August 7, 2015 Legislative Update

In This Issue…

  1. PENC Budget Position Sent to Governor, Legislators
  2. New PENC Board Members Head to Heart of NC Government
  3. Lots of Legislative Activity, but No Budget
  4. House OKs Bonds to Address Schools, Community Colleges, Universities, Road Needs
  5. Bills to Move Charter School Office, Ban School Board Lawsuits Head for Conference
  6. Executive Cabinet Shuffle

PENC Budget Position Sent to Governor, Legislators

PENC developed an in-depth communication on H97, 2015 Appropriations Act and sent it to legislators, Gov. Pat McCrory, Lt. Governor Dan Forrest, DPI Superintendent June Atkinson and Treasurer Janet Cowell on August 3.The letter reflects thoughts about the budget as it compares to PENC’s legislative priorities. It was written from the perspective of assessing how to improve North Carolina by ensuring the school environment is ripe for producing skilled workers that will help grow our economy. You can see the letter here.


New PENC Board Members Head to Heart of NC Government

During a whirlwind day on August 4, PENC Executive Director Carol Vandenbergh introduced new PENC Board members to North Carolina government. New board members Leigh Walters (Region 5) and Paul Gantt (At Large) joined PENC Board President Vann Lassiter, Ph.D. and Board Members Dan Korn and Craig Rogers for a tour and legislative orientation session conducted by PENC Government Relations Consultant Evelyn Hawthorne. The day began with a tour of the legislative complex which was followed by a lengthy meeting with Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson. In the afternoon, they attended a luncheon with legislators, including Representatives Hugh Blackwell (R-Burke), Jeffrey Elmore (R-Wilkes), Bryan Holloway (R-Stokes), Craig Horn (R-Union), Linda Johnson (R-Cabarrus) and Senator Dan Soucek (R-Wilkes). Senate and House Democrats who were invited and slated to attend cancelled due to a last minute caucus. The group then tended to board business at PENC’s office.


Lots of Legislative Activity, but No Budget

Once again, there is no resolution to report on the 2015-2017 state budget, H 97.

There was, however, a lot of activity aimed at generating some movement on budget negotiations. While none of the developments relate directly to education, the politics could relate to the budget negotiations which, of course, relate directly to education.

At a press conference on August 5, Senate Republican Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) announced that the Senate would agree to remove policy matters from their budget proposal that were stalling budget talks; namely, provisions relating to economic development and tax reallocation and Medicaid reform. He also announced that the Senate would agree to a new spending target that is slightly above that in the Senate budget which is calculated from population growth and an inflation factor – $21.65 billion. That number is below the House’s number of $22.2 billion. While the new number doesn’t exactly “split the difference,” it is a significant change, but would cause House budget writers to trim about $500 million – half a billion dollars – from their plan.

The Senate backed up that offer by holding two meetings on August 6 to consider the policies removed from the budget negotiating table. During the Senate Finance Committee meeting, Senators considered rewrites of H117, NC Competes Act and S607, Constitutional Amendment on Tax. During the Senate Health Committee, senators considered a complete rewritten version of H372, Medicaid ModernizationAct. Those bills were replaced with the Senate’s visions of those issues. Those bills are slated to be considered again during a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Committee on August 10 and could be sent to the House following Senate floor votes as early as August 11.


House OKs Bonds to Address Schools, Community Colleges, Universities, Road Needs

The NC House of Representatives gave final approval to H943, Connect NC Bond Act of 2015, on August 6. If enacted, a referendum will be placed on the March 2016 ballot, which will be the date of the Presidential Primary Election, to authorize the issuance of more than $2.8 billion in government obligation bonds to address construction and renovation needs throughout North Carolina, including $500 million to address schools’ needs. The bill is a modified version of the plan Gov. McCrory sought to address roads and government buildings. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration and will likely be part of the larger discussion about the state budget.


Bills to Move Charter School Office, Ban School Board Lawsuits Head to Conference

Two House education bills that were substantially amended in the Senate were rejected by the House. This means that committees will be appointed to resolve the differences.

As was reported July 24, H561 would allow a state or federal administrative agency with a quasi-judicial function or any court of law to inspect confidential employee personnel records of a current or former employee of a local board of education in certain instances, and provide a local board of education the authority to subpoena tangible items in matters where an employee is suspected of committing job-related misconduct. Sen. Dan Soucek (R-Wilkes) amended the bill on the Senate floor to impose a five year moratorium on lawsuits by local boards of education against county commissions. The bill sponsors, Rep. Hugh Blackwell (R-Burke) and Rick Glazier (D-Cumberland), asked their House colleagues to reject the Senate’s changes on August 3.

H334 began its journey through the General Assembly as a bill that clarified the types of fees a charter school could charge for extracurricular activities. The Senate gutted the bill and replaced it with language that would move the Office of Charter Schools from the Department of Public Instruction to the State Board of Education. The House did not agree to the Senate’s changes on August 4.


Executive Cabinet Shuffle

Gov. Pat McCrory was faced with two resignations from his Cabinet within a week. Transportation Secretary Tony Tata resigned abruptly on July 28. Gov. McCrory announced on August 6 that Deputy DOT Secretary Nick Tennyson, the former mayor of Durham, would be elevated to that post. Embattled Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos, M.D., announced her resignation at an August 5 press conference. Gov. McCrory introduced the new Secretary Rick Brajer, a former medical technology executive during that event.

What do you think?

If you have questions or concerns, please share your thoughts and ideas with us.
Contact us at penc@pencweb.org.

Submitted by Evelyn Hawthorne


For more information about the North Carolina General Assembly, click here.
To identify and contact your legislators, click here.

For information about specific issues, please contact PENC government relations consultant Evelyn Hawthorne at lobbyist@pencweb.org.