Raleigh, N.C. — Good morning, and welcome to Today @NCCapitol for Thursday, Feb. 21. This is WRAL's roundup of what you need to know about North Carolina state government this morning.
HOUSE: The full House goes into session at 11 a.m. but Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, told members that the chamber would have skeleton sessions today and Monday. That means the next floor votes won't come until Tuesday.
SENATE: The Senate will open for business at 11 a.m. but won't hold any votes or debates until noon. When it does, senators will be taking up the group home fix, a temporary funding patch meant to ensure that those with mental health problems who live in smaller facilities do not have to move. WRAL.com will carry the session live. Check the Video Central box on the home page.
Senators will also get a look at the bill meant to allow an annual New Year's Eve possum drop to continue. The measure passed the Senate Rules Committee with no debate on Wednesday.
WRAP: The Wrap @NCCapitol reviews Wednesday's legislative action, including how the House Rules Committee killed a bill to allow medical marijuana, but pushed forward a measure to clarify it's illegal for women to go topless in public. Our reporters also look at the juxtaposition between two tax bills heard Wednesday, one ending the estate tax and one that doesn't extend the earned income tax credit.
COMMITTEES THURSDAY: For a full list of committees, check the main @NCCapitol page. Here are some of the highlights:
- UNC Board of Governors nominations start in a House select committee. (LOB 425, 9:30 a.m.)
- House Government committee takes up a measure to re-legalize the use of steel traps to trap animals in some western counties. (LOB 643, 10 a.m.)
- Senate Judiciary 2 will take up a bill to revoke the driver's licenses of those convicted of passing a stopped school bus. (1027, 10 a.m.)
- Senate Commerce will take up the bill that would allow the state to being issuing permits for fracking in 2015. (Room 1027, 11 a.m.) WRAL.com tentatively plans to carry the meeting live, depending on technical issues. Check the Video Central box on the home page.
LOTTERY: Gov. Pat McCrory's call to change how state lottery money is allocated won't have a measurable impact on North Carolina schools, observers said Wednesday.
HIGHWAYS: Lawmakers are looking at various options to address the growing shortfall in road-building funds in the state Department of Transportation. The state gas tax generates much of the money for DOT, but with more fuel-efficient cars and an increasing number of hybrids and electric vehicles, the gas tax isn't getting the job done.
BLUNT VOTE: The House Rules Committee has killed a bill that would have legalized medical marijuana, an effort by House leaders to stem a tide of phone calls and emails on the topic. Under House rules, the topic is ineligible to be heard again this session.
TAXES: The House Finance Committee passed a bill Wednesday that repeals the estate tax, what some Republicans call the "death tax." The measure will next go to the Appropriations Committee. Majority Leader Edgar Starnes said he was uncertain whether it would go to the floor as a stand alone bill or be wrapped into the budget.
Also Wednesday, the full House approved a technical bill meant to match up North Carolina's tax code with the federal tax code. Democrats used the measure to make the point that the earned income tax credit, which benefits low income families, expires at the end of this year.
The two measures are unrelated, but liberals used their juxtaposition to make the point that at the same time the House is eliminating a tax that applies mainly to wealthy people to the tune of $52 million every year, it is eliminating a credit that benefits low income people at a cost of $105.2 million per year.
"When you start taking from the need and giving to the greedy, there's a problem," said Rep. Mickey Michaux, D-Durham, summing up this line of thought on the House floor.
Rep. Julia Howard, R-Davie, and other Republicans pushed back against this notion, saying the earned income tax credit was already set to expire before this year and that it was riddled with problems.
"About 30 percent, 30 people out of every 100 who filed a federal income tax claiming the earned income tax credit used fraudulent information," Howard said.
ALSO WEDNESDAY: A bill increasing the penalties for child abuse easily cleared the House Judiciary C Committee and is headed to Appropriations. The measure clarifying that it is illegal for women to go topless in public cleared the House Rules Committee and is headed to a floor vote on Tuesday. Those who produce methamphetamine will face stiffer penalties under a bill that cleared the House Wednesday and is now headed to the Senate.
The Full Senate did not take up any business Wednesday. However, the Senate Rules Committee did hear a bill that would take supervision of Charlotte's international airport away from the city and put it in the hands of an independent authority.
LOBBYISTS: Secretary of State records show Theresa Kostrzewa, a well known lobbyist, has been hired by the Wake County School Board. The board is pushing back against a proposal to strip it of some property ownership rights as well as change how its members are elected. Tom Fetzer, a lobbyists and former state Republican Party chairman, has been hired by Wake County government to push those changes.
WORTH A READ:
STATELINE: "Numerous governors are in the process of selling their legislatures and their voters on tax cuts, tax increases or revenue-neutral tax reform—with specific dollar figures attached. Yet, to a greater extent than most governors acknowledge, those projections come with significant uncertainty. In places where major tax changes pass, the accuracy of the advance numbers will go a long way toward determining whether or not budgets are balanced in the years ahead."
CITIZEN TIMES: "State and federal wildlife officials Wednesday announced the end of a four-year undercover operation to halt bear poaching and other wildlife violations in Western North Carolina and north Georgia."
- Gov. Pat McCrory appointed Paul Butler, Jr. of Bladen County as chairman of Post-Release Supervision and Parole Commission. Butler is a veteran and former Director of the Regional Economic Development Commission for the Southeast. Butler will serve as the chairman, replacing former Senator Tony Rand, who will remain on the Commission.
- N.C. Department of Public Safety Secretary Kieran Shanahan today named Michael Sprayberry as the director of North Carolina Emergency Management. Sprayberry was appointed as deputy director for North Carolina Emergency Management in 2005. As such, he has overseen the division’s budget, as well as the emergency and human services, communications and field staff that work closely with local communities on disaster prevention and response. Prior to joining NCEM, Sprayberry served in the North Carolina Army National Guard for 25 years as a field artillery and infantry officer. He also served in the U.S. Marine Corps. Sprayberry is a graduate of the Army Command and General Staff College and has both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Sprayberry succeeds Doug Hoell, who retired from NCEM earlier this month.