Morning Memo: House raises eyebrows with budget; a look inside panel key to fracking

Posted by John Frank on June 11, 2014 

In a place where little surprises the hardened political class, House Republicans sure found a way to raise eyebrows at the statehouse.

The idea to generate new revenue from the lottery – a program Republicans loathe and have restricted for years – to pay for teacher raises is the centerpiece of its budget plan.

Not only does it seem to run counter to the party’s conservative ideology, but it creates a fundamentally different budget from what the Senate and Gov. Pat McCrory proposed. It’s hard to imagine what the final product will look like now.

There’s plenty to explore. Here’s a dissection of the House proposal:

THE BIG PICTURE: The state House introduced a $21.1 billion budget Tuesday morning that is substantially different from the Senate plan and exposes the wide gulf between House and Senate Republicans on how to pay for state priorities.

The biggest differences are over two of the most expensive obligations, education and Medicaid, the government insurance program for poor children and their parents, and elderly, blind and disabled people.

REPUBLICANS, DEMOCRATS NOT FANS OF LOTTERY GRAB: Rep. Debra Conrad, a Winston-Salem Republican, called it “the most disturbing piece” of the education budget. “I do feel uncomfortable rolling the dice and betting on money that may not materialize,” she said.

Democratic Rep. Rick Glazier of Fayetteville objected to the policy shift, saying the lottery was designed to supplement education funding. “We are now effectively supplanting it,” he said. “This is not what the lottery was intended to do.”

GOP FRAMES IT AS REFORM: Rep. Craig Horn, a Weddington Republican and lead education budget writer, said the lottery forecasts are “an exact science” and defended the move. “We are in the process of actually doing what we said we were going to do when the lottery came in,” he said. “It’s the education lottery; well, lo and behold we are going to use the money for education.”

SENATE REACTION: Senate Rules Committee Chairman Tom Apodaca said he couldn’t say how long it would take for the House and Senate to work out their significant differences. “My first thought, they need to call the gambling hotline,” Apodaca said. “They seem to have a gambling problem.”

WHERE THE GOVERNOR STANDS: Consider this the riddle of the day to decipher where McCrory stands. His statement: “I will continue to support a budget plan that provides sustainable raises for teachers and state employees, protects teacher assistants, protects master’s pay, provides career pathways for teachers, and funds core services for the needy and disabled. I’d like to thank Speaker Tillis and other members of House leadership for listening on these important issues. I look forward to working with the House and Senate to build on the strengths of both plans.”

Read more here on the House budget. And see a breakdown of the differences in the House and Senate budgets.

*** The budget continues to stand in the spotlight Wednesday and more attention is shining on an obscure board now in the fracking mix. Get more below in the Dome Morning Memo. ***

TODAY IN POLTICS: Gov. Pat McCrory is spending the day in Washington, his public calendar shows. He starts with a 10 a.m. meeting with FCC Commissioners about digital learning. At 2 p.m. he will attend a U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation panel with Utah Gov. Gary Herbert.

The statehouse is full of action. The House Finance Committee will take a look at the state budget before it goes to the full House Appropriations Committee at 10:30 a.m.

Other stories to watch: Senate Judiciary is taking up bills involving student records and the state’s business court at 9 a.m. in room 1027. Senate Education will discuss a bill to amend the rules for charter schools at 10 a.m. in room 544 LOB. The Senate Commerce committee will meet at 3:30 p.m. and consider two gubernatorial appointees.

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

TV ADS: Kay Hagan's campaign isn’t say how much it is spending on its two new TV ads. The campaign calls it a “seven-figure” buy – meaning at least $1 million. But it is spread out over two months, so it’s unclear if voters will see them enough to make a difference.

YOUTH GROUP ENTERS THE RACE TO HELP TILLIS: Generation Opportunity, a group financed indirectly by the conservative Koch brothers, is starting an $800,000 campaign Wednesday to mobilize young voters against Hagan Read more here. And here’s the ad.

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

BULLETIN: Republicans Control All 11 Confederate State Legislatures After Virginia Senate Flips. Read more here.

HOUSE GOP REVERSE COURSE – From AP: The North Carolina House has changed its mind again about exempting the admissions price to commercial agricultural fairs from sales taxes. The chamber narrowly voted against the exemption Tuesday, just a few days after it gave tentative approval to the idea. Read more here.

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

THE BIG STORY – OBSCURE BOARD HOLDS KEY TO FRACKING: The final state commission that will weigh in on the state’s fracking standards is a relatively little-known board of Republican appointees that includes a plant nursery owner, a former lobbyist turned stay-at-home mom, and a former state Senate candidate who has described government as a “tyranny.”

The N.C. Rules Review Commission has been cast into the spotlight by the state legislature’s recent vote to allow drilling permits to be issued without waiting for lawmakers to vote on fracking standards. ...

The nine sitting rules commissioners were appointed by House and Senate Republican leaders who are eager for drilling to get underway, and fracking opponents say they don’t expect the rules commission to take action that would delay potential energy exploration. Find out who’s on the board here.

ROB CHRISTENSEN RETURNS ... WITH A MESSAGE: But having just returned from a couple of weeks vacation and catching up in the newspapers about the actions of North Carolina’s legislature, I was struck by the degree to which today’s GOP is dominated by a libertarian brand of conservatism.

Would North Carolina’s current legislature pass an EPA, a Coastal Area Management Act, or a prescription drug plan? Not likely. ...

Tens of thousands of North Carolinians are being hurt by the actions of the legislature ... They are being harmed by ideas put forth by economic thinkers such as Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig von Mises and Milton Friedman and sold by national groups such as the American Legislative Exchange Council and locally by the John Locke Foundation.

The theory, of course, is that the changes will lead to a more productive economy that will float all boats. One can only hope that this experiment in libertarian conservatism turns out to be worth the pain. Read more here.

INDY WEEK ON McCRORY APPOINTEE: Dressing up in Arab garb and attacking a Gulf War peace encampment. Protesting the construction of UNC's Black Cultural Center. Portraying a Jewish student presidential candidate with horns and a pitchfork on the front cover of his college magazine.

This is the man who Gov. Pat McCrory nominated for an important position on a state board that decides worker's compensation cases and the distribution of the eugenics compensation fund. Read more here.

ICYMI: THE LEFT VENTS ITS ANGER ON ART POPE: The WUNC State of Things interview with State Budget Director Art Pope here.

QUICK LOOK – More headlines from across the state.

White House shoots down Asheville-Obama rumor. Read more here.

N.C. treasurer’s office rips SEANC-funded report. Read more here.

Judge: UNCW must pay $700K for prof’s legal fees. Read more here.

No money in House budget for fracking tests. Read more here.

Carolinas HealthCare System’s CEO says health care industry is target for state cuts. Read more here.

California tenure ruling fuels debate. Read more here.

Critic calls GOP-backed Charlotte airport bill “sneak attack.” Read more here.

Autism advocates push NC bill requiring insurers to cover treatment. Read more here.

Mayor Clodfelter follows lead of former Mayor McCrory. Read more here.

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