Senators Pass Budget, But Will Return For Coal Ash, Medicaid
After a 15-hour day at the legislature, Senators voted this morning to pass the $21.3 billion state spending plan.
Senators didn't leave the legislative building until about 1 a.m. They were determined to make a final vote on the budget and wrap up any loose ends before heading home.
But they'll be back soon enough. They're expected to return in a couple of weeks to take up any possible vetoes from the Governor. Then, they'll be back in November to pick up at least two bills they didn't finish.
That plan didn't go over too well with some lawmakers, like Sen. Josh Stein (D-Wake). He says they need to get the job done now.
"This the never-ending session, folks. It's August," he said. "I swear I saw a press conference where it was going to be done in June. It's August."
The House and Senate haven't been able to agree on how to reform the Medicaid health program, whether it should be run by physician-led groups or by for-profit managed care organizations.
Lawmakers will also continue in November their debate over a coal clean up plan. The issue has been a priority since 39,000 tons of ash spilled into the Dan River earlier this year.
Senate leader Phil Berger is a Republican from Eden, the site of a massive coal ash spill. He says House negotiators brought forward a last-minute proposal and his staff couldn't determine its scope or repercussions.
"What I think my constituents would be concerned about is if I were pursuing a bill that I couldn't tell them what the consequence of the bill was," he said. "I couldn't tell them whether or not as a result of this, we've strengthened the protections that are needed for our drinking waters and our rivers."
Both House and Senate plans call for Duke Energy to clean up its 33 ponds within 15 years. An independent commission would determine when and how the ponds would get cleaned up.
The Senate adjourned this morning, and the House is scheduled to adjourn tomorrow. Negotiators say they'll return to work on a compromise after the November elections.