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North Carolina General Assembly Week in Review
February 18, 2011
The buzz in the capital this week was the state budget, beginning with Governor Perdue’s State of the State Address Monday night where she announced that the state budget gap has been reduced for the second time in less than a week to $2.4 billion (compared to the originally estimated $3.7 billion), followed by her $19.9 billion budget proposal, which was unveiled on Thursday.
Governor Unveils Budget Proposal
Governor Perdue unveiled her budget proposal this week, calling for closing the state’s budget gap by $2.4 billion. Highlights of the proposal include:
- Eliminating billions in state spending
- Consolidating 14 state departments into eight
- Eliminating 10,000 state positions, of which only about 3,000 are currently filled
- Offering early retirement to about 1,000 state employees
- Privatizing some services and closing certain facilities (such as state parks and welcome centers) two days a week
- Reducing the corporate income tax rate from 6.9 percent to 4.9 percent
- Letting the corporate and personal income tax surcharges expire as scheduled on June 30
- Keeping three quarters of one cent sales tax increase that is scheduled to sunset on June 30
- Not including regulating and taxing the video and poker industry
Legislative leaders in response to the Governor’s budget proposal acknowledged that there were positive steps; however it did not cut enough and breaks a promise by keeping intact through mid-2013 three-quarters of a penny of the one-cent sales tax that was set to expire June 30.
Health Care Bill Passes the Senate
The Senate gave its final approval this week to H 2 by a vote of 30-18, challenging the federal law that mandates individuals to purchase health insurance. The bill would also require Attorney General Roy Cooper to join legal action to try to block the federal law and to defend any North Carolinians who might fail to comply with the health insurance mandate. H 2 will now be returned to the House where they will vote again on the minor amendment passed in the Senate. Upon final passage in the House, the bill will go to the Governor for her signature. The Governor has not yet given any indication of whether or not she will sign the bill or veto it.
Medical Liability Reforms Debated
Debate continued this week in a judiciary committee on the medical liability reforms bill introduced earlier this month. S 33 seeks to provide certainty and predictability in the state’s medical malpractice laws. One provision of the bill caps non-economic damages to $250,000 in medical malpractice lawsuits. The bill is scheduled to have another hearing next week.
Charter Schools Vote Delayed
The Senate this week delayed a scheduled vote on a bill that would change oversight of charter schools and lift the current 100-school cap. SB 8 was pulled from the Senate calendar on Thursday and was re-referred to the Senate Finance Committee.
Repeal of Standardized School Testing
Legislation eliminating four high school standardized tests passed the House this week with a vote of 94-12, sending it to the Senate for its consideration.
H 48, which is estimated to save $3 million, directs the state education department to stop administering end-of-course exams in the subject areas of U.S. History, Algebra 2, Physical Science and Civics and Economics.
Debate Begins on Expansion of the Castle Doctrine
A Senate committee started discussing this week if provisions to the home-as-castle legislation (aka Castle Doctrine), should be extended to vehicles and perhaps other places outside the home. This Castle Doctrine would protect those individuals from criminal prosecution and civil liability if they were to shoot someone who has forcibly and unlawfully entered their home. Current law protects homeowners who use defensive force if they can demonstrate that they reasonably believed the intruder would harm them or someone in the home, or would commit a felony while there.