Last week in the North Carolina General Assembly was a whirlwind of bills going into and out of committees, and going to the floors of the House and Senate chambers for votes. There were bills dealing with education, transportation, criminal law, tax law, opening businesses, and many other issues.
In the education area House Bill 1096 – UNC Omnibus Changes/UNC Lab School Funds made a variety of changes to the UNC system, as well as Future Teachers of N.C. and the Teaching Fellows program. House Bill 1035 – 2020-2012 Calendar Modifications allows more days of remote instruction to be added to the public school calendar to safeguard the health and safety of the students. These bills passed the House with unanimous votes.
Senate Bill 818 – Compensation of Certain School Employees contains raises for teachers and other school employees to make up for the raises budgeted in 2019 and vetoed by the Governor. Without the budget or this bill, they will receive no increases. The Senate passed the bill 33 to 16, but when it came to the House something very interesting happened. On the second reading of the bill it passed 84 – 35. This was recorded at 4:09 on Wednesday afternoon. On third reading, recorded at 4:13, the vote was 67 – 52. In four minutes 17 Democrats had changed from Aye votes to No votes, and it passed with 65 Republicans and 2 Democrats. I don’t believe I have seen that dramatic of a switch in my several years in the House. This was not a veto-proof vote, so it remains to be seen whether or not the Governor will veto the teacher and school employee raises again.
A very important bill for infrastructure in Transportation and Education came through committee and onto the House floor on Thursday. House Bill 1225 – Education & Transportation Bond Act of 2020 proposes to put a referendum before the people of North Carolina to raise $3.1 billion for school construction and transportation construction and maintenance of existing infrastructure. This will include Community Colleges, Universities, Public Schools, new road construction, improvement of existing roads, and upgrades to all facets of transportation. The amounts were originally set at $1.6 billion for Education and $1.5 billion for Transportation. An amendment changed the allocation. It must still be voted on third reading in the House and sent to the Senate for their approval, so the amounts could change again.
House Bill 594 – Temporarily Open Gyms/Health Clubs/Fitness Centers had passed the House and Senate the previous week, but was vetoed by the Governor this past Friday. Another bill, Senate Bill 599 – Open Skating Rinks/Bowling Alleys passed last week, and will be presented to the Governor this week. We will see if this one is vetoed also.
This week, we anticipate many more bills and long days. An important transportation bill will be coming from the Senate for our consideration. House Bill 77 – DOT 2020-2021 FY Budget and Governance has been worked on for weeks between the House and Senate appropriations chairs. It balances the previously forecasted budget for the new revenue forecast, which is reduced by $513 million due to the COVID 19 slowdown in driving and car sales the past three plus months. It also specifies certain financial measures the NCDOT must take to correct many issues found by the State Auditor. It will be hotly debated, but we hope the homework we have put into it will serve to produce the best product for our citizens and future transportation needs.