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.
EARLY WEEKEND: Lawmakers are scheduled for a relatively light day of work Thursday, particularly in the state House. No votes are scheduled for the House floor and only one House committee is expected to meet.
SENATE: No Senate Committees are scheduled to meet, but two bills are slated for floor action at 11:30 a.m. SB 14: Increase access to career and technical education, creates a program under which high school graduates would earn diplomas marking them as ready for a trade, ready for college or both.
The more controversial bill of the day will be SB 10, the measure which ends some obsolete boards but also fires Democratic appointees to a number of boards and commissions. The Senate tentatively approved the bill on Wednesday, but several senators raised questions about a provision that would fire 12 special superior court judges.
"I just have a real concern," Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, R-Cabarrus, said. The state constitution prohibits removing judges from office other than through impeachment.
Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson, the bill's sponsor, said that the bill eliminates the positions rather than simply firing those who hold them. Such actions have been found to be legal in the past, he said. Still, Apodaca himself objected to third reading on Wednesday so that the bill would be heard a final time today.
WRAP: In Wednesday's version of The Wrap @NCCapitol, Capitol Bureau Chief Laura Leslie and report Mark Binker talk over the Senate commissions bill, the Opossum Full Employment Act, and other activity from the day.
VOLLER: New NC Democratic Party Chairman Randy Voller will hold a news conference at party headquarters on Hillsborough Street at 9:30 a.m. "Chairman Voller will outline his vision for the future of the Democratic Party and his goals for his time as Chair," according to a news release. WRAL.com will carry this news conference live. Tune in through the Video Central box on the home page.
MEET THE NEW BOSS: Dianna Lightfoot, the state's new director of Child Development and Early Education, has been running a nonprofit that advocates against "institutional" preschool programs, such as the North Carolina Pre-K program she now oversees. Hours after becoming the focus of media attention, Lightfoot deleted her Twitter account, which contained a number of postings expressing anti-gay sentiments.
DROZ: As expected, environmental activists Wednesday were critical of a sparsely attended presentation by climate science skeptic John Droz.
FUNERALS: A bill to protect military funerals from protests such as those launched by the Westboro Baptist Church easily cleared committee on Wednesday. However, as Paul Woolverton at Fayetteville Observer reports, the measure gives some civil rights activists pause, especially a provision the extends the buffer zones around funerals. "The wider buffer could violate the protesters' free-speech rights and unintentionally stifle the rights of others," the paper reports.
MORE WEDNESDAY BILLS: The controversial remake of North Carolina's unemployment system cleared the Senate Finance Committee Wednesday. The bill cuts benefits for unemployed workers while raising taxes on employers in order to repay more than $2.5 billion borrowed from the federal government to pay unemployment claims. Senate leaders have scheduled floor debate for Tuesday, Feb. 12.
Also clearing committee votes Wednesday were bills to limit local governments ability to take land through eminent domain, increase penalties for those who make methamphetamine, and allow DENR permit the temporary trapping of animals, such as possums.
LOBBY THIS: Some Wake County lawmakers are irritated that Wake County schools has voted to hire a lobbyist.
VOTING: A lunch-time session hosted by the Federalist Society may have provided a preview of this year's Voter ID debate. Related: Pew Center on the States issues a report grading states on their election performance. North Carolina scores relatively well.
SOLES: WECT reports "Former State Senator R.C. Soles is scheduled to receive the Order of the Long Leaf Pine," one of the highest honors the state can bestow.
INVESTIGATES: Private country clubs can claim nonprofit status.
TOPPLES BARRED: Organizers of an annual topless rally in Asheville pledge to fight a measure that would make the proceedings illegal. "Though we've explained our viewpoint many times during GoTopless rallies over the last two years, politicians are still missing the entire point," GoTopless President Nadine Gary said in a news release. "Our rallies are aimed at bringing attention to a serious matter of unconstitutional, unequal treatment: In much of the United States, women are still persecuted or arrested for going topless, while men aren't."