Raleigh, N.C. — Good morning and welcome to Today @NCCapitol for Thursday, May 9. This is WRAL's roundup of what you need to know about North Carolina state government today.
IF YOU MISSED IT: Top advisers encouraged Gov. Pat McCrory to move toward privatizing the Commerce Department's job recruiting operations in a white paper drafted a month before the Republican took office. Key among the advantages of a public-private partnership is the ability to pay job recruiters based on performance and reward those who recruit businesses to the state, wrote the authors, who now occupy top policy jobs in McCrory's administration.
McCrory publicly rolled out those plans in early April, although emails and documents obtained by WRAL News show plans to push for a conversion continued nonstop from his transition team through the early months of his administration.
ALLSCRIPTS: Medical software company Allscripts Healthcare Solutions Inc. plans to hire another 350 workers in North Carolina's Research Triangle region over the next 4 ½ years to expand its research and development work, chief executive Paul Black said Wednesday.
DOGGONE: NC's First Lady Ann McCrory is speaking out on behalf of a measure that would curb puppy mills, breeding operations abusive to the dogs they sell.The bill, which would attempt to regulate some puppy mills in North Carolina, should be headed for the House floor soon, but only after being so watered down that even its supporters aren't sure exactly what it would accomplish. "I hope you and other members of the General Assembly will continue to advocate for this bill, and other legislation establishing higher standards for commercial breeders," Mrs. McCrory writes in her letter to the members of the House Judiciary B Committee. "These policies increase our quality of life in North Carolina and ensure better care for dogs across the state. You have my full support."
WRAP: Capitol Bureau Chief Laura Leslie and reporter Mark Binker wrap up a busy Wednesday on Jones Street and look ahead to Thursday's action in The Wrap @NCCapitol.
HOUSE FLOOR: The state House meets at noon. The reincarnated bill that would revamp state boards and commissions is on the calendar today. The new bill does not contain controversial provisions related to the state Board of Elections of special Superior Court Judges. It cleared the House Rules Committee late Wednesday with little comment. Also on the House floor today, lawmakers are expected to debate the governor's plan to revamp transportation funding. Three contentious turnpike projects are no longer part of the bill, which saw plenty of debate and a first vote on the floor Wednesday.
The House is also expected to send a bill that would ban insurers from charging patients more for oral chemotherapy than for IV drug treatments. The measure was the subject of heated debate on the House floor Wednesday. House Bill 609, the "NC Cancer Treatment Fairness Act," says that insurers who offer coverage for chemotherapy can't charge patients higher out-of-pocket co-insurance fees for newer, more expensive oral formulations than for older, less expensive IV formularies, many of which have more severe side effects and less efficacy.
"If a doctor decides that if a person’s illness can be treated via a pill or some other kind of medicine instead of having to go to a treatment center site for treatment through an IV injection for however long that takes, the out-of-pocket cost can’t be any higher than if they did," said sponsor Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett. ""The method in which the drug or the treatment is delivered needs to be treated with parity. That means it needs to cost the same."
SENATE FLOOR: Senators are expected to vote on a measure that reaffirms that students can pray in public schools, a right that some lawmakers and others say is being curtailed by teachers confused by the law. Senate Bill 370 would allow students to pray silently at any time or out loud during non-instructional time as long as the prayer is initiated by students – not teachers or staff – and nobody is forced to participate. Also, any school employees present during a student prayer would be encouraged to "adopt a respectful posture."
Senators are also expected to take up a measure that would require health courses teach that having an abortion leads to higher risk for complications in later pregnancies. The science behind that assertion is still a subject of debate.
WRAL.com will carry the Senate session live at noon. Check the Video Central box on our home page.
COMMITTEES: For a full list of committees, please see the main @NCCapitol page. Among the highlights today:
Senate Agriculture (9 a.m. | 421 LOB): Lawmakers are expected to take up a measure rewriting several environmental laws and rewriting the statute governing animal shelters.
