GOP BILL WOULD BAN WOMEN FROM TERMINATING PREGNANCY OVER DOWN SYNDROME: “It’s time to face the issue head-on and ensure that every little North Carolinian is protected from discrimination before and after birth,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Pat McElraft, R-Carteret. Rep. Dean Arp, R-Union, said he sees the issue as one of discrimination — foreshadowing what’s likely to be an emotional and bitter floor debate. “Abortion bans based on the reason behind a person’s decision have never been about promoting equality or ending discrimination,” said Tara Romano, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina. “Instead, these types of arbitrary bans are part of a larger campaign to stigmatize abortion care, and make it more difficult for people to access the care they need.”
NC REPUBLICANS PUSH TO EXPAND PRIVATE SCHOOL VOUCHERS (AGAIN): Legislation moving through the General Assembly would increase private school vouchers available to some families, tying the annual amount to what the state spends on the average public school student instead of having a hard cap. House Bill 32 would also bring a group in to advertise the state's Opportunity Scholarships to boost enrollment in a program that typically doesn't spend all of the money the state legislature puts into it. The bill would also authorize counties, which typically supplement state funding for local schools, to add $1,000 in local funding to the vouchers, which have previously been funded solely by the state. The bill is a political football at the legislature as the Republican majority and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper joust over education and budget policies. Cooper has repeatedly tried to phase this program out, and his latest budget proposal, released last week, would do so again.
ADVOCATES LOBBY NC LEGISLATORS OVER MEDICAL MARIJUANA AND DECRIMINALIZATION: A handful of advocates went door to door in the General Assembly on Thursday, talking with lawmakers about passing medical marijuana legislation in North Carolina. Some said they have medical conditions they feel could be improved through cannabis use. Janis Ramquist, a former lobbyist, said she has seven bulging disks in her back, and medical marijuana would help relieve the pain without the side-effects she gets from her current medications. "We are just normal people who have medical conditions that are not responding to the medicine we are taking,” Ramquist said. Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said there appears to be more support among lawmakers for some decriminalization, but not so much on legalization, even for medicinal use. "We'll have to see. I do think public sentiment on that has been changing over the past few years," said Berger, R-Rockingham. That change makes Ramquist optimistic, even though medical marijuana bills have never gotten a hearing in the General Assembly in previous years. No such bill has been introduced yet this session.
BIDEN MAY DODGE FILIBUSTER TO GET $2 TRILLION INFRASTRUCTURE PACKAGE PASSED: White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain on Thursday suggested the administration is willing to advance its $2 trillion jobs and infrastructure plan with no Republican support, setting the stage for another bruising spending battle in Washington. While stressing the White House hopes to secure GOP support for the measure, Klain signaled that the administration is willing to use Democrats’ narrow majorities in the House and Senate to approve legislation aimed at rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure and confronting climate change. Klain also repeatedly said that the White House was optimistic it could garner GOP support for the plan and would try to do so. Lawmakers of both parties have traditionally supported infrastructure investments, but Republicans have never backed the extent of clean-energy policies or tax hikes Biden’s new plan entails. If Republicans unify in opposing the measure, Democrats could pass it through the Senate with their narrow majority by using a parliamentary procedure called budget reconciliation that allows them to avoid the 60-vote threshold necessary to end a filibuster. The 100-seat Senate is split 50-50 between lawmakers who caucus with Democrats and Republicans, though Vice President Harris can cast a tiebreaking vote. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday the administration would like the measure to be passed “by the summer.” The comments from Biden’s chief of staff mark the beginning of the difficult legislative wrangling expected to ensue for months over the White House’s major domestic policy initiative. Biden’s American Jobs Plan would devote more than $600 billion to the United States’ physical infrastructure, such as its roads, bridges and highways; about $400 billion in clean-energy credits; more than $200 billion to housing; and hundreds of billions to fixing the nation’s electric grid, high-speed broadband and lead water pipes, among other measures.
DUKE ENERGY LEADS LIST OF CORPS THAT PAID ZERO FEDERAL TAX LAST YEAR: Just as the Biden administration is pushing to raise taxes on corporations, a new study finds that at least 55 of America’s largest paid no taxes last year on billions of dollars in profits. Twenty-six of the companies listed, including FedEx, Duke Energy and Nike, were able to avoid paying any federal income tax for the last three years even though they reported a combined income of $77 billion. Many also received millions of dollars in tax rebates. Companies’ tax returns are private, but publicly traded corporations are required to file financial reports that include federal income tax expense. The institute used that data along with other information supplied by each company on its pretax income. Catherine Butler, a spokeswoman for Duke Energy, responded in an email that the company “fully complies with federal and state tax laws as part of our efforts to make investments that will benefit our customers and communities.” She pointed out that the bonus depreciation, intended to encourage investment in areas like renewable energy, “caused Duke’s cash tax obligations to be deferred to future periods, but it did not eliminate them.” According to a filing at the end of 2020, Duke has a deferred federal tax balance of $9 billion that will be paid in the future. The Biden administration announced this week that it planned to increase the corporate tax rate to 28 percent, and establish a kind of minimum tax that would limit the number of zero-payers. The White House estimated that the revisions would raise $2 trillion over 15 years, which will be used to fund the president’s ambitious infrastructure plan. Supporters say that in addition to yielding revenue, the rewrite would help make the tax code more equitable, requiring individuals and companies at the top of the income ladder to pay more.