Warren's Weekly: budget battle rolls on in Raleigh

Following is a press release issued by Rep. Harry Warren, representing District 77 in the North Carolina General Assembly.

Agreement on a new state budget has proven elusive to legislators, according to Rowan County Representative Harry Warren, (R-District 77).  In this week's update, Representative Warren writes about the budget stalemate and other issues in this week's unedited version of Warren's Weekly:"

This a quick recap of last week's legislative activities. Although budget negotiations seem to remain at an impasse, there is good reason to expect the current short session to end soon. There comes a time when one has to accept that the current situation is as good as it is going to get and it is time to move on.

The time for the House and Senate to agree to disagree may be close at hand.

North Carolina already has an approved budget for this year - the purpose of the "short" session is to make adjustments to it based on the performance of the first year budget. It is reasonable to make course corrections that would be more advantageous for the state before beginning a new fiscal year; however, the conferees for both chambers seem incapable of reaching an accord even now as the new fiscal year has begun. (The new fiscal year began on July 1, 2014.)

This same power struggle between the two chambers has happened in the past when Democrats controlled both chambers, House and Senate. It has less to do with political ideology than it does with methodology, prioritization of state responsibilities and, to some degree, gamesmanship.

The system does provide some limited recourse in the event the General Assembly fails to concur. The Governor does have some discretionary power to redirect certain funds and he may elect to exercise those contingencies that are available to him, once the General Assembly adjourns. In the meantime, the conferees from both chambers will continue to negotiate and work hard to reach an agreement.

Here is a recap of last week's activities:

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

Last week, the Senate passed:

HB 644, Prevent Hazardous Drug Exposure. This is now on the Governor's desk awaiting his action.

HB 375, Increase Allowed Size of Passenger Buses. This became law on July 17, the day it was ratified.

HB 1145, Insurance and Registration for Mopeds. Because the language was changed in the Senate, this bill has now been sent back to the House for review.

HB 101, Special License Plate Development Process.  Because of changes to the language, the House will need to review and vote on these changes, which should happen at one of the sessions this week.

HB 369, Criminal Law Changes.

Both the House and Senate adopted the conference report for SB 812, Replace Common Core with NC's Higher Academic Standards.  The bill has been sent to the Governor for his signature.


Conference Committee on SB 744, Appropriations Act of 2014

House budget conferees met on Monday, July 14.  Representative Dollar stated that there has been a lot of progress made in various parts of the budget with the House and Senate, but not on education or health care related provisions.  House members discussed differences between the House and Senate offers.

On Tuesday afternoon, both the House and Senate conferees met.  The Senate made another budget offer to the House.  The Senate offer included a plan to raise teacher pay eight percent and second-grade teaching assistants would be funded for another year.  The Senate also offered to simplify the teacher salary schedule.

Senate Finance Committee

The Senate Finance Committee met on Tuesday, July 15, and Wednesday, July 16.  On Tuesday, the Committee approved HB 1145, Insurance & Registration for Mopeds, which would require mopeds operated on highways or public vehicular areas to be registered with the Division of Motor Vehicles and to be covered by insurance.  This bill subsequently passed the Senate and has been returned to the House for concurrence with a change in the bill's language.

On Wednesday, the Committee heard and approved three public bills plus one local bill.  The public bills:

HB 101, Special License Plate Development Process, which would reauthorize certain expired special registration plates, authorize additional registration plates with a special background, and establish a process by which persons must obtain a minimum number of paid applications prior to obtaining legislative approval for a new special registration plate.

HB 1033, Special Assessment/Dam Repair, which would authorize a special assessment on property owners around a lake to be used for repairs to the lake's dam.

HB 1224, Local Sales Tax for Education/Econ Dev. Changes, that would limit local sales and use taxes to 2.5% (certain counties are authorized to levy these taxes up to 2.75% currently), allow counties to use the proceeds of a portion of the local option sales and use tax for public transportation for public education purposes instead, expand the eligibility criteria for the Job Maintenance and Capital Development Fund, create a new Jobs Catalyst Fund to provide funding for recruitment of large manufacturing projects (though no money is currently appropriated for the fund), and provide a one-time increase in the limit on JDIG grants that may be awarded during the 2013-15 fiscal biennium.

Senate Rules Committee

The Senate Rules Committee met on July 15, 16 and 17.  On Tuesday, the Committee approved HB 644,Prevent Hazardous Drug Exposure, which would require the Commissioner of Labor to adopt rules to establish requirements for the handling of antineoplastic agents in facilities where there is occupational exposure to such agents.

On Wednesday, the Committee approved HB 369, Criminal Law Changes, which makes numerous changes in various areas of criminal law (including reducing the level of offense for possession of marijuana paraphernalia and increasing the levels of offense for providing a cell phone to an inmate or for assaulting or threatening others in retaliation for actions by certain government officials) and clarifying the local government contracts to which e-Verify applies.

On Thursday, the Committee approved four bills:

HB 201, Building Reutilization for Economic Dev. Act, which would amend the applicability of the Energy Conservation Code to certain existing nonresidential buildings, clarify and reinstate various requirements related to storm water, create an exemption from the North Carolina Environmental Protection Act for the reoccupation of an existing building, and allow more localities to access building reuse funds administered by the Rural Economic Development Division.

HB 1056, Lake Lure Official Map, that would make technical amendments to the charter of the Town of Lake Lure related to the town's map.

SB 883, Disapprove/Amend Buffer Rules, which would disapprove certain rules adopted by the Environmental Management Commission and provide further direction to the Commission on the adoption of buffer rules.

HB 1181, North Carolina Medicaid Modernization, that which would direct a reform of the State's Medicaid program using provider-led and non-provider-led capitated health plans to take on all financial risks (other than enrollment numbers and mix) associated with the program and would create a new Department of Medical Benefits to develop and implement this reform plan.

Senate Commerce Committee

The Senate Commerce Committee met on Wednesday and Senator Barringer chaired the meeting.  The Committee considered HB 680, Jump-Start Our Business Start-Ups Act.  HB 680 would allow North Carolina residents to have the ability to invest small amounts of money in new state ventures through crowd funding.  The Senate also added SB 522, the New Markets Jobs Act, to HB 680.  HB 680 passed the Committee and has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee for further consideration.

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