The General Assembly held a historic session in Greensboro on Thursday to help the state’s third-largest city celebrate its bicentennial.
Members of both the House and Senate came to the session, where both chambers passed a resolution honoring the city and its institutions of higher education. The session was held on the campus of North Carolina A&T State University. It marked only the third time the legislature has met outside of Raleigh since it became the state capitol.
Back in Raleigh, my colleagues and I continue to make progress on revising the state’s budget. We remain confident we will have the bill ready by June 2 and approved by the end of this fiscal year. We have less money in over collections than we have had in past years when the economy was growing more rapidly so we are looking even more carefully for spending cuts and efficiencies.
We have also made some progress this week on anti-gang legislation, which is significant for many of our communities. I anticipate that the pace of our work will quicken in the weeks ahead. Below is a summary of some of the significant items that have been addressed so far.
As always, thank you for this opportunity to share information with you. Please contact my office if I can be of any assistance.
A version of an anti-gang bill that passed the House last session was approved in the Senate this week. The differences between the bills will be worked out in a conference committee. One of the sponsors of the bill (H274) says the General Assembly will probably allocate $10 million for gang prevention and intervention to help law enforcement and communities head off potential crimes.
Nearly 300 terminally ill, infirm, and permanently disabled prison inmates could be paroled due to their medical status under a Senate bill approved this week by a House committee. This plan would require the inmates to have Medicaid, Medicare or private insurance before their release. The proposal (S1480) is expected to save the state money, though it remains unclear how much it would save. The state currently spends about $200 million a year on medical care for inmates. Inmates convicted of the most serious felonies, such as murder and rape, will not be eligible for release.
A bill intended to address the over use of water supplies during droughts and to create consistent water restrictions throughout the state has been introduced in the General Assembly. The bill (H2499) would require minimal restrictions to be followed if municipal water supplies became too low and gives the governor expanded authority to act in the event of a drought. The bill also says that farmers who are large water users would be required to register with the state and allows the use of “grey water” from showers, tubs, and sinks to water yards and plants.
Any retailer in the state that provides plastic shopping bags and has 10,000 square feet or more of retail space would be required to establish a plastic bag recycling program under a bill (H2527) filed this week. The state already requires all retailers who provide plastic bags to assure they are recyclable. The proposed law would also change the state’s goal for recycled bags from 25 percent to 75 percent.
A budget subcommittee overseeing mental health approved draft recommendations this week to improve crisis response in communities and staffing and training at state hospitals. The joint committee of House and Senate members also wants more money for in-home services for mentally retarded and disabled patients. The final amounts available for the plan will be determined as lawmakers draw up their proposed budget.
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