Legislative Update - July 9

July 9, 2014

Greetings,

As the Short Session of the 2014 General Assembly nears an end, only a few
major issues remain to be resolved. Last week, the Republican-led majority
moved toward agreement on the budget, Common Core, and coal ash clean-up.

Budget Negotiations Move Forward

Two weeks ago, the House along with Governor McCrory proposed a “mini- budget” in an effort to provide pay raises for teachers and state workers, while continuing to allow the rest of state government to operate on the budget that was passed last year. The plan included a 5 percent raise for teachers, and a $1,000 raise for most state employees. It did not eliminate tenure for teachers who have attained career status.

While I support needed investments in education and fair compensation for teachers and other state employees, the proposal did not represent a balanced budget. Moreover, the plan did not address expected shortfalls in Medicaid for the current fiscal year, nor projected costs for the next. Until Medicaid expenditures are addressed, funding to operate state government remains uncertain. In a rare move, the Senate returned the proposal to the House “for consideration” without a vote.

After passing the budget baton between chambers, the Senate members of the House-Senate Conference budget committee invited House members to a meeting to present their latest proposal. The meeting was open to the public with a standing-room only crowd. The meeting only focused on the differences between the two chambers on teacher compensation and education funding, end of year reversions, Medicaid and lottery revenues. Conferees came to agreement on the costs to run the Medicaid program, settling on a plan that increases funding using the mid-point between last year and the current year worst-case and best-case scenarios. Additionally, the conferees agreed to current year budget reversions and can now concentrate on education funding and other aspects of operating state government. 

Common Core

The debate to determine the replacement of the Common Core standards is also drawing to a close. The conference committee charged with resolving the differences between the bills passed earlier in the session has determined that the Commission that will devise the new standards may use some components of Common Core. 

Missed Opportunity Regarding Coal Ash

Now that both chambers have passed legislation guiding the cleanup of coal ash impoundments in North Carolina, a conference committee will begin resolving the differences between the two plans. The Senate plan that passed unanimously would require all coal ash ponds to be cleaned up by 2029. The House version would allow for extensions to be granted by the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources if Duke Energy can demonstrate that it cannot meet the imposed deadlines using “economically reasonable” technologies, and that to do so would “produce serious hardship without equal or greater benefits to the public.” I am disappointed that the General Assembly did not seize the opportunity to require Duke Energy to bear all the costs to clean up its mistakes. All amendments offered by Democrats in both chambers that would have made clean up solely Duke Energy’s responsibility, failed. 

Movement for Eugenics Deadline Extension

Also of note, last Monday marked the deadline for the victims of the 20th century eugenics program to apply for compensation. It has been reported that only about a third of the estimated living victims have submitted claims. It is my opinion that the state failed to appropriate the requisite funds for victim outreach. Primarily for this reason, North Carolina’s NAACP chapter and others are calling for state legislators to push back the deadline until June 30, 2015. 

Considering the devastating effects of the eugenics program and who the victims were, it is not surprising that two-thirds of the estimated living victims have not filed a claim. The victims of the eugenics program were chosen because they were largely deemed unfit to have children, a determination that is shocking by today’s standards. It was the state that bestowed that determination on these individuals, so it should be the state that holds the primary burden for atoning for this injustice. I am not convinced that the state has met its obligations to the victims. I support the move for an extension. 

Please continue to contact my office to share your concerns on issues or if my office can be of any assistance to you. Thank you for allowing me to represent you in Raleigh. 

Sincerely,

Senator Valerie P. Foushee

North Carolina House Senate

District 23: Chatham & Orange Counties

Valerie.Foushee[at]ncleg[dot]net

919.733.5804 (o) 919.754.3268 (f) 919.942.2661 (h)

Just so you know...

You can listen live to the chamber sessions, committee meetings, and press conferences on the General Assembly website: www.ncleg.net. Once on the site, click on “audio” and select House Chamber, Senate Chamber, Appropriations Committee Room, Finance Committee Room, or Press Conference Room.

Office hours...

My office will be staffed Monday through Thursday during the week 8 AM until 5 PM.

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