The fast-pace anticipated for this legislative term, the so-called short session, is becoming readily apparent.
The House will consider a major tax bill Tuesday (read more below) and a Senate committee will dive into an even more contentious topic: fracking. The top three priorities this session (budget, teacher pay raises and coal ash regulation) remain to come.
The bill to green-light hydraulic fracturing for shale gas, Senate Bill 786, is an interesting study. Senate Republicans are pushing the measure despite organized opposition that is trying to sway the public about the topic.
And the measure is generating national attention. It includes a provision that would make it a felony for an individual to disclose confidential information about the chemicals used in fracking. A trade publication noted the provision Friday and other environmental publications sounded the horn.
Environmentalists are trying to make the case that fracking is a losing issue for Republicans. Three environmental groups say they found a “sharp decline” in support for fracking in three state senate districts where the N.C. Environmental Partnership ran television, online and radio advertisements warning about the potential pitfalls of fracking. (Republican Sens. Chad Barefoot, Ronald Rabin and Wesley Meredith were the main targets. Another ad questioned Sen. Trudy Wade in Greensboro.)
“Our polling shows that the more North Carolinians know about fracking the less they like it,” said Luis Martinez, with the Natural Resources Defense Council in Asheville, in a statement.
Whether such an effort can spread to more areas in the state and stop the legislation remains unclear. But expect the topic to become a 2014 campaign issue ahead in November.
*** A busy day at the N.C. General Assembly is just the start. Get briefed below. Also: Thom Tillis and Kay Hagan were a half-mile apart Monday in Washington, both reaching out to lobbyists. Read about it and more in the Dome Morning Memo. ***
TODAY IN POLTICS: Gov. Pat McCrory did not issue a public calendar for Tuesday.
At the statehouse, the House Finance Committee meets first thing but a bill to adjust the unemployment insurance changes from a year ago may not get discussed (8:30 a.m. in 544 legislative office building).
The Senate Judiciary Committee will consider the so-called “ag gag” bill but no vote is expected. (10 a.m. in 1027 legislative building). And the Senate’s agriculture committee is to hear a bill lifting a moratorium on counties imposing tougher environmental regulations than the state. (11 a.m. in 544 LOB).
The House gavels into session at 1 p.m. to consider a major tax bill to cap privilege taxes, impose a modest e-cigarette tax and fix other problems with last year’s tax reform measure. (Read more on legislation below.)
The Senate will start at the same time but is expected to have a light calendar.
As mentioned above, the Senate Commerce Committee will draw considerably more interest as it debates the fracking bill (2 p.m. 1027 LB). The Senate Finance Committee scheduled a rare late committee meeting but no agenda is posted (4 p.m. in 643 LOB).
#NCSEN --- The headlines from the U.S. Senate campaign trail.
CROSSROADS PREPARES TO SPEND BIG MONEY TO HELP TILLIS: A nonprofit that doesn’t disclose its donors is launching the first television ad in what totals a $3.6 million blitz against Democrat Kay Hagan in the U.S. Senate race.
Crossroads GPS will spend $900,000 this week to air the advertisement, which is designed to boost Republican Thom Tillis. The organization is an arm of American Crossroads, the Karl Rove-backed group that spent millions to help get Tillis elected in the Republican primary earlier this month.
The Crossroads GPS group also will air ads the week of June 10 ($900,000), July 1 ($875,000) and July 22 ($875,000), a spokesman said. Read more on the $10 million national push here.
AS TILLIS RAISED MONEY, HAGAN MET WITH HEDGE FUND MANAGERS: As expected, House Speaker Thom Tillis missed the third day of the legislative session Monday to raise money in Washington as part of his U.S. Senate campaign. No votes were taken and the session lasted mere minutes. (See Tillis in shades entering the fundraiser here.)
Two hours after Tillis met with lobbyists and raised money, a half-mile away Democrat Kay Hagan gave the keynote address to the Hedge Fund Association symposium hosted at Washington lobbying firm K&L Gates on K Street. ( Agenda here.)
The symposium’s pitch: “For hedge fund managers, decisions made in Washington, D.C. have a direct impact on their ability to do business. In the past several years, the alternative investment industry has adapted to several new regulatory, reporting and recordkeeping requirements – and more changes are expected to be rolled out this year. To gain the latest insights on what to expect, and how to adapt, please join us on Monday, May 19 for the HFA Symposium Hedge Funds & the Regulatory Road Ahead.”
A Hagan spokeswoman said the senator “delivered an update” on issues in front of the Senate Banking Committee, which she serves on. The issues included housing finance reform, re-authorization of the Export-Import Bank and terrorism risk insurance, and she touched on some issues surrounding the implementation of Dodd-Frank, the office said.
Hagan’s campaign recently lashed out at hedge fund managers in an effort to push back against an advertisement from the 60 Plus Association on the issue of Fannie and Freddie Mac. “While 60 plus has claimed the middle class would be hurt by housing reform, in reality its hedge fund investors who want to take more profits from taxpayers,” the campaign statement said.
#NCGA --- A roundup of news from the N.C. General Assembly.
DON’T MISS – Fayetteville Observer’s series on shale gas drilling: A fractured North Carolina. See the six-day series here.
