My colleagues and I completed negotiations this week on a state budget we believe will make our state a better place a live.
We hope to introduce the budget as early as Friday and give it final approval this weekend.
Our budget invests heavily in education, increasing the amount of money given for scholarships and grants by millions of dollars while also putting more money into preschool programs. We also agreed to take over the counties’ share of Medicaid expenses — estimated at $520 million this fiscal year — over the next three years. This will especially help our rural counties that are particularly burdened by the increasing costs of Medicaid. In addition, we decided to give counties more flexibility by allowing them to raise additional taxes for school construction, infrastructure, and other improvements. Counties can decide to raise the sales tax by a quarter of a cent or the land transfer tax to 0.6 percent with local voter approval.
I will provide more details about the budget plan next week after the final version is approved. I believe you will find that my priorities in Raleigh reflect your own when it comes to how this state spends money.
Thank you for allowing me to share this information with you. Please feel free to contact me if I can be of any additional help.
The North Carolina House voted unanimously to accept a bill that would replace hog lagoons with more environmentally friendly systems. Under the bill (S1465), existing lagoons could continue to operate but no new ones could be built. Hog lagoons have led to polluted waterways during floods and are a concern to neighbors. The state has had a moratorium on new lagoons for the past 10 years, but replacing them with new, cleaner technology is expensive. The bill proposes a $2 million a year cost-sharing program to help farmers pay the cost of replacing the pits with more environmentally friendly systems. The new systems could produce useful byproducts such as compost or electricity from the methane gas released. The bill is supported by environmental, farm and industry groups and would represent a major step forward after years of trying to find better ways to handle hog waste. The deal will protect farmers’ investments and livelihoods while also keeping the state’s waters and soil clean. The bill now goes to Gov. Mike Easley for his signature.
The General Assembly ratified bills this week that would standardize and improve eyewitness lineups and police interrogations. The Eyewitness ID Reform Act (HB1625) requires standardized procedures for lineups of individuals or photos. Lineups must be conducted by someone who is not involved in the investigation and has no information about potential suspects. The lineup would also have to be presented sequentially and witness confidence levels of an ID must be recorded. The second bill (H1626) requires interrogations in a homicide investigation to be recorded by video or audio. The bills now go to the governor to be signed into law.
The House has agreed to study whether the thousands of people who were sterilized through the state eugenics program in the early 20th century should be compensated. Under the bill (H296), the Department of Health and Human Services will report the findings of the study to the General Assembly. In the early 20th century, 30 states implemented eugenics programs to sterilize those who where considered mentally handicapped or genetically inferior to prevent these issues from being passed on genetically.
The House Elections Law Committee approved a bill that would create a more proportional method for distributing North Carolina’s electoral votes in presidential elections. The bill (S353) provides that a candidate will receive one vote for each congressional district he or she wins. The remaining two votes would be given to the overall winner in the state. The bill’s supporters believe that it will encourage presidential candidates to come to North Carolina more often and increase voter interest.
North Carolinians may soon have more control over whether or not they wish to receive “life-prolonging measures” and/or how they would like to end their lives while in medical care. The House Committee on Judiciary I cleared a bill (SB1046) that simplifies the legal end-of-life forms. The bill allows North Carolinians to specify which methods they do not want used to prolong life unnaturally.
North Carolina is moving closer towards becoming the first state in the Southeast to adopt a renewable energy standard. The House Committee on Public Utilities cleared a bill (S3) that may require North Carolina utility providers to obtain 12.5 percent of retail electricity from renewable energy. The bill also provides a phaseout of the tax on the sale of energy to farmers and manufacturers. The bill must be considered next by the Finance Committee.
The House Committee on Finance is considering a bill that would allow the towns of Monroe, Marshville, and Wingate to use 90 percent of the money obtained from traffic violators caught by red light cameras to go to public schools. The bill (HB1228) also raises the civil penalty for a violation detected by the red light cameras from $50 to $75. The bill comes after the state Supreme Court decided that the city of High Point had operated its red light camera system illegally by not giving the schools all the money required by law.
This week Governor Mike Easley signed into law a bill that will give adult adoptees and their adult descendants easier access to adoption information. The bill (HB445) allows social services departments and adoption agencies licensed by the state to obtain contact information and medical histories on behalf of adult adoptees. Adoptees and birth parents can also obtain identification information if both parties consent.
Resolutions honoring Dr. James Preston Green, Sr. and his son, James Preston “Jimmy” Green, Jr.
The House of Representatives and Senate unanimously approved resolutions Tuesday honoring former State Representative Dr. James Preston Green, Sr. and his late son, James Preston “Jimmy” Green, Jr. Dr. Green died in May 2006 and his son passed away in September. Both were devoted civil servants in their native Vance County who improved the lives of people throughout the state. Dr. Green was the first African-American elected to the Henderson City Council. He was appointed to the House of Representatives by Gov. Jim Hunt in 1989 and was then elected to two terms. He also served as president of the Old North State Medical Society.
Jimmy Green, Jr. was an attorney who also earned a master’s degree in public affairs from North Carolina State University. He served as executive director of the NC Coalition of Rural Farm Families and throughout his career provided legal help to small farmers, often working for free. Attorney Green was a strong supporter of the Boys and Girls Club of North Central North Carolina. He also founded The James E. Shepard Center for Truth and Justice to preserve the legacy of his great-grandfather, who founded North Carolina Central University.
I was proud to sponsor the resolutions (HB2064 and HB2065) honoring both men. Dr. Green and Attorney Green improved the lives of everyone in their communities and our state. They deserve the General Assembly’s recognition, and I am proud I knew them and was able to represent them and their families.
Legislators took time to honor the Tuskegee Airmen this week, including about 40 North Carolinians who were members of the famed cadre of black pilots that served in the segregated military during World War II. The resolution (H2063) lists the names of Tuskegee Airmen who were either born in or who live in North Carolina. Our state salutes them and their families.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation reports that child-wellness has improved in North Carolina. Although infant mortality has increased slightly, teen deaths, children living in poverty and child deaths have all decreased.
I attended the following events:
Please remember that you can listen to each day’s session, committee meetings and press conferences on the General Assembly’s website. Once on the site, select “audio,” and then make your selection — House Chamber, Senate Chamber, Appropriations Committee Room or Press Conference Room.
The House will be in session on Saturday to complete its work on the budget.
As I’ve said many times before, I hope you will continue to let me know how you feel about the issues that are being debated by the North Carolina Legislature and the challenges you and your family are facing each day.
By working together, we can make Northampton, Vance and Warren Counties and all regions of North Carolina a better place to live, work and raise a family.