Tragedy struck Wake County on Saturday morning when word spread quickly about the passing of long time education advocate Senator Vernon Malone. An unbelievable turn of events as he worked at home mowing the lawn on Saturday, stopped to rest and read the paper and passed away. What will Wake County and North Carolina do without one of our education leaders? Many are still simply walking around trying to absorb the fact that he is gone. His funeral was Thursday so the legislature adjusted their Thursday calendars to allow members to pay their last respects.
The House Appropriations Chairs returned to Raleigh on Monday afternoon, to continue their review of the Senate budget. They are still waiting to get the preliminary numbers on the April 15th revenue collections. Rumors are the numbers may not be as low as people have been predicting, but it will probably be May 1 or as late as May 5 before the House gets better numbers and can actually set the targets for the Education Chairs and other Committee Chairs to work on the budget. Speaker Hackney set up a Public Hearing for people in the State to come and speak to members of the Appropriations Team and House Leadership to express their concerns about the State budget. The hearing will be held across the state in ten Community College locations and will be transmitted to the members in the Museum of History auditorium. The hearing will be held from 6:00-9:00PM on Tuesday, April 28.
On Tuesday, House Education Appropriations met to discuss the American Recovery Act funds, as they relate to Education. This discussion was very informative and a copy of the information is available upon request from my office. The House Education Committee met on Tuesday in the morning and after Session to discuss several bills, including the Calendar Law Changes bill. The members spent most of their time talking about the School Calendar bill, which allows LEAs to start school by the second Monday in August. This would help align the public school calendar to the Community Colleges and Universities Spring semester. Students can graduate in December and enter college in January for the Spring semester or take courses as a Junior or Senior with the calendars better aligned. Representative Jackson (Wake) talked about the impact on his daughter attending school in Wake County. She is simply taking a few unnecessary courses this Spring until she graduates in May and can go to College in the Fall. NCAE spoke in favor of the bill saying the calendar law passed in 2005 and needs to be changed. NCSBA spoke for themselves and NCASA in support of Representative Luebke’s calendar bill (HB 593). The bill received a Favorable Report and was sent to the Commerce Committee, where the next battle starts. Various groups including, Save our Summers, and the Tourism industry has begun flooding House members with e-mails opposing passage of the bill. Even if the bill passes the House, as it has done before, Senator Basnight will not likely allow it to be heard in the Senate. Education groups will continue to fight to make the changes in the calendar law needed to give LEAs the flexibility they need to provide the academic program for students.
On Wednesday, House Appropriations Chairs continued meeting to discuss the budget. Senate Education Committee had a brief meeting and only heard one bill. There were several other committee meetings in the House, but on Wednesday, the main action was in Senate Finance. Senator Clodfelter presented the new framework for a major shift in the tax program for North Carolina. The committee heard a presentation on the proposals for the changing the way taxes are collected to generate revenue in the State. The areas to be addressed include: Reduce all Personal Income Tax rates and simplify, Reduce State Sales Tax rate from 4.75 percent to 4 percent, Transfer 0.1 percent of existing and expanded local base to the State, Business tax changes, Increase Excise taxes, Adjust Revenue distributions, Conform in part to IRC and Department of Revenue Implementation costs. Some of the highlights in these sections include: Loss of State Sales and Use Tax Refund to Cities and Counties, Reduction in Corporate Income Tax from 6.9 to 5.8 and in two years 4.5, Eliminate Public School Capital Building Fund, Reduction in State Sales and Use tax from 6.76 percent to 6 percent and changes to the State Income taxes to eliminate many of the deductions in lieu of limited tax credits, Taxes on Services yet to be determined, Limit nonprofit refund for all institutions at $5 million. It will be two weeks before a bill is completed. In addition, there is an increase in the Tobacco tax of 15 cents, on other Tobacco products (3 percent) and an increase in the Alcohol excise tax. An interstate compact forced the Senate to abandon several taxes including taxes on the lottery tickets. The plan is very tight and if you begin to adjust one area you will impact the entire plan, similar to the budget. Stay tuned for this major piece of legislation as everyone starts fighting to protect their funds. The last time the tax laws were changed, significantly, was in the 1930’s.
