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Protesters and supporters of HB2 gathered near the Legislative Building on the first day of the 2016 Short Session.
April 29, 2016
Legislature kicks off Short Session
The state legislature convened its 2016 short session on Monday amidst throngs of protesters both supporting and opposing HB2, legislation passed during a March special session with several provisions addressing discrimination. Reaction to the bill continues unabated, with a current proposal to hold a voter referendum to add some or all of the new law to the state constitution being the latest addition to the conversation.

While HB2 will likely dominate at least the early part of the session, legislators are also working on other matters. Interim committees are putting forth legislation based on their studies since the end of the long session, and the House is working on its version of the 2016-17 state budget. The local bill filing deadline is May 19. We’ll keep you updated on legislation of interest to counties as the session progresses.

Priority goals for counties in play

Bills that would grant increased local revenue flexibility and establish a five-year moratorium on a school board's ability to sue a board of county commissioners over local education funding are on the Association's radar for the 2016 Short Session. The NCACC Board of Directors voted in January to pursue three priorities during the session: increased revenue flexibility; ending school board's ability to sue; and improving the digital infrastructure in underserved areas.
  • S605 (Various changes to revenue laws) expands the Article 43 transit tax to educational purposes and increases the Article 46 tax from 1/4 to 1/2 cent, giving counties two more options for additional revenue. The bill passed the Senate in 2015 and is eligible for consideration during the short session. The Association urges counties to contact their legislators and ask them to support this bill.
  • H561 (School Board auth. Re: legal proceedings) includes a five-year moratorium on school board lawsuits. The bill is in conference and is eligible for consideration this session.
  • Industry concerns kept H432 (Counties/Internet Infrastructure), which would have authorized counties to install high-speed Internet infrastructure and lease it to providers in a public-private partnership, from moving in 2015, and the bill is not eligible during the short session. However, the industry concerns have softened as the conversation began focusing on the importance of high-speed Internet access on education and economic opportunity. This issue may be revived during the short session.

Governor's Budget includes $30 million for mental health, diverts lottery funds

Governor Pat McCrory introduced his recommended adjustments to the state budget for the next fiscal year, proposing a $22.3 billion budget for 2016-17 with expansions driven by $237 million in additional statewide revenues mostly from personal income tax growth as well as savings from lower-than-expected Medicaid growth.

The recommended adjustments include an average 5 percent raise for teachers and a one-time, average 3.5 percent bonus for teachers and principals. There is no raise or COLA for state employees or retirees, but state employees would receive an average, one-time 3 percent bonus.

The budget also includes $30 million in additional funds for mental health programs to meet recommendations from the Governor’s Mental Health Task Force. These funds would go to case management, heroin and prescription drug use programs, treatment courts and justice system diversion as well as emergency housing for those transitioning out of emergency rooms and jails. The additional money would help achieve an association goal to ensure adequate state funding for mental health services and facilities at the local level. Many of the recommendations included in the budget proposal for mental health were generated by the NCACC Mental Health Engagement Task Force established in 2014 by Past President Ronnie Beale of Macon County.

In another positive development, the Governor's education budget recommends $1 million from lottery funds to complete a school construction needs assessment for 50 counties determined by the low-wealth school funding formula to have the lowest ability to pay for school facilities. However, higher-than-projected revenue from Powerball and other sales is diverted to non-instructional support positions, classroom supplies and equipment, two scholarship programs and digital technology. When the lottery was originally enacted, counties received this excess revenue in addition to 40 percent of proceeds used for school construction needs. The NCACC advocates that this funding return to its original purpose.

NCACC is in the process of analyzing the remaining details in the Governor’s budget and drafting our report, which will be available on the NCACC website. The House will take the next steps and begin drafting their recommended changes to the biennial budget with a target release by mid-May. The Senate will then follow with its proposal.

Other bills of interest

  • H965/S769 (Aquatic Weed Control Clarification) - These companion bills would rename the Shallow Draft Navigation Channel Dredging and Lake Maintenance Fund to the Shallow Draft Navigation Channel Dredging and Aquatic Weed Fund, as recommended by the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Agriculture and Natural and Economic Resources.
  • H988 (Repeal Light Rail Funding Cap) - This bill would repeal the limitation on funding from the Highway Trust Fund for light rail transit system projects, as recommended by the House Select Committee on Strategic Transportation Planning and Long-term Funding Solutions. Current statutes limit funding to no more than $500,000 per project.
  • H992/S771 (Amend Industrial Hemp Definition) - This bill clarifies the "research" purposes for issuing a license to cultivate industrial hemp. The allowable purposes include "the growth, cultivation, and marketing of industrial hemp." 
  • S728 (Lottery-JLOC Recommendations) - This bill makes two substantial changes to the lottery statutes by doubling the amount of revenue (from 1% to 2%) that can be spent on advertising and directing all unclaimed prize moneys to be included in the amount appropriated for "education-related purposes" each year. Currently, 50 percent of unclaimed prize monies are used to enhance prizes.

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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