a tree falls on a garage or vehicle and the insurance outfit writes a check.

But damage attributed to water can be tricky. Many policies do not cover flood insurance. That could mean that water backed up in the street or a stream, lake or pond overflowing into your home might not be covered. That’s why homeowners are advised to clarify water-related coverage.

2: Floods May Not Be Covered

People living near bodies of water may be required to carry flood insurance when applying for a mortgage. Flooding represents a high risk that can result in a total loss. Lenders are often apprehensive about approving mortgages for properties in so-called “floodplains.”

FEMA offers coverage through the National Flood Insurance Program. Homeowners living just outside a flood zone may not be required to buy additional coverage. However, you are taking a significant risk.

If your policy does not cover flooding, you could be on the hook for the full cost of the home’s repair or replacement. Considering the average flood insurance policy runs about $700, it may be worth the expense to protect your investment.

3: Tornado Insurance Coverage Can Be Murky

Although most policies cover damage from tornados, premiums can run higher in regions prone to these severe weather storms. But, like hurricanes, tornados that additionally bring about flooding can pose a problem for homeowners who make a claim. A carrier may conclude that the high wind and impact damage enjoys coverage. Water, however, can be a very gray area. 

4: Earthquakes Often Not Covered

Like people who live in flood plains, earthquake riders may be required in certain areas of the country. Without additional coverage, the destruction caused by these catastrophic events may not be reimbursed. It’s imperative that people living in or around regions prone to earthquakes carry specific coverage. Imagine losing your home and still owing a monthly mortgage payment.

The important thing to glean from this overview about severe weather claims is that homeowners are wise to dig deep into their policies and have a clear, concise understanding about coverage. Keep in mind that water damage from flooding, rain and even sewer back-ups pose a significant threat to your home. For a few dollars more, enhanced severe weather insurance may be worth every penny.

Homeowner’s insurance is a requirement for most home loans. It’s important to note that some properties at high risk may not qualify for financing or you may find that insurance for high risk properties adds too much to your bottom line. Consult your trusted home mortgage professional to find out what specific insurance is necessary to finance your new home.

Best Things To Do Now To Get Your Finances Mortgage Ready

You probably already know that qualifying for a mortgage can be the biggest hurdle — aside from actually finding that dream property — along the path to home ownership.

Best Things To Do Now To Get Your Finances Mortgage ReadyYou probably already know that qualifying for a mortgage can be the biggest hurdle — aside from actually finding that dream property — along the path to home ownership.

Rather than agonizing about it, however, there are some positive actions you can take in advance to help you realize your dream.

Take A Close Look At Your Budget

If you don’t currently operate with a comprehensive household budget, get started now to analyze your income and monitor your spending habits. There’s no better way to prepare for home ownership than by being realistic about how you spend your money. If you don’t have a regular savings program, or if you’re constantly short on cash prior to the next payday, take steps to remedy the problem. Plan for the future by getting the present in check.

Gather Employment And Earnings Records

Mortgage lenders want to see stability and commitment. Finding and organize your employment records to show a consistent earnings pattern and, hopefully, a record of growth, both in terms of income and responsibility. Simplify the task of gathering required documents by collecting all records in a binder or notebook that can easily be copies when it’s time to submit them to a lender. It’s a confidence-building step as well.

Organize Your Banking Records

Lenders will not only want to see employment records, but they will require copies of all bank and investment accounts as well. Again, by being organized and getting a handle on your dollar inflow and outflow, you’ll gain insights into your individual spending habits and make the job easier for a mortgage specialist.

Make Copies Of Your Tax Returns

Tax returns confirm and validate all the other financial information that you will be required to supply. Typically, returns for the past two or three years will be required. If you own a small business or have income in addition to that from paid employment, make copies of those records as well.

Put A Halt To Spending

Perhaps the best way to demonstrate your serious intent to purchase — and pay for — a new home is by curtailing your spending on impulse purchases and expensive entertainment. This is not the time to buy a new car, book an exotic vacation, purchase major electronics or even home furnishings, or commit to time payments of any sort. Frugality should become your mantra in the months leading up to loan qualification.

Monitor Your Credit Cards

If your credit rating is within acceptable limits, do what you can to make all payments on time, pay down balances, minimize new purchases and demonstrate your continuing ability to “live within your means.” Do not apply for new credit cards, no matter how tempting the offers, because increased account activity can adversely affect your FICO score. In addition, if you have a blip on your credit report, do what you can to repair it prior to making a mortgage loan application, or be prepared to explain the circumstances, in detail and in writing.

Applying for a loan need not be scary; understanding the financial reality, however, is a great benefit.

Contact your trusted home mortgage professional who will be able to assist you in organizing your documents and aligning you with your best financing options.

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