NCDP Clips for Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

NCDP Clips for Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

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LEGISLATURE 2015

No (April) foolin’ around (WRAL-TV) — The Wake County redistricting bill will be on the House floor Wednesday. House Judiciary I holds a meeting on conventions. And what’s up with that Senate Ways and Means Committee?

Lawmakers leery of religious restoration bills as pushback grows (WRAL-TV) — As a new business group calls on lawmakers to reject the N.C. Religious Freedom Restoration Act bills, senior lawmakers give the legislation a tepid reception.

Moore wants to see how religious freedom bill affects NC brand (Raleigh News & Observer) — As opposition to a new Religious Freedom Restoration Act appeared to grow, NC House Speaker Tim Moore Tuesday signaled that lawmakers will take a hard look at its potential fallout.

Legislators file competing bills to reform Medicaid (Winston-Salem Journal) — The intensity of the legislative debate over reform of the state’s $14 billion Medicaid program grew more heated with the introduction of several bills that conflict with their missions. The program covers about 1.9 million North Carolinians. House Bill 372 and Senate Bill 574 serve as placeholders for legislators, including Rep. Donny Lambeth, R-Forsyth, trying to find common ground over differences. Compromise discussions have been taking place formally for at least four months. Two more bills — Senate bills 696 and 703 — revive dramatic measures, one of which failed to get out of a joint legislative oversight commission in February. And Senate Bill 701 would forbid the state from providing financing to primary care case management programs, such as Community Care of N.C.

A-F Grading Scale And Common Core Commission (EdNC) — Two pieces of education news to note from the General Assembly. The House passed a bill Tuesday to extend for another two years the use of a 15-point scale for North Carolina school A-F grades. It was quick movement for a bill that was just given a favorable vote this morning in the House K-12 Education Committee.

McCrory signs gas tax changes (WRAL-TV) — Gov. Pat McCrory on Tuesday signed legislation that will cut the state gas tax in the short term but raise it in the long run.

Bill would treat teens age 16 and 17 as minors except for felonies (Fayetteville Observer) — North Carolina labels youths 16 or older as adults in the eyes of the law if they are involved in a crime other than prostitution. State House Rep. Marilyn Avila, a Wake County Republican, announced legislation Tuesday that would raise the age in misdemeanor criminal matters to 18 over the next several years. Youths age 16 and 17 would still be treated as adults if they are accused of felonies.

House votes for tighter rules for rides (WRAL-TV) — House lawmakers gave quick, unanimous approval Tuesday to a bill that would increase the state’s penalties for unsafe amusement rides.

On SB 36: Citizens are from Venus, Legislators are from Mars (Greensboro News & Record column) — When I attended the first Senate committee meeting on SB 36, I was struck by how far removed the meeting was from the discussions that we had witnessed in our community for weeks. These public forums and hearings, where dozens of people spoke eloquently and passionately against Sen. Trudy Wade’s bill to remake the Greensboro City Council, might just as well have happened on Mars. Some members of the committee appeared to be hearing about the issue for the first time.

Wake redistricting effort clears House committee(WRAL-TV) — The House Elections Committee voted along party lines Tuesday night in favor of a proposal to redraw Wake County’s Board of Commissioners districts.

House passes bill to cut Rockingham school board size (Greensboro News & Record) — House members approved Republican Rep. Bert Jones’ bill 76-38 along mostly party lines.

Bill to de-annex Smith Reynolds Airport rankles some officials (Winston-Salem Journal) — Supporters of de-annexing Smith Reynolds Airport from Winston-Salem may have only until Wednesday afternoon to persuade lawmakers to file a bill in the N.C. General Assembly. Judging from the reaction of Winston-Salem’s elected leaders, a bill could chill relations among the city, county and some members of the county’s legislative delegation.

