NCGA Week in Review: June 25-29

June 30, 2012

Pardon Our Dust

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Final Days of 2012 Session….
House and Senate leaders confirmed their plans to adjourn on Tuesday, July 2nd. Both chambers scheduled skeleton sessions on Friday to receive any veto messages from the Governor and plan to meet Monday and Tuesday to take up any unfinished business before officially adjourning the legislative session. Speaker Thom Tillis anticipates that primary business for next week will center on any vetoes from the Gov. Beverly Perdue. Perdue has already vetoed a bill making changes to the 2009 Racial Justice Act and announced her intentions to veto the state budget. The budget and three other bills are on the Governor’s desk with a Sunday night deadline, including one that would lay the framework to permit shale gas exploration.  

Governor Announces Budget Veto Decision

Recently the General Assembly compromised on and approved a $20.2 billion budget for the next fiscal year. On Friday, June 29th the Governor announced she will veto the budget citing too little funding for education among other programs.
Prior to the announcement, Perdue identified $117 million in “new revenue over-collections” that she advocated to be used to fill cuts to public education and other programs. Legislative leaders dismissed the idea, citing it as an “accounting gimmick”, primarily the result of early, estimated tax payments in the current fiscal year that will have to be made up for in the next fiscal year when more small businesses become aware of a tax exemption approved last year.

House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger released a joint statement noting that the difference between the dollars Perdue demanded and what the budget includes is a fraction of one percent of the total budget. Some of the five House Democrats who have consistently voted with Republicans on overrides indicated that they remain unsure what they would do if the budget bill were vetoed—the five met with Perdue prior the veto announcement.  Leadership has indicated that if there are not enough votes, the two-year budget enacted last year will remain in place.

NC Health Benefit Exchange Legislation Stalled
In a landmark decision this week, the U.S. Supreme Court announced their ruling on the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s health care reform law. The Supreme Court voted 5-4 to uphold the individual mandate, one of the most controversial aspects of the law, deeming it a tax provision and not a penalty. The court upheld the joint federal-state Medicaid insurance expansion but rejects limiting the penalties on states choosing not participate in the program.

Despite the high court opinion, Senate leader Phil Berger said the Senate would not take up legislation this year that would allow the state to meet a deadline creating a new one-stop shop to find health insurance. Senator Berger stated: “The General Assembly needs time to process and understand this mixed ruling on Obamacare.” The 2010 federal health care overhaul requires all states to have a health benefit exchange, and legislation passed the state House last year. State plans for the markets are due to the federal government by this fall. The federal government will create exchanges for states that don’t have them by 2014.

Compromise Reached on Dental Practice Reforms
Following months of negotiation, an agreement has been reached on who will control the state’s dental practices. Legislation was passed in the Senate last year which gave sweeping powers to the N.C. Board of Dental Examiners to review and block contracts between dentists and dental service firms. The compromise bill still requires the Board of Examiners to come up with rules regulating the management contracts. A six-member task force, including two members connected to dental service organizations, will make recommendations to the board. The negotiated bill sailed through the House and Senate and is now on the Governor’s desk.

Debate Continues on Sweepstakes Regulations
The House Finance Committee has reconsidered bipartisan-backed legislation that would regulate and tax video sweepstakes operations in North Carolina. Most of the proceeds would be used to reduce required school district spending cuts; machine regulations would expire in April so that they could be altered depending on any potential state Supreme Court ruling on the legality of the machines. This legislation would establish state privilege taxes on sweepstakes establishments and machines, however, many legislators oppose the machine and its prospects for passage appear to be dwindling as the General Assembly is winding down.

Investigation on DOT Letters Referred to Ethics Commission
The Senate Rules Committee has decided to refer the results of its inquiry into altered Department of Transportation letters to the state Ethics Commission. Senator Tom Apodaca, chair of the committee, says the commission “must review the actions of state employees who took steps to change letters sent to lawmakers that altered the position of a top DOT official on a roads funding issue.” The decision was reached after about 40 minutes of debate among committee members, as to whether or not the changes made to the letters were an innocent mistake or something more serious—opinions varied. Apodaca says the commission must review it and could take further action, or simply let the issue die.

New Election Polling Numbers
The latest North Carolina presidential poll shows that Mitt Romney’s eight-point lead over President Barack Obama ceased to exist in June. The June poll gives Romney a 47 to 44 percent edge, but the lead falls within the poll’s plus-or-minus 4.5 percent margin of error. According to Rasmussen, Romney held a 51 to 43 percent advantage in May and a two-point edge in April. Read the full poll results released on June 26th.

Review the latest polling results on the state’s gubernatorial race.