By M. H. Cavenaugh
Christian Action League
May 15, 2014
RALEIGH – North Carolina lawmakers returned to Raleigh for the “Short Session” on Wednesday. The session is expected to last until around the first of July. Some are reporting it should end before the July 4th weekend, nevertheless, it’s impossible to determine exactly how long it will actually last.
Legislators are expected to spend most of their time focused on making adjustments to the state’s budget. Governor Pat McCrory has proposed a $21 billion budget that includes $262.9 million in pay raises for teachers and state employees, but also includes cuts of $49 million from the UNC system and $122 million from proposed spending on health and human services. Lawmakers are facing a $450 million shortfall, but legislative leaders say money was set aside in a contingency fund that can cover the shortages without tax increases.
Opening day in the House and Senate were largely ceremonial. A highlight of activities in the House featured the passing of a resolution honoring the latest inductions into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, which included Rusty Wallace, Dale and Ned Jarrett, and Junior Johnson. Each of them were formerly escorted into the chamber and set before the body for the proceedings.
Outside the Legislative Building there were protestors calling for the GOP led legislature to reverse its course. The North Carolina Association of Educators and Action NC railed against the Governor and Republicans with accusations of undermining the public schools. The NAACP’s robed Rev. William Barber railed in the cadence of a black minister that North Carolina wasn’t experiencing a come-back, but a set-back. He charged lawmakers with setting into place policies that will result in the death of thousands in the Tar Heel state. Barber also called for a repeal of recently passed Voter ID laws.
Barber and the NAACP have promised to resume their “Moral Monday” protests. Barber called on demonstrators to return to the Legislative Building next week, which prompted lawmakers to rewrite the rules that govern what is allowed inside the building and the surrounding campus.
Among some of the bills anticipated this session include an omnibus tax measure that contains recommendations from the Revenue Laws Study Committee. One of the changes recommended by the Committee contains an excise tax on e-cigarettes. Another item that’s certain to get much press, but not necessarily much action, is the Puppy Mills legislation. Governor McCrory is still pushing for the passage of HB 930 and promises to launch a web site in favor of it. The bill passed the House, but is stalled in the Senate.
“It’s hard to know what might happen in the area of social concerns this session,” said Rev. Mark Creech. “There could be some alcohol proposals. The industry has hired a couple of very high-powered lobbyists who are diligently working to change our liquor laws this session. I don’t want to talk publicly at this point about those proposals. I’ll only say I firmly believe they are not in the best interest of our state’s public health and safety.”
Rev. Creech added there are a couple of measures that would make changes to lottery advertising and fund distributions that remain eligible to be taken up this session, along with a number of religious liberty bills that could provide enhanced protections for students in the public schools.
“All in all,” Rev. Creech said, “except for the rebel rousers who continue to hound and harass this legislative body for more spending, more government handouts, more unnecessary intrusions of state authority, and a more permissive and irresponsible morality, I think it’s likely to be a quiet session – at least with respect to our many concerns.” “But,” he added, “you never know and that’s why the Christian Action League maintains a full-time presence in the North Carolina General Assembly.”