The sole focus for both chambers this week was the budget. Last weekend, budget writers from the two chambers remained in Raleigh over the Labor Day weekend to continue negotiations. Significant progress was made over the weekend and continued as the week developed, largely because the last few unresolved items were left for Speaker Moore (R-Cleveland) and Sen. Berger (R-Rockingham) to decide. The Speaker said that he and Sen. Berger met until roughly midnight on Tuesday and made real progress. He then announced on the floor Wednesday that he hoped the House would be voting on the budget next Wednesday or Thursday, which would meet the September 18th deadline on the current Continuing Resolution. House rules require a two day waiting period after the budget is read in before a vote can be taken.
As negotiations pressed on, several of the agreements were made public. Tuesday evening, budget negotiators agreed to a $30 Million cap for the State’s film tax credit, an increase over the current $10 Million. Another agreement was reached to allow the approval of two additional terminal groins, hardened beach structures that are designed to prevent erosion. One would be built at the Bogue Inlet and one at the New River Inlet. Leaders from the two chambers also confirmed that driver’s education had been funded with nonrecurring dollars for the coming school year, but that it would need to be addressed again for the following year.
NC film grant program to get $30 million – Star News
Driver's ed compromise in the works – Winston-Salem Journal
The House and Senate reportedly had agreed to a $2 Billion bond proposal which the House wants on the March 2016 primary ballot. However, Sen. Brown (R-Onslow), the Senate’s chief budget writer said that the agreement was closer to $1.5 Billion. No confirmation on either number has been made, but both numbers are substantially less than the Governor’s roughly $3 Billion proposal.
Discussions Thursday proved fruitful as leadership met throughout the day and into the evening. Although they did not have a finalized budget, Sen. Berger indicated that two chambers were very close to an agreement. Sen. Brown said that he felt confident that the budget would roll out on Monday. As of Friday afternoon however, a final budget deal had not been reached. Budget writers may work into the evening or possibly through the weekend again so that central staff has time to put the final product together before Monday.
Apart from the budget, negotiations have also continued on Medicaid reform and the finance package which includes tax changes and the State’s business incentives. Finance chairs in both chambers do not appear to be much closer to an agreement than they were last week. Medicaid reform however has made significant progress. A broad agreement was allegedly reached Thursday evening, although no legislation has been presented as one or two issues reportedly remain in controversy.
The 6 issues that have slowed NC budget negotiations– Charlotte Observer
The only meeting that took place in public view was an unofficial roundtable on Wednesday regarding renewable energy in the State. The meeting was organized by House Majority Leader Rep. Hager (R-Rutherford), a longtime opponent of the renewable energy portfolio standards (REPS). REPS, which is set to expire at the end of the year, has reportedly has been a topic in the budget negotiations along with the solar tax credit, although there has been no official word as to the fate of either. Renewable energy advocates held a press conference Thursday to counter the meeting and make their case for the State maintaining REPS.
Renewables critics sound off – WRAL
Legislation in the News:
McCrory signing unemployment insurance bill in Gastonia – Charlotte Observer
Legislative roundup: Single primary could save millions – Gaston Gazette
In Other News
Former Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker (D) is expected to formally announce his run for North Carolina Commissioner of Labor next Tuesday. Current Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry (R) has served in the role since 2000 and is expected to run for reelection.
In the News
Trifecta of Races headline N.C. election year - Charlotte Observer
Environment poised for more notice in NC elections s - Citizen Times