Today @NCCapitol (7/30): Still waiting on budget docs
Posted July 29, 2014
Updated July 30, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — Good morning and welcome to Today @NCCapitol for Wednesday, July 30. Here's what's going on at the legislature and around state government.
TRUST US: There is, in theory, an agreement between the House and Senate on a $21.3 billion budget deal.
But as of 5 a.m. Wednesday morning, the agreement has yet to take form as a publicly available budget document. That makes it a bit like Schrödinger's cat – simultaneously the thing everyone around state government is talking about and making plans around, but also ephemeral and not quite reality.
House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger led a news conference Tuesday during which they insisted their budget would be the "biggest pay raise for teachers in the state's history," but they did not produce the numbers to show how they paid for that raise.
Teachers groups said legislators could be overstating the size of the raise because they could be counting money that had previously gone to longevity pay. Without seeing the numbers, it is hard to know how that provision and many others work out.
Gov. Pat McCrory threw some shade on the deal as well, saying Tuesday afternoon that he was still working through potential problems with lawmakers.
"There are several major issues that are being worked on, including Medicaid eligibility, to hopefully avoid a veto. We appreciate the ongoing dialogue," said McCrory spokesman Josh Ellis.
All of that leaves many people waiting for a peek at the document itself before they're truly ready to declare the budget a done deal. Budget writers say they expect to publish budget documents online sometime on Wednesday.
LEAVING: Assuming the budget is a done deal, House and Senate leaders are planning to leave town for the summer at the end of the week.
Adjournment could come Friday, or more likely on Saturday morning, but not without a couple of big caveats.
First, lawmakers said they may return to session later this year to take up Medicaid reform. Redrawing the health insurance system for the poor and disabled was one of the key legislative priorities coming into this legislative session, and lawmakers in both chambers say they probably don't have enough time to bridge their differences.
Although no plans are final, a post-Election Day return to work is being discussed.
Second, there is a school of thought that say, with ongoing tension between the Governor's Office and the legislature, lawmakers could adjourn to a date certain roughly 12 days from Saturday rather than sine die. When the legislature adjourns sine die – Latin for "without day" or English for "not coming back unless something blows up" – the governor has 30 days to sign or veto anything on his desk. An adjournment until a date certain would give him just 10 days.
CALENDAR: A pair of early morning committee meetings highlight Wednesday's calendar:
House Finance (8 a.m. | 544 LOB): The committee will take a look at a bill that contains both economic development measures as well as a sales tax cap for counties. Technically, the measure started in the House, although as a much more modest bill. That means the chamber will only be able to vote on whether to accept the Senate bill or reject it and send it to a conference committee.
Senate Rules (9 a.m. | 1027 LB): The committee takes up the adjournment resolution for the summer, an appointments bill and two other measures.
House session (10 a.m. | House floor): House leaders are scheduled to formally reject the Senate's Medicaid reform proposal and vote on changes to stream buffer rules that have come in for criticism from environmental groups.
Senate session (10:15 a.m. | Senate floor): The Senate has only three bills on its calendar, including a technical corrections bill that is no longer freighted with several controversial provisions and an agriculture measure that environmental activists say will shield polluters from public view.
DOGS: A proposal to regulate large commercial dog breeders appears to be dead for the year, doomed once again by opposition from state Senate leaders.
MARRIAGE: Legislative leaders say they're not planning to intervene at this point in the court battle over North Carolina's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.
LT. DAN: It has been three weeks since Lt. Gov. Dan Forest has presided over the Senate, the one duty specifically given to his office by the state constitution other than taking over in the absence of the governor.