The North Carolina General Assembly focused their efforts this week on attempting to compromise on the budget and to work out some differences in several bills that were in conference committees. Neither chamber held any committee meetings aside from public budget conference committee meetings. The House held no-vote sessions all week, while the Senate kept a very light schedule on the days they held session.
The House and Senate budget conferees met several times this week in public meetings to negotiate out their differences, and while some headway was made on a budget compromise for the 2014-2015 fiscal year, they still continue to be in a stalemate.
In the Tuesday budget meetings, the Senate conceded on two fronts: teachers will not be required to give up their tenure in order to receive a pay raise and will leave the State Crime Lab under Attorney General Roy Cooper, both nods towards the House budget. As for the House, they satisfied the Senate by compromising on the lottery numbers, by removing the additional $29.5 million that the House had in their projected bottom line.
Those concessions, however, did not come without harsh words exchanged by both chambers throughout the week. Senate conferees left the Wednesday morning public budget conference committee meeting when the House announced that they would be having several superintendents and teachers come to give public comment on how the Senate education budget would be harmful to schools. Senator budget writer Harry Brown, R-Onslow, objected to the public comments, saying that it violated the rules of the conference committee. After House chief budget writer, Representative Nelson Dollar, R-Wake, did not back down, Senate conferees left the room until public comment concluded.
By Thursday it was clear that tensions between the two chambers were not much better. The day started off with the Senate offering another budget compromise- to maintain their 11 percent pay raise for teachers, while offering $171 million for the House to earmark toward Medicaid and teacher assistants. House budget writers have been critical of the Senate’s plan to pay for 11 percent teacher raises by cutting services to Medicaid and cutting the budget for teacher assistants across the state.
Speaker of the House Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, followed-up to the Senate budget offer by announcing that the House has a budget offer that elevated teacher pay from a 5 percent increase to a 6 percent increase, a number closer to the Senate’s 11 percent. Speaker Tillis said in his press release that their newest budget offer would continue to protect all teacher assistant positions and would not cut Medicaid eligibility.
On Thursday afternoon the Governor weighed in on the continuing budget stalemate by pledging to veto the Senate’s latest version of the budget. Gov. Pat McCrory, R-NC, said that the House’s latest plan was “a long-term, sustainable and affordable plan.” He continued by saying that the “Senate is currently standing by themselves with no visible support outside of the Beltline of our state capital.”
As budget negotiations continue into the following weeks, the Governor stated that he has cleared his calendar for next week so that he can meet with any Senate or House member of both political parties.
COMMON CORE AGREEMENT
This week the House and Senate came to an agreement on their differences over how to replace the Common Core standards in North Carolina. The chief bill sponsors, Rep. Bryan Holloway and Sen. Jerry Tillman, said that they settled upon a plan that favors the Senate’s plan more, but still represents a move to replace the standards. Both chambers had already agreed on a plan to create a new commission to study and recommend new academic standards. The difference was with what the commission was allowed to recommend: the House banned the commission from recommending any part of the Common Core standards for the new standards, while the Senate allowed for parts of the standards to be recommended if the commission found them to be the best out there.
On Thursday the Senate voted in favor of the compromise bill, 33-12. All of the Senate Republicans and one Democrat, Sen. Gene McLaurin, D-Richmond, voted in favor of the measure. The bill is now waiting for the House to sign off on the measure before it can go to Governor Pat McCrory’s desk.
Click here to view the new conference report on S812: Replace CCSS w/NC’s Higher Academic Standards
H1182, UNC Nonappropriated Capital Projects: Six schools in the University of North Carolina system, East Carolina, NC State, UNC-Asheville, UNC-Chapel Hill, UNC-Charlotte and Western Carolina are now authorized to spend approximately $376 million for improvements. The money does not come from tuition costs or taxpayers, but instead comes from fees, receipts, grants and fundraising by each institution. NC State’s Reynolds Coliseum will now see $35 million in improvements, while UNC-Charlotte will use $129 million for improvements in dorms and other buildings, as well as to construct a new residence hall.
S761, Credit for Military Training: On Thursday Gov. McCrory signed this bill into law at the Joint Force Headquarters in Raleigh. S761 allows for active duty members, veterans and military spouses to have selected military training and past experience transformed into college credit and professional licenses. The bill received unanimous support from both legislative chambers and was said to continue North Carolina’s reputation as one of the most military-friendly states in the nation.
S797, 911 Board/Back-up PSAP: All 911 centers across the state will be required to have a backup call response plan by July 1, 2016. This means that all 911 centers must have an alternate plan to receive and process 911 calls in case of an outage. According to the Governor’s office, 911 call centers answered 6.9 million calls last year, but 21 centers experienced outages last year that resulted in a total of 2 hours with no 911 service available.
COURT OF APPEALS RETIREMENT
The chief judge of the North Carolina Court of Appeals, Judge John Martin, announced on Tuesday that he will be retiring from the bench on August 1. Judge Martin, 70-years-old, joined the Court of Appeals in 1985 and became chief judge in 2004. Chief Justice Sarah Parker, who is retiring on August 31, will appoint a new chief judge from among the current Court of Appeals judges, and an election for Judge Martin’s seat will occur in November.
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
Kerri Burke, Vice President
Bo Heath, Vice President
Sarah Wolfe, Assistant Vice President
Katy Feinberg, Strategic Communications