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Today @NCCapitol (July 12): Waiting for white smoke

Posted July 12, 2013

— Good morning and welcome to Today @NCCapitol for Friday, July 12. This is WRAL's roundup of what you need to know about North Carolina state government today.

WAITING FOR WHITE SMOKE: There was a time in the not terribly distant past when lobbyists and reporters referred to the full chairs of the House and Senate appropriations committees as "cardinals," a goof on their power over state spending and the fact that they exercised that power cloistered behind closed doors. 

This year, official Raleigh is waiting for not one but two puffs of white smoke to emanate from the budget conclave. Lawmakers are negotiating both a tax reform bill as well as the annual state spending plan. Coming to a satisfactory conclusion on tax reform is seen as a key stumbling block to finishing the budget bill and wrapping up business for the summer.

Those involved in the negotiations used happy talk like "getting closer" and "moving in the right direction" to describe their recent meetings over the tax bill, and top leaders picked up that theme publicly Thursday.   

"Hopefully we can get these things (done) the first of next week," Rules Chairman Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson, told fellow Senators Thursday. If that turned out to be the case, Apodaca said, Senate leaders hoped to finish work by the end of next week. House leaders did not sketch out as firm of a schedule. 

NO MEETINGS: There are no formal legislative committee meetings or sessions on the calendar for Friday. The full House and Senate are due to return to work Monday night at 7 p.m. 

The Wrap @NCCapitol (July 11) The Wrap @NCCapitol (July 11) WRAP: Capitol Bureau Chief Laura Leslie and reporter Mark Binker wrap up Thursday's action on Jones Street, which was dominated by debate over an abortion bill, in The Wrap @NCCapitol.

COMING NEXT WEEK:  The state House on Thursday approved a proposal to add regulations to the operations of North Carolina abortion clinics. That 74-41 vote wrapped up the second week in a row during which abortion regulations has dominated the conversation at the General Assembly and sent the measure back to the state Senate. Senators will have to take a final floor vote to send the measure on to Gov. Pat McCrory.

McCrory issued a veto threat against the measure Tuesday, but House lawmakers say they have since altered the bill to assuage McCrory's objections. McCrory's office has not said whether the changes meet the governor's demands. Critics of the bill say that if the governor signs it, he would be breaking a campaign pledge not to sign any new laws restricting women's access to abortion. 

IT'S ALIVE: A bill that could take responsibility for the construction and upkeep of Wake County public school buildings away from the school board and hand it to the county commissioners is still alive, despite a defeat in committee Thursday. Members of the House Government Committee had removed Wake County from the bill and then voted against the entire measure, but they failed to put a legislative stake through its heart.

For those interested in the mechanics: The committee merely voted against a motion to give the bill "a favorable report," which means the measure is still alive. To kill a measure and make it ineligible for further consideration, the committee would have needed to vote to give it "an unfavorable report." That's something that happens so rarely it was noteworthy when the House Rules Committee took the trouble to give a medical marijuana bill an unfavorable report earlier this year. 

Because lawmakers didn't deliver that blow, the bill was still alive when the committee adjourned.

So late Thursday, House Rules Chairman Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, asked to move the school construction bill from the Government Committee to his Rules Committee. Rep. Paul Luebke, D-Durham, noticed the move and tried to block what is usually a procedural motion.

Roughly 30 minutes of debate ensued, with lawmakers picking through legislative arcana of all sorts, as well as pulling back the curtains a bit on legislative process.

"It (the bill) is sponsored by one of the full chairs of the Senate Appropriations Committee," Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake, a full chair of the House Appropriations Committee. "Let's extend a very basic courtesy." The implication here is that keeping a measure backed by a power state Senators alive – in this case, Sen. Neal Hunt, R-Wake – could help smooth the way during budget talks.

At another point in debate, Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, reminded his colleagues that even if this specific bill died, Moore had other tools at his disposal to revive the content. 

"Please don't think that (blocking Moore's motion) solves the concern you're trying to solve," Lewis said, pointing out that Moore could simply find another Senate bill that has come to the House to serve as a "vehicle" for the school building content. That is exactly how the abortion language the House passed Thursday is traveling back to the Senate and is a common practice toward the end of session. 

In the end, the House voted 71-34 to move the bill. House leaders said Wake County would be included in the bill that would be vetted by the Rules Committee sometime next week.  

OTHER STORIES: Other stories we were following Thursday included: 

AIRPORT: The control of Charlotte-Douglas International Airport will shift from the city to a new regional authority under legislation that the House tentatively approved Thursday. The House voted 72-42 in favor of Senate Bill 81, and a final vote is expected Monday night. The Senate would then have to agree to the House's changes before the proposal is sent to Gov. Pat McCrory, a former Charlotte mayor, for consideration.

ALLEY: Zebulon D. Alley, a former lawmaker and one of the best known lobbyists in state, died Thursday, according to House Speaker Thom Tillis. He was 84.

JORDAN LAKE: A House committee on Thursday pulled back from plans to repeal water-quality regulations for Jordan Lake, choosing to delay the implementation of some to allow more study of the lake's environment. The House Environment Committee voted 12-7 to approve an amended version of Senate Bill 515, and the measure is expected before the full House next week.

GOOLSBY: Ten people are suing the firm owned by Sen. Thom Goolsby and another man, saying they lost money when the company put their savings in volatile investments. "Empowered Investor is a portfolio management firm that promotes itself through seminars and a radio program that Goolsby hosts," according to the Wilmington Star News.

MCCRORY: Gov. Pat McCrory says he has often entered the crowds at the North Carolina Capitol protesting decisions he and Republican legislative leaders advocate, and gotten cussed out in the process. "I go out in the crowd all of the time. Frankly, yesterday I went out and talked to several of them and they were not very respectful. They did not represent the majority of people who call themselves moral by cussing me out, but, you know, that's the way things go sometimes," McCrory said in an interview with The Wilson Times. Those who have attended the events regularly say they have not spotted the governor there and he has not been spotted in any of the pictures or videos of the high profile events yet.

COMING THIS WEEKEND: This weekend, "On the Record" will take a look back at work on the abortion bill this week and talk about the legislative maneuvering that lawmakers use to get work done. Scheduled guests include Ran Coble from the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research, Rep. Ruth Samuelson, R-Mecklenburg, and Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland. The show will air at 7 p.m. on Saturday night or online after that. 

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