House Government (10 a.m. | 643 LOB): The committee will take up the taxpayer bill of rights. This measure would restrict the growth of state spending to a calculation that involves population growth and inflation. It is an idea backed by conservative Republicans, who say lawmakers can't be trusted to limit spending in flush economic times. Opponents of the measure worry it could leave the government ill prepared to respond to emergencies or unexpected swings in revenue.
House Transportation (TBA | 643 LOB): The Transportation Committee is scheduled to meet after work on the House floor concludes for the day. It is expected to deal with a school bus safety measure as well as legislation to require legislative approval before a road may be tolled.
IN THE NEWS: Stories we were following Wednesday included:
STATE WORKERS: More state workers would serve at the pleasure of the governor under a bill that cleared the House State Personnel Committee Wednesday. The measure, which has drawn opposition from the State Employees Association of North Carolina, rewrites much of the State Personnel Act, a 60-year-old law that governs when and how most state employees are hired and fired. Gov. Pat McCrory said Tuesday that he was seeking more flexibility in dealing with state workers.
ASHEVILLE: Gov. Pat McCrory will neither sign nor veto a bill dealing with the Asheville water system, saying instead he will let the measure pass into law without his signature. When legislature is in session, governors have 10 days to sign or veto legislation. If they do neither, the measure becomes law without their approval. Lawmakers have battled over a measure that transfers Asheville's water system from the city's control to a regional authority. City leaders say they will sue to stop the transfer. McCrory said he will stay out of the fight, opting for the first time this session to allow a bill to become law without his approval.
PARENTAL APPROVAL: Area parents said Wednesday that they are torn over legislation that would require parental approval for a range of medical treatments sought by teens. House Bill 693 would require notarized written approval from a parent before a doctor or other provider could diagnose, treat or even counsel anyone under 18 for mental health or substance abuse. Parental approval would also be required for contraception, pregnancy care and testing for sexually transmitted diseases.
STUDENT READINESS: State lawmakers are working on a bill that would create public-private partnerships to fund programs to help more North Carolina students prepare for college and careers. The Education and Workforce Innovation Act is expected to be heard in the state House Education Committee next week. The legislation – sponsored by four representatives whose districts include Cabarrus, Union, Edgecombe, Martin and Johnston counties – would build programs that integrate workforce training and classroom instruction so students graduate with the competitive edge needed in a global economy.
EXECUTIONS: State House lawmakers are expected to vote next week on a bill that would let judges take the death penalty off the table for capital defendants with severe mental disability. The measure, House Bill 722, won approval from the House Judiciary B subcommittee Wednesday evening. It sets up a very specific definition for "severe mental disability" involving a history of problems, an inability to understand the the wrongness of the crime, or to exercise rational judgment.
TERM LIMITS: A bill approved Wednesday in the House would put a constitutional amendment on the ballot calling for term limits for House and Senate leaders. House Bill 9 would cap the terms of the House speaker and Senate president pro tem at two sessions of the General Assembly, or four years.
STUDENT GROUPS: Student groups would be allowed to bar people from leadership positions if they don't hold the views the group represents, under a proposal approved Wednesday by the Senate Education Committee. Senate Bill 719 would prohibit any University of North Carolina campus or state community college from denying recognition to a student group, including funding and the use of school facilities, for exercising its right to free association.
SMOKES: A bill that would have created a new cigarette trafficking crime was stubbed out before it could be introduced Wednesday.
The bill filing deadline has long passed for most measures in the state House. But the House Rules Committee can still file bills if the need arises. Typically, such an introduction is a ministerial matter for the committee, meriting little discussion once the measure has been vetted by the chairman. So it was something of a surprise when Rep. Leo Daughtry, R-Johnston, piped up against the proposed introduction of the cigarette tracking bill.
"No, there's not a motion, I'm opposed to the bill," Daughtry declared. "A number of people go through Johnston County going to New York or Florida or wherever they're going, and I want them to buy 25 (cartons), and I don't want them to be considered a criminal either."