Today @NCCapitol (May 6): McCrory pushes for offshore drilling while watermen head to Raleigh

Posted May 6, 2013

— Good morning and welcome to Today @NCCapitol for Monday, May 6. This is WRAL's roundup of what you need to know about North Carolina state government today.

HOUSE: The state House convenes at 7 p.m. tonight. Lawmakers are expected to send a bill reducing eligibility for state-funded per-K to the Senate.

Other measures on the calendar include a bill expanding rights for those who hold concealed handgun permits, which also clarifies how those with certain mental illnesses are blocked from obtaining firearms, and a measure adopting new state symbols. In addition to an official folk art, marsupial, frog, salamander, and fossil, clay would be adopted "as the official art medium of the State of North Carolina."

WRAL.com will carry the House session live. Check the Video Central box on our home page.

SENATE: The state Senate convenes at 7 p.m. tonight. Senators are expected to vote again to approve a bill that would raise the rates for small consumer loans, sending the measure to the House. A bill raising the fees on boat owners to pay for dredging of coastal inlets is also on the Senate calendar. 

MORE PROTESTS: Two sets of protesters were arrested last week at the General Assembly, one lead by the NAACP and the other by a student group.

The NAACP pledges to be back on Monday. A release issued by the group says: "There will be nonviolent civil disobedience on Monday, May 6 at the NC General Assembly. Those who wish to be supporters and not participate directly are encouraged to join us at the Bicentennial Mall outside the NC General Assembly by 5:30 pm."

Late Sunday night, Dallas Woodhouse, director of the conservative Americans for Prosperity, described the NAACP's announcement as "a political bomb threat," and encouraged reporters not to cover it. From Woodhouse's note: 

"Let’s be clear. The NAACP has sent a mass communications message encouraging law-breaking. By definition, sending out mass communications, encouraging law breaking, could result in many things including violence. Do they know that everyone they have encouraged to break the law, will stop at “civil disobedience”?"

GAME FISH: Watermen in North Carolina plan a show of force in Raleigh on Monday, when members of the public have been invited to give feedback on a proposed gamefish bill that would make specked trout, red drum, and estuarine striped bass no longer available to consumers and commercial fishermen, reports the Island Free Press. In a representatives of the professional fishing lobby announce plans to bring a busload of supporters to Raleigh. 

The bill is a conflict between professional watermen and recreational fishermen. The forum is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. at the legislative office building. 

A similar bill failed to pass the General Assembly during the 2011 session.

WRAL.com will carry the 1:30 public hearing live. Check the Video Central box on our home page.

MCCRORY: Gov. Pat McCrory is scheduled to be Houston on Monday to attend and Offshore Technology Conference and participate in a panel with the Outer-Continental Shelf governors, a group of state officials pushing for the expansion of offshore energy exploration. McCrory has twice campaigned on commitment to open the areas off North Carolina's coast to oil and natural gas exploration, saying it could bring thousands of jobs to the state. 

The governor will only be out of town for the day, according to McCrory spokeswoman Kim Genardo. He will give a speech, participate in the panel discussion, take a tour and meet with folks in Houston.

Over the weekend, McCrory gave the Republican national radio address. Party leaders often use the weekly address, a response to President Barack Obama's weekly radio message, to give national exposure to up-and-coming politicians, from governors to members of Congress.

In his address, McCrory asked the president to take action to allow exploration and drilling off the state's coast.

"In February, I asked President Obama directly to expand offshore leasing off the coasts of Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina," McCrory said. "He told me the issue needs more study. With all due respect Mr. President – the time for study is over. It’s time to get off the sidelines and allow the states to exert the leadership that will create thousands of jobs – reduce America’s dependence on Middle Eastern oil and protect the environment. States must be empowered to decide what’s in the best interest of their citizens and the environment in which they live."

McCrory also penned an editorial for Monday's newspapers that focused on the need for more cooperation between the state and federal governments. In it, he writes:

"On Monday, I will participate in a panel of Outer-Continental Shelf governors on the need to expand offshore energy exploration. In February, during a White House visit, I asked President Obama directly to expand offshore leasing off the coasts of North Carolina, Virginia and South Carolina. He told me the issue is being reviewed.

