Morning Memo: NC lawmakers may open up their budget negotiations

Posted by John Frank on June 23, 2014 

The leaders of some House and Senate committees have been meeting to talk over budget differences but the true negotiations get underway this week and Jim Morrill of the Charlotte Observer writes that Senate leaders are talking about opening up the negotiations to the public.

The quotes:

• Sen. Tom Apodaca, a Hendersonville Republican who chairs the influential Rules Committee.: “I don’t know that we’ve made a definite decision, but we’re leaning that way. In my mind, it helps incentivize getting it done. That’s the overwhelming reason for doing it, speeding the process.”

• Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger of Rockingham County: “As open as possible,”

• House Speaker Thom Tillis of Huntersville: “I generally don’t have a problem with that.”

The two chambers still appear to be far apart on the $21 billion budget and while they made some progress last week on Medicaid, there are still differences on a host of items, most notably teacher pay raises.

*** Find out more about the day ahead and the stories you missed over the weekend at Dome Morning Memo. ***

TODAY IN POLTICS: Both chambers convene at 7 tonight. Ahead of the session. the Joint Legislative Program Evaluation Oversight Committee meets at 3 p.m. to hear a progress report on NC GEAR, a k a North Carolina Government Efficiency and Reform, from its deputy director Joe Coletti.

The project is an initiative of Gov. Pat McCrory’s to make state government more efficient. Just in time for today’s update, the program has launched a website to collect ideas from citizens and state employees. Links can be found at www.nc.gov, www.governor.nc.gov and www.osbm.nc.gov. The current budget funds the program at $4 million.

After 60 weeks of protests at the legislature, tonight is supposed to be the last Moral Monday of the current session and organizers are planning a “Sit-In, Stand-In, Teach-In, Plan-In, Pray-In.”

The gathering begins at 5 p.m. on Halifax Mall behind the General Assembly. It’s the beginning of an 18-week mass voter mobilization drive dubbed the “Moral March to the Polls Campaign.”

Tonight they’ll be joined by a group that has been marching since leaving Asheville on June 6 in a 260-mile March Against Fear. They want to legislators to support House Bill 1161, which would legalize medical marijuana.

U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan will be in Fayetteville today to visit the VA hospital there. A recent audit showed the hopsital had some of the longest wait times in the country.

And more than two dozen North Carolina women will be among those taking their concerns to the White House today for the White House Summit on Working Families.

No word from the governor’s office on his public schedule.

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

PAYING FOR CRIME, The Associated Press: “Lawmakers look at new crimes, tougher penalties” – North Carolina lawmakers this year are once again grappling with how to balance being tough on crime while holding down expenses.” Read more here.

FISHING FOR ANSWERS, Coastal Review: Locals are perplexed as to why the state House wants to sell Jennette’s Pier, a popular place in Nags Head for tourists, residents and school groups. Read more here.

IT’S A WRAP, Asheville Citizen Times: “Is the end near for NC film incentives? – For Tammy Hopkins, debate in Raleigh over film tax incentives isn’t just impacting her Brevard-based job. It’s putting a couple of projects on pause. The longtime actor, filmmaker and film liaison says she’s recently received calls from two film production leaders who want to bring their movies to North Carolina. But both are also waiting to find out the fate of the 25 percent refundable tax credit, set to expire at the end of this year. “They are waiting to see what happens,” Hopkins, with Film Brevard, said, noting that one production is deciding between Virginia and North Carolina; the other between Georgia and North Carolina. “We are the top choice, but they will go” elsewhere if the incentives disappear. read more here.

PLAYING WITH NUMBERS, The N&O: “New lottery figures show NC House budget would have shortfall” – Officials issued two memos late Friday with significantly revised forecasts of lottery profits and the financial effect of proposed changes in how the games are pitched to players. ...

The upshot, according to the figures provided in the memos, is that the House budget would be out of balance and short by about $44 million in what House members have been expecting to use for the teacher raises from the lottery.

Read more here.

#NCPOL — More political news from North Carolina.

INHALE THIS, The Greenville Daily Reflector: “Federal Grant funds e-cigarette start-up – A federal grant administered through the N.C. Department of Commerce will provide a Greenville electronic cigarette product supply company $210,000 to establish a start-up venture in the city and add new jobs. N.C. Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker and Assistant Secretary for Rural Development Pat Mitchell announced on Thursday that the N.C. Rural Infrastructure Authority (RIA) approved the use of the U.S. Housing and Urban Development community development block grant funds in Greenville and four other cities totaling $1.4 million with the commitment of more than 130 new jobs.

Read more here.

CHRISTENSEN ON HOWARD FULLER: Howard Fuller is one of the few politically bilingual people among us.

Fuller was a legendary community organizer, who gave many North Carolina black leaders their start and counts Malcolm X among his chief influences. Conservatives once tried to run Fuller out of the state.

He is also among the nation’s leading advocates for vouchers to allow low-income families to send their children to private schools. That cause led to a friendship with the Walton family of Walmart fame, placed him on President George W. Bush’s education advisory committee, and last week had him standing in front of the North Carolina Legislative Building with Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Thom Tillis. Read more here.

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