NC General Assembly

Photo: The North Carolina General Assembly's Legislative Building
Jorge Valencia

The state legislature was busy yesterday, with Moral Monday protesters staging a sit-in and discussions over tax code changes and e-cigarettes.

Moral Monday protesters decided to come to the legislature yesterday even though it was Tuesday, the day after the Memorial Day holiday. They gathered on the back lawn and then began lobbying inside the building. They ended up staging a sit-in in and outside House Speaker Thom Tillis' office.

NC Legislative building
NC General Assembly

Lawmakers had a slower start to the week today because of the Memorial Day holiday. This morning, in the House education committee, lawmakers discussed ways to make school bus operations more efficient.

Around lunchtime, Moral Monday protesters gathered behind the building to hear speeches from North Carolina NAACP President William Barber and others. They plan to lobby every member of the General Assembly to reverse some of the laws passed last year. Earlier this afternoon, some protesters were going door to door to individual lawmakers.

School bus
Dave DeWitt

 State lawmakers are considering a bill that would reduce funds for school buses over the next five years. 

The House bill would limit the number of spare buses and their replacement parts, while revising the state inspection process for school bus maintenance.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Julia Howard (R-Davie, Forsyth), says the legislation would make school bus operations more efficient, while saving about $19 million in recurring funds over the years.

North Carolina Legislative building
NC General Assembly

  Moral Monday protests resume as the General Assembly's short session continues. Protestors visit individual lawmakers today to lobby for Medicaid expansion, unemployment insurance and education reform. Last week, the North Carolina Senate approved a fracking bill and tentatively approved a regulatory overhaul. Both pieces of legislation may face challenges in the House. 

Electronic Cigarettes
Leoneda Inge

Reynolds American is forging ahead with its electronic cigarette brand.  The announcement was made Friday in Tobaccoville.

Reynolds American CEO Susan Cameron says it’s time for everybody to have the chance to try out their VUSE digital vapor cigarette. 

“It it’s selling like hot cakes, you need more hot cakes,” said Cameron.

And Cameron had no problem whipping out her personal VUSE.

“Yes, this is a VUSE, I tried it, and I actually use it, it’s spectacular.”

State Senate chamber
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

  The North Carolina Senate has tentatively passed a sweeping, 62-page bill that would make several changes to state regulations.

The proposal includes provisions that cover a lot of ground – everything from banning cursing on the highways to increasing penalties for parking in handicapped spaces or for violating endangered species.  

Many Senate leaders say the bill is meant to make state rule-making more efficient, while increasing protections for the environment and public.

Concertina wire surrounding a prison
Kate Ter Harr / Flickr Creative Commons

Yesterday, in the state House, lawmakers passed a bill that would allow 16 and 17-year-olds charged with misdemeanors to be referred to the juvenile justice system, rather than trying them as adults. The measure has been a long time coming.

The so-called “Raise the Age” bill passed 77 to 39 with broad bipartisan support. Republican representative Marilyn Avila of Wake County is the bill’s main sponsor.

Photo: A pond in Lee County
Donald Lee Pardue via Flickr

Two North Carolina legislative committees recommended on Tuesday that the state begin issuing permits in July next year for mining companies to extract natural gas in the state using a controversial drilling method known as fracking.

State lawmakers looked at different types of fracking legislation in 2012 and 2013. On Tuesday, the senate’s commerce and finance committees sent the bill to the senate floor for a vote. Sen. Buck Newton (R-Wilson) is one of the sponsors.

NC Legislative building
NC General Assembly

State lawmakers in the House have tentatively passed a broad tax bill that would limit the power of local governments to tax businesses.The bill would also tax electronic cigarettes.

The bill limits the authority of cities and towns to levy privilege taxes on businesses. Critics say the taxes are unwieldy and should be streamlined, but many municipal officials aren't happy about the measure, saying they earn significant revenues from those taxes. They would be capped at a hundred dollars per year.

Image of Ken Rudin, the Political Junkie
kenrudinpolitics.com

It’s been a busy week for North Carolina politics.

The race for North Carolina’s congressional seat in the 2nd District is set. Former American Idol star Clay Aiken will face incumbent Republican Renee Ellmers in November.

State lawmakers also returned to Raleigh this week. They got started with new rules about protesting at the General Assembly.

Host Frank Stasio talks with the Political Junkie, Ken Rudin about North Carolina politics.

NC General Assembly; State Legislature.
Dave Crosby / Flickr Share-Alike

State legislators have redefined the rules laying out how people may gather in protest at the General Assembly.

They were approved by the Legislative Services Commission on Thursday. The measures are a rewrite of rules last changed in 1987. The updates prohibit activities that cause an "imminent disturbance," and they more clearly define what kinds of signs can be used.

Republican Tim Moore chairs the committee:

Governor Pat McCrory
Jessica Jones

Governor Pat McCrory released his budget proposal yesterday, on the first day of the General Assembly’s short session. The $21 billion proposal includes raises for teachers and state employees as well new positions and equipment designed to oversee coal ash disposal. But it cuts about $49 million that would go to the University of North Carolina system.

As legislators walked into the General Assembly for the first day of this year’s short session, protesters- including a group of women called the Raging Grannies- were ready to greet them.

teacher at blackboard
Wikimedia commons

Governor Pat McCrory released his $21 billion budget on Wednesday, setting aside $262.9 million for teacher raises and state employees. 

