The General Assembly returned to Raleigh last week for a scheduled three-day session where no votes were taken and no business was conducted other than to call us to order and to adjourn. I attended the session in case any unscheduled business came to the floor and was joined by many of my colleagues. We wanted to be careful following a surprise vote in the House of Representatives last month that resulted in a veto override attacking the North Carolina Association of Educators.
The Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate said they scheduled the session in case we needed to address redistricting matters. The total number of days spent in special sessions since the General Assembly adjourned now stands at 20, and at an estimated $50,000 day, the state has spent $1 million on six separate interim sessions that have produced little, if anything, that is good for the people of our state. North Carolina is not intended to have a full-time legislature such as the one this leadership seems to be establishing. I know that you expect us to complete our work in a timely, efficient way and then return home so that we can learn from you about the needs of our community.
A seventh special session is scheduled in April before legislators are scheduled to begin for their normal even-numbered year short session in May.
Thank you for your support and your interest in North Carolina. Please contact me if I can be of any assistance.
Gov. Bev Perdue announced Wednesday that she has identified $9.3 million in state funds to expand North Carolina’s pre-kindergarten program by 2,000 slots. The children will start school in mid-March and attend through mid-August. Local administrators have a process in place to determine which children will be placed in pre-K programs. In July, Superior Court Judge Howard Manning issued an order in which he said that “the State of North Carolina shall not deny any eligible at-risk four year old admission to the North Carolina Pre-Kindergarten Program (NCPK).” Gov. Perdue had previously suggested a solution that would have served 6,300 children without raising taxes or making further cuts to education. The General Assembly has not acted on the governor’s recommendations. Each year, about 67,000 at-risk four year olds in NC are eligible for the program. Current funding provides service for about 24,700 children.
The Program Evaluation Division of the General Assembly has recommended closing a state museum, a state historic site and cutting operating hours at seven other locations to help save money. The division also made other recommendations that together with closing the Museum of the Albemarle in Elizabeth City and the Richard Caswell Memorial in Kinston would save an estimated $1.9 million. The amount would more than double if the state closed its 39 parks and recreation areas during winter months. The study has been sent to a subcommittee for additional review. Recommendations could come before the session in May. If you would like to read the full report, visit the Program Evaluation Division website at http://www.ncleg.net/PED/ and choose the tab “Recent Reports.”
The N.C. Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform has asked legislative leaders to issue public agendas for legislative sessions at least five business days before they convene. The coalition also asked that the presiding officers in each chamber make available copies of all bills for consideration ahead of the sessions and committee meetings and hold sessions at regular times. The request is a response to a hastily called midnight session in December to override a veto of a bill that prevents teachers from paying dues to the North Carolina Association of Educators through payroll deduction. Dozens of other groups are allowed to collect dues and payments through payroll deduction. The override is now the subject of a lawsuit filed by NCAE.
Please feel free to contact me when you have questions or concerns pertaining to Legislative matters.
Room 1111 – Legislative Building
16 W. Jones Street
Raleigh, NC 27601