Raleigh, N.C. — When state Senate and state House leaders laid out their priorities for the current legislative session in early May, "focused" was a watchword. They would be taking up a few important items and then going home to hit the campaign trail.
There's no hard and fast rule for when the session will adjourn. However, lawmakers consistently say they don't expect to be in town past the end of June. So, with three-and-a-half weeks of session under our belts, and roughly three-and-a-half more to go, we're around at the halfway point.
Here's a look at what lawmakers have checked off their to-do lists and what still remains.
Passed and signed
McCrory signs tax changes into law Taxes: Gov. Pat McCrory has already signed a bill that makes adjustments to last year's sweeping tax reform measure. The most notable parts of the measure impose an excise tax on e-cigarettes and put an end to cities' ability to levy local business privilege license taxes. Lawmakers say they will replace that privilege license system next year before they expire for good, but there is no guarantee. With the exception of smaller issues, such as whether agricultural fairs must collect sales tax, lawmakers are finished tweaking the tax code for the year.
McCrory signs gas drilling bill Fracking: Energy companies will be able to apply for natural gas drilling permits next year thanks to a bill McCrory has signed. The measure will lift a moratorium on horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, a group of processes known as "fracking," sometime in the first half of next year, barring legislative action. Opponents of lifting the ban say lawmakers broke a promise when they lifted the moratorium without approving rules for drilling.
Bills still under review
Senate approves $21.1B spending plan The budget: State House lawmakers are getting ready to unveil their own spending plan now that the governor and the Senate have put forward their own versions of the $21.1 billion state budget.
Within the budget, there are two major issues legislative leaders say are "must-do." One is to find a way to give public school teachers raises; the other is to continue the state's pursuit of Medicaid reform. However, all indications are that the House, Senate and governor do not agree how to go about those two big-ticket items, meaning negotiating a final compromise could take a while.
Senate hears governor's coal ash plan Coal ash: The Feb. 2 coal ash spill on the Dan River grabbed headlines and had policymakers of all stripes declaring they would clean up coal ash ponds at 14 locations around the state. Senate leaders have given a public hearing to McCrory's proposed plan but say they will put forward their own bill. In particular, both Senate and House leaders say they want a bill that imposes firm deadlines on Duke Energy to clean up its coal ash sites.
House and Senate give tentative nods to Commerce reorganization Commerce Department: Both House and Senate lawmakers have given at least tentative approval to a plan that would turn the job-recruitment and marketing functions of the Commerce Department over to a public-private partnership. The new nonprofit would not be able to grant incentives but would be able to court businesses on behalf of North Carolina. The current version of the House plan would make employees of the nonprofit subject to public ethics disclosure requirements. The Senate version of the bill includes a new grant program to replace the state's current incentive program.
Senate wants a new grant program for film incentives Film incentives: A state tax credit that is used to lure television, film and commercial productions to the state is set to expire at the end of this year. McCrory and Senate lawmakers have proposed extending the program in different way. McCrory would scale back the tax credit; Senate leaders would turn the credit into a grant program. House leaders have not yet put forward a plan for replacing or extending the film credits.
House, Senate take bites from Common Core apple Common Core: Both chambers have passed their own versions of a measure that could lead to the repeal of Common Core standards in K-12 education. The House version of the bill would charge a new curriculum committee with developing North Carolina-specific standards and prohibit it from considering anything linked with the national Common Core program. The Senate version of the bill would allow the committee to use Common Core as a starting point. McCrory has said he does not favor the repeal bill.
Regulatory reform heads for Senate floor Regulatory reform: Both House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger named "regulatory reform" as a key item on the short-session checklist. However, neither was specific in outlining what that bill might entail. The Senate has passed a version of the bill that would remove protections for isolated wetlands. The House has yet to take up the measure.