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State Board of Ed talks about "flat pathetic" teacher pay

State Board of Education member John Tate wants the board to back a resolution to bring teacher pay in the state to the national average.

Tate sprung his proposal on the board this week, calling teacher pay "flat pathetic." Teachers and state employees received one 1.2 percent raise in the last five years.

After years of concerted efforts to raise teacher to the national average, North Carolina was ranked 25th in 2008 by the National Education Association. The state has slipped since then, and is close to the bottom of national rankings.

"I feel like we have to send a message to our teachers as soon as possible," Tate said.

Telepsychiatry program to bring mental health to counties via technology

More rural areas will get access to mental health providers through video technology in a program Gov. Pat McCrory announced on Friday in Greenville.

Introduced in this session’s budget, this statewide telepsychiatry plan will provide $4 million over two years for East Carolina University to develop a network of providers, and install the infrastructure necessary for counties to administer telepsychiatry – or video counseling.

“It’s kind of like a Skype counseling or something like that,” said Doug Boyd, a spokesman for the ECU School of Medicine. “It’s just the same thing you would do face-to-face but the psychiatrist is in (another county or city).”

Currently, 58 counties qualify federally as Health Professional Shortage Areas, due to a lack of mental health resources. Supporters hope telepsychiatry can bring mental health to rural communities that lack the physical presence of psychiatrists and psychologists.

Morning Memo: Education takes center stage

State Reps. Larry Hall of Durham and Rick Glazier of Fayetteville, both Democrats, called on the State Board of Education Thursday to protect the master's pay supplement for the graduating class of 2014.

The State Board imposes an April 1 deadline for completing the paperwork for teachers to get a pay supplement for having received their Master's degree. The new state budget gets rid of the pay supplement but grandfathers in those teachers who already receive it. Hall and Glazier think those teachers who went back to school to receive their masters under the impression that they'd get the pay raise (which would theoretically help pay for the cost of the degree) should be entitled to the supplement.

They've asked Superintendent June Atkinson to request that the State Board of Education extend the deadline to June 30, 2014.

TGIF and welcome to Dome's Morning Memo.

Morning Memo: House, Senate leaders claim victories in budget deal

BUDGET DEAL UNVEILED: House and Senate leaders released the compromise $20.6 billion budget plan Sunday evening. House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate leader Phil Berger can claim wins. Eugenics compensation and vouchers are priorities for Tillis, a candidate for U.S. Senate. Berger has tried for more than a year to end teacher tenure. The two men's victories speak volumes about their political leanings and strategy and how a potential race between them would look. Berger will decide by the end of the month whether he will challenge Tillis in the GOP primary.

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: The 12th "Moral Monday" demonstration at the legislature will focus on a new voter ID measure. More than 800 protesters have been arrested so far with more expected Monday.

The Senate worked Friday and left the House quite a to-do list. The House calendar today includes bills pertaining to private school vouchers, a massive rewrite of state regulations, drug testing and background checks for public assistance recipients, fracking and charter schools. A bill to further delay Jordan Lake water quality standards is also on the agenda. The Senate won't take any votes Monday -- allowing Senate leader Phil Berger to attend the Republican State Leadership Committee meeting in California. He is chairman of the organization's campaign committee.

***Get more on the state state budget and a North Carolina political news roundup to start the final week of the legislative session below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Next up, budget

The legislature still has a lot to do before it adjourns, but now that Republicans have agreed on a tax plan, the legislature can now move to finalize the other big money bill, the budget.

Sen. Pete Brunstetter, lead negotiator for the Senate, said the budget subcommittee chairmen have finished their work and now the "big chairs" as they're called are working through the differences in the House and Senate budgets. Each chamber passed $20.6 billion budgets, but they differ in the policy details.

Brunstetter said he doubts there will be a compromise budget made public this week because House and Senate negotiators have a lot to talk about.

"We're making best speed, but there's a lot of stuff," the Winston-Salem Republican said.

N.C. House on ice, no meetings next week

House Speaker Thom Tillis called off all House committee meetings and voting sessions next week, essentially giving most members the week off.

House Rules Chairman Tim Moore said the pause will allow negotiations on a new tax plan and budget to continue with fewer distractions.

The current budget year will end Sunday with no permanent budget for the next two years. The legislature passed a stop-gap budget Tuesday to carry the state through July.

Gov. Pat McCrory signed the stop-gap budget Wednesday afternoon.

Fourth mental hospital back-burnered

The proposal to build a fourth state psychiatric hospital went no where this session, but the legislator pushing for it says the idea's not dead.

Rep. Justin Burr, an Albemarle Republican, gave the usual GOP explanation for why the state can't spend much money -- Medicaid costs too much -- but said he still wants to work on getting a hospital to serve Mecklenburg and about a dozen other counties.

"It will live to fight another day,"Burr said. He plans to work on it in the months between the long and short sessions, and continue to talk to other lawmakers about why the state needs another hospital.

Stop-gap budget would fund government through July

That sound you heard was summer vacation plans crashing for people who work at the legislative complex in Raleigh.

The Senate budget committee approved a stop-gap bill that would keep government running for a month after the current budget expires .

Negotiations on the new tax code and a new budget are not expected to be complete by the time the budget year ends on June 30, necessitating a temporary budget to keep government running.

The continuing resolution, as the short-term budget is called, would allow spending up to 95 percent of the current level.

Community college tuition and fees will go up. Those increases are in both House and Senate budgets, said Sen. Pete Brunstetter, a Senate chief budget writer.

The bill increases the Medicaid budget rescue appropriation from $451 million to $496 million. Payouts on Medicaid claims are running higher than expected, Brunstetter said.

In budget negotiation, 24 is a crowd

House Speaker Thom Tillis appointed 23 legislators, or nearly one-third of Republican House members, to the conference committee that will sign off on the budget compromise with the Senate. Rep. Nelson Dollar of Cary is leading the House conference committee.

The Senate has six conferees, with Sen. Pete Brunstetter of Winson-Salem leading the team.

The House and Senate each passed $20.6 billion budgets, but negotiators must work out numerous policy differences.

Update: The stop-gap budget is real. The Senate budget committee will meet Tuesday morning with a continuing resolution on its agenda.

Mental healthcare rally next week

Mental healthcare advocates are holding another rally at the Legislative Building over the budget. NAMI North Carolina is sponsoring the Tuesday, June 25 gathering.

The group is opposing a Senate budget provision that would require doctors receive authorization before prescribing anti-psychotic drugs to Medicaid patients. They support money for statewide aid to group home. The House budget includes $8 million for group homes, but includes eligibility restrictions NAMI North Carolina does not like.

A May rally by mental healthcare advocates protested the Senate budget.

House and Senate negotiators are beginning to work on a compromise budget that will pass both chambers.

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