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August 28, 2014

On Wednesday, August 20, the N.C. General Assembly adjourned sinť die to reconvene on Wednesday, January 14, 2015 at 9am for an organizational meeting. Members will be sworn in for the new two-year session, elect leadership in both chambers and adopt chamber rules. In the N.C. House, we will elect a Speaker, a Speaker Pro Temp and the House Principal Clerk. Regular committee meetings and daily sessions will begin on Wednesday, January 28th.

The 2105 NC House Leadership Question

Traditionally, House Republicans and Democrats meet within their separate caucuses to decide on their support for the leadership positions. With Republicans still in the majority, they will be meeting to nominate the next Speaker of the House. However, the Republican caucus ended the session with serious internal disagreements and they will lose some seats to Democrats in November, although not enough to lose the majority.

If Republicans remain split and canít agree on their next Speaker, their candidates will come courting Democrats. If Democrats can coalesce around one candidate and have 50 votes Ė depending on seats won in November - they can elect the next Republican Speaker with only 11 Republican votes. Even if Democrats return with the same 43 seats, they can elect the Speaker with only 18 Republican votes.

In addition to deciding which, if any, Republican to support for Speaker, Democrats will meet in caucus to elect their own leader, deputy leader, secretary and whips and discuss bills to file and positions to take on issues.

The newly elected Speaker will use the following two weeks to appoint committees and committee chairs. Members will start filing bills as soon as they are sworn; many rush to file HB1. When committees meet on January 28th, they will have a full agenda.

The Last Day in the 2013-14 Session

When 26 Democrats joined 28 Republicans to defeat HB1224, it had grown into an omnibus bill with provisions supported and opposed by almost every member of the House: local government sales and use tax and caps on these taxes and how they could be used, changes in revenue laws, a new economic development fund with too little accountability, unemployment insurance, a study of tax incentives for restoration of historic properties.

The original HB1224 was a straightforward authorization to give $79 million to an existing company to become more energy efficient and reduce emissions. The company is required to invest $200 million in private funds to improve the property and to maintain a workforce of at least 2,000 people. Most House members and the Governor supported that provision.

When HB1224 failed, the original project was brought back on the last day as a single-issue bill and passed.

Coal Ash

In addition, the House and Senate conference committee on the coal ash cleanup bill finally reached consensus and passed by a large majority Ė again on the last day of session. Itís true the coal ash bill is the first in the nation to deal with this issue in a comprehensive way and itís certainly better than no bill at all. But, it is not without significant flaws. It allows for a cap-in-place solution for all but four of the sites. Most of the remaining pools have been leaking pollutants into nearby waterways for some time, including heavy metals, Capping-in-place wonít stop the leaks and itís not clear the Commission that makes the decision is entirely independent. The bill also lets Duke Energy seek rate hikes to pay for the clean-up beginning in 2015 rather than at the end of 2016 as the House conferees preferred.

Left Undone

Local school superintendents have long had the authority to move funds between teachers and teacher assistants based on local needs. This year, Republicans restricted that ability. It didnít take long to realize this was a mistake and needed to be fixed. To put more pressure on members to pass the omnibus HB1224, House leaders tied the bills together. The teacher assistant fix wouldnít happen unless HB1224 passed as presented. When HB 1224 didnít pass, the restriction was left in place. If the Governor canít fix this problem administratively, he may call us back into session to reconsider it.

The Medicaid reform debate is on hold for the 2015 session. During the interim, House and Senate Republicans will continue to discuss whether to contact with commercial managed care or build on the CCNC network we have now.

If we donít expand Medicaid as called for in the Affordable Care Act, North Carolina could give up $51 billion in federal funding over the next 10 years. Those are tax dollars North Carolinians are paying to the federal government that are going to enhance the heath and the economies of other states.

As always, thank you for your support of my work in Raleigh as your representative. Please let me know of your position on issues, your suggestions for legislation and your requests for help.

Verla Insko

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Verla Insko, NC House · 300 N. Salisbury Street, Room 502 LOB · Raleigh, NC 27603-5925 ·
Phone (919) 733-7208 · Mobile (919) 618-9889 · E-mail verla.insko@gmail.com or verla.insko@ncleg.net