Today @NCCapitol (April 4): Dueling voter ID pressers on the schedule, long afternoon for the House in store
Posted April 4, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — Good morning and welcome to Today @NCCapitol for Thursday, April 4. This is WRAL's roundup of what you need to know about North Carolina state government this morning.
VOTING: Republicans and Democrats at the legislature will wind up the week with dueling news conferences on pending voting legislation
At 9:45 a.m., Democrats will take the news conference room to talk about "recent voting legislation." Both Rep. Larry Hall, D-Durham, the minority leader in the House, and Sen. Martin Nesbitt, D-Buncombe, the minority leader in the Senate, are scheduled to speak.
Likely on their agenda are GOP-filed bills that would curb early voting hours, and other measures, such as one that would create a tax penalty for North Carolina parents whose children register to vote at college.
At 10:30 a.m., House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, will hold a news conference on voter ID legislation. Republicans have yet to file a voter ID bill this year, although they have had several committee meetings and public hearings examining the issue. The House is scheduled to hold another public hearing this Wednesday at 4 p.m.
SENATE FLOOR: The Senate meets at 11 a.m. and has 10 bills on its calendar. One would increase the penalties for drivers who change lanes abruptly and cause serious injuries or property damage to motorcycle riders.
HOUSE FLOOR: The House meets at 1 p.m. with a dozen bills on its calendar. A measure dealing with background checks for those applying for public benefits got a lot of debate Wednesday before being pulled from the floor. WRAL.com will carry this meeting live. Check the Video Central box on our home page.
The measure in question, sponsored by Rep. Dean Arp, R-Union, would require background checks for anyone applying to receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, which are typically federally funded cash payments, or aid commonly known as food stamps.
"This bill make a public policy statement that all state agencies should work with law enforcement to keep the public safe and any public assistance should first go to law-abiding citizens," Arp told his colleagues. He told a story about local Department of Social Services workers in his county getting in trouble for alerting local sheriffs to the presence of a wanted fugitive who had applied for aid.
Arp's bill would require that DSS workers run background checks and report those with outstanding warrants to local law enforcement. House members did not quibble with the concept but questioned how it would be carried out.
"This is an stunningly expensive bill," Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland said. Each individual background check costs roughly $38, colleagues said. According to the Associated Press, 822,000 people benefited from foods stamps in February while the state's Work First program, the program through which TANF payments are granted, helped 21,400 in March. While there would be no cost to the state, the cost to county DSS offices could run into the millions of dollars, collectively.
Floor debate Wednesday was cut off and postponed until today, giving lawmakers a chance to review the measure overnight.
COMMITTEES: For a full committee calendar, please see the main @NCCapitol page. Some highlights from today:
Senate Judiciary 1 (10 a.m.) The committee will debate a bill that would make it a crime to fire a weapon inside a building to harm or scare people. The measure was inspired by 2012 case inside a Kernersville Wal-Mart in which the suspect could only be charged with a misdemeanor.
House Government (10 a.m.) Measures on the committee's calendar include a rewrite of how local zoning boards operate and a bill granting cities and counties the power to garnish the wages of local elected officials who owe a municipality money.
WEDNESDAY: Stories we were following Wednesday included:
Renewables Rollback: State House lawmakers are moving ahead with a proposal to freeze and repeal the state's renewable energy standards. The measure, House Bill 298, passed a House Commerce subcommittee 11-10 on Wednesday. Reps. Ruth Samuelson, R-Mecklenburg, and Tom Murry, R-Wake, joined Democrats in voting against it.
Medicaid: Saying North Carolina's Medicaid program is too complex and inconsistent, Gov. Pat McCrory on Wednesday as he unveiled plans to reform the costly health plan for low-income and disabled state residents. His plan would turn the state's health insurance program for the poor and disabled over to a trio of competing managed care companies.
Death Penalty: The state Senate voted 33-14 Wednesday to repeal the state's historic Racial Justice Act and restart executions in North Carolina. The bill also cleans up questions surrounding the procedure used to kill death row inmates and how the state officials are formally put on notice that an inmate's execution needs to be set.
Sweepstakes: Reps. Michael Wray, D-Northampton, and Jeff Collins, R-Nash, have filed a bill that would legalize, tax and regulate video sweepstakes. House Bill 547 would reverse course on the state's current policy. Lawmakers have been trying to stamp out sweepstakes, which came into the state after stand-alone video poker machines were outlawed in 2006. After several legal setbacks, the state Supreme Court in December upheld a state law banning the games.
Charters: The Senate Education Committee pushed through a measure Wednesday that would create a new independent board to oversee the state's charter schools, something backers say will give the publicly funded but privately run institutions more thoughtful oversight. The committee held a public hearing on the bill last week but did not take comments from the public Wednesday. That caused grumbling among some audience members, three of whom stood silently in the back of the room. Two of the three wrapped scarves around their mouths as a sign they were being prevented from talking. General Assembly police removed them from the legislative complex.
Religion: A House resolution that supports creating an official religion in North Carolina and ignoring any federal ruling against Christian prayer by public bodies statewide flies in the face of the U.S. Constitution, the American Civil Liberties Union said Wednesday.
Confirmed: The North Carolina General Assembly on Wednesday confirmed six appointments to the state Board of Education, despite an objection raised by Democrats who said one nominee had offended gays with a vote on a bullying measure.
ELSEWHERE: Other news worth noting this morning includes:
Charlotte Observer: Republican lawmakers in North Carolina are expected next week to propose a sweeping new state law that would grant driving privileges to residents living in the country illegally but also would adopt Arizona-type enforcement measures authorizing police to check the immigration status of people they question for other suspected offenses. Republican state Rep. Harry Warren, who last year co-chaired a special House panel on immigration, said this week that he planned to introduce his legislation Tuesday or Wednesday. He declined to share details, but he said the bill “focuses on an appropriate state-level response to the issue of illegally present persons in North Carolina.”
Stateline: Seventeen states have an agency charged with overseeing the wholesale or retail sale of liquor or wine, but only Pennsylvania and Utah exert complete control over all such sales. The roster of “control states” (see map) hadn’t changed significantly in decades until last June, when Washington privatized its state-run system, becoming the first state since the 1930s to completely abandon its role in both retail and wholesale liquor sales. One reason it is difficult to change the status quo is that alcohol sales involve deeply entrenched interests — with even deeper pockets. Liquor stores, grocery stores, bars and alcohol distributors all feel the impact when a state alters its policy. According to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, an industry group, the beverage alcohol industry contributes $400 billion to total annual U.S. economic activity, including $90 billion in wages and 3.9 million jobs.
Winston-Salem Journal: More than half of the 1.6 million North Carolina residents currently without health insurance could be covered in 2014 by federal tax credits paying a sizable portion of their premium costs, according to a national advocacy group. Families USA based its estimates on eligibility requirements to participate in federal insurance exchanges created through the Affordable Care Act. The exchanges will be subsidized by the federal government, operated by state governments and go into effect Jan. 1.
News & Record: That 11 N.C. House members, including the House majority leader, seem to think North Carolina isn’t subject to the First Amendment is understandably disconcerting to a lot of people. But it does not mean that North Carolina, or the North Carolina GOP, holds this opinion. So, please, national media folks noticing this bill, don’t paint us all with one brush. I know it makes great click bait. Just quote from other stories and slap something online next to a “LOOK: Lindsay Lohan spills out of her dress” teaser and you’re almost guaranteed 10,000 comments. But please recognize reality, even while making fun of North Carolina Republicans you think are ignoring it.