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Today @NCCapitol (May 22): Senate budget contains new fees, Dix bill in committee

Posted May 22, 2013

— Good morning and welcome to Today @NCCapitol for Wednesday, May 22. This is WRAL's roundup of what you need to know about North Carolina state government today.

BUDGET VOTE: The Senate will debate and vote on its $20.6 billion budget proposal today at 1 p.m. WRAL.com will carry the session live. Please see the Video Central box on our home page. The budget bill is the only item on the floor calendar. 

HOUSE CALENDAR AND BUDGET: The House will meet at 1:15 p.m. today and has a sparse calendar. Speaker Thom Tillis said that chamber's budget process was about to begin. Budget Charmian Nelson Dollar later clarified that budget subcommittees would begin meeting next week, after the Memorial Day holiday. 

FEES: The Senate budget contains $57.4 million in new fees, according to a note from a fiscal analyst sent to Senate Finance Committee members Tuesday night. "Of that amount, approximately $40 million is used to off-set tax cuts included in the Finance Package," analyst Rodney Bizzell wrote in an email provided to WRAL by a member of the committee. Senators have not included the bulk of their finance bill in the senate budget, saying instead it will be crafted in a separate bill later in the session.

A chart attached to the emailshows the bulk of the new revenue would come from a reallocation of money collected from deed stamps when property is bought or sold. 

LOTTERY: The budget would eliminate the law that lays out how the state lottery's net proceeds should be distributed for education, reports the Associated Press. When the legislature passed the lottery in 2005, it set aside lottery proceeds for four educational purposes, but has regularly ignored that law since then. As originally written the lottery law put half the gaming enterprises proceeds toward class-size reduction and pre-kindergarten, with 40 percent for school construction and the rest for college scholarships for needy students.

Budget-writer Sen. Pete Brunstetter said Tuesday legislators have altered the distribution annually to meet their needs, so it makes sense to eliminate language no one follows. The proposed budget would still distribute lottery profits to those programs. Brunstetter says he doesn't believe Republican colleagues are inclined to spend the money on non-education needs.

MEDICAID: State Medicaid officials increased the estimate by which Medicaid has exceed last year's budget by $85 million. In a news release sent out around 6 p.m. Tuesday, the department blamed the overrun on bad estimates by former Gov. Bev Perdue's administration. This adds to approximately $400 million in cost overruns in the Medicaid budget previously identified by the department. 

Gov. Pat McCrory Web only: Pat McCrory on budget, tax reform "We've got to get a handle on Medicaid," Gov. Pat McCrory said Tuesday during an interview with WRAL.

MCCRORY: McCrory spoke to WRAL and other television stations around the state on Tuesday as part of an effort to press his budget priorities

During his WRAL interview, the governor said he did not expect to roll out his own tax plan but would have input into legislative proposals.

McCrory also said he said he would rather not take over control of the State Bureau of Investigation as called for in the Senate budget plan. 

ETHICS: Asked about reports that Kieran Shanahan, McCrory's Sec. of Crime Control and Public Safety, has been doing work for his private law firm and that Yolanda Stith, wife of McCrory's chief of staff Thomas Stith, is doing lobbying work, McCrory said he has been careful to ensure no ethical boundaries are crossed.

"I believe his wife has every right to make a living," McCrory said of Stith. "But he also has a responsibility and his wife has a responsibility to keep a firewall. And that's exactly what I made sure was created between any work she does and any work in the executive office."

Regarding Shanahan, McCrory said there is a "clear understanding" of what Shanahan is and is not allowed to do.

"That's been clarified even more to ensure there is no appearance or (no) conflict of interest in the work that his firm does of the work that he does," McCrory said. 

Shortly after that interview, Shanahan's firm posted a note to its website saying, "Kieran Shanahan is currently on a temporary leave of absence from Shanahan Law Group, PLLC and is, therefore, not practicing law at this time. Kieran and the firm are honored that Governor Pat McCrory has appointed Kieran as Secretary of North Carolina Department of Public Safety."

