Raleigh, N.C. — Good morning and welcome to Today @NCCapitol for Tuesday, May 7. This is WRAL's roundup of what you need to know about North Carolina state government today.
THE BIG STORY – TAXES: Senate Republicans are scheduled to roll out their tax reform plan at a news 12:30 p.m. conference today.
In a news release and video released last night, Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger claimed the plan would lower income and sales tax rates while delivering a $1 billion tax cut. However, the GOP did not provide details of the plan in its release.
Also today, The N.C. Justice Center’s Budget & Tax Center, J.W.P. Civitas Institute and the Institute for Emerging Issues at NC State will host a debate on tax reform at 11:45 a.m. The debate will feature Jared Bernstein of the Center on Budget & Policy Priorities and Elizabeth Malm of The Tax Foundation, two national experts on the subject of taxation and finance.
FIRST UP – TRANSPORTATION: The full House Appropriations Committee is due to take up Gov. Pat McCrory's transportation proposal at an 8:30 a.m. meeting this morning. This is the bill's last stop before heading to the floor.
MCCRORY: The Council of State, a group of North Carolina's 10 statewide elected officials chaired by Gov. Pat McCrory, will meet at 9 a.m. to approve land deals and other ministerial matters.
CATCHING UP WITH THE WRAP: Monday was an unusually busy day at the legislature with arrests, debate over a firearms bill and a public hearing on game fish. Capitol Bureau Chief Laura Leslie and reporter Mark Binker catch up on all the action in Monday's late night edition of The Wrap.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: A bill repealing the 2007 law that requires power companies to obtain some of their power from renewable sources would have failed a Senate Finance Committee vote last Wednesday had the chairman actually counted the ayes and nos, interviews with committee members show. Committee Co-chairman Bill Rabon declared the measure had passed after a voice vote and ignored calls for a formal vote count, video of the meeting shows.
The episode is far from unprecedented but demonstrates the broad latitude committee chairmen have to push measures they favor or that are backed by key legislative leaders. "I walked out of there shaking my head," Sen. Gene McLaurin, D-Richmond, said Friday. McLaurin, a former mayor of Rockingham, said he was disappointed in the procedure but added it was not the first time he had seen a bill move through a committee in that fashion during his three-month tenure.
HOUSE SESSION: The state House will meet at 2 p.m. Tuesday. Lawmakers are expected to hold a second debate and vote on a measure that makes several changes to North Carolina's firearm laws. A bill limiting how many children are eligible for state-funded pre-K is also on the calendar for a second debate and vote to send it to the Senate. Other attention grabbing bills on the calendar include a measure allowing for in-stand sales of beer and banning gender-based abortions.
WRAL.com will carry the House session live at 2 p.m. Check the Video Central box on our home page.
SENATE SESSION: The state Senate will meet at 2 p.m. Lawmakers are scheduled to discuss creating a separate board to oversee state-funded charter schools that would mirror but operate nearly autonomously from the state school board.
COMMITTEES: For a full list of committee meetings, please see the main @NCCapitol page. Highlights from today's calendar include:
Senate Judiciary 1 (10 a.m. | 1027 LB): The committee is scheduled to discuss a bill that purports to prohibit the sales of electronic cigarettes to minors. Health advocates worry that changes to the definition could actually clear the way for e-cigarettes to be use on public school campuses, where smoking is by and large banned.
Senate Judiciary 2 (10 a.m. | 1124 LB): Lawmakers will discuss, but not vote on, a bill that would allow local school systems to create standard for placing armed guards in elementary schools. Those guards would not necessarily be police officers or sheriffs deputies, but they would have to meet certain training standards.
House Health and Human Resources (10 a.m. | 1228 LB): The committee is scheduled to take up a bill that prohibit doctors from providing any care related to birth control, STD prevention or substance abuse without parental consent.
Senate Commerce (11 a.m. | 1027 LB): Lawmakers take up a bill that would, in part, thwart undercover whistle-blower efforts at poultry plants and the like. It makes it a crime to get hired and then subsequently "create or produce a record that reproduces an image or sound occurring within the employer's facility, including a photographic, video, or audio medium record."
House Transportation (Noon | 643 LOB): Committee members are scheduled to vote on bills increasing the penalties for passing as stopped school bus and requiring legislative approval before the Department of Transportation can make a road a toll road.
House Judiciary B (After the House session | 421 LOB): The committee takes up an e-cigarette bill similar to the one in Senate Judiciary 1 and takes up a bill prohibiting the death penalty of the severely mentally ill.
MONDAY'S NEWS: Others stories we were following Monday included:
Taxpayer suits: It's not every day you see the question called on the number-2 leader in the state House, but that's exactly what happened Monday night. Two powerful House committee chairmen deployed a pair of procedural motions against another fellow Republican leader, sidetracking a bill that would allow taxpayers to sue over budget policies. The conflict came over House Bill 457, called the Taxpayer Standing Act. It would give any North Carolina taxpayer standing to sue over budget and tax policy decisions. One of the toughest hurdles such lawsuits have to meet is showing that a particular taxpayer has been harmed by a government action. This bill would remove that hurdle.
Arrests: Opponents to the vision of progress offered by North Carolina's Republican leaders say they're stepping up the nonviolent demonstrations until they're heard. On Monday, 30 people were arrested and charged with violating building rules, failure to disperse and second-degree trespassing. A demonstration last Monday led to 17 arrests.
Guns: State House lawmakers voted late Monday night to allow concealed weapons on college campuses, state property, greenways, bike trails, at sporting events and in businesses that serve alcohol. A second vote is expected today and House Democratic leaders are scheduled to hold a new conference voicing their objections to the measure at 1 p.m.
Beer: Two proposals to make beer sales more convenient in North Carolina won state House approval Monday night. House Bill 829 would allow "growlers" – large, reusable glass or ceramic jugs of beer – to be sold outside breweries in stores, restaurants, hotels, wine shops, private clubs and community theaters. The bill passed its second and third reading in the House with no debate and is headed for the Senate. The other proposal, House Bill 610, would allow in-stand beer sales at professional sporting events in stadiums and venues that seat at least 3,000 people.
Fish: Commercial fishermen pleaded with lawmakers Monday to scuttle an effort to prevent them from catching three species of fish. House Bill 983 hasn't been debated in any committee yet, but sponsors held a public hearing for interested legislators to hear from both sides of a hotly contested issue.
Symbols: State House lawmakers voted unanimously Monday night to add six new symbols to the state's official list. House Bill 830 would name the pine barrens tree frog as the state's official frog and the marbled salamander as the state's official amphibian.