Raleigh, N.C. — Good morning and welcome to Today @NCCapitol for Wednesday, May 1. This is WRAL's roundup of what you need to know about North Carolina state government today.
BREAKING: President Barack Obama intends to nominate Rep. Melvin Watt to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the government regulator that oversees lending giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, a White House official said Tuesday. Watt is a Democrat from Charlotte who has served in Congress for more than 20 years. If confirmed by the Senate, Watt would replace Edward DeMarco, an appointee of President George W. Bush who has been a target of housing advocates, liberal groups and Democratic lawmakers.
DOROTHEA DIX: The lease Gov. Bev Perdue signed allowing Raleigh to build a destination park on the Dorothea Dix property could be challenged and invalidated, a lawyer for the state Department of Justice warned the day before it was signed. "(I)f this lease were to be adjudged to exceed the Scope of the Council of State approval, the continued validity of the lease is very much more in question," wrote DOJ lawyer Don Teeter in a Dec. 19 email, a week before Perdue and Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane signed the deal.
ELECTIONS: The newly appointed members of the state board of elections hold their first meeting today. Among the questions they will face is whether to approve a probe into possible campaign finance violations by owners of sweepstakes businesses.
DON'T FREAK: If you happen to run across a bunch of police equipment, including bomb disposal trucks, downtown today, they're probably there by appointment. The State Bureau of Investigation is hosting a "Crisis Response Resources Display" from noon to 4 p.m. on the Bicentennial Mall at Edenton Street this afternoon.
WRAP: Capitol Bureau Chief Laura Leslie and reporter Mark Binker review the legislative news from Tuesday and look ahead to Wednesday in The Wrap @NCCapitol.
HOUSE SESSION: The House meets at 2 p.m. today. The bill amending various firearms laws is back on the calendar after being withdrawn Tuesday so that staff could develop a fiscal note to estimate how much it would cost. The bill has drawn opposition from the UNC System, where officials says a provision that allows concealed handgun permit holders to lock their guns in their cars while on campus is problematic. WRAL.com plans to carry this meeting live, starting shortly after 2 p.m. Please check the Video Central box on our home page.
SENATE SESSION: The Senate meets at 2 p.m. today. Among the bills on its calendar is a measure that would rollback of rules and regulations meant to protect the state's environment, including any city or county rules that is stricter than state or federal law
ZOMBIE BILL: A bill that would roll back state requirements that power companies produce or buy a certain percentage of their power from renewable methods is back in not one but two committees today after suffering a high-profile defeat last week. Rep. Mike Hager, R-Rutherford, will have the measure back in the House Public Utilities Committee at noon. At the same time, the Senate Finance Committee is due to take up the bill's companion measure.
WRAL.com will carry the Senate Finance meeting live at 1 p.m., where lawmakers are also expected to handle bills dealing with boat dredging fees and health care cost transparency. Check the Video Central box on our home page.
COMMITTEES: For a full listing of committees, check the @NCCapitol home page. Among the highlights:
HOUSE COMMERCE AND JOB DEVELOPMENT (10 a.m. | 643 LOB): The committee will take up bills that would clear the way for bigger prizes at nonprofit gambling game nights and make it an unfair trade practice to require contractors to hire union labor. That anti-union bill is being heard on May 1, or May Day, which is often used to celebrate workers rights. Perhaps not coincidentally, members of the left-leaning "Occupy" movement are expected to be visiting the legislature for a lobby day today. WRAL.com will carry this meeting live. Check the Video Central box on our home page.
HOUSE JUDICIARY B (10 a.m. | 421 LOB): Lawmakers will take up a bill that would grant restricted driver's licenses to those living in the country illegally and authorize police to detain anyone they suspect lacks legal residency.
HOUSE JUDICIARY A (10 a.m. | 1228 LB): The committee is scheduled to take up a measure banning abortion for the purpose of choosing the sex of a child and another bill which would prohibit local governments from enacting laws restricting the size of sodas.
HOUSE JUDICIARY C (10 a.m. | 415 LOB): Lawmakers will take up a bill to make it a felony for a person in the United States illegally to possess a firearm. Another bill on the committee calendar seeks to protect the rights of parents. As currently drafted, the one paragraph bill reads: "The liberty of a parent to direct the upbringing, education, and care of his or her child is a fundamental right. Neither the State nor any agency or locality of the State shall infringe on a parent's rights to the care, custody, and control of his or her child without demonstrating that its governmental interest as applied to the person is of the highest order and not otherwise served."
HOUSE COMMERCE / ABC (11 a.m. | 425 LOB): The committee takes up bills to allow in-stand beer sales during baseball games and to allow retailers to sell refillable growlers of beer.
SENATE HEALTH (11 a.m. | 544 LOB): Among the bills on the calendar is a measure to restrict e-cigarette sales to minors.
TUESDAY'S TALK: The shiny object distracting people from actual lawmaker Tuesday was a video in which House Rep. Larry Pittman, R-Cabarrus, blasts the leadership of Republican House Speaker Thom Tillis. "I'm potentially getting myself in real trouble telling you this stuff," Pittman tells the crowd. "Then, none of my bills will go anywhere, but they're not going anywhere anyway."
Pittman goes on to describe how bills are put on hold and suggests that some legislation isn't getting heard or isn't as strong as it should be because Tillis is worried about how it will look if he runs for U.S. Senate. Tillis declined to comment on Pittman's remarks Tuesday.
TUESDAY'S NOTES: Stories we were following Tuesday included:
STALKING: A bill aimed at curbing frivolous stalking complaints was put on hold after a Senate Judiciary committee learned it could interfere with federal funding for victims of violence.
LOANS: Companies could charge more for small, consumer installment loans under a bill that cleared the Senate Commerce Committee Tuesday.
PRE-K: Fewer children would be eligible for state-funded Pre-K programs under a bill that passed the House Healthcare Committee Tuesday. Under current program standards, children of families making up to 75 percent of the state's median income, or roughly 200 percent of the federal poverty level, are considered "at risk" and therefore eligible for the program. For a family of three, that's about $39,000. HB 935 would change the definition of "at-risk" children to those in families making no more than 100 percent of the poverty level, or about $19,500 for a family of three.
MORE NEWS: More news of note from other outlets include:
Salisbury Post: N.C. Secretary of Cultural Resources Susan Kluttz, who championed historic locations as a former Salisbury mayor, faced a difficult task explaining her state department’s need to shutter a presidential state historic site, she said Tuesday.
Charlotte Observer: As one of a handful of House Republican leaders, Rep. Ruth Samuelson has been in the middle of some of the session’s biggest issues....But the Charlotte Republican has her eye on another job. Current House Speaker Thom Tillis of Cornelius has said this term would be his last; he’s expected to run for the U.S. Senate. Behind the scenes, the race to succeed him is on. And Samuelson, 53, is on almost everybody’s short list.
Wilmington Star News: A report from the movie industry's main trade association asserts “Iron Man 3” spent nearly $180 million in North Carolina and put about 2,000 residents to work in the year the big-budget blockbuster filmed in the state.