Today @NCCapitol (Feb. 26): Medicaid expansion bill is back from conference, fracking bill in the Senate
Posted February 26, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — Good morning, and welcome to Today @NCCapitol for Tuesday, Feb. 26. This is WRAL's roundup of what you need to know about North Carolina state government this morning.
UP EARLY: Gov. Pat McCrory is scheduled to be on Fox & Friends at 7:15 a.m. this morning.
MEDICAID BILL: Senate Bill 4, which turns down the expansion of Medicaid funding under the Affordable Care Act, is back from its conference committee and scheduled to be heard on both the House and Senate floors today. The bill also prohibits state agencies from helping to set up the federal health chances called for under the federal law, sometimes called Obamacare.
Both Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson, and Rep. Justin Burr, R-Stanly, who were members of the conference committee said Monday the changes to the bill were "mainly technical." Those "technical" changes appear to clarify the Department of Health and Human Services can continue to use federal funding to build NC FAST, a computer system meant to channel needing families into benefit programs. The new version of the bill also appears to let the Department of Insurance to continue oversight of health insurance plans offered in North Carolina, even if they're offered on an exchange.
The bill had overwhelming support from House and Senate Republicans on its first trip through the General Assembly. Democrats have been pointing out that other GOP governors have been accepting the Medicaid expansion funding.
Worth noting: The bill now has a fiscal note attached. Although the bill itself anticipates only spending $5 million in state funding, the fiscal note allows for spending as much as $45.7 million. That appears to be a hedge against the federal government not agreeing to swap grants for the NC FAST system.
SENATE SESSION: The Senate will meet at 2 p.m. In addition to the Medicaid bill, the Senate is scheduled to:
- take up a bill that would clear the way for on-shore natural gas exploration and fracking starting in March of 2015. The measure cleared the Senate Commerce Committee last week.
- vote on a bill that would require automatic license suspensions for those convicted of passing a stopped school bus. WRAL.com will carry the Senate session live at 2 p.m. Check the Video Central box on our home page.
HOUSE SESSION: The House will meet at 2 p.m. In addition to the Medicaid expansion bill, House lawmakers will take up a resolution celebrating the 10th anniversary of the effort to bring North Carolina's copy of the Bill of Rights back to the state.
Lawmakers expected to approve bill blocking Medicaid expansion EDUCATORS: The House will bring educators to Raleigh this week to meet with lawmakers about education policy. House Speaker Thom Tillis told reporters Monday that he didn't expect any revelations from the conversations, saying the object was to start a dialog.
Tillis will meet with superintendents across the state from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. today. WRAL.com will carry this session live. Check the Video Central box on our home page.
SEQUESTER: The loss of federal funds under sequestration would mean cuts to programs for military children, technical education and students with disabilities, State Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson told WRAL Monday.
"It's so frustrating to me that one of the most important aspects of what government does, which is to promote public education, is put in jeopardy," Atkinson said.
During his news conference, Tillis said there would be no additional state funding in this year's budget to make up for the loss of money under the federal sequester.
COMMITTEES: For a full list of committee hearings, check the @NCCapitol home page. Among the notable committee meetings happening today:
- House Education (10 a.m.): The committee takes up a bill to allow lottery funds to be used for digital learning, a priority Gov. Pat McCrory mentioned in his State of the State address.
- House Health and Human Services (10 a.m.): The committee has two bill. One, which would required better monitoring of newborns for problems resulting from heart defects, should be relatively non-controversial.
But a bill that would keep those under age 18 from using tanning beds will likely be the subject of controversy. Last week's meeting ended with industry officials disputing information from medical professionals about artificial tanning's link to skin cancer. Today's meeting is expected to continue that push and pull. House takes up teen tanning ban
EXPOSURE: House Bill 34, the bill clarifying that women can be charged with indecent exposure for showing their breasts in public, has once again been sent back to the House Rules Committee. The bill cleared the committee last week. This marks the second time the measure has been sent back to committee from the House floor.
"That's something my Rules Chairman would have decided," said House Speaker Thom Tillis, saying he didn't know why the measure had been returned.
Rep. Tim Moffitt, R-Buncombe, said he wanted to make sure the groundwork had been laid for the bill.
