Jessica Jones

Reporter

Jessica Jones covers both the legislature in Raleigh and politics across the state. Before her current assignment, Jessica was given the responsibility to open up WUNC's first Greensboro Bureau at the Triad Stage in 2009. She's a seasoned public radio reporter who's covered everything from education to immigration, and she's a regular contributor to NPR's news programs. Jessica started her career in journalism in Egypt, where she freelanced for international print and radio outlets. After stints in Washington, D.C. with Voice of America and NPR, Jessica joined the staff of WUNC in 1999. She is a graduate of Yale University.

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General Assembly
Dave DeWitt

State lawmakers are still at odds over putting together a budget for the fiscal year that has already begun.

On Thursday House budget negotiators raised their proposal for teacher pay increases from five to six percent. But Senate leaders say they won't accept that offer. They'd like to give educators an 11 percent raise, a number that was laid out in their budget proposal released weeks ago. Phil Berger is the President Pro Tem of the Senate.

North Carolina State Legislature
Dave Crosby / Flickr

  Budget writers in the General Assembly are moving forward with their negotiations, but it's still not clear when they might finish putting together a spending plan adjustment for the fiscal year that has already begun.

In an open conference committee Tuesday afternoon, legislators didn't reach an agreement on the size of teacher raises, though Senate budget writers have agreed to allow teachers to receive raises without forgoing career status protections. 

North Carolina Legislative building
NC General Assembly

State lawmakers involved in budget negotiations have an important week ahead.

Budget negotiators are expected to meet this week to hammer out the details of a spending plan adjustment for the fiscal year that has already started.

The House will be holding skeleton sessions. The Senate is expected to hold some regular floor sessions, though leaders say they plan to focus on getting a budget done.

It remains to be seen whether lawmakers will work out a few remaining issues, including coal ash, film incentives, and common core education standards.

Photo: The North Carolina General Assembly's Legislative Building
Jorge Valencia

State lawmakers wrapped up a busy week today before the July Fourth holiday.

This week, lawmakers finally broke the logjam in budget negotiations, with an unusual open conference committee meeting in which House and Senate legislators came to an agreement on Medicaid shortfall numbers.

In the meantime, lawmakers pushed through other measures, including one House bill earlier in the week that would study removing law enforcement officers' personal information from online records.

North Carolina Legislative building
NC General Assembly

It was a busy day at the legislature today.  Lawmakers made progress on a number of issues. In the House, lawmakers unanimously approved a bill that supports the governor's vision to manage Medicaid using an accountable care model.

On the Senate floor, Democratic Senator Floyd McKissick marked the anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson 50 years ago today. McKissick credited protesters, the media who covered them, and politicians who were committed to equal rights.
 

Money
bestclipartblog.com

Today is the first day of the new fiscal year, but there’s no state budget adjustment in sight. That’s because legislators can’t agree on two big issues: Medicaid funding and teacher raises. Last week, the House passed a partial spending plan that would’ve given teachers average raises of five percent despite the absence of a larger budget deal, but last night the Senate rejected the measure.

NC Senate committee
Jessica Jones

Governor McCrory and leaders in the state House are trying to speed up budget negotiations, but without much success so far. They’ve introduced a bill that’s a kind of mini-budget to give teachers 5 percent raises in case House and Senate leaders can’t agree on a comprehensive spending plan. But the biggest sticking point in the negotiations is over Medicaid. Thursday morning, State Budget Director Art Pope appeared before a Senate Finance Committee to answer senators’ questions.

Photo: The North Carolina General Assembly's Legislative Building
Jorge Valencia

Governor Pat McCrory and leaders in the state House have released a bill that would serve as a scaled-down budget proposal. The move is meant to shake up a slow budget process.

House Budget Appropriations Chair Nelson Dollar explained Senate Bill 3 to a packed conference room earlier today. Dollar said among other things, the measure would give teachers an average five-percent pay raise and state employees a $1,000 raise plus benefits.
 

photo of NC Legislature
creative commons

A number of measures advanced today in the General Assembly, including a resolution that passed honoring the late Democratic Senator Martin Nesbitt, who died earlier this year.

Lawmakers in both the House and the Senate praised the late senator, who was from Asheville. Nesbitt died suddenly after being diagnosed with stomach cancer earlier this year. He was respected on both sides of the aisle and was known as a strong advocate for education.

