Today @NCCapitol (6/12): Battles over film incentives, SBI move mark House budget debate

Posted June 12, 2014

This is a picture of a sign in the hallway of the legislative building.

— Good morning and welcome to Today @NCCapitol for Thursday, June 12. Here's what's going on at the legislature and around state government. 

EARLY SENATE SESSION: The state Senate convenes at 8 a.m. for what leaders anticipate will be roughly an hour's worth of work. Members will leave mid-morning to attend the funeral of former Sen. Harris Blake, who passed away earlier this week. 

Bills on the Senate agenda include measures making changes to the state unemployment laws and changing how the courts that handle complex business cases operate. 

THE HOUSE:  The state House convenes at 8:45 a.m. so it can move bills between committees. The principal item on the agenda is the House budget, which must first make a stop in the state Personnel Committee before heading to the floor. House lawmakers expect to debate the budget for much of the afternoon. (More on the budget below the calendar.) 

ALSO ON THE CALENDAR: The General Assembly posts full legislative calendar daily, but here are some of the items @NCCapitol is keeping an eye on: 

The Governor's Crime Commission (9:30 a.m. | Double Tree Hilton New Bern-Riverfront Hotel): The commission takes up a variety of policy matters

House Judiciary B (9 a.m. | 421 LOB): The committee is scheduled to take up a trio of bills, including one that would allow children to possess air rifles and BB guns in Anson, Cleveland, Harnett, Stanly and Surry counties. 

Common Core (10 a.m. | Department of Education): A group of retired generals will urge lawmakers to keep the Common Core standards for K-12 education. Both the state House and Senate have passed different bills that would repeal the standards, but the Senate bill leaves open the possibility of using Common Core as the basis of new state standards. "The retired military leaders, who are members of the nonpartisan national security organization Mission: Readiness, will release a new report that shows how many young people in North Carolina cannot pass the military's entrance exam and how North Carolina's Standards will help students acquire the essential knowledge and skills needed to ensure our nation's future military strength."

Black Caucus presser (11 a.m. | Press Room): The group of African-American lawmakers presses for laws that guarantee fathers visitation rights with their children following a divorce. 

SPEAKING OF CALENDARS: Senate leaders have filed an adjournment resolution pegging Friday, June 27, as the end of session. If history is any guide, that's the earliest possible date lawmakers expect to leave, but the actual adjournment date will be at least a day or two later.

THE BUDGET: Members of the State House spent the bulk of Wednesday reviewing and making changes to their version of a $21 billion state budget. 

Homeland filming in Raleigh House panel denies film tax bid House Republican leaders fended off a last-minute attempt Wednesday to add an extension of the state's film tax incentive program to the budget. Rep. Ted Davis, R-New Hanover, introduced the amendment at the end of the House Finance Committee hearing on the budget, with the support of Rep. Susi Hamilton, D-New Hanover. The amendment failed 16-20, with all but three Republicans voting against it. Last week, the Senate added a film grant program to its public-private partnership legislation, but Davis said the program won't work because it will run out of money almost immediately. That bill hasn't yet been heard by the House.

Here's part of what the Star News of Wilmington reported on Hamilton's efforts to have lawmakers revise and extend the current incentive for television and movie makers:

"Rep. (Ted) Davis was given the green light to run the bill in Finance, and the best we could tell during the committee, the speaker's staff and other leaders from the Republican Party went around and whipped votes against the amendment," Hamilton said after the Wednesday morning failed vote in the House Finance Committee to extend film tax credits.

In a rare interview with the StarNews, Tillis retorted that Hamilton's comments were likely "born out of emotions" but that this "sort of behavior" makes her the "single greatest threat" to a compromise on film incentives in the state House.

NC Legislature Building (16x9) House makes key changes to budget Later in the day, members of the House Appropriations Committee did make some changes to the budget{{/a}}. Near the end of the marathon session, senior budget chairman Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake, added five bonus vacation days for state workers in the coming fiscal year. Legislators did the same thing in the current fiscal year. The days expire June 30, 2015, and don't count toward retirement. The amendment passed in less than a minute with no debate.

Lawmakers also put more money into textbook purchases, family courts and the state's Teaching Fellows program, and they extended a tax credit program for renovating historic properties. 

