Following Monday night’s public hearing to gather community input on the state budget plan, House activities took center stage as House Appropriations Subcommittees met throughout the week to review and amend the Senate’s FY 2010-11 budget proposal. While the House has proceeded in similar fashion to the Senate — with a pace swift enough to wrap up negotiations by the end of June — House legislators received news that state coffers will not benefit from an “April surprise” boost in tax revenue. As a result, the House will consider the budget plan with knowledge that the state is on track to end the fiscal year with a revenue shortfall of $391 million. A final vote on the measure is expected next week after the full Appropriations Committee meets to consider any additional amendments.
Changes to North Carolina’s education laws also made headlines. On Thursday, the Senate passed legislation that would allow education officials to convert low-performing schools into charter schools. Approved by a 21-19 margin, the bill has moved quickly through the General Assembly as a result of Governor Purdue’s urging and the looming application for Race to the Top funds, which are awarded by the federal government to spur reforms in state and local district K-12 education. Applications for the second round are due next Tuesday.
Aside from measures included in the budget proposal, companion legislation introduced in the House and Senate this week represents the General Assembly’s latest effort to create jobs and economic growth. The Keeping NC Competitive Act (SB 1171) received a favorable report from the Senate Finance Committee while the House version (HB 1958) awaits further action by the House Commerce, Small Business, and Entrepreneurship Committee. In present form, the bills would create an incentives package aimed at luring two computer data centers, an energy turbine manufacturer, and a plant converting wood pulp to paper. If state business recruiters can secure commitments from these companies to expand in North Carolina, passage of this legislation could mean more than 1,500 jobs and nearly $2 billion in investment.
Finally, this week marked the bill filing deadlines for measures affecting the 2010-2011 budget, local bills and bills affecting government pensions and retirement systems. The 2010 Short Session remains on pace for a July 1st adjournment.