It was another fairly quiet week at the General Assembly. Several House committees advanced bills this week, but only three bills had votes on the House floor. There was more activity in the Senate, but much of that chamber’s work occurred out of the public eye as the Appropriations Committee prepares to unveil a budget. Things should heat up at the legislature next week when the Senate is expected to vote on its version of the 2019-21 state budget. Speaking of heat, record-breaking heat is forecasted across the Southeast for this Memorial Day weekend – please stay safe while honoring those who sacrificed to keep us safe.
State and Legislative Issues
On Thursday, the state came a step closer to issuing the first bonds for transportation projects under a new program. In 2018, the General Assembly enacted legislation that would allow the State to issue bonds of up to $300 million per year for 10 years to pay for transportation projects. There are several steps that the state must go through before the bonds can be issued. One of those steps is approval by the Council of State, the ten statewide elected officials. After some discussion about whether sufficient information had been disclosed to bond rating agencies, the Council of State voted unanimously to approve the issuance of $300 million in bonds.
On Thursday, Gov. Roy Cooper (D) signed an executive order greatly expanding paid parental leave for certain state employees. Under the order, new mothers will receive eight weeks paid leave with full pay following the birth of a child. Fathers and other partners, adoptive parents, and new foster parents will get four weeks paid leave. The order applies to employees under the control of the governor – so it does not apply to employees of public universities, public schools, the legislature, or certain state departments that have an elected leader (like the Department of Justice or the Department of Labor). In all, approximately 56,000 state employees are covered by the order. Previously, new parents were required to use sick leave or vacation leave to have paid leave or to take leave without pay.
More than two and a half years after Hurricane Matthew slammed North Carolina, the state has spent only about 4 percent of a $236.5 million Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grant meant to help families and communities recover from the storm. The HUD disaster grant can be used for housing, economic development, infrastructure, and a few other needs. A report from the General Assembly’s Program Evaluation Division indicated several problems that have delayed spending funds from the grant. Most of these problems come down to a lack of experience dealing with this type of federal grant program. The legislature is considering ways to get disaster relief to residents and communities faster.
Local Issues – Charlotte
Vice Presidential Visit
Vice President Mike Pence visited Charlotte for a kick-off event for the 2020 Republican National Convention. Pence also visited Parkdale Mills, a yarn manufacturer in Union County. While there, the Vice President touted the administration’s efforts to reform the trade agreement with Canada and Mexico. Pence was also scheduled to attend a private fundraising event for the campaign while in North Carolina.
Vice President Pence comes to NC for a curtain-raiser to the re-election campaign (Charlotte Observer)
Local Issues – Raleigh
Wake County Taxes
At a public hearing on Monday, many attendees spoke out against a proposed property tax hike in Wake County of nearly 10 percent. County Manager David Ellis has recommend increasing the county property tax rate from 65.44 cents to 71.8 cents per $100 of assessed property value. About 60 percent of the additional revenue generated by the increase would cover debt payments related to education and parks bond packages approved by the voters in 2018. The remaining additional funds would largely go to increase funding for public schools. The proposed increase would raise taxes on a $300,000 home by about $191 per year.