Raleigh, N.C. — Welcome to Today @NCCapitol for Wednesday, Jan 28. Here's what's going on in and around the legislature.
They're back: With the House and Senate set to convene their sessions at high noon, those with interests in changing state law are also assembling in Raleigh.
Religious freedom: Expect much discussion of some very different interpretations of religious freedom over the next week or so.
The North Carolina Values Coalition is hosting a briefing for lawmakers at 4:30 p.m. to outline a Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which would be modeled on a 1993 federal law. Opponents of the law have drawn an immediate line to magistrates' refusals to perform same-sex marriages, but Rep. Paul "Skip" Stam, R-Wake, said a state bill would apply to much more. "It's aimed at dozens of things," he said.
Opponents of the bill, led by Equality NC, will appear at a 10 a.m. presser hosted by, among others, Rep. Grier Martin, D-Wake, in the legislative press room.
Moral Monday on Wednesday: The folks who conducted the "Moral Monday" protests last session say they will be holding a "Preach-In and Pray-In For Moral Agenda" starting at 11 a.m.
The other chamber: The North Carolina Chamber will hold a news conference pushing "forward-thinking solutions to North Carolina’s transportation funding crisis" at 10 a.m. at the Hyatt on Corporate Center Drive.
And on the inside: The most action might be in the Senate and House clerks' offices, where members will begin filing bills for the session. Bill filing deadlines are posted on the legislature's website.
In the Senate: When asked what the Senate would be doing this week, Rules Committee Chairman Tom Apodaca said, "Nothing that I know of." Both House and Senate leaders said they expected committees to begin moving legislation next week.
In the House: "It's going to take a while to hand out all those gavels," said Rep. Charles Jeter, R-Mecklenburg, the Republican conference chairman.
Speaker Tim Moore announced his appointments for committee chairmen and vice chairmen on Tuesday. The remainder of the committee assignments should be made on the House floor Wednesday if not before, said Jeter and Rules Committee Chairman David Lewis. Much of the House session Wednesday will be taken up by a tradition in which committee chairmen are called to the front of the chamber to receive their gavels.
The gavel lottery: Much has already been made of the fact that Rep. Julia Howard, R-Davie, will no longer serve as a chairwoman of the House Finance Committee.
Also well marked around the Legislative Building was the fact that Rep. Justin Burr, R-Stanly, one of the youngest members of the General Assembly, lost his seat as a big chair of the Appropriations Committee and his post as a vice chairman of the powerful Rules Committee. Burr was a candidate for the speaker's job and a letter he sent during the course of the campaign for the job was viewed as a swipe at both former Speaker Thom Tillis and Moore, R-Cleveland, who served as Rules Committee chairman under Tillis.
But that's enough gloom. Who was happy Tuesday to see the list of chairmanships? At least a few folks:
DHHS, ACO advocates: In the push-and-pull between those pushing for Medicaid reform, the House has always been seen as much friendlier to the governor's pursuit of a system that develops home-grown accountable care organizations. With Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake, still senior chairman of the Appropriations Committee and Rep. Marilyn Avila, R-Wake, a co-chairwoman of the budget subcommittee on Health and Human Services, indications are that's still the inclination of House leaders.
Moderates: There aren't a ton of self-identified moderates running around the 75-member House Republican caucus, but those who might be seen as middle of the road, at least on some issues, did well. Jeter will co-chair the Banking Committee. Democrat-turned-unaffiliated member Paul Tine, U-Dare, will be one of the chairmen of the budget subcommittee on transportation and a vice chairman of the Insurance Committee. Rep. Jason Saine, R-Lincoln, who probably wouldn't self-identify as a moderate but is known as one of the chamber's more pragmatic members, will serve as both a chairman of the powerful Finance Committee and as chairman of the appropriations subcommittee on information technology.
Lawyers: With four Judiciary committees in the House, there's no shortage of gavels for those with JDs.
New Committee: The House will add a new budget subcommittee on capital – think borrowing and big budget items – according to Lewis. The subcommittee is being put together to handle what is expected to be a request from McCrory for a $1 billion-plus package of borrowing for infrastructure.
State of the State: The one bit of business that Apodaca, Jeter and Lewis said would likely get done Wednesday was a resolution that invites Gov. Pat McCrory to give his State of the State address next week. Although these joint sessions are often held on a Monday night, someone seems to have taken notice that next Monday night will find the UNC men's basketball team hosting Virginia. McCrory's office would not confirm a date for next week, but lawmakers say they expect to hear from the governor either Feb. 3 or Feb. 4.