Today @NCCapitol (6/16): Senate rolls out its own coal ash bill as budget negotiations set up

Posted June 16, 2014

NC Flag, Legislative Building, Raleigh

— Good morning and welcome to Today @NCCapitol for Monday, June 16. Here's what's going on at the legislature and around state government.

Coal ash pond at Duke Energy plant in Moncure Senate coal ash plan tightens requirement for cleanup at four sites COAL ASH: Senators will review their own version of a measure that would require Duke Energy to clean up 14 coal ash ponds throughout the state, including the site of 40,000-ton spill into the Dan River on Feb. 2, during an Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources Committee meeting at 3 p.m.

WRAL.com plans to carry the meeting live. Please check the Video Central box on the homepage. 

According to a bill summary distributed to committee members Sunday night, the bill would require that the power company either close or cap the wet storage ponds at 14 active and shuttered power plants around the state. 

Although environmental advocates say the bill doesn't go far enough and would not ensure coal ash is removed from all locations, proponents of the bill say it would clear away the highest-hazard locations quickly and ensure all coal ash is contained over the next 15 years. 

The measure senators will consider Monday is a rewrite of a proposal put forward by Gov. Pat McCrory, which looked to Duke to develop its own timelines for cleanup. 

In another development related to coal ash, federal prosecutors investigating the state's handling of coal ash regulations have demanded documents from the state Utilities Commission, indicating that the investigation is still ongoing. 

RELATED: "N.C. A&T researchers Kunigal Shivakumar, Robert Sadler and their colleagues have developed a 'miracle material' that’s lightweight, waterproof, fire resistant, anti-corrosive and nontoxic. Oh, yeah, it also deflects explosions. And, perhaps most notably, the stuff is 95 percent coal ash," reports the News & Record of Greensboro.

THE HOUSE: After completing work on their version of a $21 billion spending plan during an unusual Friday session, members of the state House will not be in session Monday. They are scheduled to return to work on Tuesday. 

THE SENATE: The full Senate is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. Measures on the Senate calendar include the confirmation of a controversial nominee to the state Industrial Commission, a bill that would clear the way for the use of ramp meters on highway entrance ramps in the state and a bill dealing with student-led prayer in public schools.

WRAL.com will carry the session live. Please check the Video Central box on the homepage. 

NC Flag House, Senate and governor's spending plans differ on key points BUDGET: State House lawmakers gave final approval Friday morning to their $21.1 billion spending plan. That's after a marathon debate Thursday night that ended with eight Democrats joining Republicans in voting 81-36 for the GOP-penned plan. One Republican voted against measure.

Although Republicans control both the House and Senate, the two chambers have developed starkly different budget proposals. Key differences include how to raise teacher salaries and how much of a raise educators will get as well as how to control costs in the Medicaid health insurance program for the poor and disabled.

The bill will return to the Senate, where lawmakers have the option of concurring with the House plan, which by all appearances is not going to happen. More likely, senators will vote to reject the House proposal and send the budget to a House-Senate conference committee, where senior lawmakers from both chambers will work out the differences between the two bills. 

LOTTERY: House leaders relied heavily on an assumed boost in lottery proceeds to fund their education budget, a move that rankled some social conservatives who have long been critical of the state-run gambling enterprise. 

Moral Monday protest Judge: Lawmakers go too far in limiting legislative protests PROTESTS: In what is being billed as a "Mass Moral Monday Rally," the coalition of progressive groups led by the NAACP plan to continue their weekly protests against the Republican-led General Assembly with a rally behind the Legislative Building at 5 p.m.

BUILDING RULES: A Superior Court judge on Friday issued a restraining order against some of the rules lawmakers adopted regarding visitors to the legislative building. Violating these rules has led to arrests among the Moral Monday protesters in both 2013 and 2014.

Judge Carl Fox said the rules prohibiting demonstrations that interfere with conversations or protests that "create any impediment to others' free movement" are too vague, and he issued a restraining order against them. He also barred enforcement of a rule that allowed police to confiscate signs "used to disturb or used in a manner that will imminently disturb the General Assembly."

UNEMPLOYMENT RECORDS: The state Division of Employment Security will stop providing daily bundles of unemployment claim cases to lawyers, thanks to an order handed down by the North Carolina Court of Appeals. That order is the latest turn in a case that puts the division in a tug-of-war between an order by the U.S. Department of Labor and a state Superior Court judge.

Inside NC's license plate plantPLATES: Since 2001, North Carolina's license plates have been made by female inmates from the state Correctional Institution for Women in Raleigh – the only license plate plant in the nation that uses female inmates. A staff of about 50 women makes about 16,000 plates a day – more than 3 million per year – at the plant off Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, near downtown Raleigh. Each tag is touched at least 14 times by inmates before it is put on a vehicle.

NOTED: Casey Wilkinson, the director of the House Democratic caucus, was charged with drunken driving Thursday night.

ASHEVILLE WATER: "State government will appeal Monday’s ruling that struck down a 2013 law that would transfer the city water system to the Metropolitan Sewerage District, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Justice said Thursday. The move is no surprise. People on both sides of the suit brought by the city challenging the law expected it," reports the Asheville Citizen-Times.

AFFECTION: "North Carolina’s law allowing people to sue a spouse’s lover and collect damages violates constitutional protections on free speech and free expression and serves no legitimate state interest, a Forsyth County judge ruled Wednesday in dismissing a lawsuit," the Winston-Salem Journal reports.

DRONE: North Carolina is using a drone for research at a state historic site for the first time. The drone will be used as part of a six-week project that begins Monday at the House in the Horseshoe State Historic Site near Sanford. State officials say a team led by the geography department at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in cooperation with the Office of State Archaeology will use the drone.


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