Today @NCCapitol (April 30): Tax reform coming; gun bill takes detour from the House floor
Posted April 30, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — Good morning and welcome to Today @NCCapitol for Tuesday, April 30. This is WRAL's roundup of what you need to know about North Carolina state government today.
TAX REFORM: Persistent rumblings around the legislative building say Senate leaders are getting ready to release their tax reform plan this week. Sens. Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenburg, and Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, say no announcement is coming today, but say a public unveiling is coming.
"I think we're closer to having something we'll talk about in public," said Berger, the president pro tempore of the Senate.
Senators have been talking tax reform over the past two months, holding hearings on a series of bills that deal with various aspects of what tax reform might look like. Generally, the Senate is aiming to lower personal and corporate income sales tax rates in exchange for broadening the number of items and services to which sales tax apply and potentially raising the sales tax.
"I think you'll hear something this week and even more next week," Berger said.
Rucho, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said an announcement was "close" but would not fix a day to it.
SENATE TODAY: The Senate meets at 2 p.m. with two bills on its calendar. One bill would allow criminal defendants to wave their trial by jury and have a case heard by a judge. Another bill, named Caylee's Law for the infamous case of Orlando youngster, would make it a crime to fail to report a child has gone missing and increase the penalties associated with missing children cases.
HOUSE TODAY: The House meets at 2 p.m. today. Among the bills on that were on its calendar last night (please see update) is a measure dealing with firearms. Parts of the legislation deal with increasing the penalties associated with some gun crimes and clarifying the procedure for denying someone with mental health problems access to fire arms. The bill also expands where and when people with concealed handgun permits may bring their firearms.
University of North Carolina President Tom Ross said Monday that he's concerned about legislation, which would allow permit holders to bring firearms onto college and university campuses as long as they were locked in a car.
Ross said allowing guns on campus "would increase the risk to public safety and hamper our ability to protect not only our students, staff and faculty, but also campus visitors."
UPDATE: The House Clerk moved an updated calendar at 9:07 a.m. this morning. @NCCapitol is told it requires a fiscal note, which is a formal determination of how much the measure will cost the state.
ARRESTS: Seventeen people were arrested Monday evening during what the state chapter of the NAACP called a nonviolent "pray in" protest at the General Assembly. The protest was directed at Republican action on health care, unemployment benefits, education and voting rights.
The Wrap @NCCapitol (April 29) "We are once again, through putting our bodies on the line, asking them to reconsider their assault on the poor, the unemployed, our many citizens without healthcare and our embattled public schools and public education," said state NAACP President William Barber, who was among those arrested inside the state Legislative Building.
Barber was released from the Wake County Jail at 4:02 a.m. on a $1000 bond. He tells WRAL's Michelle Marsh that there will be "waves of civil disobedience" and that the NAACP plans to bring its message to 20 counties across the state.
WRAP: Capitol Bureau Chief Laura Leslie and reporter Mark Binker wrap up Monday's news at the General Assembly and look ahead to today in The Wrap @NCCapitol.
ELECTIONS: The last meeting of the current State Board of Elections will be held via teleconference at 9 a.m. this morning. All five outgoing board members, who will be replaced effective Wednesday, say they will leave it to the incoming board to decide whether to push forward with an investigation of contributions from a sweepstakes businesses that may have been bundled and funneled through corporate accounts.
"I think it would be inappropriate for us, on the way out the door, to direct the staff to do anything," said Chuck Winfree, a Republican member from Greensboro.
Democracy North Carolina, the group that filed the complaint against the sweepstakes companies, plans on holding a news conference after the board finishes its teleconference around 9:30 a.m. with more information related to the sweepstakes case.
The five new board members are scheduled to meet for the first time Wednesday, and will have to decide who will lead the agency going forward. By law, the a new executive director could take his or her seat as soon as May 15. The director serves at the pleasure of the board, but it is expected any new hire would serve at least four years. The position pays $118,806 per year.
