Today @NCCapitol (May 3): Unemployment report coming; fracking panel to meet
Posted May 3, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — Good morning and welcome to Today @NCCapitol for Friday, May 3. This is WRAL's roundup of what you need to know about North Carolina state government today.
UNEMPLOYMENT: A report Friday on April employment could show whether weak hiring in March marked a temporary lull or the fourth year in which a slumping economy has slowed job growth. Economists predict that the job gains likely improved on March's 88,000 — the fewest in nine months. But the hiring isn't expected to be much better. Most analysts think employers in April added more than 100,000 jobs but far fewer than the 196,000 that were added on average from September through February.
FRACKING: The state's Mining and Energy Commission is scheduled to discuss rules today that would require companies using hydraulic fracturing to disclose the chemicals they use in the process.
Known colloquially as "fracking," the hydraulic fracturing process involves injecting water, grit, and chemicals into underground shale formations in order to extract natural gas. Lawmakers created the Mining and Energy Commission to come up with rules to govern the process.
Disclosing which chemicals are used in the fracking process and in what amounts has been a subject of debate in states like Ohio, but is becoming more common place. "U.S. states that have enacted fracking disclosure legislation or rules include Arkansas, Colorado, Montana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wyoming," The New York Times reported last year.
However, the News & Observer reports this morning that similar rules in North Carolina may be on hold, or at least encountering resistance from industry, despite being on today's MEC agenda.
GENERAL ASSEMBLY: Neither the House nor Senate have any meetings scheduled for today.
MCCRORY: Gov. Pat McCrory has no public events on his schedule today.
IN THE NEWS: Stories we were following Thursday included:
PRE-K: A proposal to cut in half the number of children eligible for the state's free Pre-K program won tentative House approval Thursday. House Bill 935 would lower the number of eligible children to about 31,000 by changing the legal definition of an at-risk child.
TURNPIKES: Some North Carolina lawmakers say the governor's transportation overhaul will be a tougher sell after a House committee added several turnpike projects to the bill Thursday. The House Finance Committee added an amendment to Gov. Pat McCrory's plan that would authorize the Cape Fear Skyway, the Garden Parkway and the Mid-Currituck Bridge. The projects have divided lawmakers in the House and Senate, which has already tried to return them to the Department of Transportation to compete with other projects based on firm data that supports their potential impact.
MEDICAID: The chronically troubled state health insurance program for the poor and disabled has discovered another budget shortfall, which will squeeze an already tight state budget and could eat up any revenue windfall from better-than-expected tax collections. Officials with the Department of Health and Human Resources had earlier this year estimated that the state's Medicaid program would be $113 million over budget. Thursday, they announced the department would be short an additional $135 million. Combined with a "rebase," or an estimate of how much actual costs are growing year to year, the program will cost at least $434 million more in fiscal year that begins July 1 versus the current fiscal year.
ALEC: As House lawmakers debated whether to halve the number of North Carolina children eligible for free pre-kindergarten, several key members were missing from the chamber. House Speaker Thom Tillis, Rep. Tim Moffitt, R-Buncombe, and Rep. Jason Saine, R-Lincoln, left early Thursday to attend the ALEC Spring Task Force meeting in Oklahoma City, scheduled for Thursday and Friday.
ELECTIONS: State House lawmakers have approved two changes they say will help clean up voter rolls and allow counties to save money on runoff elections. House Bill 460 would request that funeral directors provide families with the paperwork needed to remove a deceased person from the voter rolls. House Bill 648 would give counties the option of choosing to open polls only at early voting sites or "vote centers" on Election day in second primaries, instead of having to open polling locations in every precinct.
LOANS: The installment loan industry would be able to charge higher interest rates and more fees under a bill the Senate gave tentative approval on Thursday. Such loans are often offered to consumers with no credit history or poor credit scores who can't get credit cards or other sorts of bank loans.
BONDSMEN: North Carolina would repeal a state law giving the N.C. Bail Agents Association a monopoly on teaching continuing education courses to bondsmen under an amendment tacked onto an unrelated bill Thursday.
MORE NEWS: News relevant to state government from other publications includes:
Asheville Citizen-Times: City Council will hold a special meeting Tuesday to consider suing over a bill that would take the Asheville water system away from the city. The state House concurred Wednesday with Senate changes to the bill and sent it to Gov. Pat McCrory for consideration.
Charlotte Business Journal: Duke Energy Corp. CEO Jim Rogers on Thursday put himself squarely on the side of the North Carolina's law promoting the use of renewable energy sources, as the law remains under attack in the N.C. General Assembly.
Stateline: Stateline provides a list of which states have decided to expand their Medicaid programs in response to the federal Affordable Care Act, and which have not. North Carolina is in the "no" column.
N.C. Health News: A new bill that seeks to restrict the practice of abortions based on the gender of the fetus. It could make doctors liable to being sued by a woman or her family members if they feel the physician should have realized that gender bias played a part in the decision to terminate the pregnancy.