Raleigh, N.C. — Good morning and welcome to Today @NCCapitol for Monday, July 15. This is WRAL's roundup of what you need to know about North Carolina state government today.
MCCRORY'S VIEW: Gov. Pat McCrory responded to last week's editorial in The New York Times by sending his own Letter to the Editor to the paper saying North Carolina is on a "powerful comeback," the newspaper's criticism notwithstanding.
"My reforms have stepped on the toes of the political right and the left who are vested in the old ways of doing business. But in my 14 years as mayor of Charlotte, I learned that it didn’t matter whether a good idea came from a Republican or a Democrat. What mattered was whether it solved a problem and did so at a cost taxpayers could afford," McCrory wrote in his letter, which recycled many of his campaign themes.
MEANWHILE: Editorial writers continued to give McCrory an earful this weekend. The Greensboro News & Record sent the governor a memo, saying he should "man up" and veto the abortion bill poised to be passed by Republican lawmakers. Charlotte Observer Editorial Page Editor Taylor Batten quotes former Gov. Jim Martin, North Carolina's only living former Republican governor, as saying voters ought to give McCrory more time to gain his footing. “I remember more than one newspaper criticized me for doing too much or not enough," Batten quotes Martin as saying.
NORQUIST: At least one writer was giving McCrory and the GOP legislature some props: Grover Norquist. The head of Americans for Tax Reform has been urging the legislature to make cuts to the state's personal and corporate tax rates for months. "Republican Governor Pat McCrory and legislative Republicans campaigned on cutting the state income tax. The state Senate last week passed a bill to lower and flatten the income tax, and the state House approved similar legislation last month. Lawmakers and budget officials are now developing a compromise bill and McCrory recently announced they are close to a deal," Norquist wrote. "If Republicans are successful, North Carolina lawmakers will leave for summer break having delivered on one of their top campaign promises."
BUDGET AND TAXES: House and Senate leaders negotiating budget and tax bills met over the weekend, but lawmakers did not have a deal to announce Sunday night. Still, sources close to the negotiations suggested a tax bill, followed quickly by a budget deal, could happen "early in the week."
TODAY: Moral Monday protests return to the General Assembly at 5 p.m., with more arrests expected. This week's protests will focus on women's rights. Meanwhile, the House and Senate both have controversial pieces of legislation on the calendars for their 7 p.m. floor sessions this evening.
IN THE HOUSE: The chamber is scheduled to hear the Reclaim NC Act, a measure meant to overhaul the state's immigration laws. The measure, which has yet to be heard in the Senate, would clear the way for some undocumented individuals to get drivers licenses but would create some stricter enforcement measures.
WRAL.com will carry the 7 p.m. House floor session live. Please check the Video Central box on our home page.
IN THE SENATE: Once again, Senators are scheduled to give final approval to a bill that would force the City of Durham to provide water and sewer service to the controversial 751 South development. Senators put off consideration of the measure twice last week.
It is possible that a controversial abortion measure could cross back over to the Senate Monday. However, the legislature's bill tracking system shows that the House has not formally sent the measure over for consideration. Once the measure does return to the Senate, lawmakers could approve it and send it to the governor with one vote.
ABORTION: Gov. Pat McCrory said Friday that he would sign the abortion measure passed by the House last week if it comes to his desk unaltered. He said changes made by the House satisfied his concerns about the bill.
MINGLING: McCrory was roundly criticized last week for telling the Wilson Times he "mingled" with Moral Monday protesters. That assertion was met with skepticism by reporters and others who regularly attend the protests, who said they had never seen McCrory in the crowd – something that would have attracted attention. As it turns out, a Facebook posting by at least one Moral Monday attendee suggests she may have spied the governor near the protest. And McCrory's office clarified on Friday he passed by the crowd on his way home from the Capitol.
“Governor Pat McCrory interacts with many people, including protesters,” said Kim Genardo, the Governor’s Communications Director. “Every day he walks to and from work, to meetings in government buildings and throughout the city of Raleigh. When possible the Governor will stop and chat with the people of North Carolina.”
TRANSPARENT: Abortion debates in the General Assembly the last two weeks have been as much about the legislative process as about the content of the divisive proposals.
Democrats have repeatedly cried foul during the six-month session, saying the Republican majorities in the House and Senate are circumventing public debate by introducing bills with little notice, if any, and using their numerical advantage to push them through the chambers quickly.
GOP says Democrats used same legislative tactics for years "They simply are imposing their will," said Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland.
Republican lawmakers say more notice would do little to change the outcomes; they have the numbers to pass their agenda. They also say there's not enough time in the session to allow public comment on every controversial bill, adding that Election Day gives the public a chance to comment on their actions.
Also, many Republicans say, their actions are business as usual at the General Assembly.
"Let me tell you about process. Let's talk about the Election Reform Act of 2004, 2006, 2008. They were always heard around 2 o'clock in the morning the last night we were here," said Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson. "The Racial Justice Act, it reappeared one afternoon and caught us all off guard."
On the Record: Abortion changes bring up transparency debate ON THE RECORD: Glazier and Rep. Ruth Samuelson, R-Mecklenburg, hashed over the abortion bill and transparency issues on this week's edition of "On the Record." Host David Crabtree and reporter Mark Binker also speak with Ran Coble of the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research about the ins and outs of legislative process.
MORE STORIES: Other stories we were following this weekend included:
UNEMPLOYMENT: Federal regulators have signed off on the bulk of North Carolina's new unemployment insurance law but warned the state that some rules governing who is ineligible to receive unemployment benefits need to be rewritten. A 13-page letter from Gay Gilbert, administrator with the U.S. Office of Unemployment Insurance, details areas where the new state law fails to comply with federal rules, as well as other areas of potential conflict.
PRIORITIES ON HOLD: A bill giving Gov. Pat McCrory more flexibility to hire and fire state workers is sitting in legislative limbo, despite backing from the State Employees Association of North Carolina, the largest union of state workers. The measure, House Bill 834, has been sitting for two weeks in the Senate Clerk's office, a limbo between committees that might hear and change the bill, and the Senate floor, which could send it forward on its legislative journey. That's despite pleading from McCrory, a Republican, who has asked his fellow members of the GOP for the bill
REFORM: Republican legislative leaders and GOP Gov. Pat McCrory pledged to work toward modernizing and simplifying North Carolina's tax code this year, largely by cutting tax rates and eliminating tax exemptions that critics call loopholes. After several competing plans surfaced — some amended and others shelved — and weeks of unfruitful negotiations, the momentum toward a tax overhaul increased late last week as lawmakers seek to wrap up the legislative session this month. Other attempts at "tax reform" over the past two decades have failed. Any final product that clears the legislature and gets signed by McCrory will be scrutinized, particularly on whether it deserves to be called true "tax reform," or just a series of tax reductions that shifts the burden of who funds state government.
MARRIAGE: A legal attack against North Carolina's constitutional ban on same-sex marriages is taking shape after state Attorney General Roy Cooper's office said Friday he would not oppose adding that challenge to an existing lawsuit. The ACLU and Cooper's office said Cooper won't fight the civil-rights organization expanding its lawsuit against a state law that says unmarried couples cannot be recognized as equal parents. Cooper, a Democrat, is defending the state in that lawsuit.