Morning Memo: Gov. McCrory raises budget stakes; major bills advance

Posted by John Frank on June 5, 2014 

With one aside, Gov. Pat McCrory raised the stakes in the state budget debate.

The Republican stood with doctors Thursday to push back against the Senate’s spending plan that would shift Medicaid to managed-care organizations. And he dropped a not-so-subtle hint that he means what he says.

From the story: Asked if he would veto a budget that contained the Senate’s plan, McCrory declined to show his cards, but added “I do have that option available.” ( Read more here.)

His remark came two days after he vowed to fight for his budget proposal. The House is preparing to release its spending plan in coming days and it is expected to look closer to McCrory’s proposal than the one approved by the Senate. If the two sides unite against the Senate, negotiations later this month may prove interesting.

But in pushing back against this part of the Senate budget, McCrory may be missing a bigger picture. The Senate budget proposed transferring Medicaid to a new agency, a public shot across the bow that lawmakers are not happy with the problems that have plagued the Department of Health and Human Services. How McCrory addresses this proposition remains to be seen.

*** Another group McCrory met with in Raleigh wasn’t so excited ... and a full roundup from a busy day at the state legislature – below in the Dome Morning Memo. ***

TODAY IN POLTICS: Gov. Pat McCrory will attend a 9:30 a.m. groundbreaking near Mebane for Morinaga, the Japanese candy company preparing to build its first facility in North Carolina. At 11:30 a.m., he will attend the annual meeting of the N.C. Business Committee for Education at PNC Arena.

The Senate’s budget committee meets at 8 a.m. to discuss revamping the state’s film incentives program, the first move from the chamber to maintain an incentive program to lure film makers. The committee will also discuss the privatization of the state’s commerce department, according to the calendar.

At 9:30 a.m., the Senate starts discussing coal ash. Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary John Skvarla will present the governor’s plan. No vote will be taken but public comment is expected. The House and Senate commerce committees meet at 10 a.m. to discuss golf and the U.S. Open.

The Senate convenes at 11 a.m.

On the House side, the Rules Committee meets at 9 a.m. and the Government Committee tackles a full agenda at 10 a.m.

The House convenes at noon. The House’s bill to privatize part of the state’s Commerce department is on the floor, as is a measure to tweak the state’s unemployment insurance system and a measure to adjust the new Read to Achieve program.

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

HAGAN SENDS LETTER TO McCRORY ASKING FOR MEDICAID EXPANSION – From The Hill: Some of the most vulnerable Democratic senators have signed on to a Wednesday letter asking Republican governors to “put politics aside” and expand Medicaid coverage.

Democratic Sens. Mark Begich (Alaska), Mary Landrieu (La.) and Kay Hagan (N.C.), who are running tight midterm reelection races, were among the 20 who signed the letter. The letter was addressed to their three governors, along with 15 others. Read more here.

COMMON CORE IN THE RACE: Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan supports Common Core. Although House Speaker Thom Tillis of Huntersville did not vote on the House bill, a spokesman said he supports repeal. Read more here.

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

STORY TO WATCH TODAY: SENATE MOVE STO REVAMP FILM INCENTIVES INTO GRANT PROGRAM – From the Star-News: A state Senate budget committee is expected to debate and pass a measure early Thursday to revamp North Carolina’s film tax credits and turn it into a grant program.

Supporters say the proposal would add more oversight as well as target high-dollar deals that create economic growth and weed out low-end productions, student films and others that have gamed the system. But it’s unclear if it will be enough to satisfy the film community, which was in Raleigh Wednesday to lobby legislators on the importance of continuing the state’s incentive program.

The current film incentive expires at year’s end, and state Sen. Bill Rabon, co-chair of the Senate’s Finance Committee, says he believes this is a solution that will earn the bipartisan support of his colleagues that have been leery of continuing the benefits for film companies. Read more here.

MORE: Filmmakers, legislators ask to continue tax credit. Read more here.

THE BIG STORY – WITH FRACKING MORATORIUM LIFTED, STATE BUDGET TO SUBSIDIZE DRILLING TESTS: State-sponsored drilling is expected to get underway this fall in Eastern North Carolina as part of a $550,000 state effort approved last year to help the energy industry assess fracking prospects here.

Boosters of energy exploration want to expand the state’s drilling activities beyond the six counties designated last year. The Senate’s proposed budget would add more counties throughout the state and includes nearly $1.2 million to aid the energy sector by drilling, analysis and marketing. The governor’s budget includes $500,000 for drilling up to three test wells near Sanford in Lee County.

Mark Miller, co-owner of Tar Heel Natural Gas, a Charlotte company interested in energy exploration here: “If the government can help the industry ascertain, that’s a huge hurdle to climb over to get industry to come into the state.”

The actual areas to be drilled will be determined after the state budget is finalized. ...

Critics of fracking want subsidies directed to promote solar power and wind energy, not a booming industry sector that is thriving on its own. “It looks like a taxpayer subsidy going to the oil and gas industry,” said Cassie Gavin, lobbyist for the North Carolina chapter of the Sierra Club. Read more here.

