The General Assembly considered bills this week that address racial bias in our courts and that open up North Carolina to a controversial form of energy exploration. We also learned more about the Senate’s budget plan for our state. The plan is particularly harmful for education, even more so than the House proposal in many ways. It cuts $250 million more from the public schools, eliminates the Teaching Fellows program and cuts deeper into funding for the community colleges. The majority also overrode a veto of legislation that limits financial aid options for community college students.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve you in the General Assembly. Please let me know if I can be of service to you or your family.
The Senate budget differs from the House budget in many ways, particularly in the education portion. The House budget reduced education funding by an additional $30 million and did not reverse any of the deep, unnecessary cuts made in our schools last year. The Senate budget would cut even deeper.
• The Senate budget leaves schools with roughly $430 million more in cuts than the House budget.
• The Senate budget does nothing to fill the hole created by the loss of federal EduJobs funds, which is supporting more than 5,000 teaching positions.
• The Senate budget eliminates the Teaching Fellows program.
• The Senate budget eliminates funding for the Teacher Cadet program, PTA Parental Involvement Initiative, the Tarheel ChalleNGe, Communities in Schools, and $900,000 for Teach for America.
• The Senate budget provides no funding for the NC Back to Work program at community colleges. The House budget appropriated $10 million.
• The Senate budget cuts need-based financial aid for the UNC system.
My colleagues and I continue fighting for two specific initiatives designed to create jobs in North Carolina. The first is legislation to provide incentives to small businesses that create jobs in North Carolina. I introduced (H479), the Small Business New Job Creation Incentive, which was filed in March 2011, but it has not moved out of committee since then.
The second effort would give North Carolina companies preference when bidding on state and local government contracts. We are trying to force a floor vote on the bill by filing a request to discharge the bill from committee. A bill (S931) to give North Carolina companies preference when bidding on state contracts has had no action in the Senate. We are working in the House to attach the measure to another bill so that it can receive consideration.
A recent report from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that in the past 18 months unemployment in North Carolina has fallen to 47th worst in the nation. North Carolina’s unemployment is 9.4 percent, more than a full point higher than the national average.
The majority voted Thursday to override a year-old veto of a bill that would severely limit college affordability options for North Carolina community college students. The bill (H7) prevents students from having access to the federal Ford Loan program. The bill was called up for a vote with short notice and only limited debate was allowed before the majority used a parliamentary procedure to cut off discussion.
The House has repealed legislation allowing criminal defendants to prove that racial bias tainted their capital convictions. The bill (S416) would restrict the use of statistical data that defendants who were sentenced to death could use to argue system-wide racial bias. The legislation limits the statistical evidence to only evidence from the court and county where that defendant was tried and the evidence must be from within two years of their convictions. The amendment also requires defendants making claims of racial bias to waive their rights to parole to ensure that they will serve life in prison.
The House has passed a bill that would fast-track natural gas exploration in North Carolina. Accessing it would require the use of technologies — hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” and horizontal drilling — that are currently illegal in North Carolina. A state report mandated by the legislature recommended significant additional study before allowing drilling to go forward, but some proponents of the industry want to speed up the process because they believe it will improve the economy in NC. Opponents of the industry argue that fracking can contaminate water supplies, pollute the air and create other wastes that are difficult to dispose of safely. The new legislation (S820) does not prevent gas companies from forcing extraction of landowners’ gas or using eminent domain to take people’s private property for pipelines and facilities.
Please feel free to contact me when you have questions or concerns pertaining to Legislative matters.
Room 1111 – Legislative Building
16 W. Jones Street
Raleigh, NC 27601