General Assembly gives state employees a thank you on the way out the door
Posted July 3, 2012
Raleigh, N.C. — The last bill passed in the Senate in the wee hours of this morning and the House this afternoon was Senate Bill 187, better known as the budget technical corrections bill.
Like the technical corrections bill with the film tax credit, this measure was a mix of genuine technical clarifications, last minutes shifts to funding and last ditch policy making.
Among the less-than-technical aspects, the bill -- now on its way to the governor -- gave teachers and state employees 5 extra vacation days. The rules for the vacation days are that they must be taken by June 30, 2013 and they will not accrue. However, teachers and state employees who retire before the end of the fiscal year can be paid for those days.
This was a provision that was in the original state budget but was taken out in the Senate version of the bill and did not make the version sent to the governor.
However, it's worth noting that SEANC, the state employees union, was lobbying legislators to override Gov. Bev Perdue's veto of the budget bill during the closing days of session. Several Democrats, including Rep. Darren Jackson of Wake County, cited those contacts during debate on the budget bill as critical reasons for voting against their party's governor.
"We didn't want to lose what was on the table. That was a real risk," said Ardis Watkins, SEANC's chief lobbyist. The final budget contained a 1.2 percent pay raise and SEANC was motivated to make sure that Perdue's veto didn't scuttle state workers' first pay bump in five years.
However, she said, SEAN had been aiming for a 2 percent pay raise and had been telling legislators the five extra days would be a morale booster.
"I think we were a broken record about our message," Watkins said.
That said, she acknowledged that SEANC's lobbying work was probably "helpful to the process" of overturning Perdue's veto.
Another policy in S 187 worth noting: It changes the School Calendar law. This is something that Sen. Phil Berger had in his education reform bill. Instead of requiring schools to have a 185 day school year, it says schools must have a minimum of "185 days or 1,025 hours of instruction covering at least nine calendar months." This gives local school boards flexibility to hold longer instructional sessions over fewer days and is seen as a potential cost saver.