Raleigh, N.C. — Good morning, and welcome to Today @NCCapitol, WRAL's roundup of what you need to know about North Carolina state government this morning.
THE BIG STORY: Senate Bill 10 transformed from a sleepy piece of legislation cleaning up obsolete boards and commissions to a hugely controversial measure that some consider a Republican power grab on Tuesday.
The full Senate is expected to hear the bill when it holds votes at 2 p.m. WRAL.com will carry the session live. Check the video central box on the home page.
As rewritten and passed along party lines in the Senate Rules Committee Tuesday, the bill eliminates some boards and commissions while firing those who sit on several key regulatory bodies. It would sack sitting members of the Utilities Commission, Environmental Management Commission, Coastal Resources Commission, Lottery Commission and Wildlife Resources Commission.
The bill would also fire members of the Turnpike Authority, Industrial Commission, 12 sitting special superior court judges, and the chairman of the State Board of Elections.
Gov. Pat McCrory and legislative Republicans would then be free to appoint new members to those boards, replacing those appointed by Democratic Govs. Mike Easley and Bev Perdue with new members more friendly to the GOP.
Newly elected Democratic Party Chairman Randy Voller immediately linked the move to a recent request for a rate increase filed by Duke Energy, where McCrory use to work.
"Does Governor McCrory, a 29 year veteran of Duke Energy, think we have forgotten his links to massive corporation that filed for a 10% rate hike on the same day Republicans proposed to fire all the current members of the NC Utilities Commission – a blatant conflict of interest?" Voller said in a news release.
The impacts of the move could be much broader. Legislative Republicans have talked about limiting the reach of lottery advertising and have consistently talked about the needs for regulations not to inhibit business growth and recruitment. The Environmental Management Commission, Coastal Resources Commission and Wildlife Resource Commission particularly are checks on development, while the Utilities Commission also regulates cable and phone companies.
The move will "give the administration a chance to do what the people have requested," said Sen. Bill Rabon, R-Brunswick.The Republican pointed out that McCrory and the Republican legislature could reappointment some of the same members who will be losing their jobs. He insisted it was unfair to view the bill as Republicans sweeping away Democratic appointees.
"They may look at it that way, but I don't think that's a fair question," Rabon said.
One provision that would have allowed McCrory to appoint two new Supreme Court justices didn't make it into the version of the bill that will be debated by the full Senate today. However, expect to see the idea raised again later in the session.
THE WRAP: Capitol Bureau Chief Laura Leslie and reporter Mark Binker talk over that committee reduction and appointments bill in Tuesday's edition of The Wrap @NCCapitol.
ISSUES: The 2013 N.C. General Assembly Issue Tracker has been updated with legislative action from Tuesday.
DO GOOD: Wednesday is the North Carolina Retail Merchant's annual food drive at the legislative building. If you're going to be downtown today, bring my some nonperishable food for a good cause.
UNEMPLOYMENT: The House passed a sweeping remake of the state's unemployment law Tuesday. The Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to hear the bill at 1 p.m.
MEDICAID: The Senate Tuesday approved a bill that blocks state agencies from expanding Medicaid or helping to build the health insurance exchanges allowed under the federal Affordable Care Act. House Speaker Thom Tillis says his chamber will try to take into account concerns raised by Gov. Pat McCrory about the bill.
COMMITTEE WORK: Although it's not quite a full schedule, both the House and Senate will hold several committee hearing today. Among the most notable:
- House Judiciary B will meet at 10 a.m. to take up a constitutional amendment that would limit the ability of governments to take land from private citizens. The same committee is also scheduled to hear a measure that would give military funerals more protection from disruptions like those caused by the Westboro Baptist Church.
- Also at 10 a.m., the newly constituted House Regulatory Reform Committee will meet for the first time. No bills are on its calendar.
- The Senate Education Committee meets at 10 a.m. to take up SB 14, a bill that would create different career and college endorsements for high school diplomas. The measure would get at a key promise made by McCrory during the 2012 campaign as well as meet a key objective of Senate Republicans' education reform plan.
- The House Rules Committee will take up an animal captivity bill at noon. Our chief possum correspondent will be on the scene.
HOUSE CALENDAR: The House will take up its permanent rules for the 2013 legislative session today and honor the 50th anniversary of the legislative building when it meets at 2 p.m. today. Gov. Pat McCrory is scheduled to be on hand to help celebrate five decades at 16 W. Jones Street.
ENERGY: Rep. George Cleveland, R-Onslow, has invited his House and Senate colleagues to hear a presentation on the environment and energy from John Droz at 11 a.m. Droz is a retired Realtor and climate change skeptic who has been critical of efforts to channel resources into wind and other renewable energy resources. Environmental advocacy groups are upset that he is again talking to lawmakers.
ALSO ON THE CALENDAR: At 11 a.m., the North Carolina AFL-CIO will hold a press conference to "highlight their support for comprehensive immigration reform that protects immigrant and American workers." Location: Sheraton Raleigh Hotel.
GUN RALLY: Hundreds rallied outside the legislative building for additional rights for gun owners Tuesday. Among the most enthusiastic greetings went to Rep. Larry Pittman, R-Cabarrus, who said that he would like to pass a constitutional amendment allowing virtually anyone to carry a concealed handgun.
Pittman said he would include language in his amendment that reads something like, "Any attempt to disarm the law-abiding citizens of North Carolina shall be resisted by the full power of the sate of North Carolina and citizens who have committed no crime have the right personally to resist confiscation of their weapons."
PORTS: As the Wilmington Star News reports, "The N.C. Council of State voted Tuesday to approve a ground lease allowing USA InvestCo to build a 75,000-square-foot cold storage facility to store fruit, vegetables and meat. The facility could ultimately be expanded to 300,000 square feet, in 75,000-square-foot increments."
McCrory and Republican Agriculture Commission Steve Troxler vocally backed the measure, but Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry raised concerns about the deal. The owners of USA InvestCo own other companies that owe property taxes or are in bankruptcy, Berry said.
The lease is predicated on the grant of state and local incentives to the company. Officials with the Ports Authority said the incentives wouldn't make or break the deal, but Berry said there were too many questions about the lease. Auditor Beth Wood, a Democrat, and Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, a Republican, also expressed concerns about the deal but the council approved the lease on a 9-1 vote.
HEALTH BILL: Among the bills filed Tuesday, one filed by Rep. Marcus Brandon, D-Guilford, caught our eye. Even as Republican lawmakers move to block the expansion of Medicaid, Brandon filed a bill to create a single-payer health system in North Carolina.
Brandon said Tuesday he doesn't expect the measure to go anywhere, but filed it to make a point.
"At the end of the day, if you agree health care costs are too high, that people need access, saying 'no' doesn't change any of those factors," Brandon said. "As far as I can tell there's been no plan from the other side to address it."