State Politics

Political news from around NC (and beyond).

State house lawmakers have tentatively passed a controversial tort reform bill.

Senate Bill 33's Republican sponsors say capping non-economic damages for patients who're suing their doctors for malpractice would help create a friendlier climate for doctors to come to the Tar Heel state. They say the measure would rein in skyrocketing insurance costs for doctors. But Democratic representative Bill Faison- who's a well-known plaintiff's attorney- disputes that. 

Governor Bev Perdue says she's thankful the White House moved quickly to send federal assistance to North Carolina. 

Right now residents of ten counties qualify for low-interest federal loans or FEMA grants to repair their homes and businesses. Governor Perdue says she could have asked that more counties qualify, but it would have taken longer for federal assistance to come to the state. 

 State representatives have tentatively passed a reworked version of a bill that would move oversight of the state health plan from the legislature to the treasurer's office. 

State lawmakers have not come to an agreement over restoring unemployment benefits for 37 thousand people across the state.

Republican leaders in Raleigh say they plan to try to override the governor's veto of a bill that would have extended federal unemployment benefits. The governor vetoed the measure Saturday because it was tied to a provision that would've required her to cut next year's budget by 13 percent. Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger says he thinks the governor made a bad decision. 

State lawmakers have voted to extend unemployment benefits for North Carolinians for up to four additional months. But the measure would also force the governor to accept a spending cut.

 Both the House and the Senate have now passed House Bill 383. It would extend unemployment benefits for about 37 thousand workers who otherwise would stop receiving their checks as of Saturday. Republican Paul Stam is the House Majority Leader.

The Department of Public Instruction will put cameras on school buses to identify drivers who don't stop when children are getting on or off the bus. State law requires drivers to stop when a school bus has its "stop arm" out. The pilot program will help identify the license plates and drivers of vehicles that fail to stop. DPI Transportation Services chief Derek Graham says the cameras will help law enforcement catch "stop arm" violators.

Lawmakers at the General Assembly have begun rolling out suggested budget cuts. It's part of the process of putting together the state's spending plan for the next two years. But with an estimated shortfall of about two billion dollars, cobbling together a budget this year is more painful than usual. That's especially true in the area of education, which takes up 60 percent of the state's budget.

This morning Democratic Representative Marian McLawhorn of Grifton was sitting in her office, reading through two official-looking packets that are already a little dog eared.

A state trust fund that provides money for water pollution cleanup could shrink significantly under the budget proposed by the state House. That's according to Richard Rogers, the Chief Executive of the Clean Water Management Trust Fund. He says the House budget appropriates 10 million dollars to the trust fund, 80 percent less than the 50 million proposed by Governor Bev Perdue in her budget.

The North Carolina House has proposed budget cuts that include more than $170 million from public safety agencies. Part of that spending plan would eliminate nearly 400 jobs from the court system. Officials say services like drug courts and family courts would have to make significant cutbacks. John Smith is the director of the state Administrative Office of the Courts.

John Smith: "We were prepared to reduce our positions by as many as 200 positions and felt that we could continue to provide the services. This will be double that."

State senators have pardoned a Reconstruction-era governor who was impeached and driven from office nearly a century and a half ago.

Kay Hagan On The Budget

Apr 7, 2011
Kay Hagan
hagan.senate.gov

Congressional leaders and the White House have yet to reach an agreement to keep the federal government running. The current spending plan runs out at midnight tomorrow. Congressional leaders met at the White House Thursday afternoon and planned to meet later in the day. They need to strike a deal that can be agreed to by the President, the Republican-controlled House, and the Democratic-controlled Senate.

Governor Perdue and the Republican-led legislature are entering what may be the public beginning of a contentious relationship.

At the beginning of this year's legislative session, the governor and Republican leaders pledged to work together in the spirit of cooperation. But the governor says she's tired of seeing lawmakers introduce and debate bills that have nothing to do with an enormous looming budget deficit of around 2 billion dollars.

Lawmakers in the state House want voters to decide on a constitutional amendment restricting the terms of the leaders of the General Assembly.

The Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tem of the Senate are currently allowed to serve as many two-year terms as they are able- as long as they keep winning the support of their chambers. But House Bill 61 would change that. Republican representative John Blust is from Greensboro, and says

A voter ID bill that would require residents to show photo identification cards at the polls continues to move through the legislature.

