The General Assembly this week approved its proposed budget. The bill now heads to the Governor’s desk for consideration. It is unclear whether Gov. Roy Cooper will veto the bill. Republicans hold super majorities in both chambers and could override a veto.
A number of other bills continued to make their way through the legislature regarding issues including Sunday alcohol sales, opioid abuse, and election requirements.
In local news, Mecklenburg County Commissioners this week approved putting a $992 million school bond package on the ballot this November.
State and Legislative Issues
Budget Bill – Notable Items
- Increase funding for:
- Enrollment growth in Pre-K, K-12, community colleges, and universities.
- Textbooks and other classroom materials.
- Enrollment increases at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Medicine and to stabilize East Carolina University’s medical school.
- Medicaid to cover expected enrollment and use changes.
- Creation of 31 new assistant district attorney positions across the state.
- Capital improvements at commercial airports.
- Bridge preservation and replacement.
- Strategic transportation projects that have been ranked the best through the Department of Transportation scoring system.
- Allocating $15 million to the film and entertainment grant fund.
- Increasing the savings reserve by $363.9 million.
- Providing $125 million for repairs and renovations to state and university buildings.
- Reduce funding for:
- Central office administration in school districts.
- The UNC-Chapel Hill School of Law.
- Medicaid, with specific cuts to be determined by DHHS.
- Department of Justice spending for legal services and administration by 35 percent.
- The Office of the Governor.
- New programs
- Create doctoral programs at North Carolina A&T State University.
- Establish “Personal Education Savings Account” program, providing additional scholarship awards of $9,000 annually to children with disabilities for qualifying education expenses.
- Implementation of an improvement plan for the state child welfare system.
- Create 200-bed detention facility in Buncombe County for female offenders.
- Build a new Division of Motor Vehicles office in Charlotte.
- Establish hospital beds in local psychiatric units and to develop mental health crisis centers for children using the $18.6 million from the Dorthea Dix property sale proceeds.
- Allocate $100 million to fund pending legislation for Hurricane Matthew recovery.
- Build a youth development center in Rockingham County.
- Reduce the individual income tax rate from 5.499 percent to 5.25 percent and the corporate income tax rate from 3 percent to 2.5 percent beginning in 2019.
- Increase the standard deduction for individual income tax filers beginning in 2019.
- Repeal the excise tax on mill machinery equipment.
- Salaries and Benefits
- Average 3.3 percent raises for public school teachers this fall.
- $1,000 permanent pay raises for other state employees, plus three days of additional personal leave.
- 1 percent cost-of-living adjustment for state retirees.
- Policy changes
- Eliminate retiree medical benefits for new state employees hired after December 2020.
- Phase out automatically trying 16- and 17-year-olds in adult criminal court for misdemeanors and for some felonies.
- Create exceptions to limits on economic development incentives for transformative projects, which are defined as projects with at least a $4 billion capital investment and the creation of 5,000 new jobs.
- The House Alcoholic Beverage Control Committee approved the “brunch bill,” including the provision allowing for retail stores to sell alcohol on Sundays beginning at 10 a.m. The committee initially removed the provision, but added it back in before approving the bill.
- The legislation provides for bars and restaurants to sell alcoholic beverages at 10 a.m. on Sundays.
- The bill also would loosen restrictions on distilleries’ ability to sell liquor at their facilities and offer samples at festivals or trade shows.
- The Senate unanimously passed the “STOP Act” which tightens state regulations in an effort to address the opioid abuse crisis.
- The bill includes $20 million to fund treatment and prevention programs. It now heads back to the House for a concurrence vote.
- The House Elections and Ethics Law Committee approved changes to election laws that would make it easier for third party candidates to get on the ballot.
- The Electoral Freedom Act of 2017 would lower the threshold of signatures required for a candidate to appear on voting ballots or for groups trying to form a political party.
- Form a new political party – 10,000 signatures, with at least 200 from three different congressional districts
- Third party candidate – 5,000 signatures for statewide office, or 3 percent of registered voters in a district for legislative or county office.
- The bill also would lower the threshold of votes needed by candidates running for statewide office to avoid primary runoffs from 40 to 30 percent.
Local Issues – Charlotte
- The Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners approved the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education’s proposed $992 million bond package. Mecklenburg County voters will vote on the referendum on the November ballot.
- The Charlotte Chamber Wednesday kicked off its “Vote Yes for School Bonds” campaign in support of the proposal.
- The bonds would provide for 10 new schools, seven schools to be replaced and 12 schools to be renovated. The additional infrastructure would eliminate the need for 335 mobile classrooms.
- If accepted by voters, it would be the largest approved bond proposal in county history.
- Raleigh News & Observer: 8,000 jobs? NC ‘on the cusp’ of landing major project, House speaker says
- Raleigh News & Observer: The NRA is pushing to eliminate concealed carry permits in NC and across the country
- Raleigh News & Observer: Supreme Court’s review of Wisconsin partisan gerrymander case could have impact in NC
- Associated Press: Supreme Court strikes down sex offender social media ban
- Charlotte Observer: In mayoral debate, Jennifer Roberts and Vi Lyles play nice