On Monday, the members returned early in the day to work on the budget. House and Senate Education conferees scheduled a meeting at 3:30 PM and then rescheduled for 5:00 PM. When they convened they shared an updated money report on items they had agreed upon. There were several items still in contention in Education. Three of the items included: a university tuition increase, resident tuition for out-of-state athletes, and personnel cuts to DPI. The main changes to public schools funding were the following: Career Technical Education cut eliminated, Non-Instructional support cut reduced to $10 million and Transportation cut reduced to $15 million. There were several expansion items totaling $6 million added to public schools for Learn and Earn and Virtual schools. National Board Teachers Loan Program was delayed until 2010-2011. They did not review the Special Provisions. The Appropriations Chairs continued to meet on the funding targets, as well as the Finance Chairs who were working on an additional funding package. They are trying to reach agreement for $900 million in total revenue for the budget (House had $784 million). That issue is causing a problem for public schools as the Senate is pushing for a 4.5 percent tax on utilities. The impact on Wake County Schools is the need for an additional $1.2 million in local funding to pay the tax.
On Tuesday, work on the budget continued. Education Subcommittee Conferees met with the Full Chairs and presented a budget recommendation with a $100 million deficit in Year 1. The big chairs sent them back to make the necessary cuts to balance the budget and be prepared to return. Word began to get out to the Education groups that Central Office Administration was being cut by 50 percent ($60 million). Alerts were sent out to members, particularly the Senate, who seemed to be pushing this massive cut. As the day wore on budget talks seemed to be getting off-track. The Senate convened their Session early, at 1:00 PM. This was odd and as they got moving on their calendar it soon became apparent what was up. They suddenly called for a recess to hold Appropriations meeting on the Senate Floor, where they approved a Continuing Resolution. The CR provides only 85 percent of funding based on 2008-2009 budget. It has no ending date, except when the State Budget is adopted. The CR is almost three pages, which is very short for a CR. The House was quite surprised by this move, but if the budget can’t be resolved they will need to have something ready to keep the State functioning even if it is at a reduced level. The House Appropriations Chairs did not meet with the Senate on Tuesday evening though the Senate Chairs met.
On Wednesday morning, Education Subcommittee Conferees met with Full Chairs and the Senate had decided to increase the Education deficit from $100 million to $136 million. Once again they were dismissed. Meanwhile, the Governor had planned to meet with Senate Chairs on Tuesday and House Chairs on Wednesday, but both meetings were cancelled, though the Education Subcommittee Conferees were seen heading to the Governor’s office to meet with her Wednesday morning. It appears she is trying to get support for her teacher and teacher assistant funding with the subcommittee chairs.
On Wednesday afternoon, two controversial bills passed the House and Senate. House Bill 88 Healthy Youth Act and Senate Bill 526 School Violence Prevention Act received the votes to move them forward, one to the Governor for signature and the other back to the House for Concurrence. Another controversial bill involving corporal punishment was defeated in the Senate even after several amendments passed to get additional member support for passage of the bill. The bill primarily focused on asking permission from parents to use corporal punishment. The vote was 25-21 with several Democrats standing in opposition with Republicans to defeat the bill. No announcements on the budget, no action in the House on the Senate Continuing Resolution and the members adjourned to head back to the drawing board. In other budget news on Wednesday, the Revenue Department said they anticipated another $150 million in revenue for NC next year. This number was quickly agreed upon and House and Senate with a plan to give this and plus another $100 million (from an unknown source) to Education, Health and Human Services and the other committees to help offset all the cuts. Education (all three groups together) was told they had an additional $75 million to spend. The additional funds will likely go to offset the central Office Administration cut, but we heard it was only reduced to a 25 percent cut, still not enough. After Session on Wednesday, the House and Senate Appropriations Chairs met for several hours to finalize their targets again and they quit around 7:30 PM having almost reached consensus and budget writers, in spite of the Senate passage of the CR were optimistic they could meet their July 1 deadline.
