EDWARDS REGROUPS: Former presidential contender John Edwards has reactivated his license to practice law and is setting out on the speaking circuit, the Associated Press reports. The former U.S. senator and 2004 Democratic vice-presidential nominee is scheduled to appear June 6 at a private retreat in Orlando, Fla., for lawyer clients of the marketing firm PMP.
Edwards has remained largely out of public view since his acquittal in May 2012 on one charge of campaign finance fraud. A judge declared a mistrial on five other criminal counts after jurors couldn’t agree whether Edwards had illegally used campaign money to hide his pregnant mistress as he ran for president in 2008. An itinerary says Edwards will speak for about 45 minutes as part of a program titled “Historic Trials of the Century.” Edwards earned millions as a personal injury lawyer before entering politics.
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DUELING TAX PLANS DIVIDE REPUBLICANS: The divide between legislative Republicans over how to revamp the state’s tax code became clear Thursday as House leaders unveiled their plan, calling it a more measured approach than one outlined last week by the Senate.
The House legislation offers smaller income tax cuts in exchange for fewer new taxes on services. Supporters pledged it would give a break to all taxpayers, but the numbers remain unclear. It contrasts greatly with a sweeping Senate proposal that some experts believe could leave many people with a tax hike, a point its supporters dispute. The Senate has not yet introduced a bill in support of its plan. “We think our tax plan is a lot simpler in terms of the expansion of the sales tax base,” said state Rep. David Lewis, a Dunn Republican leading the effort. “We think it makes sense to people.” Full story -- and comparison chart.
THE TAKEAWAY: House leaders seemed "optimistic" about reaching a compromise. But the plans are fundamentally different. The Senate went big and defended its approach even Thursday. Sen. Bob Rucho is zealous about what needs to happen, in his mind, to the tax code. The House doesn't do it. So the question almost becomes whether the Senate will abandon its ideology. The House surely could go a touch further, eliminate an tax exemption or two and further cut the rates, which are barely shaved compared to the Senate plan. But the House plan has one advantage: it's not as much pain and lawmakers still get to go home and say they cut a lot of taxes -- even if the tax system is still largely broken.
CROSSOVER WEEK ENDS -- If it was less crazy, thank the 10-bill limit: Scrambling to hurdle a key deadline, state lawmakers approved roughly 180 bills this week, spending seconds on some and hours on others, often in marathon sessions that left them confused and bleary-eyed.
The House gave final approval Thursday to measures that rejected the use of Islamic Sharia law in North Carolina and prohibited coverage for abortions in the new state health insurance exchange, both marked by a heated debate. The Senate, by contrast, spent 14 minutes in session, declining to consider legislation to repeal local bans on smoking in public parks and beaches and study the expansion of midwifery that leaves the measures essentially dead.
But the chaos of the so-called crossover week – in which most legislation must pass one chamber to remain alive for the two-year session – became eclipsed later in the day as attention turned to the two most significant debates still looming over the final weeks of lawmaking. Full story. And get a breakdown of what made it and what didn't.
FINAL COUNT SO FAR THIS SESSION: From Gerry Cohen at the legislature: 428 House bills have passed the House and 212 Senate bills have passed the Senate.
TODAY IN POLITICS: Gov. Pat McCrory will attend the opening of the new Syngenta greenhouse in RTP -- where Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan will also appear -- at 11 a.m. McCrory will also visit discuss the Advanced Manufacturing Competency Model at the N.C. Community College System Office at 1 p.m. in Raleigh N.C. And attend the Leadership North Carolina graduation at 4 p.m. at the Capitol.
THE SYNGENTA PLANT PALACE: Visitors to Syngenta’s new high-tech greenhouse check their shadows at the door. The virtually shadowless environment is a byproduct of the advances at the agribusiness giant’s new $72 million, 136,000-square-foot Advanced Crop Lab, which the company touts as a leap forward in greenhouses. High-tech glass specially made for Syngenta in The Netherlands disperses light in all directions. Combine that with the highly reflective stark white floors in the corridors outside the 22 greenhouse rooms, and shadows nearly disappear. The glowing result is other-worldly.
It’s all part of the company’s efforts to maximize the region’s sunlight, supplementing it with artificial lighting as needed, to simulate the growing conditions of any climate in the world. It can be Nebraska in one room, Brazil in the next. “I’ve been asked: ‘Why $72 million. Why is it such an expensive greenhouse?’ ” said Bill Hlavac, head of site operations for Syngenta. “What we have done here, all the technological components that comprise this facility may exist in other places, but there is no place where they all come together the way we have put them together.” Full story here.
WHY ARE POLITICAL GROUPS EVEN TAX EXEMPT: The Internal Revenue Service is under fire for giving extra scrutiny to conservative organizations that asked for tax-exempt status. But the scandal begs a broader question: Why are political organizations getting this government subsidy anyway?
The section of the tax code sought by the tea party groups was established for the benefit of groups that promote social welfare, generally nonprofit operations. Examples on the IRS website involve community service and groups that provide a certain local benefit. Somewhere along the line, this longstanding classification has become a loophole exploited by groups seeking to elect Democrats, Republicans and most recently tea party candidates and like-minded groups. Full story.
FOXX DISCLOSES FINANCES: Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx has filed his financial disclosure forms ahead of a U.S. Senate hearing next week on his nomination as President Barack Obama’s transportation secretary. The disclosure reports show Foxx makes $88,117 annually in his position as deputy general counsel of DesignLine USA, a bus manufacturer in Charlotte. That’s in addition to the $40,228 salary Foxx earns as Charlotte mayor.
Foxx also received a $5,000 honorarium from Elon College of Law in November 2012, the disclosures show. The forms list his wife as an employee of Novant Health in Charlotte but do not disclose her salary. Foxx keeps between $100,001 and $250,000 in a savings account and lists two six-figure mortgages. Full story.
McCRORY DELAYS ALCOA DECISION: Gov. Pat McCrory needs more time to decide whether to grant Alcoa Inc. a new 50-year operating license for four dams that once powered an aluminum plant and provided local jobs but are now used solely to generate electricity sold by the company, a state attorney said.
In a federal regulatory filing this week, a state attorney said McCrory took office just four months ago and needs time to get up to speed on the relicensing issue that involves job creation, electricity revenues, and water access on the Yadkin River east of Charlotte. "The governor and his advisers have not yet had an adequate opportunity to consider these public policy issues," Special Deputy Attorney General Faison Hicks wrote to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Full story.