by Jane Porter
Lobbyists say they've been told – either directly by legislative leaders or by lawmakers' staff – that, if they or the businesses they represent speak out publicly against House Bill 2, they can expect retribution from House and Senate leaders.
Legislation they want won't move, and other bills could actually target them.
WRAL News spoke with 11 lobbyists who have experienced or are aware of such actions, but none would speak on the record for fear they would lose business or be targeted for retribution. One has already lost business.
One long-time lobbyist called the pressure a "gross abuse of power." Another veteran lobbyist labeled it "vicious," adding, "I've never seen anything like it."
Rep. Chris Sgro, D-Guilford, an outspoken critic of House Bill 2, said he's heard about the problem.
"It's really disturbing. It's a bullying tactic that potentially leadership is using," Sgro said. "If it’s true that businesses are being threatened that they need to ignore their bottom line in favor of terrible public policy, that’s just irresponsible. That needs to stop immediately."
Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said it's nothing new for lawmakers to associate lobbyists with their position on certain issues for better or worse, but when asked about efforts to silence businesses and corporations over House Bill 2, he responded, "No, don't know anything about it."
"I haven't said that to a lobbyist, and I haven't been around any member that's said that to a lobbyist," said Senate Rules Committee Chairman Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson. "I don't think the folks I know here would do that."
House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, also denied knowing anything about it. "Retribution politics is not a practice we engage in."
BudgetYour days of drunken boating may be over, kids.
House Republicans this week are going to show the public the work they’ve put in on their state budget proposal, the job that is supposed to be the legislature’s focus this year.
Budget subcommittees will meet Thursday, House Speaker Tim Moore said. The budget is expected to go to a vote of the full House next week.
Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger have already agreed that the budget will not exceed $22.225 billion, equal to a 2.3 percent increase over current spending.
One of the most watched budget items, proposed raises for teachers and state employees and cost-of-living increases for retirees, won’t be revealed until early next week, said Rep. Nelson Dollar of Cary, chief House budget writer.
Last year, the legislature voted to ban local governments from having “sanctuary city” policies that limit enforcement of immigration laws.
Now Republican senators want to cut off state funding to cities, towns and counties that don’t comply.
Since the sanctuary-city bill passed last fall, local governments have been banned from preventing their law enforcement officers from asking about a suspect’s immigration status. They also can’t stop law enforcement from sharing immigration information with federal authorities.
But according to a news release Tuesday from Berger’s office, “several law enforcement officials have contacted lawmakers to raise concern that some local governments are not complying with the law.”
Filed Tuesday, Senate Bill 868 would set up a process for the state attorney general to investigate complaints about sanctuary city practices. Local governments found to be in violation would lose state funding for school construction and street projects.
A joint statement from Republican Sens. Norman Sanderson and Buck Newton, the GOP candidate for attorney general, said cities and counties shouldn’t be “harboring illegal aliens at the potential expense of their own citizens’ safety.”
A separate immigration-related bill filed in the House on Tuesday would allow local governments to opt out of taking in refugees if they “lack capacity.” Local governments would also have to hold a public hearing and document their extra capacity in order to take additional refugees.
Impaired boat operators who seriously injure someone would face the same penalties as those who drive drunk on the roads under a bill that began moving through the House on Wednesday.
Called “Sheyenne’s Law,” House Bill 958 was inspired by the death of a 17-year-old Concord girl in a boating accident on Lake Norman last Fourth of July.
Sheyenne Marshall was knee-boarding with family and friends when the boat pulling her turned left. A pontoon boat that had been following hers kept moving ahead, striking and killing her.
The pontoon boat driver was charged with driving a boat while intoxicated, involuntary manslaughter and operating a boat in a reckless manner. The case has not been resolved yet.
Current law makes impaired boating a misdemeanor with a fine of at least $250.
State lawmakers will try to reconstitute the Coal Ash Management Commission, which Gov. Pat McCrory disbanded earlier this year after the N.C. Supreme Court ruled the General Assembly had overstepped its bounds by controlling most of the appointments to the commission.
The new approach gives most of the appointments to the governor, and it restores the requirement that the state Department of Environmental Quality report to the commission proposed classifications for when to close all of the coal ash basins.
Rep. Chuck McGrady, a Republican from Hendersonville, is leading the effort to salvage the commission.
Heather Dutra wasn’t planning to move this spring – she and her husband were busy renovating their north Raleigh home – but an attractive offer to buy the house literally appeared at her front door
"We happened to get a door hanger, and we decided we’ll look and see what they’ll offer us," Dutra said Wednesday. "We got a really good offer, so we decided to take it."
A growing number of ambitious buyers are targeting neighborhoods where they want to live and sending fliers to current homeowners or posting on community message boards to see if anyone is interested in selling, real estate brokers say.
"Buyers are getting desperate," said Stacy Horowitz, a broker with Fonville Morisey.
More than 10,000 homes are projected to be built in the Triangle this year, according to a recent report by market research firm Metrostudy, marking the first time since 2008 the area has topped that mark. But years of slower construction as builders tried to recover from the recession has ratcheted up demand in the market, especially in homes priced from $200,000 to $350,000, Metrostudy said.
Sellers can have up to a dozen offers for their homes, brokers say, and for buyers who actually wait for a "For Sale" sign to go up in a yard, many are making more concessions to make their offers stand out.
Horowitz said she often advises clients to include personal, handwritten letters in the offer to connect with sellers, to put up more non-refundable due diligence money and to be flexible with closing schedules and costs.
Andrew Sawyer, an RDU spokesman said Paris may not be the final destination for local business travelers. The appeal will also be one-stop connections to India, Africa, the Middle East, and other European destinations.Don't screw this up for us, HB 2. You know what they say: Thursday is little Friday!
“It shows that we have the interest and the connectivity to provide people, businesses with where they want to go in the world,” Sawyer said.
The new flights are being hailed by some local business leaders as a major economic opportunity.
“This additional flight to Europe is just what we need to net more industries and retain job growth,” Bob Geolas, CEO of the Research Triangle Park, said when the new flight was announced last October.
According to airport officials, an economist estimates the Paris flight will make a $25 million impact to the local economy and bring in 100 new jobs in the first year.
A longer term estimate is even larger. Economist Mike Walden says one international flight brings a dramatic boost. Over 25 years, Walden estimates a $1.4 billion benefit to the region’s Gross Domestic Product, the addition of 14,000 new jobs and $272 million in state and local taxes.