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North Carolina Legislative Report - August 3, 2012

July 23 - August 3, 2012

On the Floor

The NC General Assembly completed the short legislative session on July 3 and has adjourned sine die until January 30, 2013.  The MVA Public Affairs Legislative Report on North Carolina will be distributed bi-weekly while the North Carolina Legislature is not in session.

Governor Perdue has cleared her desk of all bills from this past session signing three and allowing two to go into law without her signature. 

While session is over, the General Assembly will continue to have various interim committee meetings throughout the year.

Bills with action this week:

H585 – Vehicle Emissions Inspections.

H819 – Coastal Management Policies.

H953 – Amend Environmental Laws 2.

H1009 – MSD Amendments.

S229 – Amend Environmental Laws 2012.  

Committee Highlights

To view more information about each committee meeting, please click on the relevant committee below.

Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Information Technology

The Oversight Committee heard a variety of reports during its interim reports including a report on a “Mobile Device Pilot Project” which would help make the legislative process “paperless.”  The report prepared states that: “The results of the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Information Technology’s mobile device pilot project should provide a technology road map where the traditional legislative business process is prepared to meet the needs of a mobilized legislative business process. Thus, this road map will start the General Assembly on a path towards a new era of hardware and software technology development that will assist in laying this new technology foundation.”

In the News

ABC Report

Education leaders and politicians are no longer cringing at North Carolina’s high-school graduation rate. North Carolina has reached the symbolic mark of having more than 80 percent of its students graduating with a high school diploma was met with widespread, bipartisan applause. The new figures continue a trend that has seen the state’s graduation rate rise nearly 12 percentage points over the last six years to 80.2 percent this year. In 2009, the last year for which data are available, America’s Promise Alliance found that the national graduation rate was 75.5 percent.

Education

Democratic state Superintendent June Atkinson is traveling the state on a political tour talking about spending cuts to education testing a new line: Republican budgets lead to larger class sizes and hurt learning. Dubbed the "Class Size Matters" tour, it's a twist on the Democratic message about how the Republicans' budget led to about a thousand fewer teachers. A weakness in the message: the numbers. Atkinson and the party are unable to cite any statistics showing class sizes have increased under the last two Republican budgets.

Teacher Raises

Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Walter Dalton pledged significant teacher raises while speaking at a N.C. Association of Educators gathering. Specifically, Dalton asked the crowd if they'd like a governor who will "raise pay at least to the national average and treat you (right)," versus a "rubber stamp that will approve of larger class sizes."

Charter Schools

North Carolina's school board could increase the number of charter schools in the state by a third within the next year if it accepts a screening committee's recommendations. The State Board of Education is considering whether to allow the opening of another 25 charter schools in August 2013 in addition to the eight new ones cleared earlier this year to accept new students beginning next month. The school board discussed the rapid expansion of charter schools and could make a decision next month.

Political Patronage

Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Walter Dalton pledged to not increase political patronage in state government, and urged his GOP rival, Pat McCrory, to do the same. Dalton was responding to language tucked into the 2012 budget approved by the Republican-controlled legislature that increases the number of exempt positions from 400 to 1,000. According to Dalton, the legislature put the language in the budget to help Republicans fill state jobs with political operatives, campaign supporters and donors if McCrory wins the election.

No Replacement

GOP leaders in the district of former Rep. Stephen LaRoque currently have no plans to replace the Lenoir County Republican after his resignation following his indictment on theft charges, the News-Argus of Goldsboro reports. Party officials have concluded there is no reason to replace LaRoque before the November election.

Consolidating Government

After two fruitless years of trying to get the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County to fully merge, Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx is trying again, with the help of former mayor Richard Vinroot. Foxx, a Democrat, and Vinroot, a Republican, are sending a letter to numerous business and political leaders, urging them to petition Mecklenburg Commissioners to study joining the two governments. “The current climate of volatility at the state and federal level makes it more critical than ever for us to be as coordinated and cohesive as possible with your resources,” Foxx and Vinroot said in the letter. 

7th District

Rep. Mike McIntyre, a longtime Democratic incumbent who opposes state Sen. David Rouzer in the race to represent the 7th Congressional District, has countered a poll released by his opponent by releasing a new poll that tells a very different story. A poll by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee claims McIntyre is leading Rouzer 53-34 among likely voters. That compared to Rouzer's preferred numbers that claim the race is a dead heat, with a 44-40 split favoring McIntyre that keeps the Republican within the margin of error.

Toll Road

For the first time drivers will begin paying tolls to use part of Raleigh’s 540 Outer Loop. Electronic toll collection will begin on 9.4 miles of the 540 Outer Loop in western Wake, from N.C. 54 at RTP to U.S. 64 at Apex. Part of this road, from N.C. 54 to N.C. 55, has been toll-free since it was completed in 2007. The remaining 6.6 miles from N.C. 55 to U.S. 64 are brand-new. It’s the second of three phases of the $1 billion Triangle Expressway.

Lobbyist Rankings

Newcomers and Republicans surged to the top of the listings of most influential lobbyists, according to the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research. Tom Fetzer, the former state GOP chairman who helped Republicans take control of the legislature, landed at No. 2 in his first year working under the rotunda. Only Dana Simpson, a former aide to a Republican House leader in the mid-1990s, bested Fetzer. At age 38, Simpson, who ranked No. 14 in 2010 when Democrats controlled the legislature, is the youngest lobbyist ever to claim the top spot. His clients included Progress Energy, WakeMed Health and Hospitals and The N.C. Museum of Art Foundation.

NC Supreme Court

The stakes in the race for a seat on the state Supreme Court are high this November, with the legal temperament of the entire court in the balance. The winner likely will have to rule on challenged redistricting maps approved by the new Republican-controlled Legislature. There could also be lawsuits over business-friendly legislation, such as medical malpractice award limits.

