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NCACC Legislative Bulletin
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May 6, 2016
Budget negotiators agree on spending target
The House and Senate this week agreed upon the total amount of the 2017 state budget -- $22.2 billion. This is the first step in the negotiating process between the two chambers and potentially signals mutual willingness to complete the budget quickly. The House has the first stab at the budget this biennium. It is holding regular appropriations committee meetings, and those committees have received their designated dollar amounts, or “targets,” for determining the budgets of specific areas of state government. In addition to the public meetings, a good deal of work by appropriations leadership is occurring behind the scenes. Now is the time to contact your House members to support county budget interests, particularly increased funding for mental health initiatives and lottery funding for school construction. The House plans to complete its budget by May 20, at which point it will be in the hands of the Senate.

School funding and lottery bills introduced

The issue of county school construction needs is getting some necessary attention from the legislature this session. Recently, the Department of Public Instruction conducted a facility needs survey to assess school building and infrastructure demands over the five-year and 10-year horizons. DPI reports that school systems will need $8 billion over the next five years and $13.4 billion over the next 10 years to build new schools and to renovate or add on to existing schools. The department further attests that local funding is inadequate to meet these needs, and that additional state funding is necessary to fulfill the “highest facility needs in relation to the capacity to raise revenue.”

Sens. Harry Brown, Brent Jackson, Jim Davis, and Louis Pate introduced a bill this week to address these concerns. S811 (Lottery Funds for School Construction) would create a Critical Public School Building Needs Fund to provide grant assistance to counties for school construction needs based on the counties’ ability to generate revenue through sales and property taxes. The bill would appropriate $25 million in lottery revenues to the critical needs fund, which would be in addition to the amount, $100 million in recent years, appropriated to the Public School Building Capital Fund. 

The bill provides for an additional $25 million to the critical needs fund upon the passage of S728 (Lottery – JLOC Recommendations), which was referred out of the Lottery Oversight Committee and would increase the cap on lottery advertising expenses from 1% to 2%. N.C. Education Lottery Executive Director Alice Garland estimates that this increase will generate an additional $48.4 million in lottery revenues. 

We extend our sincere thanks to Sens. Brown, Jackson, former Macon County Commissioner and 2013 Friend of the Counties Award winner Davis and Pate for their leadership and support on the issue of increasing lottery dollars for school construction needs, which has been a priority of the counties for several sessions.

Senate takes up Opioid abuse epidemic

This week the Senate Health Care Committee approved legislation that would authorize the State Health Director to prescribe an opioid overdose inhibitor by a statewide standing order. S734 (Statewide Standing Order/Opioid Antagonist) and its House companion bill (H1000) would make it easier for a person to go to a pharmacy to obtain naloxone hydrochloride, a drug that blocks the effects of opioids, if that person has good faith belief that a family member, friend or other person may be at risk of an overdose. Alongside this legislation, the House and Senate have introduced study bills addressing drug abuse. H987 and S788 (Study Opioid Abuse/Incapacity to Proceed) would direct the Governor’s Mental Health Task Force to continue exploring the reasons for the rising epidemic of heroin and prescription opioid abuse. NCACC Past-President Ronnie Beale served on the Governor’s Mental Health Task Force and has focused attention on substance abuse and behavioral health issues by initiating the NCACC’s Mental Health Engagement Task Force. S734 will go to the Senate Judicary I committee next and, if approved, would go to the Senate floor.

County Caucus holds first meeting

The County Caucus held its first meeting of the 2016 session on Tuesday to discuss county legislative goals and budget interests for the short session. Jones County Manager Franky Howard gave members in attendance an overview of potential budget issues facing boards of commissioners. Caucus Co-chair Rep. Becky Carney presided over robust discussions of school board lawsuits against boards of commissioners and digital infrastructure access. The County Caucus is made up of former county commissioners and others interested in county issues who are now serving in the General Assembly.

County Assembly Day registration still open 

Speaker of the House Tim Moore (Cleveland) will speak at County Assembly Day, the NCACC's annual advocacy day, which will be held Wednesday May 18, at the Quorum Center in Raleigh. The session will begin at 9 a.m. and will include a legislative update from NCACC staff as well as remarks from Speaker Moore. Governor Pat McCrory and a representative from the Senate have also been invited to speak.

This year, NCACC has adjusted the day’s schedule to allow attendees to spend more time meeting with legislators at the General Assembly. The House is expected to work on its version of the budget during this week, which will give county officials a great opportunity to press county funding issues with their members. Be sure to invite your legislators to lunch at the Quorum Center and the legislative reception at the N.C. Museum of History.

All county commissioners and staff may register free of charge through 8 a.m. on May 10. After May 10, a registration fee of $125 will apply.

Other bills of interest

  • S769/H965 Aquatic Weed Control Clarification
  • S768/H1004 Repeal Yard Waste Permits
  • S777 Solid Waste Amendments
  • S810/H1029 Economic Development Changes & Study

This Week at the General Assembly

This Week at the General Assembly is produced regularly while the General Assembly in in session. Visit our YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/ncacc1908 or our website to view the latest episode of This Week at the General Assembly.
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