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North Carolina Legislative Report - February 22, 2013

February 16 - 22, 2013

The NC General Assembly reconvened January 9, 2013, opening the long legislative session. The MVA Public Affairs Legislative Report on North Carolina will be distributed weekly to keep you up to date on the latest legislative issues facing the state while the North Carolina Legislature is in session.

On the Floor

Governor’s Office

In his first State of the State address, Gov. Pat McCrory put his task in sobering terms, saying “too many people are hurting” and vowing to improve the economy in a state with the fifth-highest unemployment rate in the nation. McCrory, who has been in office six weeks, offered the broad outline of a legislative agenda that includes lower income tax rates, a revamped education system that uses technology in the classroom and a streamlined government that makes customer service its mission.

SB 14: Increase Access To Career/Technical Ed.

Republican Pat McCrory signed his first bill as North Carolina governor Monday, putting into law a proposal calling for new diplomas for high school graduates that fits well into his campaign platform to get public schools to better prepare students to go to work.

HB 4: UI Fund Solvency and Program Changes

Gov. Pat McCrory signed into law Tuesday changes to North Carolina's unemployment insurance system that supporters say puts the plan on firmer footing and gives businesses more certainty. Critics say it will devastate the jobless with decreased benefits or none at all. The unemployment plan repays $2.5 billion owed the federal government for jobless benefits paid since the Great Recession. A handful of Democrats voted for the bill penned by Republicans.

SB 10: Government Reorganization and Efficiency Act

The bill, which was approved by the Senate last week, would allow McCrory and the Republican-led General Assembly to replace – and in some cases reduce – the number of members of the state’s Industrial Commission, Environmental Management Commission and Utilities Commission, among others. The bill is now awaiting the governor’s signature. Environmental advocates and other political activists on Thursday called on Gov. Pat McCrory to halt what they called a Republican power grab in Raleigh.

Senate

SB 4: No N.C. Exchange/No Medicaid Expansion

The rapid advance of legislation preventing North Carolina from expanding Medicaid with federal funds and managing an online marketplace for private health insurance is hitting a speed bump. The state Senate on Tuesday voted to reject changes made in the House. Republicans who run both chambers will appoint a committee to iron out differences.

HB 5: Temporary Funding/Group Homes & SCUs

The state Senate voted unanimously Thursday for a plan to allow patients with mental illness who live in group homes to stay there for the time being. The Senate voted 43-0 on House Bill 5, which must return to the House for a final vote before going to Gov. Pat McCrory. The Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday amended the bill to allow Alzheimer's patients in special adult care units tap into the pot of money set aside to help facilities deal with the loss of Medicaid funding for personal care services. The House passed the bill three weeks ago – a day after returning to session.

House of Representatives

HB 82: Internal Revenue Code Update

The House gave final approval Wednesday to HB 82. The bill, which will eliminate the earned income tax credit, was passed after denying a democratic amendment that would extend the credit to 2019. HB 82 passed its first reading in the upper chamber and was referred to the Senate Finance Committee.

Committee Meetings

Senate Appropriations/Base Budget Committee

The Senate Appropriations/Base Budget Committee met on Wednesday, February 20th  to discuss House Bill 5, “Temporary Funding Extension for Group Homes.”  The Proposed Committee Substitute for HB5 directs the DHHS to provide temporary, short-term financial assistance to group homes to support the residents who became ineligible for Medicaid covered Personal Care Services as a result of Medicaid eligibility changes that took effect at the beginning of 2013, and to provide assistance to special care units for residents who qualify for Personal Care Services.  The bill requires that monthly payments to group homes and special care units be made from the $39.7 million dollars of existing, budgeted non-recurring Transitions to Community Living funds.  The committee amended the bill to allow Alzheimer’s patients in special adult care units to access the funds allocated for Personal Care Services.  The Senate has since voted 43-0 to approve House Bill 5.  The bill will return to the House for a final vote before being sent to the Governor. 

Senate Commerce Committee

The Domestic Energy Jobs act, Senate Bill 76 is headed for a vote by the full Senate. The Senate Commerce Committee approved the bill Thursday even as critics warned the legislation waters down environmental safeguards and public protections. Republican Sen. E.S. “Buck” Newton, the bill’s lead sponsor, predicted the bill’s passage would bring an almost immediate economic boost to North Carolina’s hotels, engineering firms and trucking companies. After the committee vote, co-sponsor Sen. Bob Rucho, a Republican from Mecklenburg County, characterized opponents of the bill as opponents of jobs.

