NC General Assembly

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.

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:

North Carolina legislative building
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

  

State lawmakers have less than six weeks to construct and pass a budget before the beginning of the next fiscal year. 

The Senate released its spending plan last night, providing raises for teachers in return for sacrificing tenure. The General Assembly is also considering an overhaul to the tax code.

Meanwhile, 14 protesters from the Moral Monday movement were arrested after an overnight sit-in.

Host Frank Stasio talks with WUNC Capitol Bureau Chief Jessica Jones about the latest from the legislature.

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

North Carolina lawmakers continued moving quickly through their short legislative session on Wednesday. A brief summary on teacher pay, fracking and taxes:
 
Republican Senate leaders came out with a plan to raise teacher pay. On average, they want to offer an 11 percent raise. But teachers would only be eligible if they give up their tenure. Senators say the state would spend close to half a billion dollars, and are expected to elaborate today on where that money will come from.
 

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.

Senate Republicans released a plan on Wednesday to provide what they call the "largest teacher pay raise in state history." The plan calls for an average 11 percent raise for teachers as long as they give up career status, otherwise known as tenure. Teachers who choose to not give up their job protections would stay on the current pay plan and not receive any increases. 

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.

School bus
Dave DeWitt

 State lawmakers are considering a bill that would reduce funds for school buses over the next five years. 

The House bill would limit the number of spare buses and their replacement parts, while revising the state inspection process for school bus maintenance.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Julia Howard (R-Davie, Forsyth), says the legislation would make school bus operations more efficient, while saving about $19 million in recurring funds over the years.

North Carolina Legislative building
NC General Assembly

  Moral Monday protests resume as the General Assembly's short session continues. Protestors visit individual lawmakers today to lobby for Medicaid expansion, unemployment insurance and education reform. Last week, the North Carolina Senate approved a fracking bill and tentatively approved a regulatory overhaul. Both pieces of legislation may face challenges in the House. 

Electronic Cigarettes
Leoneda Inge

Reynolds American is forging ahead with its electronic cigarette brand.  The announcement was made Friday in Tobaccoville.

Reynolds American CEO Susan Cameron says it’s time for everybody to have the chance to try out their VUSE digital vapor cigarette. 

“It it’s selling like hot cakes, you need more hot cakes,” said Cameron.

And Cameron had no problem whipping out her personal VUSE.

“Yes, this is a VUSE, I tried it, and I actually use it, it’s spectacular.”

State Senate chamber
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

  The North Carolina Senate has tentatively passed a sweeping, 62-page bill that would make several changes to state regulations.

The proposal includes provisions that cover a lot of ground – everything from banning cursing on the highways to increasing penalties for parking in handicapped spaces or for violating endangered species.  

Many Senate leaders say the bill is meant to make state rule-making more efficient, while increasing protections for the environment and public.

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.

Photo: A pond in Lee County
Donald Lee Pardue via Flickr

Two North Carolina legislative committees recommended on Tuesday that the state begin issuing permits in July next year for mining companies to extract natural gas in the state using a controversial drilling method known as fracking.

State lawmakers looked at different types of fracking legislation in 2012 and 2013. On Tuesday, the senate’s commerce and finance committees sent the bill to the senate floor for a vote. Sen. Buck Newton (R-Wilson) is one of the sponsors.

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.

Image of Ken Rudin, the Political Junkie
kenrudinpolitics.com

It’s been a busy week for North Carolina politics.

The race for North Carolina’s congressional seat in the 2nd District is set. Former American Idol star Clay Aiken will face incumbent Republican Renee Ellmers in November.

State lawmakers also returned to Raleigh this week. They got started with new rules about protesting at the General Assembly.

Host Frank Stasio talks with the Political Junkie, Ken Rudin about North Carolina politics.

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.

teacher at blackboard
Wikimedia commons

Governor Pat McCrory released his $21 billion budget on Wednesday, setting aside $262.9 million for teacher raises and state employees. 

The governor and lawmakers have made it clear that teacher pay will be a major priority for this year’s short session, which is a time meant for lawmakers to adjust the budget approved last year. 

Teachers held their own “day of action” on Wednesday, the first day of the session. They outlined their demands and concerns in a morning press conference held by the North Carolina Association of Educators.

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

The first piece of legislation leaders of the North Carolina Senate introduced in this summer’s legislative session looks at Duke Energy’s 33 coal ash ponds across the state.

That means that on Wednesday, their first day in session this year, the senate’s Republican leadership sent a clear signal that it’s a priority for them to resolve the state’s issue of toxic coal ash dumps. What they didn't send was a clear picture of how they want to resolve it.

Photo: The Raging Grannies
Jessica Jones

Dozens of demonstrators clinked and banged pots, pans and spoons outside of the North Carolina General Assembly’s offices in Raleigh on Wednesday morning, protesting recent state laws, as senators and representatives met for their first day in session this year.

The demonstration, in which people held signs protesting issues such as a Voter ID law passed last year, low teacher pay, and low unemployment benefits, served as a prelude for a series of demonstrations set for Mondays while lawmakers are in session.

Thom Tillis speaking
http://thomtillis.com/

House Speaker Thom Tillis laid out his goals for this year's General Assembly short session Wednesday.  He said the ultimate accomplishment for lawmakers will be making adjustments to the state budget in a timely manner. 

Tillis said he and other legislative leaders hope their actions over the next several weeks will support the governor in his efforts to put some long awaited raises into effect.

North Carolina legislative building
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.

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