Today @NCCapitol (May 21): Lawmakers continue work on taxes, regulations and fracking
Posted May 21, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — Welcome to Today @NCCapitol for Wednesday, May 21. Here's what's going on at the legislature and elsewhere in state government:
FIRST UP: Lt. Gov. Dan Forrest, a Republican, Sen. Josh Stein, D-Wake, teachers and business leaders will "explain the components of Common Core State Standards, the pros and cons of these standards, and what it means for education and talent development going forward for our community," during an event sponsored by the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce. (8 a.m. Marbles Kids Museum)
HOUSE: The state House is scheduled to convene at 3 p.m. Look for another round of debate on a bill dealing with various tax measures, including whether and how to tax e-cigarettes. A measure raising the age at which young offenders are treated as adults was held over from Tuesday and is also on the calendar. House tentatively OKs tax changes, including e-cig levy Fast-track 'fracking' bill moves quickly
SENATE: The state Senate is scheduled to convene at 2 p.m. and will take up a measure that would open the state to natural gas drilling by way of fracking, starting in the summer of 2015. Senators will also consider a resolution honoring veterans that is named for Zeb Alley, a late lawmaker and lobbyist. WRAL.com plans to carry this session live. Check the Video Central box on the homepage.
CALENDAR: Elsewhere in committee meetings and around downtown:
House Commerce (10 a.m.): Lawmakers will take up legislation aimed at curbing patent trolls, who threaten lawsuits against businesses based on often spurious intellectual property claims.
Senate Finance (10 a.m.): No agenda is posted for this meeting. However, a regulatory reform bill that sailed through the Agriculture and Environment Committee Tuesday has been referred to Finance. Regulatory reform bill sails through Senate committee
Energy Policy Council (10 a.m.): The North Carolina Energy Policy Council, chaired by Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, will meet in the Ground Floor Hearing Room of the Archdale Building, 521 N. Salisbury St., Raleigh.
Senate Appropriation HHS Subcommittee(11 a.m.): Public hearing on a community services block grant.
Tillis @ NFIB (11:30 a.m. at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences): House Speaker Thom Tillis will be the keynote speaker at the annual NFIB/North Carolina Small Business Day at the Capital luncheon in Raleigh.
House Public Utilities and Energy (noon): House Bill 1052, a bill adjusting the regulatory fee on telecommunications companies, is on the agenda.
VIP (Noon): The Voter Integrity Project, a group that lobbies for more stringent ballot access regulations, will be holding a media event that corresponds with a lobby day it is holding.
Timely cleanup unlikely at state's hazardous waste sites INVESTIGATES: When 39,000 tons of coal ash spilled into North Carolina's Dan River in February, it grabbed national headlines and raised the ire of environmentalists. But by sheer numbers, the 14 coal ash locations spread across North Carolina pale in comparison to the nearly 3,000 various waste sites across the state. That includes decommissioned industrial facilities, abandoned dry cleaners and old landfills. Despite the sometimes active threats to water or air, many of these sites take years or decades to clean up, if they're cleaned up at all. The fund to clear out the contamination can't keep up.
MILITARY APPRECIATION: Leaders from the state’s military bases filled the gallery of the Senate chamber Tuesday as lawmakers honored service members on Military Appreciation Day, flooding the room with applause. The month of May marks National Military Appreciation Month, offering gratitude for troops' service as Memorial Day approaches at the end of the month.
Veteran senators shared tales of their own service and praised the contributions of fellow military service members. Sen. Harry Brown, R-Onslow, whose district includes Camp Lejeune, said the military plays a crucial role in the state’s economy and in his own community. “What the military presence in this state means to the state can never be overstated,” Brown said. “It’s huge for our economy. It’s huge for our workforce.”
RECORDINGS: The Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Office confiscated the recorder of a reporter during an open Senate Commerce Committee meeting Tuesday, after the committee chairman made an announcement that runs counter to North Carolina's open meetings statute. Sen. Rick Gunn, R-Alamance, later reversed himself, but not before members for the sergeant-at-arms staff removed an audio recorder from the room that belonged to a N.C. Health News reporter.
TORTS: A bill that its sponsor says would protect North Carolina businesses from frivolous litigation is raising questions from lawmakers charged with reviewing it. They said several of the provisions, which appear to stem from model legislation drafted by national business lobbying groups, are confusing and duplicate current rules. The bill shares some legislative DNA with model bills put forward by the American Legislative Exchange Council and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The Senate Judiciary I Committee is expected to take another look at the measure on Thursdays.
SEA LEVEL RISE: Charleston's Historic District and the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse are among the national landmarks threatened by rising sea levels, according to a report released Tuesday by the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Associated Press reports:
The report cites 30 such sites nationwide scientists say need to be protected from climate changes ranging from sea level rise to floods and frequent wildfires.
The 84-page report, "National Landmarks at Risk" mentions such varied sites as NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Statue of Liberty, the Bandelier National Monument & Santa Clara Pueblo in New Mexico and the Bering Land Bridge National Monument in Alaska.
In North Carolina, studies conducted a quarter century ago noted rising sea levels were endangering the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. The 4,800-ton lighthouse was moved nearly 3,000 feet from the shore back in 1999 but in recent years sea level rise on the Outer Banks has been two to three times the global average, the report said.
All of the Outer Banks, the string of narrow barrier islands on North Carolina's coast, are vulnerable to higher seas and stronger storms. The report noted that North Carolina 12 along the Outer Banks was breached in two places during Hurricane Irene in 2011, buried under sand during Hurricane Sandy the following year while last year a nor'easter again buried the highway.
As sea level rises "the hard choices that were made in deciding how to response to an imminent threat to the lighthouse's future will have to be made again and again," the report concluded.
HERE PIGGY: A bill introduced last week in the state Senate that would block the public release of aerial photos and GPS coordinates of farms isn't likely to make it through this summer's short session, the bill's sponsor says. Senate Bill 762 cites "fraudulently reported environmental complaints" as the catalyst for the exemption, which would include any records in the state's custody containing the photos or coordinates. Both environmental and open-government advocates say the move does little to address fraudulent complaints and would remove valuable information from the public eye.
VOTING: "A federal judge could decide by this summer whether North Carolina’s new voting laws should be blocked for the Nov. 4 general elections," reports the Winston-Salem Journal. "Attorneys filed motions for a preliminary injunction late Monday in U.S. District Court in the Middle District of North Carolina, which has jurisdiction in Greensboro and Winston-Salem, comparing the new law to past efforts, such as poll taxes, that were designed to disenfranchise black voters. Supporters of the new election changes filed a motion Monday seeking to throw out a trio of lawsuits filed last year challenging the law."
ADS 1: Americans for Prosperity, a national conservative group funded by billionaires Charles and David Koch, is launching a new statewide media campaign praising the tax overhaul that the General Assembly passed last year. AFP officials will not say how much money they are spending on the ads, but a source with knowledge of the issue who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak for the group said the total buy would be about $350,000.
ADS 2: Crossroads GPS has begun airing an ad critical of U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan's support for the Affordable Care Act, part of a $3.6 million buy that will be on broadcast and cable through most of June and July.