April 17, 2015
Much has happened since I last wrote you on the Ides of March.
The General Assembly passed and the Governor signed Senate Bill 20 which stabilizes the gas tax for the rest of the year at $.36 /gallon. This is a temporary tax rate decrease followed by a temporary tax rate increase followed by whatever we are able to agree to going forward in 2016. With the low price of oil and the improved gasoline efficiency of cars, without taking some action, road construction, maintenance and repair will be drastically curtailed. I voted yes.
I am the primary sponsor of an Omnibus Criminal Justice procedure bill, HB 173. We have worked on that with all sides of the criminal justice system. Our goal is to ensure that there is not a one or three year wait between arrest and disposition of criminal cases. This bill passed the House almost unanimously. HB 357 passed the House this week which will improve the efficiency of crime labs.
HB 108, Building and Site Development, passed the House. It provides for site infrastructure, primarily to assist rural and semi rural counties so that they have a “pad ready” site to attract investment. This is a loan from one level of government to another that will be fully secured. It is not a giveaway to the business that will ultimately be there.
HB 127, DOT Condemnation Changes passed the House 102-8. It makes 4 changes to the dealings between NCDOT and landowners.
The House passed HB 201 to repeal the super majority effect of zoning protest petitions. Petitions will still be heard and considered by a Town Council, but they will not be given the antidemocratic effect of allowing one or two council members to block the right of the property owner and a majority of the council to determine the appropriate use for property.
Several initiatives regarding K-12 public education are:
- Teacher pay – I support maintaining our commitment to raise beginning teacher pay for a Wake County teacher to approximately $40,000 per year. Total compensation, including retirement and benefits, for a beginning Wake County teacher would be approximately $54,000 per year.
- Elevating Educators – I support HB 662 which includes differentiated pay based upon teacher leadership positions, hard to staff subjects and hard to staff schools. Teachers should have a career path that allows them to remain in the classroom as a teacher leader for additional pay.
- Teacher Recruitment and Scholarship – I support HB 661 which establishes a teacher scholarship program for hard to staff positions and for teaching positions in hard to staff schools.
- Later high school start times – There is a body of research that supports later school start times for high school students. Research supports that later school start times for high school students increases student achievement.
Several initiatives addressing school choice are:
- I have proposed to increase funding for Opportunity Scholarships from $10.8M to $36M. The program provides school choice for low income families to attend a private school and receive up to $4,200 per year. 5,200 students have applied for the scholarship for next year.
- HB 133 increases funding for Special Needs Scholarships from $6,000 per year to $8,000 per year and provides for payment of tuition at the beginning of the school year rather than as a reimbursement. This bill has passed the House K-12 education committee and is awaiting action by the House Appropriations Committee.
- HB 557 provides charter schools with an increased share of local funding. It provides for local taxes and funding to follow the student. This bill is awaiting action by the House Appropriations Committee. HB 761 allows counties the option to provide capital to public charter schools.
- HB 468 establishes a Special Education Charter School Pilot. The State Board of Education will select an existing charter school in Wake County to provide educational services with an additional $2,000 per student for up to 100 students, if 80% of the students have special needs. This bill is awaiting action by the House K-12 Education and Appropriations Committees.
- HB 535 appropriates $1,000,000 for 2015-16 for the Charter School Accelerator (through Parents for Educational Freedom in NC, Inc.). PEFNC would issue up to four $250,000 grants to develop high quality charter schools. The funding would go to the grantees to be used in the initial planning period. This bill is awaiting action by the House Rules Committee.
The pro life bill is HB 465 which will be heard in the House Health Committee next Wednesday. It establishes enhanced waiting periods and restricts UNC-CH from providing abortions
Video Poker has reared its perennial and pernicious head yet again. I will fight it.
HB3 amends the State Constitution to protect private property from abusive condemnations, limiting them to public uses or public utilities. No action yet by the Senate.
If you have questions about legislation you can always call me or my legislative staff. Anne Murtha handles constituent issues 919-733-2962; Gregg Sinders covers all educational issues 919-715-2644; Jamie Lassiter covers criminal justice issues, court issues, pro life issues and liberty issues 919-733-2614; Don D’Ambrosi covers land use, environment, regulatory reform and local government 919-733-2962.
With best regards, I am
Speaker Pro Tem