News: CJ Exclusives

NCGA Preview: Week of May 23

Senate to debate, take amendments on budget

The political back-and-forth between Republicans and Democrats will continue this week when the North Carolina Senate rolls out its budget for the coming fiscal year and lawmakers try to agree on extending unemployment benefits.

Initial reports suggested the Senate’s spending plan would make even deeper cuts to education than the version passed by the House in early May. But top Republicans now say their budget will devote more to public K-12 education and the university system.

North Carolinians will get a first glance at the Senate’s budget Tuesday morning when appropriations committees begin debate. The amendment process is scheduled to start Wednesday.

One critical addition to the Senate budget: an extension of unemployment benefits for an estimated 42,000 North Carolina residents. Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said the spending proposal would include a solution to the standoff that has dragged on for weeks.

Perdue used a press conference Thursday to blister Republicans over the issue, again accusing them of holding unemployed workers hostage. “These are real people,” Perdue said. “They’re not hostages to be held by the Republican leaders in this little-boy game of one-upmanship.”

Berger shot back on Twitter: “These are just the kind of games we don’t need right now. We need to work together to get things done.”

Key bills

In other legislative news, the House is poised to pass a bill Monday night that would allow taxpayers to donate a portion of their state income tax refunds to state government. Commonly known as the “tax me more” fund, the measure passed the House Government Committee last week in a 23-11 vote.

On Wednesday, the House will take up House Bill 115, North Carolina Health Benefit Exchange. The measure directs the state to takes its first step in implementing the federal health care reform law, even while Republicans attempt to exempt the state from portions of it.

Indications are that House Bill 129, Level Playing Field/Local Gov’t Competition, will become law without Perdue’s signature. The governor said Friday she would neither veto nor sign the bill, allowing it to became law shortly.

MAJOR LEGISLATION

House Bill 200, Appropriations Act of 2011, Rep. Harold Brubaker, R-Randolph

Senate Bill 8, No Cap on Number of Charter Schools, Sen. Richard Stevens, R-Wake

House Bill 542, Tort Reform for Citizens and Businesses, Rep. Johnathan Rhyne, R-Lincoln

Senate Bill 709, Energy Jobs Act, Sen. Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenburg

House Bill 845, Annexation Reform Act of 2011, Rep. Stephen LaRoque, R-Lenoir

KEY COMMITTEE HEARINGS

A list of the regularly scheduled House Committee meetings can be found here.

• The Senate Appropriations Committee on Health and Human Services will hear H.B. 200, Appropriations Act of 2011, at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, May 24.

• The Senate Appropriations Committee on the Department of Transportation will hear H.B. 200, Appropriations Act of 2011, at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, May 24.

• The Senate Appropriations Committee on General Government and Information Technology will hear H.B. 200, Appropriations Act of 2011, at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, May 24.

• The House Education Committee will hear H.B. 823, Governance of the Dep’t of Public Instruction, at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, May 24.

David N. Bass is an associate editor of Carolina Journal.