September 11, 2015 Legislative Update

In This Issue…

  1. No Budget Yet, But Rumors of Agreement Raise Hope

No Budget Yet, But Rumors of Agreement Raise Hope

Once again, there is no resolution to report on the 2015-2017 state budget, H 97With the looming September 18 expiration of the current temporary budget extension – H18, lawmakers continue to work toward a budget agreement, but behind closed doors. Tensions have risen at the prospect of not completing work before September 18. Consequently, much of the budget information circulating is based upon rumor and snippets revealed to media during ad hoc press conferences.

The most recent rumor, which PENC spent a lot of time chasing down over the past week, is the reemergence of measures that would affect educators and state employees hired after January 1, 2016. The first would discontinue retiree health benefits for new hires. This is a provision that was originally included in the Senate’s version of the budget. The second would change retiree benefits programs for new hires from defined benefit to defined contribution, which was rumored to be under consideration during the time the Senate was working on its version of the budget. A written plan has not been circulated, but the rumor gained so much attention that House Democrat Leader Larry Hall (D-Durham) convened a press conference to address that plan and the lack of transparency in the ongoing budget negotiations. In response, House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) and Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) both made statements to the press indicating that the retirement changes would not be addressed in the budget this year.

The closed-door negotiations continue and few sessions have included substantive floor debates and votes. The House September 14 calendar, however, indicates the intent to hear one bill – H334, Charter School and Other Educational Law Changes. This hearing would be on a compromise that would move the Office of Charter Schools out from under the control of the Department of Public Instruction to the State Board of Education. The bill also makes changes to the charter school laws and to the school vouchers for students with disabilities.

PENC continues to advocate for education funding and to increase salaries and preserve their retirement and health benefits. PENC sent a letter to lawmakers August 7 enumerating key budget negotiation issues, including restoration of Master’s Degree Pay for subject-specific degrees. You can see that letter here.

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Submitted by Evelyn Hawthorne

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