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District 17 House update

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By Rep. Frank Iler

Guest Columnist

There was a major announcement July 28 that an agreement had been reached on the budget. This is the budget bill, Senate Bill 744, Appropriations Act of 2014, that adjusts the biennial budget passed last year for the current year of 2014-15. Major adjustments had been made, and the bill had to be approved last week by the House and Senate and signed by the governor. 

The budget bill was posted July 29 in its final form, approved by the Senate on Thursday, July 31, and Friday, Aug. 1, and by the House on Friday and Saturday, Aug. 2. The governor announced during the week that he had reviewed it and would sign it. That is expected this week. This budget is effective for the state fiscal year from July 1, 2014, to June 30, 2015. The final vote in the House on Saturday was 66-44.

The major items in controversy between the House and Senate involved the retention of all teacher assistants for kindergarten through third grades, a teacher pay increase and the amount to be reserved for Medicaid expenses. In the final form all teacher assistants were retained, teachers receive an average 7 percent pay raise, and the House and Senate finally agreed on the Medicaid reserves. Many other smaller items were in controversy, but were also resolved. 

An issue of regional interest as well as statewide interest, the film incentive, was addressed in Senate Bill 763, Revenue Laws Technical Changes and Other Changes. Rep. Ted Davis of Wilmington sponsored a House amendment to this bill that continued the existing spending credit for another year, but with a $40 million cap. It also authorized a study to determine if the credit is a gain or loss for the state. I spoke for the amendment and it passed 77-36 on a bipartisan vote. The final House vote on the bill the next day, Friday, was 86-20, also with bipartisan support. The bill was received back in the Senate on Saturday, and may be acted upon during a special session around Aug. 14.

A grant program for film in the budget was considered not as desirable for the health of this industry in our state. The existing spending program is more generous, but forces the film companies to spend the money, close their books and go through an audit by the state before receiving credit for their spending. The grant could be paid sooner, but would not produce as good a result for the state, in my opinion. Studies are mixed on whether or not this is a winner or loser for the state, so the study in Davis’ amendment is needed to settle the question.

A controversial bill to limit sales tax levied by the counties is being held up in a House committee for further study. In these cases we don’t like to mandate what the counties can do, but we also want to protect citizens from excessive taxes. The coal ash bill, Senate Bill 729, Coal Ash Management Act of 2014, is in conference between the House and Senate. It is held up over the issue of how to classify the coal ash sites as high, medium and low priority. We are hopeful action can be taken on this by Aug. 14. It is interesting how the self-appointed environmental groups want us to rush into punishing the energy manufacturers rather than produce a reasoned, well thought-out plan that will actually solve the problem. I suppose it is good for their fundraising.

It appears we will not have voting sessions this week, so that means I will be back home in the district all week. When this happens, I and many of my colleagues turn down the daily per diem payments we are allotted when in Raleigh, as we should. Others are in Raleigh for interim business. Please remember you can follow our activity on the General Assembly website at www.ncleg.net.

 

Rep. Frank Iler, R-Oak Island, represents Brunswick County in the North Carolina House of Representatives and faces Democrat Charles Warren in November’s general election. He can be reached in Raleigh at (919) 301-1450 or Frank.Iler@ncleg.net.