Today @NCCapitol (May 10): Democrats squabble, the new elections director speaks, crossover approaches
Posted May 10, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — Good morning and welcome to Today @NCCapitol for Friday, May 10. This is WRAL's roundup of what you need to know about North Carolina state government today.
LEGISLATURE: There are no meetings at the General Assembly Friday as lawmakers steel themselves for crossover week.
Crossover is a deadline that lawmakers use to try to winnow legislation. Under a strict reading of the House and Senate rules, bills that don't raise or spend money, propose amendments to the constitution or meet a few other exceptions must pass either the House or Senate to be eligible for consideration over the next year. The deadline is meant as a tool to help lawmakers focus on their priorities and avoid sessions that drag on without end.
This year's crossover deadline is Thursday, and both the House and Senate anticipate a series of long workdays as lawmakers strive to shove bills through their chambers to ensure that they will be eligible for consideration. Committee meetings will start mid-afternoon on Monday.
Of course, ideas rarely ever die for good on Jones Street. Lawmakers, or at least top leaders who control the flow of legislation, have a number of tools at their disposal for reviving high priority matters or addressing bills that weren't even filed as of Thursday at midnight.
COMING SATURDAY: On this week's episode of "On the Record" anchor David Crabtree speaks with Becki Gray, Vice President for Outreach at the John Locke Foundation, and Chris Fitzsimon Director, director of NC Policy Watch, to review the busy week at the General Assembly. The show will air 7 p.m. on WRAL and online.
DEMOCRATS: Some rank and file Democrats are unhappy with their party chairman. Four party members filed a complaint that says Randy Voller violated the party's plan of organization when he appointed himself to be the party's executive director. The party's previous director, Tammy Brunner, was fired in March.
The complaint also says that Voller wrongfully appointed a dozen people as "co-chairs of the sustaining fund," which makes them members of the state executive committee.
On one level, the complaint run of the mill intra-party squabbling. But party loyalists were eager to ensure that documents reached reporters this week, suggesting that at least some within the party are unhappy with Voller's leadership.
Voller replaced David Parker as chairman, who was under presser for his role in a sexual harassment scandal as he left office. Voller recently found himself in under scrutiny for comments in which he used the word "rape" to describe Republican actions in North Carolina
As to the current complaint, Voller told Capitol Bureau Chief Laura Leslie there was nothing amiss via email last night.
"According to the Plan of Organization (PoO), the interim-director works at the pleasure of the chair. Ms. Brunner's departure was a routine personnel matter and our policy is not to disclose details," Voller wrote. "As reported previously I have been working as the interim-director for a $1 per month until the search for a permanent director is completed."
MEET THE NEW BOSS: On Wednesday, Kim Strach, a 41-year-old mother of two will take the helm of the state's election's agency, overseeing not just investigations and campaign finance reporting, but all of the state's election administrations apparatus. Strach has a degree in criminal justice and worked as a probation and parole officer after graduating from East Carolina University. She also owned a dance and performing arts studio.
"I realized that what I loved about dance was it wasn't a business for me," Strach said. So in 2000, she decided to put her degree back to work and applied for an opening at the State Board of Elections. Strach spoke @NCCapitol this week about her new job and the challenges she will face as she replaces longtime director Gary Bartlett.
GUNS: The FBI's database – the National Instant Criminal Background Check System – allows firearms dealers to perform background checks before selling guns. The database includes information about an individual's citizenship status, history of substance abuse or commitment to a mental hospital, criminal records, including domestic violence protection orders, and dishonorable discharge. States can enter information into the database, but the rules vary about who is deemed mentally unfit to buy a gun. Some states submit no information to the database.
While North Carolina law requires courts to red flag someone who has been deemed incompetent, some gun shop owners and lawmakers are concerned about whether that information is being entered into the federal database quickly enough or if it is being entered at all.
MORE NEWS: Other stories we were following Thursday included:
PUPPIES: With first lady Ann McCrory watching from the gallery, state House lawmakers voted overwhelmingly Thursday to approve North Carolina's first attempt to curb puppy mills. House Bill 930 was not on the day's official calendar, but GOP leaders added it at the beginning of session. The measure requires basic standards of care for dogs in facilities with more than 10 breeding females on site. It requires food and water, daily exercise, appropriate housing, veterinary care when needed and humane euthanasia when needed.
TABOR: North Carolina would put constitutional limits on the growth of state spending under a bill that cleared the House Government Committee Thursday. The measure, which has only begun a long legislative journey, would ultimately have to be approved by voters in order to become law. Often called a Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or TABOR amendment, such measures are favored by political conservatives who say lawmakers cannot be trusted to set aside money in flush times in anticipation of downturns in the economy.
TESLA: Senate Bill 327, Clarify Motor Vehicle Licensing Law, mainly updates the laws that govern the relationships between car dealers and auto manufacturers. Most manufacturers don't have a problem with the bill because companies like Ford and Toyota have broad dealer networks throughout the state. But high-end electric car maker Tesla sells its car through a website and doesn't own a showroom in North Carolina and says the bill would force it to stop selling here.
ABORTION: The Senate gave key approval Thursday to a proposal requiring schools to teach students that abortion causes premature births, after the sponsor added instruction of other risk factors to the bill.
HOSPITAL BILLS: Consumers would be able to compare prices for various medical procedures upfront under a bill that the state Senate passed unanimously Thursday. Senate Bill 473 would require hospitals to outline the costs they would charge to someone without insurance, as well as to people covered by Medicaid, Medicare, the State Health Plan and the range of rates negotiated with insurers.
CANCER: A proposal to require health insurers to offer the same coverage for oral and intravenous cancer treatments has passed the state House, but not without an amendment that changes the terms. The original version of House Bill 609, the "NC Cancer Treatment Fairness Act," said insurers who offer coverage for chemotherapy can't charge patients higher out-of-pocket fees for newer, more expensive oral drugs than for older, less expensive IV formularies, many of which have more severe side-effects and are less effective. Rep. Sarah Stevens, R-Surry, amended the bill to set a $300 out-of-pocket maximum per filled prescription of an oral cancer drug.
MORE FROM THE SENATE: Also Thursday, the state Senate cleared bills dealing with student prayer and limiting the liability of petting zoos.