Morning Memo: Session’s end in sight

Posted by John Frank on July 3, 2014 

The end is in sight.

The House – following the Senate’s lead – shut down most of its committees this week and lawmakers are preparing to leave town today with a possible sine die adjournment in the not-too-distant future.

That’s not to say the session is done. The budget remains contested as do a handful of key bills, including the coal ash measure the House will approve Thursday.

The next week is all about compromise – or not.

Speaker Thom Tillis told his members that the House will not hold voting sessions next week to allow conference committees to complete their work. He told most lawmakers they don’t need to return to Raleigh next week and he would provide 48 hour notice before a vote is scheduled.

The Senate left town Wednesday and will not hold its next full session until Tuesday.

*** Get more details about the two major issues left outstanding – the state budget and coal ash – below in the Dome Morning Memo. ***

TODAY IN POLTICS: Gov. Pat McCrory will hold a public bill signing at 9 a.m. at the Executive Mansion. The measure that allows limited medicinal use of a marijuana oil. McCrory is schedule to give a briefing on Hurricane Arthur at 10 a.m. at the N.C. National Guard Joint Force Headquarters.

The House convenes at 9:30 a.m. to take a final vote on the coal ash bill.

The Senate will hold a no-vote session at 9:30 a.m.

HURRICANE ARTHUR: Gov. Pat McCrory is urging residents and visitors to “not put your stupid hat on” as North Carolina prepares for Tropical Storm Arthur, which is forecast to become a hurricane as it approaches the state. Read more here.

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

NEW YORK TIMES -- Dateline RALEIGH -- SINGLE WOMEN EMERGE AS POLITICAL POWERHOUSE: ... But nowhere is the courtship of unmarried women as intense as in North Carolina, where Senator Kay Hagan, a Democrat struggling for a second term, recently has shown gains, even in a Republican poll. Midway through a recent Saturday of campaigning, she described her mobilization strategy: “Heels on the ground.” Read more here.

THE BIG STORY -- U.S. court ruling doesn’t change NC contraception law: The Supreme Court ruling this week that certain business owners don’t have to provide their employees with no-cost access to contraceptives under federal law doesn’t affect North Carolina’s state law on contraceptives.

The state law, which went into effect in 2000, requires that insurers that provide plans that cover prescription drugs or devices also cover contraceptives.

TILLIS IN SPOTLIGHT: Tillis praised the (SCOTUS) ruling ... But on the state law on contraceptives, Tillis “would not favor making any changes,” said his spokesman, Daniel Keylin. ...

Tillis’ campaign clarified some of his views on Wednesday. His spokesmen didn’t explain why they hadn’t responded earlier to repeated criticism from Hagan’s campaign on contraception issues. Tillis believes that states cannot and should not ban contraceptives, as set out by current case law, said his campaign manager, Jordan Shaw. The position is a shift for the candidate.

During the Republican primary contest, Tillis previously said states had the authority to do so, but shouldn’t use it. Shaw also said that Tillis would support a “personhood amendment,” an initiative in some states that would declare a fertilized human egg to be a legal person under certain conditions. Read more here.

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

TEACHER PAY THE NEW STICKING POINT: Once again, it comes down to how to improve teacher salaries. The legislative session’s top issue is the key remaining obstacle for negotiations on a $21 billion state budget plan – and possible adjournment date.

House and Senate budget writers began to break through their bitter budget stalemate Wednesday with a compromise on how much to spend on Medicaid, a health insurance program for low-income residents. Read more here.

COAL ASH BILL GETS INITIAL NOD, BUT SENATE NOT ON BOARD WITH CHANGES: The N.C. House gave initial approval Wednesday to a bill that may let Duke Energy extend a 15-year timetable to close its North Carolina coal-ash ponds.

The 85-27 vote followed heated debate – and an unusual parliamentary move – over adding Duke’s Cape Fear power plant, in Chatham County, to a list of four plants in which ash would have to be removed by 2019. ...

The House made several other changes to the Senate bill, including allowing the governor to name the chairman of the new nine-member ash commission after Gov. Pat McCrory complained about the legislature’s authority to create it.

Senate rules Chairman Tom Apodaca predicted Wednesday that the Senate would not agree to the change.

“What worries me is it looks like they’re caving to the governor,” Apodaca said. “This (commission) needs to be independent, as nonpolitical as possible, to make a decision.” Read more here.

