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Today @NCCapitol (6/5): Senate reviews coal ash legislation

Posted June 5, 2014

Members of the Council of State arrange themselves to pose for a group picture on Tuesday, June 4, 2014.

— Good morning and welcome to Today @NCCapitol for Thursday, June 5. Here's what's going on at the legislature and elsewhere state government: 

Goldsboro coal ash pond McCrory proposes coal ash legislation COAL ASH: The Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee will review the governor's plan to regulate coal ash during a meeting at 9:30 a.m. Environment and Natural Resources Secretary John Skvarla is expected to discuss the proposal. Public comment is also expected. 

Coal ash became an area of sharp focus for the state following a Feb. 2 coal ash spill from a retired Duke Energy power plant into the Dan River. Since then, McCrory and lawmakers have been grappling with what to do with coal ash stored in ponds at 14 locations around the state, including the site of the Eden spill. 

The governor's plan requires Duke to produce a timetable for how to deal with coal ash ponds but leaves open the possibility the ash material, left over after coal is burned to produce energy, could be dried out and left where it is. Senators have hinted they would like to see a more stringent bill that would require the ash to be moved from its current locations near waterways to other locations. 

No votes are expected in the committee, according to a note on the calendar. 

WRAL.com will carry this meeting live. Check the Video Central box on the homepage. 

Sharon Decker, Secretary of Commerce Lawmakers poised to turn business recruitment over to nonprofit COMMERCE: The Senate Budget Committee meets at 8 a.m. and will work on a remake of the state Commerce Department that will turn the state's business recruiting, tourism promotion and other functions over to a nonprofit. The measure cleared both House and Senate Commerce committees on Wednesday. 

The state House is scheduled to take up its version of the bill on the floor later  Thursday.

The Star News of Wilmington is reporting that lawmakers will also debate a new film incentives program to replace a credit used to lure productions that expires at the end of the year. Renewing the incentives has been a controversial issue at the General Assembly, with divisions drawn not along party lines but among regions where the film industry is heavily invested and those where it is not. 

THE GOVERNOR: McCrory appears at a groundbreaking for Morinaga in Alamance County at 9:30 a.m. At 11:30 a.m., he will speak to the North Carolina Business Committee for Education annual meeting at the PNC Arena. 

TODAY'S CALENDAR: The General Assembly publishes a full legislative calendar daily. Here are the items @NCCapitol will be following: 

GOLF (10 a.m. | 544 LOB): The House and Senate Commerce committees will hear a joint presentation on the impact of the golf industry generally, and the U.S. Open in particular. 

SENATE (11 a.m. | Senate Floor): The only bill on the Senate calendar is a resolution honoring the late Zeb Alley, a longtime lobbyist and former lawmaker. 

HOUSE (NOON | House Floor): House members take up the Commerce Department reorganization bill and a measure making changes to the state unemployment law. 

BULLY: McCrory's administration and a key House leader are fighting over a three-member commission that serves as the final benefits arbiter in North Carolina's unemployment insurance office. Dale Folwell, a former lawmaker, and Rep. Julia Howard, R-Davie, took that fight public Wednesday in a House committee, The Associated Press reports.

COMMON CORE: The House voted Wednesday to repeal and replace the Common Core academic standard in North Carolina schools, and a Senate committee advanced its own legislation advocating repeal.

FILM: Hundreds of film industry workers, suppliers and local officials flooded the legislature Wednesday, asking lawmakers to extend the state's film tax credit. North Carolina's film tax incentive gives a tax credit per production of 25 percent of all allowed in-state spending, up to $20 million. That credit is refundable, meaning that, if a production earns more in tax credits than it owes in taxes, it gets a check from the state.

MEDICAID PART I: A coalition of groups on Wednesday continued to pressure North Carolina lawmakers to rethink their decision not to expand Medicaid as allowed under the Affordable Care Act. The groups rallied outside the Legislative Building, displaying signs that read "Patients Over Politics" and "Stop the Medicaid Blockade," and said worries about Medicaid costs shouldn't preclude opening the health insurance program to more low-income residents. Republican lawmakers and McCrory have opposed the expansion, saying the state's troubled system can't handle it. 

MEDICAID PART II: Doctors clad in white lab coats gathered with McCrory outside the Governor’s Mansion on Wednesday to back the governor’s Medicaid reform plan. Physicians criticized a provision in the state Senate budget that would task an outside entity with managing North Carolina’s Medicaid program, removing Medicaid from the domain of the state’s Department of Health and Human Services.

Venus FlytrapIT'S A (FLY) TRAP: A measure that strengthens the penalty for stealing Venus flytrap plants sailed through the House Judiciary C Committee on Wednesday. The bill ramps up the punishment for stealing the plants from a misdemeanor fine to a Class H felony, which could result in jail even for first-time offenders.

