Want to know what’s happening at the General Assembly in Raleigh and how it might affect Western North Carolina? In addition to regular updates by Mark Barrett with the Asheville Citizen-Times, there are two locally based sources — one from former Mountain Xpress editor Nelda Holder and the other from the nonprofit, online media source Carolina Public Press.
CPP has a man in Raleigh: Kirk Ross is on the ground at the state legislature, observing, reporting and providing regular updates for the “Raleigh Report.”
Holder, who created the “NC Matters” blog for Xpress a few years ago, has picked up her pen again with a weekly blog, Politically Purple NC: Neither Right Nor Left, But Straight Ahead.
Raleigh Report, March 9:
Last week’s rapid thaw loosened more than the just the chunks of ice remaining on the sidewalks in Raleigh. With both of North Carolina’s state government chambers on a more-or-less regular schedule, legislation started to move again.
Many of the new bills are local acts, which have a fast-approaching deadline for introduction. Local bills must be introduced in the House by April 1 and the Senate by March 11. …
Senate Bill 141 would put a referendum on Nov. 3 ballot on the annexation of the 1,200 acre Lake Junaluska area into the town of Waynesville. The annexation would take effect on June 30, 2016, if approved by a majority of voters from both the town and the area under consideration. …
Western North Carolina was well represented at a recent press conference announcing legislation calling for a constitutional convention to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United.
Buncombe County legislators Rep. Susan Fisher, Rep. John Ager and Sen. Terry Van Duyn and Haywood County Rep. Joe Sam Queen, all Democrats, were on hand to show their support for the bill and rail against the ruling, which allowed the greater flow of so-called “dark money” into political races. …
Buncombe County Democrats Van Duyn and Fisher have filed legislation in their respective chambers aimed at reviving the adoption of the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. (Van Duyn has filed two bills: S147 and S184; Fisher has filed H166.) … — from the “Raleigh Report,” by Kirk Ross, Carolina Public Press
Politically Purple, March 9
Gov. Pat McCrory’s $21.5 billion state spending proposal took top billing in Raleigh last week, including something to displease just about anybody.
For example, there’s a bump in starting salaries for teachers (to $35,000 a year), and an over 50 percent increase in school supplies (including textbooks) for a total of $109 million. But veteran teachers remain stuck in a “step” system with no across-the-board pay increase proposed this year, and the North Carolina Association of Educators complains that the state set aside $188 million in classroom costs back in 2008, so the “increase” to $109 million in 2015 is not seen as equitable.
Groundwork for the treatment of Medicaid patients through potential Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) is budgeted at $1.2 million (while personal services contracts shrink by $1.2 million). At the same time, disagreement remains between the House and Senate regarding the use of ACOs versus moving the Medicaid program to private managed care organizations (MCOs).
McCrory did follow through on his State of the State address, proposing two new cabinet-level divisions: the Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Information Technology. He is also proposing two bonds, as per his speech – one for transportation projects and another for government building repairs. Each proposal is expected to call for $1.2 to $1.4 billion, and legislative support has not been overwhelming at this point.
And on and on it will go for a while, or longer.
Meanwhile, in order to review the governor’s total budget proposal, the document is available online through the Office of State Budget and Management. Click here for the PDF version. — from “In the Statehouse: Budgets, Bikers, and Bills Aplenty,” March 9, by Nelda Holder