Opinion: Daily Journal

Background to an Eventful Week

A resolution is not a bill. A bill introduced is not a bill enacted. And a bill enacted is not necessarily a major policy change that will affect the everyday lives of North Carolinians.

Whether you are producing or consuming journalism about state politics and public policy, these are important distinctions to keep in mind. As the 2013 session of the North Carolina General Assembly kicked into a higher gear this week, many different stories competed with each other for attention. Some stories deserved the attention they got. Some didn’t.

As a Carolina Journal reader, you were afforded the opportunity to see at least a linked news item about each story this week. Furthermore, if you are a longtime CJ reader, you were afforded the opportunity to read in-depth coverage of many of these issues weeks or even months ago – including the most important story of the week in my mind, Gov. Pat McCrory’s announcement of a new Medicaid-reform plan based on contracts with private vendors that will be held responsible for financial overruns, rather than having those overruns covered by supplemental tax money. No reporter in North Carolina has done more work on this issue than Dan Way, whose stories (which I just linked in roughly chronological order) lay out in detail why the McCrory administration was wise to champion Medicaid reform.

Here are the other key legislative and policy developments during this first week of April, and links to handy background reporting about them from CJ:

• A Senate committee approved legislation changing the oversight process for North Carolina charter schools. Its key provision is to set up a new board to award charters and enforce state regulations on charter schools. Read this and this for some background on the issue.

• A House committee approved legislation to cap the renewable-portfolio mandates on North Carolina utilities, which force households and businesses to pay higher electric rates to subsidize solar, wind, and other inefficient generation technologies. The bill has several other committees to go before it hits the House floor.

• Sen. Bob Rucho introduced two bills to reform North Carolina’s personal and corporate income taxes. The tax reform debate now encompasses several bills and competing visions for how to move the state toward a consumption-based tax system that would promote economic growth and job creation.

• The legislature approved and sent to Gov. McCrory a “Good Samaritan Bill” that would give immunity from arrest and prosecution to those who assist or call the authorities to assist someone suffering a drug overdose. Past CJ coverage of the bill included this, this, and this.

• The Senate approved legislation to repeal what remains of the Racial Justice Act and clear the way to resume the execution of murderers in North Carolina. Past CJ analysis of the death penalty issue can be found here and here.

• The Department of Health and Human Services released a report this week estimating the cost of building a fourth state psychiatric hospital at nearly $140 million. CJ first reported back in January about the idea of adding the facility to serve Charlotte and Piedmont mental patients.

• State lawmakers released details on an innovative approach on voter ID requirements and heard testimony about how such policies affect voter turnout in other states. You can read more background on the issue here and here.

Hey, if a story is interesting, we’ll link it at CarolinaJournal.com and let you decide whether to check it out. But we tend to reserve our own reporting for issues of true public concern and significance. To the extent you’ve been reading our work, you know about the major changes lawmakers are considering to North Carolina’s tax, regulatory, education, and criminal-justice policies. You may not agree with what they are doing. But at least you know what they are talking about.

Hood is president of the John Locke Foundation and a contributor to First in Freedom: Transforming Ideas into Consequences for North Carolina.