Local News

After 12 Hours of Debate, House Approves Spending Bill

Posted June 1, 1999 7:00 a.m. EDT

— It took more than 12 hours of debate, but theHousefinally approved its $13.5 billion spending plan on a 111-8 vote just after midnight Wednesday.

The House considered about 40 proposed changes to the budget during the debate, approving 18 of them.

Tentative approval of the plan came after eight hours of debate, on a 113-4 vote. House members then voted to continue Wednesday night rather than delay a final vote until Thursday.

The House adjourned for the weekend after the final budget vote.

Legislators approved one late change, taking money from a center to train death penalty lawyers and using it to help schools buy metal detectors.

"We didn't run out and put this in because of Littleton, Colorado," said Rep. Larry Justus. Justus said he had filed a bill for school metal detectors five weeks before the Colorado shootings.

Justus' original bill was sponsored by 97 of the 120 House members, so his proposed change to the budget passed easily.

Earlier, lawmakers rejected most proposed changes to the plan, including one that would have raised legislators' salaries by 3 percent and another that would have lowered the proposed raises for 33 top state officials.

For the first time, lawmakers got the chance to attack certain parts of the budget.

Democrats were in the majority, and the budget generally followed Governor Hunt's recommendations dealing with education and children's programs.

Pages handed out dozens of amendments, most of which were aimed at shuffling funds from one program to another.

One amendment that failed was an effort to move $1 million for money budgeted for high school exit exams to school bus seat belts.

"I just think that it is more important for the safety of the children than it is to have an exit exam that has just been out there hanging around for four or five years," saysRep. Jane Mosley.

An amendment that did pass addressed a policy issue. The amendment restricts expansion of the Checkoff system for state employees.

"It restricts what the teacher's organization can do with the funds," saysRep. Jim Crawford. "It just says that it can't be used for political purposes."

Opponents of the amendment said that it was aimed at the North Carolina Education Association.

Now that the house has passed the bill, it will be sent on to the senate, which will then make its revisions. The process will take several weeks to complete.

From staff and wire reports.