Today @NCCapitol (6/6): Politicos head to conventions as House prepares to budget

Posted June 6, 2014

The historic capitol building as see from the roof of the current legislative building.

— Good morning and welcome to Today @NCCapitol for Friday, June 6. Here's what's going on around state government.

HOUSE AND SENATE: Lawmakers are largely off for the weekend with the exception of two groups. The General Statutes Commission, a group responsible for combing through laws looking for technical errors, needed updates and inconsistencies, will meet at 10 a.m. It's also possible you may find a House budget writer or two lurking about the complex, as the chamber prepares to roll out its own spending plan next week. 

THE BUDGET: House Speaker Thom Tillis announced a schedule next week that would have House budget subcommittees – and the first public look at budget documents – come sometime on Tuesday. If all goes according to plan, the full Appropriations and Finance committees would meet on Wednesday, and House floor debate would begin on Thursday. A final vote, Tillis said, would come Friday, either just after midnight or in the morning, depending on the preference of lawmakers. 

That schedule would be about 24 hours less-compressed than the Senate's budget schedule, which went from public roll out to passing the chamber in less than 52 hours.

Budget chairmen and their subcommittee chairs have been working on the plan behind closed doors for much of the past two weeks. But in subcommittees held this week, members merely discussed the governor's and Senate's budget proposals, rather than giving insight into what the House might do. 

THIS MORNING: Gov. Pat McCrory is scheduled to make an economic development announcement in RTP at 10 a.m. Given an announced meeting of the state's Economic Investment Committee happening earlier in the morning, that announcement is following the typical pattern of one that involves some grant of incentives. Look for updates from WRAL News and WRAL TechWire. 

THIS WEEKEND: Republicans will hold their annual state convention in Cherokee this weekend. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, ex-U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert and radio show talk host Bill Bennett, a former U.S. secretary of education, are scheduled to address the convention. Democrats are scheduled to hold their annual Jefferson-Jackson dinner in Raleigh this weekend as well. 

The parties will hear from their respective nominees for U.S. Senate, with Tillis addressing the GOP and U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan speaking to Democrats.

Homeland filming in Raleigh Senate wants a new grant program for film incentives @NCCapitol House and Senate give tentative nods to Commerce reorganization JOB RECRUITING AND FILM INCENTIVES: The state House and Senate both passed versions of bills that would reorganize the Commerce Department, turning job-recruiting and marketing functions over to a private nonprofit. The two measures, which started out as identical, now vary in several respects.

The biggest difference is that the Senate included a plan to revamp the state's efforts to bring film and television productions to North Carolina. A tax credit that allows companies to get a rebate against what they spend in the state will expire at the end of this year. Senators propose scraping that credit, which can lead to unforeseen costs, into a grant program that would be administered by the secretary of Commerce. 

COAL ASH: State senators had a lot of questions Thursday during their first committee hearing on McCrory's proposed plan to clean up the state's 33 coal ash pits. The plan, rolled out earlier this year, was presented to the Senate Agriculture and Environment Committee by Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources John Skvarla, who opened his remarks by taking issue with criticism of his agency's handling of the coal ash issue.

"The state of North Carolina is in charge of this process. No one else," Skvarla said.

Senate leaders say they expect to roll out their own version of a coal ash bill later this month. That measure, said Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger would likely be more prescriptive than the governor's plan.

COMMON CORE: The state Senate voted Thursday for a bill that could begin moving North Carolina's public school curriculum away from the much-debated Common Core standards, which have become a focal point for the ire of some parents and many political conservatives. Senators voted 33-15 for their version of the measure the day after House lawmakers approved their own measure. In order to pass the General Assembly, one version of the bill must pass both chambers.

Both versions of the bill would appoint a state commission to review North Carolina's educational standards. The House bill would not allow that commission to consider continuing to use Common Core as a basis for future standards. Senators left open the possibility that Common Core, with modifications, would continue to serve as the basis for North Carolina's public school standards.

TAXES: A state decision to cut privilege license taxes next year is already generating budget questions for Raleigh City Council members. Last week McCrory signed a tax reform bill that does away with the tax, which businesses pay to operate in cities and towns. Raleigh officials predict that this will hit the city budget with $7 million in lost revenue

Macon County fairFAIR TAX: The state House gave preliminary approval Thursday to bill that would exempt county agricultural fairs from collecting sales tax on tickets for entertainment events, and some lawmakers said they expect other exemptions to follow. The move comes one week after McCrory signed a package of adjustments lawmakers made to the sweeping tax reform legislation they passed last summer.

"This is the beginning of the unraveling of all the hard work you did last year," said Rep. Julia Howard, R-Davie.

RECORDS: House lawmakers have begun crafting a bill that would allow law enforcement officers, district attorneys and assistant district attorneys to request that their names, addresses and phone numbers be removed from city or county websites that display tax records. Rep. Chris Malone, R-Wake, said the measure was in response to an incident in which the father of a Wake County assistant district attorney was kidnapped, as well as a churn of complaints about daily threats faced by law enforcement.

UNEMPLOYMENT: State House lawmakers on Thursday tentatively approved a package of changes to their 2013 overhaul of the unemployment insurance system. House Bill 1061 requires job seekers to show proof they've sought five jobs per week, instead of two. It also codifies the agency's new requirement that benefit recipients show photo identification in a face-to-face meeting at a local unemployment office within four weeks of receiving their first check.

READ: Despite reservations that it doesn't go far enough, legislation to improve the Read to Achieve program in North Carolina elementary schools is on its way to McCrory.

INSURANCE: Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin came out Thursday against an attempt to resurrect a change to North Carolina's auto insurance rate structure that lawmakers killed last year. The proposal, which the Department of Insurance said could be heard in the General Assembly as early as next week, would dismantle the North Carolina Rate Bureau, which negotiates rates for insurers with the state and sets the maximum rates. Under the proposal, which technically doesn't exist yet but has been shared with lawmakers in recent weeks, insurers would be allowed to opt out of the Rate Bureau and set rates beyond the cap.

UNC-G: "The state auditor’s office says UNC-G violated state and university policy for travel during a period of 18 years, a practice that 'increased the risk of fraud, waste or abuse of university resources,'" according to an audit report, reports the Greensboro News & Record.

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  • miseem Jun 6, 2014

    With Bill Bennett as a speaker, you can count on the NCGA bringing up more proposals to cut public education for the benefit of private, for profit on line businesses. He is a founder of K12, the on line "school" that's been the subject of investigations on inadequate services and educational achievement in several states. Expect the rant from Tillman pushing to expand for profit charter schools to be resurrected into legislation also.