For the first time in weeks, public discussion about North Carolina’s 2010 budget plan took a back seat to other news at the General Assembly. On Thursday, the House tentatively approved an incentives package (HB 1973) which promises to deliver jobs and investment to North Carolina over the next four years. While the bill must still pass a third reading new week, airlines, NASCAR racing teams, software developers and film production companies are among those set to gain the most from the proposal. Although debate on the bill lasted nearly two hours, the House ultimately gave its approval by a 76-28 margin. A final House vote is expected on Monday. This is the same incentives bill that includes provisions designed to encourage computer data centers, an energy turbine manufacturer and a paper plant to expand in the State.
Legislation that would ban video sweepstakes machines across North Carolina (HB 80) ignited debate in the Senate Judiciary I Committee. The bill is the latest in a series of legislative attempts over the last several years to exert State influence over the gambling industry. In a press conference following the Committee’s favorable report of the bill, Senate leader Marc Basnight (D-Dare) said the machines are robbing working-class people of the money needed to pay for family obligations. Before receiving a favorable report by the Committee, the bill was opposed by those favoring state regulation and taxing the industry to provide needed revenue to the state instead of an outright ban.
The House has delayed until June 22 a floor vote on reforms to the Alcoholic Beverage Control (“ABC”) Commission, and to the ABC system, in HB 1717. Under the bill, members of local ABC boards would be subject to a ban on gifts. The compensation of local ABC general managers couldn’t surpass the pay that local Clerks of Superior Court receive (up to $112,607 in the most populous counties). Additionally, each local board would be subject to performance standards set by the state ABC Commission, including store operating efficiency, solvency and customer service and enforcement of the alcohol laws.
In budget news, Governor Purdue addressed the possibility of a $490 million funding shortfall and urged legislators to develop a back up plan if North Carolina does not receive additional Medicaid funding from the federal government. Before meeting with legislators, Gov. Perdue said that she would ask that they create a supplemental section of the budget calling for additional budget cuts if Congress doesn’t come through with the money. Legislative budget writers have indicated that they may rework a budget bill with the additional cuts if Congress fails to act, but that could mean several more weeks of negotiations. Nonetheless, conferees negotiated throughout the week with the intention to have a final bill ready for presentation to Gov. Purdue by June 30th. In related news, Rep. Doug Yongue (D-Scotland), a budget conferee and Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, may be limited in his participation after suffering a hip injury that will require two weeks of rehabilitation.