Raleigh, N.C. — Good morning, and welcome to Today @NCCapitol for Monday, Feb. 25. This is WRAL's roundup of what you need to know about North Carolina state government this morning.
MCCRORY: Gov. Pat McCrory finishes a trip to Washington, D.C., today with a governors-only meeting at the White House. During his time in D.C., McCrory has done at least a couple of interviews. Late last week he spoke with MSNBC, telling the cable channel he stood behind a decision to reduce unemployment benefits.
"So I cut some of the benefits and actually raised some of the fees on businesses, because they were only paying off the interest," the governor told the network. "I believe government, whether at the local, state or federal level, has to pay off the credit cards."
McCrory also told the Charlotte Observer's man in Washington that he had signed off on the plan to use a special design for drivers licenses issued to immigrants remaining in the United States under the DACA deferred action program.
“I thought it was a very sound resolution based upon on federal and attorney general’s ruling,” said McCrory.
Also late last week:
- McCrory joined a coalition of governors pushing offshore energy exploration.
- McCrory hired former NBC-17 reporter Kim Genardo as his new communications director. The transition raised eyebrows in journalism circles.
SENATE TODAY: There are no Senate committees scheduled today. The full Senate will meet at 7 p.m. and has two seemingly noncontroversial bills on its calendar.
HOUSE TODAY: The are no House committees today. House Speaker Thom Tillis declared tonight's 6 p.m. session will be a skeleton session, which means there will be no recorded votes.
EDUCATION PRESSER: Tillis will hold a news conference at 3 p.m. to discuss his plans for "Education Week" in the House. The Speaker told House members last week that the legislature would meet with superintendents from around the state on Tuesday, principals from around the state on Wednesday and teachers of the year from around the state on Thursday. He said that the meetings would include a chance for educators to sit on the House floor and were designed to give them a chance to tell lawmakers what changes were needed in the K-12 system.
REDISTRICTING: The three-judge panel hearing challenges to the legislative and congressional districts drawn in 2011 is scheduled to hold hearings over two days in Raleigh. According to the Associated Press, "The litigation had been stuck in neutral for months while the state Supreme Court considered what kind of documents state-paid private attorneys for Republican legislative leaders must release." The justices sided with lawmakers, allowing them to keep communications between themselves and lawyers constitutional.
The three superior court judges hearing the case will sort through motions for summary judgment this week. Hearings start at 10 a.m. today. Location: North Carolina Business Court, 225 Hillsborough Street, Suite 303.
ON THE RECORD: This weekend Anchor David Crabtree and Capitol Bureau Chief Laura Leslie talk about Gov. Pat McCrory's State of the State speech with Chris Fitzsimon of N.C. Policy Watch and Becki Gray of the John Locke Foundation.
NO WRAP: The Wrap @NCCapitol, our end-of-day video review of action at the legislature, will not appear Monday evening. The Wrap will return on Tuesday.
LOCAL IMPACT: Federal officials from all parties are hoping to avoid the across-the-board spending cuts called "the sequester." In North Carolina, reports the Associated Press, 22,000 Defense Department civilian employees could be furloughed, reducing gross pay by around $117.5 million this year alone, the White House says. Army base funding would be cut by $16 million, while funding for Air Force operations would be cut by $5 million. That information comes from a data sheet distributed by the White House. For a Q&A on the sequester, click here.
BLUEPRINT: At the end of last week, news of a memo circulated to partners of Blueprint NC, a nonprofit that provides support for many liberal-leaning organizations, roiled the political circles in Raleigh. The memo laid out plans for how to push progressive policies by attacking Republican leaders. On Friday and over the weekend, Blueprint backed away from responsibility for the memo, saying that two different documents had been spliced together into one electronic file by individuals who leaked it to the media.
Reports about the memo spurred passionate responses from Republican-leaning groups. A contributor to Red State, for example, wrote, "Regardless of what transpires with Blueprint NC, if it suddenly disappears off the radar screen, one thing is certain, much like the “downfall” of ACORN, more groups like it will spring up to replace it…until they too have the light shed on them."
Meanwhile, longtime Democratic consultant Gary Pearce writes, "spare me the whining and the inevitable high-minded denunciations. Politics ain’t beanbag, as they say. If you’re not ready to get some mud and blood on your uniform, get off the field."
INSPECTIONS: Lawmakers are making another run at eliminating the annual vehicle safety inspection requirement. North Carolina is one of 18 states, along with the District of Columbia, to mandate the inspections, but House Bill 59 would scrap the requirement.
FROM THE WIRE: A dozen years after North Carolina became the first state to outlaw short-term, high-cost payday lending, legislators and lobbyists are pushing for the industry's return, promising protections to prevent borrowers from sinking into a cycle of debt.
GUNS: New rules for gun shows at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds were tested for the first time Saturday, a month after three people were injured in an accidental shooting. People with guns attending the Capital City Gun Show had to park in a designated area, use a separate entrance, remove guns from their cases and remove all magazines, bullets or shells from weapons before entering the Jim Graham Building. The show opened at 9 a.m. Saturday and will run through Sunday afternoon.
LATER THIS WEEK: "When the Supreme Court hears arguments Wednesday (February 27) in a direct challenge to a central part of the Voting Rights Act, it will once again wade into a decades-old dispute over voting rights that has its roots in the country’s long history of racism....The issue is Section 5 of the law, which requires all or part of 16 states to get any changes to election law pre-approved by either the Justice Department or a federal court," reports Stateline.