Monday at the General Assembly
By The Associated Press
– There’s more back and forth over taxes and a budget that must be finalized by July 20. House and Senate Democrats still don’t see eye-to-eye over a cigarette tax increase. The House wants a 25-cent-per-pack increase and the Senate seeks a 35-cent increase. Senate leader Marc Basnight, D-Dare, said the Senate has deferred to the House and Gov. Mike Easley on keeping the corporate and individual income tax at their current levels for now. Easley had wanted to phase out the top marginal individual rate but legislators say he doesn’t want to do it now. The House also agreed to neither one. Getting the taxes resolved will go a long way toward reaching a compromise on a final two-year spending plan for state government. The two sides already have missed a budget deadline of July 1, deciding instead to keep government running at last year’s levels while more negotiatons continued. That stopgap spending measure expires July 20.
– Rep. Joe Hackney, D-Orange, the primary sponsor of an execution moratorium bill, said the latest version has brought in some more legislators who were originally opposed to the idea. The new edition being discussed Tuesday in a House judiciary committee doesn’t contain a hard two-year moratorium on carrying out the death penalty along with a study of capital punishment. Instead, it keeps the study along with the opportunity for trial judges to delay an execution during the study period in certain circumstances. Moratorium supporters are cautiously supported of the bill. Several weeks ago, the same committee approved the two-year moratorium but it stalled on the floor because there weren’t enough votes. Prosecutors remain opposed to the new bill, saying it will become a de factor moratorium on all executions. Hackney disagrees. He said about half of the 20 death penalty cases that could receive an execution date in the next two years could qualify for a stay.
– Anyone who steals items valued at least $300 from a construction site will be guilty of a low-grade felony under a bill given final legislative approval. The current law made it a felony if the value was more than $1,000. The Senate agreed to the House changes to the bill introduced by Sen. Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, and sent it Gov. Mike Easley to be signed into law.
– Gov. Mike Easley has signed a bill into law that raises the minimum age to operate a personal watercaft from 12 years old to 14. The bill received final legislative approval late last month. The Personal Watercraft Industry Association praised Easley for a bill that its spokeswoman says would ensure "capable and mature boaters are at the helm on North Carolina waterways."
– A Senate committee was expected Tuesday to take up a bill that would replace the William S. Lee Act, the key corporate incentives tool the state offers. The law expires this year.
– "We’re not slaming the door in each other’s face." – House Speaker Jim Black, D-Mecklenburg, in discussing the negotiations relating to taxes and the budget with the Senate.
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