Status check: McCrory's unfinished legislative priorities
Posted July 8, 2013
Updated July 9, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — During a news conference on Monday, Gov. Pat McCrory ticked off key legislative priorities that he wants to get done.
"I urge the legislature to continue action and review of these, and I anticipate a pretty high batting average on each one of these over the next two to three weeks," he said.
McCrory specifically named tax reform as a key priority that he'd like to see agreed upon soon, but it was part of a list of aggressive legislation McCrory is seeking. Among the other items he identified as key priorities for this year were:
ENERGY BILL: "We want to begin, as I promised in the past, gas exploration as soon as possible," McCrory said. The state, he said needs to assess what gas exists in the state and then have rules and procedures to access those sources.
Senate Bill 76, which would speed up the issuance of licenses of horizontal natural gas drilling, is sitting in a House-Senate conference committee. Senators would lift the state's ban on drilling and the process known as hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking." The House bill goes slower. A separate measure, House Bill 94, would overrule the state Mining and Energy Commission's rule-making process, taking away the ability of the commission to regulate fluids used in the fracking process. It was not immediately clear whether McCrory endorsed either bill or any of their provisions.
MEDICAID WAIVERS: McCrory wants to ask the federal government for permission to change the state's Medicaid program. The state health insurance program for the poor and disabled has been a sore spot for budget writers, and this year, North Carolina spent $500 million more than budgeted on the program. "We cannot continue on this track, or we will not be able to sufficiently fund our infrastructure or teachers or education," McCrory said.
The Medicaid waivers are part of the larger budget process.
Sen. Pete Brunstetter, R-Forsyth, the senior budget chairman, said making changes to the Medicaid program were a priority for the legislature as well. He said every two weeks changes aren't made costs the state $6.5 million.
STATE PERSONNEL ACT: McCrory has asked for changes in the state's personnel law that would allow him to more quickly hire and fire people. He would also get more political appointees.
House Bil 834, which carries many of the reforms McCrory has asked for, has passed the House and a Senate committee but has not been heard on the Senate floor. It is currently being held in the Senate Clerk's Office, a form of legislative limbo. It's unclear when the measure might be heard.
"It frankly doesn't go as far as I wanted," McCrory said of the bill, but added that the measure would help him manage the state government. "We have to have more flexibility and management opportunities to reward good employees and also deal with those employees who aren't meeting their necessary duties."
COMMERCE DEPARTMENT: McCrory has proposed reorganizing the Commerce Department so that many of its job recruiting functions would be taken over a public-private partnership.
House lawmakers attached that reorganization measure to the Senate Bill 127, a related bill that originated in the Senate. The measure has cleared the House. However, when it returned to the Senate, leaders took the unusual step of sending it to three different committees. That is a sign that Senate leaders are skeptical of the reorganization plan. Clearing three different Senate committees is a high hurdle for a bill to meet.