POLICIES & POLITICS

Audit finds 30 deficiencies or errors with Wos’s DHHS (Triangle Business Journal) — A wide-ranging audit of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services found no fewer than 30 deficiencies and errors across the agency. The audit found problems in many areas, including Medicaid, Vocational Rehabilitation and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, to name three. Instances of noncompliance included making overpayments to medical providers and errors with enrolling and terminating medical providers. In addition, auditors determined that the agency, led by Secretary Aldona Wos, did not implement full correction action on prior recommendations from the previous audit on DHHS.

Audit: N.C. Commerce kept sloppy records (Triangle Business Journal) — During an audit period, the N.C. Department of Commerce’s Division of Employment Security determined it had overpaid $50 million in unemployment insurance benefits in 54,527 cases; however, as many as one-quarter might not have required documentation to support the department’s conclusion, according to an audit. During the audit period, from July 1, 2013, to June 30, 2014, Commerce investigated 61,005 cases and found it had overpaid claims in nearly nine out of 10 cases.

Audit finds issues at N.C. Division of Employment Security (Winston-Salem Journal) — A state audit released Tuesday determined the N.C. Division of Employment Security did not have adequate processes in place to fully document some benefit overpayment investigations in fiscal 2013-14.

NC’s credit ranked among US best for repaying lenders (AP) — Companies that judge how likely big borrowers are to repay their debt have given their top rating to North Carolina ahead of a new round of bond sales, state Treasurer Janet Cowell’s office said Tuesday.

ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT

Bill to extend solar tax credits appears to have majority support in N.C. Senate(Charlotte Business Journal) — The N.C. Senate bill that would extend the state’s 35 percent tax credit for solar and other renewable energy to 2016 has 27 sponsors and cosponsors.

Panel says seas could rise up to 10.6 inches on NC coast by 2045 (Raleigh News & Observer) — North Carolinians should get ready for a sea-level rise over the next three decades that could be as little as 3.5 inches on the southern coast and as much as 10.6 inches in the northern Outer Banks, a state science advisory panel said Tuesday.

EDITORIALS
Don’t derail North Carolina’s clean energy boom (Raleigh News & Observer column) — North Carolina is one of six states where “third-party” sales of energy is illegal. This prohibition is a vestige of a time when competition in the electric sector would have meant multiple companies stringing up wires down the same street. Technology is changing, and so should the law.

Equality in N.C. already a fiction (Charlotte Observer) — With or without a religious freedom bill, gay residents can be fired over their sexual orientation.

‘Religious freedom’ bills would open door to discrimination (Winston-Salem Journal) — The uproar over a “religious freedom” law in Indiana should serve as an object lesson to our state legislature: Don’t do it. A similar law here would be neither practical nor right.

Indiana law appears to permit discrimination (Raleigh News & Observer) — The passage of such laws shows conservative lawmakers are out of touch with the changing world in which they and gay people and lesbian people and black people and white people and mixed-race people live. They simply don’t understand that a clear majority of Americans now support same-sex marriage, as do 45 percent of Republicans, according to the General Social Survey, a comprehensive and widely respected measure of of attitudes. Most Americans don’t view it as a threat to society, and they don’t believe public officials, or private merchants, should be given the right to discriminate against anyone based on sexual orientation any more than they should be able to discriminate based on race. This is a wrong fight. And if businesses make good on their commitment to equality and fairness in the treatment of employees, it could be an expensive fight.

Don’t follow Indiana (Greensboro News & Record) — Pat McCrory doesn’t want to put on Mike Pence’s shoes. The ones with banana peels for soles.

Rethink tax redistribution (Greenville Daily Reflector) — The notion of implementing tax reform to allow poor, rural counties a larger share of sales tax revenue is appealing, particularly in eastern North Carolina.
Pat McCrory’s march to the middle begins (Charlotte Observer column) — Gov. Pat McCrory says he’s always been a moderate GOP leader, but after signing high-profile conservative laws onto the books, it looks like he’s tacking to the center in preparation for the 2016 election.
Steady ahead when it comes to fracking (Burlington Times-News) — Not so fast on fracking. Oil and gas companies could be drilling fracking wells in North Carolina in less than 90 days, under a bill signed by Gov. Pat McCrory. Whoa. Hey, slow down, folks.