Thursday things began with a bang as we worked on Senate Bill 738, Diabetes Plans in Charter Schools, which is also intended to require significant reporting by LEAs annually on August 15. Meanwhile, the Budget negotiations which began early took a turn for the worse and the rumor of a CR on the House side quickly spread through the building. The House and Senate convened at 1:00 with the house taking up HB 88 Healthy Youth Act for Concurrence. The debate went on and in the end it passed by a vote of 60-55. The House recessed at 2:30 PM for Democrats and Republicans to caucus and then they held an Appropriations meeting where they rolled out a PCS to the Continuing Resolution passed by the Senate the day before (SB 311). There were some additions, but the main change was the expiration date of July 15th. The Senate had it expiring upon passage of the State Budget. The House reconvened and they handled a few more bills on the calendar and adjourned, but they did not pass the CR. They will return to pass the CR on Monday evening and that will give the Senate until midnight Tuesday to concur on the CR and resolve their differences. When the House finally adjourned close to 4:00 PM they found the Senate had left for the weekend with no intentions of meeting (Appropriations Chairs or the Finance Chairs). Frustrations were running high as everyone left Jones Street for the weekend, with no budget and no CR yet. Wake County Public Schools continue to move forward to plan to open year round schools for 40,000 students on July 7th. The games have begun and next week they will certainly intensify as Wednesday, July 1, 2009 draws near. Hang on Sloopy!
HB 687 Tax Credit for Children with Disabilities Failed to receive enough votes on a vote for a Favorable Report.
SB 962 Probationary Teacher Appeals Favorable Report to PCS.
HB 1019 Establish NC Financial Literacy Council Favorable Report.
Ways and Means
SB 859 Tort Claims Act/Local Gov Opt –In Favorable Report and re-referred to Judiciary II.
SB 738 Diabetes Control Plans in Charter Schools Favorable Report and sent to Education.
Election Law and Campaign Reform
SB 248 Conform County School Board Vacancy Statute Favorable Report
SB 311 Continuing Budget Authority Favorable Report to PCS and sent to the House floor.
SB 311 Continuing Budget Authority Favorable Report to PCS and sent to the Senate Floor.
HB 535 Health Insurance Coverage/Lymphedema Favorable Report and re-referred to Appropriations.
HB 1329 Consolidate Expunction Statutes Favorable Report as amended.
HB 79 Extend School Formula Study Committee Favorable Report to PCS and sent to the Senate Floor.
SB 468 Authorize Insurance for Former Employees Passed second and third reading.
SB 526 School Violence Prevention Act Passed third reading (Speaker Hackney voted to break the tie) and Ratified.
HB 316 Assignment of Multiples to Charter Schools House Concurred to Senate PCS.
HB 1446 Amend Law RE: School Improvement Plans House Concurred to Senate PCS.
SB 1019 Establish NC Financial Literacy Council Passed second and third reading and sent back
to the Senate.
SB 248 Conform County School Board Vacancy Statute Passed second and third reading and sent to the Senate for concurrence.
HB 88 Healthy Youth Act Vote 60-55. Concurred to Senate PCS and sent to the Governor.
SB 1030 After-School Child Care Programs Passed second and third reading and Ratified.
HB 88 Healthy Youth Act Passed second and third reading and sent to the House for concurrence.
HB 316 Assignment of Multiples to Charter Schools Passed third reading and sent to the House for concurrence.
HB 79 Extend School Formula Study Committee Passed second and third reading and sent to the House for concurrence.
HB 1446 Amend Law RE: School Improvement Plans Passed second and third reading and sent to the House for concurrence.
HB 79 Extend School Formula Study Committee Passed second and third reading.
HB 442 Parental Involvement in School Discipline Defeated after two amendments were approved.
SB 311 Continuing Budget Authority Passed send and third reading and sent to the House.
Bills in Committees Next Week
HB 1287 Recycle Products Containing Mercury
SB 32 Employers Must Use Federal E-Verify Program
HB 1452 Local Government Code of Ethics