"I want to make sure the Senate will take it up," he said Monday night. "We just want to make sure we have smooth sailing before we bring it to the floor."
Others around the legislative building are forecasting choppy waters for the measure, observing that it rarely portends well for a measure to be sent back from the floor twice. There also seems to be some sentiment among some Republicans that spending so much time on a bill dealing with the exposure bill is making them look like, well, a bunch of boobs.
TAPPING THE BREAKS: Two high profile bills that initially appeared to be ready to move quickly are not on committee calendars this week.
A bill to scrap vehicle safety inspections was due to be heard in House Transportation this week. That meeting was canceled Monday night. Rep. William Brawley, R-Mecklenburg, said the bill's sponsor, Rep. Julia Howard, R-Davie, wanted more time to work on the bill.
Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph, said his bill to bring payday lending back to the state would likely not be heard this week. "I've got a (proposed committee substitute) that I'm perfecting," Tillman said. The new draft of the bill isn't ready yet, he said.
PAYDAY POLLS: Groups on either side of the payday lending issue rolled out dueling polls on Monday.
The North Carolina Justice Center touted a survey that showed "nearly three-fourths of North Carolinians say they would be less likely to vote for a legislator that supported the bill."
Meanwhile, payday lender Advance America sent out the results of its own poll which show 75% of NC voters believe that the state should allow lending companies that meet state and federal regulations to compete to provide more market choices for consumers."
Each poll was flawed in its own way, asking questions designed to elicit the answers desired from respondents. And besides, lawmakers would never make decisions based on what polls well, would they?
ABORTION: Sen. Warren Daniel, R-Burke, and several other GOP senators filed a SB 132, which would adjust the state's health education curriculum. Under the bill, students would be told that having an abortion is a significant contributor to pre-term birth in future pregnancies. The measure appears to be based, at least in part, on a 2012 Finnish study, but is likely to be controversial.
WAKE COUNTY: Wake County Commissioners met with members of Wake County's legislative delegation today, according to Sen. Josh Stein, D-Wake. There was particular attention given to a plan that would transfer control of property from the school system to the county and rearrange how educators are elected. Stein said members of the Wake County School Board will meet with the delegation next Monday at 4 p.m. and likely bring a different perspective as to what should be done.
BLUEPRINT: In the latest turn of the screw of the Blueprint NC story, North Carolina Republican Party Chairman Robin Hayes is calling for the State Board of Elections and IRS to investigate the nonprofit linked to a controversial political strategy memo.
REDISTRICTING: "Attorneys for those who challenged North Carolina's boundaries for General Assembly and congressional seats began making arguments over the heart of the litigation Monday, accusing out-of-state mapmakers of creating lines that diminished the influence of black voters," reports Gary D. Robertson of the Associated Press. A second day of hearings will be held today.
ELSEWHERE: In other news:
Wilmington Star News: "A bill to give New Hanover beach towns the power to enforce smoking bans on the beaches has hit a ‘snag,’ according to one local lawmaker."
North Carolina Health News: "When the owners of several adult care homes walked away from their duties, there was little recourse for local or state officials who wanted to prosecute or punish the owners for abandoning dozens of residents. And the system has been designed that way."
PROFILING: The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina says emails obtained through a federal public records law show that the federal government was considering a plan that would encourage racial profiling in an effort to meet what the ACLU calls quotas to deport illegal immigrants.
FIELD TRIP: Gov. Pat McCrory issued this statement about his weekend trip to Washington, D.C.:
"In North Carolina, we are making tough decisions and setting clear priorities to fix our economy and make government more efficient and effective. We ask our leaders in Washington D.C. to do the same.
"During my trip, I spoke with the President and administration officials about three areas of major concern for North Carolina. First was sequestration. I urged the President and Congress to use responsible budgeting based on priorities, not across-the-board cuts. Second was offshore energy exploration. After a decade of sitting on the sidelines, North Carolina stands ready to partner with other states to contribute to this nation's energy independence and create thousands of jobs. Lastly, I met with the Secretary of Health and Human Services to discuss health care issues and the impact of federal health care legislation on North Carolina.
"As governor, I will continue to be an advocate for North Carolina in our nation's capital on issues that will have an impact on the future of our state."