Raleigh, N.C. — Good morning and welcome to Today @NCCapitol for Wednesday, May 29. This is WRAL's roundup of what you need to know about North Carolina state government today.
FROM TWITTER: @wakedems: "Fmr Rep Grier Martin elected to replace the House District 34 seat vacated by Deborah Ross.”
Martin and Ross were drawn into the same legislative district following the 2010 census. Martin opted not to run for re-election rather than challenge Ross.
Ross announced earlier this year that she would step down in order to become general counsel for Triangle Transit.
HOUSE TODAY: The House floor session will be at 2 p.m. today and take up a bill that would undo the lease for the Dorothea Dix property former Gov. Bev Perdue signed with the City of Raleigh. A Senate version of the bill simply condemned the lease. The House version gives the city some incentives to renegotiate the deal, including offering the Gov. Morehead School property as part of the deal.
Gov. Pat McCrory backs the deal, while Senate leaders say it still gives up too much to the city.
WRAL.com will carry the session live, beginning our stream shortly after the 2 p.m. start. Check the Video Central box on our home page for a link.
SENATE TODAY: There are no bills on the Senate floor calendar today.
The Wrap @NCCapitol (May 29) WRAP: Capitol Bureau Chief Laura Leslie and reporter Mark Binker wrap up legislative action from a relatively quiet Tuesday and look ahead to budget negotiations and a "Bigfoot" sighting in The Wrap @NCCapitol.
COMMITTEES: For a full listing of legislative committee meetings, check the main @NCCapitol page. Highlights from today include:
Senate Education (10 a.m. | 544 LOB): The committee takes up a House bill that would require public schools to teach cursive handwriting and multiplication tables. WRAL.com will carry this meeting live. Check the Video Central box on our home page.
House Judiciary B (10 a.m. | 421 LOB): Committee members are expected to take up a bill aimed at restarting executions in North Carolina. The measure includes the repeal of the last remaining pieces of the Racial Justice Act.
House Commerce (10 a.m. | 643 LOB): Commerce Sec. Sharon Decker is expected to offer more details on the McCrory administration's plan to turn more of the state's job recruiting functions over to a public-private partnership.
House Public Utilities (Noon | 643 LOB): Committee members will consider whether the legislature should approve Christopher Ayers, who has been a lobbyist for utility companies, to head the public staff of the North Carolina Utilities Commission.
House Elections (1 p.m. | 643 LOB): A bill that would redraw the districts for Wake County School Board Elections will be heard by the committee. WRAL.com will carry this meeting live. Check the Video Central box on our home page.
FROM TUESDAY: Stories we were following Tuesday included:
TOLLS: North Carolina ferries could soon sell sponsorships, advertising, concessions, and even internet access under a bill that won approval in House Transportation Tuesday. House Bill 475 would freeze scheduled toll increases originally set to take effect July 1st, giving the state another year to find other ways to pay for the ferry system, the second largest in the country after Washington state's system. As amended in committee, the bill would leave current tolls in place on three of the state's seven ferry routes, but would stop the DOT from raising them. Two other routes that would be tolled for the first time would also be spared. Commuter ferries at Cherry Point–Minnesott Beach and Bayview–Aurora would remain free for one more year.
Private schools back scholarship bill VOUCHERS: Some low-income students would be able to get publicly funded grants to help pay for private school tuition if a bill that cleared the House Education Committee 27-21 Tuesday becomes law. As currently drafted, the measure would set aside $10 million for 2,000 scholarships in the fiscal year that begins July 1. Another $40 million would let 7,000 more students attend public schools starting July 1, 2014. Each student would be eligible for a grant of $4,200. According to a report by Parents for Educational Freedom, the average annual private school tuition in North Carolina is $6,235.
GUNS: A gun-rights advocacy group is running radio commercials criticizing University of North Carolina system leaders for opposing a bill that would allow students and staff to bring a concealed pistol on campus.
Other Stories: Stories from elsewhere worth noting include:
Dr. Michael Bitzer: Among the lower chambers from 1996-2010, North Carolina’s GOP conference started out in a fairly “moderate” scoring, being grouped with such states as Tennessee, Virginia, and Florida. But like our neighboring state to the west, N.C.’s GOP conference has moved more conservative, almost landing in between the moderate states and the more conservative states of Texas and Alabama.
Charlotte Observer: North Carolina has filed a second lawsuit against Duke Energy in a move that puts the state’s claim that coal ash poses a threat to Charlotte’s water supply before a Mecklenburg County court. Last week the N.C. Division of Water Quality amended an existing complaint, about ash stored at Duke Energy Progress’ Asheville power plant, to include the Riverbend plant near Charlotte. On Friday, the division filed a separate lawsuit in Mecklenburg County Superior Court solely about Riverbend, which is operated by Duke Energy Carolinas. The substance of both actions, in which the state calls ash “a serious danger” if not addressed, is the same.