"The time for further delay is over. It’s time to get off the sidelines and allow the states to exert the leadership that will create thousands of jobs, reduce America’s dependence on Middle Eastern oil and protect the environment. The federal government must form a more cooperative partnership with the states so that more Americans – especially North Carolinians - can get back on the payroll."

Geologists say it's highly unlikely that there are any significant oil deposits off North Carolina's coast, although there could be some natural gas.

MAILBAG PART 1: When McCrory was in Washington for a meeting of the National Governors Association in February, he attended two White House events. At a dinner event on Feb. 24, McCrory met White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough. We don't know what the two talked about. But there was a thank you note from McDonough in a recent batch of correspondence WRAL obtained from a public records request from McCrory's office.

"You've got a great state and a huge set of opportunities – and challenges, too, of course," McDonough wrote. "I hope we can work together to confront them."

MONEY: The General Assembly's top staff economist and Gov. Pat McCrory's budget office now expect the state to collect $406 million more in revenue than originally anticipated by the fiscal year's end June 30, according to an email obtained by The Associated Press. Over-collections were $110 million through March, but economist Barry Boardman told lawmakers in the email that growth was higher than anticipated because more taxpayers decided to report income in 2012 for fear of higher federal taxes in 2013 and future years. Congress approved higher tax rates for top wage earners early this year.

MORE MCCRORY: Nearly four months into his job as North Carolina's governor, Pat McCrory's former employer is receiving unaccustomed public attention for its behind-the-scenes role in some of the state's biggest news stories this year, reports the Associated Press. The story continues: 

Charlotte-based business law firm Moore & Van Allen negotiated a package of tax breaks and other incentives that could provide nearly $100 million to MetLife Inc., which decided in March to move about 2,600 jobs from five states to Charlotte and the Raleigh suburb of Cary.

And the firm's bulked-up lobbying arm has pulled Moore & Van Allen's name into an ongoing story about political campaign contributions and video gaming parlors that state legislators have tried to close for more than a decade. A sweepstakes operator interviewed by The Associated Press said he and another man hired the firm and contributed to McCrory's campaign because they wanted state politicians to legalize the games that critics say skirt anti-gambling laws.

On the Record On The Record: Immigration, guns and civil disobedience ON THE RECORD: Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake, and Sen. Floyd McKissack, D-Durham, go On the Record with Anchor David Crabtree and Capitol Bureau Chief Laura Leslie. The panel discusses proposed cuts to pre-K eligibility, immigration and the recent displays of civil disobedience at the General Assembly. 

RAMSEY: A former speaker of the North Carolina House has died. The daughter of James Ramsey confirmed Friday he died at Person Memorial Hospital in Roxboro at age 81. Linda Ramsey said her father died Thursday from complications after a stroke.

REPUBLICANS: Former Congressman J.C. Watts, Sen. Scott Brown, and Karl Rove, an adviser to former President George W. Bush, will speak at the state Republican convention in Charlotte this June.

MAILBAG PART 2: As the months-long wrangling over the Panthers stadium deal raged at the legislature, there were, of course, negotiations behind the scenes. Charlotte and the team have finally inked a deal, and now we're getting a glimpse of that lobbying effort.  

In a letter dated Feb. 21, McCrory wrote to team owner Jerry Richardson, thanking him for a Jan. 28 meeting at the governor's office. "I want to reiterate the fact that North Carolina appreciates what the Panthers team and brand bring to our state and the Charlotte region," McCrory writes. "It is a source of great pride for hundreds of thousands of our citizens and I remain committed to supporting local option efforts as I did as mayor." 

That Jan. 28 meeting came a day before House Speaker Thom Tillis publicly said he would not support state tax dollars going toward the stadium deal. The letter itself came two weeks after Richardson pitched a multi-million dollar deal to lawmakers. The timing of the letter, and the meeting it mentions, suggests that even as Richardson lobbied for state tax dollars and richer package for the stadium deal, he knew top leaders only supported a redistribution of existing local taxes. 

In a handwritten note, scrawled at the bottom of McCrory's original letter, Richardson thanks McCrory for his support of a "local option," the plan that allows Charlotte to use local tourism taxes to help with stadium renovations. "Our advisers tell me your vocal support would be helpful," Richardson writes.  

The next month, Richardson offered some additional thoughts to McCrory. 