In other news the Health Plan conferees met Tuesday evening and quickly reached an agreement. The House caucused around Noon, to discuss the terms of the agreement with the Senate and determine if they could move the bill out of the House, Wednesday. They needed a 2/3 vote of the body to suspend the Rules and place the bill on the calendar, since it was not read in the day before. The Republicans agreed to vote to suspend the Rules, when they learned the health care providers would not be paid and the Governor would need to take almost $18 million more from the Rainy Day fund to keep the Health Plan afloat. The House and Senate passed the Conference report on SB 287 late Wednesday afternoon. The House agreed to put the smoking and weight plan changes back in the bill and a minor pharmacy modification. The Senate agreed to the remainder of the House changes and the bill was signed by the Governor, on Thursday. The bill will require an 8.9 percent increase in employer contributions as well as significant funds from the General Fund. A copy of the bill is available online at http://www.ncleg.net (SB 287).
On Thursday, the House Education Appropriations Committee met to review the public schools budget. They have released their calendar for presentations in the next two week and that is listed below. The House and Senate convened at 10:00 in order to give members a chance to attend the funeral of Senator Vernon Malone. They will return next week and continue to push bills out of committee as the “crossover” deadline draws closer (May 14). Crossover is the deadline by which all bills, without fiscal implications, must pass one House or the other to be eligible for consideration for the remainder of the long and short session in 2010. Between the myriad of bills passing in every committee, the House will continue to press forward to complete their budget by May 22. Another busy week behind us and in front of us.
House Bills Introduced
HB 1524 Funds for Very Small School Systems
HB 1529 Dropout Prevention Grant Funds
HB 1535 Study Project Graduate
HB 1470 Study Length of School Lunch Period-Favorable Report and re-referred to Rules.
HB 1471 Counties & Schools Share P.E. Equipment-Favorable Report and re-referred to Judiciary III.
HB 593 Change School Starting Date-Discussed at length. Committee met 15 minutes after Session and after several speakers Chairman Bell took a motion for a Favorable Report. There was some frustration from members and people in the audience, who did not get a chance to speak. Representative Wiley wanted to run an amendment to make the effective date 2010-2011. The bill was re-referred to Commerce, where that amendment will be run and likely pass, since even if the bill passes it would be impossible for schools to shift their calendars for the 2009-2010 school year this late in the calendar.
HB 1179 Study Equity of School Counselor Compensation-Favorable Report to Committee Substitute, which added the study of assistant principals salaries and re-referred to Rules.
HB 538 Charlotte/Mecklenburg School Board Police-Favorable Report to Committee Substitute and re-referred to Judiciary I. Local bill, no questions.
State Government and State Personnel
HB 708 Furlough of State Employees-Discussed and Pulled
HB 1221 Develop State Employee Benefits Statement-Favorable Report and re-referred to Pensions and Retirements.
HB 193 Electronic Notice of Public Hearings-Discussed and Pulled.
HB 442 Parental Involvement in School Discipline-Favorable Report and calendared.
HB 205 Lottery Act Changes-Favorable Report and calendared.
Local Government I
SB 248 Conform County School Board Vacancy Statute-Favorable Report and sent to Election Law and Campaign Finance Reform.
HB 1452 Local Government Code of Ethics Favorable Report and sent to Judiciary I.
Ways and Means/BroadBand Connectivity
HB 1476 Government Immunity/Adequacy of Remedies-Favorable Report and sent to Judiciary I. Several education groups raised concerns about the bill and are seeking to make one or two changes to the language. One major problem is the word “full” compensation. There will probably be an attempt to modify the bill in Judiciary I.
SB 406 Classroom Experience for School Personnel-Pulled
SB 962 Probationary Teacher Appeals-Pulled
SB 1028 Encourage Volunteerism in Schools-No Vote
HB 582 Special Education Changes Passed second and third readings and sent to the Senate.
SB 287 State Health Plan Passed the Conference Report and sent to the Governor.
SB 287 State Health Plan Passed the Conference Report and sent to the Governor.
Bills in Committees Next Week:
HB 708 Furlough of State Employees
HB 1134 Open Government Act
HB 213 SPA Sick Leave Transfers
SB 754 Statutory Changes for ARRTA Funds
HB 899 Limit foods in School Vending Machines
HB 900 Nutrition Standards/All Foods sold at School
HB 1054 Safer Schools
HB 1078 Report School Violence to LEA Office
HB 1089 Study Social Workers in Schools
HB 1472 Counties and Schools Share PE Equipment
House Education Appropriations Committee Meeting Agendas
April 28 8:30 Department of Public Instruction Base Budget
April 28 After Session Pre-K Programs
April 29 8:30 Community Colleges System
April 29 After Session Public Schools Testing and Accountability
April 30 8:30 University of North Carolina
May 5 8:30 Discussion of Committee Target/Non-profits
May 6 8:30 Reaction to Committee Targets by Education Agency heads