Good morning and welcome to Today @NCCapitol for Tuesday, May 28. This is WRAL's roundup of what you need to know about North Carolina state government today.
TODAY: The state Senate will hold a skeleton session today, taking up no votes during its floor session and holding no committee meetings until Wednesday. Gov. Pat McCrory is scheduled to speak to a Rotary Club in Charlotte today.
The state House, meanwhile, begins the formal process of building its version of the state budget, with appropriations subcommittees meeting at 8:30 a.m. this morning. The state Senate passed its $20.6 billion spending plan last week. There are no bills on the House floor calendar, but the chamber has a several committee meetings scheduled.
VOUCHERS: The House Education Committee will hear a bill today that would provide public tax dollars for some low income children to attend private schools. Dubbed the Opportunity Scholarship Act, the voucher measure is backed by school choice advocates and opposed by those who say it will drain funding from traditional public schools. The state Senate did not provide funding for the $50 million pilot program in its version of the budget.
FERRIES: The House Transportation Committee will meet at noon to consider a measure that would provide alternatives to tolling ferries, including selling naming rights or ads. WRAL.com will carry the meeting live. Check the Video Central box on our home page.
The committee is scheduled to handle the voucher measure and several other bills during a 10 a.m. meeting today. WRAL.com will carry that meeting live. Check the Video Central box on our home page.
On The Record: Budget plans impact NC's cities ON THE RECORD: Gov. Pat McCrory went On the Record with anchor David Crabtree this week, speaking about his efforts to get a handle on the state budget. Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane and Huntersville Mayor Jill Swain also spoke about how actions in Raleigh are affecting their cities.
MORAL MONDAYS: There was no "Moral Monday" protest at the legislative building on Memorial Day. NAACP leaders say they will hold public events around the state this week to rally support for their movement, which opposes many of the voting, budget and other policies put forward by Republican legislative leaders. There have been arrests each of the first four weeks protesters have come to the General Assembly building. This coming Monday, June 3, is expected to be the biggest such demonstration yet.
FROM THE WEEKEND: Stories you might have missed over the long Memorial Day Weekend include:
AG GAG: The Humane Society of the United States is joining People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals as the latest organization to launch a video protest of the so-called “ag-gag” bill, which would curb the use of undercover video to film animal cruelty at meat processing facilities and big factory farms.
TAXES: The basic premise of reform is to cut the tax rate, then tax more things.North Carolina is one of 35 states that doesn't tax Social Security benefits. Advocates for seniors like the AARP say they have a message for Senate leaders: Please don't start now. Sen. Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenburg, who is leading the state's tax reform movement, stressed that no details have been worked out yet. "There is no bill yet," he said. "Speculation isn't going to help anybody."
SUPER PAC: Supporters of House Speaker Thom Tillis said Friday that they have filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to create a super PAC to build support for a possible U.S. Senate campaign by Tillis next year.
JORDAN LAKE: Before crowds descend on Jordan Lake to swim, boat and fish over the Memorial Day weekend, environment groups held a news conference Friday to express concern over legislation that would repeal water-quality rules for the lake. Environment North Carolina, the Sierra Club, the Haw River Assembly and local businesspeople said they are puzzled by the Senate's passage last week of a bill that would scrap the Jordan Lake Rules, which were adopted in 2009 to cut pollution and runoff flowing into the lake from upstream sources by 35 percent. The lake is a drinking water source for about 300,000 people in the Triangle.
BAIL BONDS: When Rep. Robert Brawley, R-Iredell, resigned his post as a House Finance Committee chairman this week, his resignation letter aired a number of grievances with how House Speaker Thom Tillis was running the chamber. One of the items on Brawley's list made an not-so-oblique reference to a long-running battle between two groups of bail bondsmen, a pair of state legislators, the Department of Insurance and the vagaries of legislative process.
SENATE BUDGET: A provision in the Senate budget calls for eliminating a salary bonus in 2014 for any incoming teacher who has earned a master's degree.That bonus amounts to a 10 to 15 percent increase in pay for which those teachers would be ineligible. Current teachers with master's degrees wouldn't be affected. While that provision might cause heartburn for some, the loss of tenure for veteran teachers is what has many longtime educators up in arms over the Senate budget proposal.
INTERNS: Dozens of college state-government interns would be sent home this summer and a long-running teen mock legislative program would be shuttered in the Senate budget approved this week. A budget provision eliminates an office within the Department of Administration that operates the State Government Internship Program and other youth leadership initiatives such as the annual Youth Legislative Assembly — all of which have birthed state officials and others who aspire to leadership.
NOTED: Stories from other outlets worth noting include:
Washington Post: North Carolina has been saddled with one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates. The bad times helped prepare the way for a carefully executed strategy, with big financial support from a major conservative activist, that helped the GOP win control of both chambers of the state General Assembly in 2010. Those victories were capped last year when Republican Pat McCrory was elected governor, giving the party control of all levers of state government for the first time since 1870.
Stateline: More than a quarter-million veterans who lack health insurance will miss out on Medicaid coverage because they live in states that have declined to expand the program under the Affordable Care Act.
Charlotte Observer: Under the budget the Senate approved last week, the state agency that works with North Carolina’s hunting and boating enthusiasts would lose almost half its state funding. The proposed $9 million cut in each of the next two fiscal years would be “crippling” to the state Wildlife Resources Commission, its executive director said.