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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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.
 

N.C. General Assembly, State Legislature
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.

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

The state legislature was busy yesterday, with Moral Monday protesters staging a sit-in and discussions over tax code changes and e-cigarettes.

Moral Monday protesters decided to come to the legislature yesterday even though it was Tuesday, the day after the Memorial Day holiday. They gathered on the back lawn and then began lobbying inside the building. They ended up staging a sit-in in and outside House Speaker Thom Tillis' office.

NC Legislative building
NC General Assembly

Lawmakers had a slower start to the week today because of the Memorial Day holiday. This morning, in the House education committee, lawmakers discussed ways to make school bus operations more efficient.

Around lunchtime, Moral Monday protesters gathered behind the building to hear speeches from North Carolina NAACP President William Barber and others. They plan to lobby every member of the General Assembly to reverse some of the laws passed last year. Earlier this afternoon, some protesters were going door to door to individual lawmakers.

Concertina wire surrounding a prison
Kate Ter Harr / Flickr Creative Commons

Yesterday, in the state House, lawmakers passed a bill that would allow 16 and 17-year-olds charged with misdemeanors to be referred to the juvenile justice system, rather than trying them as adults. The measure has been a long time coming.

The so-called “Raise the Age” bill passed 77 to 39 with broad bipartisan support. Republican representative Marilyn Avila of Wake County is the bill’s main sponsor.

North Carolina House of Representatives, North Carolina General Assembly
www.ncleg.net

State lawmakers in the House have passed a bill that would raise the age at which North Carolina teens can be charged as adults. North Carolina is one of only two states that still treat 16- and 17-year-old offenders as adults. Republican representative Marilyn Avila is a sponsor of the bill.

"This bill is one that I feel like North Carolina needs to consider because we’re one of only two states who do not have our 16 and 17-year-old juvenile delinquents placed in the juvenile justice system. They go into the adult system," said Avila.

NC Legislative building
NC General Assembly

State lawmakers in the House have tentatively passed a broad tax bill that would limit the power of local governments to tax businesses.The bill would also tax electronic cigarettes.

The bill limits the authority of cities and towns to levy privilege taxes on businesses. Critics say the taxes are unwieldy and should be streamlined, but many municipal officials aren't happy about the measure, saying they earn significant revenues from those taxes. They would be capped at a hundred dollars per year.

Vaccine, shot,
Wake Med

State health officials have approved a measure that would require rising 7th graders to receive the meningitis vaccine.

One more administrative step is required before the vaccination would become mandatory. The vaccine is for meningitis and other meningococcal diseases. Bacterial meningitis is most common in people between the ages of 15 and 21, but only about half of thi state's teenagers currently receive the vaccination.
 

NC General Assembly; State Legislature.
Dave Crosby / Flickr Share-Alike

State legislators have redefined the rules laying out how people may gather in protest at the General Assembly.

They were approved by the Legislative Services Commission on Thursday. The measures are a rewrite of rules last changed in 1987. The updates prohibit activities that cause an "imminent disturbance," and they more clearly define what kinds of signs can be used.

Republican Tim Moore chairs the committee:

Governor Pat McCrory
Jessica Jones

Governor Pat McCrory released his budget proposal yesterday, on the first day of the General Assembly’s short session. The $21 billion proposal includes raises for teachers and state employees as well new positions and equipment designed to oversee coal ash disposal. But it cuts about $49 million that would go to the University of North Carolina system.

As legislators walked into the General Assembly for the first day of this year’s short session, protesters- including a group of women called the Raging Grannies- were ready to greet them.

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

Governor McCrory has unveiled a $21 billion budget proposal that includes raises for teachers and state employees, promotes more oversight of coal ash ponds, and adds $50 million to the state's rainy day fund. But it also includes a $49 million cut to the University of North Carolina system.

"We’ve had to make some very very difficult decisions. Which we think will have a positive impact on the future. This budget proposal has already been shared with top budget legislators in the House and the Senate, and therefore nothing should come as a surprise," says McCrory.

Former state Commerce secretary Keith Crisco has died. The Democrat faced American Idol contestant Clay Aiken in the Second Congressional District.  

Last week, Crisco said in a statement that he was waiting to see final vote tallies in the primary. It wasn't clear then  whether the race was close enough for him to request a recount or whether there would be a runoff.

Crisco was behind Aiken by a few hundred votes, according to unofficial totals. A Democratic strategist says Crisco was planning to concede the race to Aiken today.

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