Senators Kay Hagan and Richard Burr have joined several lawmakers who want the federal government to adopt a budget process similar to North Carolina's. Hagan and Burr have co-sponsored a bipartisan bill that would require Congress to write budgets every two years rather than annually. Lawmakers face a government shutdown if they don't agree on a spending plan before this weekend.

The state’s extended benefits program for the long-term unemployed is about to end. About 37-thousand people will lose their benefits.

The 9-1-1 center for Guilford County and Greensboro will test its disaster readiness beginning today.  Guilford Metro will relocate to a backup facility across town until Friday morning.

State lawmakers have tentatively voted to block two municipal annexations and postpone a third. The group of House bills are part of a broader effort to reform involuntary annexations on the books for more than 50 years. The trend is spurred by constituents who don't like paying higher taxes and city fees when their county properties are annexed by neighboring municipalities.

House Considers Tort Reform

Apr 1, 2011

Members of the state house heard arguments from both sides yesterday on a tort reform bill making it's way through the legislature. The bill mirrors much of the medical malpractice bill passed recently by the state Senate. It would place a cap on non-economic damages and limit liability for emergency doctors. The bill also would make it harder to sue manufacturers for defective products.  Attorney Janet Ward Black from Greensboro opposes it. In a committee hearing webcast on WRAL, she said no other state has such sweeping product liability language on its books:

A bill passed in the state House would allow residents with concealed handgun permits to carry them into more public places. The measure would allow people with "concealed carry" handgun permits to bring their weapons into restaurants. This includes establishments that serve alcohol.

Republican representative Mark Hilton of Conover says the bill isn't unusual:

State lawmakers charged with redistricting will meet for the first time today.  State lawmakers redraw congressional and state legislative districts every ten years, after the US Census releases new data on population changes.

State employees may have to pay more for their health care next year. A bill in the legislature seeks to plug a budget hole of more than 500 million dollars in the state health plan by requiring all state workers to pay monthly premiums. The measure would also move oversight of the system from the General Assembly to the state treasurer’s office.

Mary O’Neill and Jonathan Stevenson are old hands at lobbying legislators. Last week at the General Assembly, they were ruffling through a directory of legislators’ offices, figuring out where to go next:

Triangle Transit Authority wants to hear from residents about plans for expanding bus and rail lines as the population grows. Transit experts will be on hand at a series of meetings this week to present a proposals for Wake, Durham, and Orange Counties. The U.S. Census Bureau expects more than a million more people will be in the Triangle by 2030. Brad Schulz of Triangle Transit says this week's meetings get under way tonight in Raleigh:

A bill that would move the oversight of the state health plan to the treasurer's office tentatively passed the Senate today.

State senators have voted unanimously to approve reforms that would rename the state's crime laboratory and toughen up standards.  Under the bill, the state crime lab would be known as the North Carolina Crime laboratory. Lawmakers say it's a symbolic gesture designed to help give the beleagured institution a fresh start.

State senators have passed a bill that would allow law enforcement agencies to release transcripts or altered voice reproductions of 911 calls, instead of the original recordings.

Under state law, the names and addresses of 911 callers must be withheld from released recordings of those calls. But their voices are sometimes recognizable to criminal perpetrators, says Democrat Floyd McKissick of Durham.

Legislators have passed a bill that would block transportation officials from considering a proposed route for a toll road through Garner. The so-called red route would essentially cut the town of Garner in half. State officials say they don't want to build the road on that route.

A bill in the legislature that would require North Carolinians to show a photo ID at the polls has become a flashpoint of controversy among lawmakers. The measure’s Republican sponsors say the bill aims to fight voter fraud and ensure that every vote is counted. But Democrats believe the proposal is a regressive measure aimed at keeping many of their supporters away from the polls.

Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker gave his annual State of the City address today. Speaking at a Rotary Club meeting, Meeker summarized some of the city’s recent successes, including hosting the NHL All-Star game. He also laid out goals to continue expanding efforts at sustainability and transportation. Meeker says with unemployment rates dropping and sales stabilizing, it’s time to look ahead.

 

Duke Energy Corporation is providing a $10 million line of credit for next year's Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. The credit was required by the Democratic National Committee as part of the agreement to bring the convention to the Queen City. The contract also says the convention's host committee must raise more than $36 million to cover production expenses. 

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