Last week in the North Carolina General Assembly the House of Representatives voted on several school safety bills, the House and Senate heard the Governor’s budget proposal, and we continued to file bills at a rapid pace.
Our normal schedule this session is to meet with most of our committees on Tuesday and have most votes on the house floor on Wednesday and Thursday. Last Wednesday we had some important votes on school safety bills. They came out of recommendations of the House Select Committee on School Safety, which met during the interim last year and of which I was a member. I was happy to cosponsor these bills.
House bill 73 – Civic Responsibility Education calls for schools to include in some existing courses instruction on the concepts of respect for school personnel, responsibility for school safety, service to others, and good citizenship. It passed the House 113 – 2.
House Bill 75 – School Mental Health Screening Study calls for a study of development of a mental health screening process for students, similar to the physical health screening now in existence. One important amendment to the bill was to be sure it is an “opt-in” process, not “opt-out”, so that the parents are fully aware. It passed 113 – 0.
House Bill 76 – School Safety Omnibus contained many of the other recommendations of the select committee. They include such things as annual school vulnerability reports, School Resource Officer training, and clarifying the role of the Center for Safer Schools. It passed 112 – 0. These bills then moved to the Senate for their consideration.
Thursday morning, we met with the Senate as the Joint Appropriations Committee to hear the Governor’s budget proposal. The Budget Director, head of the Office of State Budget and Management (OSBM) presented their budget encompassing the 2019-2020 and the 2020-2021fiscal years. The biennial budget for the state begins in the House this session, and we will have our own ideas of how to spend the peoples’ money. We have been meeting with our Senate appropriations members in each budget area three mornings a week, and will soon break out to put the budget together.
The Governor’s budget proposes to spend $25.2 billion in the General Fund budget for 2019-2020 and $26 billion in 2020-2021. This is 5.4% above the 2018-2019 budget of $23.9 billion the first year and 3.1% additional in the second year, or a total of 8.8% increase. This is above the expected growth in population and inflation. It has been a goal of the General Assembly since 2011 to stay at or just below that benchmark, so that growth in the economy and jobs can be used to give families a tax break.
Besides expected differences in the total spending, there are some proposals in the education area and hurricane recovery that we can agree with, but each area will be analyzed in detail and the House budget should be done by early May. I will be closely involved with the Transportation budget, which is an approximate $4 billion budget separate from the General Fund. However, I will be watching the Education budget and the Health and Human Services budget (which includes Medicaid) very closely. These two departments combined comprise 80% of the General Fund budget.