Greetings from Raleigh. I hope everyone had a great Father’s Day weekend. As this week brings the first day of summer so does the General Assembly agree on a budget. It has been a hectic week in Raleigh as we focused on finalizing the budget with our House counterparts. Next week, we anticipate a packed agenda as we conclude the business of the 2012 Short Session by June 30.
Senate action this week:
HB-950 Modify 2011 Appropriations Act
State lawmakers reached a $20.18 billion budget agreement Wednesday morning. The agreement makes adjustments to the state’s current biennial budget which filled a $2.5 billion deficit Republicans inherited from previous leadership, reduced government spending by nearly $1 billion and enacted a $50,000 income tax cut for job-creating businesses. Some of the highlights of the budget agreement include: Restoring $251 million in recurring state dollars to public education (K-12); It Continues to fully fund at the state level all classroom teachers and teaching assistants. In fact, it increases state level funding for teachers to a higher amount than the last Perdue-Dalton budget; It provides $27 million for an education reform program to strengthen student literacy, improve graduation rates, reward effective teachers and give parents tools to make better informed decisions about their children’s education; It provides $274 million in additional Medicaid funding to cover liabilities created while Democrats controlled the General Assembly. The bill also puts $100 million into the savings reserve fund to help protect the fiscal solvency of the program; It cuts and freezes the state gas tax to 37.5 cents per gallon - 1.4 cents per gallon less than the current rate; It provides public school teachers and state employees a 1.2 percent raise - the first raise since 2008. Our community college and university systems are given funds for a 1.2 percent raise with flexibility on how to use this money to recruit, retain and reward excellent instructors; It fully funds the state retirement system and gives state retirees a 1 percent cost of living adjustment. This is the first adjustment since 2008. Individuals that are currently employed are receiving a 1.2% raise, compared to their retired counterparts, who are only receiving a 1.0% raise. The reason for this is that individuals that are currently employed contribute more taxes than retired people, therefore the different makes what is actually received comparable after taxes.
SB-416 Amend Death Penalty Procedures
The North Carolina Senate on Wednesday approved reforms to the Racial Justice Act, a law allowing convicted murderers and child rapists on death row to appeal their sentences using statistics that allegedly show racial bias. In order to prevent convicted criminals from abusing the overbroad Racial Justice Act, the bill clarifies the types of evidence that can be used in determining whether race was a significant factor in seeking the death sentence. Those changes include: Defining the relevant time period considered to 10 years prior to the offense and two years after the sentence; Limiting the use of statistical evidence to the county or prosecutorial district where the sentence was imposed; Providing that statistical evidence alone is insufficient to establish that race played a significant factor in the defendant’s case.