With our summer activity winding down, I want to quickly provide everyone with a review of what the legislature and our office, specifically, accomplished this year.
The Budget Conference Report (Senate Bill 744)
The House and Senate were able to agree on a balanced budget that provides an average 7% raise for teachers, preserves teacher assistant positions, and makes no changes to Medicaid eligibility. We accomplished all of that without raising taxes.
Furthermore, the budget makes some changes to the structures of several state agencies, which I believe will ultimately lead to greater efficiency and greater funding availability in the future.
To view the entire budget, please click the link above. It is a long and complicated document, so please feel free to reach out to our office with specific questions and we will do our best to answer them.
Tort Reform (Senate Bill 648)
I also sponsored a Tort Reform bill, which our office has been working on for the better part of two years. This bill makes several improvements to our judicial system and will help the state save taxpayer money on litigation costs.
The first provision of the bill creates transparency in private attorney contracting by requiring the Attorney General to disclose the details of any and all contracts made with private attorney. We have seen other states robbed by large law firms given sweetheart deals by their Attorney Generals, and we wanted to protect NC taxpayers from that as much as possible.
The second provision of the bill makes several changes that will protect North Carolina businesses from so-called “patent trolls”. Patent trolls are known for abusing the patent system by asserting false patent claims and forcing companies to settle with them rather than pay for the costly litigation process. Our changes make it more difficult for patent trolls to file suit without a legitimate claim and make it a felony to assert a patent claim in bad faith.
N.C. Farm Act of 2014 (House Bill 366)
This year’s Farm Act includes 17 provisions intended to break down the barriers to the continued growth of our state’s number one industry.
We listened to feedback from growers across the state and did our best to address as many of their concerns as possible. Among other things, this bill provides confidentiality for farmers who have complaints filed against them until those claims are proven to be legitimate, at which point they become public. DENR informed us that up to 80% of the complaints that they investigate are frivolous.
The farm bill also makes many other improvements to the laws around farming in this state, so I encourage you to read the bill for yourself by clicking the title above.