Interim and select committees were finishing their business, in preparation for the beginning of the short session on May 16th. Two committees on which I serve met Wednesday and Thursday.
The Joint Legislative Task Force on Education Finance Reform met Wednesday, and heard from an expert on education finance. Dr. Marguerite Roza from Georgetown University spoke on the allocation of funds using a student-based formula rather than a staffing and categorical system. Although North Carolina uses a student head count called Average Daily Membership (ADM), we specify staffing levels and add on categorical amounts for different student needs. Dr. Roza pointed out our system can limit local flexibility, and she compared it to other states that use other methods. In this committee we are looking for a system that is simpler, increases local flexibility, and maintains good accountability. After a vigorous discussion, we adjourned until after the short session. However, I am sure many of the ideas presented during these meetings will be on the minds of our education budget writers as they adjust the 2018 -2019 budget.
On Thursday the House Select Committee on N.C. River Quality met to hear reports from the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), Cape Fear Public Utility Authority (CFPUA), and University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW). While much progress has been made in the testing, identifying, and controlling of compounds in the drinking water in our region, much remains to be done to insure the continuous monitoring and insure the safety of our water. I expect legislation during the short session to address these issues.
Thursday we also began discussions on the 2018 – 2019 adjustments to the 2017 – 2019 biennial budget. This is an opportunity to adjust the second year of the two year state budget to reflect new income tax and sales tax projections. Many budget meetings will be taking place in advance of the May 16th session start date.
As we went from building to building we could not help but notice the installation and testing of new security equipment going on. Metal detectors were in evidence, as well as new doors on the parking garage underneath the legislative building. These measures had been announced and may be long overdue, but it was disappointing to realize that they may be necessary for the safety of our members and staff in the General Assembly. We like to be open to the public, whom we serve, but we know that only one evil person can take advantage of the openness to hurt innocent people.
This week, the committee meetings and budget discussions will continue. I expect to meet with the House Select Committee on School Safety on Wednesday.