Aug. 15, 2013. The office of North Carolina House Majority Leader Paul “Skip” Stam (R) released an update last week on the N.C. General Assembly’s ‘Long Session,’ where a slue of controversial bills passed this summer concerning social and economic issues. Below is the release.
The General Assembly has just concluded its 2013 “Long Session.” We will not be back in Raleigh until May 14, 2014 for a “Short Session.” This was the first session in 144 years that a Republican Governor had a Republican majority in the General Assembly. We had a lot to do:
Budget and Taxes: For the third straight year we were able to balance the budget while giving significant tax relief and tax reform. The budget, in nominal terms, is a slight increase over last year. But after factoring in population and inflation it is a slight decrease. For each of the last three years Democrats have complained that the sky would fall, schools would be shuttered and that social services would evaporate. Nonsense. The total state estimated spending (excluding agency receipts) for 2012-2013 was $20.093 billion. The total state budget for 2013-2014(excluding agency receipts) is $20.631 billion (SB 402). In 2011 we reduced the state portion of the sales tax by 1% (a 20% decrease) and reduced personal and corporate income taxes by removing the Perdue 3% surcharge. This year we have again reduced sales tax rates and corporate income tax rates. The personal income tax rates drop significantly from a three tiered system with a top rate of 7.75% to a flat rate of 5.75% (HB 998).
Traditional Public Education: Our budget provides for additional teachers but somewhat fewer teaching assistants. Local school boards will decide the appropriate mix. The student in the average school system will still receive about $9,000 per year in funding from all sources. In K-12 per pupil spending increased 1%.
Community colleges are still underfunded, which I regret. Although the 17 campuses of the UNC system complain about “cuts” North Carolina is still #1 in the nation in taxpayer support of higher education.
New Educational Opportunities: In 2011 we removed the 15-year cap on charter schools. This year we passed public charter school revisions (SB 337 and HB 250) that should jumpstart the state’s ability to offer more choices to parents who want to remain in the public school system. We also passed Opportunity Scholarships for the children of poor parents who want to leave their public schools in order to get an education at private schools SB 402 Section 8.29(a). We expanded our program for parents of children with special needs who need private resources to educate their children more appropriately (HB 269).
Pro-Life measures: We passed several prolife measures to take government out of funding abortion and make sure that women receive accurate information. SB 132 requires education in middle schools on the causes of preterm birth. SB 353 protects employees, employers and taxpayers from having to participate in abortion and authorizes new rules to ensure minimal safety standards at clinics.
Regulatory Reform: In 2011 we changed the processes of overregulation and put a hold on new state regulations. This year we began to remove the clutter of outdated, excessive and irrational rules (HB 74and several others). And other rules we sunsetted to ensure continuous review. That process will continue for years. Please send me your nominations for that process. We are not going to do anything to impair public safety or the quality of our water, soil or air.
Criminal Justice: We passed several bills to streamline the criminal justice system. For example, SB 182, cuts out duplicative appeals to Superior Court from District Court. We finally repealed the “Racial Justice Act” which had nothing to do with justice and very little to do with race. It was a pretext for a moratorium on the death penalty. In 2011 and 2012 we trimmed it back but the courts thought we were kidding. So SB 306 was necessary.
New provisions on drunk driving and a host of other criminal procedure amendments should make our criminal courts more fair and productive. And a comprehensive SB 683 will take human trafficking for prostitution very seriously by punishing the pimps and traffickers much more seriously. A statewide grand jury is authorized to investigate these modern slave traders.
Health Services: There was much discussion about “not” expanding Medicaid. But the truth is that over the last session we have added a billion dollars to Medicaid spending. That system is broken. Until it is reformed we simply cannot take on another half million North Carolinians as wards of the state. Most will be entitled to large subsidies on the Obamacare federal “exchange” and will get subsidized health insurance there on a sliding scale. I doubt that Obamacare will sustain itself more than a year or three because there is not enough money in the world to do so. But until it collapses these subsidies exist on the exchange.
Economic Development: North Carolina has had a “hodgepodge” of state economic development agencies which work at cross purposes: the Golden Leaf Foundation (sometimes known as the Golden Slush Fund), the Rural Center (operating as the Rural Slush Fund) as well as One North Carolina, JDIG and the Department of Commerce. We spend close to a billion dollars per year on economic development. Our strategy in the last 15 years has not worked. Our budget focuses these resources on rural counties.
Transportation: For decades NC has suffered under the “equity formula” where politics decided where transportation money would be spent. HB 817 was the Governor’s Strategic Transportation Initiative. It bases funding decisions primarily on congestion data.
Integrity for our elections process: We passed a major overhaul of the election laws insuring that every legal vote is counted by requiring a photo ID before voting (HB 589). Polls indicate almost 7 out of 10 citizens support the photo ID requirement.
If you want further information on these or any other subjects, please contact us at [email protected]and we will try to get information to you. We can send you electronically the actual bills and committee summaries.
Office of the Speaker Pro Tem NC House of Representatives Paul Stam