Raleigh, N.C. — House lawmakers gave tentative approval Monday night to a bill clarifying funding for the Coal Ash Management Commission and the board reviewing the state's Common Core academic standards.
However, they voted to remove a section of Senate Bill 14 that would have taken $100,000 from the Department of Public Instruction to pay for the Rules Review Commission's legal defense against a lawsuit filed by DPI.
"The purpose of Section 1 has gone away," said amendment sponsor Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake.
The DPI lawsuit, filed last November, consists of seven claims. The first three claims challenge the RRC's authority to oversee the State Board of Education. The final four claims question the constitutionality of the Rules Review Commission itself.
Stam said the $100,000 transfer was intended to pay for "a second set of lawyers" to defend against the final four claims.
"The plaintiff in that case dismissed those claims," Stam said. "We saved $100,000 this week – on lawyers, no less."
The amendment passed 110-4.
Another major House change to the legislation sets aside $300,000 in Department of Health and Human Services funding to pay the State Auditor's Office to complete a statewide performance audit of each county's management of Medicaid eligibility determinations.
Senate Bill 14 passed its first of two House readings 113-1. It's scheduled for a final vote Tuesday and then returns to the Senate, which may or may not agree with the House's changes.
Senate leaders who initially proposed the $100,000 charge said in a Feb. 3 committee meeting that it was intended as a message to DPI.
"If they’re going to go out and file these frivolous lawsuits," said Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson, at that meeting, "we may have to revisit this and go out and find more money."