"Pat – Yesterday when you were in Charlotte... it would have been helpful somewhere in your remarks if you could have said something like ... As former mayor of Charlotte ... No one could appreciate having an NFL team and stadium located in up town Charlotte more than me," Richardson wrote in a note dated "March 2013." It continued, "It is my hope the city and the Panthers can come to a mature resolutions." 

RAPE REMARK: North Carolina Democrats were buzzing Friday about a controversial comment made by party chairman Randy Voller. Voller spoke to the Democratic Women of Guilford County Thursday night at their annual President's Spring Banquet.

Someone from the Guilford County Democratic Party was live-tweeting the event. One tweet quoted Voller as saying,"The GOP that’s leading us – we don’t know where they’re taking us, but they’re raping us along the way.”

In an interview with WRAL Friday, Voller said he could neither confirm nor deny it because he wasn't speaking from prepared remarks. "I think it’s a complete misquote, or a redaction," he said, then added, "I did use the term contextually."

Still, Voller said he understands his word choice might have given offense. "I was not intending to offend anyone," he said. "I’m sorry if they took it that way. That’s not what the metaphor means."

MORE NEWS: Other news from the weekend includes reports from: 

The Virginian PilotHighway 12 down North Carolina’s Outer Banks isn’t much to look at: 110 miles of asphalt with sand or buildings pressed up against it....But the road also hurts the island, blocking the natural transport of sand from front to back and causing it to shrink. Everyone agrees that Highway 12 is in trouble, but after that, the arguments start. Any answer to the problem is likely to cost millions – maybe billions – of dollars, and deciding how to spend it has taken decades already.

Associated Press: North Carolina's milestone public financing program for appellate court candidates — already bruised by court rulings and third-party campaign spending — is in danger of being killed off this year in the name of fiscal responsibility and limited government. At least three bills filed by Republicans at the General Assembly and Gov. Pat McCrory's budget proposal would do away with the program, which has been widely used by Court of Appeals and Supreme Court candidates since it became available in 2004.

Charlotte ObserverA measure before the N.C. legislature could wipe out ordinances that protect Mecklenburg County’s water-supply lakes and streams, local officials say.

Wilmington Star NewsNorth Carolina businesses have the eighth lowest total tax burden in the country, and South Carolina has the ninth highest, according to a study by Anderson Economic Group and reported in Site Selection magazine.

Wilmington Star News: That is the question plaguing local leaders, but those in the economic development field say it really isn’t a question. Without incentives, which come in many forms, a business isn’t going to select your state, county or town.

Greensboro News & Reocrd: NC State Athletic Director Debbie Yow earned $70,000 in bonuses last year. Bubba Cunningham, her counterpart at UNC-Chapel Hill, earned $87,500 in bonuses, reports the paper. "Yow, a Gibsonville native, and Cunningham can count on annual base salaries that are on the lower end of their ACC colleagues, ranking seventh (Cunningham) and eighth (Yow) out of the 10 ACC athletics director salaries available in USA Today’s most recent study. But each can also bank on lucrative bonuses if their teams do well on the field and in the classroom, according to copies of their contracts obtained by the News & Record through public-record requests."

Charlotte Business JournalAn N.C. legislative proposal that would restrict the use of national green building rating programs on public projects is slated for discussion Tuesday by the state House Committee on Agriculture in Raleigh. House Bill 628 would insert new language in a section of state law that calls for energy- and water-use standards for major public facility construction and renovation projects. N.C. Reps. Michele Presnell (R-Haywood) and Rick Catlin (R-New Hanover) are the primary sponsors of the bill, filed April 9.

Stateline: The Obama administration appears ready to allow Arkansas — and a handful of other states — to pursue a market-based approach to fund health care for the poor in place of conventional Medicaid expansion under the new federal health care law. An announcement from the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services spells out exactly what states need to do to qualify. Called “premium assistance,” the alternative plan would allow states to use federal Medicaid money to buy private insurance for low-income people from new state or federal health insurance exchanges created under the Affordable Care Act. HHS said it would “consider approving a limited number of premium assistance demonstrations” as a way to test how well they work in the real world.

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  • djofraleigh May 6, 2013

    NC should take no chances on harming the coastal waters, fishing and recreation. I'm not thinking the on shore jobs will off set the inherent risk. Remember the Gulf Gusher.