Morning Memo: Fracking bill splits Republican leaders

Posted by John Frank on May 22, 2014 

A move to speed the timeline for fracking in North Carolina is dividing Republican lawmakers and Gov. Pat McCrory.

The Senate approved a fracking bill Wednesday that would lift the state's moratorium on shale gas drilling. But House lawmakers are concerned about the push and Gov. Pat McCrory released a statement that stopped short of saying he’d sign the bill.

It sets up a replay of last year’s political showdown in the state House that prompted Republicans to join Democrats and keep the moratorium in place – and may threaten the short session timeline if no agreement is reached.

“The House is not on board with the date certain,” Republican Rep. Mike Hager of Rutherfordton, the House leader on energy issues, said of expiring the moratorium. “The major concern is we want to make sure the rules are what we want them to be before we go out and frack. It's gotta be rules first and then moratorium. You don't want to go flying blind.”

Gov. Pat McCrory also has concerns about the legislation and is negotiating with lawmakers to change some provisions before the House debate, which could take place as early as next week.

“We are still considering the implications of several provisions regarding governance and the potential impact on city and county governments,” said Josh Ellis, a spokesman for the governor. “We will work with the Senate and the House to ensure that the final bill protects the environment and promotes responsible exploration of our energy and mineral resources.” Read more here.

*** Much more from the statehouse and a look at Thom Tillis’ rough day, all below in Dome Morning Memo. ***

TODAY IN POLTICS: Gov. Pat McCrory will attend a Heroes’ Fund luncheon at 11:30 a.m. in Charlotte.

At the Capitol, the House will meet in the old House chambers to celebrate its 220th anniversary. It will also take a vote – sans electronic board and microphones at the desk – about an occupancy tax provision related to the U.S. Open in Pinehurst. The House convenes at 11 a.m.

The Senate will remain at the legislative building for its session at 11 a.m.

Earlier in the morning, two committee meetings are scheduled: Senate Judiciary I will consider a measure to limit lawsuits against businesses (10 a.m.) and House Rules will vote to confirm two appointees of Gov. Pat McCrory (despite Democratic objections to one) and look at a bill allowing a possum drop in Clay County.

Ten minutes after the session, House Banking will meet to consider House Bill 1117.

The State Board of Elections meets at 1 p.m. to certify the results of the May primary elections and fill a county board vacancy.

THE STATE OF THE AMERICAN VOTER: Who cares which party controls Congress? Only about half of Americans. The other 46 percent, not so much, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll.

Ask people whom they would rather see in charge on Capitol Hill, and Republicans finish in a dead heat with “doesn’t matter.”

Democrats fare only a little better: 37 percent would prefer their leadership, compared with 31 percent each for the GOP and whatever.

“I’ve never really noticed any difference in my life depending on which party is in,” said Bob Augusto, 39, an oil refinery worker in Woodstown, N.J. He doesn’t expect to vote in this fall’s midterm election. Read more here.

#NCSEN --- The headlines from the U.S. Senate campaign trail.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Two questions emerged about Republican Thom Tillis from Wednesday.

1. How much will the reinvigorated spat with Rep. Robert Brawley hurt his U.S. Senate campaign? In the GOP primary, critics (largely tea partiers) made the case Tillis is a bully and the Republican caucus’ move to censure Brawley only adds fuel to the fire.

2. How long can he avoid answering a key question about the health care law and still bash Obamacare? Tillis’ campaign declined, once again, Wednesday to talk about where the candidate stands on key provisions of the Affordable Care Act that he wants to repeal. It didn’t work for his opponent Democrat Kay Hagan on the question about the canceled plans.

RAGIN’ HAGANS: Sen. Kay Hagan on Wednesday ran in an annual three-mile race in Washington that benefits the Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation.

Members of the legislative, executive and judicial branches of the federal government and media organizations participate in the annual race, which is sponsored by the American Council of Life Insurers. Participants lead teams of five runners.

Hagan was the only North Carolina member of Congress listed as a participant. She finished in 35:15, and her team included her husband, Chip. The group wore T-shirts that said “Ragin’ Hagans.”

HEADLINES – Politico: Dems desperately seek an Obama midterm strategy. Read more here. Washington Post: Senate Republicans race to early spending lead. Read more here. Kaiser Health News: The state of health politics in 2014. Read more here.

#NCGA --- A roundup of news from the N.C. General Assembly.

BIG STORY – REPUBLICANS BEHIND COMMON CORE SAY PUBLIC HAS BEEN MISLED: Five Republican former governors who supported the Common Core from its creation during the Bush administration said Wednesday that disinformation from conservatives threatened to highjack the higher standards for what students should be able to accomplish in each grade.

“I’m a believer that facts ultimately prevail among most reasonable people,” said former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, who helped lead the development of the standards and continues to support them. “I think it’s incumbent on us to speak out and defeat rumors and innuendo and allegations with facts about how the Common Core began, what its purpose is and how we believe it can be positive for American society.”

He said he was puzzled by the criticism from the right. “I don’t know how in America you can be against higher standards,” he said.

Critics call the standards a national curriculum and a federal takeover of education. The governors at the gathering said they were neither.

The federal government wasn’t involved in developing the standards. The Obama administration later gave states credit for adopting higher standards in its Race to the Top grants program. Read more here.

A WRAP: The legislative action from Wednesday. Read more here.

CHARLOTTE SENDS AN EMISSARY TO LEGISLATURE: After last year’s acrimony between Charlotte and the General Assembly, a Charlotte City Council member is trying to extend an olive branch to lawmakers during the legislative session that convened this month.

Republican City Council member Ed Driggs spoke to the Mecklenburg delegation Wednesday morning as he continued making the rounds of legislators. Read more here.

#NCPOL --- More political news from North Carolina.

BULLETIN – Asheville rocker wins American Idol. ( Read more here.) Watch out Mark Meadows and Patrick McHenry ... a Congressional bid is next. No, just kidding.

APEX TEACHERS RALLY FOR HIGHER PAY: Britt Morton loves teaching and coaching. But he says he can’t afford to do it in North Carolina anymore.

Morton, a football and wrestling coach at Apex High School, is one of many teachers leaving Wake County schools due to low pay.

Frustrated and hoping for better wages, about 40 teachers dressed in red marched outside Apex High School before classes began Wednesday morning. One sign read: “N.C. State Education First in Teacher Flight,” a play on the state’s license plate logo. Read more here.

MEDICAL EXAMINERS INVESTIGATION – HOW MARYLAND DOES IT: It is considered one of the nation’s most respected operations. Maryland sends trained investigators to all death scenes across the state. Violent shooting deaths get extra attention. The office works with law enforcement to identify gang members. It alerts public health officials to threats such as carbon monoxide.

North Carolina’s network of about 350 local medical examiners, operating virtually as volunteers, is partly modeled after Maryland’s office. But North Carolina doesn’t offer the same protections. Read more here.

SHERIFFS BACK WALKER, NOT D.A. BERGER JR. IN 6th DISTRICT RUNOFF: Mark Walker said he believes the endorsement of the sheriffs, who have served a combined total of more than 70 years in their communities, would have as much impact as Berger’s endorsement by Coble. Read more here.

QUICK LOOK --- More headlines from across the state.

Democratic lawmakers wants voters to decide on medical marijuana. Read more here.

Ostracized Republican files bill to give lawmakers a 158 percent raise. Read more here.

Former N.C. Rep. Jim Gulley dies. Read more here.

Bill would broaden carbon monoxide rules. Read more here.

N.C. lawmakers consider new patent abuse rules. Read more here.

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