Gov. Pat McCrory stands at a podium and speaks to the Emerging Issues Forum on Monday.
Dave DeWitt

Gov. Pat McCrory says he and budget negotiators in the state House and Senate have serious differences over Medicaid budget forecasts and education spending. He spoke with reporters on Monday, saying he was taking precautions in case lawmakers aren't able to put together a budget before July 1st. 

Gov. Pat McCrory
NC Governor's Office

Governor Pat McCrory is relatively new to Raleigh but is an old hand at politics.

He was first elected to the Charlotte City Council in 1989. He went on to serve for fourteen years as the mayor of North Carolina’s largest city.  McCrory first ran for governor against Beverly Perdue, but lost in 2008. 

Four years later, he ran again, and won. It was the first time since Reconstruction that North Carolina had both a Republican governor and GOP majorities in both houses. 

McCrory spoke about his decision to sign HB 589 in a video.
NC Governor's Office

Thursday afternoon, Capitol Bureau Chief Jessica Jones sat down with Governor Pat McCrory for a one-on-one interview.

The governor continued to advocate for teacher raises, but says he has some differences with the General Assembly on how to get that done.

Those differences will have to get worked out soon if lawmakers hope to meet the July 1st deadline for the next fiscal year.

But as the governor discussed with Jessica Jones, the budget is not the only issue facing his administration.

NC Education lottery at the Carrboro Food Mart.
Laura Candler

The North Carolina state House’s budget plan includes a provision that would double the amount of money the state lottery can use to advertise. Proponents say that would encourage people to buy more tickets and boost revenues to the tune of $106 million, which would be used for teacher raises. But this morning, the state lottery director told lawmakers that restrictions on advertising (that are also written into the House budget proposal) would result in bringing in far less money. 

Image of NC General Assembly where lawmakers are considering two controversial bills.
Credit NC General Assembly

Lawmakers at the General Assembly have begun the process of reviewing both chambers' budgets as they look ahead to crafting a final spending plan.

Tuesday morning, Senate appropriations committees met to discuss the House's budget, which was approved last week. Some committees reviewed the differences between the two chambers' spending plans.

A bill that would force Duke Energy to shut down its coal ash ponds in the state passed the Senate Agriculture and Environment Committee unanimously today and heads to the Finance Committee.

NC House
Jessica Jones

State lawmakers in the House have given final approval to their $21 billion spending plan. The measure passed 77 to 35 Friday morning. It gives teachers an average five percent raise, but relies on money from the lottery to help pay for that. Nelson Dollar heads the House Appropriations Committee.  

NC House
house.gov

Lawmakers in the state House have tentatively passed a 21 billion dollar budget plan. It would give teachers average 5-percent raises and state employees flat $1,000 raises, plus benefits.

Last night, lawmakers amended their budget plan with a provision that would provide grants to the film industry. And they continued debating the wisdom of relying on money from the lottery for funding.

NC House
Jessica Jones

State lawmakers in the House have been going through their budget proposal on the floor since early Thursday afternoon. Republican Representative Nelson Dollar introduced the bill.

"The budget before you today for your consideration has a five percent increase for teachers in our state. It contains a thousand dollar flat raise for most state employees, plus benefits, that's roughly a 2.3 percent increase, and an additional five days of leave time for state employees," said Dollar.

North Carolina Legislative building
NC General Assembly

Members of the House Appropriations Committee met for hours today to discuss provisions in that chamber’s proposed budget.

Today’s legislative day was dominated by hours of a House committee meeting to give final approval to that chamber’s budget proposal released yesterday. The House plan would give teachers average five percent raises and state employees raises of a thousand dollars plus benefits. It's likely the budget plan will go to the floor tomorrow.

NC General Assembly

Leaders of the state House have unveiled a 21.1 billion dollar budget proposal that differs sharply from the Senate’s plan that passed a week and a half ago. Under the House’s plan, public school teachers would get five percent raises. Teacher assistants would keep their jobs, and state employees would receive pay increases of 1,000 dollars.

Speaker of the House Thom Tillis laid out his chamber’s budget proposal at a news conference in the General Assembly’s press room. As he spoke at the podium, about thirty of his colleagues in the House stood behind him in a long row.
 

North Carolina legislative building
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

Lawmakers began their work week with a Moral Monday protest and a light legislative schedule.

