Warren's Weekly: fracking, common core, and coal ash

SALISBURY, NC (WBTV) - Each week Rowan County Representative Harry Warren, (R-District 77), provides WBTV with his weekly newsletter.  That newsletter is published weekly, unedited, as a public service.

This past week, the House and the Senate each named their respective conferees to the conference committee that will strive to resolve the differences between the two chambers' budget proposals.

It is hoped that they will reach a compromise and produce a Conference Report this week that will satisfy each chamber. If so, each chamber will vote to concur with the report and will then submit it to the Governor for his signature.

We appear to have the same priorities  in mind: a substantial raise for teacher; retracting the Common Core implementation; addressing the coal ash situation; continuing the deregulation of unnecessary, burdensome and/or outdated impediments to business growth; and, implementing meaningful Medicaid reforms, among other items.

While the short session's primary purpose is for budgetary adjustments, these major subjects, and others, demand immediate attention and cannot be delayed until the 2015 long session. In some cases, we can expect to see measures taken that will temporarily address an issue, while more time will be devoted to studying long-term or permanent solutions between now and the beginning of the new session in January.

I want to thank those of you who have sent me e-mails expressing your concerns about each of those subjects and others that you find of concern. Your input is greatly appreciated.

Until the budget has been resolved, the legislative schedule is a very fluid concept. Typically, the General Assembly begins work on Monday and completes its legislative work on Thursday. Members may remain in Raleigh to work on legislation or constituent service or they are free to return to their home districts for constituent service or their personal employment.

During this budgetary process, however, we could very easily be called into a Friday session; therefore, we have all been hesitant to commit to scheduling anything critical back in our districts on a Friday. Despite that possibility, I have scheduled the June Town Hall for this Friday, June 27thfrom 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm.  The meeting will be held at the County Commissioners' Chamberlocated at 130 West Innes Street, Salisbury.  Please be aware that it may need to be rescheduled or canceled at the last minute to comply with the needs of the House of Representatives in Raleigh.


Here is a recap of last week's activities at the General Assembly:

(Certain items of this report provided by and reprinted with the permission of MVA Public Affairs.)

