NCGA Week in Review, 3/28-4/1

April 1, 2011

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State Health Plan to Land on Governor’s Desk Soon

The House followed the Senate’s lead in passing a package (S 265) that closes the $515 million gap in North Carolina’s state employee health insurance plan through 2013.  Following several hours of heated debate on the floor the bill passed 64-51 along party lines.

The proposal would require state workers, teachers and retirees to pay a monthly premium (between $11 and $23 a month, depending on which plan the individual chooses) and would change the governance of the plan from the General Assembly to the state Treasurer’s office.

The bill takes a quick trip back to the Senate for one last vote because of minor changes the House made to it before it heads to the Governor’s desk. The Gov’s spokesperson was mum regarding whether or not Gov Perdue would pull out her veto stamp.  

House Continues Debate on Tort Reform

The House Tort Reform Committee met this week to hear public comments on HB 542: Tort Reform for Citizens and Businesses.  The bill addresses a number of civil liability issues including medical malpractice, attorney fees in small claims cases, product liability, credentials for expert witnesses, and trespassing laws.

The committee heard from a broad coalition of supporters who spoke to the importance of reforming the state’s legal system to ensure fairness and predictability and keeping the cost “defensive medicine” down. Opponents, on the other hand argued that the measure would unfairly shift the system’s balance to favor medical providers and insurers.

The committee is scheduled to continue discussions next week.

Unveiling of House Budget Next Week?

Senate and House leaders continue to reaffirm their intentions of having a state budget complete by the beginning of June. House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger stated that they will be prepared to send Governor Perdue a completed spending plan “earlier than anyone can remember in a long time.” Keeping to the projected schedule the House is anticipated to roll out their budget proposal next week.

House and Senate Appropriation Subcommittees have been meeting jointly for several months and are reportedly close to reaching an agreement for consideration of the full Appropriations Committees. Leaders have indicated that while the House’s budget will come out first according to custom, the Republican caucuses in the two chambers will likely have reached consensus on just about everything.

Revisiting Redistricting

It’s that time of the decade again: redistricting is upon us North Carolinians!  The 2010 census results are in and joint House and Senate redistricting committees will be mapping out 13 congressional districts, 50 state Senate districts and 120 state House districts.  The first committee meeting took place Wednesday, but only the Senate attended due to the House floor session running late because of the lengthy and heated debate over the State Health Plan. 

Redistricting is the process of adjusting political boundaries in response to national and state censuses that occur every 10 years.  It can be a daunting task for those given the opportunity to essentially redraw the lines that, in turn, are supposed to create fair, unbiased political competition within state districts.