Today @NCCapitol (6/9): Lawmakers get slow start to week after GOP convention
Posted June 9, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — Good morning and welcome to Today @NCCapitol for Monday, June 9. Here's what's going on at the legislature and around state government.
IN THE SENATE: Senators are scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. The only bill on the Senate calendar is a measure reorganizing the Commerce Department. The House has already sent over a separate bill that clears the way for the use of a public-private partnership. However, the Senate version of the bill also creates a new grant program for film incentives.
IN THE HOUSE: The state House is scheduled to hold a skeleton session at 4 p.m. No votes are taken during such pro forma sessions. This is the third time out of three opportunities to meet on a Monday night this spring that House lawmakers have passed up holding a full floor session. At the same time, the "Moral Monday" protest movement has renewed its Monday evening demonstrations.
Many GOP lawmakers did attend from their party's convention in Cherokee, in the far western part of the state, this weekend.
PROTESTERS: Speaking of Moral Monday, the NAACP-led group plans to hold a "rally and action" at the General Assembly starting at 5 p.m. This week's demonstration will focus on education, according to a news release. Carolina Rising, a conservative group, will also be on site, providing a counter-argument to the protesters.
LATER THIS WEEK: According to schedules laid out by the House leaders, the House will take up its budget in subcommittees on Tuesday and hold the first of two budget floor votes on Thursday afternoon.
COMMITTEES: The only legislative committee meeting on the calendar Monday is the Program Evaluation Oversight Committee, which is due to add the use of personal service contracts and consultants to its review program. Such contracts were part of a stew of problems at the Department of Health and Human Services last year, as big contracts raised questions about the use of state funds and conflicts of interest.
THE GOVERNOR: Gov. Pat McCrory's public schedule Monday includes two events to help open the U.S. Open golf tournament in Pinehurst.
PUSHING BACK: "McCrory, in his second annual legislative session, is making a more concerted effort to protect his turf and challenge legislative leaders in his own party to embrace more of his ideas," reports the Associated Press. "Earlier that day, a senior administration official accused a powerful House member publicly of bullying his agency and trying to land a high-paying position on a board appointed by the governor."
NC leaders still at odds over future of costly Medicaid program MEDICAID: State Senate leaders don't just dislike McCrory's plan to remake the Medicaid health insurance program for the poor and disabled. Their budget would legally bar DHHS from working on it anymore. McCrory and his fellow Republicans in the state Senate agree that, for too long, Medicaid has been the $13.5 billion tail that has wagged the budget dog, soaking up tax dollars that leaders would rather spend on other priorities.
Where they disagree is on how to control spending while still maintaining the state's safety net. When the state House unveils its own budget in the coming days, it's unlikely to embrace either of the options currently in the public domain. "I think they've left us plenty of room to negotiate and find middle ground," said Rep. Justin Burr, R-Stanly. "I suspect you'll find we'll be somewhere in that very, very wide field."
MOFFITT: "Rep. Tim Moffitt, the second-term Republican state legislator who represents parts of Buncombe County, has long maintained that conservatives don’t get a fair shake in the press. So he created his own media company, InTouchNC, in December 2012," reports the Carolina Public Press. "InTouchNC conducts online operations for about 30 of Moffitt’s House Republican colleagues, running websites and social media for them. The company’s extensive content addresses North Carolina legislation, politics and history, emphasizing the GOP’s perspective on things. So far, InTouchNC has made an occasional splash and some money, while mostly sidestepping concerns about how much state legislators can and should forge business relationships with their colleagues."
VOTING: CNN profiled Jay DeLancy, who put together Voter Integrity Project, a nonprofit that purports to root out election fraud. "It's tedious work, and DeLancy has generated mixed results as well as a measure of controversy," the report says.
EDUCATION: "The state Senate’s proposal to cut millions in funding for second- and third-grade teacher assistants is part of a plan from its leaders to reshape elementary education – a plan that now emphasizes paying more money to all teachers over keeping aides who assist teachers in some classrooms," reports the News & Observer. "Senate leader Phil Berger, an Eden Republican, said in an interview that he is relying mainly on research from Tennessee and the United Kingdom that casts doubt on the effectiveness of teacher assistants in helping students learn, while other studies point to teacher quality as a more crucial factor in student results."
SENATE RACE: Republicans sought to unify their forces behind House Speaker Thom Tillis, the GOP candidate for U.S. Senate, during their convention in Cherokee this weekend. Meanwhile, Roll Call reports that the state's big changes to unemployment benefits could be a key issue in the campaign.
CONSTITUTION: Conservative lawmakers aren't the only ones calling for a constitutional convention. Guilford County Democratic Rep. Marcus Brandon and three other state representatives filed a resolution "calling for a constitutional convention to address the Citizens United Supreme Court case," reports the News & Record.