Conference budget passes July 1
The major objective of the even-year short session is to adjust the biennial budget passed the previous year in the long session. This year’s budget adjustment was on the positive side, with money added for salaries, education, infrastructure and health services. While not perfect the budget that passed the House 91 to 22 funds many things that District 41 citizens care about.
The two-year $22.34 B budget is a comprehensive document that funds multiple policy decisions. After thoughtfully considering the best and worst in the bill, I voted for the budget.
In my view some of the biggest budget negatives…
- Once again shelving Jordan Lake rules and requiring redundant stakeholder meetings, additional rulemaking, and evaluation of yet another unscientific intervention for the pollutants in our drinking water (first solar bees; this time, fresh water mussels). I spoke against this during the floor debate.
- $10M more for private school vouchers
- $500,000 transferred from disaster relief to legal defense of HB2
- 1.5% raises for non-teacher state employees; bonuses equal to 0.5% of salary
- One-time 1.6% COLA bonus for state employee retirees
- No increase in TA positions to previous level
- No flexibility in use of TA funds to best meet schools’ instructional needs
…and some of the many budget positives:
EDUCATION, TEACHERS & STATE EMPLOYEES
- Higher teacher salaries, averaging 4.7% increases, raising average pay to $50,000
- Bonuses for 3rd grade reading teachers
- Pay raises for Highway Patrol troopers; state prison officers; assistant and deputy clerks of Superior Court; magistrates
- $2.5 M more for K-12 instructional supplies, materials & equipment
- $10 M increase in K-12 digital materials to $71.5 M total
- Permanent funding of high school drivers education
- $16.3 M returned to the UNC system for development activities
- UNC system in-state tuition freeze for incoming freshmen
HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES
- $7.7 M for graduate medical residency program at Cape Fear Medical Center
- 260 additional pre-K program slots, raising the total to 29,400
- 260 additional childcare subsidy slots
- $9.2 M to improve state and county child welfare programs
- $14.8 M to local health departments to offset decreases in Medicaid funding
- $20 M to implement recommendations of the Governor’s Task Force on Mental Health & Substance Abuse
- $1.5 M for 320 more Medicaid slots for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease
- $20 M from Dorothea Dix sale to mental health treatment for rural children
- Income tax standard deduction increase from $15,500 to $17,500 by 2017 for joint filers (standard deduction increases for all filers)
- $250,000 to increase access to fresh food in ‘food deserts’
- $1.4 M to complete Western Regional Crime Lab
- $2.2 M to outsource toxicology testing to reduce State Crime Lab backlog
- Continued funding of the Wright School, residential mental health treatment for NC children ages 6-12 with serious emotional and behavioral disorders
What about those budget earmarks?
Most earmarks were for pet projects in districts of powerful legislators. However these five will benefit citizens statewide:
- Able to Work, USA. $50,000 to assist persons with disabilities to find meaningful employment.
- NC MedAssist Program. $200,000 for a pharmacy program that provides access to prescription medications and patient support to indigent and uninsured persons.
- Graduate Medical Education. $7.7 M to support a residency program at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center affiliated with Campbell University Medical School. The appropriation replaces Medicare payments lost when CHVMC is designated as a rural hospital, a requirement for Campbell’s approval for residency programs.
- NC Symphony. $500,000 in nonrecurring funds were converted to recurring funds.
- NC State Energy Center. An additional $200,000 appropriation.
Read the entire budget HB1030.
Other short session bills of interest
- SB481—Fund Small Business, aka the crowd-funding bill. Increases options for raising capital for business startups and other entrepreneurial ventures. I was excited to vote for this bill to stimulate business investment.
- SB734/HB1000—Statewide Standing Order/Opiod Agonist. Establishes a statewide standing order so pharmacies may dispense naloxone, used to reverse opiod drug overdose and save lives. As a nurse practitioner with experience in substance abuse treatment, I supported this bill.
- HB550—Retiring Service Animals. Although a different bill number, the bill text is verbatim from HB1009, authorizing towns to transfer ownership of retired service animals to handlers, handlers’ family member or a non-profit. I was the lead primary sponsor of HB1009. A photo of retiring Morrisville Canine Officer Bruno is included in this newsletter.
- SB848/HB1053—Cary Charter Amendments. Authorizes certain actions of the town manager that will increase efficiency for those doing business with the town. The Senate version passed both Chambers and became law July 1. I was a primary sponsor of the House version.
- HB842—Medicaid Waiver Protections/Military Families. Ensures that children of active military on a waiting list for Medicaid services resume their same waiting list spot whenever they return to our state. I was a primary sponsor of this bill that is now law.
- HB972—Law Enforcement Recordings/No Public Record. Establishes a process for citizens videotaped by police body/dash cameras to view footage; makes videos not subject to public records law and establishes a legal procedure for third parties to request their release. Supported by members of the black caucus, this bill passed the House 88-20. Before the final vote, language from SB794 Needle Exchange Program was added. The final bill addressed important issues in public safety and public health; I voted for it.
Here is my voting record for the entire 2015-16 legislative session:
Until January 2017
The short session adjourned sine die at 11:59 on July 1 and we expect to return in January. Suzanne Smith, my legislative assistant extraordinaire, will be in our office 20 hours/week until the long session convenes. Emails and phone call will be returned. Please stay in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org and have a great summer and fall!