Good morning, and welcome to Today @NCCapitol, WRAL's morning roundup of what you need to know about North Carolina state government today.
BACK TO WORK: Both the House and Senate convene at noon today.
There are no committee meetings on the calendar as of early Wednesday morning, but you should expect to see dozens of bills filed this afternoon.
ON THE CALENDAR:
- 9 a.m. Rep. Marcus Brandon, D-Guilford, and the Winston-Salem Urban League will host a news conference to address issues Republicans have said are priorities for the coming session such as tax reform and health care.
- 10 a.m. The "Reemployment Coalition," a group headed up by the N.C. Chamber, will hold a news conference to talk up GOP-lead efforts to rewrite the state's unemployment insurance law. Location: The North Carolina Museum of History, Demonstration Gallery. (WRAL.com will carry live online.)
INTRODUCING THE WRAP: @NCCapitol will be wrapping up each legislative day with "The Wrap @NCCapitol." Join Capitol Bureau Chief Laura Leslie each afternoon as she highlights the day's big legislative action and some things you might have missed. On the inaugural edition Leslie and WRAL's Mark Binker talk about differences between the House and Senate agendas on tax reform and look ahead to what's coming Wednesday and Thursday.
EDUCATION: Education and legislative leaders spent some time Tuesday responding to Gov. Pat McCrory, who appeared on Bill Bennett's Morning in America radio show and suggested an overhaul to public higher education funding.
"I'm looking at legislation right now – in fact, I just instructed my staff yesterday to go ahead and develop legislation – which would change the basic formula in how education money is given out to our universities and our community colleges. It's not based on butts in seats but on how many of those butts can get jobs."
Not in the story: John Quinterno, founder of South by North Strategies, points out that performance funding for higher education is not a new idea. He wrote a report on the idea last year.
UNEMPLOYMENT REFORM: Capitol Bureau Chief Laura Leslie reports that the bill rewriting North Carolina's unemployment insurance law will be in the House Finance Committee on Thursday and could see action on the House floor as soon as Monday.
Worth noting: As of Jan 19th, 80,922 people in NC are receiving federal extended emergency compensation. Those benefits would end on July 1 if North Carolina rewrites its eligibility rules. The total value of federal extended benefits flowing into NC is $23.2 million per week.
MEDICAID: WRAL's Renee Chou reported on the uncertainty surrounding North Carolina group homes for the mentally ill and disabled Tuesday night. Much of the uncertainty has to do with changes in the rules governing who is eligible for personal care services under Medicaid. The Office of Administrative Hearings has received about 15,000 appeals this month from people seeking to re-establish their eligibility for personal care services. Fewer appeals were filed in all of 2012, officials said, noting about one-third of the January appeals have been processed.
Expect to see a bill with a fix to the group home issue, as well as separate item related to Alzheimer's special care units, in the House Appropriations Committee on Thursday.
TILLIS TALKS: House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, held a pre-session news conference Tuesday. As expected, he talked up tax reform, voter ID and got questions regarding McCrory's education funding remarks. He also talked about what the state would and would not do to help the Panther's stadium in Charlotte.
Late in the news conference, Tillis was asked about puppy mills. Legislation regulating dog breeders comes up, and is defeated, quite regularly at the General Assembly. Tillis says this maybe the year something gets done.
"I've told our folks we really need to see if there's something we can do," Tillis said.
Worth noting: Tom Fetzer, former Republican Party Chairman turned power lobbyists, has been hired by the U.S. Humane Society, which favors puppy mill regulation.
TAX TALKERS: Last week, the conservative Tax Foundation offered up its options for reforming North Carolina's tax code, including options that lower or eliminate corporate and personal income taxes. Today, the liberal Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy puts out its review of low tax policies. It writes, "States held up for praise as “low tax” are often high tax states for low and middle income families. The ten states with the highest taxes on the poor are Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, and Washington."
CAUCUS MONEY: Democracy North Carolina's Bob Hall points out that the House and Senate party caucuses tend to be big fundraisers, and are largely exempt from rules that prohibit giving to lawmakers during legislative session. He points out that House Republicans held a fundraiser Tuesday night, with an invitation that read, “Lobbyists registered in North Carolina are not prohibited from contributing to the NC Republican House Caucus.” The underlying message, Hall says, is "Pay up if you want to be a serious player in the session this year." Click here for Democracy North Carolina's tally of caucus fundraising from the last election cycle.
FROM THE WIRE: Gov. Pat McCrory says salary totals for his office show he penny pinching and on track to spend less than former Gov. Bev Perdue.
SWEEPSTAKES 1: The Lexington Dispatch reports that a Davidson County judges has halted police from enforcing a state ban on video sweepstakes machines. "The restraining order temporarily bars state officials, county sheriffs and local law enforcement from warning, threatening, citing or removing any products from sweepstakes businesses that use software licensed by International Internet Technologies, LLC (IIT)," the newspaper wrote.
SWEEPSTAKES 2: The new Coalition for Electronic Sweepstakes announced its formation Tuesday. The group will push to legalize a form of quasi-gambling that has spread throughout the state.
"As of December, we believe there were over 1,000 electronic sweepstakes cafes across North Carolina that offered Internet access to tens of thousands of North Carolinians, employed 10,000 North Carolinians and generated hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity," said Jim Harris, the chairman of the coalition.
APPOINTED 1: Josh Dobson, a McDowell County commissioner, has been appointed to fill the vacancy in the state House left by former Rep. Mitch Gillespie, officials said Tuesday.
APPOINTED 2: Department of Public Safety Sec. Kieran Shanahan named Lt. Col. Gary Bell as Acting Commander of the State Highway Patrol (SHP). Bell replaces Col. Michael Gilchrist, who is retiring effective Friday, Feb. 1.
According to a news release from the department, "For the last two years, Bell has been responsible for overseeing all statewide field operations for the SHP. Prior to that, Bell managed the patrol’s Professional Standards Section. He also commanded Troop B, which encompasses 11 counties in the south central and southeastern part of the state; oversaw internal affairs and accreditation; and has managed technical support and logistics. He started with the patrol in 1986."