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North Carolina One of Best Prepared States for a Future “Rainy Day”

Carolina Journal reports that North Carolina is one of the best prepared states in the country to face a future recession or unexpected financial strain. According to the Pew Charitable Trust, which tracks states’ financial policies, North Carolina has set aside money in a dedicated savings account so that it could run for a full month only on this savings.

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The General Assembly has continued to exercise fiscal restrain in the past several budget cycles and continued to set aside more money into its Rainy Day Fund. In 2017, North Carolina became one of six states during to reform its rules concerning the reserves. House Bill 7 passed the House 110 – 3. Key components of HB7 requires state budgets to set aside 15% of revenues for the state’s savings. It also requires use of certain funds to require a 2/3 majority vote of the legislature.

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Rep. Stone on Capital Tonight Talking School Safety, Governor’s Never-Ending Law Suits

Rep. Scott Stone of Charlotte joined Democratic Sen. Floyd McKissick of Durham, and moderator Tim Boyum on Spectrum News 14’s Capital Tonight. WATCH HERE

Capital Tonight - 3-8-18 b

Rep. Stone highlighted the need to address the broader issue in our schools of mental health. He cited the tragic statistic that suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for high school aged teens. According to the CDC statistics, at a rate of more than 10 per 100,000, people age 15 – 24, commit suicide annually. Rep. Stone cited the need for access to mental health resources for teens and compared the cost of seeing a doctor for physical ailments, which could come through a $20 co-pay with insurance, is inconsistent with a single meeting with a mental health professional which could cost $175 per visit.

Governor Cooper’s Fascination with Lawsuits 

Rep. Stone cited Governor Cooper’s unwillingness to work with the legislature as a key reason he goes to court on so many issues. “He was attorney general for 16 years but has been in court more times in the past 12 months than he ever was as attorney general,” Stone said. One of Governor Cooper’s latest lawsuits has to do with the state Elections Board, which the General Assembly established to be an equal number of Republicans and Democrats. The legislature recently in passing HB90, in response to the myriad of lawsuits from Gov. Cooper and liberal activist groups, added a 9th member to the Board of Elections, who is required to be an unaffiliated registered member. Voters registered as unaffiliated are currently the fastest growing block of voters in North Carolina.

Capital Tonight - 3-8-18

Class Size Challenges – Time to Focus on Facts

Senator Dan Bishop and I have spent a significant amount of time over the past few weeks and months trying to understand the details of class size requirements. The issue is not as simple as parents, and even some principals, are being told. It is complicated by a convoluted funding system that has existed for decades with multiple modifications over the years.

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My goal is to focus on facts so that administrators, teachers, parents, and elected officials can begin to have conversations about policies and priorities. The emails parents have been receiving from outside groups – and from your own PTAs and schools – have been misleading and don’t identify all of the challenges.

As we try to understand all of the details of the funding and recent legislation, as well as the associated impacts, there have been many people who have tried to politicize the issue. That has caused additional challenges to the process of trying to chart the best path forward.

I am committed to ensuring that every dollar allocated to our schools is spent wisely while also working towards maximizing the educational opportunities for every student, both in our districts and across the state.

Facts from our Research: HB-13 and Other Distracting Issues

The emails many parents received from outside groups have been very deceiving. While there are a variety of issues with the past legislation which are presenting challenges – these including funding, space constraints, and others – the information presented a significant misunderstanding of facts. Here are some facts:

- HB13 did not change any language in law regarding class size requirements. Language is exactly the same as 2013 language. The 16 – 18 class sizes are required averages across the entire district, not across an individual school. Maximum class size in the law is actually 3 more than the funded average teacher – student ratio:

K – 1:21

1st – 1:19

2nd, 3rd – 1:20

– HB-13 only added some reporting requirements for superintendents and delayed implementation of class size requirements (for 3rd time) until 2018-19 school year.

– HB-13 (the final version which became law) passed with wide bipartisan support (Passed Senate 48 – 1, Passed House 112 – 3) and was signed into Law by Governor Roy Cooper.

– You have also been told that class size reductions are an “unfunded mandate.” That is also not true, but the funding piece is complicated, and we will try to explain in a future email. Funding was added for class size reductions for all school districts for Grades K-3 for the 2014-2015 school year, and added again for Grade 1 for school year 2016-17. From what we can find, those reductions have not occurred despite the funding. However, to be fair, there is still many conflicting funding issues which exist, so we are not yet prepared to declare this issue settled.

Running Out of Time?

There was a sense of urgency place upon you through these emails because the General Assembly was in Special Session last week. The class size issue was never on the calendar to be addresses last week, although many conversations took place among Members.

We do understand that the clock is ticking because school boards must get their budgets to County Commissions by May so planning can begin for the 2018 – 19 school year. Rest assured that we are continuing to work on this issue and we are likely to be back in Raleigh – perhaps multiple times – before May.

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NC Permitting Efficiency Act Passes House

HB794 Graphic Passing HouseRep. Scott Stone authored a bill to reshape how construction permitting is approved across the state. HB794 passed the NC House with overwhelming bi-partisan support 96-15.

The North Carolina Permitting Efficiency Act would hold local municipalities accountable for review deadlines, keeping the reviews to only the established standards, and minimize time and cost uncertainties for those investing and creating jobs for our state. There is also a provision which would delegate authority for permitting from NCDOT to the larger municipalities in the state. This eliminates a redundancy in the process without sacrificing standards or quality of design and construction.

We now look to the Senate to pass this legislation so that North Carolina can create a reputation as a national leader in permitting efficiency.