Local Politics

Lawmakers tie up loose ends before adjournment

Posted August 6, 2009 6:07 p.m. EDT
Updated August 7, 2009 6:40 a.m. EDT

— After approving a new budget Wednesday, state lawmakers tried to quickly work through bills remaining on their desks so they could end their extended session.

On Thursday, the House approved a proposal to shore up the Beach Plan, an underfunded coastal insurance pool that regulators have warned was becoming a problem for property owners statewide. The House also extended a tax credit for renewable energy generators.

Meanwhile, the Senate passed bills that would prohibit smoking and cell phones in state prisons and county jails and ban wind turbines from Appalachian ridges.

"It's been an extraordinarily productive session. We've done a lot on public health – the smoking ban, a comprehensive sex education bill – (and) we've done a lot for small business," House Speaker Joe Hackney said.

Other lawmakers disagreed with Hackney, saying more could have been done in the six-plus months the General Assembly has been in session.

"It's things that we've introduced year after year, suggestions that we've made on, hopefully, how to budget better and get ourselves into a situation where we don't find billion-dollar shortfalls," Senate Minority Leader Phil Berger said.

The Senate plans to wrap up its work by Friday, while the House will likely work into next week.

Still, as lawmakers make plans to leave Raleigh, Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight said he is considering calling a special session to discuss an overhaul to the state tax code.

In drafting their budget, senators proposed taxing an array of services, from car repairs and appliance installation to manicures and cosmetic surgery, to generate revenue that would allow the state to lower individual and corporate income tax rates.

That idea was later withdrawn in favor of a plan to raise the sales tax rate and add a surcharge to the tax liability of top wage earners and businesses.

"(I'd like to see) if we could find agreements on expanding the tax base, so that we could lower the income tax and the corporate tax for all people in North Carolina, expand the base like they have done in many, many states," Basnight said.

Hackney dismissed the notion of a special session.

"We're not much interested in a session prior to next May, but we'll continue to talk about that," he said.