Today @NCCapitol (6/4): Medicaid overrun upsets lawmakers; work on Commerce overhaul begins double time
Posted June 4, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — Good morning and welcome to Today @NCCapitol for Wednesday, June 4. Here's what's going on at the legislature and around state government.
FIRST UP: Gov. Pat McCrory is scheduled to sign a bill that would fast track the approval process for natural gas exploration, what many call "fracking," in North Carolina.
SHORTFALL: Stop us if you've heard this one before: An unexpected Medicaid shortfall has blown a $60 million hole in the budget proposed by McCrory as well as the plan recently passed by the state Senate. The late-spring surprise comes because the state has decided it's illegal to claw back money from local mental health agencies as the governor's budget proposed – a plan Senate budget writers copied.
"This is the basic definition of what is non-sustainable, irresponsible and just shows no fiscal responsibility," Sen. Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell, said of the shortfall late Tuesday.
SBI: McCrory says a top adviser is pushing him to move ahead with transferring control of the State Bureau of Investigation from the Attorney General's Office to the Department of Public Safety. WRAL News talked to Secretary of Public Safety Frank Perry and Attorney General Roy Cooper about the potential move, which was part of the Senate budget proposal.
McCrory expresses concern with Senate budget More from McCrory: In a five-minute gaggle with reporters Tuesday, McCrory talked about the SBI move, "Moral Monday" protests, a former Charlotte mayor pleading guilty to corruption charges and his thoughts on the Common Core educational standards.
WETLANDS: A proposal to roll back environmental rules long loathed by developers will remove protections for critical amphibian nurseries sprinkled across the state, environmental advocates say.
Reforms would remove most isolated wetland protections The General Assembly's 60-page regulatory reform package, approved by the state Senate last week, affects so-called isolated wetlands, tiny plots of land disconnected from other waterways. Environmentalists say the habitats serve a vital function for wildlife and pollution control, especially farther from the coast, where other types of wetlands are more rare.
STATE SENATE: There are no bills listed for the 6 p.m. Senate floor session.
Push to end Common Core in NC schools advances STATE HOUSE: The state House will take up a measure aimed at repealing the controversial Common Core standards for K-12 students. The bill cleared the House Education Committee Tuesday. Also on Wednesday's calendar are measures that would clear the way for faculty to participate in student-led prayers as well as fixes to the Read to Achieve program for third-grade students.
WRAL.com will carry the session live. Check the Video Central box on the homepage.
DOUBLING UP: In a somewhat unusual move, the House and Senate will be working on dueling measures of two different bills at roughly the same time. As the full House debates a measure to repeal Common Core standards for students, a Senate committee will take up similar language. Also, both the Senate and House Commerce Committees are scheduled to debate bills related to the reorganization of the Commerce Department and turning some functions over to a private nonprofit.
THE GOVERNOR: In addition to signing the fracking bill, McCrory is scheduled to host the North Carolina Medical Society's "White Coat Wednesday" Medicaid reform discussion at the Executive Mansion at noon. He is also scheduled to speak to the North Carolina League of Municipalities' Town Hall Day at 4:30 p.m. at the North Carolina Museum of History.
THE REST OF THE CALENDAR: The General Assembly publishes a full legislative calendar daily. Here are the items @NCCapitol is keeping an eye on:
House Finance (8:30 a.m. | 544 LOB): Committee members will review a package of changes to the state's unemployment insurance system, including a measure that would remove certain records from public view as required by federal legislation.
Town Hall Day: The League of Municipalities will hold a Town Hall Day with 600 city and town leaders from across North Carolina in downtown Raleigh. The town officials are scheduled to hear from legislative leaders and the governor.
House Judiciary B (10 a.m. | 421 LOB): The committee takes up a bill that would regulate the use of drone aircraft in North Carolina.
House Judiciary C (10 a.m. | 415 LOB): The committee reviews a bill to raise the penalty for stealing endangered Venus flytrap plants.
House Commerce (11 a.m. | 421 LOB): The committee takes up its own version of legislation to reorganize the Commerce Department and create a public-private partnership.
Film presser (10 a.m. | News Conference Room): A bipartisan group of advocates for the state's film incentive program holds a news conference to urge legislators and the governor to extend the tax credits used to help lure the film industry to North Carolina.
Community Development presser (10 a.m. | Education Building): North Carolina Association of Regional Councils of Government will hold a news conference on community development needs for the coming decades.
Medicaid presser (10:30 a.m. | Lawn): A collection of advocates will gather on the lawn in front of the Legislative Building to urge lawmakers to expand the Medicaid program for the poor and uninsured. States could have expanded the program to cover people up to 133 percent of the federal poverty line under the Affordable Care Act, but both lawmakers and McCrory have said the expansion would further frustrate ongoing problems with shortfalls in the program. WRAL.com will carry this news conference live. Check the Video Central box on the homepage.
Senate Education (1 p.m. | 544 LOB): The committee begins work on its own bill to repeal the state's Common Core standards. Also on the agenda are bills to make changes to how charter schools are governed and the privacy of student records. WRAL.com will carry this meeting live. Check the Video Central Box on the homepage.
Senate Commerce (2:30 p.m. | 1027 LB): The committee takes up a measure to reorganize the Commerce Department.
Atkinson (3 p.m. | Education Building): State Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson will hold a news conference to discuss the potential long-term impact of changes made by the state Senate budget.
TROLLS: A bill that would let North Carolina counter-sue against patent trolls – companies seeking settlements based on bogus patent claims – cleared the state House 114-0 on Tuesday. The measure now goes to the Senate.
House panel OKs prayer for faculty RELIGION: The House Education Committee voted Tuesday for a bill that allows school faculty to participate in student-led prayer, even though similar laws have been struck down elsewhere. Senate Bill 370, Respect for Student Prayer/Religious Activity, passed the Senate unanimously in May 2013 but has not been heard yet in the House.
MEDICAID: The state may look red in the Legislative Building, but beyond its walls, North Carolina is quickly graying. Advocates say Medicaid cuts proposed in the state Senate’s $21.1 billion budget fail to meet the needs of the state’s growing elderly population, which is expected to double in the next 20 years.
EYES: The House on Tuesday passed a measure that would prohibit insurers from requiring that optometrists offer discounts on eye wear and other materials to insurance customers if those services aren't covered by those patients' vision care policy.
CONSTITUTION: A bill filed in the state House would prompt lawmakers to weigh the option of calling an unprecedented convention of the states to propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Despite the bill’s drastic response to what sponsor Rep. Jim Fulghum, R-Wake, decried as a “dysfunctional” Congress and a crushing national debt, he said lawmakers are taking a cautious approach by calling for a study on the issue.
Are lawmakers dodging protesters? PROTESTERS: Are lawmakers dodging protesters? Legislative leaders say no, but so far this year, they have eschewed their normal Monday night sessions, which are held about the time protesters have been gathering for weekly demonstrations.
PRESERVATION: "Local and state historic preservationists have gone into a high-action, high-alert mode after learning that Gov. Pat McCrory’s plan for continuing rehabilitation tax credits is not part of a final state Senate bill," reports the Salisbury Post.