Capital Tonight April 15: Tax Reform in NC

cap_tonight_0416On Capital Tonight: It’s Tax Day and we take a look at how tax reform has affects North Carolina with our Advocates Rob Schofield and Becki Gray. Dr. Tom White, president of the NC Academy of Family Physicians talks about how primary health care can help lower costs for Medicaid. Watch the program here.

Bill Exempts NC Opossum Rules Statewide at New Year’s

PossumRALEIGH–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.

The House voted Wednesday to exempt opossums from state wildlife laws during a five-day stretch around each new year. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals says the annual Possum Drop in Brasstown is traumatizing to the animal. The captured opossum is lowered at midnight in a tinsel-covered box.

PETA has filed legal complaints to block a similar exemption approved last year by the General Assembly for Clay County only.

The bill passed 94-18 before going to the Senate. It’s a statewide bill, so any final measure would go to Gov. Pat McCrory’s desk.

– Associated Press

NC House Considers Shifting Judicial Races Back to Partisan

Judge_GavelRALEIGH–Republicans want candidates for North Carolina appellate court judgeships to reveal their party affiliation on the ballot.

The House scheduled floor debate Thursday to shift races for state Supreme Court and Court of Appeals back to being partisan races.  They’ve officially been nonpartisan races for more than 10 years.

Bill supporters say the party labels help voters know more about candidates and boost turnout for these races.  Democrats speaking out on the measure in committee this week said partisanship should stay out of matters of justice.

The races became nonpartisan in 2004 at the same time Democrats in charge of the General Assembly at the time created a voluntary public financing program for the appellate races. That program has since been repealed.

– Associated Press

President Obama Addresses Working Mothers at Charlotte Town Hall Meeting

obama_clt_15CHARLOTTE — President Barack Obama arrived in Charlotte for an event intended to rally support for his economic proposals.

The president on Wednesday visited the ImaginOn educational library and theatre arts center. He held a town hall meeting with the groups BlogHer and SheKnows about working family issues.

It was no surprise he addressed issues such as equal pay for women, just days after Hillary Clinton announced her run for president. But what was surprising, her name didn’t come up once.

On his 19th trip to North Carolina, Obama seemed more casual and comfortable, fielding questions and even joking along the way.

The invite-only guests were ready with their questions, looking for answers that impact working families.

Take mother of two daughters, Ashley Taylor. She asked the president how she’s expected to encourage her children to succeed, when women continue to fight for equal pay.

“I am not only trying to be a role model for them by showing them the value of hard work in what I’m doing, but also to encourage them for the future,” said Taylor.

“I have two daughters and I expect them to be treated the same as someone else’s sons when it comes to their opportunities on the job,” said Obama.

In the hour the president spent at the library, he fielded questions from working mothers, bloggers, a registered nurse and a student.

Questions included issues like early education, teacher pay, childcare tax credits and student loans.

He shared several personal stories, answers that always came back to working women.

“Companies have to want to make it happen, they have to be intentional about it. They’ve got to pay attention to it. Companies that pay attention to it, end up succeeding recruiting more women, promoting more women and those companies end up being more successful,” said Obama.

On helping women run small businesses, Obama said he would like to see people take advantage of loans through the SBA (U.S. Small Business Administration).

“We want to make sure that we’re continuing to innovate in our economy, that’s ultimately how jobs get created.”

The president took opportunities to slam Republicans and tout the Affordable Healthcare Act, but there was not one mention of Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton.

His town hall meeting ended with another story about his daughters and equal pay for women.

“I think what we need to do is build a movement, create political pressure, educate people, make sure women know and husbands know that this is a family issue and economic issue.”

Obama this week is using Tax Day to draw new attention to family-friendly tax proposals that haven’t exactly been embraced by congressional Republican leaders. He’s holding events aimed at rallying support for his own tax proposals while detracting from Republicans’ plan to repeal an inheritance tax on large estates.

On Monday, Obama accused Republicans of trying to boost the richest Americans at the expense of poorer taxpayers.

– Kate Gaier and Associated Press

Bill Advances That Increases Penalty for Student Assault On a Teacher

High_School_ClassroomRALEIGH–A bill has been advanced that would make it a felony for students 16 years of age or older to assault a teacher.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Jerry Tillman, said the proposal is to get people’s attention that this is a serious offense and that it happens too often. Last year, about 1,300 reports were filed of attacks on teachers.

