June 2017 Legislative Update

Budget passes…without my vote

The good in this year’s $23 B budget was overshadowed by missed opportunities, unexplained cuts and a projected $1.2 B revenue decrease by 2020 following another cut to personal and corporate income tax rates scheduled to begin in 2019. I could not vote for it.

Missed opportunities

  • With a $581 M revenue surplus heading into the budget season, the time was right to make significant progress in bringing teacher pay to at least the national average. Instead, while many teachers received an average 3.3% raise, beginning and veteran teachers were completely overlooked.
  • An additional $20 M in 2017-18 and $30 M in 2018-19 were directed to private school vouchers instead of public education. This brings total spending for ‘opportunity scholarships’ to $44.8 M in 2017-18 and $54.8 M in 2018-19 in the revised base budget.
  • No funding to solve the problem created by HB 13, thereby forcing local schools to choose between hiring new K-3 teachers or keeping art/music/PE teachers in order to meet a smaller class size mandate.
  • The rail fund cap was not repealed, hampering RTP transportation improvements needed for a swelling population.
  • The needle barely moved for state employee pay: a $1000 increase across the board for current employees; retired state employees got a 1% cost-of-living (COLA) increase.
  • Jordan Lake rules were once again delayed in favor of the using algaecides. More chemicals in our water instead of upstream mitigations proven to protect water quality.

Unexplained cuts

  • Public protection took a big hit with a $10 M cut to the Department of Justice (DOJ). Curiously this was not in the original House or Senate budgets—it showed up in the conference budget without notice to DOJ. This cut will dramatically impair DOJ’s ability to prosecute criminals, keep criminals behind bars by defending against their appeals, preserve taxpayer money by defending the state from lawsuits (some frivolous), and protect the people of North Carolina. To absorb the cut, 123 positions will need to be eliminated. Budget writers never responded to questions about why this was added to the budget.
  • The Governor’s office was cut by $1 M.  Again, no reasons given.

Revenue reduction   

Intentionally slashing future state revenue when we are so far off the mark in adequately funding public education, rural broadband access, child care subsidies and mental health and substance abuse treatment is a mystery to me. Raising the standard deduction to $20,000 in 2019 will help lower income families—especially since the elimination of the earned income tax credit. This particular tax cut is a good idea. But it does not seem wise or reasonable to give the highest earning North Carolinians a tax cut 85 times greater than average working families as the result of another drop in the tax rate. In the end I could not support the budget.

Read the entire budget bill, SB 257.

Other bills of interest

A sampling of other high profile bills that saw action during the last month of the long session:

HB 55, School Bus Cameras/Civil Penalties, authorizes school systems to use video or photographs to capture images of drivers who pass a stopped school bus, establishing citations and fines for this offense. I voted for this and it passed 74-30.

HB 581, Revisions to Outdoor Advertising Laws, would have stripped local governments of their authority to zone appropriately for their communities by allowing billboard companies to arbitrarily choose new locations for existing billboards. The number of distracting dynamic billboards would also have had the potential to skyrocket. This was a bad bill for our towns, our environment and for public safety. I’m happy to report it failed 48-67.

SB548, Strengthen Human Trafficking Laws/Study, ensures that public information is provided at targeted locations where human trafficking is believed to be most prevalent. I voted for it and it passed 106-4.

HB 243, Strengthen Opioid Misuse Prevention Act, passed both Chambers unanimously. Among its many provisions are significant changes in how opiates are prescribed for acute pain, a mandate for provider use of the controlled substances reporting system (CSRS), increased availability of naloxone for overdose reversal, and stepped-up regulatory oversight of risky prescribers—all intended to decrease the prevalence of opioid addiction, overdose and deaths.

SJR 36, Convention of States, would have called for an Article V constitutional convention. This idea proved to be very controversial on both sides of the aisle. It initially failed 53-59; I voted no. After a successful parliamentary move to reconsider it, the bill was referred to the Rules committee which means it could see action in the 2018 short session.

SB 155, ABC Omnibus Legislation (aka the Brunch Bill), among other provisions allows counties and towns to pass local ordinances for the sale/serving of alcohol beginning at 10 a.m. on Sundays. It passed 73-40 and I voted for it.

We’ll be back

The House adjourned at 2:09 a.m. on Friday, June 30 and will reconvene August 3 to take up gubernatorial vetoes, on September 6 to address other issues and once more between September 6 and October 15 to consider new legislative district maps. New maps are mandated as a result of an ongoing court battle about racial gerrymandering. Most observers expect new maps to be in place before the primary election next March. Read SB 686, Adjournment Resolution, for full details of these special sessions.

Around the district

Since my last newsletter I have attended graduation ceremonies at Green Hope, Apex and Panther Creek High Schools; met with Sierra Club members about legislation adversely affecting water quality; participated in a budget press conference; attended an education policy discussion with UNC system president Margaret Spellings; offered remarks at a Cary event sponsored by Moms Demand Action Against Gun Violence; breakfasted with the Cary Chamber of Commerce; attended a Go Red for Women legislative luncheon; hosted a press conference recognizing Aphasia Awareness Month; participated in the dedication of Cary’s new downtown park; and was interviewed by Morrisville Councilman Steve Rao on the 98.3 FM radio show ‘Leaders and Legends’.

During the interim, Suzanne will be in the office reduced hours but your phone messages and emails will be returned.

As always thank you for your calls, visits and emails. Keep them coming!

Yours in service,

Rep. Gale Adcock
1213 Legislative Building
16 W. Jones St.
Raleigh, NC 27601