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Legislative Black Caucus to hold town hall meetings

The N.C. Legislative Black Caucus is holding a series of town hall meetings called the What's Up Tour: Taking Back Our State.

Lawmakers will talk about legislation affecting families, education, health care and voting rights. The Black Caucus, which has all Democratic members, didn't like much of what the GOP-led legislature did this year, particularly in the areas of education, health care, and voting.

The tour started Monday in Lumberton and will hit eight more cities by December. The Raleigh Town Hall is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 14, 6 p.m., at the Martin Street Baptist Church.

N.C. Senate proposed budget at $20.58 billion

The N.C. Senate's budget proposal will clock in at $20.58 billion, just short of Gov. Pat McCrory's $20.6 billion proposal, according to Senate leader Phil Berger's office.

The full budget is expected to be made public later tonight. According to a press release, the budget includes $10.2 million in the second year for a "pay for excellence" system for teachers, and eliminates the "flex cut" to local schools, a budget practice that had districts returning money to the state each year.

The budget adds $1.2 billion in state money for Medicaid, establishes a Rural Economic Development Division within the state Department of Commerce that will have its own assistant secretary, and puts $1.25 million toward fracking.

The Senate is expected to approve its budget this week and send it to the House.

McCrory signs four bills Wednesday

Gov. Pat McCrory signed four bills Wednesday.

House Bill 75 increases penalties for felony child abuse.

Senate Bill 122 adds the offense of human trafficking to the list of three criminal convictions that require registration on the Sex Offender registry.

Senate Bill 148 exempts the bonding of corrugated stainless steel tubing (CSST) gas piping systems from licensing requirements under the laws pertaining to electrical contractors.

Senate Bill 228 has to do with home owners associations, condo unit owners and maintenance.

N.C. House meets with superintendents, teachers, principals on education changes

Groups of superintendents, teachers and school principals will be in Raleigh this week to offer legislators advice on new education laws.

House Speaker Thom Tillis, a Mecklenburg Republican, said legislators want to know from people who work in schools every day what can be done to improve results and how the changes legislators are considering will mesh with existing rules and practices.

The confabs are beginning early in the session so "they feel comfortable with first, providing us with ideas but also challenging us when they see legislation moving that they believe may be operationally problematic."

Tillis doesn't expect harmony on all issues. There will be bills on providing tax money to help public school students pay tuition to attend private schools. Tillis expects pushback on that idea, but that superintendents and legislators will have to "agree to disagree" on that.

The public meetings with educators this week will be from 11 a.m. -1 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday, in the House Chamber.

Superintendents are scheduled for Tuesday, local principals of the year for Wednesday, and local teachers of the year for Thursday.

Trial lawyers' legislative wish-list

The state’s trial lawyers have released their legislative agenda for the upcoming session of the General Assembly. The wish-list seeks to advance protections for injured people who sue, reduce what it sees as heavy-handed criminal laws, resist “tort reform,” and narrow the use of the death penalty.

Here are some of the highlights:

Perdue signs 11 bills, including whistleblower protection

Gov. Bev Perdue's office announced she has signed eight more bills, including a protection for employees who provide information on fraud in the state retirement system. She added three more to the list later in the day. She has until Aug. 2 to act on the dozen bills remaining on her desk.

Click below for the full list.

A bill-signing break

There's a lull in the bill-signing action. After churning through bills by the dozens, Gov. Bev Perdue plans no signings or vetoes today, according to her office. She has 11 bills left to either sign or veto before Friday, or they will become law without her signature. The legislature left some big bills for the end of their long session, so Perdue is examining a host of major policy issues. Here's some of what remains: Bills that would change annexation laws, prepare the state for fracking and off-shore drilling, limit new state regulations, and allow parents who send their disabled students to private school to seek tax credits.

Buggy whip regulation

Legislators would periodically review old laws under a bill in the House.

The bill would create a new commission, overseen by 16 lawmakers, to look over older statutes to see if they are still effective and necessary.

Sen. Dan Clodfelter said the goal was to eliminate the kind of "buggy whip regulation" that has outlived its usefulness. He pointed to the elimination of the state boxing commission a few years ago as an example of the work it would do.

"This is not a financial audit of the programs," he said. "This is more focused on: Is this program still necessary?"

The Charlotte Democrat said that North Carolina is one of only four states without an internal review. Legislators created a performance review commission in the early 1990s, but it was a one-time study.

The bill passed the Senate unanimously earlier this month and was tentatively approved by the House Tuesday, also unanimously.

Crossover rules

Gerry Cohen cleared up a few misconceptions about crossover.

In a post on his N.C. Bill Drafting blog, he wrote a few simple rules for understanding the legislative deadline that passed yesterday.

Essentially, Cohen writes that a bill may be resurrected later in the session if the sponsor can attach a tax, fee or spending to it by the time it passes the House or the Senate.

The biggest misconception? That there is a list somewhere of bills that have to pass by crossover.

Who would have time to make up such a list? Perhaps it is hidden in the Great Pumpkin?

Cohen would know. As director of bill drafting, he would be the one to draft it, so don't ask.

Bills! Bills! Bills!

Legislators are closing in on a record for the number of bills filed.

So far, members of the House and Senate have filed more than 3,400 bills, not far from the single-year record of 3,723, the Char-O reports.

(The number of requests for a bill drafting is even higher, according to the unofficial blog of the bill drafting division. That means they're not done yet, though deadlines are coming fast.)

But not all bills are created equal. Here's David Ingram's breakdown:

Likely to die: Raising the cap on charter schools, allowing left turns onto one-way streets at a red light and proposing a constitutional ban on gay marriage.

Gaining momentum: A statewide bond referendum this November, cutting off state pensions for convicted politicians and making voter registration easier.

Just plain quirky: Mandate well-ventilated public bathrooms, prohibit "toughman matches" by amateur boxers, allow concealed guns in restaurants, allow raccoon hunting in Ashe County and force labeling of cloned meat.

And here's a few more Dome also found interesting: Withhold state tax credits for makers of NC-17 movies, mandate equity in men's and women's public bathrooms, adopt a state collard festival and open adoption records to adults.

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