Voter Rolls

A Raleigh-based group out to prove there’s a potential for widespread voter fraud has presented the Wake County Board of Elections with a list of 386 names that it says represents dead people who are still listed as eligible to vote in the county. The Voter Integrity Project says it obtained the death records compiled by the state Department of Health and Human Services and compared it to Wake County voter registrations. Wake County's deputy elections director, Gary Sims, said there is a time gap between the time DHHS gives its death database to the State Board of Elections, which then helps the county boards identify voters whose names should be removed. 

Bills Signed

Gov. Beverly cleared her desk of the final bills from the legislative session, signing three and letting the controversial sea-level legislation become law without her signature. A coalition of environmental groups and businesses had urged the governor to veto the sea-level bill and two of the other pieces of legislation, saying they benefitted only special interests.

DNC Speech

Gov. Beverly Perdue said that she isn’t sure whether she’ll be speaking at the Democratic National Convention. Convention organizers begun unveiling their list of speakers for the Charlotte convention this week. They include First Lady Michelle Obama, former President Bill Clinton and Julian Castro, the mayor of San Antonio, Texas. Perdue, speaking in Washington, D.C., said she had not seen the list of time slots, but that she expected to review it shortly. She said she’ll be actively involved in the Labor Day festival, CarolinaFest, on Monday in Uptown Charlotte the day before the convention kicks off. 

Rasmussen Poll

A new poll shows Republican Mitt Romney leading Democrat Barack Obama in North Carolina. The Rasmussen Reports poll found Romney supported by 49 percent of voters, while the president had the support of 44 percent. Three percent preferred another candidate, and four percent were undecided. The poll of 500 likely North Carolina voters was taken August 1 and has a margin of error of 4.5 percent.

First Lady

First Lady Michelle Obama campaigned across North Carolina in what was part pre-convention pep rally, fund raising jaunt, and a vigorous defense of her husband’s administration. Capping the day at a Raleigh fund raiser, Obama cautioned that everything that her husband had championed during the past four years – from the new health care law to an expansion of the student loan program – was in jeopardy this fall. “It is all at stake this November,” the First Lady said. “It’s all on the line. Are we going to allow everything we fought for to slip away? We can’t turn back now. We need to keep moving forward.” 

Romney Tour

Mitt Romney's campaign is finalizing plans for a multistate bus tour. The Republican presidential candidate is expected to visit Virginia, North Carolina and Florida, although the schedule may change. Aides report that he'll attend a Republican Governors Association fundraiser in Aspen. A handful of governors often mentioned as possible Romney running mates are scheduled to attend. Next week's bus tour could be part of the rollout for a running mate. Republican officials are expecting that announcement any day.

Presidential Surrogates

Campaign surrogates for President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney sought to rally North Carolina voters and inspire volunteers. Tim Pawlenty, a former Minnesota governor who is rumored to be on Romney’s short list of vice presidential picks, held a roundtable discussion at an ice skating rink in Cary and addressed volunteers and Romney supporters at a Raleigh campaign office. Pawlenty hammered the message that Obama’s policies are hostile to business and that he is not the man to lead the nation out of its economic malaise.

Duke Settlement?

Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers said that the company is pursuing “an acceptable resolution” with state regulators investigating the sudden ouster of his predecessor. In a conference call with investors and analysts, Rogers deflected questions about details about any potential settlement with the North Carolina Utilities Commission. “I’m not going to speculate on the outcome,” Rogers said. “Our goal line is put this behind us as quickly as possible and move forward.”

Energy Merger

North Carolina utilities regulators have hired Anton Valukas, a veteran federal prosecutor to oversee the state’s investigation of Duke Energy and the company’s abrupt firing of its chief executive last month. Valukas, chairman of the Chicago-based law firm Jenner & Block and his legal team are expected to request internal documents and to interview current and former Duke executives and board members. The commission has already made voluminous document requests and conducted hours of hearings on its own to hear testimony from four Duke board members, ousted CEO Bill Johnson and current CEO Jim Rogers. Under state law, Charlotte-based Duke will be billed for Jenner & Block’s investigative work.

Energy Merger

The nation’s top utilities regulator, who oversaw the approval of the merger between Progress Energy and Duke Energy last month, staunchly defended the right of a corporate board to fire the CEO and replace him at will. The comments by Jon Wellinghoff, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, suggest that even if such a CEO switch is unpopular with other board members, employees and state regulators, “everybody needs to move on.”

Purchase Approved

Federal regulators have approved BB&T Corp.'s $301 million purchase of BankAtlantic of Ft. Lauderdale, FL. BB&T said the deal will close as a result of gaining permission from the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. It previously had gained permission from the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the N.C. Office of the Commissioner of Banks. 

Training Funds

U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius announced a $200 million grant to train advanced practice registered nurses. Sebelius announced the Graduate Nurse Education Demonstration at Duke University Hospital in Durham, one of five selected across the country to receive the grant. The funding will be spread over four years and is provided under the Affordable Care Act. Payments to the hospitals will be determined by the number of additional nurses the hospitals are credited with training.   

Calendar

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

  • Leg Oversight Comm on Health and Human Services
    • 10:00 AM

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

  • Program Evaluation Oversight Comm., Jt. Leg.
    • 10:00 AM 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

  • Surplus Property Subccomm of HSC on State Owned Assets
    • 10:00 AM             

Monday, August 27, 2012

  • Child Fatality Task Force
    • 10:00 AM             

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

  • Perinatal Health Committee of Child Fatality Task Force
    • 10:00 AM             
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