Senate Education Committee

The Senate Education Committee heard from State Schools Superintendent June Atkinson on the implementation of 2011 legislation requiring the teaching of the country's founding principles in the state’s high schools.  This legislation came as a result of plans by school officials to require that high school students receive instruction on the U.S. History from the Reconstruction Era forward.  Students are now required to take classes that will give them a clear understanding of the founding ideals expressed in the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and other writings of the nation’s founders.

Senate Rules Committee

The Senate Rules Committee passed legislation this week that paves the way for a new Charlotte airport authority, taking control away from the City of Charlotte.  Senate Bill 81, sponsored by Sen. Bob Rucho (R-Mecklenburg), would put the airport under control of a 13-member authority. Authority members will be appointed from Mecklenburg and five surrounding counties. It would give appointments to the Governor, the Speaker of the House and the Senate President Pro Tem. The next stop will be the Senate Finance committee chaired by the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Rucho.

House Finance Committee

This week the House Finance committee on Wednesday, February 20, took up two bills –House Bill 37 (Cleveland County Property Transfer) and House Bill 101 (Repeal Estate Tax).  H37 is a noncontroversial local bill allowing for the transfer of property to operate a public school – it passed unanimously with little discussion.

The committee then moved on to HB 101, which repeals the State estate tax for the estates of decedents dying on or after January 1, 2013.  The bill would reduce State General Fund Revenues by $52 million in the 2013-14 fiscal year.  That impact is estimated to grow to $66 million by the 2017-18 fiscal year. After much debate, the bill was approved (24-10) by the committee. The bill was re-referred to the Appropriations Committee.

Tax Reform

At the NC Chamber Government Affairs Conference on Tuesday, both Speaker Tillis and Senate President Pro Tem Berger highlighted tax reform as a key goal of the 2013 Session.  Speaker Tillis may have provided some indication of timing when he stated a) that it is his goal for the General Assembly to adjourn for the year by early June, and b) that major legislation would likely need to pass at least one chamber by the end of March in order to meet that goal.  In addition, there are reports that key members of the Senate and legislative staff have been working late into the night evaluating alternatives and hammering out details of possible proposals.  Repeal of the corporate income tax, in particular, remains a priority.

HB 44: Transition To Digital Learning In Schools

  • An Act Stating the Intent of the General Assembly to Transition from Funding Textbooks to Funding Digital Learning in the Public Schools, as Recommended by the Legislative Research Commission Study Committee on Digital Learning Environments in Public Schools.
  • 02/18/2013 – Senate Committee On Education/Higher Education

HB 119: Natural Gas/Rate Adjustment Mechanism

  • An Act Authorizing the Utilities Commission to Adopt, Implement, Modify, or Eliminate a Rate Adjustment Mechanism for Natural Gas Local Distribution Company Rates.
  • 02/20/2013 – Referred To House Committee On Public Utilities and Energy

HB 129: Local Flexibility Re: School Calendar

  • An Act Permit Local Boards of Education to Set School Calendars for Their Local School Administrative Units.
  • 02/21/2013 – Ref To Com on Commerce and Job Development, if favorable, Education.

SB 118: Digital Learning Competencies/School Emp'ees

  • An Act Directing the State Board of Education to Develop and Implement Digital Learning Standards for Teachers and School Administrators, as Recommended by the Legislative Research Commission Study Committee on Digital Learning Environments in Public Schools.
  • 02/21/2013 – Referred To Senate Committee On Education/Higher Education

SB 120: Internet Access For Public Schools

  • An Act Providing for an Inventory of Infrastructure to Support Robust Digital Learning in the Public Schools and an Inventory of Internet Access in All North Carolina Counties, as Recommended by the Legislative Research Commission Study Committee on Digital Learning Environments in Public Schools.
  • 02/21/2013 – Referred To Senate Committee On Education/Higher Education

SB 121: Transition To Digital Learning In Schools

  • An Act Stating the Intent of the General Assembly to Transition from Funding Textbooks to Funding Digital Learning in the Public Schools, as Recommended by the Legislative Research Commission Study Committee on Digital Learning Environments in Public Schools.

