Today @NCCapitol (6/27): Lawmakers take day off from standoff

Posted June 27, 2014

NC Legislative Building

— Good morning and welcome to Today @NCCapitol for Friday, June 27. 

BUDGET IMPASSE: The week ended much as it has begun, with the House and Senate at odds over North Carolina's $21.1 billion budget for the coming year. 

“We need to move quickly so that schools can plan their budgets and educators will know that their jobs are safe when school starts in a few short weeks," House Speaker Thom Tillis said Thursday.

Technically, there is a two-year budget in place, and lawmakers could just let that ride through the coming year. But that two-year plan does not raise teacher salaries – a key legislative agenda item for both chambers – or make dozens of other adjustments in response to new policies and changing revenue. 

On Thursday, House lawmakers sent what amounts to a mini-budget over to the Senate. The plan would raise teacher and state worker salaries but leave Medicaid, which represents the biggest-dollar difference between the two chambers, unresolved. 

N.C. health, mental health, Medicaid generic Governor, senators remain divided over Medicaid State budget House sends new budget to Senate Senators did not bother to stick around Thursday to review the plan coming over from the House. 

"The Senate stands ready to negotiate a fair compromise, but we want to give teachers more than a 5 percent raise and cannot accept unrealistic Medicaid estimates that create an unbalanced, unsustainable budget," Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said. 

Although this is something of a wrasslin' match between the House and Senate, Gov. Pat McCrory has jumped into the ring and is swinging folding chairs on behalf of the House. Earlier this week, he endorsed the House mini-budget plan, and his administration is defending Medicaid figures much more closely aligned with House estimates. 

Budget Director Art Pope appeared before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday to defend those figures, saying that the Senate and House might not be that far apart and that perceived differences could be put down to matters of interpretation.

However, after more than two-and-a-half hours and a 49-slide presentation, senators remained unconvinced, worried that optimistic projections regarding the health insurance program for the poor and disabled could leave the state in a budget hole next year. 

CALENDAR: After flirting with the idea of sticking around this weekend to finish the legislative year, the House and Senate both adjourned until Monday. There are no legislative meetings on Friday's scheduled, and McCrory has nothing on his public schedule.

SBI AND THE CRIME LAB: As lawmakers wrapped up work for the week, the House once again passed a measure that would move the State Bureau of Investigation from the Department of Justice, where it is overseen by Attorney General Roy Cooper, to the Department of Public Safety, where it would be overseen by McCrory. The move is part of a larger bill that would allow crime lab analysts to testify by video link and make other changes to the justice system. 

Versions of the SBI move have been included in both the House and Senate budgets, but given the budget impasse, it seems the House wants to make doubly sure the move happens. 

Delayed Justice Delayed Justice: Underfunded State Crime Lab could mean crisis for NC court system Meanwhile, backlogs at the State Crime Lab continue to plague the justice system. A WRAL News special Thursday night explored the case of Brandon Townsend, who walked out of the Durham County Detention Center nearly three years after he was charged in a drive-by shooting that killed 13-year-old Shakanah China at a Durham apartment complex. The delay in getting DNA test results prompted prosecutors to drop a murder charge against Townsend. Now, he is back in jail, charged in the May 30 shooting death of Lewhahn Hood in Chapel Hill.

Part of the issue is what Cooper calls a "deluge" of evidence that is overwhelming.

"You have 20,000 law enforcement officers across North Carolina sending tens of thousands of cases to the lab – many of them with multiple pieces of evidence – and you have about 124 scientist positions who are trying to handle all of this," he said. "The problem is that the cases keep coming, and the scientists, who are working as hard as they can, can't keep up."

NOTED: Lawmakers ended the week by sending a bill to McCrory that would allow four universities to research an experimental childhood seizure treatment that involves extract from the marijuana plant. McCrory says he will sign the bill. Only one member of the House or Senate, Rep. Carl Ford, R-Rowan, voted against the measure when the bill came up for a vote Thursday. 

House lawmakers also added language to a charter school bill that says the publicly financed but privately run schools may not discriminate against any class of people protected by the U.S. Constitution or federal law. That amendment comes after a controversy over adding protections for gay and lesbian students caused an uproar earlier in the week. 

PROGRAM NOTE: This week's "On the Record" will explore legislation that has affected cities over the past two years. Lawmakers have restricted local governments' ability to annex, shifted ownership and control of city-run utilities and taken away an important business levy. We'll look at the reasons and consequences with scheduled guests Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, and Scott Mooneyham of the North Carolina League of Municipalities.


This blog post is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • juliomercado Jun 27, 2014

    View quoted thread

    Friend, the House budget DOES include a pay raise for state workers. After a basically 1000 dollar increase in pay it also provides for the increase towards retirement. If you like to see for yourself go to the NC LEG website and under pending bills go to House Budget 3 and click on the bottom version. I am about convinced however that the senate is going to make sure no one sees a pay raise. They are more interested in saving a few bucks than doing what is right, in my opinion.

  • cybertazet Jun 27, 2014

    And once again they forget the state workers that make sure the other functions of the state operate on a daily basis. Yes the teachers deserve a pay raise BUT the rest of the workers deserve just as much as the teachers. They are ALL state employees and should be treated equally. That will never happen though.

  • BigBrokeBill Jun 27, 2014

    View quoted thread

    Are you saying that the Governor is in the right by supporting the House plan? Better not tell that to the "Moral Monday" crowd, they might have to sleep over in the Senate.

  • juliomercado Jun 27, 2014

    The Senate budget is a bait and switch. They know teachers at the top will receive raises of less than 1% and will sue. They know the reachers and NCAE will win. They also wrote into their budget a clause that kills ALL pay raises when that happens. There is no 11%. Its a scheme to extort away tenure. They know their plan isn't legal and are counting on it to fail in the courts. Thus buying one more year of cheating teachers out of a decent salary.

  • wilson3 Jun 27, 2014

    "Although this is something of a wrasslin' match between the House and Senate, Gov. Pat McCrory has jumped into the ring and is swinging folding chairs on behalf of the House."
    But it's more like a tag team match where you pound your tag team partner and the referee in addition to your opponents.

  • sunshine1040 Jun 27, 2014

    Did the house and Senate agree on their own raises? If so their most important job(in their opinion) is done.

  • sisu Jun 27, 2014

    View quoted thread

    Amen to that, Anita.

    I have to admit that I had a great chuckle at this quote from the article... Although this is something of a wrasslin' match between the House and Senate, Gov. Pat McCrory has jumped into the ring and is swinging folding chairs on behalf of the House.
    Read more at http://www.wral.com/today-nccapitol-6-27-lawmakers-take-a-day-off-from-the-standoff/13769861/#rqW9QUIgbjAIVMmY.99

    The visual is priceless.

  • Anita Woody Jun 27, 2014

    Priorities = 3 day weekend.