The General Assembly came back this week after some time away but had a relatively light schedule. Senate leadership announced a plan to adjourn by October 31 regardless of whether there was a budget deal and indicated that more mini-budgets might come before the chamber soon.
State and Legislative Issues
On Wednesday the Senate approved a $3.9 billion spending bill for the North Carolina Department of Transportation. The bill essentially advanced the spending plan that has been held up as part of the budget stalemate. Notably, the bill did not address a significant cash shortfall for the department. DOT’s resources have been drained lately due to higher than average storm repair bills and payments related to a settlement of a lawsuit. The bill now goes to the House for consideration.
On Wednesday, the House passed a bill that would clean up the state’s voter rolls based on jury excuses. Under the bill, clerks of court would report to the State Board of Elections the names of individuals who have gotten out of jury duty by claiming not to be U.S. citizens. The names of those individuals would be published, and the elections board would seek to determine whether those individuals are registered to vote and are in fact not U.S. citizens. Democrats have argued that the bill will disenfranchise a number of eligible voters either due to cases of mistaken identity or to cases where a person might lie about citizenship (on a non-sworn statement) to get out of jury duty. The bill passed along party lines.
Electricity Rate Setting
A bill that could change the way electricity rates are set in North Carolina cleared the Senate on Wednesday. One part of the bill is noncontroversial and would allow utilities another option for financing repairs after a storm. The second part of the bill has drawn a great deal of attention. The Senate version of the bill would allow the Utilities Commission to set rates up to three years in advance and to allow utilities to earn a profit within a specified range. The House version of the bill would have set up a study of the second issue. The bill is likely to end up in a conference committee between the two bodies to resolve the issue.
- UNC System board selects Randy Ramsey as new chairman, replacing Harry Smith (Charlotte Observer)
- Cooper accused of threatening Senate Democrats over budget veto (WRAL)
- Rural NC Republicans to GOP legislators: Reject ‘national party stance’ on Medicaid (Raleigh News & Observer)
- The proposed tax hike for the arts (and, yes, other things) is the dominant issue facing [Mecklenburg] voters in the upcoming local elections (Charlotte Agenda)
- Honeywell CEO says new HQ building is hopefully first of many in Charlotte (Charlotte Business Journal)
- Lawmakers confirm three to State Board of Education (WRAL)