Current director Gary Bartlett said he's been given no indication whether he'll be asked to stay on or for how long. Incoming board members said Monday they have not discussed a potential appointment or refused to comment on the matter.
COMMITTEES: For a full list of committee hearings, please see the main @NCCapitol page. Among today's highlights:
House Transportation (Noon | 643 LOB): The printed calendar lists six bills on the agenda, including one dealing with school bus safety. However, later electronic notices list only one bill, dealing with the financing of transportation projects, on the committee's agenda. Committee Chairman Bill Brawley, R-Mecklenburg, said that bill will change substantially in committee.
House Health (10 a.m. | 1228 LB): The committee will review a bill that changes the definition of "at risk" preschooler, making far fewer 4-year-olds eligible for state subsidized pre-K.
Senate Judiciary 2 (10 a.m. | 1124 LB): The committee takes up a bill that appears to delete provisions in the domestic violence statute related to restraining orders related to stalking.
Senate Commerce (11 a.m. | 1027 LB): Senators will review a bill related that would loosen rules and allow lenders to charge more for small consumer loans.
MORE NEWS: Other stories we were following Monday included:
UTILITIES: Gov. Pat McCrory nominated two new members of the State Utilities Commission and a new director for the commission's public staff. Among the nominees was Rep. Jerry Dockham, R-Davidson, an 11-term member of the House. Dockham's nomination comes one day after a column in his hometown paper pilloried him for his behavior when he was pulled over for speeding. The Winston-Salem Journal's Scott Sexton writes: "But according to four sources familiar with the situation, including three who have seen the videotape, Dockham, 63, got huffy with Necessary by adopting a posture that, while not abusive, could be described as pompous and self-important."
LOTTERY: he days of North Carolina lottery winners posing with giant checks might be numbered. State law now requires that the names of lottery winners be publicized, but House Bill 516 would disclose their names only if they consent. Also, the names would be handed over to state and federal tax authorities and to the courts in cases where there is an outstanding judgment against a winner.
MONEY: House Speaker Thom Tillis will be raising campaign cash at a $250-per-plate fundraiser next week, although the money won't go toward a much rumored U.S. Senate run, a spokesman said Monday. The May 6 fundraiser at the Cardinal Club in downtown Raleigh will feature Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, according to an invitation to the event. Jordan Shaw, a spokesman for Tillis at the General Assembly, said he could not speak for the campaign, but this fundraiser was related to Tillis' responsibilities to the House Republican caucus.
SWEEPSTAKES: Sweepstakes operator William George says a longtime business partner asked him early last year to write a $4,000 check to the campaign of Pat McCrory, then the presumptive Republican nominee to become North Carolina's next governor, writes the Associated Press. They sought a new law that would reverse the ban and legalize the games. George, who lives in Rock Hill, S.C., says associate David Hagie assured him McCrory and the Charlotte lobbying firm where the candidate worked, Moore & Van Allen, would help get such a law passed. "If we needed to write a check to Pat McCrory, I wrote a check to Pat McCrory," George told the Associated Press in an exclusive interview.
ELECTRIC RATES: Attorney General Roy Cooper on Monday asked state regulators to lower the rates paid by Duke Energy customers in light of a recent North Carolina Supreme Court decision.
ALSO OF NOTE:
N.C. Health News: More North Carolina hospitals are looking to merge into larger systems, a trend some in the hospital industry maintain is being driven by the Affordable Care Act. But for hospitals, the “urge to merge” has been around for two decades and now state and federal regulators are giving hospital consolidation more scrutiny.
Stateline: The Republican governors who decline to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act may give not-yet-naturalized immigrants a benefit that American citizens in their states can’t get. Specifically, those immigrants may be able to purchase federally-subsidized health insurance that will be unavailable to the poorest American citizens.
Charlotte Observer: Far more workers die on the job in North Carolina than the state reports, according to a new study by workplace safety advocates. While the N.C. Department of Labor reported that just 35 workers were killed on the job in 2012, the report by the National Council on Occupational Safety and Health estimates that the true number is more than three times higher.