The General Assembly’s final deal on a $22.3 billion General Fund budget includes spending growth of 2.8 percent, teacher pay raises averaging 4.7 percent, state employee raises and bonuses, more than $400 million in additional savings for the state’s rainy-day fund, and more income tax relief targeting low- and middle-income earners. Becki Gray, the John Locke Foundation’s vice president for outreach, analyzes key elements of the budget plan. One of the last items the General Assembly considered for its 2016 session was a proposal to set a new upper limit on the state’s income tax rate. A constitutional amendment would cap the tax rate at 5.5 percent, lower than the current rate of 5.75 percent and slightly above the new rate of 5.499 percent that’s already scheduled to take effect in 2017. You’ll hear highlights from legislative debate over building income tax limits into the state’s governing document. As the state has moved forward with a program to compensate living victims of forced sterilization tied to eugenics, advocates have discovered that some victims were ineligible for compensation because local governments had overseen their sterilizations. A bill in the General Assembly was designed to address that issue by allowing the state’s largest counties to set up their own eugenics compensation policies. Some N.C. lawmakers want to reconfirm their support for the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution. The N.C. House voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution praising the Bill of Rights, though some members used the vote as an opportunity to score political points linked to other constitutional provisions. Natural gas beats solar and wind as a low-cost energy source, with better environmental impacts, more efficiency, and better reliability. Those are key conclusions from the latest research report from Jon Sanders, JLF director of regulatory studies. Sanders explains why natural gas serves as a key component in keeping consumers’ electricity prices as low as possible.