2015 NC Senate

Republican Phil Berger of Eden is president pro tempore of the state Senate.
http://www.ncleg.net/

Republican Senate leader Phil Berger made blunt remarks about public school reform at a recent gathering held by Best NC, a business-backed education advocacy group.

He suggested “scrapping schools of education” and likened investing in teacher assistants to investing in manual typewriters.

“The stakes are too high to be risk and conflict adverse when it comes to education policy,” he argued.

Jorge Valencia

 

Senate Leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore outlined a two-year spending plan this afternoon that would maintain funding for elementary school teaching assistants, high school drivers’ education classes, and gives state employees a one-time bonus of $750.

North Carolina legislative building
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

The N.C. House and Senate voted Wednesday to spend at least two more weeks crafting a final budget. 

Their original deadline was July 1st, which is when the fiscal year began. Lawmakers had extended the deadline until Friday, but the two chambers still haven’t resolved differences over how much money to spend and where to spend it. 

On Wednesday, House and Senate lawmakers passed a temporary budget bill – also known as ‘continuing resolution’ – that would keep the state running until August 31st.

An image of a solitary confinement cell
Chris Gray / Flcikr Creative Commons

Advocates are requesting the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the way North Carolina uses solitary confinement in prisons.

A Duke Energy power plant and coal ash ponds outside Asheville.
Zen Sutherland

The North Carolina Senate has passed a bill that would prohibit any state agency from fully complying with the EPA’s Clean Power Plan.

The Obama Administration announced the EPA Clean Power Plan earlier this week. It directs each state to develop an individualized plan to cut coal-plant emissions by 32 percent by 2030.

A picture of people in voting booths
Joe Shlabotnik / Flickr Creative Commons

North Carolina senators have approved a plan that moves the state's presidential primary to March 15. For decades, North Carolina voters have chosen presidential candidates in May, usually after they already know the nominee.

Lawmakers voted this summer to eventually eliminate teacher tenure, replacing it with temporary contracts. The State Board of Education will discuss a model contract this week.
cybrarian77 / https://www.flickr.com/photos/cybrarian77/6284181389

Teacher pay is one of the biggest political items in the state's spending plan North Carolina lawmakers are currently debating.

House and Senate Republicans have different ideas over raising teacher salaries, though both want to give an average 4 percent boost.

Under the Senate’s plan, most of that extra money would go toward teachers with less than 15 years of experience. Those with 25+ years of experience would not see any increases to their current base salary from the state.  

North Carolina legislative building
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

State Senate leaders held a news conference Monday to discuss details of their $21.47 billion budget proposal. The proposal is smaller than the state House’s budget plan released almost a month ago, and  would create a separate state agency to administer North Carolina’s Medicaid program.

WUNC Capitol Reporter Jorge Valencia said the Senate has only given a general idea of its budget proposal, and includes increasing the starting salary pay for teachers to $35,000 a year, a $2,000 increase.

Chad Biggs (left), 35, and Chris Creech, 46, were the first gay couple to be wed in Wake County.
Jorge Valencia / WUNC

The N.C. House of Representatives voted Thursday to override Gov. Pat McCrory's veto of Senate Bill 2, though no real debate was allowed. 

The bill - which is now law - permits magistrates and county register of deeds employees to exempt themselves from offering same-sex marriage duties because of "sincerely held religious" objections. 

Pat McCrory
Dave DeWitt

Gov. Pat McCrory vetoed two bills this week that stirred controversy as they passed through the state legislature. 

House Bill 405- dubbed by opponents as an "ag-gag" bill- would have allowed businesses to sue employees who secretly recorded animal abuse or other illegal activity. The bill applied to farms, along with businesses like restaurants and daycare centers.

One of Progress Energy's solar energy farms.
Duke Energy / Progress Energy

The General Assembly is caught up in a possible overhaul of the state’s commitment to renewable energy. A bill moving through the state legislature would scale back the state’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards (REPS).

 

REPS are important because they mandate how much renewable energy a company like Duke Energy produces as a part of its total electricity sales.

 

Photo: A graffiti painting at an intersection in Asheville
It's Tea / Flickr

State lawmakers are expected to send Gov. Pat McCrory on Wednesday a bill that would make graffiti vandalism a felony if performed by repeat offenders.

Under House Bill 552, which was approved unanimously by the House and is expected to get final approval from the Senate, anyone who has two or more prior convictions for graffiti vandalism or violates the law against it at least five times within two months could be charged with a felony. The offender could face up to 39 months in jail.