·       02/21/2013 – Referred To Senate Committee On Education/Higher Education

In the News

Raleigh News&Observer: Tillis, Berger Stand Behind Panthers

Amid consternation about giving the Carolina Panthers state money for stadium renovations, the House and Senate leaders issued a joint statement Thursday.

Charlotte Observer: Leaked memo outlines liberal attack plan on McCrory, N.C. Republicans

The Charlotte Observer obtained a leaked memo from Blueprint North Carolina, a partnership of advocacy and policy groups based in Raleigh, outlining a political attack on McCrory and Republican leadership.

AP: Consultant evaluates pending NC Medicaid system

An outside computer expert evaluating North Carolina's new Medicaid billing system says it's on schedule to be running this summer without additional unplanned spending. But the Charlotte consultant says the system still must overcome significant risks to succeed.

WRAL: McCrory's bid to shift lottery funds no game-changer for schools

Gov. Pat McCrory's call to change how state lottery money is allocated won't have a measurable impact on North Carolina schools, observers said Wednesday.

Greensboro News and Record: Berger Jr. will run if Coble retires

Rockingham County District Attorney Phil Berger Jr. said Wednesday that he has formed an exploratory committee for a possible run for U.S. Rep. Howard Coble’s 6th District congressional seat.

Raleigh News&Observer: Legislators ask congressional delegation to avoid widespread federal budget cuts

Democratic legislators warned that automatic federal budget cuts coming March 1 will damage the state economy, the state budget, children and their families.

WRAL: Lawmakers mull options for highway funding

Lawmakers are looking at various options to address the growing shortfall in road-building funds in the state Department of Transportation.

Raleigh News&Observer: Audit says Industrial Commission must ensure businesses carry workers' comp

The state Industrial Commission has failed in its responsibility to make sure businesses protect workers by carrying insurance to cover their injuries, according to a state audit released Tuesday.

Raleigh News&Observer: Republican Brannon begins campaign for U.S. Senate

Dr. Greg Brannon begins his campaign for the U.S. Senate with a two-day tour of eight cities Feb. 27. Brannon, a Cary obstetrician who opposes abortion rights, hopes to challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan next year.

AP: NC panel hears views on Duke Energy rate increase

North Carolina regulators are starting a series of hearings into a request by Duke Energy to raise electricity bills by almost 10 percent for nearly 2 million customers of Progress Energy Carolinas.

Charlotte Observer: Study: NC green-energy investment $1.4B

Investment in renewable energy and efficiency grew 13-fold in North Carolina between 2007 and 2012, totaling $1.4 billion in that period, says an analysis commissioned by the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association.

Raleigh News&Observer: NCDOT agency had loose controls on spending, report says

A state Department of Transportation agency failed to seek competitive bids when it gave out contracts worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to a Raleigh consultant, and an investigation found other irregularities in the spending of federal grants worth millions of dollars.

AP: Fracking: 365 Lee County landowners don't possess drill rights

Property records recently released by Lee County show owners of 365 parcels of land don't also own the rights to whatever might be found by drilling or mining under their property.

Fayetteville Observer: N.C. group debates fracking rules

The head of a commission writing rules for natural gas fracking in North Carolina said Friday he doesn't think local governments should be allowed to pass stringent regulations that would effectively ban the practice.

Charlotte Observer: MeckLINK gets green light to manage mental health funds

N.C. Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos ruled Friday that supervision of millions of dollars in Medicaid and state funding for Mecklenburg’s mental health services will stay with the county-run MeckLINK Behavioral Healthcare.

Raleigh News&Observer: School ownership, Wake election proposals moving forward in legislature

Republican legislators say they’re moving forward with a statewide bill that would allow counties to take over ownership of schools. Also advancing is a local bill to change the way Wake County school board members are elected.