The governor and lawmakers have made it clear that teacher pay will be a major priority for this year’s short session, which is a time meant for lawmakers to adjust the budget approved last year. 

Teachers held their own “day of action” on Wednesday, the first day of the session. They outlined their demands and concerns in a morning press conference held by the North Carolina Association of Educators.

The cleanup for the 2008 Tennessee coal ash disaster. Image taken March 2012.
Appalachian Voices / via Creative Commons/Flickr

The first piece of legislation leaders of the North Carolina Senate introduced in this summer’s legislative session looks at Duke Energy’s 33 coal ash ponds across the state.

That means that on Wednesday, their first day in session this year, the senate’s Republican leadership sent a clear signal that it’s a priority for them to resolve the state’s issue of toxic coal ash dumps. What they didn't send was a clear picture of how they want to resolve it.

Photo: The Raging Grannies
Jessica Jones

Dozens of demonstrators clinked and banged pots, pans and spoons outside of the North Carolina General Assembly’s offices in Raleigh on Wednesday morning, protesting recent state laws, as senators and representatives met for their first day in session this year.

The demonstration, in which people held signs protesting issues such as a Voter ID law passed last year, low teacher pay, and low unemployment benefits, served as a prelude for a series of demonstrations set for Mondays while lawmakers are in session.

Thom Tillis speaking
http://thomtillis.com/

House Speaker Thom Tillis laid out his goals for this year's General Assembly short session Wednesday.  He said the ultimate accomplishment for lawmakers will be making adjustments to the state budget in a timely manner. 

Tillis said he and other legislative leaders hope their actions over the next several weeks will support the governor in his efforts to put some long awaited raises into effect.

N.C. General Assembly, State Legislature
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

Governor McCrory has unveiled a $21 billion budget proposal that includes raises for teachers and state employees, promotes more oversight of coal ash ponds, and adds $50 million to the state's rainy day fund. But it also includes a $49 million cut to the University of North Carolina system.

"We’ve had to make some very very difficult decisions. Which we think will have a positive impact on the future. This budget proposal has already been shared with top budget legislators in the House and the Senate, and therefore nothing should come as a surprise," says McCrory.

NC Legislative building
NC General Assembly

The short session of the North Carolina General Assembly begins today. Environmental issues on the table are coal ash disposal and fracking. Meanwhile, teacher pay remains a hot topic. Legislators will discuss Governor McCrory's proposals to update the teacher pay model. They'll also consider a bill that seeks to repeal Common Core.

Image of NC General Assembly where lawmakers are considering two controversial bills.
Credit NC General Assembly

State lawmakers will return to Raleigh Thursday for the six-week short session at the General Assembly.

The short session's main purpose is to make adjustments to the state's budget, which operates on a biennial budget cycle.

But in this midterm election year, the General Assembly will be in the national spotlight. Republican Speaker of the House Thom Tillis is running against Democratic incumbent Senator Kay Hagan. And observers will be watching what he does.

NC State Seal
Wikipedia

The short session of the General Assembly convenes tomorrow to address some of the state’s most controversial issues: teacher pay, unemployment and coal ash disposal. All of the issues are framed by the ongoing debate over the state’s budget. Host Frank Stasio talks with WUNC Capitol bureau chief Jessica Jones about the latest in legislative activity.

State Senator Phil Berger
Dave DeWitt

The head of North Carolina's state Senate, Phil Berger, says he's looking forward to beginning this year's six-week legislative session.

What's known as the short session is intended primarily to make budget adjustments to the state's two-year budget cycle. Berger says that is the main focus of the session, which starts next Wednesday.

"This session we intend to continue the work that we've engaged in over the past three years and we intend to pursue further those policies that have proved successful over the past three years," says Berger.

At least four North Carolina lawmakers were unseated in Tuesday night’s primary elections.

Representative Robert Brawley, a Republican from Mooresville, was defeated by a business owner and political newcomer. Last year, Brawley publicly criticized state House Speaker Thom Tillis and his bid for the GOP nomination for senate.

Brawley was connected to the Tea Party while his opponent John Fraley describes himself as a business conservative.

Cumberland County Government

The May 6 primary election is a week from today, and television air waves are crowded with ads for North Carolina’s US Senate seat. But some campaigns for the state General Assembly aren’t being advertised at all.

That’s because there is no challenger in about a third of the districts represented in the assembly.

In Central North Carolina, Representative John Szoka likes visiting elementary schools in his district.

“Now,” Szoka says, “we have a lot of state symbols, right? What’s the state bird? What’s the state tree?”

A shopper examines produce at Deep Roots grocery.
Deep Roots Coop

A committee from the North Carolina House of Representatives spent four months looking into how to address food deserts across the state.  Monday afternoon they made their proposals: to expand education about healthy eating and exercising habits across the state and to start a joint committee with members of the senate to continue looking at how to address the problem.

Image of NC General Assembly where lawmakers are considering two controversial bills.
Credit NC General Assembly

Officials with the state Department of Health and Human Services say they still expect a Medicaid shortfall of between $120- and $140-million this year. They spoke before state lawmakers today in a committee meeting at the General Assembly.

They first predicted a shortfall of this size about three weeks ago, and it's less than budget overruns of previous years. Republican Representative Nelson Dollar of Cary says that's good news.

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