Last week, the Governor signed SB 370, Respect for Student Prayer/Religious Activity, HB 573, Stormwater Management Fee Uses, HB 1060 Military Student Identifier, HB 1103, Verification/Jurisdiction in Juvenile Cases, into law. 
The Senate passed:
·         HB 1060, Military Student Identifier,
·         HB 1069, Unemployment Insurance Law Changes,
·         SB 815, Ensuring Privacy of Student Records,
·         SB 853, Business Court Modernization and
·         HB 1031, NC Economic Development Partnership Modifications.
The House passed:
·         HB 133, Charlotte Airport Commission Clarifications,
·         HB 1220, Hope 4 Haley and Friends, and
·         SB 38, Amend Environmental Laws 2014. 
Senate Agriculture/Environment/Natural Resources Committee:
The Committee met twice last week, Monday, June 16, and Tuesday, June 17, to address SB 729, Governor's Coal Ash Plan. A proposed committee substitute and a couple of amendments were adopted and added to the base bill.  The bill title also changed to the Coal Ash Management Act of 2014.  The bill would require Duke to close "high-risk" coal ash sites by August 1, 2019. Any rated as intermediate risks would have to be excavated and closed by December 31, 2024.  Those rated low-risk could be capped and left in place but would have to be closed by December 31, 2029.  The bill passed the Committee and was referred to the Senate Appropriations/Base Budget Committee. 
Senate Appropriations Subcommittee meetings:
All of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittees met on Tuesday, June 17.  Each Subcommittee reviewed the difference between the House passed budget and the Senate passed budget. 
Senate Commerce Committee:
The Committee met on Tuesday, June 17, and approved HB 1031, NC Econ. Dev. Partnership Modifications.  The bill establishes the framework for a private, nonprofit entity to take over many activities related to economic development and business recruitment.  In addition, the bill makes modifications to the Board of Science and Technology and creates new Collaboration for Prosperity Zones to provide one-stop locations for interactions with multiple State agencies. The bill has now passed both chambers of the General Assembly and has been presented to the Governor for approval.
Senate Appropriations/Base Budget Committee:
The Committee met twice last week.  On Wednesday, June 18, the Committee took up HB 1031 NC Economic Development Partnership Modifications and SB 729, the Coal Ash Management Act of 2014.  HB 1031 would establish the statutory framework that would allow the Department of Commerce to contract with a private, nonprofit entity for business development and recruitment activities. Both bills passed Committee and SB 729 was referred to the Senate Finance Committee. 
On Thursday, June 19, the Committee met and reviewed the House and Senate Medicaid budget differences. 
Senate Finance Committee:
The Senate Finance Committee met on Thursday, June 19, and approved seven bills including the following:
HB 346, Governing Bodies/Collect Unpaid Judgments, would allow counties and cities to attach and garnish the compensation paid to a member of the governing body if the county or city has been granted a money judgment against that member and the judgment has not been satisfied. 
HB 1034, Volunteer Fire and Rescue Finances (PED), would amend laws related to various firefighters' and rescue squad workers' relief funds, workers' compensation, and pension plans. 
SB 729, Coal Ash Management Act of 2014, would establish a legal framework with respect to the cleanup and management of coal ash ponds throughout the State. 
SB 742, Adjust the Utility Regulatory Fee, would allow the General Assembly to establish a different utility regulatory fee for the retail services of telecommunications providers that have elected an alternative method of regulation.
House Regulatory Reform Committee:
The House Regulatory Reform Committee met on Wednesday, June 18, to take up SB 493, 2014 Regulatory Reform Act. The omnibus bill would make numerous changes to State Statues.  After making additional changes in committee, the bill was given a favorable report and sent to the House floor.  SB 493 was ultimately re-referred to the House Regulatory Reform Committee for further review. 
House Finance Committee
The House Finance Committee met on Wednesday, June 18, and Thursday, June 19.  On Wednesday, the Committee approved six bills including five local bills. In addition, the Committee approved SB 493, 2014 Regulatory Reform Act.  The 32-page bill makes numerous changes to State Statutes.  SB 493 was then re-referred to the House Committee on Regulatory Reform.  That Committee made further changes to the bill before approving it.  Once approved by the Committee on Regulatory Reform, the bill was sent to the House floor, but was then sent back to the Committee on Regulatory Reform for further review.
On Thursday, the Committee approved 10 bills, including the following:
HB 1052, Adjust the Utility Regulatory Fee, which would allow the General Assembly to establish a different utility regulatory fee for the retail services of telecommunications providers that have elected an alternative method of regulation. 
HB 1145, Registration Required for Mopeds, which would require that mopeds be registered with the Division of Motor Vehicles. 
HB 1182, UNC Nonappropriated Capital Projects, which would authorize various capital projects in the University system to be paid for by receipts other than State appropriations.  
HB 1220, Hope 4 Haley and Friends, which would create a registry of patients, caregivers, and neurologists for the compassionate use of hemp extract for intractable epileptic disorders. 
SB 790, Cape Hatteras/Gas Cities/Infrastructure Land, which would phase in the sales tax on electricity sold by the Cape Hatteras Electric Membership Corporation and on piped natural gas sold by the eight gas cities over two years, would modify the infrastructure property tax deferral program, and would delay the change in the highway use tax base to include dealer administrative fees.
House Education Committee:
The House Education Committee met on Thursday, June 19, to address two bills:
SB 815, Ensuring Privacy of Student Records. This bill would require the State Board of Education to make information regarding the student data system available to the public, create rules and plans to ensure privacy and security of individual student data in the system, and restrict the collection certain data in the system. The bill would also require local school boards to provide notice on parental rights and opt-out opportunities regarding student records and participation in certain surveys.  SB 815 received a favorable report in Committee. 
SB 812, Maintain State Authority Over Academic Standards, which would repeal Common Core and establish a commission to study standards nationwide, including Common Core, and determine a new set of standards for North Carolina.  A committee substitute was adopted that gutted the Senate bill and replaced it with the language already passed by the House in HB 1061.  The major difference between the two pieces of legislation is that the Senate gives the new commission the option of looking at Common Core when developing the new set of standards for students.  Once the House gives final approval to SB 812, the two chambers will go to conference to iron out their differences.
House Health and Human Services Committee:
The House Health and Human Services Committee met on Thursday, June 19, and approved HB 1181, North Carolina Medicaid Modernization.  The bill would direct the Department of Health and Human Services to begin a restructuring of the State's Medicaid program by transitioning the program from a traditional fee-for-service plan to a system of provider-led networks that receive a capitated amount per Medicaid beneficiary and assume risks for cost overruns related to those beneficiaries.  The bill envisions that the implementation to the new system would be initiated by July 1, 2020. 
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