FEW TO BENEFIT FROM MARIJUANA OIL BILL: Legislation to let doctors use oil from hemp plants to treat drug-resistant epilepsy will make the new treatment available only to a small number of patients who take part in pilot studies, rather than a broader patient base as many families have hoped.

Some patients are already calling doctors, hoping to sign up for the hemp oil treatment – only to learn they might not be eligible.

“People need to know what the bill is not,” said Dr. Mohamad Mikati, an epileptologist and chief of child neurology at Duke University. “The only way you can access it (hemp oil) is through a study.” Read more here.

THE SLEEPER STORY -- LAWMAKERS PUSH McCRORY ADMINISTRATION FOR ACTION ON ABORTION CLINIC RULES -- From WRAL: A year after senators used a late-day committee meeting to tack a sweeping set of abortion restrictions onto a bill prohibiting the recognition of Sharia law, the McCrory administration still has not put forward regulations to put the law into full effect. ...Given the effort put into passing the bill – and the protests it caused – lawmakers said they were surprised the administration hadn’t moved further toward implementation.

“We need to look into that,” said Sen. Dan Soucek, R-Watauga, one of a number of senators who pushed for the bill. “If they (the department) haven’t followed up on that, that’s a problem.” Read more here.

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

CARTOON: A must-see editorial cartoon from the Charlotte Observer’s Kevin Siers. See it here.

PRE-REGISTRATION LAW CREATES CONFUSION: The General Assembly’s decision to do away with voter preregistration in 2013 has created confusion in state driver’s license offices, where 50,000 teenagers a year had been signed up in a program that automatically added their names to voter rolls when they turned 18.

Since September, when part of the sweeping elections overhaul bill took effect, state Division of Motor Vehicles officials have had difficulty figuring out at what age newly licensed drivers should be allowed to register to vote.

This issue is one of many expected to be raised next week in federal court by lawyers representing the U.S. Justice Department, the NAACP and others challenging the 2013 elections overhaul bill.

STATE BOARD REVERSES DECISION: State elections officials decided they could not keep those applications on file until the teen became old enough to vote, because that could be considered preregistration – and out of compliance with the 2013 election law change. As a result, state elections officials asked the DMV last November to offer voter registration at driver’s license offices only for individuals 18 and older. ...

This week, as a hearing date neared for a federal judge to consider whether to block provisions of the election law changes until a lawsuit challenging them is decided, Kim Strach, the State Board of Elections executive director, sent a memo to all county boards of elections with further instructions.

DMV, according to Strach’s memo, will begin offering voter registration services to all 17-year-olds, “regardless of whether the individual is in fact qualified and eligible to register.” Read more here.

McCRORY TRIES TO PLAY MIDDLE MAN IN FILM INCENTIVES DEBATE -- From the StarNews: Gov. Pat McCrory on Wednesday defended his administration’s push for long-term, sustainable solutions to the state’s health, economic and transportation challenges.

But that policy could represent troubling news for the state’s film incentive program, which is stuck in a political quagmire in Raleigh even though the tax credit is set to expire at the end of the year. ...

McCrory, who visited the StarNews Wednesday during several stops in the Port City, painted himself as a middle man in the film incentive debate trying to find a solution that meets the needs of fiscal conservatives with those who fear any watering down of the program would decimate the state’s film industry.

“I’m looking for common ground,” the governor said, noting that the debate so far has been between options that offer an “all or nothing” solution. Read more here.

MORE: EUE/Screen Gems Studios Executive Vice-President Bill Vassar and Chief Operating Officer Chris Cooney sent a letter last week inviting Gov. Pat McCrory to visit EUE/Screen Gems Studios. It followed other requests from local officials but all were rejected, the studio said, despite the governor’s visit to Wilmington on Wednesday. “We are deeply disappointed that the Governor has not visited our studio and experienced the North Carolina film industry firsthand,” Vassar said in a statement.

PROFILE OF MARK WALKER CAMPAIGN: From the News & Record: On Tuesday, Mark Walker went from Greensboro to Burlington to Reidsville to Dobson, crossing at least five counties. By day’s end he had put some 200 miles on his car. ...Walker is waging a vigorous campaign. Read more here.

MORE: N.C. congressional candidates fight about amnesty. Read more here.

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

McCrory says charter school salaries should be public. Read more here.

Richard Burr gets small business perspective in bee farm visit. Read more here.

N.C. House approves ferry-toll prohibition. Read more here.

Democratic NC House candidate Bradford pays fine, a day late. Read more here.

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