Today @NCCapitol (7/2): Familiar Medicaid, coal ash, budget items mark agenda
Posted July 2, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — Good morning and welcome to Today @NCCapitol for Wednesday, July 2. Here's what's going on at the General Assembly and around state government.
NEXT VERSE, SAME AS THE FIRST: Lawmakers continue to find themselves deadlocked over the state budget, with the state House and Senate exchanging a few barbs Tuesday rather than plans on how to reach a compromise.
After senators on Monday swatted away a "mini-budget" endorsed by Gov. Pat McCrory and unanimously backed by the state House, House leaders shoved it right back to the Senate on Tuesday. Rather than bridging the gaps between the two chambers, the plan to raise teacher salaries while bypassing the thorny issue of Medicaid has stirred rancor between the two chambers.
"They simply failed to follow their own rules," House Rules Committee Chairman Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, told his colleagues Tuesday.
After the Senate returned the bill to the House "for further consideration," the House did likewise, insisting that the Senate give it a look.
"I don't know what we'll do with it," said Senate Rules Chairman Tom Apodca, R-Henderson. "I just might put it in the trash can."
In the middle is McCrory, who insisted Tuesday that senators should give the attempted compromise a vote.
"We shouldn't be playing parliamentary maneuvers to disallow senators from ... a transparent and open vote on a very, very important issue, especially for teachers and educators," McCrory told reporters following the monthly Council of State meeting.
With a stop-gap fix all but dead, attention once again returns to the main budget for the fiscal year that began Tuesday. While government operations won't stop because lawmakers passed a two-year budget last summer, key priorities like pay raises for teachers, reforming the Medicaid health insurance system for the poor and disabled and adding back some lost environmental positions won't happen unless the House and Senate can come to some understanding.
For his part, McCrory dolled out raises to a select group of 450 teachers Tuesday. Funded by federal Race to the Top money, the raises went to teachers who create professional development resources, lesson plans and classroom materials to help other teachers. The group makes up the new Governor's Teachers Network.
During the announcement, McCrory urged teachers to lobby on behalf of his budget proposal, specifically a boost in salaries for all teachers.
"We need you to get them to vote on it," he said.
Democrats, meanwhile, have decried the Republican leadership's handling of the budget.
There could be some movement on the budget Wednesday. The Senate members of the House-Senate conference committee are scheduled to hold an open meeting to roll our their latest budget proposal. Conference committee proceedings are generally closed to the public, but little has followed the typical script during this ongoing set of negotiations.
"This is an open meeting of the Senate Conferees to present an offer to the House. We want to extend an invitation to House conferees to attend this meeting and discuss our offer tomorrow at 10:00 AM in Room 544 of the Legislative Office Building," read a note distributed over the legislature's meeting notice system.
TODAY'S SCHEDULE: The General Assembly publishes a daily legislative calendar online. Here are items @NCCapitol will be keeping an eye on:
House Appropriations (8:30 a.m. | 643 LOB): The House plans to take up its proposal to reform the state's Medicaid health insurance system for the poor and disabled. The plan will be much the same as one rolled out in committee last month, but those who have seen copies of the draft bill to be heard Wednesday morning say a controversial provision that would have turned the physical health care over some mental health patients over to a LME/MCO – a group set up to manage mental health care – will be turned into a study.
House Environment (10 a.m. | 643 LOB): After reviewing the Senate's plan to clean up coal ash ponds around North Carolina, House members are due to take up their own version of a clean up. The draft proposed committee substitute – along with a formal explanation of that draft – circulated to committee members and others on Tuesday would still give Duke Energy more time to clean up 14 coal ash pits around the state. However, the new draft extends a moratorium during which the company could not ask rate payers to help with the cleanup costs to March 2017 and requires the company to act more quickly in the case a well is found to be contaminated by coal ash.
The measure is expected to be heard on the House floor Wednesday afternoon after a quick dip into the Finance Committee at 1 p.m.
Senate Budget Conferees (10 a.m. | 544 LOB): Senate budget conferees hold a open meeting to make their latest budget offer to House budget negotiators.
Black Caucus Presser (10:30 a.m. | News conference room): Members of North Carolina Legislative Black Caucus hold a news conference to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
House Finance (1 p.m. | 544 LOB): In addition to several items already on the calendar, the committee is expected to review the coal ash bill and send it to the House floor.
Senate Session (2 p.m. | Senate Chambers): As of Wednesday morning, only one relatively low-profile bill is on the Senate calendar.
House Session (2:30 p.m. | House Chambers): House leaders have said that, in addition to measures already on their calendar, the chamber plans to take up the coal ash bill that is moving through committees.
THE GOVERNOR: McCrory is in Wilmington. He is scheduled to take a health center tour and speak to a roundtable of health care providers regarding Medicaid around 1:30 p.m.
NCTRACKS: Among the items that may come up during that Medicaid roundtable is NCTracks, the troubled computer system that is designed to pay doctors, hospitals and others who provide services to Medicaid patients. One year after the troubled launch of North Carolina's new half-billion-dollar Medicaid billing system, the state's health department says the system is effectively paying medical providers for patient treatment. But not everyone is pleased with the progress of NCTracks, a complex technology project meant to streamline reimbursement to providers and make it easier for policy-makers to track Medicaid costs. Some doctors, clinics and other providers say they're still having trouble getting the money they're owed.
RECORDS: House lawmakers took a step back Tuesday from requiring cities and counties to remove law enforcement officers' personal information and addresses from online records. The measure, Senate Bill 78, was sponsored by Rep. Chris Malone, R-Wake. He argued that it would make it more difficult for criminals to find and threaten or harm court officials and officers who've arrested or prosecuted them. Although spurred by a local case in which a prosecutor's father was kidnapped, lawmakers ran into technical issues that made the current bill unworkable. Making it a study could help jump-start the measure next legislative session.
BEEP BEEP: State senators gave unanimous approval Tuesday to an omnibus bill authorizing interstate ramp meters, ads on ferries and sponsorships of Department of Transportation operations. The measure, House Bill 1025, would allow the DOT to sell ad space and even naming rights on ferries and at ferry terminals and sponsorships of rest stops and other DOT facilities or projects to raise revenue for ferries and maintenance work, respectively.
WORKPLACE PROTECTIONS: McCrory on Tuesday defended an executive order he signed this week that granted workplace protections against discrimination to a number of state workers but left out those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender.