Senate Prepares for Budget Votes
The Senate unveiled its version of the state budget on Sunday evening (6/10). It is expected that the budget will be voted on by the Senate Appropriations Committee and the full Senate before the end of this week. Once the Senate passes its version, the budget will go back to the House with negotiations between the two chambers to begin officially.
As suggested by Senate leaders, the Senate’s budget plan differs significantly from the House version, not making as many adjustments to the existing two-year budget. Sticking to a proposed timetable to adjourn by the end of June, Senate Rules Committee Chairman Tom Apodaca “suspended” committee meetings last week for the chamber to focus on passing its budget bill.
Chamber’s Priorities Move Forward
The Charlotte Chamber adopted its 2011-2012 legislative agenda focused on job creation and advocating pro-business policies that deliver innovative program and services. Several of the Chamber’s priorities have had movement in the General Assembly:
- State Air Toxics Program Reforms
House Bill 952 would exempt some emission control sources from regulation under the state Air Toxics Program if those sources are subject to regulation under the federal Clean Air Act. (Passed House 70-46; Passed Senate Environment Committee)
- Education Reform
Senate Bill 795 includes a vast array of education reform provisions, including replacing teacher tenure with one-to-four year contracts for teachers; puts additional focus on teaching children to read by third grade; provides merit pay for teachers; and creates a lateral entry program for the teaching profession. (Passed Senate 31-17; Referred to House Education Committee)
- Corporate Tax Reporting Requirements
Senate Bill 824 prevents the Department of Revenue (DOR) from interpreting the law on forced combinations by issuing directives. Under the proposal, DOR would be required to develop formal rules that could then be challenges and taken to an administrative law judge to determine. (Passed Senate 49-0; Referred to House Finance Committee)
- Regulatory Reform
Senate Bill 810 includes several regulatory efficiency goals, including: changes to the Administrative Procedures Act; requires agencies to provide private businesses advanced notice on audits; clarifies that state air quality regulations cannot be superimposed with state water quality regulations; lengthens the term for a sold waste permit from five years to 10 years. (Passed Senate 41-1; Referred to House Commerce Committee)
- Tax Credit Extensions
House Bill 1025 would extend tax credits that are scheduled to expire on January 1, 2013 for one year. (Passed House 117-0; Passed Senate 44-0; Waiting for Senate Concurrence)
Update: Shale Gas Development
With a vote of 29-19 the Senate has given final approval to legislation creating a regulatory framework that allows hydraulic fracturing. The bill only allows permits after additional action from the General Assembly, establishing the Mining and Energy Commission to oversee the creation of the regulatory framework. The bill in the Senate Commerce Committee amended several provisions, including:
- Landowner Protections
Provides protections for landowners, regarding pollution caused by a gas well and royalty rights for landowners on whose land natural gas is found.
- Local Zoning Ordinances
Directs a uniform system of regulation that allows for local setbacks, noise restrictions and other local restrictions as long as they do not have the effect of prohibiting the drilling.
Senate Bill 820, the Clean Energy & Economic Security Act now goes to the House for consideration where committee hearings are expected this week.
North Carolina's Cherokee casino now expects to offer live games starting July 4th, after the approval of legislation that legalizes Las Vegas-style games on tribal lands. This legislation enables a new 30-year gaming compact between the state and the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians, which permits two new casinos and live dealers on tribal lands, adding millions of dollars in revenue. In exchange, the state will receive a small percentage of the revenue from the new games, estimated at $2 million to $3 million a year; Gov. Bev Perdue signed the bill minutes after the Senate gave its final approval. The landmark legislation aims to boost the tribe's Harrah's Cherokee Casino, after years of state lawmakers moving to limit gambling in the state. The initial money from the pact is directed toward education.