Raleigh, N.C. — Good morning, and welcome to Today @NCCapitol for Tuesday, Feb. 19. This is WRAL's roundup of what you need to know about North Carolina state government this morning.
SIGNING: Gov. Pat McCrory said Monday he would sign the bill remaking the state's unemployment insurance system this morning. That is on his schedule for 9:15 a.m. but will not be a public ceremony.
FRACKING: The bill that would allow North Carolina to begin issuing permits for on-shore natural gas drilling, aka fracking, is in the Senate Commerce Committee at 11 a.m. this morning. The measure passed the Finance Committee last week and appears to be on a fast-track through the state Senate. WRAL.com will carry the meeting live online. Check the Video Central box on our home page.
MEDICAID: The bill that blocked Medicaid expansion and prevents state agencies from working on the health exchanges created by the federal Affordable Care Act is still on the full Senate calendar. Senators will decide whether to approve the version of their bill sent back by the House, in which case it would go to McCrory, or to reject the changes an move the measure to a conference committee. WRAL.com will carry the meeting live online. Check the Video Central box on our home page. WRAL.com will carry the 2 p.m. meeting live online. Check the Video Central box on our home page. Related: "Health professionals gathered in front of the nonprofit Triad Adult and Pediatric Medicine community clinic on Eugene Street on Monday, urging Gov. Pat McCrory to expand Medicaid, reports the News & Record of Greensboro.
TAXES: House lawmakers will take up what is usually a fairly technical bill dealing with provisions that help North Carolina's tax code sync up with federal tax law. But Democrats are using the measure to criticize Republicans for not extending the Earned Income Tax Credit, a rebate that goes to poor, working families. Members began debating the measure last week, but debate was cut off and held until today.
More on today's legislative agenda is below.
WRAP: Capitol Bureau Chief Laura Leslie and reporter Adam Owens set up the coming day and review McCrory's State of the State speech in Monday night's version of The Wrap @NCCapitol.
DISCLOSURES: In a story launched Monday, WRAL.com takes a look at ethics disclosures filed by lawmakers and what they do and don't tell the public.
STATE OF THE STATE: Gov Pat McCrory delivered his first State of the State address Monday night. In the roughly 45 minute speech, McCrory said his focus as governor would be on the economy, education and improving government efficiency. That said, he touched on a number of other topics, including a request to revive the state's drug treatment courts, programs that his GOP allies had cut during the 2011 legislative session.
McCrory also called for lawmakers to move ahead with tax reform. In details he sketched out Monday night, McCrory said that North Carolina should lower its corporate and personal income tax rates but raise the same amount of money that it does now. The state, he said, should close loopholes in its tax code. McCrory did mention sales taxes on services but was not specific whether he believe a rise in the state sales tax or a broadening of the sales tax base would be needed as part of tax reform.
Much of the speech was familiar, touching on themes of broken government and pledges to make state agencies more customer friendly. New items included a proposal to shift the use of lottery marketing dollars to school technology. After the speech, as expected, Republican lawmakers warmly embraced McCrory's sentiments while Democrats blasted him as light on specifics.
AD LIB: There were several reports that McCrory was going to wing his speech Monday, using only a outline. For what it's worth, the governor appeared to have detailed notes and/or a script to which he referred frequently throughout the speech.
EDUCATION: Monday was a big day for McCrory. He signed his first bill as governor. The measure will change the state's high school diplomas to mark students as ready for career, college or both.
COMMITTEES TODAY: For a full schedule of committees, check the main @NCCapitol page. Committees of note include:
- The House Health Committee will take up a proposal to ban teens from using tanning beds. The same committee also has a bill increasing penalties for methamphetamine related offenses on its calendar. (11 a.m.)
- Students from historically black colleges and universities will hold a news conference to ask lawmakers to help control tuition increases. (noon).
- The Senate Judiciary II Committee will take up a bill revoking licenses of those drivers who pass stopped school buses. (4 p.m.)
OUT OF CONTROL SPENDING: A state Department of Transportation agency failed to seek competitive bids when it gave out contracts worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to a Raleigh consultant, and an investigation found other irregularities in the spending of federal grants worth millions of dollars," reports the N&O.
THORP: Holden Thorp, who is stepping down as chancellor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in June, is taking a job as provost at Washington University in St. Louis, Thorp told UNC students, faculty and staff in an email Monday," reports WRAL's Renee Chou.