On Monday, House Appropriations Chairs returned to Raleigh in the AM to begin working on the House Capital budget. They also had to meet with subcommittees. The House Democrats caucused on Monday to talk about budget revenue. Meanwhile five education groups held a press conference at State PTA to tell lawmakers you cannot cut your way out of this problem. You need to look at a combination of cuts and revenue. The House met in caucus Monday twice, and Tuesday twice and still had not resolved the revenue issue.
On Tuesday, Superintendents from across the state met for two hours with Senator Basnight, Senate Appropriations Chairs and Finance Chairs to discuss State budget options for education. The Superintendents invited to attend were from the districts represented by members. Charlotte, Gaston, Dare, Guilford, and Wilson were some of the counties in attendance. The Superintendents were asked about new taxes. That decision needs to be made by the Senate leadership and the legislators. They did spend time discussing the impact of the cuts to education in their districts, the layoffs, and how to manage the cuts (increased flexibility).
Senator Clodfelter confirmed on Tuesday that an agreement, on HB88 Healthy Youth Act, had been reached. The proposed changes, which have not been seen yet, are supposed to modify the curriculum to provide sex education in public schools as part of the Health curriculum and then to allow parents to opt out of the part of the curriculum where sex education is taught. The bill may be up next week in the Senate.
On Wednesday, Senate Education met to roll out several House bills listed below. Other than that most of the day was spent working on budget issues in the House. The House Democrats met after Session to work on the Revenue package again and they are still talking about a Sales Tax increase of 1.5-2.0 cents and other tax increases, but they still do not have enough votes to pass a revenue package yet. They will caucus at 5:00 PM on Monday in hopes of getting consensus on revenue.
On Thursday, the Education Appropriations Committee was scheduled to meet at 8:30 AM to roll out their section of the budget, but the meeting was postponed until after Session. They released an updated education budget and special provisions Thursday afternoon. The cuts were all still there, though they made some minor changes, the biggest change came in Year 2 of the Biennium when the Class Size Increase went from two students to three students. They also eliminated most of the expansion items except for the Dropout Grants of $13 million and Tarheel ChalleNGe $1,228,350. The funding gained in the elimination of the expansion funds was added back to the low-wealth cut. The low-wealth cut to the 13 LEAs was reduced from 50 percent to 25 percent for this year and 50 percent for next year. There was also another $2.1 million added back to Instructional Support. There was only one amendment in the Education subcommittee and it passed. The amendment and moved funding of $105,000 from a program at NC State (Millennium Seminars and Public Safety Leadership, a program being managed by Mary Easley) to the Community Colleges. Finally, after much hand wringing, Representative Parmon made a motion to send the education budget report out of committee without prejudice. There was a lot of frustration and talk about revenue.
Other issues developing this week included yellow buses tort claims, pre-K classrooms, diabetes plans and volunteerism in schools. The yellow bus issue is part of the Justice and Public Safety budget, which cuts $6.8 million from their funds and will require local school systems to pay 100 percent of tort claims for school bus accidents. The change would become effective July 1, 2009 or when the budget passes. The Senate included this issue for 2010, but only required 50 percent of responsibility for yellow bus tort claims. There are some legal issues with the provision and right now we can’t change the House provision unless we find $6.8 million in the JPS budget to delay it, for at least one year.
On Thursday, as most of the House Appropriations subcommittees tried to roll out their budget reports the Appropriations Chairs were assigned to various subcommittees to be present to vote to get the reports out of committee. Much of the talk this week was the Health and Human Services budget and how there were not enough votes to move the bill out of the subcommittee. The Committee met for several hours including a recess or two before they were able vote to move their budget report without prejudice to Full Appropriations. Justice and Public Safety was also a free-for-all with members trying to adjourn the meeting without a vote. Their budget is being cut so deep, they are proposing to close nine prisons. So I guess the next question is “Will the inmates be moved elsewhere or freed?” The House budget is so bad right now even the Republicans who support a lean State budget will not support this one.
