Budget preparation took up the majority of business at the legislature this week. House and Senate budget writers anticipate that the budget will be passed by both chambers late next week. Also, House and Senate leaders released preview of key policy initiatives in the budget, which includes investments in school safety, a broadband grant program, and raises for teachers and various state employees.

Budget Update

House and Senate leadership have been focused on the budget this week. According to budget writers in both chambers, the conference report to the budget, SB 99, is expected to be released late Monday evening in preparation for a joint House and Senate appropriations meeting Tuesday morning. If all goes to plan, the House will pass the budget on its second and third readings on Thursday and Friday, respectively. The Senate will vote on the conference report on Wednesday and Thursday after it is heard in the Appropriations, Finance, and Pensions/Retirement committees.

School Safety

On Thursday, members of the House Select Committee on School Safety released their plan to include $35 million in the upcoming budget to address schools safety issues. Lead by committee co-chairs Reps. David Lewis (R-Harnett) and John Torbett (R-Gaston), members announced a comprehensive funding initiative that includes $10 million in mental health grants, $12 million for additional school resource officers, and $3 million for additional mental health training for school employees. The plan also includes $5 million for the “SPK UP” app, an anonymous tip app that was used in a pilot program in various schools across the state. The app will allow students to anonymously report threatening, bullying, and other suspicious behavior. Committee leadership intends to pursue $30 to $90 million in Medicaid funds to support behavioral and mental health treatment for students as well.

Read Speaker Moore’s press release here.

Raises for State Employees

State employees are expected to receive across the board raises this year. State budget writers Sens. Harry Brown (R-Onslow), Brent Jackson (R-Sampson), and Rep. Nelson Dollar (R-Wake) announced more than $200 million in the upcoming budget will be allocated to state employee raises. The plan includes raising the minimum full time salary from $24,332 to $31,200, and a 2 percent raise to employees whose salary is at or above the current minimum. Teachers and state law enforcement are two groups of state employees that legislative leaders identified for raises in this budget. State troopers will receive around an 8 percent raise, which increases their base pay from $39,000 to $44,000 annually. Budget leaders plan to announce teacher raises next week.

Rural Broadband Grants

Legislative leaders announced a new rural broadband grant program that will be included in this year’s state budget. The $10 million program would offer grants to internet providers to offset 30 to 55 percent of the startup costs to install broadband internet in rural areas. The initiative, which will be known as the Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology (GREAT) program, will also be eligible for the state’s portion of $600 million in federal funding for rural broadband. The new program is very different from another legislative broadband initiative, HB 68: BRIGHT Futures Act, which passed the House last year. Instead of grant funding, the “BRIGHT Futures Act” would allow local governments to build and lease broadband framework to private service providers. The bill is currently stalled in the Senate Rules Committee, and is not expected to move forward.

Bills Filed This Week

A list of House bills filed on Monday is available here.

A list of House bills filed on Tuesday is available here.

A list of House bills filed on Wednesday is available here.

A list of House bills filed on Thursday is available here.

A list of Senate bills filed on Monday is available here.

A list of Senate bills filed on Wednesday is available here.

A list of Senate bills filed on Thursday is available here.

A Look Ahead to Next Week

Monday, May 28, 2018

7:00 PM Session Convenes (House)

7:00 PM Session Convenes (Senate)

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

10:00 AM Joint Appropriations Committee

Wednesday, May 29, 2018

10:00 AM Judiciary IV (House)

10:00 AM State and Local Government II (House)

11:00 AM Health (House)

2:00 PM Regulatory Reform (House)