Raleigh, N.C. — Good morning and welcome to Today @NCCapitol for Tuesday, March 19. This is WRAL's roundup of what you need to know about North Carolina state government this morning.
SCHOOL SAFETY: Gov. Pat McCrory is scheduled to announce a safer schools plan at 10:30 a.m. at Apex Middle School. He will appear with DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos and DPS Secretary Kieran Shanahan, according to a news release. Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson and Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison are also scheduled to attend.
School safety became a top-of-mind issue after the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., last year. Some districts, like Wake County, have been grappling with the idea (and cost) of placing security guards in every school. Meanwhile, some legislators have filed bills to address the issue, including allowing teachers and some volunteers to have access to firearms on school campuses.
The school safety initiative is expected to be featured in McCrory's budget proposal. McCrory's office still has not announced a date for the release of his spending plan, but many lawmakers and lobbyists expect to see it this week.
HOUSE TODAY: The full House has more than a dozen bills on its agenda today, including measures to allow hospitals to analyze whether someone has been driving while drunk and to raise the penalties on those who repeatedly drive drunk. Lawmakers will also take up a bill to ban anyone under age 18 from using a tanning bed.
WRAL.com will carry this meeting live at 1 p.m. Check the Video Central box on the home page.
Wake mayors voice displeasure with home appearance bill Mayors and other local officials, meanwhile, will be hoping members vote against a bill on the House floor that would restrict the ability of cities to dictate the design of a home's appearance. The Wake County Mayor's Association spoke out Monday against a bill that would limit city and town leaders' authority to control home appearance and design.
Rolesville Mayor Frank Eagles called the measure – House Bill 150, which was approved last week in committee and sent to the House floor – a "dire emergency." He and other mayors say zoning regulations respond to community needs to make sure growth happens in an orderly way.
But GOP lawmakers and the North Carolina Home Builders Association and the North Carolina Association of Realtors say homeowners should have more control over their houses.
"There are definitely benefits to having a neighborhood look a certain way, but our contention is it is up to those homeowners," said Cady Thomas, spokeswoman for the realtors' association.
SENATE TODAY: The Senate will meet at 2 p.m. The chamber has three seemingly technical bills on its calendar.
COMMITTEES: For a full list of committee meetings, see the main @NCCapitol page. The highlights from today's schedule include:
HOUSE FINANCE (8:30 a.m. | 544 LB): Lawmakers will take up a bill that would require the N.C. Railroad to pay dividends to the state. Backers of a bill to allow Charlotte to use public money to finance improvements to the Panthers football stadium also hoped to have their bill heard today, but that measure is NOT on the committee calendar that was circulated Monday night. (NOTE: The bill was assigned to a House Finance subcommittee Tuesday morning.)
SENATE AGRICULTURE (11 a.m. | 544 LB): The committee will hears a bill to roll back testing requirements for animal waste runoff from hog spray fields. Testing would only have to happen once every three years under the bill, rather than every year as is currently required.
HOUSE TRANSPORTATION (Noon | 643 LB) LIVE: The committee is once again scheduled to hear a bill that would allow motorcycle riders over age 18 to choose not to wear a helmet. The committee is also due to take up a bill that would allow school buses to be operated at 55 mph on highways if they are not carrying students. WRAL.com will carry this meeting live. Check the Video Central box on our home page.
UNEMPLOYMENT: North Carolina's unemployment rate edged up in January as the state continues to grapple with job losses. The state Commerce Department said Monday that North Carolina's unemployment rate was 9.5 percent in January. That up from 9.4 percent in December.
APPOINTED: Gov. Pat McCrory appointed:
Lisa Bell, of Mecklenburg County, to serve as a special superior court judge. Bell has served as a District Court Judge since 1998 and as Chief District Court Judge since her appointment in 2009.
Ray Grace, of Wake County, to serve as Commissioner of Banks. Grace is the acting Commissioner of Banks. He has over 40 years of banking experience and served as Director of Bank Applications prior to his time as Commissioner. He helped form the North Carolina Bank Directors' College and also helped to establish 95 de novo North Carolina state banks. Students share in history at NC Capitol
ALCOHOL: The newly appointed members of the state ABC commission are scheduled to make their first policy decisions Wednesday. A company hoping to sell 3-ounce vials of high-alcohol malt beverages in flavors like Screw Driver and Apple Pie is asking the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission to approve its packaging. Commission staff members rejected the packaging in February.
MONDAY: If you missed it Monday:
- An email from Wake County school board member John Tedesco to the rest of the board warns more school-board legislation is on the way – and seems to suggest he's in the know about it. "What the General Assembly giveth, they can clearly take," Tedesco warns the board. "I tried to warn you to learn from our past mistakes, don't overreach and don't disregard the concerns of other elected bodies or they would not be happy."
- An officer with the North Carolina General Assembly Police Department is facing sex abuse charges, including statutory rape and taking indecent liberties with a child, authorities said Monday. According to an arrest report filed with the Wake County Sheriff's Office, Daniel Shawn Evans, 42, was arrested at the legislative building Friday morning. He was still being held at the Wake County detention center Monday evening.
- McCrory and lawmakers commemorate the 10th anniversary of a sting operation that recovered North Carolina's original copy of the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights will make a brief appearance at the legislative building Tuesday afternoon. After that, it's likely to be years before its next public viewing.
- Gov. Pat McCrory's former firm was so closely aligned last year with an Internet sweepstakes company now embroiled in a federal investigation in Florida that some lawmakers listed lobbyist information in their campaign reports, according to an analysis of campaign contributions by Democracy North Carolina. That information comes from a report by Democracy North Carolina a non-profit, liberal leaning government watchdog group. As the AP reported: "The group said it found donations attributed to Burns going to 63 current House and Senate members, as well as $55,000 combined to the North Carolina Republican Senate Caucus and Republican Senate Caucus within the state Republican Party. Burns was the No. 1 individual donor to state legislators during the last election cycle, Democracy North Carolina said."
FROM ELSEWHERE: Elsewhere around the state:
Wilmington Star News: Tom Eagar was ousted as the Ports Authority's chief executive officer on Jan. 9, 2012, when his position was eliminated and replaced by a statewide logistics coordinator, who also oversaw operations at the N.C. Global TransPark. A lawsuit filed by Eagar in New Hanover County Superior Court in December claims Gene Conti, the then-Secretary of Transportation, had no authority to tinker with the Ports Authority's leadership.
News & Record: Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger was in Greensboro Monday morning for a meeting with local school board members... (W)e chatted very briefly about his weekend trip to C-PAC, and what he heard there about the Republican Party’s trajectory. Berger said he hadn’t read the Reince Priebus’ report, released this morning, which calls for the Republican Party to be more inclusive. “It’s not just a communication problem,” he said. “Sometimes it’s the individual messengers ... (and) some folks who lend themselves to caricature.”