FRIPPERY: If lawmakers look a little more ornamented than usual today, it's not your imagination. The state House will be hosting its annual "Brims and Bows" day, with ladies sporting fancy hats and gentlemen in bow ties. 

ROUND BALL: Today is also the day of the semi-regular North Carolina - South Carolina legislative basketball games. Lawmakers from both states as well as lobbyists are scheduled to play at the Reynolds Coliseum late today. The lobbyist game is scheduled to tip off at 5 p.m. The lawmaker game tips off at 6:30 p.m.

"This is a charity event to benefit the Food Banks of North Carolina." according to a note from the professional lobbyists association. "There is no admission charge for the games, but attendees are requested to make either a cash donation or bring food items to donate to the Food Banks of North Carolina."

Gov. Pat McCrory Web only: Pat McCrory on budget, tax reform WRAP: Reporter Mark Binker covered Tuesday's action on Jones Street in The Wrap @NCCapitol.

COMMITTEES: For a full list of committees, please see the mail @NCCapitol page. Among the highlights:

House Full Judiciary (After the House session | 544 LOB): The full House Judiciary Committee will meet after the House completes its floor calendar today to take up the bill dealing with the Dorothea Dix property lease with the City of Raleigh.

"It is not the same as the Senate bill," Judiciary Chairman Leo Daughtry said late Tuesday. He would not give details about the measure because it was still being drafted late Tuesday. 

The state Senate passed a bill that would dissolve the lease between the city and state for the 325 acre property, with top Senators saying the deal gave away the property for too little compensation. Daughtry and House members have been looking for a compromise between the Senate and local leaders who want a park on the property. 

House Judiciary B (10 a.m. | 421 LOB): Lawmakers will take up the measure aimed at restarting the death penalty in North Carolina. 

Senate Transportation (11 a.m. | 1027 LB): Senators will take up the governor's plan to overhaul how transportation projects are funded in North Carolina. Language related to that change is already in the senate budget. 

Stories: Other stories we were following Tuesday included: 

TOLLS: The Department of Transportation would be able to add toll lanes to highways under a bill that cleared the state House Tuesday. All existing highway lanes would have to remain free under the measure. But if highways were expanded, the department could toll them in order to pay for the construction. In order to entice people to drive on the tolled lanes, the department could offer limited access and higher speed limits.

TAGS: Charter schools would be eligible for permanent license tags that exempt their vehicles from annual fees and inspections under a bill that cleared the House Transportation Committee Tuesday. "What this does is simply recognize that charter schools are actually public schools," said Rep. Bert Jones, R-Rockingham.

VOUCHERS: In a packed room, the House Education Committee heard Tuesday from supporters and opponents of a plan to give taxpayer-funded scholarships for low income students that attend private schools. The crowd precluded any committee debate or a vote on the bill, as legislators used the limited time to hear from the public – those in favor and against the Opportunity Scholarship Act. The committee did roll out a new version of the bill and an accompanying summary that explains the measure.

ARC: A longtime advocate for people with mental disabilities in North Carolina is joining state government as the director of the agency that oversees services for them and others with mental illness or alcohol or drug abuse problems. The Department of Health and Human Services announced Tuesday that Dave Richard will head the Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services starting next week.

POLLUTION:  A state environmental agency is seeking a court injunction against Duke Energy over groundwater that may have been contaminated by coal ash from a Charlotte-area power plant. The N.C. Division of Water Quality took legal action Tuesday against the utility over its handling of coal ash at Mountain Island Lake — a major source of drinking water in North Carolina's largest city.

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  • 42_wral_mods_suck_i'm_gone May 22, 2013

    I did not see this discussed on WRAL but the Senate cuts NC Wildlife Resources Commission's budget by 50%.

  • kdogwnc May 22, 2013

    So the Radical Republicans now want to punish hybrid cars in NC? Their budget will add a special $50 registration fee for hybrid vehicles, and $100 fee for plug-in electric vehicles. Did Grover Norquist sign off on this punitive tax increase?