THE BIG STORY – A SILENT ‘MORAL MONDAY’ PROTEST LEADS TO NO ARRESTS: Demonstrators trying to raise a ruckus about the North Carolina legislature’s swing to the political right put tape across their mouths and paraded quietly through the statehouse Monday.
Days after the Legislative Services Commission changed the rules for North Carolina’s Legislative Building, demonstrators who sang, chanted and protested loudly last year changed their tactics, too.
Protesters were still outspoken outside about the effects of policies and laws adopted last year, when Republicans wielded power from both legislative chambers and the governor’s office. But inside the building where those laws were made, protesters marched two by two in an eerie silence through the facility and out the back door toward Halifax Mall. There was no civil disobedience.
Capitol police estimated the crowd to include about 1,500 people. NAACP representatives put the crowd size closer to 5,000. Read more here.
ONE SIGN: A retired state employee held a sign that read, “N.C. Republican legislators = U.S. Taliban.”
POLICY CORNER – TAX CHANGES AND LOCAL MEDDLING, 2013 SESSION REDUX: A year ago, Republican lawmakers slashed taxes at the state level. Now they want to force cities to do the same at the local level.
Days into the legislative session, two contentious measures, one to cap the local taxes businesses pay cities and another to limit spending, are being fast-tracked even as the revenue implications of the major tax cuts approved in 2013 remain uncertain.
The House is pushing legislation – with a vote expected Tuesday – to cap local privilege taxes at $100, a move that would save some businesses hundreds of dollars but cost cities millions in lost revenue. It is tucked into a larger bill that fixes major problems in the state tax code.
The Senate is considering a measure, scheduled for committee debate Wednesday, to restrict county spending by limiting property tax revenues to 8 percent growth a year. That is tucked into a bill that green-lights shale gas drilling.
Republican leaders say the efforts are needed to free businesses from onerous taxes and spur job creation.
McCRORY IN A TOUGH SPOT ON LOCAL TAXES: While Charlotte mayor for 14 year, Gov. Pat McCrory expressed concern about losing privilege tax money in 2009 when Democrats wanted to repeal it, and he raised Charlotte’s rate in his 2005 budget proposal.
A McCrory spokesman said the office was “still evaluating the impact this proposal would have on local and state government.” Read more here.
INVESTIGATION: More from the series on state medical examiners. Read here.
COLUMNIST SCOTT MOONEYHAME EXITS: For the last 10 years, I have had the best job in journalism in North Carolina.
This is the last column that I will write for the Capitol Press Association. Later this month, I will be moving on to take a job with the North Carolina League of Municipalities. Read more here.
... AND PAUL O’CONNOR RETURNS: I woke up Wednesday feeling a bit like Bobby Ewing in the old “Dallas” TV episode in which producers explained his yearlong absence by saying the previous season had all been a dream.
In my grogginess, I wondered if I’d really stopped writing this column 10 years ago only to come back that day – or had I just dreamed that. ...
For those who don’t know me, I wrote this Raleigh column from 1982 until 2004. Now I’m back and, unlike Rip Van Winkle’s return to his New York village, I don’t see that much change. Read more here.
McCRORY BACKS LEGISLATION: Gov. Pat McCrory is joining North Carolina’s district attorneys in seeking tougher penalties for those caught smuggling cellphones into prisons. Read more here
#NCPOL --- More political news from North Carolina.
ARE THE DOT PROJECT RANKINGS FAIR? The state Department of Transportation’s “data-driven” ratings of 3,100 projects, released last week, do more than just reckon which road improvements would deliver the most benefit for North Carolina’s money.
The new scores also mark DOT’s first try at setting up a fair competition across all modes of transportation. Ferries and buses, sidewalks and trains, runways and toll roads will contend with bridges and highways for the same tax dollars.
This may sound sensible, but it isn’t simple. The scores are objective, based on things that can be measured in numbers. But are they fair? That depends on what DOT decides to measure. Read more here.
SEANC TO WELCOME COLLEGE ATHLETES: A North Carolina employees association will allow scholarship student-athletes at public universities to join as state employees.
The State Employees Association of North Carolina’s governing board voted Friday to open the group’s membership to athletes at the state’s 17 public campuses, which would include Atlantic Coast Conference members North Carolina and North Carolina State.
The decision comes two months after a federal labor official ruled that football players at Northwestern could create the nation’s first union of college athletes. That ruling is being appealed to the National Labor Relations Board, and some Northwestern players say they voted against forming the union in an election. The results have not been released.
SEANC’s decision would not require a team vote and is based on an individual athlete’s choice on whether to join. It is unclear if the invitation would be open to just scholarship athletes, or walk-ons — or whether there are NCAA rules preventing the athletes to be classified as state employees. There is no minimum number of athletes needed to join before SEANC can represent them. Read more here.
QUICK LOOK --- More headlines from across the state.
N.C. treasurer says health plan strong financially, won’t need premium increase. Read more here.
Bill would replace ferry tolls with advertising, naming rights. Read more here.
Teen tanning ban could resurface this session. Read more here.
American Conservative Union adds N.C. politico Mark Stephens to board. Read more here.