WAKE DEMS WEEKLY UPDATE, Vol. 1, No. 8
June 3, 2017
The House budget passed shortly after midnight Friday morning on its third reading. Although it proposes to spend $22.9 billion over two years, it is a lean budget that does not reflect the priorities or values of North Carolina citizens, no matter what Rep. Nelson Dollar (R-Wake), the chief budget writer in the House, may believe.
House leaders shortchange our state on many levels. There is no money for rural broadband, for combatting the opioid crisis, for Gov. Cooper’s free community college program NC GROW, or for a true cost of living adjustment for state retirees, and the proposed teacher pay raises, like the Senate version, do not come close to Gov. Cooper’s goal of getting us to the national average in five years. Click here for a comparison of Gov. Cooper’s budget proposal to the ones passed by the House and Senate.
Thursday night, Democrats made several attempts to improve the bill by amendment. Nearly all of those amendments were either voted down or quickly tabled so that Republicans could avoid being on the record as voting against them. Wake’s Republican representatives Dollar, Linda Hunt Williams, and Chris Malone all voted against or voted in favor of tabling the following amendments:
Wake’s own Rosa Gill proposed additional funding for local school districts to comply with the class-size changes we heard so much about during the House Bill 13 debate.
Pricey Harrison (D-Guilford) wanted to gut yet another ill-fated attempt to mitigate Jordan and Falls Lake pollution after the fact by instead restarting the still-unenforced Jordan and Falls Lake Rules to prevent such pollution in the first place. Nearly all Wake County residents get their drinking water from these two lakes.
Terry Garrison (D-Vance) presented a measure to boost funding for rural broadband infrastructure so that we can attract jobs to these areas and allow students to be able to do Internet-enabled schoolwork.
Billy Richardson (D-Cumberland) presented an amendment to fund the NC GROW program.
Our Darren Jackson proposed an amendment to reverse one that passed in the Appropriations Committee which moved $250,000 from rural development grants to fund private lawyers to challenge an Obama-era EPA rule which is already likely set to be ended by the Trump Administration. This is just a waste of money to make a political point, as even one Republican pointed out.
Amos Quick (D-Guilford) proposed more funding for a new Teaching Fellows program so that it would provide tuition assistance to teachers in all fields, not just STEM and special education. He also wanted more funding for textbooks and digital resources.
Mickey Michaux (D-Durham) wanted to give state government retirees a permanent cost of living adjustment on their pension benefits instead of the one-time bonus in the budget which ultimately passed.
Several of the amendments would have balanced the additional funding by taking money from the voucher program, which Republicans continue to pour more money into, to the tune of almost $100 million over the next two years.
THE BILL THAT WILL NOT DIE
House Bill 746 passed a second House committee on Thursday. This bill, titled “Omnibus Gun Changes,” is best known for allowing anyone 18 or older to concealed carry without a permit, except in businesses which strictly prohibit it. Lowering the age from 21 would make NC the first state in the country to grant this privilege to teenagers.
This bill is a zombie, as it failed to make crossover earlier this year. However, after adding a provision to raise the concealed carry permit fee from $80 to $81, the bill magically reappeared early this week. Republicans have proposed similar legislation every session. HB 746, however, does appear to have a chance of passage this session. It goes before the full House on Wednesday, and would then have to pass the Senate and survive a potential Gov. Cooper veto.
COMING NEXT WEEK
We will follow the money as the Senate and House work on a compromise budget.