Raleigh, N.C. — Good morning and welcome to Today @NCCapitol for Friday, July 19. This is WRAL's roundup of what you need to know about North Carolina state government today.
TODAY: The state Senate will meet in an unusual – although not unprecedented – Friday session today.
Among the bills on today's calendar is a newly-gutted and amended bill that would allow the Wake County Board of Commissioners to take over construction and management of school buildings. A similar bill that involved a dozen counties was met with controversy in the state House last week and is unlikely to move before the end of session. But Sen. Neal Hunt, R-Wake, is trying to push through a stand-alone measure for Wake County.
Other bills on today's Senate calendar include a measure that would prohibit the application of foreign laws in family courts, a.k.a. the Sharia Law Bill. Pushed by Rep. Chris Whitmire, R-Transylvania, the measure is in response to what he says are cases around the United States when foreign laws were inappropriately applied in U.S. Courts. A similar bill has passed both chambers, although the last time it moved the measure had abortion restrictions attached to it.
Also on today's calendar is a 59-part regulatory reform bill that covers everything from natural gas drilling to smoking regulations, and a measure loosening restrictions on when terminal groins can be built to protect coastal islands.
The Wrap @NCCapitol (July 18) BUT WHAT ABOUT VOTER ID: Avid watchers of the Wrap @NCCapitol – Hi Mom! – will know that as Capitol Bureau Chief Laura Leslie and reporter Mark Binker taped Thursday, the Senate Rules Committee was due to meet and discuss a new version of a Voter ID bill. Such measures require voters to show an photo identification card when they show up to vote. Among its biggest differences with the House version of the bill, the Senate bill would limit the number of IDs that are acceptable identification at the polls. College IDs, which would have been allowed by the House, are not on the Senate list of acceptable IDs.
During Thursday's Rules Committee meeting, Chairman Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson, said he expected to meet on the bill Friday morning. However, the Senate Rules Committee meeting that had been scheduled for today has been canceled.
BUDGET: Now that a tax deal is sitting on Gov. Pat McCrory's desk, it is time for budget writers to put together a $20 billion spending plan for the fiscal year that started 19 days ago. Top leaders suggested Thursday that a budget deal could be struck as early as today, which would clear the way for the legislature to wrap up session by the end of next week.
SKELETONS: Careful observers will note that the state House has a session scheduled for this coming Sunday, but there are no bills on the calendar. The chamber has scheduled this skeleton session so that the budget can be "read in" ahead of debate on the document. House Rules say that "no vote shall be taken on adoption of a conference report on either the Current Operations Appropriations Bill or a bill generally revising the Current Operations Appropriations Act until the second legislative day following the report." Speaker Thom Tillis said that if a budget is indeed read in Sunday night, its first House vote will be Tuesday.
OTHER BILLS: Even if the budget and Voter ID bills get resolved, there is a gracious plenty of work to be done during what many say will be the closing week of session. A separate "Elections Omnibus" that could deal with the length of the early voting period, Sunday voting and other election-related measures is still pending. And lawmakers are still trying to work out compromises on a number of high profile pieces of legislation, including the Dorothea Dix bill, a package of firearms laws, natural gas drilling, and license plates.
STORIES: Other stories we were following Thursday included:
RURAL CENTER: Gov. Pat McCrory ordered Thursday that the flow of state money to and spent by the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center stop immediately. The move comes one day after a state audit criticized the nonprofit for a lack of oversight and exorbitant salaries and hours after longtime Rural Center President Billy Ray Hall resigned.
"It is the right decision for the organization and the rural communities we serve," Hall wrote in a memo to the Rural Center's board of directors.
State Budget Director Art Pope also told N.C. Rural Center leaders Thursday the state was considering recouping potentially more than $100 million held by the center in the light of a stinging state audit issued the day before. Center President Billy Ray Hall announced his retirement Thursday, according to the Associated Press.
AIRPORT: The state Senate gave final approval to a bill transferring control of the Charlotte Douglas Airport from the City of Charlotte to a regional authority Thursday. Soon after that act became law, a judge blocked the move. As the Charlotte Observer reports, this rapid turn of events has led to confusion about who is running the airport.
SCHOLARSHIPS: The state Senate voted overwhelmingly Thursday to approve a new scholarship program for children with disabilities. Under House Bill 269, parents or guardians of children with disabilities could apply for a scholarship grant of $3,000 per child per semester to help pay for private school.
UNEMPLOYMENT: The state House has passed a slim package of technical corrections to the state's unemployment law, which went into effect July 1. U.S. Department of Labor officials wrote to the McCrory administration last week, saying that several parts of the bill were out of compliance with federal guidelines.