TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: In separate votes on separate matters, the House and Senate sent a strong signal Monday that they intend to make major changes to the state and exert their power. The same is expected to occur again Tuesday, as the House will give final approval to a bill to cut unemployment benefits for jobless workers and the Senate will do the same to a bill that blocks the expansion of Medicaid and the establishment of a state health insurance marketplace. Gov. Pat McCrory will convene the Council of State this morning and may consider a Charlotte transit project that put the city's former mayor in hot water last week.
THE HOUSE VOTE: The state House on Monday night tentatively approved an overhaul of the state’s unemployment system along mostly partisan lines after voting down a series of amendments offered by Democrats.
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CROSSING PARTY LINES: In the House, Four Democrats sided with Republicans on the bill to revamp the state's jobless benefit program. Democratic Reps. William Brisson, Jean Farmer-Butterfield, Ken Goodman and Paul Tine crossed the partisan line. (Democrat Susi Hamilton was absent.) Republican Rep. Dana Bumgardner, Kelly Hastings and Andy Wells voted with Democrats, according to the vote tally. The votes indicate ideological leanings (Brisson was a member of the Gang of 5 that sided with Republicans last session) and possibly geographical ties (with two Gaston GOP lawmakers from textile country voting with Democrats).
THE IMPACT:Republicans are likely to hear these stories again on the 2014 campaign trail. From the N&O story: "Robert Riggins, a benefits administrator at the Freightliner plant in Mount Holly, urged legislators to try living on the lower weekly unemployment checks called for in the bill. “That bill is devastating to North Carolina families and North Carolina workers,” Riggins said. Last week, Freightliner’s corporate parent, Daimler Trucks North America, announced that it could lay off up to 1,200 workers at its North Carolina plants in Gastonia, Mount Holly and the Rowan County town of Cleveland. ... “Everything was used for bills,” Stacey Hinson, 50, of Denver, who received $500-a-week unemployment checks for nine months, said in the video. “There was no fun money. Everything was used to survive.”
THE SENATE VOTE:Despite last-minute objections from Gov. Pat McCrory, the Republican-led state Senate pushed through legislation Monday evening that will prevent nearly 650,000 residents from getting health insurance and block the state from establishing a health care exchange.
IS THE GOP HONEYMOON OVER? McCrory's concerns about Senate Bill 4 didn't slow Senate Republicans one bit. Is it a sign that the GOP honeymoon is over? An indication that the new legislature and new governor may not work hand-in-hand this legislative session? Or is it clever political positioning by McCrory, with the Senate's agreement or at its expense? It's probably too early to answer any of those questions. It's naive to think Republicans would agree on everything this session. But it is an early signal to watch.
OBAMACARE CRITIC ACCEPTS MEDICAID MONEY: On the same day, the N.C. Senate approved the bill blocking Medicaid expansion, Ohio Gov. John Kasich -- a strong Obamacare critic -- accepted the money. "I don't believe in the individual mandate," Kasich said, according to USA Today. "But I think that this makes great sense for the state of Ohio."
IN SAME BREATH, KASICH PITCHES TAX OVERHAUL: The Medicaid announcement came in the Ohio governor's budget. According to the Columbus Dispatch, the budget would also: "Ohioans would see overall income and sales tax cuts, but also imposition of the sales tax to services and virtually all “economic activity,” under a new two-year $63.3 billion budget plan introduced by Gov. John Kasich today. ...The proposed $2.1 billion-a-year income-tax cut would be phased in over the next three years, starting with a 7.5 percent reduction after the budget takes effect July 1. The second year would also drop by 7.5 percent, and the third year by 5 percent. The top marginal tax rate would decrease from 5.925 percent to 4.74 percent.
The state sales tax would go down from 5.5 percent to 5 percent, saving an estimated $2.4 billion. However, the tax would be extended to cover services and virtually all other “economic activity,” such as legal, architectural, accounting or lobbying help -- or even tickets to sporting events. The plan contains exemptions for such things as education, rent, health care and residential utilities. Broadening the sales tax base would mean the state would see a net increase of $1.3 billion next year and $1.8 billion the following year.
McCRORY INVITED FOR STATE OF THE STATE FEB. 18: A Senate resolution introduced Monday puts the date of McCrory's State of the State address to a joint legislative session at Feb. 18 -- on President's Day. Both chambers must approve the invite.
BENCHMARK FOR 2014: According to recently posted FEC filings, U.S. Sen.Kay Hagan raised $147,994 in the fourth quarter, ending 2012 and starting the 2014 cycle with $1,365,627 in the bank. Let the campaign begin. (H/T Jonathan Kappler.)
A SHOUTOUT: To the legislative staff who made the N.C. General Assembly's dashboard available. Amid the mess of Democratic amendments in the House on Monday night, the dashboard listed them live so the public could read them at the same time lawmakers did. If you haven't already, check it out here.
PERSONNEL FILE: Ellis Boyle will serve as Public Safety Secretary Kieran Shanahan's general counsel, his office announced. Boyler is aformer assistant U.S. attorny in the state's eastern district and a former member of Womble Carlyle's Winston-Salem practice. He will make $100,000 a year. At the state Department of Health and Human Services, Adam Sholar will serve as director of the Office of Intergovernmental Relations, making him the agency's go-to for state lawmakers. Sholar most recently worked as a senior law clerk to N.C. Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby. He starts today at a $67,000 annual salary.
OBAMA'S ILL-ADVISED GUN PHOTO: N&O columnist Barry Saunders writes: "Say, what’d we ever do to you?” That’s the question a generation of skeets is asking President Barack Obama after the White House released a photo of him blasting away at one. The question the rest of us want answered is, “Why release a photo of the president firing a shotgun at anything?”