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This Week at The North Carolina General Assembly – Feb 4 – 7, 2013
Added 02-08-13

This week the North Carolina General Assembly took major action on a number of issues of interest to North Carolina manufacturing companies including: Unemployment Insurance, Education Reform, Elimination/Restructuring of Obsolete Boards and Commissions, and Medicaid Expansion. Check out the details below. MCIC’s Bill Tracker report also provides the status of other bills of interest to manufacturers.

Link to MCIC’s Bill Tracker Report for Feb. 8, 2013 (pdf 2 pages)

Unemployment Insurance
On Tuesday, Feb. 5, the North Carolina House of Representatives approved House Bill 4. The bill reduces the maximum duration of unemployment benefits from 26 weeks to 20 weeks and lowers the maximum weekly benefit amount from $525 to $350. Seven proposed amendments by Democrats were rejected. The next day The Senate Finance Committee concurred with the House on Senate Bill 6 (House Bill 4), after rejecting two amendments.

Representative Julia Howard, R-Davie, spearheaded the House GOP effort to pass the bill as-is in order to "give the bill a chance to work" so that the state can repay the $2.5 billion debt to the federal government in a timely fashion. North Carolina's federal unemployment insurance debt is the highest in the Southeast region and nationally, trumped only by the more populous states: California and New York.

The bill will now go to the Senate floor for further debate. MCIC was part of an active coalition of business organizations, led by the NC Chamber that lobbied for passage of the bill.

Link to the text of House Bill 4
Link to the text of Senate Bill 6

Education Reform
The Senate Committee on Education/Higher Education approved a bill (Senate Bill 14) containing technical and career-oriented graduation pathways for North Carolina high schools. Students would be able to choose to complete additional coursework in order to add "endorsements" for career and technical education on their diplomas. In hand with this, the bill also provides revisions on requirements for teachers, in collaboration with The State Board of Education and community college system, so that more students can take career and technical education courses.

One of the bill's sponsors, Senator Harry Brown, R-Onslow, says this will allow driven students to get a good job out of high school, regardless of collegiate timetables. The committee substitute did remove language from the original bill that would allow these courses to freshmen and sophomores. The bill was referred to the House committee on Education where--if given a favorable report--will be referred to Appropriations Subcommittee on Education.

Link to the text of Senate Bill 14

Elimination and Restructuring of Obsolete Boards and Commissions
On Tuesday, Feb. 5, the Rules and Operations of the Senate Committee supported a GOP proposal to terminate or restructure certain boards and commissions. (see a more detailed story elsewhere in today’s Weekly Update.)

The following are subject to elimination: Dietetics/Nutrition Board, Lottery Oversight Commission, Small Business Contractor Authority, Committee on Dropout Prevention, State Education Commission, National Heritage Area Designation Commission, Governor's Management Council, Center for Nursing, Board of Correction, Board of Public Telecommunications Commissioners of the North Carolina Agency for Public Telecommunications, and The Board of Directors of the Certification Entity for the Phase II Settlement Funds.

The following are subject to reorganization: Coastal Resource Commission, Coastal Resources Advisory Council, Environmental Management Commission, The Utilities Commission, Wildlife Resources Commission, North Carolina Turnpike Authority, Special Superior Court Judges, State Board of Elections, State Board of Education, North Carolina State Lottery Commission, Charter School Advisory Committee.

These eliminations and restructuring are common following major partisan regime shifts. It will allow Governor Pat McCrory and legislative leaders to pick appointees so that appointees "reflect the values of the current administration," as stated by Senator Bob Rucho.

Senate Minority Whip Josh Stein suggested that many current board members and commissioners "have done nothing wrong." Senator Bill Rabon, one of the bill's chief sponsors said it will make the state more efficient. The fiscal note provides that it will save the state $2 million. The bill originally had a provision that would have created two additional seats on the state Supreme Court, but was removed to be "visit[ed] at a later date" according to committee Chairman Senator Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson.

Link to the Text of Senate Bill 10

Medicaid Expansion
On Monday night, Feb. 4, the Senate approved legislation (Senate Bill 4) that would block state expansion of Medicaid, opting to allow the federal government to run a health insurance exchange as dictated by the Affordable Care Act. The party-line vote of 31-17 passed despite a letter from Governor McCrory to the Senate asking for more time to consider fiscal consequences.

Speaker Tillis provided that there will be more in-depth consideration in the House, as to alleviate the Governor's concerns. The House received the bill Wednesday, passed its first reading Thursday, and was referred to the Committee on Health and Human Services where--if favorable--will be referred to Appropriations.

Link to the Text of Senate Bill 4

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