Raleigh, N.C. — Good morning, and welcome to Today @NCCapitol for Tuesday, Feb. 12, WRAL's roundup of what you need to know about North Carolina state government this morning.
SENATE UNEMPLOYMENT: At 2 p.m., the state Senate will take the first of two floor votes on the remake of North Carolina's unemployment program. The bill, which cuts state benefits and would lead federal regulators to cut extended benefits for those who have been unemployed longer than 26 weeks, has come under criticism from Acting U.S. Labor Sec. Seth Harris.
"If enacted, the legislation also would cut off all federally funded Emergency Unemployment Compensation – that is, benefits after 26 weeks of unemployment – to 170,000 unemployed North Carolinians. This cutoff is automatic under federal law," Harris wrote in a news release.
Assuming the Senate passes the measure today, a final Senate vote on Wednesday would send the bill to Gov. Pat McCrory. WRAL.com will live stream the Senate floor session at 2 p.m. Check the Video Central box on the home page.
HOUSE SESSION: Also at 2 p.m., the House will vote on a constitutional amendment restricting governments' ability to exercise eminent domain, the power to take land from property owners. If it passes, the measure will next go to the Senate.
HOUSE HEALTH CARE: The House Health Committee will take up the bill blocking North Carolina from expanding Medicaid or participating in the health insurance exchanges created by the federal Affordable Care Act.
Individual House Republicans have expressed different sentiments on the bill. Early after it was passed by the Senate, House Speaker Thom Tillis said the chamber would carefully consider the measure to take into account objections raised by Gov. Pat McCrory. The Republican governor was worried North Carolina could lose federal funding for a benefits computer system if the bill became law as passed by the Senate.
Rep. Jim Fulgham, R-Wake, said on Saturday's edition of On the Record that he would slow down the bill because he had questions about how the state would care for those without health insurance. And leaders of the Health Committee last week said they would at least make a few tweaks in order to deal with McCrory's concerns.
However, late Monday, health care advocates said they had been told the bill would push through committee without being amended and could go straight to the House floor.
Advocates are also pointing to a video that shows House Republicans backing a state-based exchange just two years ago and questioning why the GOP is dead-set against it now.
MORE HEALTH CARE: On Monday, a group of doctors came to the legislature asking Republicans to reverse course on the bill blocking Medicaid expansion. That same group of doctors were especially critical of Sen. Phil Berger, the president pro tempore of the Senate, who has been circulating a petition supporting the anti-expansion bill.
"It’s filled with complete lies about the Affordable Care Act," Dr. Charles van der Horst, a professor at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, said of the petition. "He’s just not expressing any logic or any sense."
Berger defended the website Monday night, saying that the doctors were "overreacting" to his petition. Berger's petition doesn't target any individual, such as Gov. Pat McCrory or House leaders. Indeed, it seems likely the bill will be signed into law before February is over. So who is he petitioning?
"There's no specific plan at this point," Berger said. "It's just to give people an opportunity to respond and for us to hear how they feel about it."
THE WRAP: Monday night's edition of The Wrap @NCCapitol looks ahead at what's coming today, including the unemployment bill and news conferences galore.
FRACKING: The 2013 N.C. General Assembly Issue Tracker has been updated to include a bill that would allow the state to begin issuing permits for fracking on March 1, 2014.
PRESSERS: News conferences of note today:
9:30 a.m. Democratic Chairman Randy Voller will address, among other things, the bill firing many board and commission members and Berger's Affordable Care Act petition. Location: 220 Hillsborough St.
10 a.m. House Speaker Thom Tillis talks about the coming week at the General Assembly. Location: NCGA press room.
1:30 p.m. The national president of Americans for Prosperity, Tim Phillips, will talk about North Carolina's agenda. This presser is doubly noteworthy because until earlier this year, McCrory's budget director, Art Pope, served as a board member of AFP's national organization. Location: NCGA press room.
MCCRORY SCHEDULE: Gov. Pat McCrory is expected to speak at the Institute for Emerging Issues Forum at 1 p.m. Location: Raleigh Convention Center.
COMMITTEES: House and Senate committees of note today include:
8:30 a.m. Joint Budget Committees: House and Senate budget writers will meet together in their subject matter subcommittees. This is the beginning of a multi-month process that will lead to the development of a $20 billion state budget.
10 a.m. House Health, Room LB 544: The committee will take up the bill blocking Medicaid expansion.
11 a.m. Senate Agriculture, Room 1027: Sec. of Agriculture Steve Troxler and DENR Sec. John Skvarla speak to the committee.
12 p.m. House Transportation: The bill allowing state regulators to study the so-called Red Route for the 540 through Garner. Lawmakers don't support using that route, but need to allow for the study in order to draw down federal funds.
TRANSPORTATION: From the Associated Press: North Carolina's new transportation secretary wants more emphasis put on job creation in determining which road and other infrastructure projects will be funded with the state's limited construction dollars.