House lawmakers are set to take their first votes on proposals that would trim $2 billion from the state budget by cutting or eliminating dozens of state agencies and programs. The debate is likely to dominate this week in the General Assembly as partisans from both sides of the aisle jockey for position.
Redistricting will continue to drawn attention when legislators hold another round of public hearings Wednesday. Look for the same with a sweeping charter-school reform law. A joint committee is poised to resolve differences between the House and Senate versions and create a compromise that Republicans hope will dodge a veto.
On the topic of vetoes, the House and Senate ratified a bill in an unusual Saturday session meant to strengthen Republicans’ hand when it comes to budget negotiations with the governor. The bill included renewal of federal unemployment benefits that were set to expire.
Perdue vetoed the measure late Saturday, however, forcing Republicans to reconsider their strategy this week.
“The General Assembly has once again shown they are willing to play games with people’s lives in holding hostage some 37,000 unemployed North Carolinians,” said Perdue’s spokeswoman, Chrissy Pearson, in a statement. “But to sign the bill and suffer the extreme cuts proposed by Republicans would risk the future of this state and the lives of 9.5 million citizens.”
Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, issued his own statement in response to the news. “Republicans voted to extend unemployment benefits and prevent a government shutdown, but the governor is too addicted to state spending to support either of those efforts. She should be ashamed of herself,” Berger said.
House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, also chided Perdue for the veto. “With her third veto in four days, Gov. Perdue has simultaneously denied 37,000 North Carolinians extended unemployment benefits and she has proven that she places her political agenda ahead of providing economic certainty for counties, schools and businesses,” he said.
Among non-fiscal topics this week, federal light-rail funding could be the most contentious. The House Transportation Committee will hear House Bill 422, No High-Speed Rail Money from Federal Gov’t., on Tuesday afternoon. The measure would give the legislature more control over spending federal taxpayer money to upgrade the state’s railroad corridor between Raleigh and Charlotte.
Also this week, the House Rules Committee is expected to take up House Bill 845, Reform Annexation Laws. Another measure — Senate Bill 27, Involuntary Annexation Moratorium — already has passed the Senate and is awaiting movement in the House.
House Bill 215, Unborn Victims of Violence Act/Ethen’s Law, could be on its way to Perdue if the House votes to concur with the Senate version. The measure would mirror federal law in recognizing a separate, unborn victim in the event of a violent attack on a pregnant woman.
On Wednesday, the Senate will take up Senate Bill 141, Concealed Carry/DA, Ass’t DA, Investigator for a possible floor vote. The legislation would exempt district attorneys and members of their offices who have concealed handgun permits from prohibitions on carrying firearms in certain areas.
• House Bill 129, Level Playing Field/Local Gov’t Competition, Rep. Marilyn Avila, R-Wake
• House Bill 422, No High-Speed Rail Money from Federal Gov’t, Rep. Ric Killian, R-Mecklenburg
• Senate Bill 8, No Cap on Number of Charter Schools, Sen. Richard Stevens, R-Wake
• Senate Bill 33, Medical Liability Reforms, Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson
• House Bill 542, Tort Reform for Citizens and Businesses, Rep. Johnathan Rhyne, R-Lincoln
KEY COMMITTEE HEARINGS
A list of the regularly scheduled House Committee meetings can be found here.
• The House Insurance Committee will hear House Bill 115, North Carolina Health Benefit Exchange, at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, April 19.
• The House Rules Committee will hear House Bill 845, Reform Annexation Laws, 15 minutes after session on Tuesday, April 19.
• The House Transportation Committee will hear House Bill 422, No High-Speed Rail Money from Federal Gov’t., 15 minutes after session on Tuesday, April 19.
• The Joint Regulatory Reform Committee will hold a public hearing on Thursday, at 12:30 on Thursday, April 21.
• The Joint Legislative Program Evaluation Oversight Committee will hear a report on the Global Transpark at noon, Tuesday, April 19.
• House Bill 605, “Don’t Tread on Me” Special Plate, Sen. Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenburg
• Senate Bill 615, Nat’l Gas Exploration/Bond & Study, Sen. Bob Atwater, D-Chatham
• Senate Bill 627, Annexation Reform, Sen. Jim Davis, R-Macon
David N. Bass is an associate editor of Carolina Journal.