North Carolina General Assembly Week in Review

February 4, 2011

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A weekly overview of the North Carolina Legislative Session

The 2011 North Carolina General Assembly session completed its first full week, and like during the opening week, the pace of activity continues to be brisk. 

Speaker Thom Tillis (R-Mecklenburg) announced that he hopes to have a final state budget for the 2011-12 fiscal year passed by June 1. Governor Perdue is expected to unveil her recommended budget by February 14, when she will deliver her State of the State address.

House Endorses Repeal of Federal Health Care Reform’s Individual Mandate

After more than three hours of debate, the House passed H 2 on February 2 on a party line vote of 66-50. H 2 calls for repeal of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s mandate that individual’s purchase health benefits insurance. The legislation also directs North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper to file a lawsuit against the federal government, challenging the constitutionality of the individual mandate. The Senate is expected to take up H 2 next week.

Senate Grants Additional Budget Cutting Authority

Also this week, the Senate gave initial approval to a proposal providing Governor Perdue greater authority to cut the state budget by up to $800 million before the end of the current fiscal year. These funds would carry over to lessen the spending cuts that will be necessary in 2011-12.

Under S 13, the Governor is authorized to reduce General Fund expenditures for the remainder of the 2010-11 fiscal year with a goal of reducing recurring state spending by at least $400 million. S 13 also redirects funds from the following sources to the General Fund:

  • Around $88 million from the Golden LEAF, Health and Wellness and Tobacco Trust Funds (Funds created to receive proceeds from North Carolina’s share of the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement).
  •  $5.2 million from the One North Carolina Fund
  •  $3 million from Jobs Development Investment Grants programs
  •  $237 million from year-end credit balance
  • $142.4 million from unspent state reserves

S 13 passed the first of two required floor votes in the Senate on a 30-18 party line vote. Final Senate approval is expected on February 7. 

Senate Debates Proposal Removing Cap on Charter Schools

This week the Senate Education Committee began debate on S 8, a measure that would lift the state’s 100-school cap on charter schools and transfer oversight of charters from the State Board of Education to a newly created charter school commission. Additionally, legislators have indicated their intention to allow state lottery money to be used to construct new charter school buildings.

There is general bipartisan support for removing the cap, but Senate Democrats have objected to the transfer of authority provision and argue that charter schools should provide transportation and free/reduced school lunches for eligible children. The Committee is scheduled to continue hearings on the bill next week.

Senate Unveils First Tort Reform Proposal Aimed at Medical Malpractice

S 33 would change North Carolina medical liability laws by, among other things, providing limited protection from liability to those providing emergency medical care, by authorizing the bifurcation of trials on issues of liability and damages, and by capping the amount of non-economic damages that may be awarded in a medical malpractice action at $250,000.

In the House, Speaker Tillis announced this week that he would create a special legislative committee focused exclusively on legal reform issues.

Governor Expected to Propose Legalizing Video Gambling

Statements from the Governor’s office this week indicated that Governor Perdue may include provisions within her proposed budget that would legalize the video gaming industry with applicable regulations and taxes. Legalization of the industry has been a subject of debate in North Carolina for years with previous legislation and pending court cases.