The N.C. General Assembly has many new faces this year. In the Senate, 16 of the 50 members are serving their first term, and in the House 41 of the 120 members are new. Legislators wasted no time in their first two weeks of session, introducing bills that would block State Medicaid Expansion, overhaul the State's unemployment system, and reorganize boards and commissions.
Legislators are responsible for writing the State's biennial budget this year. The budget process will begin to take shape this week, starting in the Senate and moving to the House for consideration. Various appropriations subcommittees are meeting this week for routine budget briefings.
State Medicaid Expansion
During the first week of session, the Senate passed a bill, HB 4: UI Fund Solvency and Program Changes, which blocks an expansion of Medicaid next year to cover more adults under the Affordable Care Act. In addition, the bill would not allow North Carolina to participate in the development of online health insurance exchanges and it would require the federal government to set up the State's online marketplace for health insurance.
Unemployment Insurance Overhaul
The House approved a bill, HB 4: UI Fund Solvency and Program Changes, last week that overhauls the State's unemployment insurance laws. North Carolina owes the federal government more than $2.5 billion that was borrowed to pay state-funded unemployment claims. The bill reduces the maximum weekly benefits from $535 to $350 and raises state unemployment insurance taxes. In addition, there is a reduction in the duration of benefits to no more than 20 weeks and ties the duration of benefits to the State's unemployment rate. Businesses would pay slightly higher state unemployment taxes in addition to federal unemployment taxes. These measures would allow the State to repay the federal government by 2015.
Reorganization of Boards and Commissions
The Senate has approved a bill, SB 10: Government Reorganization and Efficiency Act, which would reorganize and/or remove key state boards and commissions appointees. The legislation would put an immediate end to the terms of current appointees on the Industrial Commission, Utilities Commission, Wildlife Resources Commission, Lottery Commission, and Coastal Resources Commission and allow Governor McCrory and legislative leadership to appoint replacements. The bill also would eliminate 12 special superior court judges. In addition, this bill does away with about a dozen boards and commissions and saves more than $2 million. The bill is now headed to the House.
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