EDUCATION: State Office of Charter Schools director Joel Medley was the target of an angry outburst Wednesday from Senate Education Committee chief Jerry Tillman, apparently over the progress of applications by out-of-state charter school companies. The public dressing-down took place during the committee meeting, where the panel was discussing a proposal to make changes to the charter school approval system.

DRIVER'S ED: The budget passed by the state Senate last weekend eliminates state funding for driver's education courses at public schools statewide, starting next summer, meaning parents and teens might have to start footing the cost of the training.

WORKERS COMP: The House Judiciary B Committee approved a bill that could double the compensation workers could get for certain types of injuries.

DRONES: A measure that would regulate the commercial and hobbyist use of unmanned aircraft, or drones, will get some extra legislative tinkering before it moves to the House floor. The measure, which has cleared the House Government Committee, was buffeted by intense questioning in a House Judiciary Committee meeting Wednesday. Chairman Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson, assigned a subcommittee to work out finer details, such as how regulations may affect law enforcement.

CITIES: Goldsboro Mayor Al King says North Carolina city officials are "very much concerned" by lawmakers' decisions to limit their power. King, who is president of the North Carolina League of Municipalities, was one of hundreds of local officials in Raleigh for Town Hall Day, the league's annual advocacy day. He said this year's turnout was the highest ever.

"We are very much concerned about what’s coming out of the legislature. Some of things that are coming out are not good for cities," he said, ticking off the repeal of the privilege license tax, limits to local authority in the new natural gas drilling law and other changes this session.

Cities weren't consulted about many of those changes, he told WRAL News.

PRAYER: The state House passed a measure Wednesday allowing public school teachers to participate in student-led prayers, despite the potential for legal challenges. "This bill is not a fringe or a radical religious bill," said Rep. Josh Dobson, R-McDowell.

The House voted 106-9 to return the measure to the Senate, which must vote to concur with a handful of House changes in order to send the bill to McCrory.

FRACK: McCrory on Wednesday signed legislation that would speed up the start of natural gas drilling in North Carolina.

NOTED: Dallas Woodhouse, a fixture on the North Carolina political stage who now heads the conservative Carolina Rising group, is complaining that he was booted from the NAACP-led "Moral Monday" rally in Raleigh this week. According to one news report, Woodhouse also caught the notice of the NAACP’s security for the event, who told Woodhouse that organizers had a park permit and he wasn’t welcome. Carolina Rising had come to poke fun at the event by handing out sun-shaped stress balls and orange-flavored drinks with statistics about North Carolina's economy on them to the crowd. Woodhouse has responded with an open letter in which he writes "to make so much noise about your right to access 'The People’s House' and then to forcibly remove other citizens from 'The People’s Lawn' is hypocritical and unchristian."

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  • miseem Jun 5, 2014

    "This bill is not a fringe or a radical religious bill," said Rep. Josh Dobson, R-McDowell.
    Any time someone has to state something like this, you can bet that it is a radical religious bill. Like saying "trust me". The only purpose for this bill is to appease the conservative religious wing. It does nothing to limit religious intrusion into publicly supported organizations and surely has nothing to do with creating jobs or improving the economy in NC.

  • Todd Singleton Jun 5, 2014
    user avatar

    Posturing. They will do nothing as they are all in the pockets of Duke. Your "representation" is paid for and that's the way the corporatist like it. Drown "government" in the bathtub (thanks Grover) and hand the wheel over to For Profit, LLC. Plutocracy in full swing.

  • linkz145 Jun 5, 2014

    Pat Polluter and Duke.E. probably blew up the dam on purpose to lower property values and force residents to frack their lands.

  • Forthe Newssite Jun 5, 2014
    user avatar

    ""We are very much concerned about what’s coming out of the legislature. Some of things that are coming out are not good for cities," he said, ticking off the repeal of the privilege license tax, limits to local authority in the new natural gas drilling law and other changes this session.

    Cities weren't consulted about many of those changes, he told WRAL News."

    Of course the cities weren't consulted, it was a given they would object. Glad to see them coming out against this, and other, backwards thinking new laws.

    "FRACK: Gov. Pat McCrory on Wednesday signed legislation that would speed up the start of natural gas drilling in North Carolina.....This SHOULD read that he sold out NC to the oil/gas companies-no surprise as selling out to DE follows closely on its heels.

  • Forthe Newssite Jun 5, 2014
    user avatar

    So I heard the news this morning say that DE will NOT cover all the costs of this fiasco clean up, that (as we all said) it will be passed on to us, the customers. "The governor requires Duke Energy to produce a timetable for how to deal with coal ash ponds, but leaves open the possibility the ash material, left over after coal is burned to produce energy, could be dried out and left where it is"

    Why OF COURSE he'll let DE do what ever they tell him to allow including the decreasing of fines etc. What MORE can he do to destroy our environment?

    At least so many won't be moving here-why move TO pollution?