North Carolina Legislative Report - January 17, 2014
January 1 - 17, 2014
The General Assembly has officially completed its business for the 2013 long session. The 2014 short session will begin on Wednesday, May 14, 2014. The MVA Public Affairs Legislative Report on North Carolina will be distributed bi-weekly to keep you up to date on the latest legislative issues facing the state during the interim.
Joint Legislative Commission on Energy Policy
The Joint Legislative Commission on Energy Policy met on Tuesday, January 7. Paul Newton, President of Duke Energy, North Carolina, gave an overview on Duke Energy and highlighted some emerging issues for the company. The next portion of the meeting focused on Senate Bill 3 and renewable energy. Heather Fennell with Research Division staff gave a legislative overview of Senate Bill 3. Dan Conrad, an attorney with the NC Utilities Commission, and Christopher Ayers, Public Staff Executive Director for the NC Utilities Commission, gave an update on renewable energy in the regulatory process. Ivan Urlaub, Executive Director for the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association, gave a presentation on renewable energy providers in North Carolina.
After the discussion on SB 3 and renewables, officials from various departments gave updates on a variety of issues. Neal Robbins, Director of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources gave an update on the North Carolina Alternative Fuels Feasibility Study (S.L.2012-186). Secretary of Administration Bill Daughtridge and Derek Graham, Section Chief of Transportation Services at DPI, gave a presentation on addition of propone fuel option to State’s schools bus bidding form. Jennifer Mundt with Research Division gave a presentation on permitting of wind energy facilities in the State and Mitch Gillespie, Assistant Secretary for Environment at DENR, gave the state of the wind permitting process within DENR. Finally, the last portion of the meeting focused on U.S. EPA’s proposed greenhouse gas emissions (carbon control) standards for new and existing power plants. Dr. Don Van der Vaart, DENR Chief of Division of Air Quality Permitting Section, gave a briefing on proposed regulations and recently introduced Congressional legislation to repeal rules, and a presentation on testimony given to the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power.
Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee
The Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee met on Tuesday, January 7. Anna Nelson, Project L.I.F.T. co-chair/Spangler Companies, Stick Williams, Project L.I.F.T. co-chair/Duke Energy Foundation and Denise Watts, Project L.I.F.T. Executive Director, gave the Committee an update on Project L.I.F.T. Dr. Sharon Morrissey, Executive Vice President and Chief Academic Officer with the North Carolina Community College System and Dr. Suzanne Ortega, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs for the University of North Carolina, gave an overview and background on the comprehensive articulation agreement. Dr. Lisa Chapman, Executive Vice President for Instruction/Chief Academic Officer for Central Carolina Community College and Dr. Marilyn Sheerer, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, East Carolina University gave an update on the work of the CAA Committee.
Dr. Scott Ralls, NC Community College System President, and Dr. Bill Carver, Nash Community College President, then gave a presentation on community college developmental math redesign.
Dr. Sharron Morrissey, Dr. Suzanne Ortega and Dr. Rebecca Garland, Chief Academic Officer at the Department of Public Instruction, gave the Committee an update on GPA calculations.
Randle Richardson and Angela Whitford-Narine with Accelerated Learning Solutions gave a presentation on ALS.
Finally, Dr. Alisa Chapman, Vice President of Academic and University Programs with UNC General Administration gave a presentation on teacher education preparation programs.
Joint Legislative Committee on Information Technology
The Joint Legislative Committee on Information Technology met on Tuesday, January 9. Members heard presentations on next generation secure driver’s license, an upcoming tech refresh and the government data analytics center. Following the meeting, members took a tour of the SAS campus in Cary. The Committee will hold its next meeting on February 6 at IBM's office in Durham.
Revenue Laws Study Committee
The Revenue Laws Study Committee met on Tuesday, January 14. The Committee first heard a presentation from legislative staff about State business privilege taxes and the corporate franchise tax. The presentation gave basic information on the structure of the taxes, how they are applied, and the fiscal impact of the taxes. Next, the Committee heard from Chris McLaughlin with the UNC School of Government. Mr. McLaughlin gave an overview of local business privilege taxes and specifically addressed recent actions by local governments to impose privilege taxes on operators of internet sweepstakes establishments. Finally, the Committee heard from the Department of Revenue with respect to collection and compliance efforts and initiatives. The Department requested authorizing legislation that would allow out-sourcing of in-state cases to private collection agencies, provide an increased budget for locator service contracts, and condition ABC retail permits on having a clean tax compliance record.
Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Health and Human Services
The Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Health and Human Services met on Tuesday, January 14. The Committee first heard Health and Human Services Department Secretary Dr. Aldona Wos make an address regarding the Department’s recent challenges and successes. She went on to apologize for the error of incorrectly distributing children’s Medicaid cards. She further told the Committee that they are working with the USDA to resolve food stamp application issues. Wos also talked about the IT struggles of the department and blamed the federal health care rollout for problems the state is having with its NC FAST system.
Following Wos’ address, the Committee heard budget updates from the Fiscal Research Division, CFO of DHHS Rod Davis, and DHHS Division of Medical Assistance Director Sandy Terrell. They are still waiting on more data as they try to predict whether or not the Medicaid budget will run a deficit this year. Davis told the Committee that so far this year Medicaid is on budget, but there are risk factors that could affect that status before the fiscal year-end in June.
Director of the DHHS Division of Social Services Wayne Black gave reports on Child Protective services. Members of the Committee sought answers regarding the investigation of the handcuffing of an 11-year-old boy to the porch of his guardian’s home with a dead chicken around his neck. Legislators urged the DSS leaders to intervene and takeover the county’s investigation operations.
The Committee also heard reports regarding Accountable Care Organizations as well as Management of Emergency Closures of Residential Facilities.
Environmental Review Commission
The Environmental Review Commission met on Wednesday, January 15. The Commission began by hearing an update on the work of a task force that is looking at the issue of regulatory review of work performed by professional engineers. A question has arisen as to whether unlicensed reviewers in State and local government agencies may occasionally engage in the unauthorized practice of engineering when they review plans for compliance with various regulatory programs. Next, the Commission heard an update on activities at the Bingham Facility at UNC. The Bingham Facility houses animals used in medical research. An expansion of the facility in the last part of the last decade resulted in several environmental violations. The Commission heard an update on remediation efforts, current activities at the facility, and the impact on nearby landowners. Third, the Commission heard from representatives of local governments and of various industry groups about the impact of local environmental regulations. Local governments pointed out that some local environmental regulation is necessary to comply with State or federal law and that it may be more efficient to address particular local circumstances. Industry representatives provided examples where local environmental regulation had a significant impact on commerce. Next, the Commission heard an update from the chair of the Environmental Management Commission on that entity’s structure and recent activities. Finally, the Commission heard a report on the State Water Supply Plan from Tom Reeder with the Division of Water Resources, Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
Joint Legislative Emergency Management Oversight Committee
The Joint Legislative Emergency Management Oversight Committee met on Thursday, January 16. The Committee began by hearing additional reports on the make-up of North Carolina’s emergency management infrastructure. The Committee heard several presentations on this subject at its initial meeting in November, but heard additional reports from the Division of Emergency Programs at the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Division of Emergency Management at the Department of Public Safety, and the Division of Public Health at the Department of Health and Human Services. These reports focused on the role of each of these entities in the State’s plan for emergency management. The Committee also heard from three private organizations that are very active in emergency response in the State – the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and the North Carolina Baptist Men. A representative of the State Highway Patrol provided an overview of the State’s VIPER system. VIPER (Voice Interoperability Plan for Emergency Responders) allows federal, State, and local emergency officials to communicate with one another seamlessly. Finally, the Committee heard a report from the Department of Public Safety on the use of inmate labor in disaster recovery efforts.
Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Justice and Public Safety
The Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Justice and Public Safety met on Thursday, January 16. The majority of the meeting addressed the issue of the provision of health care to inmates in North Carolina. The Committee heard from legislative staff on costs associated with inmate health care and recent legislative efforts to contain those costs. Next, the Committee heard a report from the Department of Public Safety on specific challenges faced with respect to inmate health care, including staffing shortages and the specific needs of an aging prison population. Next the Committee heard an update on new probation and parole positions. The update primarily focused on efforts to fill those positions and where the positions had been located. Finally, the Committee heard from the Governor’s Crime Commission on the work of that Commission, particularly with respect to the administration of grants.
In the News
AP: McCrory says he talked energy with Obama in NC
WRAL: Obama turns to NC State to build better semiconductor
News & Observer: DHHS leader Wos apologizes for privacy violations
News & Observer: NC board to consider 62 charter schools that applied to open in 2015
Watauga Democrat: NC lawmakers to study ACA impacts
News & Observer: State pulls plug on $90 million tax computer system
News & Observer: NC fracking panel passes chemical disclosure rule
News & Observer: McCrory administration explores broad budget cuts to boost teacher pay