Today @NCCapitol (6/13): Final House budget vote Friday morning

Posted June 13, 2014

The electronic voting system displays the vote cast by House lawmakers on the state budget.

— Good morning and welcome to Today @NCCapitol for Friday, June 13. Here's what's going on at the legislature and around state government. 

ALL BUDGET, ALL THE TIME: The state House debated the chamber's $21 billion spending plan for all of the afternoon and much of the early evening before giving the spending plan tentative approval on a 81-36 vote at 8:30 p.m. Thursday. 

Members will return Friday at 8:30 a.m. to debate and take a final vote to confirm their decisions. That will send the budget measure back to the state Senate, which is almost certain to vote against the House plan and send the measure to a conference committee. 

WRAL.com will carry the House session live online. Check the Video Central link on the homepage. 

Lawmakers debated and voted on 37 floor amendments to the budget, with exchanges over the state's defunct earned income tax credit, film incentives and school voucher programs sometimes getting heated. Lawmakers also added puppy mill legislation to the measure, one of several policy items now hitching a ride on the spending plan. 

Eight Democrats joined with the Republican majority to vote in favor of the bill. They were Reps. Marcus Brandon, D-Guilford, William Brisson, D-Bladen, Tricia Cotham, D-Mecklenburg, Ken Goodman, D-Richmond, Charles Graham, D-Robeson, Edward Hanes, D-Forsyth, Paul Tine, D-Dare, and Ken Waddell, D-Columbus. One Republican, Rep. Debra Conrad, R-Forsyth, voted against the measure. 

Democrats who sided with Republicans on the vote said they were induced by a 5 percent pay raise for teachers and a $1,000 boost for state employees. Brandon and Hanes were active in a debate over school vouchers, defending the program from an attempt by fellow Democrats to de-fund it. 

"There are questions about some of the funding for teacher pay," House Speaker Thom Tillis said after the vote when asked about the prospects for compromise with the Senate, which passed a much different spending plan.

In particular, Tillis said, boosting lottery proceeds in order to pay for teacher raises may prove controversial in negotiations.

"We have a number of options there. We have other places that we can go to for funding," he said.

Pressed on the lottery question, Tillis said, "We have a way to fund it through other sources. So, if that became a major problem, we would probably still assume that money could come into the General Fund, but there are other ways we could bridge those gaps. I think we have a number of options for bridging the gaps."

The other major difference between the House and Senate is over Medicaid. House budget writers set aside money to keep working toward reform, while Senators proposed an ambitious new plan that would turn the state's health insurance system for the poor and disabled over to a managed care organization of some kind.

"I'm not sure we disagree with what the Senate wants to do. It's simple whether or not it's appropriate to do it in the short session," Tillis said. "There's a lot of new policy in that (Senate) budget, and the House, we believe that kind of discussion is more appropriate for the long session, where we can sort it out and collaborate with the governor. It's not really a fundamental problem with their direction. It's more a matter of timing and what we're tasked with doing in a short session."

THE SENATE: The Senate left town Thursday after taking up a handful of bills, including one that made changes to the state's unemployment law. In particular, lawmakers backed off a plan that would have stripped the governor of the ability to appoint members to a key appeals board that hears disputes over unemployment claims. Those members will now be confirmed by the Senate, but it's still the governor's decision if he makes the appointments quickly enough. 

Senators are scheduled to return to work on Monday afternoon. A meeting of the Agricultural, Environment and Natural Resources Committee had been scheduled for 3 p.m. and is due to focus on the bill that would require Duke Energy to clean up coal ash ponds around the state. 

THE GOVERNOR: Gov. Pat McCrory's public schedule for Friday lists two events, both in Pinehurst, where the U.S. Open Golf Tournament is being held.

PROTESTERS: The state chapter of the NAACP and other protesters are seeking to overturn rules that limit demonstrations at the Legislative Building. The group filed suit Wednesday seeking a restraining order that would prevent the General Assembly Police from enforcing rules that prohibit groups from making enough noise to interfere with conversation and allow officers to order people to leave the building if they think those people pose an "imminent threat" of a disturbance.

A court hearing is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Friday.

COMMON CORE: As North Carolina lawmakers work on plans to replace the national Common Core academic standards in the state's public schools, a group of retired military officers said Thursday that the state needs to give the program more time.

The group Mission Readiness: Military Leaders for Kids argued that Common Core standards are necessary to ensure the nation's future military strength. They said the standards will make students better prepared to compete in the military, in college and in the workplace.

"What we need is for a Common Core standard in-state for every grade that we have in North Carolina so that we get all the teachers on the same road moving in the same direction. Does this tell them how to teach? Absolutely not," retired Army Gen. Marvin Covault said.

CELLPHONES: The North Carolina Supreme Court on Thursday struck down Chapel Hill's law banning cellphone use while driving and also curtailed an ordinance regulating towing in the town. The unanimous decision is the latest twist in the on-again, off-again ordinances, which the Chapel Hill Town Council adopted in early 2012. Neither ordinance has ever gone into effect because of legal challenges.

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  • tayled Jun 14, 2014

    To base a budget, or any part of a budget on specious at best revenue at best from an unpredictable lottery is irresponsible.