THE OTHER BIG STORY – HOUSE BUCKS SOME IN GOP, VOTES TO REPEAL COMMON CORE: The national debate over Common Core education standards came to the floor of the state House on Wednesday, where a move to repeal and replace student goals for math and language arts achievement won approval in a 78-39 vote.

The House, where Republicans hold a majority, went against the state business community, education groups, Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and his state school board chairman, Bill Cobey, in calling for new standards for math and language arts. All Republicans and three Democrats voted for the measure.

The replacement for Common Core is unknown. The measure creates an advisory group that will make recommendations to the State Board of Education on new standards. Until the change, public schools are supposed to use Common Core. Read more here. And a Q&A on Common Core here.

PRIVATIZED COMMERCE WOULD HAVE MANY RECORDS SHIELDED: From WRAL – Early drafts of the bill would have submitted the public-private partnership to the same level of scrutiny. But the versions approved Wednesday would exempt many records from public view. The nonprofit would have to turn over records it collected on a business only if that company applies for and receives incentives from the state. In the case of businesses that apply for incentives and either are denied or refuse the grant, only the proposal submitted to the state would be public. Read more here.

THE TALKER – McCRORY ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL AND TOP LAWMAKER SPAR: The controversy over who will make future appointments to the state Board of Review, which rules on appeals of unemployment board decisions, has gotten personal.

Rep. Julia Howard, a senior Republican lawmaker from Mocksville, and Dale Folwell, head of the N.C. Division of Employment Security and himself a former Republican legislator, harshly criticized each other in comments to reporters following a House Finance Committee meeting Wednesday morning.

Howard charged that remarks Folwell made during the session were “very disrespectful” to the committee. Folwell contended Howard was angling to get herself appointed to the Board of Review. Howard denied the accusation. Read more here.

TOUGH CROWD – FORMER MAYOR McCRORY GETS TEPID WELCOME FROM CITY OFFICIALS: Gov. Pat McCrory sought to reassure city and town officials Wednesday that his administration doesn’t want to take away municipal revenue and regulatory powers.

McCrory’s annual meeting with the N.C. League of Municipalities came at an awkward time this year – just days after he signed a bill to repeal local business taxes, a move that’s expected to cost cities and towns a total of $62 million. ...

The League of Municipalities’ president, Goldsboro Mayor Al King, thanked McCrory for his willingness to help with the loss of the tax. King’s comment prompted applause from just a few of the town officials in attendance.

“It seemed like there was a little less optimism from the audience,” Garner Town Councilman Ken Marshburn said after the meeting. “We still don’t have an answer to where the revenues are coming from to replace (the tax).” Read more here.

DEMOCRATIC-HELD DPI TARGETED IN SENATE BUDGET: Superintendents from around the state gathered Wednesday to argue against a significant cut to the state Department of Public Instruction.

The Senate budget would cut 30 percent from the state education department ... State Superintendent June Atkinson estimated that a 30 percent cut would mean the loss of 100 to 150 positions in her department. Read more here.

FAMILIES PUSH FOR MORE CARBON MONOXIDE RULES: A year after three people died of carbon monoxide poisoning in a Boone hotel room, their families support proposals before the N.C. General Assembly to require alarms in parts of hotels and other lodging establishments. But they don’t believe the provisions go far enough. They want a carbon monoxide alarm in every guest room. Read more here.

#NCPOL – More political news from North Carolina.

ONE ARRESTED AT SIT-IN AT CONGRESSMAN’S RALEIGH OFFICE: A group of immigrant families and advocates held a sit-in at Rep. George Holding’s Raleigh office Wednesday afternoon, demanding that he call on House Speaker John Boehner to schedule a House vote on an immigration overhaul.

One of the demonstrators, Angelita Morrisroe ... was arrested just after 4 p.m. and taken into custody. Holding is one of more than two dozen House Republicans who are being targeted in a nationwide push on the anniversary of a House vote that would have defunded the White House program that blocks deportations of hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children. Read more here.

INTERNAL POLL SHOWS TURNER DEADLOCKED WITH MOFFITT – From the Citizen-Times: Democrat Brian Turner and incumbent Republican Rep. Tim Moffitt are in a statistical dead heat, according to a new poll.

Moffitt has a favorability problem among his base and Turner’s name recognition is low, according to the poll, with most people not having an opinion on him either way. Read more here.

QUICK LOOK – More headlines from across the state.

U.S. tells Georgia that drug testing of food-stamp recipients violates law. Read more here.

UNCC economist expects slight slowdown in N.C. Read more here.

Historic preservation tax credits on line in budget dispute. Read more here.

Burr’s VA bill may hit Senate roadblock. Read more here.

Ex-mayor Patrick Cannon must talk to cut sentence. Read more here.

N.C. House OKs bill on religion rules in schools Read more here.

Charlotte lawmaker high on hope for pot bill. Read more here.

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