Under the Dome

Dome: Bill backing vocational ed move passes

FROM STAFF REPORTSFebruary 17, 2013 

A bill directing the state Department of Public Instruction to come up with a plan for attaching “endorsements” to high school diplomas passed the House by a vote of 110-1 and is on its way to Gov. Pat McCrory.

The bill “tries to get the ball rolling on vocational education,” said Rep. Bryan Holloway, a King Republican.

Legislators want high school diplomas to indicate whether students are prepared for work, college or both after graduation. Increasing vocational education was one of McCrory’s campaign issues.

Rep. Paul Luebke, a Durham Democrat, objected to bringing the bill to a vote Wednesday evening, the same day it was debated in a House committee. But in the end, he sounded resigned. “This is a feel-good bill,” he said. “There’s not much substance in it. There are still a lot of questions we could be debating on the floor.”

Luebke voted for the bill. Rep. Carla Cunningham, a Democrat from Charlotte, voted against it.

It will be the first bill McCrory signs; he’ll do it at 10 a.m. Monday at Randolph Community College in Asheboro.

Medicaid backers lobby

Gov. Pat McCrory is getting all kinds of feedback on unemployment and Medicaid expansion.

On Friday, he received a petition from Action NC with nearly 9,000 signatures asking him to expand Medicaid as allowed under the Affordable Care Act. Expanding Medicaid would give about 500,000 more people health insurance. McCrory has said the Medicaid system is broken and needs to be fixed before lots more people are allowed to use it.

Kevin Rogers of Action NC doesn’t think McCrory is going to change his mind. “There’s always a chance, but not a very large chance of that happening right now,” Rogers said. The petition is to demonstrate support for expansion.

Three of the state’s Democratic congressmen sent McCrory a letter saying expansion would help the uninsured and the economy. The letter quotes information from a report that expansion would create 26,000 jobs. “Given the economic, social, and fiscal benefits of Medicaid expansion, it is no wonder that a growing number of states – under both Democratic and Republican leadership – have chosen to implement the law,” said the letter signed by U.S. Reps. David Price, G.K. Butterfield and Mel Watt.

The Rev. William Barber, president of the state NAACP, sent McCrory a letter asking him to veto a bill that cuts unemployment benefits. McCrory is expected to sign it.

Barber gets biblical in his letter, quoting Isaiah 10. “Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless.”

Hearing on fracking heated

State Rep. Pricey Harrison, a Greensboro Democrat, was grilled by U.S. Rep. David McKinley, a Republican from West Virginia, while testifying at a congressional hearing on fracking and coal ash in Washington on Friday. The two clashed over whether there were any legitimate environmental concerns about hydraulic fracturing, and who should regulate it, states or the feds.

McKinley was so aggressive – “He was actually pretty rude about it,” Harrison told Dome – that the committee chairman apologized to her.

According to a blog on The Hill, the House Energy and Commerce Committee was the venue for Republicans to go on the offensive against federal regulation of fracking. Harrison was invited to present the contrary view.

“Our state agencies may be ill-equipped to do the work needed to properly regulate and enforce natural gas drilling,” Harrison told the committee. “Strong federal oversight is needed to ensure that the state regulatory programs have standards that will protect our citizens from harm.”

PAC set to fight licensing plan

North Carolina’s William Gheen, president of Americans for Legal Immigration’s political action committee, told Dome he is considering organizing statewide sit-ins at DMV offices around the state to protest Secretary of Transportation Tony Tata’s decision to extend driver’s licenses to thousands of young illegal immigrants who are eligible to drive because of a federal program that gives them temporary protection from deportation.

Staff writers Lynn Bonner and Craig Jarvis

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