NC General Assembly

Duke Energy's coal-burning plant and the adjacent coal ash ponds by the Dan River.
Riverkeeper Foundation

The North Carolina Senate has tentatively approved a plan to close Duke Energy’s 33 coal ash ponds within 15 years.

The plan prioritizes four ponds that Republican lawmakers say are the biggest contamination threats. Duke would have to dig out all the ash and take it to dry storage.

Some Democrats want more ponds to be made high priority.

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.

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. 

Photo: A mock graduation for undocumented immigrants behind the Legislative Building in downtown Raleigh
Jorge Valencia

Five students walked 140 miles from Charlotte to Raleigh over the last 10 days to ask state lawmakers for in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants.

Elver Barrios, a computer engineering student at Johnson C. Smith University, and one of the advocates, says that when the group left last week, momentum seemed on their side.

"We were really excited on the first day of walking," he says.

But walking 15 miles a day means blisters on the feet and lots of sun on the face. It turns out there’s not much shade between Charlotte and Raleigh.

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.

Protesters gathered outside the Senate chamber to demonstrate against policies they say are regressive.

Nineteen Moral Monday protesters were arrested yesterday after demonstrating in the legislative building against budget proposals and policies passed by Republican-led General Assembly.

Dozens of protesters stomped, danced, and chanted at the very tops of their lungs, days after a superior court judge struck down new rules that prohibit loud activities and noises that would cause disturbances. The Wake County judge on Friday argued that the rules were unconstitutional, overly broad and vague.

Photo: The North Carolina Legislative Building in downtown Raleigh
Jorge Valencia

North Carolina’s General Assembly leadership is expected to begin negotiations this week to reconcile two proposals for the state’s $21.1 billion budget, a legislation that touches many aspects of government, but has centered on how to give pay raises to public school teachers.

A woman is arrested at the state capitol as a part of a Moral Mondays protest.
NAACP

A Wake County Superior Court Judge issued an order blocking rules that say how visitors can behave in the state legislative building.

Judge Carl Fox will sign the order in response to a lawsuit filed by protesters. Hundreds have rallied on Mondays at the Legislative building in response to laws passed by the General Assembly.  

Fox says people should be able to voice their opinions in public places, including the General Assembly.

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.  

A group of retired generals is advising lawmakers not to support legislation that would get rid of the Common Core academic standards.

The group Mission Readiness: Military Leaders for Kids says the standards will help ensure the success and strength of the military by better preparing students who choose to serve. Military officers say about 23 percent of graduates looking to enroll don’t pass entrance exams in math, literacy and problem solving.

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.

Photo: North Carolina's Old Capitol building
Jorge Valencia

The House of Representatives has been busy working on a budget plan for the state and other large pieces of legislation. Here's a summary of the days news from the State Capitol:

The centerpiece of the spending plan lawmakers are adjusting is pay for public school teachers. A five percent raise is what House Speaker Thom Tillis and his colleagues are suggesting.

That’s almost the mid-point between the two existing budget outlines. The governor has suggested a two-percent raise, and the senate an 11-percent raise.

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.
 

Senate Leader Phil Berger takes an impromptu meeting with Moral Monday protesters.
Reema Khrais

Monday night, 15 Moral Monday protesters sat in front of Senate Leader Phil Berger’s door.  Berger wasn't in his office, so the protesters sat there until the Senate session ended. Soon, State Capitol Police began to usher everyone out. They said that the building was closing, everyone had to leave. Reporter Dave DeWitt was with the protesters. He wrote about what happened next this way:

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.

Photo: North Carolina's Old State Capitol building.
Soggy6 / Flickr

The North Carolina General Assembly is entering its fourth full week in session, and the House of Representatives is expected to vote on the central task of the season: the state’s budget for the fiscal year starting July 1.

A picture of a coal ash pond.
Waterkeeper Alliance

Members of the North Carolina Senate took up the issue of coal ash clean up Thursday. They heard the first public presentation of how the governor wants to address possible contamination from coal ash ponds across the state.

But before we get into the governor’s plan, here's the story of Sherry Gobble and why coal ash might be a problem.

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.

Photo: Gov. Pat McCrory signing the Energy Modernization Act at NC State University's College of Engineering building.
Jorge Valencia

It was a busy day in state government. Gov. Pat McCrory signed a much-anticipated and much-debated law that will allow natural gas mining companies to start drilling in the state next year, the Senate returned to the Capitol since finalizing the chamber’s budget proposal just past midnight on Saturday, and the national Common Core standards are continuing to unravel. Here’s a digest of the day in government:

Fracking In NC

Glenwood Elementary students
Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools

School leaders across the state say proposed cuts to the Department of Public Instruction would hurt North Carolina classrooms.

The Senate’s spending plan would slash DPI’s budget by 30-percent. Several school administrators say they rely on the department to help run their schools. It helps out with recruiting and evaluating teachers, and offering professional development.

Mike Dunsmore, superintendent of Tyrell County, says his district is the smallest in the state. It serves about 550 students.

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.

Photo: North Carolina's Old Capitol building
Jorge Valencia

The State House of Representatives is putting together its budget proposal. Here's a summary of that story and others from the General Assembly on Tuesday:

Members of the House are focusing on their budget proposal for the fiscal year. Yesterday, they had their first formal public hearings on subjects like transportation, health care and education. They’ll likely be busy with these deliberations through next week.

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.

This is from a math classroom in Chapel Hill
Carol Jackson

State lawmakers are moving forward with a proposal to get rid of the Common Core standards in North Carolina classrooms. The House Education Committee voted on Tuesday in favor of a bill that would come up with new Math and English standards. Common Core was initially adopted by 45 states and set high goals for what students across the country should be able to do before they move on to the next grade. But opponents of the standards say they are not developmentally appropriate for children and that they take control away from the state. 

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.

 

Photo: The old North Carolina State Capitol building.
Bill Dickinson via Flickr

The North Carolina legislature is set this week to begin the third step in preparing adjustments for the state's annual budget. Members of the House of Representatives are expected to prepare their proposal in subcommittees, members of the full Appropriations Committee may then go over it next week, and the full chamber may vote on it also next week, Rep. Nelson Dollar (R-Wake) told WRAL-TV.

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.

photo of the North Carolina Senate
Government & Heritage Library, State Library of NC / Flickr

Senate leaders have released their proposed budget for the next fiscal year. They’re looking to spend about 21 billion dollars. Their plan would make substantial changes to the Medicaid program - and would scale back several state agencies, including the Department of Justice. Senate leaders also proposed hefty pay raises for public school teachers. 

For months now, Senate leaders have made it very clear that they want to give teachers pay raises. But they’ve been pretty coy about the details until this week.

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