Gen. Assembly to take up budget, other issues in short session
Updated: 05/15/2012 05:54 PM
By: Loretta Boniti
RALEIGH -- The legislative building has been quiet for the past few months, but it will be bustling with activity Wednesday. That's when lawmakers return to town.
The top order of business is the budget. Halfway through the two year spending plan, adjustments will need to be made. But legislative leaders say the changes shouldn't be too drastic.
“Every part of the budget, with the exception of Health and Human Services is on track,” said President Pro-Tem Phil Berger.
Democrats, who are in the minority in both chambers, said they have no idea what budget changes will be proposed.
“The Republican House and Senate leadership have been sort of crafting their budget behind closed doors,” said Rep. Rick Glazier, a Cumberland County Democrat, “and not allowing the Democrats to participate in that process. Or the governor's office.”
The budget isn't the only issue expected to be debated during this session. Also on the agenda is capping the state's gas tax, allowing fracking to begin in North Carolina, and taking up a voter ID proposal, which failed last year.
“We may try the same thing,” said Rep. Paul Stam, House majority leader, “but we may alter it so it is equally efficacious but maybe garners a few more votes.”
Stam said another bill from last year, the repeal of the state's Racial Justice Act, will also be discussed. The governor vetoed the proposal, and rather than try to override it, Republicans worked during the short session to see if there was a compromise proposal.
“We received absolutely zero suggestions from opponents of the death penalty of how to fix the Racial Justice Act,” said Stam, “so my guess is that we will just consider the bill that is before us.”
Republicans have set a target of completing their work by the end of June. But with several controversial bills on the agenda, Democrats said they a longer session could benefit them in the long run.
“The one thing that we have learned from watching the Republicans over the last year,” said Sen. Josh Stein, a Wake County Democrat, “is that the longer they are in session, the less people like them.”
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