Today @NCCapitol (May 30): Tax bills wrap up the week on Jones Street

Posted May 30, 2013

— Good morning and welcome to Today @NCCapitol for Thursday, May 30. This is WRAL's roundup of what you need to know about North Carolina state government today.

BIGFOOT SIGHTING: Get out your calculators, because both the House and Senate Finance Committees will be tackling tax reform proposals today, including "Bigfoot," the much talked about plan touted by Senate leaders that has not yet appeared in bill form. 

The House Finance Committee will meet at 8:30 a.m. to discuss a proposal by Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, that expands sales taxes to some services, but only those offered by businesses that already collect sales taxes. 

At 10 a.m., the Senate Finance Committee will meet and, according to both Sens. Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenburg, and Bill Rabon, R-Brunswick, will unveil legislative language attached to the tax reform package that anti-tax maven Grover Norquist has praised. As outlined by Rucho, Rabon and Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger, the plan lowers corporate and individual income tax rates, eliminates many loopholes but also expands sales taxes for 130 to 160 services that aren't taxed now. 

Senators are also set to get a look at an updated tax bill being drafted by Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, R-Cabarrus, and Dan Clodfelter, D-Cabarrus, which contains some expansion of sales taxes but also focuses a lot of energy on rewriting the tax code as it applies to businesses. 

WRAL.com plans to carry both finance committees live from Room 544 of the Legislative Office Building. Check the Video Central box on the home page.

House Democrats have scheduled a news conference reacting to the House Republican plan at 10 a.m. Look for coverage of that and more details on both sets of tax proposals on @NCCapitol throughout the day. 

MCCRORY: Bust out the disaster casual. Gov. Pat McCrory holds a news conference on Hurricane Awareness Week at the N.C. Emergency Operations Center here in Raleigh at 1 p.m. today. 

HOUSE FLOOR: Although House lawmakers will hold committee meetings today, they will not hold any floor votes during their 10 a.m. skeleton session. 

SENATE SESSION / RED ROUTE: The state Senate will meet at noon today. Among the bills on its calendar is onel that clears the way for studying the so-called Red Route of Interstate 540 through Garner. The bill had been caught in a legislative tussle between House and Senate lawmakers but now appears to be on its way to passage. Allowing for the study of the route, which top lawmakers have pledged won't be built, will allow the state to draw down federal funds for the highway project. The study won't move forward unless related legislation remaking how transportation funding in the state is distributed also passes. 

House lawmakers are scheduled to hear the conference report on the Red Route bill Monday night. 

The Wrap @NCCapitol (May 29) The Wrap @NCCapitol (May 29) WRAP: Capitol Bureau Chief Laura Leslie and reporter Mark Binker wrap up Wednesday action on Jones Street and look forward to today's action on tax bills in The Wrap @NCCapitol.

COMMITTEES: For a full listing of legislative committee hearings, please check the main @NCCapitol page. Aside from this morning's finance committee hearings, here are today's highlights: 

Senate Rules (8:30 a.m. | 1027 LB): The committee take up NC Commerce Protection Act, which animal protection groups insist would curb whistle-blowers investigating abuse at factory farms and meat processing facilities, and the N.C. Chamber insists is nothing like "Ag Gag" bills in other states. 

House Banking (11 a.m. | 1228 LB): Committee members are expected to vote on a bill that would loosen restrictions on small consumer installment loans, allowing lenders to charge more interest. 

STORIES: News we were following Wednesday included: 

COMMERCE: Commerce Sec. Sharon Decker appeared before the committee to provide more details about a planned reorganization of the Commerce Department that will turn many of the state's job-recruiting functions over to a public-private partnership. Her presentation fleshed out more of the detail related to a reorganization plan she has been touting for much of this spring.

Decker also cautioned lawmakers that tax reform efforts alone wold not be enough to lure news businesses to the state. Asked if a zero corporate income tax rate would allow North Carolina to do away with funding for economic development incentives, Decker said: "I'd like to think that, but the current facts don't support it. If that were true, the state of Texas would have no incentives, and they've got a huge multimillion-dollar fund." 

DEMOCRATS: A former administrator at the Vermont Democratic Party is the new executive director of the North Carolina Democratic Party. Robert Dempsey has been hired to run the North Carolina party's day-to-day operations. The state party's executive committee voted Tuesday night to approve his hiring.

SCHOOL BOARD ELECTIONS: A proposal to redraw Wake County's school board districts for the second time in four years could be on the House floor Monday after passing House Elections Wednesday on strict party lines, 23-12. The latest version of Senate Bill 325 redraws the county's current nine school board districts into seven, turning the other two seats into "regional districts." Like a bullseye, a central district would represent the city, while an outer district would represent the rest of the county. It also moves the school board elections from odd-numbered years to November of even-numbered years. The new districts would take effect in 2016. The vote would be by plurality.

AYERS: The state House has approved Gov. Pat McCrory's nomination of Christopher Ayers to head the Public Staff of the North Carolina Utilities Commission, ignoring objections raised by one lawmaker about his qualifications.

DEATH PENALTY: A proposal to repeal the remainder of the 2009 Racial Justice Act could be on the House floor for a vote Monday after passing a House judiciary committee on a straight party-line vote Wednesday. Senate Bill 306 would strike the Racial Justice Act from state law, voiding all pending cases for relief under the statute. The 2009 law allows death row inmates to seek to have their sentences commuted to life without parole if they can prove to a judge that racism played a role in their sentencing.

DIX: The state House voted 111-5 to approve a bill that reworks the deal between the state and City of Raleigh over the Dorothea Dix property. Senate leaders are skeptical of the House-drafted measure.

NOTED: Material from elsewhere worth noting this morning includes: 

Charlotte Observer: House Speaker Thom Tillis has thrown himself into the debate over a proposed Charlotte airport authority, quietly convening both sides in hopes of finding common ground. So far, any compromise has been elusive. Tillis hosted a conference call on Tuesday with a group that included City Council members James Mitchell and David Howard and Republican Reps. Bill Brawley and Ruth Samuelson, both of Mecklenburg County.

CNN Opinion: CNN Opinion gives the Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP, a national platform to express his displeasure with actions by lawmakers. "We don't take civil disobedience lightly. But the avalanche of extreme policies from Gov. Pat McCrory and the North Carolina General Assembly -- attacking the poor and unemployed, cutting crucial funding from public education and dismantling voting rights -- left us no choice," Barber writes.

Stateline: While a handful of states passed major transportation packages this year, many more are struggling to figure out how to simply keep up the roads, bridges and rails they already have.

NC Health News: In a repeat performance of events held last fall, dozens of group home residents with mental illness rallied in front of the General Assembly building Wednesday afternoon to plead with lawmakers to allow them to keep their homes.

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  • ljohnson247 May 30, 2013

    What's the word on the Voter ID Bill and other Elections Bills. Thought these were to be the first things taken care of this year.