Some believe a felony charge is too severe for a student because it would remain with them throughout their lifetime. But the bill sponsor says students will be aware of the consequences.

“It will be a very serious offense and I think that it will be well known – that parents and students will be well informed about this new law if it passes. And none of us want teachers under attack and that’s why I am doing it, “said Sen. Tillman.

Currently, a student assault on a teacher is a misdemeanor and can be upgraded to a felony if there is bodily harm.

Bill Proposes Giving Undocumented Immigrants Legal Driving Privileges in NC

immigrant_drivingRALEIGH—Undocumented immigrants could soon be able to get legal driving privileges in North Carolina.

The proposal is part of a bill that would take multiple steps to identify criminals who are in the country illegally.

“This bill, I want to start out by saying has nothing to do with immigration, immigration law, or immigration reform. This is a bill about law enforcement and public safety,” said NC Rep. Harry Warren.

Under a bill known as the Highway Safety/ Citizens Protection Act, Warren and his fellow sponsors look to make it easier for law enforcement to identify criminals. It does this by increasing penalties for false IDs and disallowing certain documents for ID cards.

It also provides a way for undocumented immigrants to get restricted drivers permits if the person is given a background check, provides a fingerprint, and proof of insurance.

“Now there is no identification, faulty identification, or absolutely fraudulent identification offered to law enforcement by these people,” said NC Association of Chiefs of Police Legislative Counsel Fred Baggett.

However, some believe this is just opening the door to undocumented immigrants and making it easier for them to call North Carolina home.

“It doesn’t make any sense as to why someone would be in favor of enforcing immigration laws on the one hand and in the same law be encouraging illegal immigration,” said North Carolinians for Immigration Reform and Enforcement’s James Johnson.

Bill sponsors, including Rep. Warren, disagree and said this restricted permit is tougher to get than some offered in other states. They believe it will make keeping track of undocumented immigrants easier.

“There is nothing wrong with issuing a permit.  It is acknowledging that we have people driving without insurance, without being vetted, without being tested.  And to recognize that and for us as a legislative body to do nothing about it, is in my opinion, a dereliction of duty,” said Rep. Warren.

Similar legislation has been considered by this legislature before, but have not gotten the support needed to become law. The bill will go to the House finance committee for consideration.

– Loretta Boniti

Capital Tonight April 14: State Auditor Beth Wood

ncct_041415On Capital Tonight: State Auditor Beth Wood explains her recent audit into the finances of the Department of Health and Human Services. Our Insiders join Shawn Flynn to look at the presidential primary fields. Watch the program here.

NC Sen. Richard Burr Has $2.4 Million in Re-Election Campaign Coffers

richard_burrWINSTON-SALEM–North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr raised close to $1.4 million in the first three months of the year for his 2016 re-election bid.

That’s the amount Burr’s campaign said this week he’ll report to federal elections officials. The new Senate intelligence committee chairman also had $2.4 million in his campaign coffers as of March 31.

Burr is seeking his third Senate term against opponents yet to be named. No Democrat has entered the race and no Republicans have surfaced to challenge him in a primary. For comparison purposes, then-Sen. Kay Hagan had raised almost $1.6 million in the first quarter of 2013, the year before her unsuccessful re-election bid, and reported $2.7 million cash on hand.

Capital Tonight April 13: Forward Together Movement

ct41315On Capital Tonight: The Forward Together Movement returns to the General Assembly this week. We talk with NC NAACP president Rev. William Barber and Democracy NC director Bob Hall about their agenda for the legislative long session. Gary Robertson of the Associated Press and Jeff Tiberii of WUNC join the Reporter Roundtable. Watch the program here.

Marco Rubio Tells Donors He is Running for White House

Marco_RubioMIAMI–Sen. Marco Rubio is telling his top donors that he is running for president because he feels “uniquely qualified” to pitch his Republican Party as one that will defend the American Dream.

The first-term Republican from Florida told his biggest backers on a conference call on Monday that he sees the coming presidential campaign as a choice between the past and the future. In a swipe at Democratic rival Hillary Rodham Clinton, Rubio said the former first lady “is a leader from yesterday.”

Rubio says he has always felt the United States is about tomorrow.

Rubio spoke on a conference call with donors before a flashy political rally set for Monday night in Miami.