Other items in the House budget attracting attention include a provision lifting the fees on ferries and expanding the choice of standard license plates available to North Carolina drivers. 

Sweepstakes cafe Berger slams Cooper over video sweepstakes story During Wednesday's debate, Rep. Sarah Stevens, R-Surry, a member of House leadership, offered an amendment that would have stopped the proposed transfer of the State Bureau of Investigation from the Attorney General's Office to a department controlled by the governor.

Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper, who has been a vocal critic of Republican legislators and who is widely expected to challenge Republican Gov. Pat McCrory in 2016, is opposed to the move. His office has argued repeatedly that the SBI should remain independent of the governor and state lawmakers.

"They need the independence and don’t want to feel like they're part of the Department of Public Safety – people they might have to investigate," Stevens said. 

That debate came up as Cooper's office confirmed the SBI is probing campaign donations provided to North Carolina politicians by the video sweepstakes industry. Cooper's move prompted Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger to accuse Cooper of using the sweepstakes investigation to his own political advantage

"It's problematic, it seems to me, that he says that we shouldn't be moving it to keep politics from influencing, and yet he seems to be injecting what some would see as politics in the decision-making process," Berger said of Cooper.

TORTS: Pharmaceutical manufacturers would have limited protections against lawsuits claiming they failed to warn consumers about problems with their drugs under a package of legal reforms that cleared the state Senate Wednesday. That measure was a small slice of a larger consumer liability measure that was so controversial that the Senate Judiciary 1 Committee removed it entirely on Tuesday.

EDUCATION: McCrory on Wednesday signed legislation to improve the Read to Achieve program in North Carolina elementary schools.

TRAFFIC: Drivers around Raleigh could see ramp meters controlling the flow of traffic onto highways if a bill that cleared the Senate Transportation Committee on Wednesday is signed into law. House Bill 1025, which must clear the full Senate before returning the House, would make ignoring a ramp meter, which looks something like a traffic light, an infraction.

DRUGS: A bill aimed at curbing prescription drug abuse in the state gained the approval of the Senate Health Care Committee on Wednesday. The measure would revive and strengthen a defunct program that tracks the prescriptions of Medicaid patients who use controlled substances such as opioid painkillers, which lawmakers say are at the heart of a statewide addiction epidemic.

AIRPORT: A bill meant to resolve the legal tug-of-war over Charlotte Douglas International Airport faced turbulence before passing the Senate on Wednesday.

POSSUMS: A North Carolina mountain town’s New Year’s Eve tradition remains intact after a bill lifting wildlife regulations for its annual Possum Drop passed the Senate on Wednesday.

APPOINTED: North Carolina's new parks director is a private school astronomy teacher and former financial consultant who has served on several boards and commissions in the state. Mike Murphy, 60, will take the helm of the Division of Parks and Recreation, which manages a collection of parks, lakes, rivers and other natural areas totaling nearly 220,000 acres across the state.

ALLEN: Charlton Allen, McCrory's appointee to the Industrial Commission, faced tough questioning from the Senate Commerce Committee Wednesday afternoon. 

Allen 061114Democratic members of the committee peppered Allen with questions about his views on the minimum wage, social issues and incidents from his past. Many of the questions stemmed from an article in the Independent Weekly. Allen called the story a "gross mischaracterization" of his record and "actionable," saying the story accused him of doing things he did not. 

The Industrial Commission hears disputes over workers compensation claims.

"As a member of this commission, I will treat everybody fairly," he said. The full Senate is scheduled to vote on his appointment next week. 

NOTED: House Minority Leader Larry Hall, D-Durham, has filed a bill that would require certain elected officials, including lawmakers, to file additional ethics disclosure reports if they open a federal campaign committee. For lawmakers, the bill would require the extra filings to "disclose any solicitation of or acceptance of contributions from a registered lobbyist or lobbyist principal, if any." This measure seems pointedly aimed at Tillis, who is running for U.S. Senate. 

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  • less_govt_is_better_govt Jun 12, 2014

    I wish I could send a bill to good ole' boy Roy and charge him for politicking for governor on my state tax dollar.

    He would weasel his way out of accountability like he has done since his election and fought to do for all the current goof ups at the SBI

    They need a good ole' boy house cleaning and fresh employees looking to do their assigned job with integrity and according to the law, something that has not happened under Capt Cooper