Senate President Phil Berger

Lawmakers returned to Raleigh today to begin preparation for their first legislative session of the year. 

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

A few members of the North Carolina House of Representatives will be back in Raleigh for a skeleton session today, but no real business is expected to be conducted. Technically, they need to be there to keep the legislature in session. That’s because they couldn’t agree with their colleagues in the Senate on one of their main priorities this summer – what to do about 33 coal ash dumps around the state.

This story starts in February this year, and you might have seen it on national newscasts.

Teachers and supporters carried heavy cardboard boxes of petition signatures calling lawmakers to raise the teacher pay to the national average.
Reema Khrais

 A group of teachers and supporters dropped off a 61,000-signature petition to lawmakers on Thursday, demanding pay raises that do not result in destructive cuts to public education.

They carried the 14 heavy and large cardboard boxes to the offices of Senate Leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Thom Tillis, who are currently leading the efforts to raise teacher pay. 

Phil Berger
Dave DeWitt

Bryan Proffitt fully expected to go to jail Monday night. He spent most of the day at Hillside High School, where he teaches history, proctoring exams. A few hours after the final school bell, he was in an upstairs auditorium at the state Legislature, rallying supporters.

“We’re generally a pleasant and rule-following bunch,” he said. “But when you attack our students, when you threaten our schools and our communities and their families and you bully us and our co-workers, than you’d better prepare for what happens next.”

State Senator Phil Berger
Dave DeWitt

The head of North Carolina's state Senate, Phil Berger, says he's looking forward to beginning this year's six-week legislative session.

What's known as the short session is intended primarily to make budget adjustments to the state's two-year budget cycle. Berger says that is the main focus of the session, which starts next Wednesday.

"This session we intend to continue the work that we've engaged in over the past three years and we intend to pursue further those policies that have proved successful over the past three years," says Berger.