LEGISLATIVE REPORT - August 30, 2019
As the State budget stalemate stretches past day 50, the Republican leadership in the General Assembly has clearly shifted gears on strategy. A number of “mini budgets,” legislation dealing with small portions of the budget (some taken out word for word) dealing with employee pay raises, Medicaid funding, and other critical issues are moving through committees. These new versions of bills are almost entirely pieces of the budget bill pulled out and pasted into existing legislation, usually in conference reports that go to both the House and Senate floor to be voted on with no amendments allowed.
The goal appears to be to force Governor Cooper to deal with these budget issues individually, essentially passing the budget without dealing with the full document. In addition, the strategy makes it politically difficult for Democratic legislators to oppose the measures and even more difficult for the Governor to veto since they are very popular measures by themselves and many have bi-partisan support. Cooper has not yet committed to vetoing or signing these bills, but has called it “another trick” by legislators who don’t want to negotiate.
Teacher pay raises have not yet surfaced, as that issue could prove to be more complicated. The school employee pay raise bill (House Bill 426) has also stalled. After a week-long break for Labor Day, the legislature plans to return the week of September 9th and more “mini budget” bills are expected on prison safety, school safety, additional funding for disaster recovery, and funding to test rape kits.
Another important piece of legislation that is on the move is House Bill 74, the Taxpayer Refund Act. This is the Republican leadership’s plan to return the budget surplus to taxpayers in the form of $250 rebates for those married and filing jointly and $125 for all other taxpayers. Under the bill, the first checks would be mailed December 15th. The bill has been approved by the Senate but was sent to finance committee in the House where it has yet to have a hearing.
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