Today @NCCapitol (July 17): With tax deal almost done, lawmakers beginning to wrap up business
Posted July 17, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — Good morning and welcome to Today @NCCapitol for Wednesday, July 17. This is WRAL's roundup of what you need to know about North Carolina state government today.
TAXES: Despite objections from Democrats about process, both the House and Senate gave tentative approval Tuesday to a tax reform plan that top lawmakers and Gov. Pat McCrory rolled out Monday. The package – the first major changes to North Carolina's tax structure in about 80 years – calls for reducing both personal and corporate income taxes. It also would eliminate the estate tax and preserve the ability of most nonprofits to get refunds of what they pay in sales taxes.
Both the House and Senate are expected to give final legislative approval to the bill during floor sessions today (See below for a schedule).
McCrory justifies tax plan to realtors Interest groups are still picking through the proposal, but even those that are less than 100 percent happy with the plan say they can live with the measure.
North Carolina real estate agents, for example, aren't pleased with a provision capping the state deduction on mortgage interest and property taxes at a combined $20,000. But they say the bill could have been much worse on their industry. Earlier tax reform bills eliminated the deductions altogether.
Nonprofit groups also eyed the plan warily. It preserves the deduction for charitable contributions. And while it sets a $45 million cap on the sales tax refund any one nonprofit can recoup during a year, no nonprofits would have hit that cap last year, meaning all would get their current refunds. Earlier versions of the bill limited deductions for charitable contributions and would have severely ratcheted down the sales tax refund amount.
"While on its face this may appear to be good news for North Carolina nonprofits because none of them will be subject to the cap, we are concerned with the precedent this sets," said a statement from the N.C. Center for Nonprofits. "We believe it is likely that lawmakers will lower the cap in subsequent years so that an ever-increasing number of North Carolina charitable nonprofits will be required to pay burdensome sales tax in the future; notably, key lawmakers have said tax reform is a process and expect further changes to the tax code in the coming years."
TODAY: At first blush, today's legislative schedule looks like a light one. But that's because a lot of work is going on behind the scenes. Budget negotiators are meeting to work out a final spending plan for the state. And lawmakers involved in drafting a bill that expands the number of places in which those with concealed handgun permits can carry their firearms are working out differences between the House and Senate. Reporters, lobbyists and others are also on watch for the Senate to roll out a new version of a bill that deals with election issues and voter ID.
The Wrap @NCCapitol (July 16) Gov. Pat McCrory's public schedule says he will drop by the first meeting of the newly reconstituted Economic Development Board at 10 a.m. and he will hold a bill signing ceremony at 4 p.m. A McCrory spokesman did not say which of the nearly five dozen bills pending on McCrory's desk the governor would sign, saying only that the ceremony would not be fore the tax reform measure.
For a full list of legislative committees and events, please see the main @NCCapitol page. Among the highlights scheduled thus far:
HOUSE FINANCE (8:30 a.m. | 544 LOB): The committee will deal with bills expanding how much State Treasurer Janet Cowell can invest in alternative investments, and a measure that would quicken the pace at which former felons could have their firearm rights restored.
HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (11 a.m. | House Chamber): Lawmakers will take a final vote on the tax reform bill. They are also expected to vote on a resolution supporting "of the constitutional right of the people of this State to keep and bear arms and opposes any infringement by the federal government of the right of the people of this State to keep and bear arms." And lawmakers will deal, once again, with a bill affecting when "terminal groins" can be built to protect barrier islands against erosion. WRAL.com will carry the House session live. Check the Video Central box on our home page.
SENATE FINANCE (1 p.m. | 544 LOB): The committee takes up a bill dealing with scholarship for children with disabilities. The measure replaces a tax credit for those children eliminated by the tax reform law.
SENATE FLOOR SESSION (2 p.m. | Senate Chamber): Senators are scheduled to take their final vote on the tax overhaul bill. And they can give final legislative approval to a measure taking control of Charlotte Douglas Airport away from the City of Charlotte and turning it over to a regional authority. If the House session is complete by 2 p.m., WRAL.com will carry the Senate session live. Check the Video Central box on our home page.
MORE STORIES: Other stories we were following Tuesday included:
SCHOOLS: A bill that would allow Wake County and several other local boards of county commissioners to take over responsibility for building and maintaining schools has hit a roadblock in the House. Rules Chairman Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, said he was unsure if it would come up again this summer. "A significant number of Republicans are against it," Moore said. "I think that's an issue that will have to be worked out in (the Republican House) caucus."
Republicans rally at 'Thankful Tuesday' THANKFUL: About 200 supporters expressed their appreciation Tuesday for North Carolina Republicans' efforts to cut taxes, require identification before voting and make getting abortions more difficult. Republican groups organized a "Thankful Tuesday" rally at the government complex in Raleigh to praise the GOP-led Legislature and Gov. Pat McCrory for their work passing conservative policies. The event comes 24 hours after the 11th "Moral Monday" protest, led by the state chapter of the NAACP. More than 850 people have been arrested during those weekly demonstrations, which have drawn thousands of people from around the state to protest everything from cuts to unemployment benefits to requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls to proposed regulations on abortion clinics.
IMMIGRATION: After more than a year of work, House leaders have given up on a bill that would have made big changes to state immigration laws, including allowing driving permits for people in the country illegally. House Bill 786 was turned into a study bill by a floor amendment during debate Tuesday. As originally drafted, the bill would have allowed police to verify anyone's immigration status "where there is reasonable suspicion that the person is not lawfully present in the U.S.," said sponsor Rep. Jonathan Jordan, R-Ashe. It also would have increased penalties for the manufacture or possession of fake IDs and for identity theft, and it called for the forfeiture of any vehicle being driven by anyone without a license or restricted permit, driving without insurance or driving on a revoked license.
UNPOPULAR: Gov. Pat McCrory's approval ratings are taking a dip because of the recent fight over the abortion bill, says the Democratic polling firm Public Policy Polling. "For the first time since taking office we find that McCrory has a negative approval rating this month," the poll reported. "Unhappiness over the abortion bill seems to be driving a lot of the increased unhappiness with the Republicans in state government this month. Only 34% of voters support the proposal to 47% who are opposed. They're even more unhappy with the process- 80% think it's inappropriate to combine abortion legislation with bills about motorcycle safety or Sharia Law."