NC General Assembly

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.

photo of the NC legislature
Wikimedia

    

Republican senators walked out of budget negotiations this morning at the General Assembly this morning. The move followed House Republican Senior Chairman Nelson Dollar's call for educators to speak to the joint body.

"One of the reasons why we felt it was important to bring folks forward is that if these are going to be public meetings, let's have some public input," Dollar said. 

But Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown said Representative Dollar overstepped when he called for outside testimony.

As part of the 2013-14 state budget, the State Board of Education is required to study virtual charter schools and propose draft rules.
Ian Usher via Flickr

As budget writers at the North Carolina General Assembly are meeting this week to work toward an agreement on the state's spending plan, there about a dozen more bills they have not yet approved.
 
Some, such as a bill to clean up Duke Energy's 33 coal ash ponds to prevent contamination to the state's waterways, or a bill to repeal parts of the national Common Core academic standards for public school student performance, have been promoted as high priorities by lawmakers since they convened in May, and are likely to be negotiated and sent to Gov. Pat McCrory for signature.

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.
 

The cleanup for the 2008 Tennessee coal ash disaster. Image taken March 2012.
Appalachian Voices / via Creative Commons/Flickr

At the General Assembly, lawmakers are getting close to finalizing a bill outlining the future of Duke Energy’s 33 coal ash ponds. Lawmakers have been looking into the situation since February, when 39,000 tons of ash leaked from one pond and coated the Dan River with gray sludge.

The issue of 100 million tons of coal ash in ponds across the state has been slowly growing over the past century.

Utility companies burned coal to generate electricity, cooled off the ashes by mixing them with water, and dumped them into unlined ponds.

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.

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

The Moral Monday protests from Raleigh have garnered national attention over the past year. A key component of the protests has been media attention on arrests. Dozens were arrested this year for various non-violent offenses, a move some say is becoming an overt aim of many protestors.

Amy Laura Hall is a professor of ethics at the Duke Divinity School.  She has participated in the Moral Monday protests from the start, but she says the tactic of getting arrested -- or "orderly submission" as she calls it -- is flawed.   

NC Legislative building
NC General Assembly

North Carolina lawmakers say they want to break the impasse on a state budget this week. But those aren’t the only bills on their docket.

Leaders in the Senate and the House have been talking about Common Core and Coal Ash since they started meeting in May.

The Senate wants to consider keeping parts of Common Core, the national academic standards for public school students. The House wants to completely replace them.

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.
 

Iron Man
flickr

Film and television production companies in North Carolina currently receive tax refunds of 25 percent if they spend $250,000 or more. The incentives expire at the end of the year unless the General Assembly reinstates them in the budget. Critics say the incentives are too high given a number of permanent jobs the industry creates. But a report commissioned by industry players shows the state receives a positive return on its entertainment investment. 

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.

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