Today @NCCapitol (July 22): With budget deal in hand, end of session in sight
Posted July 22, 2013
Good morning and welcome to Today @NCCapitol for Monday, July 22. This is WRAL's roundup of what you need to know about North Carolina state government today.
WHITE SMOKE: Top House and Senate leaders announced they have reached agreement on a $20.6 billion state budget. The 394-page bill and accompanying money report were published on the General Assembly's website Sunday night.
The two-year agreement addresses some of the biggest political stories of the year, creating private school vouchers for low-income students, providing for overhauls of the Department of Commerce and Medicaid system, and making sweeping changes to how the state tries to spark economic growth in rural areas.
The state House and Senate are expected to give at least tentative approval to the measure on Tuesday.
SENATE TODAY: The Senate will hold a no-vote skeleton session today after working on Friday.
HOUSE TODAY: The state House will begin its floor session at 4 p.m. today. Lawmakers are scheduled to sign off on changes to the state's law governing natural gas drilling and fracking, the colloquial term for a set of processes involving horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing. The House-Senate compromise no longer removes safeguards that will require a separate legislative vote before drillers can begin operating in the state, but it still troubles environmental watchdogs.
A separate regulatory reform bill, which contains a key fracking provision dealing with disclosure of chemicals used in the process, is also on today's calendar.
The House could also sign off on a bill that would require applicants for some public benefits to submit to fingerprinting, background checks and drug screening. And House lawmakers are scheduled to approve a bill that would delay but not scrap rules designed to clean up Jordan Lake, a water supply for the Triangle fed by waters flowing through many Triad-area communities.
MORAL MONDAY: Protesters are expected to return to the General Assembly today, beginning their protest outside at 5 p.m. and entering the building sometime between 6 and 7 p.m. If patterns established in prior weeks hold, several dozen will be arrested.
Returning protesters say they've noticed the growth of the crowd and the breadth of issues that motivate them, from Medicaid expansion to abortion rights. Adam Linker, who has driven from Greenville four times for the rallies, says they're becoming impossible for lawmakers to ignore. Click here to explore the Moral Monday protests by the numbers.
WRAL.com will carry the protest live at 5 p.m. Check the Video Central box on our home page.
On the Record: House, Senate approve tax reform ON THE RECORD: Host David Crabtree and Capitol Bureau Chief Laura Leslie go "On the Record" with Rep. Chris Malone, R-Wake, and Rep. Larry Hall, D-Durham, to debate soon-to-be signed revision of the state's tax system.
LEFT ON THE TABLE: Lawmakers may, at least temporarily, bow out of the fight over the Dorothea Dix property. Earlier this year, the Senate passed legislation aimed at dismantling a deal signed by former Gov. Bev Perdue and the City of Raleigh. House lawmakers came up with their own, less aggressive version of that bill, and for weeks the two chambers have been trying to come up with a consensus approach.
Now Senators say it is very likely they won't pass the measure at all. Instead, lawmakers say they will likely leave it to Gov. Pat McCrory, who like House and Senate leaders is a Republican, to sort out a new agreement for the 325-acre property with the city.
That said, lawmakers still have a number of high-profile issues on their plate to resolve before adjourning later this week. Negotiators from the two chambers are trying to resolve differences over a bill that grants concealed handgun permit holders the right to carry in more places, but ends a permitting system favored by the state's sheriff's. They also are wrangling over a sweeping bill that changes dozens of appointed boards and commissions throughout the state. And they still have the substance of a Voter ID bill to hash out as well as another measure that promises to rewrite many of the state's other election laws.
"More disorder awaits the session’s final days as lawmakers and lobbyists attempt to negotiate agreements on major outstanding legislation. The legislature is likely to work from morning until evening, and maybe even after midnight, to close up shop, probably no sooner than Thursday," reports the Associated Press.
House Speaker Thom Tillis told his colleagues last week that he expected to adjourn Wednesday or Thursday, and Senate leaders have expressed a similar sentiment.
Senator says Wake schools bill will save taxpayers money WAKE COUNTY SCHOOLS: The state Senate has given tentative approval to a bill that would allow the Wake County Board of Commissioners to take over responsibility for the construction and upkeep of area public school buildings. Currently, the Wake County Board of Education oversees construction and maintenance.The idea has proved unpopular in the House, where lawmakers shelved a similar proposal regarding roughly a dozen school districts. Backers, including Sen. Neal Hunt, R-Wake, hope the House will give kinder treatment to a measure that involves just one county.
READ THIS TOO: Other stories worth the read this weekend include:
Wilmington Star-News on human trafficking: More often, victims remain shrouded from the public and even the long reach of law enforcement authorities, because they are overlooked or too fearful and distrustful to step forward.
Burlington Times-News: The N.C. Highway Patrol is struggling with a shortage of troopers as members retire and fewer qualified recruits apply to take their places. State funding cuts have also put a squeeze on the agency, resulting in a hiring freeze on 69 positions. (Worth noting: the state budget un-freezes those 69 positions.)
News & Observer: ""Berger, as much as anyone, is the intellectual and political leader of the conservative revolution in the Legislature...His solution? Trickle-down economics. Yes, the same warmed-over philosophy that the elder George Bush once called “voodoo economics” and Sen. Bob Dole called “a riverboat gamble.” But since then, it has become the holy grail of the Republican Party," writes Rob Christensen.
Wall Street Journal: One common complaint is that the state is passing up free money by rejecting Medicaid expansion. But many financially pinched states – including Georgia, Alabama, Utah and Texas – are doing so, not because they're cold-hearted but because while the feds pick up the full tab in the first several years, eventually the states will have to pay even more money into a broken system that is already sapping state budgets.