NCDP Clips for Thursday, April 16th, 2015

NCDP Clips for Thursday, April 16th, 2015

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LEGISLATURE 2015

N.C. bill would block access to police body cam footage (Greensboro News & Record) — Guilford legislator seeks to exempt the recordings from N.C. public records law.

Certain immigrants could get ‘restricted’ NC driver permits (AP) — People in North Carolina living unlawfully within the U.S. could obtain a driver’s permit if they go through several legal hoops in legislation that’s cleared one House committee.

Dems criticize GOP ‘tax day surprise’ (WRAL-TV) — On Tax Day, House and Senate Democrats criticized the 2013 GOP tax overhaul for helping the wealthy at the expense of lower- and middle-class earners.

NC bill on teacher assaults advances despite concerns (AP) — A legislative proposal to make the assault of a public school teacher by a student an automatic felony worries some groups and lawmakers who are concerned it could create unintended, lifelong consequences for young people.

House votes to make PEPs optional (WRAL-TV) — The N.C. House voted 113-0 Wednesday to repeal a requirement that teachers draw up Personal Education Plans for each at-risk student. Bill sponsors say the reports are outdated and unused.

Bill exempts NC opossum rules statewide at New Year’s (AP) — North Carolina lawmakers are again writing legislation they hope will let a Clay County community keep using a live, wild opossum during a New Year’s Eve observance and overcome litigation trying to stop it.

NC House panel attempts to shoot holes in Sunday hunting ban (AP) — Efforts are underway to shoot holes in North Carolina’s longtime Sunday hunting ban when using guns.

Hospitals to fight bill that would open NC medical market (Charlotte Observer) — An influential state senator wants to repeal laws that were designed to curb health care costs, arguing that they have actually accomplished the opposite. A bill introduced by Sen. Tom Apodaca, the Henderson County Republican who chairs the Senate Rules Committee, would eliminate the state’s certificate-of-need laws. Intended to prevent excessive facilities and equipment, the CON program requires hospitals and other medical providers to get state approval for expansions and major acquisitions. But Apodaca contends that the program’s most vigorous supporters are the health care providers who are protected by them.

Smoking Rule Tabled (N.C. Health News) — A proposed rule that would have kept cigarette smoke away from infants in foster care was tabled Wednesday during a meeting of the House Health Committee at the North Carolina General Assembly. This is the fourth time Rep. Tricia Cotham (D-Matthews) has proposed a rule to protect foster children from smoke, and the fourth time she has faced pushback by her fellow Representatives.

NC Senate panel backs SBI director appointment (Raleigh News & Observer) — The N.C. Senate’s Committee on Nominations unanimously backed Gov. Pat McCrory’s appointment for State Bureau of Investigation director Wednesday morning.

Legislator wants $150 fee for Ocracokers who want to get home (Raleigh News & Observer) — Sen. Bill Rabon wants the state to stop letting people who live on Ocracoke Island to the front of the line for free at the busy ferry dock. He says they should pay – and pay big — $150 a year from anybody willing to pay for priority boarding.

POLICIES & POLITICS

At NC town hall, Obama says working families deserve support (AP) — Helping working families get quality child care is a good investment in the country’s overall economic health, President Barack Obama told an audience gathered Wednesday in downtown Charlotte.

Obama: On teacher pay, it’s not the Jim Hunt days in N.C. (Charlotte Observer) — President Obama mostly talked about national issues such as equal pay for women, child tax credits and student loan debt during his town hall meeting at Charlotte’s ImaginOn on Wednesday. But he detoured a little bit at one point to slap North Carolina Republican legislators for cutting spending on education. “The reason North Carolina did better economically than many of the other mid-Atlantic and Southern states was because the Research Triangle and the emphasis on education. My good friend Jim Hunt, the governor who placed such a big emphasis on it,” Obama said. “Funding now here in this state, and teacher pay, is ranking as low as it gets. And so part of it is just pointing that out and hopefully understanding this shouldn’t be a partisan issue. It shouldn’t matter whether you’re Republican or Democrat. You should want to make sure schools are successful and have … teachers who are motivated and have professional training but also are making enough of a living that they can afford a middle-class lifestyle.”

THE SPILL

House panel OKs bill to tweak coal ash standards (AP) — A U.S. House committee approved a bill Wednesday granting states authority to regulate waste generated from coal burned for electricity, largely bypassing a federal rule issued last year. The House Energy and Commerce Committee approved the bill 32-19, sending the measure to the full House. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., said it would improve a rule issued in December by the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA rule set the first national standards for so-called coal ash, treating it more like household garbage than a hazardous material. McKinley said the EPA rule leaves open the possibility that coal ash could be designated as hazardous, creating uncertainty for industry. "The science has been determined — coal ash is not a hazardous material," McKinley said. "But as a result of this administration’s executive actions, we have uncertainty" for more than 300,000 workers employed by coal ash recyclers and related industries.

ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT
Bill would cut short NC’s green-energy law (Charlotte Observer) — The clean-energy mandate that has helped make North Carolina the fourth-largest solar state would be cut short under a bill filed this week by state Republican House leaders. The measure “dramatically disrupts the investment and jobs created that we’ve seen as a result” of the Renewable Energy Portfolio standards, said Betsy McCorkle of the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association. “This bill just sends shock waves to those communities and makes those investors think twice about investing in North Carolina.” the bill sponsored by two chairs of the House Public Utilities committee and Majority Leader Mike Hager – a Duke Energy employee — cuts that target by half. It makes the final target 6 percent, this year’s benchmark, and ends the mandate in 2018. One of the primary sponsors, Pender County Republican Chris Millis, calls the standard a transfer of wealth to renewable-energy developers.

McCrory testifies to Congress, backs offshore drilling closer to N.C. beaches (AP) — Gov. Pat McCrory has visited Capitol Hill to reaffirm support to open more of the Atlantic Ocean, closer to North Carolina’s beaches, to look for natural gas and oil deposits. He also raised concerns about portions of the Obama administration’s five-year offshore lease proposal.

EDITORIALS

Congratulations on ignoring public (Charlotte Observer) — Cherie Berry is the latest shining example of political leaders tuning out those pesky citizens.

Are clay mines the best place for coal ash? (Fayetteville Observer) — No surprise here: Lee County residents turned out in force Monday evening to oppose a Duke Energy plan that would bury millions of tons of coal ash in abandoned clay mines there. Expect a rerun tonight in Chatham County, when state officials hold a similar hearing in Pittsboro.
Teaching load for professors (Wilmington Star-News) — A lot of new ideas are floating around Raleigh these days. Unfortunately, some of them are just plain lousy. Case in point: A bill in the General Assembly that would require all professors at University of North Carolina campuses to teach four courses per semester. Sponsored by Republican state Sen. Tom McInnis of Rockingham and strongly endorsed by Art Pope’s Center for Higher Education Policy, the bill responds to a frequent complaint from parents and alumni.

Another argument for open access (Wilson Times) — If you read the editorial here in Wednesday’s edition, you found out about last-minute changes to North Carolina’s income tax laws that were made retroactive for 2014.

Failed gamble (Raleigh News & Observer) — The fund from which to offer film companies incentives to work in North Carolina is depleted. Unless this program returns to its previous incarnation, North Carolina will kill the industry that has been good to the state.

Whose property is it? (Greensboro News & Record) — Forced pooling compels landowners to allow natural gas drilling under their property. The law should be revised.