Before leaving for the July 4th holiday, the NC House is expected to give final approval Thursday to a revised plan to clean-up North Carolina’s coal ash sites.

The legislation would require Duke Energy to remove the ash from four high-risk sites by 2019. Low-risk ponds would be targeted for closure by 2029.  Critics note the bill also would create an avenue for Duke to extend those deadlines, with the approval of the from the Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Rep. Nathan Baskerville sought to amend the bill making it clear any clean-up costs would fall on Duke Energy, not its customers.

“Growing up, I was always taught that if you break it, you buy it,” said the Vance County Democrat. “There’s no doubt about it, Duke has broken it and now they have to pay. Period.”

Baskerville’s amendment was tabled.

Carteret County Rep. Pat McElraft told her colleagues that the state should take a step back and accept much of the blame for the current crisis, having granted Duke the permits for locating the ash ponds.

Final approval in the House on Thursday will send the bill back to the Senate for concurrence. To hear part of Wednesday’s House debate, click below.  Watch the full session at WRAL.com.
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On the first day of a new fiscal year, it appears state Senators are in no rush to wrap-up budget negotiations with the NC House.

On Monday, the Senate rejected the House “mini-budget” that has the blessing of Governor Pat McCrory.  Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger made it clear that without a more accurate assessment of Medicaid costs, his chamber was not prepared to make other budgetary decisions.

And with political observers now projecting the “short” session will last most of July, advocates are urging lawmakers to take time and reconsider restoring the state Earned Income Tax Credit.

The NC Budget and Tax Center calls the state EITC ‘a highly effective anti-poverty tool‘ with lasting, positive effects on children and low-income working families.

House Minority leader Rep. Larry D. Hall discussed the need to restore North Carolina’s EITC when he appeared last weekend on NC Policy Watch’s weekly radio show News & Views with Chris Fitzsimon. Click below to hear Rep. Hall’s remarks:

YouTube Preview Image Nearly one million families in the Tar Heel state —including 64,000 military families— benefited from the North Carolina EITC last year.

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Gov. Pat McCrory signs executive order for equal employment protections.

Editor’s note: This post has been uppdated below with clarification from Gov. McCrory’s Deputy Communications Director.

Equality NC is calling on Governor Pat McCrory to revisit an executive order he signed Monday that requires equal employment opportunities for all employees and applicants for employment ‘without regard to race, religion, color, national origin, sex, age, disability and genetic information.’

LGBT advocates say that the governor’s order referred to several specific classifications yet excluded gay and transgender workers from the state’s nondiscrimination policy.

McCrory’s office issued a press release Monday, touting the significance of the executive order:

“Insisting on nondiscrimination will strengthen our state and demonstrate that we value diversity of thought and each of our citizens’ unique backgrounds,” said Governor McCrory.

But Equality NC’s Executive Director Chris Sgro said the failure to include any language that supports LGBT protections “flies in the face of fairness.” Read More

Monday’s Supreme Court rulings on contraceptive coverage for women and public sector unions are predictably bringing very different reactions from U.S. Senator Kay Hagan and Thom Tillis, her Republican challenger.

Hagan released a statement calling the Hobby Lobby v. Burwell ruling ‘shameful’:

“I am extremely disappointed in today’s Supreme Court decision. It is shameful that a woman’s access to contraception is even up for debate in the year 2014. The choice about whether to use birth control should be between a woman and her doctor, not her boss, and no employer should be allowed to interfere with a woman’s access to contraception.”

House Speaker Thom Tillis tweeted that the rulings were a victory for first Amendment freedoms and a loss for the Obama administration:
Tillis on Scotus rulings