As our state is continuing to recover from the recession, there are still many middle-class and low-income families who are struggling. I will continue to make job creation my top priority so that we can grow our middle-class and move more families out of poverty.
This week SB 4, the bill designed to reject Medicaid expansion in North Carolina cleared the legislature and was passed on to Gov. McCrory for his consideration. I voted against this bill because I support expanding access to quality affordable health care. Medicaid expansion would mean that 500,000 North Carolinians would receive medical care. It would have created an estimated 25,000 jobs. Expansion would have also protected rural hospitals across the state. Unfortunately good public policy was blocked due to partisan politics.
Coming on the heels of the Unemployment Insurance reform we debated earlier this session, I remain concerned that we are cutting away at the safety net many in our communities have used to make ends meet during the recession. I am hopeful that as we approach the budget and take up tax reform, we as a state can focus on growing the middle-class, improving education and create jobs.
The House did take meaningful action to address the growing meth production problem in North Carolina. HB 29 will enforce stricter penalties on anyone who was previously convicted of possessing or manufacturing meth that was caught with any product containing pseudoephedrine. The chemical which is found in many cold medicines is also the primary ingredient in meth production. The legislation also calls for longer prison sentences for people convicted of making meth if a child, disabled person or elderly person also resided in the home where the drug was being produced.
State of the State Response
House Democratic Leader Larry Hall delivered the Democratic Response to the State of the State address. Hall argued for fairness in tax reform and against cutting funding for our schools. Here are some excerpts from the address:
“…Gov. McCrory’s plan would expand the sales tax to include more services like haircuts, home maintenance and doctors’ visits while cutting income taxes for the wealthiest individuals and big corporations. This means that hardworking taxpayers will have to pay more in taxes overall, while millionaires and big corporations pay less. I will not support any tax reform plan that balances huge cuts for billion-dollar corporations on the backs of middle class families…”
“…We agree it is vital that we retool and improve our public education system. We must, however, make sure that reform is not just a code word for continuing to cut more and more from our schools. Cutting funding for public education is wrong because it hurts our children’s ability to succeed and compete for the jobs of the future…”
The full text of the response can be read here: http://www.wcnc.com/news/politics/Democrats-pounce-after-McCrorys-State—191743151.html
HB 4 – Unemployment Bill
NC governor signs unemployment bill into law
Gov. Pat McCrory signed into law Tuesday changes to North Carolina’s unemployment insurance system. Critics say it was an unbalanced bill that will devastate workers who were laid off through no fault of their own. Under the new law, the unemployed will face reduced benefits and will be eligible for a shorter period of time. North Carolina continues to face an unemployment rate of more than 9 percent, one of the highest in the nation.
The new law, which takes effect July 1, cuts maximum benefits paid to unemployed workers by roughly one-third, reduces the maximum weeks of benefits and cuts off extra federal benefits for unemployed workers. It also raises state unemployment taxes slightly for most businesses.
HB 29: House Passes Bill Aimed at Reducing Meth Production
House Bill 29 would make it a felony for someone who has been convicted of manufacturing methamphetamine to possess products containing pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient of the drug that is also found in cold medicines. It would also impose tougher penalties for making methamphetamine around children, the elderly or the disabled.
Senate Bill 76
NC senators file fracking, Atlantic drilling bill
North Carolina Senators have filed a measure to modify provisions related to oil and gas exploration and development activities in the state, which include the use of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing treatments.
SB 89: Payday Lending
Payday Lending Bill Filed in the Senate
Senator Jerry Tillman has filed a bill that would bring payday lending back to the state. Payday lending was banned in 2001. Payday loans are short-term, high-interest loans that borrowers secure with post-dated checks. The loans get their name because borrowers are supposedly using the money to tide them over until their next payday. Some loans have interest rates as high as 300%.
HB 101: House Finance Committee Hears Estate Tax Repeal Bill
On Wednesday, the House Finance Committee approved a bill ending the state’s estate tax. State law exempts the first $5.25 million of an inherited estate, just like the federal estate tax. HB 101 would exempt homes valued at more than $5.25 million from the estate tax. The change would mean the state would lose $52 million from the state budget.
Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society weighs in against payday lending bill
As they have several times in past years, experts who counsel vulnerable soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines are speaking out against the expansion of predatory lending in North Carolina. Today, the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society sent a letter to the General Assembly in which the group makes clear what a terrible idea it would be to re-legalize “payday” lending as is proposed in recently introduced legislation.
Kilah’s Law clears committee
Kilah’s Law, the bill that increases the penalties for those who commit serious child abuse, cleared the House Judiciary C Committee Wednesday morning. It next goes to the House Appropriations Committee. The bill is named for a Union County toddler who suffered brain damage at the hands of her father. It has bipartisan support, with the only questions in committee centering on what level the felony should be and whether the state ought not to concentrate more on preventing such crimes.
The measure passed on a voice vote. The Appropriations Committee must review it because of the possible increased cost to the court system.
Please remember that you can listen to committee meetings and press conferences on the General Assembly’s website at www.ncleg.net. Once on the site, select “Audio,” and then make your selection – House Chamber, Senate Chamber, Appropriations Committee Room or Press Conference Room. A schedule of committee meetings and other events is also available on the website.