Today @NCCapitol (6/11): House budget marches on; Senators focus on lower profile bills
Posted June 11, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — Good morning and welcome to Today @NCCapitol for Wednesday, June 11. Here's what's going on at the legislature and around state government.
THE GOVERNOR: Gov. Pat McCrory is in Washington, D.C. Among the stops on his public schedule is a confab with Federal Communications Commission members. A McCrory spokesman says the governor will be talking about ways to improve digital learning with the feds.
THE HOUSE: The state House's calendar is dominated by budget action. Finance Committee members will review the $21 billion spending plan at 8:30 a.m. The Appropriations Committee will begin its review at 10 a.m. There are no House floor votes scheduled.
WRAL.com will carry the House Appropriations Committee live. Check the Video Central box on the homepage for a link.
BUDGET: The budget rolled out by House Speaker Thom Tillis and company looks little like the spending plan put forward by their colleagues in the Senate. Although there is a pay raise for teachers, it is not tied to surrendering career status – sometimes called tenure – rights and does not cut teaching assistants. Rather, it relies on a budgeted bump in funding from the state lottery to pay for raises.
Like their Senate colleagues, House budget writers propose moving the State Bureau of Investigation from an office controlled by the attorney general, currently Democrat Roy Cooper, to one controlled by the governor, currently Republican McCrory. However, unlike the Senate, the House leaves the crime lab under Cooper's purview.
House leaders also larded some pet policy into the budget, including a ban on tanning beds, requiring a new head of the state's Medicaid division to be confirmed by the legislature and a plan to sell Jennette's Pier in Nags Head.
In Medicaid, House leaders don't make any of the dramatic changes called for by the state Senate. Rather, the House sets aside funding to continue studying reform options.
When the Senate budget came out, McCrory took pains to say he had "concerns" about the spending plan. If we were to read the tea leaves, the governor appears more kindly disposed toward the House version of the budget.
"I will continue to support a budget plan that provides sustainable raises for teachers and state employees, protects teacher assistants, protects master’s pay, provides career pathways for teachers and funds core services for the needy and disabled," McCrory said in a statement. "I’d like to thank Speaker Tillis and other members of House leadership for listening on these important issues. I look forward to working with the House and Senate to build on the strengths of both plans."
DENR budget boost a far cry from pre-recession funding DENR: If budget proposals from the governor and both chambers of the General Assembly are any indication, the state's environmental regulator will see a funding boost for the second straight year heading into July. But no matter what the final budget version shows when lawmakers emerge from their committees over the coming days, state funding for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources won't come close to what it's lost since 2008.
THE SENATE: With the House focused on the budget, the Senate calendar is dotted with items that haven't gotten a lot of attention thus far this session. The General Assembly posts a full legislative calendar daily. Here are the items @NCCapitol will be keeping an eye on.
Senate Education (10 a.m. | 544 LOB): Senators will take up a bill once against tinkering with the approval process for charter schools.
Senate Health Care (11 a.m. | 544 LOB): The committee takes up a bill that would allow the state to keep closer tabs on the distribution of prescribed medication.
Senate Transportation (11 a.m. | 1027 LB): Committee members look at bills that include a measure to allow for ramp meters, automated devices that control the flow of traffic on highway on-ramps.
Senate Finance (1 p.m. | 544 LOB): The committee takes up a bill "modernizing" the state's business courts, including a provision that would require complex business cases be appealed directly to the state Supreme Court rather than the the Court of Appeals.
Senate Session (3 p.m. | Senate Floor): Among the bills on the Senate calendar are measures requiring background checks for firefighters, expanding restrictions on sex offenders and allowing for the annual Possum Drop in Clay County.
COAL ASH: The Associated Press reports:
A federal judge says a lawsuit accusing Duke Energy coal ash pits of polluting a lake near Wilmington can move forward. The Southern Environmental Law Center filed a lawsuit last year on behalf of environmental groups, saying the toxic waste was polluting Sutton Lake and violating the federal Clean Water Act. Duke Energy sought to dismiss the case, saying the groups didn't have a role because a state environmental agency already took enforcement action.
Federal Judge Louise Flanagan said Monday the state's enforcement action dealt with groundwater violations, but Sutton Lake is a public waterway and subject to the provisions of the federal law.
NOTED: Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph, has filled a constitutional amendment that would do away with the state superintendent of public instruction and the State Board of Education in favor of an appointed secretary of education.
ALL'S FAIR: It wasn't quite a dunking booth, but enough urban lawmakers and tax reform advocates took aim Tuesday at a proposed tax loophole for county agricultural fairs to soak the idea on the House floor. The House voted 60-57 to defeat the bill, which would have exempted fairs from collecting sales tax on tickets for entertainment events.
CIRCLING THE RUNWAY: Lawmakers are hoping to dislodge a dispute over the fate of the Charlotte Douglas International Airport from a legal stalemate through a bill put on the legislative fast-track Tuesday. The measure, which cleared the Senate Finance Committee, makes more than a dozen small changes to a law the General Assembly passed last year to put the airport into the hands of a newly created commission, which has been embroiled in a lawsuit almost from the moment it passed the legislature.
PPP: The state House on Tuesday passed its own version of a bill to turn some of the marketing and job-recruitment functions of the Commerce Department over to a private nonprofit. Senators have already passed their own, different version of the bill.
ZEB: Applause rang out in the state Senate chamber on Tuesday as lawmakers honored the memory of former Sen. Zebulon “Zeb” Alley, a legislative stalwart and longtime lobbyist who died last July at age 84.
TORTS: A package of changes to state laws is rolling on without two controversial provisions. Senate Judiciary Committee members voted down a measure that would have granted manufacturers of pharmaceuticals – or virtually any product from car seats to cribs – immunity from lawsuits if their goods were reviewed and approved by any government agency, such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. However, they did add to the bill a provision that three-judge panels would hear challenges to the constitutionality of state laws.