Raleigh, N.C. — Good morning and welcome to Today @NCCapitol for Wednesday, June 26. This is WRAL's roundup of what you need to know about North Carolina state government today.
MCCRORY and TAXES: Does Gov. Pat McCrory have a tax plan? It depends on who you ask.
"The governor has not made or approved any proposal on tax reform," Budget Director Art Pope said Tuesday. McCrory himself has refused to outline specific tax proposals, telling WRAL several week ago, that he was keeping "an open line of communication" with lawmakers.
However, those knowledgeable about the ongoing negotiations over a tax reform bill between the House and Senate say a spreadsheet circulating among lawmakers at the legislative building represents an offer from McCrory's office. Sources associated with both the House and the Senate say the document came directly from Pope and represented the governor's ante into the negotiations.
Pope said the document was merely "an analysis" of possible scenarios and, at any rate, included some faulty assumptions with regards to revenue form business taxes.
"I don't stand by it," Pope said, emphasizing it was only a "fiscal analysis" of possible scenarios.
However, the table looks very much like an attempt at compromise between the House and Senate plans. It takes some of the ideas with regard to expanding the sales tax base to services associated with physical goods (favored by the House) and marries it to corporate tax cuts and loophole closures favored by the Senate. Like the Senate plan, the proposal attributed to McCrory provides for a "zero bracket" under which the first $12,000 of income for a couple filing jointly would not be taxed, but it allows itemized deductions similar to the House plan.
The "McCrory" option would raise more revenue overall than either the House or Senate proposals. In fact, relative to the current tax system, it would represent a $360 million increase in overall tax revenue in the next fiscal year and allows for a more generous rate of government growth over the next four years than either the House or Senate would.
Pope acknowledged being involved in the day-to-day budget negotiations, although pushed back against the idea that he was the "lead negotiator" for McCrory. He pointed to Fred Steen, a former lawmakers, as McCrory's chief lobbyist.
The Wrap @NCCapitol (June 25) TRANSPORTATION: Gov. Pat McCrory will sign an overhaul of how transportation dollars are spent in North Carolina today at 11 a.m. in the House chamber of the historic State Capitol building. The governor rolled out the proposal with great fanfare two months ago and the measure represents a major legislative victory for the Republican, who pledged to do away with the state's "equity formula" for funding road repair and construction. This measure concentrates more funding on a statewide and regional level, paving the way for bigger, higher-impact projects.
WRAP: Capitol Bureau Chief Laura Leslie and reporter Mark Binker tie up the Tuesday's news from the legislature in The Wrap @NCCapitol.
SENATE TODAY: The state Senate meets at 2 p.m. today and has a lengthy calendar, although only a few of the measures are headline worthy, including a bill that would stiffen penalties for those who pass stopped school buses.
HOUSE TODAY: The state House will meet at 1 p.m. and take up a bill that would required students be taught that having an abortion can cause future miscarriages, a point upon which there is some scientific debate. The chamber will also take up a bill that would turn much of North Carolina's job recruitment efforts over to a public-private partnership. WRAL.com will carry the House session live. Check the Video Central box on our home page.
COMMITTEES: For a full list of legislative committee meeting today, please check the main @NCCapitol page. Among the highlights:
House Judiciary A (10 a.m. | 1228 LB): The committee is scheduled to hear a bill that would allow nonprofits to hold "casino nights" in order to raise money. The measure is opposed by some social conservatives, who say it is merely another form of gambling even if cash prizes aren't allowed.
House Judiciary B (10 a.m. | 421 LOB): Lawmakers will take up the N.C. Farm Act, which will cut down on environmental protections for wetlands.
Senate Health (11 a.m. | 544 LOB): The committee is due to take up a measure that would require local social services departments run background checks on those seeking certain public benefits. WRAL.com will carry the committee meeting live. Check the Video Central box on our home page.
STORIES: Among the stories we were following Tuesday were:
ARRESTS: The high volume of arrests at Moral Monday protests at the North Carolina State Legislative Building has changed how protesters violating misdemeanor trespassing laws are being handled once they are arrested – changes that are raising the brow of at least one conservative think-tank. Since April 29, more than 600 people, including 120 this week, have been arrested while speaking out against Republican-backed policies and legislation that they believe disproportionately hurt the poor and minorities.
Generally, after a person is arrested in Wake County, he or she is taken to the City-County Bureau of Identification – a county law enforcement agency that, among its many responsibilities, books, fingerprints and photographs alleged offenders before they go before a magistrate. Sam Pennica, director of CCBI, says that, beginning with last week's arrests, protesters bypass being fingerprinted and photographed to help cut costs incurred by the influx of people being taken into custody.
VOTER ID: Voter identification legislation in North Carolina will pick up steam again now that the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down part of the Voting Rights Act, a key General Assembly leader said Tuesday. A bill requiring voters to present one of several forms of state-issued photo ID starting in 2016 cleared the House two months ago, but it's been sitting since in the Senate Rules Committee to wait for a ruling by the justices in an Alabama case, according to Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson, the committee chairman. He said a bill will now be rolled out in the Senate next week.
CONTINUING RESOLUTION: The Senate and House on Tuesday approved legislation that will keep state government running after this weekend as lawmakers continue to negotiate on a compromise 2013-14 budget. A continuing resolution, which would fund state operations at 95 percent of 2012-13 levels through July 30, passed the Senate 37-12 and then was approved 111-0 in the House. It now goes to Gov. Pat McCrory to be signed into law.
TILLIS: he man who helped direct a $1.8 million political and lobbying effort for consumer finance lenders is co-hosting a fundraiser for North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis' fledgling U.S. Senate campaign, less than a week after a bill hiking profits for the industry became state law. Tillis was expected to be in Greenville Tuesday for a luncheon co-hosted by Time Investment Corp. president Royce Everette, who owns 19 consumer finance offices across the state. Everette is also the chairman of legislative affairs for the Resident Lenders of North Carolina, an industry group that championed passage of a bill raising interest rates and fees on the consumer finance loans marketed to low-income borrowers.
FRACKING: What's often considered an annual environmental housecleaning bill in the North Carolina Legislature drew fierce criticism Tuesday after lawmakers presented a sweeping new version of the bill with provisions governing hydraulic fracturing and air quality. Environmentalists said the 43-page bill introduced in a Senate panel goes well beyond the reach of the four-page version passed by the House last month. But the Senate committee endorsed the bill unanimously on a voice vote with little debate, sending it to the full body.
MORE NEWS: News of note from other outlets this morning:
High Point Enterprise: Gov. Pat McCrory tells the Guilford County paper that he will not ask lawmakers to roll back a measure that ends benefits for long-term unemployed workers.
Stateline: The U.S. is on track to create 55 million new job openings by 2020, but will face a shortage of five million workers with the education or training to fill these positions, according to a new report by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.
N.C. Health News: In a study to be released this week, researchers from Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment found gases related to fracking in drinking water wells near drilling sites in Pennsylvania.