Local News

N.C. Lawmakers End State's 'Longest' Short Session

Posted Updated

RALEIGH — Thursday, state lawmakers ended the longestshortlegislative session in North Carolina history. Members of the House and Senate were hung up all summer on revisions to the state's $13 billion budget.

The 1998 short session will haunt legislators for years to come. Never has one stretched so close to Halloween. But their budget has something for nearly all of citizens.

"We've gotten rid of the sales tax on food, a tax that is really a hit, a hit for the poor people," said Rep. Leo Daughtry of Johnston County.

Other winners include schoolteachers who will get an average pay raise of 6.5 percent, the environment, thanks to new regulations to monitor coastal river basins and the juvenile justice system which will get a much publicized overhaul.

"That's just a beginning, but a step, a major step in the right direction in my opinion," said Sen. John Garwood of North Wilkesboro.

Budget losers include North Carolina's smaller colleges and universities.

The overextended session may have the greatest negative impact on the legislators themselves, who now have the stigma of the stalemate attached to them.

After 121 days that cost taxpayers $7 million, legislators are now talking about session limits.

"Thirty-seven other states have it. North Carolina's the laughingstock of the country. We've been in session now two months later than any other session, any other state in the country, and that's wrong," said Sen. David Hoyle of Gastonia.

Legislators can discuss that in the next session, just three months away.

The revised budget also expandsSmart Startto all 100 North Carolina counties, enacts new victims rights measures and repeals the state inheritance tax.