Raleigh, N.C. — Good morning and welcome to Today @NCCapitol for Thursday, March 7. This is WRAL's roundup of what you need to know about North Carolina state government this morning.
RED ROUTED: A fix that would allow N.C. Highway 540 to move forward is on shaky ground – and it's looking like the next subject of the political tension between House and Senate Republican leaders.
When it left the House, HB 10 would have merely allowed for the state to study a controversial highway path through Garner. House leaders promised the route would never be built, but they said the study needed to go forward in order to draw down federal funding for the project.
On Wednesday, Senators added a provision that would remove the special status given to the Garden Parkway in Gaston, the Mid-Currituck Bridge and the Cape Fear Skyway. Rather than being at the front of the line for funding, all three projects would be put back into the Department of Transportation's statewide pool of projects and compete with other roadways for the scarce funding.
Advocate says future of NC toll roads jeopardized Sen. Bill Rabon, R-Brunswick, defended the changes, saying professional engineers, not politics, should decide the projects' fate. But there may be a politics of a different kind at play. House and Senate lawmakers skirmished over the same projects last session. And this year, they have been at odds over bills dealing with mental health group home funding and remaking boards and commissions.
Rabon's turnpike overhaul may make the Red Route fix the latest pawn in the inter-cameral chess game.
The Senate is expected to take a final vote sending the measure back to the House today. WRAL.com will carry the session live at 11 a.m. Check the Video Central box on our home page.
ALSO IN THE SENATE: Other bills on the Senate floor today would direct the state to set standards to ensure that teachers are trained to use the latest digital technology and express the intent of the state to "transition from funding for textbooks, both traditional and digital, to funding for digital materials, including textbooks and instructional resources, to provide educational resources that remain current, aligned with curriculum, and effective for all learners by 2017."
HOUSE FLOOR: House lawmakers are scheduled to take up a bill limiting when cities and counties can order inspections of single-family homes and slow the adoption of new building codes. That bill has drawn protests from environmental activists, who say it will interfere with the adoption of building practices meant to make homes more energy efficient. “This bill will mean that many new homes in North Carolina will already be outdated on the day they are built,” said Molly Diggins, State Director of the NC Sierra Club.
The House will also take up a bill requiring the timely reporting of missing children. WRAL.com will carry the session live at 1 p.m. Check the Video Central box on our home page.
The Wrap @NCCapitol (March 6) WRAP: Capitol Bureau Chief Laura Leslie and reporter Mark Binker talk over the Red Route bill and look ahead to today's action in Wednesday's edition of The Wrap @NCCapitol
SIGNINGS: Gov. Pat McCrory signed four bills into law Thursday, including measure to:
- provide temporary funding to group homes and Alzheimer's special care units.
- block the expansion of Medicaid and block state participation in health exchanges created by the federal Affordable Care Act.
- curb protests at military funerals.
- allow for an annual possum drop on New Year's Eve.
MCCRORY: With the signing of the group home fix, @NCCapitol looked at a promise in our McCrory promise tracker. McCrory had promised to move quickly to avoid people losing their group home placements. Last month, when the bill accomplishing the fix was stuck in committee, we rated this promise "failed." McCrory has signed the bill now, albeit after it sat on his desk for a week. We have changed our rating to a "mixed result."
ANNOUNCEMENT: McCrory is scheduled to make an "economic development announcement" at 1 p.m. at the downtown Raleigh Marriott.
COMMITTEES: For a complete listing of legislative committees, see the main @NCCapitol page. Highlights of today's planned action include:
SENATE JUDICIARY I (10 a.m. / LB 1027): The committee is scheduled to discuss bills adding penalties for public officials who violate public records law and legalizing a certain class of midwives to operate in the state.
VOTING: The NAACP will hold a news conference laying out what the civil rights group sees as a "four-pronged attack on voting rights" by state lawmakers. Time and location: 10 a.m. at the Center for Community Leadership, 711 Hillsborough St., Raleigh.
WEDNESDAY STORIES: If you missed them, here are other stories from Wednesday:
- North Carolina public school teachers saw their pay drop to among the lowest in the country as state budget-balancing during the Great Recession included a multiyear pay freeze, according to a report Wednesday to the State Board of Education.
- North Carolina legislators have started working on a bill making campus police at private colleges as transparent about arrests and emergency calls as their peers at public universities and municipal law enforcement agencies.
- The director of the State Board of Elections came to talk to House lawmakers Wednesday, but didn't get to lay our his recommendations for legislative action this year.
- North Carolina's lottery could keep "education" in its official name but would face restrictions on advertising and more disclosure requirements under a bill heard by the House Judiciary C Committee Wednesday.
- News that homeowners insurance rates would go up in July prompted a protest on the Senate floor Wednesday from a coastal lawmaker. Sen. Harry Brown, R-Onslow, said the General Assembly needs to address the inequity in insurance rates faced by residents along the North Carolina coast.