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Today @NCCapitol (May 20): Senate budget week begins

Posted May 20, 2013

— Good morning and welcome to Today @NCCapitol for Monday, May 20. This is WRAL's roundup of what you need to know about North Carolina state government today.

SENATE BUDGET: The state Senate rolled out a $20.6 billion spending plan Sunday night

Senate leaders spend slightly less than Gov. Pat McCrory's plan, setting aside more than $217 million dollars to pay for an anticipated tax reform effort.

‚ÄúThis budget stands in sharp contrast to the failed attempts of previous leaders to tax, spend and borrow their way to prosperity," Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said in a news release Sunday night. For the budget documents and news release regarding the plan, click here.

THE PROCESS: The Senate budget is the second-part of a four-step process. Step one was the release of Gov. Pat McCrory's spending plan earlier this year. 

After the Senate approves its budget later this week, it will then be the House's turn to develop a budget. After that, lawmakers will reconcile the House, Senate and governor's proposal into one document. 

THE BUDGET TODAY: Senate leaders will hold a news conference at 10:30 a.m. today to outline what they see as highlights of their budget proposal. 

At 11 a.m., Attorney General Roy Cooper will hold a news conference to object to a provision dealing with the State Bureau of Investigation. The Senate would move the SBI from being an independent agency under the Attorney General's supervision to a division of the Department of Crime Control and Public Safety, which headed by a gubernatorial appointee. 

The six Senate Appropriations subcommittees with oversight over specific sections of the budget will meet at 4 p.m. to review their sections of the document. However, the subcommittees won't make changes to their part of the document. Changes, if any, will have to wait for a meeting of the full appropriations committee on Tuesday, according to Sen. Pete Brunstetter, R-Forsyth, the senior budget chairman. 

WRAL.com will carry the Senate Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services live at 4 p.m. Check the Video Central box on our home page. Other subcommittees will review sections of the budget dealing with general government, transportation, justice and public safety, education, and natural and economic resources at the same time.

SKELETONS: Both the House and Senate are scheduled to hold skeleton sessions, during which no votes will be taken, today. The House will meet at noon. The Senate will meet at 7 p.m. 

PED: The Joint Legislative Program Evaluation Oversight Committee is scheduled to meet today. They will receive an update on the public schools driver education program and potential changes to the divisions work program. 

On the Record: Opportunity Scholarships Act On the Record: Is Opportunity Scholarships Act a voucher bill? ON THE RECORD: On the Record, this weekend, Anchor David Crabtree and Capitol Bureau Chief Laura Leslie explored a plan by House lawmakers to offer taxpayer-funded scholarships for low-and-middle-income students who want to attend private schools. The Opportunity Scholarship Act is due to be heard in the House Education Committee on Tuesday. Guests included Darrell Allison, president of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina, and Brian Lewis, political director for the N.C. Association of Educators.

Leslie and reporter Mark Binker {{a href=blogpost-2"}}also explored what bills survived, and which ones didn't, as the legislature passed its key crossover deadline{{/a}} last week. 

PRE-K: As Joanna McConnell bragged on how her son Jordan had learned to count over the past year, the 5-year-old obliged and began sounding off: "1, 2, 3..." McConnell, a single mom from Garner, credits her son's pre-kindergarten class, with turning him from a shy boy to one who gets along with other kids will and will sing about butterflies at the drop of a hat.

"I'm thankful for the program," McConnell said. She works two jobs, one at the post office and the other at Papa John's, which hasn't offered her much time to teach Jordan his letters, numbers and how to get along with other children. Pre-K has helped fill those gaps."I feel like when he goes to kindergarten he won't be blindsided," she said.

That is exactly the idea behind North Carolina's pre-K program, likely to be at the center of budget and policy debates this spring. Some pre-K classes take place at public schools. Others are provided in preschool classrooms. All have to meet standards for curriculum and teacher certification that advocates say are critical to ensuring students take away what they need in order to start elementary school prepared to learn.

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