Raleigh, N.C. — Good morning and welcome to Today @NCCapitol for Monday, April 8. This is WRAL's roundup of what you need to know about North Carolina state government this morning.
COMMERCE: Gov. Pat McCrory is scheduled to announce a major shift in how the state will recruit new employers and retain existing businesses at an event in Burlington today. The Republican governor has been hinting at public appearances over the past month that a major reorganization of the department and its philosophy is coming.
“We cannot live off of a brand that needs updating and major revamping to not only compete with our neighbors but compete with the rest of the world," McCrory said during his State of the State speech.
In a recent interview, Commerce Sec. Sharon Decker told WRAL that plans for the Commerce Department include public-private partnerships. With the exception of the Division of Employment Security, which handles payments for federal workers, every function under Commerce's supervision in being reviewed for some private component she said.
"I would tell you that our primary focus right now is on the sales and marketing aspect of Commerce, but not exclusively on that," Decker said. That would include the parts of the Commerce Department that control how state incentives are given out to companies.
Roughly a dozen divisions and programs make up the Commerce Department. Some are tiny in government terms, such as the effort to promote North Carolina's wine industry, while others are sprawling programs, such as the state's job recruitment efforts.
McCrory is scheduled to make his "Major Commerce/Economic Development Policy Announcement" at 2 p.m. at Copland Fabrics in Burlington.
GENERAL ASSEMBLY: There are no legislative committee meetings scheduled for today.
Wake Delegation: Wake County lawmakers will hold their second of two public comment hearings from 4 to 6 this afternoon in room 643 of the Legislative Office Bldg.. Hundreds attended the first meeting two weeks ago. The Dix Park deal will likely remain the most prominent topic, but speakers can weigh in on any issue before the General Assembly. WRAL.com will carry this meeting live.
In the Senate lawmakers have two bills on their calendar, including one that would increase the penalties for cars that changes lanes abruptly causing injuries or property damage to motorcyclists. That measure had been up for a vote last week but was move to Monday night's calendar. Session begins at 7 p.m.
In the House session begins at 7 p.m. but lawmakers won't work past 7:45 p.m. Speaker Thom Tillis said last week. The chambers has a dozen bills on its calendar, including one directing the school system to set up policies to ensure children who are deaf and hard of hearing get extra help.
DEMOCRATS: Democratic Party Chairman Randy Voller will hold his weekly news conference at 2:30 p.m. at the party's headquarters in Raleigh. Voller, along with Rep. Alma Adams, D-Guilford, will focus on bills such as a measure to require voter ID, calling them part of a Republican "war on voting rights."
FROM THE WEEKEND:
Inspections: Instead of receiving bonus points on their inspection grades for taking a food safety class, North Carolina restaurants will be docked points, starting next year, if they don't have managers with the necessary training. Local health directors say a Senate bill that seeks to ease those requirements could compromise the safety inspections, but supporters of the legislation argue it's simply a misunderstanding.
Voter ID: Some legal experts say charging people for photo identification cards in order to vote in North Carolina might violate the state constitution. House Republican leaders unveiled their proposal Thursday for a voter ID law, and they plan to hold a public hearing on the legislation next Wednesday before beginning debate on it. House Bill 589 would be one of the strictest voter ID laws in the country. Unlike other states, those who need IDs would be expected to pay for them if they can.
Taxes: Republican legislative leaders and Gov. Pat McCrory brimmed with optimism early this year about prospects for passing a North Carolina tax code overhaul that most agree has been needed for decades. Still, they didn't predict smooth sailing. As the first detailed proposals get scrutinized in the Senate, similar obstacles with past efforts are surfacing. Fiscal advocacy groups say proposals either hurt the poor or don't go far enough for job growth. Trade and government associations are criticizing the fine print.
WORTH THE READ:
Greensboro News & Record: This may prove a watershed year for education in North Carolina, with the state’s Republican legislative majority rolling out bills that could bring comprehensive reform.
Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, is pushing to eliminate tenure for K-12 teachers. The bill could set the stage for an overhaul in the way the state pays its teachers. Speaker of the House Thom Tillis promises his own education reform package, with state Rep. Marcus Brandon, D-Guilford, leading the working group. That bill will be “more comprehensive” than Berger’s bill, Brandon said.
It remains to be seen whether it will incorporate Berger’s proposals and whether the two chambers — and the governor — can reach an agreement.
Charlotte Observer: North Carolina lawmakers are considering barring sheriffs from requesting the mental health records of applicants for concealed gun permits. But an examination of dozens of cases shows that officials in Mecklenburg rely on those records to judge how safe it is to grant someone a permit.
Access to the records have allowed Mecklenburg residents who were denied gun permits for mental health reasons to win permits when they appealed to the chief District Court judge.
Fayetteville Observer: State Treasurer Janet Cowell says the Republican-led General Assembly should consider spending more money on the state's growing infrastructure needs, such as roads, utilities and the university system.
Stateline: Newly freed prisoners traditionally walk away from the penitentiary with a bus ticket and a few dollars in their pockets. Starting in January, many of the 650,000 inmates released from prison each year will be eligible for something else: health care by way of Medicaid, thanks to the Affordable Care Act.