Lawmakers passed the third Continuing Resolution (CR) of the session,House Bill 18. The temporary spending measure will keep government functioning until September 18th, while budget negotiators attempt to reach an agreement on the State’s biennial budget. Sen. Apodaca (R-Henderson) said Thursday that more progress had been made in the last 48 hours than the previous 6 months towards an agreement. He was also hopeful that an agreement on a “broad-based” budget could be reached as early as Monday evening. Sen. Brown (R-Onslow), the Senate’s chief budget writer, added that he believed the two chambers had reached the point where things will begin moving.
Speaker Moore (R-Cleveland) and House budget writers held a press conference that afternoon to reinforce Sen. Brown’s comments. While cautiously optimistic, House leaders also alluded that several budget issues such as funding for teacher assistants and driver education, remain unresolved. Other items that will need to be addressed before the session’s end include the sales tax redistribution, Medicaid reform, the bond proposal, economic incentives and additional tax modifications. After the budget process is complete, lawmakers will likely spend another week or two to pass a multitude of bills that have been held up over the budget before adjourning sine die. Budget writers are expected to remain in Raleigh over the weekend.
Drivers education funding could return – WRAL House and Senate leadership reached an agreement Wednesday on spending targets for the biennial budget. Subcommittees have been working on their respective sections of the budget throughout the process, but were given their official target numbers Wednesday afternoon. Although the specifics of the final budget will not be released until the Conference Committee concludes its work, leadership did give insight into a few issues. The budget will include an increase in base pay for teachers from $33,000 to $35,000, which has been included in previous CR’s. All State employees, including the Governor, will receive a one-time $750 bonus and step increases are fully funded for highway patrolmen, magistrates, etc. The House’s original proposal called for a 2% raise for State employees while the original Senate proposal did not address the issue. The budget will also end the transfer of $216 Million from the highway trust fund to the general fund, allocating that money for transportation infrastructure.
Newest NC teachers get raises now, rest must wait on state – Charlotte Observer
Regarding the finance package, Sen. Rucho (R-Mecklenburg) said that the House and Senate had agreed to let the corporate rate drop to 4% for the coming year and to 3% the following year as long as revenue targets are met. The primary issue still in contention in House Bill 117 is the Senate’s sales tax redistribution proposal. The House Republican caucus has been consistent in their messaging that the House will reject any change in the sales tax distribution formula. Speaker Moore appointed members to the Conference Committee last week, most of whom are opposed to the redistribution. Sen. Berger (R-Rockingham) did not appoint Conferees until yesterday and Speaker Moore altered the House Conferee’s membership on the same day, which could indicate movement on the issue. The Governor has said that he will veto any legislation that changes the distribution formula.
The Senate agreed Thursday to the House’s modifications to Senate Bill 15, Unemployment Insurance Law Changes in a bipartisan 36-7 vote. One of the more notable provisions is the suspension of the 20% surtax on employers once the Unemployment Trust Fund balance reaches $1 Billion. Once implemented, that change should save workers and employers in the State $240 Million annually. It would also begin charging benefits to employer’s accounts quarterly rather than annually. Another provision would require claimants of unemployment insurance to show a valid photo identification to receive their benefits. The section that has received the most attention would increase the number of required weekly job contacts from two to five for recipients of unemployment insurance. It also confirms the Governor’s appointments to the Board of Review which oversees decisions made by the Division of Employment Security and staggers their terms. Governor McCrory (R) vetoed similar legislation last year over a dispute with legislators shortening the terms of his appointees, but this version is said to be a compromise between the two chambers and the Governor. The bill now awaits action from the Governor.
The House gave final approval to Senate Bill 541, Regulate Transportation Network Companies. The bill imposes basic statewide regulatory standards on drivers for services such as Uber and Lyft. Among other things, the bill requires the transportation company and its drivers to obtain permits and establishes basic levels of insurance coverage required for drivers. While Uber praised the bill in an email to users, Taxi companies derided the legislation for being less restrictive on the ride sharing service than regulations on the taxi industry. The bill now awaits action from the Governor.
In State Court, a Wake County Judge will determine whether or not a challenge to North Carolina’s voter ID law may continue. The trial was set to begin this past Monday, however an amendment to the ID requirements passed by the General Assembly several weeks ago, which modified the law, may change the direction of the lawsuit. Lawmakers added a “reasonable impediment” clause to the law, allowing voters who fail to present identification to cast a provisional ballot. The Judge said he will make a decision in coming weeks.
Legislation in the News:
In Other News
- Rep. Rick Glazier (D-Cumberland), a thirteen-year veteran on the North Carolina House of Representatives resigned his seat on Thursday. Rep. Glazier is well respected on both sides of the aisle and will be greatly missed. Read more from his hometown Fayetteville Observer here and in WRAL here. The Cumberland County Democratic Party is expected to meet this weekend to select Rep. Glazier’s successor. Former House member Billy Richardson (D-Cumberland) is seeking to return to the House in the District 44 seat.
- Rep. Jason Saine (R-Lincoln) penned an op-ed discussing his views on city-owned broadband in North Carolina. You can read the piece in the Daily Reflector here.
- Governor McCrory welcomed students and teachers back to school this week with a video which can be seen here.
- Co-Chairs of the House Appropriations Committee on Education, Rep. Horn (R-Union) and Rep. Bryan (R-Mecklenburg), co-published a piece for EdNC entitled “Transforming Education in North Carolina” which can be found here.