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November 1 Jones Street Update

This is the session that never ends…

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After more than 10 months in almost perpetual session, the General Assembly has FINALLY passed an adjournment resolution. While that would normally be an occasion for fanfare and celebration, the date in the document threw cold water on that excitement. Legislators will only be adjourned for roughly thirteen days.

When they return, it is expected that the bulk of their time will be consumed by working to redraw the state’s Congressional district maps which were recently invalidated by a court ruling. What is likely not on the table when they return is consideration of any of the bills that Governor Cooper has vetoed throughout the session, including the state budget. Those will have to wait until next year.

On their way out of town, while trick-or-treaters roamed the halls of the General Assembly, legislators did pass multiple pieces of important legislation.

Thank you to members of the NC REALTORS® Lobbying Team, Focus Public Affairs, for this week’s legislative wrap-up.

What’s still on the table?

This week the Senate failed to override the state budget as well as Medicaid transformation (H555) and regulatory reform (S553) legislation. The state remains operating on last year’s spending levels as the legislature switches gears to focus on congressional redistricting after a short two-week break.

Major Budget Items Pending: 

Latest Teacher Pay Increase Attempt

In an effort to entice Democrats to override the vetoed bill(s), Republicans introduced a new teacher pay raise bill with a requirement that the budget be enacted before the additional raises provided therein could go into effect. Although this was a step forward for teachers, all Democrats voted against the bill as they felt it was inadequate. The bill brings teacher pay closer to the governor’s 8.5% increase from his proposed budget, but it will likely be vetoed.

Franchise Tax & Film Grant

The wind-down of the state franchise tax was included in the budget and remains a major policy matter of disagreement in budget negotiations.

SB 578 intends to start the rollback from $1.50 to $1.29 in the first year and $.96 in the second year. While the tax is disliked by both Republicans and Democrats alike; those who oppose the appeal are concerned about making up the calculated ~ $1 billion the state is losing. They believe the money could be used to fund public education, teacher salaries, or state roads instead. Whereas supporters believe the removal will make the state more attractive to businesses and relieve some of the tax burdens existing companies already endure.

The bill also includes a change to North Carolina’s film grant program – the program will now be more accessible to those who seek to use the appropriated funds. Though this provision is widely supported it is unlikely the bill will be signed by Governor Cooper. When vetoing the state budget the governor listed the reduction of the franchise tax as a key contributor to his decision.

Disaster Recovery

Wednesday the House introduced a large disaster relief package which included policy provisions to speed up distribution of funds from the named storms that hit the NC in recent years. The $280 million dollar package (HB 1023) was not worked out with the Senate who released their own, significantly trimmed down version (H200).

The House version of the disaster relief package includes funds for programs which receive a federal match, like the Senate version, but also includes funds for state and local resiliency efforts such as includes new staff for the Department of Emergency Management, flexibility of use for the funds appropriated to the named storms in the state, funding to enhance the flood inundation mapping and alert network for transportation, grant money for the golden L.E.A.F foundation, and many other provisions. This bill passed the House unanimously however the Senate did not place the bill on their calendar.

The Senate focused its efforts on federal matching dollars for the named storms appropriating over $100 million dollars from the general fund to the Department of Public Safety. It is clear the chambers agree they need to act to improve the state’s disaster relief and resiliency response efforts, the differences in the bills make it clear they are not in agreeance on how. When the body returns on November 13 the conference committee will likely meet to find a compromise using H200 as the vehicle.

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