Apr 18, 2011
NCGA Week in Review, 4/11-4/15
House Lays out Budget Spending Plans
House budget subcommittees released their awaited proposals that will close a budget gap of $2.6 billion without raising taxes. House Speaker Thom Tillis said that he expects most House budget deliberations to be complete by the end of this week, still anticipating meeting their final budget goal of June 1. This week the House is expected to begin votes on specific areas that have been identified as most likely the targets for spending reductions. These are just proposals, and committees will review these recommendations for cuts, with votes expected on what should and shouldn’t be included in the House version of the state budget.
The subcommittees covering the six major areas of state government released proposals with budget proposal cuts, highlights including:
- Overall: 16%
- General Assembly Budget: 16%
- Governor/Lieutenant Governor: 15%
- Department of Revenue: 14%
- State Board of Elections: 34%
- State Treasurer: 37%
Health & Human Services
- Overall: 11%
- Smart Start: 20%
(More at Four and Smart Start programs moved under Division of Child Development)
- Division of Medical Assistance (Medicaid): 10.1%
- Overall: 10%
- State Universities: 15.5%
- Elementary/Secondary: 8.5%
- Community Colleges: 10%
- Eliminate the “urban loop” program
(Funds the construction of beltline and other major highways in and near major NC cities.)
- Transfer $132.1 million from 2011-2012 urban loop project funds into the “mobility fund.”
(Funds high-dollar transportation projects considered to be of statewide importance.)
- Require NC Ferry Division to raise $7.7 million in additional revenue by 2013.
Natural & Economic Resources
- Overall: 25%
- Department of Environment & Natural Resources (DENR): $166 million cut.
- Cut 240 DENR positions
Justice & Public Safety
- Overall: 5.7%
(ncludes addition of $58 million from new court fees.)
- Merge the Departments of Corrections, Juvenile Justice, and Crime Control and Public Safety..
Review all subcomittee budget proposal and special provisions.
Governor Vetoes Bill Addressing Unemployment Benefits & Budget Resolution
Governor Perdue vetoed a bill Saturday night passed by the General Assembly that addressed the extension of unemployment benefits and a continuing budget resolution cutting the Governor's proposed budget by 13% if a budget is not approved by June. The issue arose after the state realized they had to revise the unemployment benefits formula in order to extend benefits for another 20 weeks. In addition, Republican legislators included a resolution in attempts to avoid a budget shutdown if a budget is not passed by the June 20 deadline, a measure that would fund the state at 87 percent of the Governor's proposed budget.
With the Governor's weekend veto, the General Assembly will now have to take votes to override the veto on the full measure or introduce two separate bills dealing with the unemployment benefits and continuing resolution separately. Any measure related to the unemployment benefits would be retroactive to the benefits expiring on Saturday.
Tort Reform Proposals Clear House Committee
After several weeks of debate, the House Tort Reform Committee passed two significant pieces of legislation addressing tort reform. HB 542, a general tort reform bill addresses a number of civil liability issues including medical malpractice, attorney fees in small claims cases, product liability, credentials for expert witnesses, and trespassing laws. SB 33, which has already passed the Senate addresses medical malpractice by capping non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases at $500,000, bifurcates trials in civil cases, and provides for periodic payments of future economic damages in medical malpractice cases.
Both bills are expected to be heard by the full House as early as Wednesday of this week.
Terminal Groins Legislation Moves Forward in the House
Following passage in the House, the Senate Environment committee approved legislation that would allow terminal groins in our state after being banned for decades. The committee approved an amendment allowing only three structures – two publicly built and one private. The original bill passed by the Senate would have permitted two groins at each inlet in the state. The Senate bill's sponsor, Sen. Harry Brown, R-Onslow, opposed the amendment. He said he believed that limiting the number would result in a situation where the towns with the most money would be able to build groins, while those that need a groin the most won't. "To me, it's a fairness issue," Brown said.
The bill is scheduled for a House floor vote as early as tomorrow, (4/19), where upon passage it will return to the Senate to approve/disapprove the changes made in the House.
Charter Schools Proposal Hits Roadblock
Following final passage in the House, the measure expanding charter schools hit a roadblock after the Senate voted to reject the changes (compromise) that the House made recently to the bill. After weeks of negotiations, the House developed a new version of the proposal which, among others things required charter schools to provide meal assistance to poor students and diminished the autonomy of a new independent commission overseeing the schools. In the end, despite the negotiations Democrats still remained opposed to the bill in the House. This past week, the Senate rejected the changes to the bill they originally passed, stating that too many differences to the original bill passed of which deserved further discussion.
Given the rejection in the Senate, the bill will now go to conference committee where both House and Senate members will negotiate a final piece of legislation.
Negotiations on the State Health Plan Legislation Continues...
The Governor this past week vetoed the bill aimed at keeping the state health plan solvent. Following the veto, House Speaker Thom Tillis offered to make concessions in the amount of $14 million to exempt teachers under the basic coverage plan from paying monthly premiums; however that offer was not accepted. Meanwhile, the Senate voted successfully 30-15 on a party-line vote to override the Governor's veto.
Reports indicate that Speaker Tillis most recently met with the Governor and state employees this past Friday evening to continue negotiations. It is expected that a new version of the bill will be heard in the House Insurance committee as early as tomorrow (4/19), facing a federal deadline this Thursday under the federal Affordable Care Act.