Legislative Calendar

Mon, February 25, 2013

6:00 PM

Session Convenes (House)

House

7:00 PM

Session Convenes (Senate)

Senate


Tue, February 26, 2013

8:30 AM

Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation (Joint)

1228/1327 LB

8:30 AM

Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government (Joint)

1425 LB

8:30 AM

Appropriations Subcommittee on Justice and Public Safety (Joint)

415 LOB

8:30 AM

Appropriations Subcommittee on Education (Joint)

421 LOB

8:30 AM

Joint Appropriations on Natural and Economic Resources

Agenda: Non-profit presentations by Institute of Minority Development, Association of Community Development Corporations, High Point Furniture Market, PDI-Defense and Security Technology Accelerator

423 LOB

8:30 AM

Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services (Joint)

643 LOB

8:30 AM

Appropriations Subcommittee on Natural and Economic Resources (House)

Room 423

10:00 AM

Judiciary II (Senate)

Respect our Fallen Heroes. (H19)
Kilah's Law Increase Child Abuse Penalties. (S70)
Prohibit Expunction Inquiry. (S91)

1124/1224 LB

10:00 AM

Health and Human Services (House)

Youth Skin Cancer Prevention Act. (H18)
Require Pulse Oximetry Newborn Screening. (H105)

544 LOB

10:00 AM

Education (House)

Lottery Funds Used for Digital Learning. (H97)

643 LOB

11:00 AM

Commerce (Senate)

Study Savings for Administration of Claims. (S43)
Workers Comp Coverage/Public Records. (S44)
GBICC/Workers' Comp Program Integrity. (S51)
Amend Irrigation Contractors Licensing Laws. (S71)

1027/1128 LB

11:00 AM

Agriculture/Environment/Natural Resources (Senate)

Agenda: Briefings from Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and the Wildlife Resources Commission.

544 LOB

11:15 AM

Press Conference (Time Change)

Press Room LB

12:00 PM

State and Local Government (Senate)

Tabor City Election. (S95)
Clinton/Use Design-Build Method. (S111)

1124/1224 LB

12:00 PM

Transportation (House)

Eliminate Safety Insp./Emission Insp. Req. (H59)

643 LOB

1:00 PM

Select Committee on UNC Board of Governors Nominating -- CORRECTED (House)

1228/1327 LB


Wed, February 27, 2013

8:30 AM

Joint Appropriations on Department of Transportation

1228/1327

8:30 AM

Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government (Joint)

1425 LB

8:30 AM

Appropriations Subcommittee on Justice and Public Safety (Joint)

415 LOB

8:30 AM

Appropriations Subcommittee on Education (Joint)

421 LOB

8:30 AM

Joint Appropriations on Natural and Economic Resources

Agenda: Non-profit presentations by Land Loss Prevention Project, Partnership for the Sounds, COGs, and RTI International.

423 LOB

8:30 AM

Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services (Joint)

643 LOB

8:30 AM

Appropriations Subcommittee on Natural and Economic Resources (House)

Room 423

9:00 AM

NCTA PRESS CONFERENCE

Press Room LB

10:00 AM

Judiciary Subcommittee A (House)

Immunity/Public Safety Dispatchers. (H95)
Workers Comp Coverage/Public Records. (H111)

1228/1327 LB

10:00 AM

Judiciary Subcommittee C (House)

No SS# Req/Parent or Child/Absolute Divorce. (H114)
Amend Interlocutory Appeals/Family Law. (H122)
Reward Amt/Arrest of Fugitive From Justice. (H137)
Adopt Uniform Deployed Parent Cust/Visit. Act. (H139)

415 LOB

10:00 AM

Education/Higher Education (Senate)

Digital Learning Competencies/School Employees. (H23)
Transition to Digital Learning in Schools. (H44)

544 LOB

12:00 PM

Public Utilities and Energy (House)

Natural Gas/Rate Adjustment Mechanism. (H119)

643 LOB


Thu, February 28, 2013

8:30 AM

Joint Appropriations on Department of Transportation

1228/1327 LB

8:30 AM

Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government (Joint)

1425 LB

8:30 AM

Appropriations Subcommittee on Justice and Public Safety (Joint)

415 LOB

8:30 AM

Appropriations Subcommittee on Education (Joint)

421 LOB

8:30 AM

Joint Appropriations on Natural and Economic Resources

Agenda: Non-profit presentations by Indian Economic Development Initiative, FFA Foundation, Ag in the Classroom, and Johnson Wales University.

423 LOB

8:30 AM

Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services (Joint)

643 LOB

8:30 AM

Appropriations Subcommittee on Natural and Economic Resources (Joint)

Room 423


Tue, April 09, 2013

11:45 AM

Rep. D. Ross/NC Women United's Press Conference

Press Room LB


Wed, April 10, 2013

12:00 PM

Rep. Carney

Press Room LB

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