Republican budget leaders in the N.C. House of Representatives call them the Fabulous Five: Democrats Bill Owen of Elizabeth City, Tim Spear of Creswell, Dewey Hill of Lake Waccamaw, Bill Brisson of Dublin, and Jim Crawford of Oxford. They joined the House Republicans that passed a budget which now is in the Senate. And they will play a role in the behind-the-scenes conference negotiations before the final version is sent to the governor.
The Fab Five are, in essence, the governor’s representatives in the Legislative budget writing process. If the budget document carries their fingerprints, the governor faces a choice: sign it or face and override of her veto. In other words, the budget will be adopted.
The Senate is scheduled to roll its version of the budget next Tuesday to subcommittees with the full Senate Appropriations Committee to consider its version next Thursday. It would go to the floor of the Senate June 1.
At this point, the appropriations for the Textile Technology Center and the Manufacturing Solutions Center are intact with a 10 percent cut. We now are entering the critical phase—when trade-offs result in elimination or further reductions. Thankfully, we have friends among the top budget writers.
…But there will be changes
Sen. Richard Stevens, former Wake County manager and senior GOP budget chair, reportedly is fuming over deep cuts the House made to the UNC system. Now observers are expecting deeper cuts to the public schools system and community colleges with more going to UNC. Here’s where the Fabulous Five (see above) will play their hand. Gov. Perdue wants more money—not less—going to public education. Stories are circulating that Rep. Crawford has identified sizable funds that could protect teacher jobs.
(Think part of the money for the Rainy Day fund).
Insurance issues: now you see them, now you don’t
Capping jury awards for non-economic malpractice medical lawsuits was high on the agenda for House Republicans. In April, a bill that would cap those awards at $250,000 was amended to increase the cap to $500,000. On the floor of the House, more amendments virtually eliminated the cap with few exceptions. Powerful GOP legislators including Rep. Leo Daughtry, Majority Leader Paul (Skip) Stam, and Jonathan Rhyne helped fend off opposition to the amendments offered by Iredell Rep. Gray Mills, a GOP newcomer. Some 21 Republicans joined most Democrats to approve the amendments.
The Senate has sent the bill back to the House for action on May 31.
A bill that would cap permanent disability for Workers Compensation payment to 500 weeks and made medical records more readily available to employers now is being negotiated between the N.C. Chamber of Commerce, employer groups, and N.C. Advocates for Justice. Twice scheduled meetings of the Tort Reform Committee headed by Rep. Rhyne have been cancelled to give the advocates and opponents to reach a compromise.
A frustrated Rep. Dale Folwell, sponsor of the Workers Comp reform bill, said he “has moved on,” indicating that a compromise is close.
Freeing DENR’s regulatory chains
The Department of Natural and Economic Resources is home for a number of regulatory agencies dealing with permits for wastewater requirements, air quality, and a number of other issues that have been costly for manufacturing. A series of hearings recently across the state underscored the depth of feelings from businesses that feel DENR regulators have been insensitive to their concerns.
DENR officials have insisted most of the roadblocks involve enforcing legislative-mandated regulations. This session a concerted effort has been instigated to remove those chains. Language in special provisions in the House budget draft and some bills that clarify regulations—often to the advantage of small businesses and entrepreneurs—have been adopted. Proposals to shut down some DENR regional offices seem to have evaporated.
Ask for the order…
We welcome Unifi to the Hosiery and Textiles Governmental Affairs Council. If your company is not a member, please encourage joining us. We are helping to make our state more business-friendly and protecting the services of the Manufacturing Solutions Center and the Textiles Technology Center.