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.
PRE-K DIRECTOR: Dianna Lightfoot will not serve as the state's new director of Child Development and Early Education, which oversees state-funded childcare programs such as NC Pre-K.
Lightfoot, who was scheduled to start working for the state next week, resigned Thursday after revelations she headed and organization that advocated against publicly-funded early childhood education and had written on her Twitter account that Hillary Clinton was part of a "butch bunch" and questioned whether ultrasonic waves had caused the 2011 Japan earthquake.
NO SESSIONS: No legislative floor sessions or committee meetings are scheduled for Friday.
MONDAY: Don't expect a lot of legislative business to be done Monday. House Speaker Thom Tillis declared the 6 p.m. House floor session would not take up any bills. Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger said his chamber wouldn't have any business to conduct that night either. Some lawmakers will be in town to attend a Monday night event hosted by the Institute for Emerging Issues.
THE WRAP: Capitol Bureau Chief Laura Leslie and reporter Mark Binker talk about the other questions Lightfoot might have faced and wrap the week on Jones Street in Thursday's edition of The Wrap @NCCapitol.
TODAY: Duke Energy critics "will be raising concerns about the company’s plans for serial rate increases" at a press event at 10 a.m. on the steps of the NC Utilities Commission, Dobbs Building, 430 N Salisbury St, Raleigh. How the Utilities Commission receives that plan might depend on who is sitting on the commission when it is heard. Speaking of which...
COMMISSIONS: The Senate gave its final approval to a bill that eliminates some commissions and fires the members of several other oversight boards – including the Utilities Commission – so they can be replaced by Republican appointees. (In the case of the Utilities Commission, Gov. Pat McCrory, a former long-time Duke employee, would appoint the new members.) Senators made two tweaks to the bill on Thursday, deleting a provision that would have allowed the commander of the highway patrol be someone other than a highway patrolman and adding legislative appointees to the state Board of Transportation.
A provision that eliminates several special superior court judicial positions remains. The bills prospects in the House are uncertain.
"The House Republicans have some grave concerns about that bill," said Rep. Edgar Starnes, R-Caldwell, the House majority leader. "I think we have concerns about the whole bill and we're going to be deliberative in our approach to it."
EDUCATION: A bill to expand access to career and vocational education passed the Senate on a 49-0 vote Thursday.
MEDICAID EXPANSION: The House Health Committee is slated to take up S4, the bill that rejects the expansion of Medicaid and participation in state health exchanges authorized by the federal Affordable Care Act.
Three Congressional Democrats urged state lawmakers to reverse course, saying North Carolina would be giving up millions in federal funding.
But Rep. Justin Burr, R-Stanly, a vice chairman of the health committee, said he did not expect the House to make any major changes to the Senate bill. "A few tweaks" are possible, he said. Those tweaks will likely be aimed at making sure the state doesn't give up federal money set aside for a new benefits processing system.
Worth noting: Some Republicans in other states are embracing expansion. As Bloomberg reports, "Six Republican governors have agreed to expand Medicaid, the second-largest piece of President Barack Obama’s U.S. health-care overhaul, accepting federal money to ensure their state’s residents have access to medical coverage."
DEMOCRATS: Randy Voller, the new chairman of the state Democratic Party, used a news conference to lash out at legislative Republicans Thursday. "There's a small group in this state that's trying to take us back in time. Depending on what the bill is, they're either taking us to the 20th century, the 19th century (or) some might even say the Middle Ages," he said.
BILLS: Reps. Kelly Alexander, D-Mecklenburg, and Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford, have filed a bill to legalize medical marijuana in North Carolina. During a January news conference, House Speaker Thom Tillis was skeptical about the changes of such legislation.
Sen. Trudy Wade, R-Guilford, has filed a bill to ensure cafes that serve mainly deserts can obtain ABC licenses. Wade says the bill is to ensure such restaurants can both serve drinks and use alcoholic beverages in their recipes.
UNC: Members of the UNC Board of Governors call a recent academic scandal involving athletes "embarrassing," "inexcusable," and "terrible."
PADDLING: The Associated Press reports "North Carolina's state school board says it opposes using physical pain to enforce discipline, saying corporal punishment does more harm than good."
KUMBA-NAH: A resolution inviting Gov. Pat McCrory to deliver the State of the State address on Feb. 18 passed the Senate 48-1 on Wednesday. The long no vote: Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson, the Senate Rules Chairman. Apodaca wouldn't say why he voted against the measure both times a recorded vote was taken.
"I just didn't feel like voting for it," he said with a smile.