The House convened briefly in a skeleton session, while the Senate met later in the evening.

Senators passed a bill that would create a public-private economic development enterprise. It would contract with the Department of Commerce to attract companies and promote trade and tourism. The Senate's version of the bill would also start a program giving grants to film, TV, and video projects in the state. A tax incentive program expires at the end of the year.

NC House
house.gov

A bill that would create a public-private economic development enterprise tentatively passed the House today. The measure would create a nonprofit corporation that would contract with the state Department of Commerce to attract companies and promote trade and tourism.

Republican Representative Marilyn Avila  addressed the bill's sponsor, Republican representative Tom Murry, saying she thinks the idea will help grow North Carolina's economy.

Governor Pat McCrory held a news conference yesterday at the executive mansion to talk about one thing in particular he doesn’t like in the Senate budget proposal- turning Medicaid services over to a managed care organization. The governor, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, hospital organizations and physicians are against the idea.

Governor McCrory held the news conference in a secluded garden at the executive mansion. Dozens of doctors wearing their long white coats gathered on the brick steps behind him.

NC House
Jessica Jones

State lawmakers in the House have passed a bill that seeks to deter the practice of bringing unfounded patent claims against companies in order to win settlements.

House Bill 1032 passed unanimously Tuesday afternoon. Republican representative Tom Murry is the measure's primary sponsor.

"[The bill] will add a new section to the unfair and deceptive trade practices statute in North Carolina to go after what we call patent trolls," says Murry.

NC General Assembly

It was quiet at the state legislature Monday. That's because lawmakers in the Senate won't be back until Wednesday. They passed their 21.2 billion dollar budget proposal Friday night.

In the House, lawmakers gaveled in and out in a skeleton session without taking up any bills or resolutions. House lawmakers are beginning the process of putting their budget together. Meanwhile, Moral Monday protesters are rallying again in another of their series of weekly demonstrations.

 

State Senate chamber
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

The state Senate has passed a $21.2 billion dollar spending plan that offers big raises for teachers if they forego tenure protections. It also eliminates many teaching assistant positions. Last night, senators amended the budget to take out a provision recommending UNC study closing Elizabeth City State University. They also created a scholarship fund for teaching assistants. 

After nearly three and a half hours of debate that lasted into the evening, Senate President Phil Berger was adamant that his colleagues understand what his chamber’s budget proposal is all about.

NC State House
NCGA

State lawmakers in Raleigh were moving at lightning speed today. Senate budget writers explained their budget plan to lawmakers. A bill abolishing privilege taxes made its way to the governor (who has now signed it.) And the House gave final approval to a fracking bill.

Senate budget writers spent all morning explaining the finer points of their plan to a packed audience. It would give 11 percent raises to teachers who forego tenure protections, and cut teacher assistants in the second and third grades.

General Assembly
Dave DeWitt

State lawmakers in the Senate have released their budget plan, which includes the finer details of how they would pay for an 11 percent salary increase for teachers who agree to forego tenure protections. But Senate budget writers would take about $390 million out of k-12 funding. That would cut the money for teacher assistants by nearly half.

Republican Sen. Jerry Tillman says the state would keep teacher assistants for kindergarten and first grades – but get rid of about 7400 assistants in second and third grades. 

Governor Pat McCrory has signed a bill that will eliminate  the privilege taxes municipalities can levy on businesses. On Thursday, the state House passed the Senate version of a far-reaching tax bill, which would completely eliminate privilege taxes beginning in July of 2015.

Normally, a bill that has been altered in both chambers would go to a conference committee, where lawmakers could hash out their differences and agree on a final version. But not this time, says Rep. Paul Luebke:

NC General Assembly

State lawmakers in the Senate have tentatively passed a broad tax bill that would continue to make changes to the state’s tax code.

One controversial section in the bill would eliminate certain taxes that municipalities currently levy on businesses. A House version of the bill that has already passed would only scale back- rather than eliminate- those taxes.

State Senate chamber
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

State lawmakers in the Senate have tentatively approved a far-ranging tax bill that would end the ability of municipalities to levy special taxes on businesses.

The Senate version of the bill would end what's called the privilege tax. It brings in $62 million a year to municipalities across the state.

Business leaders have long complained that the taxes vary widely and are not fairly levied. Republican Senator Tommy Tucker, who's a small business owner, is in favor of the bill.

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