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Mar 8, 2019

NCGA Week in Review

The North Carolina State Board of Education met this week, Governor Roy Cooper unveiled his billion dollar budget proposal, legislators discussed school safety and small business insurance, and House lawmakers enjoyed some of North Carolina’s official state frozen treat after passing  HB30: Official State Frozen Treat on Wednesday.

As filing closes today, a total of 18 people have officially filed to run for the late U.S. Representative Walter Jones’ seat in the third Congressional District. The list of candidates includes 12 Republicans, four Democrats, one Libertarian, and one Constitution Party candidate.

North Carolina legislators will be busy again next week. Monday, both the House and the Senate will re-convene – the Senate at 2:00pm and the House at 7:00pm.


Governor’s Budget

Governor Roy Cooper unveiled his $25.2 billion budget proposal this week, emphasizing education, health care, and infrastructure for North Carolina. In each of the past two years, Governor Cooper has vetoed the legislative budgets, only to have those vetoes overridden. The $25.2 billion in spending is a 5.4 percent increase over the 2018-19 budget of $23.9 billion. Under this budget plan, spending would increase by another 2.9 percent, to $25.96 billion, for the following fiscal year.

Among the most notable items in Governor Cooper’s budget:

General Government & Information Technology

  • Broadband Connectivity – investment of $30 million to increase access and improve service to underserved households, businesses, and community anchor institutions through last mile projects

Commerce

  • Employer Training Fund – Supporting Employer Innovation & Workplace Training gives $10 million for a competitive grant program to assist employers in providing work-based learning opportunities to develop their workforce talent pipelines
  • Carolina Small Business Development Fund – provides 2.5 million to help support small business loans and financial training to start-ups and existing businesses

Transportation

  • Places a $3.9 billion General Obligation Bond on the November 2020 ballot asking voters to address key infrastructure needs across the State
  • Increases funding to the Highway Trust Fund’s Strategic Investment Program by $20.4 million in FY 2019-20 and $108.5 million in FY 2020-21
  • Provides over $305 million in additional state support during 2019-2021 for greater resiliency including highway maintenance, pavement preservation, and contract resurfacing

Education

  • $29 million to increase funding for textbooks, digital resources, instructional supplies, and enhanced digital learning opportunities that support personalized instruction

Health & Human Services

  • Includes $1 million to support local Food Banks who have increased demand due to hurricanes

Justice & Public Safety

  • Improving Disaster Response and Recovery – maintains national standards for readiness in the event of a disaster by providing $1.5 million to statewide search and rescue teams for training and equipment maintenance
  • Includes $250,000 for North Carolina 2-1-1 network to provide information and assistance in times of disaster or emergency, and funding for additional Emergency Management positions to assist in disaster recovery and resiliency

School Safety Legislation

Months of deliberations for House legislators culminated in a final, unanimous vote Thursday on a package of school safety proposals. HB76: School Safety Omnibus and several other related measures come following the findings of a House study committee. HB76 would put threat assessment teams at every public school, require annual vulnerability assessments for school buildings, establish peer-to-peer support programs in middle and high schools, and require training for school resource officers.

Rep. Kandie Smith (D-Pitt) proposed an amendment during session Thursday that adds “racial equity” to the topics covered during school resource officer training. Even though more than half of House Republicans voted against Rep. Smith’s proposal, the amendment passed 78-32. HB76 will now move to the Senate for discussion.


Armed Teachers

The House and Senate both filed bills over the last two weeks pushing for North Carolina teachers to be allowed to carry guns in schools. Filed Wednesday, SB 192: The School Security Act of 2019 would increase the salaries of teachers who underwent a specialized police training program to carry firearms on campus. The same bill was filed last year but never made it out of committee. Now, the bill has some new sponsors. Sen. Jerry Tillman (R-Randolph) believes this idea’s time has come and will provide the legislation with more support this year. The bill would ensure that which teachers were armed was kept confidential.

Last Thursday, the House filed HB216: School Self-Defense Act would allow for teachers to be armed on campus, but did not include the extra pay. This bill was also filed last year but, again, did not make it out of committee.


Small Business Insurance

SB86: Small Business Healthcare Act, which would provide small businesses more options for employee health insurance, was given a few tweaks by legislators in committee this week. The bill would allow small businesses that employ fewer than 50 people to come together with other businesses through an association in order to receive better insurance rates. Following concerns from the N.C. Medical Society, the Senate Health Committee released a substitute for the bill Wednesday that would clarify that an association insurance plan must cover at least 500 people, including spouses and children.

The committee proposed another amendment on Thursday that addresses the bill’s longevity requirement for associations seeking to create member health insurance plans. Associations would be required to be in existence for at least two years. Sen. Joyce Krawiec (R-Forsyth) proposed the amendment that would apply the two-year requirement to the newest associations in situations where several existing associations come together to create an insurance plan. Sen. Krawiec believes the clarification is need for times when multiple chambers of commerce want to come together in offering insurance plans to their member businesses. The existence requirement aims at ensuring groups are established enough to provide reliable insurance. The amended SB86 passed the Senate Health Committee Thursday and will now move to Senate Finance.


Upcoming Legislative Meetings

Monday, March 11

1:00PM: Joint Legislative Program Evaluation Oversight Committee

1:00PM Senate: Select Committee on Prison Safety

2:00PM Senate: Session Convenes

3:00PM House: Rules, Calendar, and Operations of the House

7:00PM House: Session Convenes

Tuesday, March 12

8:30AM House: Appropriations, Transportation (Joint)

8:30AM House: Appropriations, Justice and Public Safety (Joint)

8:30AM Senate: Joint Appropriations on Education/Higher Education

8:30AM House: Appropriations, General Government (Joint)

8:30AM Senate: Joint Appropriations on General Government and Information Technology

8:30AM House: Appropriations, Health and Human Services (Joint)

8:30AM Senate: Joint Appropriations on Health and Human Services

9:00AM House: Appropriations, Agriculture and Natural and Economic Resources (Joint)

9:00AM Senate: Joint Appropriations on Agriculture, Natural, and Economic Resources

10:00AM House: Transportation

10:00AM House: Health

11:00AM House: Education – Community Colleges

1:00PM House: Education – K-12

2:00PM House: Wildlife Resources

3:00PM House: Homeland Security, Military, and Veterans Affairs

Wednesday, March 13

8:30AM Senate: Appropriations on Education/Higher Education (Joint)

8:30AM House: Appropriations, Health and Human Services (Joint)

8:30AM Senate: Joint Appropriations on Health and Human Services

9:00AM Senate: Joint Appropriations on Agriculture, Natural, and Economic Resources

10:00AM House: Commerce

Thursday, March 14

8:30AM Senate: Joint Appropriations on Education/Higher Education

8:30AM House: Appropriations, Health and Human Services (Joint)

8:30AM Senate: Joint Appropriations on Health and Human Services

9:00AM Senate: Joint Appropriations on Agriculture, Natural, and Economic Resources