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.

Ways to Connect

Gov. Pat McCrory
NC Governor's Office

Governor Pat McCrory says he will consider vetoing a budget bill if he doesn't like what House and Senate budget negotiators come up with. The governor gave a brief interview just outside the Old Capitol earlier this afternoon.

Leaders in both houses still don't agree on some final key issues, which include how big teacher raises should be and how many teacher assistants to keep in classrooms. Governor McCrory said he met with the House caucus earlier today to spell out his priorities.

NC Legislative building
NC General Assembly

Lawmakers in the state Senate have tentatively approved a bill that would overhaul North Carolina's Medicaid system. The measure would create an independent agency to oversee the state's health care system for low-income residents. The bill would also contract out Medicaid to managed care and provider-led organizations. They would receive a set amount of money per patient to provide care. Republican Senator Ralph Hise is a sponsor of the bill. He says it's necessary to help control ballooning Medicaid costs.

NC Legislative building
NC General Assembly

Senate lawmakers considered a number of items today, while many House lawmakers took the time to pay homage to the late Republican Representative Jim Fulghum.

There's still no official word on whether budget writers might be close to an agreement on a spending plan for this fiscal year. So in the meantime, lawmakers are publicly pursuing other measures.

In the morning, a Senate Rules Committee approved a bill that would restore Fayetteville's red-light cameras, but the committee shelved another that would have allowed license-plate scanners on highways.

Gerry Cohen
Jorge Valencia / Gerry Cohen

One of the most respected and beloved figures at the General Assembly is about to retire.

Gerry Cohen will soon finish his current job as the special counsel for the state legislature, where he was first hired as a staff attorney back in 1977. Later, he became head of the bill drafting division, where his encyclopedic memory and reputation for fairness made him a favorite among Democrats and Republicans alike.

Gerry Cohen’s office at the state legislature is filled with boxes of mementos and papers dating back several decades.

Kay Hagan 7.18.14
Katelyn Ferral

Democratic U.S. Senator Kay Hagan was in Raleigh Friday afternoon to discuss a bill she and others have introduced in the U.S. Senate that seeks to restore womens' access to employer-covered contraception. The bill was defeated this week but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he plans to bring it up later this year.

When Hagan was asked what she thinks of the North Carolina General Assembly's late efforts to put together a budget for this fiscal year, she was quick to bring up her own record as a former state senator:

NC Legislative building
NC General Assembly

A measure put forth by the state Senate to overhaul North Carolina's Medicaid program is headed for a vote in the chamber next week.

The proposal would allow both provider-led and managed care plans to serve patients who qualify for the health insurance program.

Senate leaders say their plan would help control costs. It would also create an entirely new department to oversee Medicaid in the state, headed by a corporate-like board. Republican Senator Louis Pate is a sponsor of the measure.

N.C. General Assembly, State Legislature
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

Lawmakers in the North Carolina Senate have proposed a plan that sheds more light on how they’d like to manage the state's Medicaid program. But it differs significantly from plans put forward by the House and by Governor Pat McCrory. The Senate’s proposal would allow hospital and doctor-led health plans to see Medicaid patients as well as managed care plans run by insurance companies.

General Assembly
Dave DeWitt

Leaders in the state Senate have offered an eight percent pay raise for teachers as they inch closer to putting together a budget.

Senate leaders unveiled their offer to House budget negotiators late Tuesday afternoon. Senators had previously wanted to give educators raises of 11 percent, but House leaders said such a large increase would require cutting too many other areas.

N.C. General Assembly, State Legislature
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

Democratic leaders in the state House say Speaker Thom Tillis has refused to release funds for a full-time employee to manage their legislative operations. Minority Leader Larry Hall says he's had to let the Democratic caucus chief of staff go because Tillis would not release enough funding for that position to last past July 1st.

N.C. General Assembly, State Legislature
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

Budget negotiators in the North Carolina General Assembly are still at odds over how much to raise teacher pay for this fiscal year. Leaders in the House canceled what was meant to be an open conference committee meeting this morning because Senate negotiators declined to attend.

House leaders have offered to grant teachers raises of 6%, up from an earlier proposal of 5%. But Senate leaders say they still prefer pay increases of 11%.

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.  

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