Raleigh, N.C. — Good morning and welcome to Today @NCCapitol for Thursday, July 25. This is WRAL's roundup of what you need to know about North Carolina state government today.
WEARING PURPLE: Former state Rep. Larry Womble used to break out a bright purple suit to mark the last day of session. Womble is no longer serving, but his former House colleagues have adopted purple as their "going home" color.
"I was just going to ask if tomorrow (Thursday) was the day to wear purple," Rep. Deb McManus, D-Chatham, asked House Speaker Thom Tillis at the end of Wednesday's session.
"Well, technically, what you wear tomorrow is what you're going to be wearing on Friday," Tillis said. But he added, "Purple may be a safe bet for tomorrow."
Both Tillis and Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger said they plan to pursue a full day of lawmaking Thursday. Then, because some bills may require a vote on a separate day, both the House and Senate tentatively plan to meet just after midnight and adjourn early Friday morning. Barring a veto or special session, the legislature would not return to lawmaking until May of 2014.
LAST DAYS: The final day of a legislative session typically brings hastily called meetings, last minute "technical corrections" bills and last minute attempts to pass controversial legislation. Here's what we know is on the schedule so far.
The Wrap @NCCapitol (July 24) RULES: Senate Rules meets at 10 a.m. House Rules meets at 10:15 a.m. It's likely the committees will be handling various corrections bills and resolutions needed to close down the session. For most of this week, the Rules Committee in either chamber has been the panel vetting the vast majority of bills.
SENATE: The state Senate will meet at 11 a.m. Lawmakers are due to debate a bill that will require voters to show photo ID when they go to the polls. The measure also makes changes to dozens of other election laws, such as shortening the early voting period and allowing large corporate contributions to state parties. Opponents are already plotting legal challenges.
Once the Senate passes the bill, it will have to pass in the House in order to go to Gov. Pat McCrory.
Senators could also pass a sweeping abortion bill Thursday or early Friday. That bill has been pending in the chamber for two weeks. Berger said the Senate deal with the measure before lawmakers leave for the summer.
The chamber has been holding onto a bill that would require the City of Durham to extend water and sewer to the controversial 751 South development.
HOUSE: The House convenes at 11 a.m. Assuming the Senate passes the voter ID bill, House lawmakers will get a chance to sign off on the measure Thursday.
Other bills in the House Thursday include a bill that would keep some 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds who commit crimes in juvenile courts, and a regulatory reform bill that could affect whether companies have to disclose certain chemicals used in natural gas drilling to the state and the public.
The chamber is also due to vote a second time on a bill that would delay for three years certain rules designed to clean up Jordan Lake. If that bill passes the House Thursday, the Senate would still need to vote to send it on to Gov. Pat McCrory.
COMMERCE REORGANIZATION AND FRACKING: Both chambers have Senate Bill 127 on their calendars. The measure, as it has been drafted, would provide for a Commerce Department reorganization that would entail a public-private partnership for economic development functions. As it emerged from a House-Senate conference committee, the bill contains several fracking provisions. Most important, the measure would allow the state to begin issuing permits for hydraulic fracturing without requiring another legislative vote. That additional vote was key safeguard lawmakers included in the fracking bill during the 2011-12 legislative session.
Six arrested in sit-in at legislature ARRESTS: Six protesters were arrested at the legislative building Wednesday night as they protested the voter ID and elections bill pending in the Senate by attempting a sit in at House Speaker Thom Tillis' office. The protesters spent less than an hour in the office before they were removed by General Assembly Police.
MORE STORIES: Other stories we are following in the closing days of session include:
BUDGET: State lawmakers gave their final blessing to the $20.6 billion budget Wednesday afternoon. Senators voted 31-17 in favor of the bill, while the House voted 66-52 in favor. The measure now goes to Gov. Pat McCrory for his signature or veto.
BUDGET VOTES: On Wednesday, 10 House Republicans broke ranks with their party and voted against the budget. On Thursday, another Republican voted no. Rep. George Cleveland, R-Onslow, voted no on Thursday after voting for the bill on Wednesday.
SHARIA: State lawmakers have given final approval to ban courts from recognizing "foreign law" in family court matters. The House originally approved the bill in May, but it was turned into an abortion bill by Senate leaders, so a new version had to be produced, said sponsor Rep. Chris Whitmire, R-Transylvania. It prohibits courts from recognizing "foreign law" if it infringes on US or state constitutional rights. The bill doesn't use the term "sharia" because a federal appeals court ruled in 2012 that a Sharia Law ban passed in Oklahoma was unconstitutional and discriminatory against Islam.
JORDAN LAKE: In addition to passing new rules for cleaning up Jordan Lake, lawmakers debated how that cleanup might happen. Environmental groups – and some House lawmakers – are raising a red flag over a budget provision that appears to be a no-bid contract for an experimental water treatment scheme at Jordan Lake. The provision did not appear in earlier versions of the spending plan. It was apparently inserted into the final compromise budget deal unveiled earlier this week, in violation of legislative rules.
PERSONNEL LAWS: The number of political appointees in state government will increase under a bill the state Senate approved Wednesday. House Bill 834 is a package of changes to state personnel law sought by Gov. Pat McCrory, who has told lawmakers he needs more latitude in dealing with state workers. The bill must return to the House before going to the governor.
WAKE SCHOOLS: After an acrimonious debate that highlighted rifts within the Republican caucus, House lawmakers voted Wednesday not to approve an attempt to hand over Wake County's schools to the county's commissioners. Despite the urging of Wake County Republicans and chamber leaders, at least 21 Republicans broke ranks to vote with House Democrats against the bill. It failed to win House approval by a vote of 52 to 64
MEDICAID: Three weeks after the state implemented a new system for handling Medicaid claims, the Department of Health and Human Services has started to cut checks for exasperated providers who complain that they aren't being paid for services provided.
The NCTracks system replaced a decades-old Medicaid claims system, and providers have said it is now more cumbersome to file claims and that reimbursements aren't being received. Joe Cooper, chief information officer for DHHS, said Wednesday that the agency is temporarily waiving its requirement that all reimbursements be made electronically so that providers having trouble with the electronic transfers can get paid and officials can correct any mistakes in routing electronic payments.