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Today @NCCapitol (June 21): Pausing to remember Holshouser

Posted June 21, 2013

— Good morning and welcome to Today @NCCapitol for Friday, June 21. This is WRAL's roundup of what you need to know about North Carolina state government today.

HOLSHOUSER: Most of the state's top leaders will be in Southern Pines today to bid farewell to former Gov. Jim Holshouser, who died on Monday.

Holshouser was the first Republican governor of the 20th century and is remembered both for his accomplishments in office and gentlemanly demeanor. 

Holshouser funeral Hundreds pay respects to former governor WRAL.com and WRAL.2, the station's digital channel, will carry the Holshouser funeral live at 1 p.m. 

TAXES, BUDGET and the END OF SESSION: Negotiations over tax legislation were continuing Thursday afternoon, which the two chambers continuing to exchange offers.

House Speaker Thom Tillis said that he hoped to wrap up negotiations over the tax bill early next week, as negotiations over how to spend the money raised by taxes in the state budget got under way "in earnest."

Officially, the tax bill, HB 998, has not crossed back from the Senate yet. Both chambers have offered versions of the budget bill and a a conference committee has been appointed to resolve the differences. 

Tillis took time at the end of the House session on Thursday to report that negotiations on the tax bill "have made progress" and that "we are hopeful we will have a result in the very near future."

He warned members that next week could be both long – including a possible Friday session – and a bit hard to follow, as sessions stopped and started to accommodate conference tax and budget negotiators. 

Tillis speculated that lawmakers could be done by July 4, a notion that drew audible laughter from some observers in the House gallery who see the House and Senate as too split on key items to resolve their differences quickly. Rep. Mickey Michaux chided Tillis, telling him that most around the legislative building believed he would be "playing Santa Claus," a reference to both a late adjournment and the fact that Tillis and other House lawmakers are growing their beards until the session adjourns. 

"I'm willing to, but hopefully not going down the 'Duck Dynasty' route," Tillis said, referring to a popular television show featuring protagonists with robust facial hair. 

The Wrap @NCCapitol (June 20) The Wrap @NCCapitol (June 20) TODAY'S CALENDAR: There are no legislative committee meetings on today's calendar. Gov. Pat McCrory will be in Southern Pines for the Holshouser funeral. 

WRAP: Capitol Bureau Chief Laura Leslie and reporter Mark Binker wrap up Thursday's action on Jones Street and look ahead to next week in The Wrap @NCCapitol

UNEMPLOYMENT: North Carolina lawmakers had a tough choice this spring: Change how unemployment benefits are calculated, potentially cutting off benefits to tens of thousands of people, or allow the state's debt to the federal government to continue as a drag on the economy.

Unemployed grapple with state's decision to reduce benefits Unemployed grapple with state's decision to reduce benefits The Tar Heel state was one of many in the same situation, but North Carolina lawmakers were the only ones who chose the quicker fix. Effective July 1, 71,000 people will see their extended benefits end.

During the 1990s, states gradually cut back on the unemployment tax they charged to businesses, explained Duke University economist Aaron Chatterji. When recession hit in 2008, and unemployment claims began to climb, the states lacked the trust fund to pay those benefits. They borrowed from the federal government, and now that bill is coming due.

"Most states have these have this deficits with the federal government," Chatterji said. "They are all dealing with it in different ways. North Carolina is unique in terminating the program so abruptly."

PROGRAM NOTE: This weekend's "On the Record" will examine the changes to the state's unemployment system in detail. The show will air at 7 p.m. on WRAL and be available online after that. 

MORE STORIES: Other stories we were following Thursday included: 

TRASH: The state Senate on Thursday gave key approval to legislation that would roll back restrictions on landfills in North Carolina. Senate Bill 328 passed its second reading 28-18. A final vote is expected next week before it heads to the House. The measure would allow landfills 1,500 feet away from National Wildlife Refuges or state parks instead of the current buffer of 2 to 5 miles and would drastically limit the statutory reasons for which the Department of Environment and Natural Resources could refuse to issue a permit for one.

Death Penalty Racial Justice Act cases in limbo after law's repeal DEATH PENALTY:  Supporters and opponents of North Carolina's Racial Justice Act disagree about the necessity and effectiveness of the controversial legislation, but there appears to be consensus on both sides about one thing. No one knows for sure when executions will resume in the state or what will happen with pending claims of racial bias from most of the 153 people on death row. On Wednesday, Gov. Pat McCrory signed a controversial piece of legislation that fully repeals the Racial Justice Act, which allowed death-row inmates to have their sentences reduced to life in prison if they could prove racial bias influenced the outcome of their cases.

SPEED: The state House has just said "not so fast" to a bill that would have made driving the state's highways that much speedier. The measure would have allowed the Department of Transportation to raise the speed limit on some highways to 75 mph, but it is headed back to committee after debate on the House floor indicated it would most likely fail a vote in the chamber. Senate Bill 709 has already cleared the Senate, but House members have been more circumspect about the move.

GAS:  The North Carolina gas tax is increasing from 37.5 cents per gallon to 37.6 cents per gallon.

REBATES:  Nearly 193,000 North Carolina customers will get rebates averaging $87 this summer because their health insurance company could not keep overhead costs down, the U.S. Health and Human Services Department said Thursday. The money goes to consumers whose health insurer failed in 2012 to meet a benchmark requiring that at least 80 percent of each premium dollar go toward medical services. The benchmark was established to control the amount used by the companies to pay for overhead and bonuses.

OTHER NEWS: Other stories of note from other outlets include: 

N.C. Health News: Between the competing tax plans and the budgets being debated in the General Assembly, seniors and their advocates fear cuts and new taxes could adversely affect them.

News & Record:High ranking legislators in Raleigh are hammering away at a tax plan that would cut income and business taxes, but the House and Senate have backed separate plans and negotiations over the details are going on in secret, making predictions difficult. Here are a few key elements of the two plans, which are likely to merge in some fashion before a final bill is approved.

Charlotte Observer: As the days tick down on this year’s session of the N.C. General Assembly, time is running out for backers of a bill to transfer control of Charlotte’s airport to a new, state-created authority. Once, the controversial bill seemed to be on a fast track through the legislature. Now, it remains grounded in the House Finance Committee – with next week’s legislative agenda mostly focused on passing a new state budget and tax reform. House Speaker Thom Tillis said Thursday that he would like to wrap up this year’s session by July 4.

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