Legislative building

The North Carolina State Legislative Building in Raleigh.

RALEIGH — The North Carolina General Assembly’s House and Senate are set to meet on Tuesday, Jan. 14, when the state budget could come up ahead of the planned “short session” in a few months.

“We should only be in Raleigh for a day or two next week and we will then adjourn until spring, likely April, for the start of the short session,” said Sen. Deanna Ballard, a Blowing Rock Republican.

Rep. Ray Russell, a Boone Democrat, said the agenda for the state House currently has two bills to consider; an act to backfill money for state scholarships for the children of veterans and a technical corrections bill to bring state law into compliance with a federal law.

The big subject hanging over the state General Assembly is the biennium budget for 2019-20, which is still awaiting a veto override vote in the state Senate.

“We need to pass a budget; it’s unconscionable that we don’t have a comprehensive budget,” Russell said. “It’s purely set up by the Republican leadership not working with the governor.”

The state budget, House Bill 966, passed the Republican-controlled NCGA in June 2019, but was immediately vetoed by Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, who said it prioritized corporate tax breaks over public schools, teacher pay and health care.

State Republicans do not have a super majority to override the veto in either chamber, so a waiting game ensued. State House Republicans called a override vote in the morning of Sept. 11, 2019, when most state House Democrats were out of the chamber, and passed the override 55-15.

HB966 had been placed on the state Senate calendar several times in October, but was not brought up for a vote. Several mini-budget bills passed in late 2020, but HB966 could come up for a vote anytime.

The standstill over the budget is due to potential Medicaid expansion and teacher pay raises, among other items.

“Next week’s return to Raleigh will give Senate Democrats the chance to decide if they want to provide raises to teachers or continue supporting the governor’s vetoes,” Ballard said. “Time and time again Governor Cooper and Senate Democrats have proven they would rather play politics than show their gratitude and respect for teachers by giving them a pay raise – I hope for our teachers’ sakes they have reconsidered this position.”

The annual N.C. General Assembly “short session,” which takes place in the second year of the biennium session, is planned to start in either April or May.

Russell speculated that the session will start early due to the Republican National Convention, which takes place Aug. 24-27 in Charlotte.

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