NCGA Week in Review – May 20 – May 24

May 24, 2013

Pardon Our Dust

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Senate Passes Budget

The Senate gave final approval to the budget on Thursday after hours of debate throughout the week. Supporters of the budget argue that it is a fiscally responsible document that helps many parts of the state government recover from the Great Recession. The budget includes rainy-day reserves and $1.2 billion in additional funds for Medicaid through mid-2015 to help the program keep up with its growth. Opponents of the legislation attacked numerous parts of the bill, arguing that the $770 million set aside for the Senate tax package would be better spent overhauling schools, college campuses, and economic nonprofits. Opponents of the bill were angered by the $142 million in cuts that would have gone to public schools to hire 4,500 teaching assistants for second and third grade classrooms. The budget also includes provisions to close six prisons, and scale back a seventh, which eliminates 800 state positions.
Robert Brawley Resigns as House Finance Chairman
Representative Robert Brawley resigned as co-chairman of the House Finance Committee on Wednesday as the result of a series of disagreements with House Speaker Thom Tillis. Much of the disagreement stems from the issue of toll roads, which Brawley opposes. The Speaker asked Rep. Brawley to meet with him after the Finance chairman suggested the Tillis had changed his position on the issue. Brawley wrote a letter of resignation that was read aloud by the clerk in Wednesday’s session. Brawley aired several other grievances in the letter, including questions about a bill that passed in the previous session that benefited the NC Bail Agents Association. Brawley also suggested that Speaker Tillis had a “business relationship” with Time Warner Cable after he questions Brawley about a bill that limited local governments’ ability to set up public broadband networks and was seen to favor the cable company. Representative Brawley did not resign his seat and will continue to represent Iredell County.
Toll Lane Construction Expected to Begin on I-77 Next Year
A leading lawmaker and a senior transportation official said that construction on new toll lanes on Interstate 77 could start next year. Congestion has been an issue on the interstate for years, and lawmakers have come to view toll roads as “the least bad answer” for eliminating the traffic. Backups extending for several miles are not uncommon on the interstate that leads to and from Charlotte. The two proposed toll lanes would stretch from Charlotte to Mooresville. Opponents of the legislation argue that the public should not have to pay for the roads twice, as motorists already pay a heavy tax on gasoline.
Dix Park Compromise Passes House Judiciary Committee
A compromise on the Dorothea Dix property controversy passed through the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. The bill would give the City of Raleigh and the state government one year to renegotiate the agreement as a lease or sale of the land, and Raleigh would get a chance to buy a second parcel from the state, the 40-acre Governor Morehead School property across Western Boulevard from the Dix property. Under the compromise, the state would keep 30 acres to house the Department of Health and Human Services. Governor McCrory backed the compromise, but the deal has come under scrutiny from Senate leadership. Those who agree with the Senate argue that the lease is unlawful and should never have been signed by the previous governor. Meanwhile, many support the City of Raleigh’s position that the state should have to accept the terms of the signed agreement.
Immigration Bill Heads to House Floor
Legislation to allow illegal immigrants to get special driver permits and authorize law enforcement to check the immigration status of anyone they stop under certain condition could head to the House floor as soon as next week. House Bill 786 passed the committee with bipartisan support and backing from the NC Chamber of Commerce, NC Association of Chiefs of Police, the Farm Bureau and the Hispanic community. Supporters of the bill claimed it was a good compromise on a divisive issue that would make roads safer and help law enforcement identify and deal with illegal and criminal immigrants. Included in the bill is a provision similar to a highly controversial measure in Arizona, authorizing law enforcement to attempt to verify immigration status for anyone stopped, detained, or arrested with “reasonable suspicion” that the person is in the country illegally. Those in opposition to the bill questioned the potential costs to immigrants because the legislation would require them to prepay for car insurance and because the cost of the driver permit has not been set by the Department of Transportation.

Please contact the Raleigh McGuireWoods Consulting team if you have any questions or comments:

Harry Kaplan, Senior Vice-President
Jeff Barnhart, Senior Vice-President
Franklin Freeman, Senior Vice-President
John Merritt, Senior Vice-President
Johnny Tillett, Senior Vice-President
Rita Harris, Vice-President
Bo Heath, Vice-President
Kerri Burke, Assistant Vice-President
Sarah Wolfe, Research Assistant
Katy Feinberg, Strategic Communications