Raleigh, N.C. — Good morning and welcome to Today @NCCapitol for Thursday, June 26. Here's what's going on at the legislature and around state government.
NOT GETTING ALONG: Remember when the Republican legislative leadership was one big happy family that was going to quickly bridge their budget differences and head hand-in-hand for the exits by Friday?
Yeah, about that...
If such a scenario were ever true, it is clearly not the reality of the moment.
The House on Wednesday teamed up with Gov. Pat McCrory to offer what amounts to a new, more modest budget bill that would raise teacher and state employee pay and make only a handful of adjustments to the two-year spending plan passed in 2013.
"Anyone who reports there's a big gap between the House and Senate isn't paying attention," House Speaker Thom Tillis said at a joint news conference with McCrory to which no senators were invited. "You can have the rhetoric, and you can deal with the rhetoric. But in reality, we're talking about the methodology for determining what the gap is. It is a bridgeable gap."
The gap may be "bridgeable," but Senate leaders took a torch to that bridge later in the day, blasting what they called an "unbalanced, unsustainable" budget proposal. They specifically took aim at House budget chairman Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake, and McCrory's budget director, Art Pope.
"Art Pope and Nelson Dollar’s latest budget gimmick fails to account for the state’s deteriorating Medicaid situation and could violate North Carolina’s constitutional requirement for a balanced budget,” Senate Rules Committee Chairman Tom Apodaca said in a news release.
Pope is due to brief senators on projected Medicaid spending first thing Thursday morning.
Meanwhile, the Senate page office has been seeking high school students to staff legislative committee meetings next week, and House lawmakers have been calendaring items for July 1, which means any hopes for a weekend adjournment are now officially dashed.
The two chambers also don't see eye-to-eye on how to modify the state's Common Core standards for public-school students. The measure has been sent to a conference committee in order to work out differences, which boil down to a House effort to scrap the standards entirely and a Senate plan that would allow Common Core to be part of a broader discussion.
CALENDAR: The General Assembly publishes a full legislative calendar daily.
House leaders plan to wrap up work for the week Thursday and then head home for the weekend. It's unclear what the Senate may do, given that some bills were moved to a Saturday calendar earlier in the week. Here are the items @NCCapitol will be keeping tabs on:
Senate Appropriations (8:30 a.m. | 643 LOB): Budget Director Art Pope appears before the committee to outline the McCrory administration's Medicaid spending projections.
House Finance (8:30 a.m. | 544 LOB): The committee is scheduled to take up four bills, including one governing how local governments can regulate political campaign signs.
House Personnel (9:30 a.m. | 425 LOB): House leaders continue to move their alternative budget bill through the committee process, most likely making it available for the House floor session Thursday afternoon.
Senate Judiciary (10 a.m. | 1027 LB): A technical corrections bill with lots of tweaks to local laws is among the 10 measures on the committee's calendar.
House Appropriations (10:30 a.m. | 643 LOB): House budget writers are taking up a bill that is, for the moment, a package of changes to laws governing judges and the courts.
Senate session (11 a.m. | Senate floor): Senate leaders take up a full calendar, including a measure legalizing the use of hemp extract to treat certain kinds of seizures, and a moped regulation bill that once again includes a requirement that riders carry insurance.
House session (11:30 a.m. | House floor): The House appears poised to debate its new-look budget bill. Representatives are also due to debate a bill modifying charter school laws that became a flash point for debate over sexual orientation due to comments Tuesday from Rep. Paul "Skip" Stam.
SEX OFFENDERS: A Harnett County man convicted twice of sex crimes involving children was not a registered sex offender when he was arrested this year in a case that led authorities to an alleged child pornography operation. North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper said Wednesday that’s because state law changed in 2001, four years after Bailey Joe Mills was first arrested on a charge of indecent liberties with a child.
FILM: Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo and area lawmakers asked legislative leaders Wednesday for a one-year extension of the state's film tax credit while a new incentive program is designed and put into place. "We're asking for a bit more time to work this out the right way," Saffo, flanked by film industry workers, said at a press conference at the General Assembly.
The current tax credit allows productions to receive a refund from the state of 25 percent of allowable expenses, up to $20 million per production. Critics of the program say it's overly generous, costs too much money and doesn't produce long-term jobs or infrastructure investment. Backers of the credit say it's supporting 4,200 film industry jobs in North Carolina. Many are located in and around Wilmington, where production is currently underway for series such as "Under the Dome" and "Sleepy Hollow."
PROTEST PETITIONS: House lawmakers voted 85-26 Wednesday night to approve a package of business and government reform proposals. Senate Bill 734 is one of two bills into which House leaders split an earlier regulatory reform omnibus. Senate Bill 493, the other half of the package, dealing with health and safety issues, also won approval Wednesday evening. Senate Bill 734 repeals the right of protest petition – a function of state law that allows a property owner to contest the rezoning of nearby property.
DRONING ON: House lawmakers on Wednesday unanimously approved a bill permitting but regulating the use of unmanned aircraft in North Carolina.
COAL ASH: For the second time in less than 24 hours, the state Senate was unanimous in its support of a bill that would require Duke Energy to close and clean up all of its coal ash ponds across North Carolina within 15 years. With the Senate's final approval Wednesday, the measure now heads to the House.