The House budget plan for next week is to read the budget in on Monday and spend Tuesday trying to pass the bill in Full Appropriations (usually have 50-75 amendments, an all-day process) and then to the House Floor for a vote on Wednesday and Thursday. This schedule may be modified based on what happens to the House revenue plans. The only other thing left in the budget that we haven’t seen is the salary section and we are being told there will be no changes up or down to salaries for state employees and public school employees.
Once the House budget passes there will be two weeks before the end of the fiscal year. This means the House and Senate will have to come to an agreement or somehow provide some amount of funding to keep the state running until they are able to pass a budget. Things will be very interesting next week.
SB 386 Make Best Use of Corporate Tax Revenue Favorable Report and re-referred to Appropriations.
SB 498 Affordable Housing for Teachers/Edgecombe Favorable Report and re-referred to Finance.
SB 738 Diabetes Control Plans in Charter Schools Pulled until next week.
HB 589 Insurance/Cover Hearing Aids Favorable Report to PCS and re-referred to Appropriations.
Local Government II
SB 1028 Volunteer to Support Academic Success in School Pulled
Pensions & Retirement
SB 204 Retired Nurses Return to Work Favorable Report
SB 468 Authorize Insurance for Former Employee Favorable Report to PCS and re-referred to Insurance.
HB 1031 Bldg Stds./PreK Classes in Public Schools Favorable Report to PCS.
HB 391 Community College May Offer Safety Driving Courses Favorable Report to PCS.
HB 442 Parental Involvement in School Discipline Favorable Report
HB 482 Reinstatement of Sick Leave/School Employees Favorable Report
HB 735 Bldg. Code/High Schoolers at Community College Favorable Report
HB 1032 Modify History and Geography Curricula Favorable Report
HB 18 Speech Language Pathologist Qualifications Favorable Report
Mental Health & Youth Services
HB 659 Study Existing Children/Youth Programs Favorable Report and sent to the Senate Floor.
State and Local Government
HB 213 VSL Nonfamily Sick Leave Donations Favorable Report and sent to the Senate Floor. Calendar 6/9
HB 96 Local Government Surplus Property Donations Concurred on conference report.
SB 204 Retired Nurses Return to Work Passed second and third reading and sent to the Governor.
HB 1294 NC Risk Pool Premiums/Notice Requirements Passed second and third reading and sent to the House for concurrence.
HB 1327 Schools Notified of Criminal Intelligence Information Passed second and third reading and sent to the Governor.
HB 43 School Board Members/Failure to Discharge Duty Passed second and third reading and sent to the Governor.
HB 18 Speech Language Pathologist Qualifications Passed second reading and third reading and sent to the Governor.
HB 391 Community College May Offer Safety Driving Course Passed second and third reading and sent to the House for concurrence.
HB 440 The Nicolas Adkins School Bus Safety Act Passed second and third reading and sent back to the house for concurrence.
HB 482 Reinstatement of Sick Leave/School Employees Passed second and third reading and sent to the Governor.
HB 659 Study Existing Children/Youth Programs Withdrawn. Calendared 6/9.
HB 735 Building Code/High Schoolers at Community Colleges Passed second and third reading and sent to the Governor.
HB 1031 Building Standards/Pre-Kindergarten Classes in Public Schools Passed second and third reading and sent back to the House for concurrence.
HB 316 Assignment of Multiples to Charter Schools Withdrawn. Calendared 6/18.
Bills in Committee Next Week:
SB 202 Appropriations Act/House Budget
HB 687 Tax Credits for Children with Disabilities
SB 1030 After-School Child Care Programs
SB 1019 Establish NC Financial Literacy Council
SB 534 Healthy Families and Healthy Workplaces Act
SB 509 Revenue Laws & Clarifying Admin. Changes
HB 1048 Child Care Facilities Rules
HB 88 Healthy Youth Act
HB 9 No Texting While Driving
HB 1291 Protect Our Kids/Cyber Bullying Misdemeanor
HB 213 Voluntary Sick Leave Nonfamily Sick Leave Donations