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Morning Roundup: Coble open to tax hikes, Perdue may revoke judicial order

Members of the N.C. congressional delegation say they’re ready to compromise on some hardened positions to reach a deal that would prevent the country from plunging over the “fiscal cliff.” Failing to reach an agreement by the end of the year would trigger tax hikes and massive cuts in spending on federal programs.

N.C. Rep. Howard Coble is the latest Republican who says he’s willing to buck one of the party’s sacrosanct pledges to not raise taxes. Read full story here.

More political headlines:

--N.C. Supreme Court Justice Patricia A. Timmons-Goodson, the first and only female African-American to serve on the state’s highest court, is resigning her position. Gov. Bev Perdue, a Democrat who will leave office after next month, is intent on making the replacement even though if it means she rescinds an executive order she signed to do it.

House votes in favor of workers' comp overhaul

An overhaul of the state's workers' compensation benefits moved one step closer to becoming law on Tuesday, May 31 when the House voted with 102 in favor and 12 opposed after its second reading. A final vote is expected for later in the week.

The bill would cap disability benefits for most North Carolina workers injured on the job at just over 9-1/2 years instead of the “lifetime” benefits currently available.

In an earlier version of the bill, workers with specific severe injuries such as the loss of both hands, both eyes or paralysis were eligible for an exception to the cap. The version the House voted on today includes a provision for “extended compensation” to expand the exception of the benefit cap to workers who can prove that they have lost their wage earning capacity.

Workers' comp debate heats up

Hundreds of injured workers, union members, AARP members and others descended upon the General Assembly this morning to voice their support of the state's workers' compensation system.

They also overflowed a House Insurance Committee meeting this afternoon that featured a workers' comp expert who testified that the cost of workers' comp claims for North Carolina employers is well above average.

The demonstration of support and the expert testimony are the opening salvos of what undoubtedly will be a bruising battle over workers' comp.  A bill to overhaul the system and reduce worker benefits is expected to be introduced Wednesday by Rep. Dale Folwell, the Winston-Salem Republican who is speaker pro tem.

The lobbying by workers, who sported stickers that declared "VOW now/Value Our Workers," was designed to get in front of the issue, said Victor Farah, a Raleigh attorney who represents injured workers. Organizers included the N.C. Advocates for Justice, a trial lawyers' group, the AFL-CIO and the AARP.

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