Capital Tonight July 21: County Tax Debate

On Capital Tonight: Find out more on the senators’ debate on how much counties can tax and where it’s spent. Also, Gov. McCrory continues to push his Medicaid plan in Greensboro, and state school Superintendent June Atkinson joins us for her take on the teacher pay debate and Common Core. Watch the program here.


State Lawmakers Express Concerns Over Local Sales Tax Proposal

RALEIGH — State lawmakers are stepping back slightly from a proposal capping local sales tax.

When the bill was introduced last week, there were restrictions what the tax could be used for. Those demands have been loosened, but there are still some concerns about what this proposal could mean for local governments.

Some of North Carolina’s largest counties are closely watching the proposal being considered by the Senate.

Under the bill, local sales tax would be capped at two and half percent.

If counties are currently under that limit, they could bring voters a referendum to increase the local tax. But it could only be used for education and transit or half education or transit and half general purposes.

The flexibility is meant to help counties, but some lawmakers had concerns.

“I can wrap my mind around this is a dedicated authorization to increase the sales tax to the current cap for education or just for transportation. But, you know, well whatever, we just want to raise the tax- that’s where I have a major concern, and that’s just [what] my personal feeling on the subject are,” said Sen. Buck Newton.

Other concerns were raised about the cap itself.

If this bill were to become law, Mecklenburg County would not be able to run its proposed referendum in the fall to increase taxes to help with teacher pay because the county is already at its two and half percent limit.

Wake County would still be allowed to run a pre-approved half percent transit tax increase, but then would hit its limit and not be allowed to consider taxes for anything else.

“We too would be precluded from imposing a quarter cent sales tax if we wanted to do that to improve teacher salaries or public education,” said Sen. Dan Blue.

Representatives from county and city organizations say senators have improved this bill since it was first introduced but say it still causes them some concern.

“We don’t feel this bill goes far enough in terms of giving that flexibility to local communities to determine what is best for them,” said Erin Wynia, NC League of Municipalities.

The Senate Finance Committee is expected to vote on this proposal on Tuesday.

This bill also has several economic development elements, including allowing crowd funding for start up businesses in North Carolina.

-Loretta Boniti

Wake County State Rep. Jim Fulghum Dies

RALEIGH — First-term State Rep. Jim Fulghum died Sunday.

Fulghum represented district 15, an area in northwestern Wake County. He withdrew earlier this month citing ongoing treatments for cancer.

In a statement, House Speaker Thom Tillis said “The residents of Wake County were lucky to have Dr. Fulghum represent them—his leadership as a legislator was second only to his compassion and expertise as a doctor serving his constituents and the state of North Carolina. He was a friend who will be missed by me and our entire chamber.”

Businessman John Alexander will replace Fulghum on the ballot in November.

Hagan Co-Sponsors Bill to Reverse Hobby Lobby Ruling

RALEIGH — Senator Kay Hagan, D-N.C., made a stop in Raleigh Friday on her journey to reverse the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby Decision.

The senator recently co-sponsored the “Not My Bosses’ Business Act,” which would prevent employers from denying insurance coverage for contraceptives or any other medical treatment that goes against an employer’s religious beliefs.

- Diana Bosch

Capital Tonight July 18: Bow Tie Caucus

On Capital Tonight: We’ll tell you the new state unemployment rate and what it means. Sen. Hagan makes a stop in Raleigh, plus we’ll have state reaction to the Malaysian plane crash and the conflict in Gaza. Our D.C. team joins us to catch us up with what’s happening in our nation’s capital and the bow tie caucus convenes to review what has happened in state politics this week. Watch the program here.

Capital Tonight July 17: Duke Energy’s Completion of Coal Ash Spill Cleanup

On Capital Tonight: We’ll discuss if the state should limit how much the government can raise the sales tax. Also, Duke Energy says it is finished cleaning up the Dan River coal ash spill, but is it? And the state appears to be moving on from Common Core education standards. We’ll discuss if this is a permanent move or not. Watch the program here.

Capital Tonight July 16: Journalists and the State Legislature Study

On Capital Tonight: Hear more about a new Medicaid plan from the Senate and how Common Core is on its way out. Also, Phil Berger Jr. loses to Mark Walker in the 6th District runoff. We’ll dig into why and what’s next. Plus, the author of a study explains how states stack up covering state legislatures. Watch the program here.

Capital Tonight July 15: Libertarian candidate Sean Haugh

On Capital Tonight: Libertarian US Senate candidate Sean Haugh is getting national attention for his insurgent campaign. We ask him what he thinks about all the attention. And our Insiders Kerra Bolton and Andy Yates break down the budget debate and runoff elections. Watch the program here.

Gov. McCrory to Sign Bill Repealing Common Core

RALEIGH–Gov. Pat McCrory said on Wednesday that he will sign a bill that calls for new standards instead of Common Core.

The House gave final approval Wednesday afternoon.

The bill repeals Common Core for the state’s K-12 standards and directs the State Board of Education to come up with new ones. A new standards advisory commission would be formed to make recommendations to the board.

Common Core, which schools began testing two years ago, would remain in place until the new standards are completed.




Significant Movement in the Budget Stalemate at the State Legislature

RALEIGH– The Senate budged on its stance on teacher pay raises and agreed to not make some of its proposed Medicaid cuts.

“Somebody’s got to take the lead and I think the Senate is willing to take the lead in trying to come to the middle and make a compromise,” said Senator Harry Brown.

Weeks into the state House budget negotiations, there has been some significant compromise but nothing that has moved the process closer to an end. On Tuesday, the Senate said it was ready to try to find middle ground.

“This is a fair proposal. It’s a proposal that I think gives more back to the House and what we’re asking to keep,” said Brown.

Highlights of the latest Senate proposal include a drop in the Senate position on teacher pay raises, moving the raise to 8 percent. The most recent House proposal called for a 6 percent raise.

It splits the difference on reductions to teacher assistant funding and it restores eligibility for aged blind and disabled Medicaid recipients so that folks currently on the roles would remain there.

House negotiators acknowledged the movement by the Senate, but still had concerns.

“This offer would still cut ta’s or that allotment by, roughly in half and in addition to that, the funds that remain there are those largely non-recurring,” said Representative Nelson Dollar.

The House was not ready to shake any hands with this offer on the table, but said some work still needs to be done especially when it come to how education dollars are spent.

“The extent that we limit that flexibility here could eliminate some of those greater outcomes we’re really expecting of them,” said Thom Tillis.

It is expected that the House will present a counter offer later this week.

For the first time since before the fourth of July, both the House and Senate will be in session Wednesday. Work is expected to continue on the budget as well as the other bills regarding Common Core and coal ash the rest of the week.

- Loretta Boniti