Today @NCCapitol (May 28): Senate rolls out its budget after protesters arrested in Tillis' office
Posted May 28, 2014
Good morning and welcome to Today @NCCapitol for Wednesday, May 28. Here's what's going on at the legislature and around state government:
TEACHER PAY: Senate Republican leaders are set to roll out their K-12 education budget at a news conference Wednesday morning, according to senators and legislative staff.
The measure will include a "significant" raise in teacher salaries, according to those familiar with the announcement. However, reporters for The News & Observer suggest that, in order to gain higher salaries, teachers will have to give up career status rights, commonly called tenure.
Teacher tenure has been at the heart of lawsuits – one in Guilford County and one in Wake County – and Gov. Pat McCrory has suggested making optional a legislative mandate from 2013 that demanded school districts offer the top 25 percent of their teaching corps pay raises in exchange for surrendering their tenure rights.
Less clear is how Senate Republicans will pay for the increased salaries in a year where tax revenues have lagged and Medicaid costs continue to put pressure on the budget. However, several people familiar with the Senate budget proposal said it would, in part, trim the rates at which Medicaid providers are paid in order to offset the increased education spending.
THE BUDGET: Senate budget writers said Tuesday they expected to publish their full spending plan online Wednesday night and debate it in Appropriations Committee as early as Thursday.
Sen. Harry Brown, R-Onslow, a chief budget writer, said he expected the spending plan to bypass budget subcommittees and be heard only at the full committee level. He said senators were determined to get the budget to the House by the end of this week, even if it meant working part of this weekend.
RELATED: The largest school district is Texas is looking to poach some teachers from North Carolina, where low teacher pay has become a growing concern among educators and state leaders. The Houston Independent School District plans to hold a job fair Saturday at the Doubletree Brownstone Hotel on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh. A newspaper classified ad promoting the event notes the district pays a $46,805 starting salary, which is about 20 percent higher than the starting salary for a Wake County teacher.
UP ALL NIGHT: Protesters who were attempting to occupy House Speaker Thom Tillis' office all night were arrested at around 1:30 a.m. 14 arrested after sit-in at NC Legislative Building
Of 15 protesters with the "Moral Monday" movement who spent hours in Tillis' office, 14 were arrested while one voluntarily left. The arrests came after numerous warnings from police over the course of 11 hours.
The 15 were part of a cadre of protesters who spent much of the day and early evening visiting with lawmakers. Led by Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP, the group demanded a meeting with Tillis to ask that he lead a repeal of measures such as voter ID restrictions and a measure that blocks North Carolina from expanding Medicaid. Many of the bills targeted by the protesters are key Republican priorities.
"I'm asking you again to leave this office and leave the premises," said Lt. Martin Brock with the North Carolina General Assembly Police during one of several visits to the protesters, this one around midnight. Brock repeatedly warned the protesters that they were subject to arrest.
"What's going to happen if we don't leave," said Rubye Harris, one of those sitting in the speaker's office.
"It's my hope you will," Brock said.
"We will be here until Thom Tillis gets here in the morning," Harris responded.
In a news release, backers of the protesters wrote, "The North Carolina NAACP and the Forward Together Moral Movement will meet them at 8 a.m. Wednesday morning when the General Assembly building reopens to provide support and solidarity as well as to take breakfast orders."
However, the Associated Press reported that protesters who did not leave voluntarily were placed in "plastic zip-ties and led out of the building one by one."
SENATE FLOOR: Senators will take up a tax bill and a regulatory reform measure when they convene at 11 a.m.
The tax bill cleared the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday night and is largely the same as a measure passed by the state House last week. Of the changes made by the Senate, the most significant would completely eliminate the power of cities and counties to impose privilege license taxes on businesses as of July 1, 2015, and begin curtailing that power starting this July. Tax bill clears Senate committee
Senators have already given initial approval to a regulatory reform measure that touches on everything from parking in handicapped spaces to determining when fines can be levied on certain polluters.
The measure's fate is uncertain when it reaches the House.
"Regulatory reform will be the work product of both chambers," said Rep. Tim Moffitt, R-Buncombe, saying House members will have their own ideas about what should and should not be in the measure.
WRAL.com plans to carry the Senate session live online. Check the Video Central box on the home page.
HOUSE FLOOR: The House is scheduled to meet at 3 p.m. with only a handful of bills on its calendar.
The most controversial measure on representatives' plates is likely a measure to confirm McCrory's pick to fill a vacancy on the state Industrial Commission. Charlton Allen, a Mooresville attorney, has come under fire from Democrats, who said he has publicly staked out his position on workers' rights issues that call into question his ability to impartially hear cases. Republicans say Allen is well-qualified to hear workers compensation cases that come before the commission.
House members are also scheduled to give initial approval to a bill that would require public school systems to identify and track students with military connections as part of an effort to head off academic problems.
THE GOVERNOR: McCrory will be in Pitt County at 9 a.m. for a hurricane workshop at East Carolina University in Greenville. Later in the day, his public schedule lists the Business for Education Success and Transformation NC "Inaugural Legislative Gathering" at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.That meeting is closed the public.
THE REST OF THE CALENDAR: The legislature maintains a full list of committee meetings on its website. @NCCapitol is taking special note of:
Senate Education (9 a.m. | 643 LOB): A measure that currently deals with the definition of home schools is expected to be changed into a measure that makes technical fixes to the Read to Achieve program. Reach to Achieve has been a key education priority for Senate leaders, but many elementary students have had problems meeting the third-grade reading goals set by the law.
House Regulatory Reform (10 a.m. | 643 LOB): This committee has more than a dozen bills on its calendar for consideration, including measures to do away with obsolete boards and commissions and make changes to how state agencies adopt administrative rules that put laws passed by the General Assembly into effect.
CANCELED: Medicaid Presser (11 a.m. | News conference room): House and Senate Democrats will press their case for bills that would expand North Carolina's Medicaid program to those at 133 percent of poverty as allowed by the federal Affordable Care Act. (The hosts of this news conference canceled it via e-mail Wednesday morning.)
State Personnel (Noon | 544 LOB): Lawmakers will consider a bill that could give the State Treasurer's Office more staff to monitor fraud and risk in investments.
The House Elections and Insurance committees will meet at 1 p.m.
O'possum Where Art Thou: The ongoing fight between a North Carolina mountain town and animal advocates over the town's New Year's Eve tradition has led the state House to create a loophole for the event. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has repeatedly challenged the annual Possum Drop in Brasstown, calling it cruel treatment of the shy marsupial. Rep. Roger West, R-Cherokee, filed a bill last week to exempt Clay County, which includes Brasstown, from any state wildlife regulations regarding "the capture, captivity, treatment, or release" of possums between Dec. 26 and Jan. 2 each year.
FRACK: The start of natural gas drilling in North Carolina would no longer be set in stone if a bill approved by the House Public Utilities and Energy Committee on Tuesday becomes law. The new version of Senate Bill 786 scraps the July 1, 2015, start date proposed by the Senate. Instead, it authorizes officials to issue permits 60 days after the state finalizes rules for drilling, including the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing, also known as "fracking." The measure is next slated to go to the House Finance Committee.
G-MAN: A veteran FBI agent will join the State Board of Elections next month to assist in voter fraud and campaign finance investigations, officials said Tuesday Chuck Stuber has worked for the FBI for 28 years, serving in Washington, D.C., Denver and Raleigh. He was involved in investigations of former Gov. Mike Easley and former House Speaker Jim Black, both of which ended in convictions.