Today @NCCapitol (6/25): Mad dash to finish

Posted June 25, 2014

North Carolina state flag

— Good morning and welcome to Today @NCCapitol for Wednesday, June 25. Here's a look at what's going on in state government.

PULLING OUT THE VETO STAMP: Gov. Pat McCrory issued his first veto this year – two 2013 vetoes were overridden – because lawmakers tried to horn in on his authority to name members to a three-member panel to review decisions in unemployment cases. The bill also made other tweaks to the state unemployment system.

"Although the vast majority of this bill contains much needed revisions to unemployment insurance laws, there are unacceptable provisions which stagger and shorten terms of current lawfully seated members," McCrory said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the governor signed five other bills into law, including one that shifts job recruiting from the Department of Commerce to a public-private nonprofit, which has been a pet project of McCrory's since he took office.

ORIENTATION TO CONTROVERSY: Advocates for gay and lesbian North Carolinians are calling on House Speaker Thom Tillis to explain his position on LGBT issues after inflammatory remarks on the House floor Tuesday by Tillis' second-in-command, Speaker Pro Tem "Skip" Stam.

In remarks during a debate Tuesday, Stam, R-Wake, distributed a handout describing pedophilia, necrophilia and bestiality as "sexual orientations."

Stam couldn't be reached for comment after session. In an emailed statement, Tillis described Stam's comments as "not helpful."

COAL ASH ON SENATE'S HANDS: The state Senate voted unanimously Tuesday to give preliminary approval to legislation that would require coal ash ponds across North Carolina to be cleaned up in 15 years. A final vote is expected Wednesday before the measure heads to the House.

CALENDAR: The General Assembly publishes a full legislative calendar daily. Here's what @NCCapitol will be keeping an eye on:

  • House Finance (8:30 a.m. | 544 LOB): The committee takes up bills that could allow Fayetteville to reinstate its red light camera program and allow Durham to take credit cards at its parking meters.
  • Senate Insurance (10 a.m. | 1027 LB): A bill requiring registration but not insurance for mopeds is before the committee.
  • House Judiciary B (10 a.m. | 421 LOB): The committee looks at regulations on drones and an omnibus "commerce protection" act that limits liability for manufacturers and drug makers, among other provisions.
  • House Judiciary A (10 a.m. | 1228 LB): The latest version of a "revolving door" restriction on former state employees doesn't penalize the person who goes to work for a state contractor. Instead, it makes the contractor ineligible for state contracts.
  • House Commerce (10 a.m. | 643 LOB): A bill that would allow liquor tastings in Asheville (moonshine, anyone?) is before the committee.
  • Film incentives press conference (10:30 a.m. | Legislative press room): Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo is expected to attend, and backers of extending the tax credit on film and TV productions want McCrory to go to Wilmington and visit some film sets before lawmakers wrap up the session.
  • Senate Rules (11 a.m. | 1027 LB): The committee takes up a bill that would allow an oil extracted from marijuana plants to be used to treat seizure disorders in children.
  • House Appropriations (2 p.m. | 643 LOB): Bills to be announced.
  • Senate session (2 p.m.): Final vote on coal ash bill.
  • House session (3:30 p.m.): Two regulatory reform bills come up for initial votes, plus a bill to fix mistakes in one McCrory already signed into law. WRAL.com plans live coverage of the session. Check the Video Central box on the homepage.

GOVERNOR: McCrory plans to hold a 1 p.m. news conference at the Executive Mansion to make an "education announcement." No other details were available.

VOTING CHANGES: State House lawmakers gave approval Tuesday to two measures making changes to state election laws. One ensures that a valid ballot cast early by a voter, either by mail or in person at an early voting site, remains valid if that voter dies before the date of the election. The other is a package of largely technical changes to state elections laws that includes a requirement that state lawmakers to begin filing all campaign finance reports electronically by 2017.

SEEING DOUBLE IN REG REFORM: To make a wide-ranging effort to overhaul state and local regulations more palatable to skittish Republican lawmakers, a House committee split the bill up Tuesday before approving both.

After quickly progressing through two committees in one morning last week, one regulatory bill was pulled off the House floor and sent back to the House Regulatory Reform Committee after members of the Republican caucus expressed reservations about some provisions. It was stripped down to health-related matters, and the committee gutted a Senate regulatory reform bill and inserted various business- and government-related reforms in it.

ZOMBIE LEGISLATION: Less than 24 hours after it was voted down in the House Government Committee, a bill to strip the town of Boone of its powers of extraterritorial jurisdiction was resurrected by the same committee and moved quickly to the House floor for a vote, where it won preliminary approval.

COMMON CORE REDUX: House and Senate lawmakers are no closer to agreement on what to do about the Common Core standards. Both chambers say they want to repeal the controversial academic standards, but while the Senate would allow an independent panel searching for the best new standards to consider Common Core, the House language would not allow that consideration. The House sent its version back to the Senate – again – after gutting the Senate's Common Core bill and inserting its bill instead. It passed a floor vote – again – with only minor changes and little debate after Rep. Craig Horn, R-Union, urged foes of the bill to avoid "reheating old beans."

HASTE MAKES WASTE: Lawmakers were in such a rush to approve legislation to clarify that the purpose of the state's "statute of repose" that they need another bill to narrow the scope of their first one, which McCrory has already signed into law.

North Carolina's product liability law, written in 1979, strictly limits liability to 10 years from the last contaminating act, but lawmakers recently clarified that the law was never meant to apply to groundwater contamination. The legislation gave new life to suits by Asheville residents and Camp Lejeune veterans and their families over contaminated water.

The House Rules Committee on Tuesday gutted a Senate bill on dredging and inserted language to clarify that their clarification doesn't pertain to any product liability suits, only to groundwater contamination.

HONORING NESBITT: Senate Republicans and Democrats found a brief moment of unity Tuesday in praising former Sen. Martin Nesbitt, who died in March. Nesbitt, 67, who died a week after being diagnosed with stomach cancer, was remembered as a man who was devoted to "the little guy" – be it schoolchildren, the needy or a small-business owner – and to those who lived in and around his home of Asheville.


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