Promises kept: we're starting to see the General Assembly narrow its focus as they promised before this Short Session convened in May. House and Senate calendars are stacked with similar bills including committee work and floor debate on the same issues on the same days. I'm sticking with my prediction of adjournment before July 4th.
This week: Common Core, Budget, Economic Development, Mechanics Liens.
The Senate passed its version of the state budget in the wee hours of Saturday morning then rested until Wednesday. Wednesday and Thursday the Senate took up its version of Governor McCrory's new economic development structure SB 743 http://www.ncleg.net/Sessions/2013/Bills/Senate/PDF/S743v4.pdf with a final Senate vote expected early next week. And it passed a bill to eliminate the educational standards known as Common Core - SB 812 http://www.ncleg.net/Sessions/2013/Bills/Senate/PDF/S812v3.pdf.
The place to be Wednesday was the Senate Education Committee where business leaders and the education lobby watched the Senate dispense with common core standards and then take on the Office of Charter Schools regarding the process, problems and culture of evaluating applications for new charter schools. Laura Leslie's must-read-to-believe news account is here http://www.wral.com/senate-education-leader-blasts-charter-chief/13701705/.
The House has been putting together its version of the state budget which we hear will be very different from the Senate's -- which could lead to a long conference process. The House announced it would hold a floor vote on the bill next Thursday with final House approval on Friday - either pushing past midnight Thursday or during regular business hours after everyone gets some sleep, at the chamber's pleasure. Conventional wisdom is those late night sessions are more efficient with peer pressure working against the most loquacious members.
The House version of the bill to eliminate the common core standards passed the House and goes to the Senate. HB 1061 http://www.ncleg.net/Sessions/2013/Bills/House/PDF/H1061v3.pdf and SB 812 have some differences to be worked out, but the legislative intent to show commitment to this education change by moving both bills at once is noted. Prominent figures in North Carolina's business community oppose the elimination of common core national standards for our state, but NC Chamber head Lew Ebert says they oppose the Senate bill less than the House bill.
The House tentatively approved the companion bill on economic development changes HB 1031 http://www.ncleg.net/Sessions/2013/Bills/House/PDF/H1031v3.pdf; it will receive final House approval next Tuesday. The House amended its bill to require that the new Economic Development PPP would fall under the State Ethics Act; the Senate amended its version to fold in a new plan for film incentives. The state constitution requires that each chamber pass an identical bill so we'll watch the negotiations closely.
Mechanics Liens, HB 1101 http://www.ncleg.net/Sessions/2013/Bills/House/PDF/H1101v2.pdf and HB 1102 http://www.ncleg.net/Sessions/2013/Bills/House/PDF/H1102v1.pdf, passed the House and are parked in the Senate Rules Committee. (Use of the Rules Committee is a very powerful tool. It's a place to kill a bill, park a bill, rewrite a bill, horse trade...the possibilities are endless. Mischief abounds). We're not sure what's next for these bills but will keep you posted.
First in Flight - even unmanned. An interesting 60 Minutes story on how Amazon is experimenting with unmanned aircraft spurred creation of a House study committee that met last winter to developed a bill regulating unmanned aircraft/drones should the FAA clear the way for commercial use. That bill was sent to a special subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee this week to hammer out the role of local law enforcement, and the impact to hobbyists. The Committee chairman has indicated his interest in voting out a bill this session.
The Patent Trolls bill (http://www.ncleg.net/Sessions/2013/Bills/House/PDF/H1032v4.pdf) passed the House and was referred to the Senate Rules Committee. We've got our eyes on it.
SB 786 (http://www.ncleg.net/Sessions/2013/Bills/Senate/PDF/S786v8.pdf) on fracking was signed by the Governor this week.
Not a peep on modernizing the state's business court.
Stay tuned next week as we learn how the US Open in Pinehurst impacts the legislative calendar.