Senate update from Phil Berger

We all remember too well last year’s tax-refund debacle. Some families didn’t receive their checks until months after the tax filing deadline. Republican legislators, like so many of our citizens, were outraged, and we are committed to keeping history from repeating itself. North Carolinians deserve their money promptly.

But we learned this week that Governor Beverly Perdue has again put those refunds at risk by proposing illegal money-transfer schemes to pay for them. Instead of borrowing from the private sector, as the Treasury Secretary indicated in January they would do, the governor wants to divert money from funds we need to pay debt to the federal government.

Our non-partisan professional staff at the General Assembly says this is a clear violation of the state Constitution. It also is a strong indicator of the mentality that has permeated state government for decades: Much like members of a private club, Democratic lawmakers act as they please, without regard for our state’s laws and Constitution.

To ensure citizens are paid quickly, we’ve given the governor a viable solution: Senate Bill 13. The bill would save nearly $800 million in the current fiscal year, which will help us prepare to balance next year’s budget, and give the governor immediate cash flow to support refund checks.

The governor irresponsibly vetoed the bill last month. We overrode that veto in the Senate this week, and we hope she’ll allow four of her Democratic colleagues in the House to vote to override. The people of North Carolina deserve to be paid, and they deserve to be paid legally and responsibly.

Protecting health care freedom

The governor last weekend vetoed House Bill 2, an important measure that would allow North Carolinians to opt out of parts of President Obama’s federal health care law, including a mandate that every citizen purchase health insurance or be criminalized. We found it interesting that a bill the governor previously said wasn’t worth a battle received her veto stamp, on the heels of a White House meeting with President Obama. We think the governor should do what’s best for North Carolina, not what’s best for her political patrons in Washington. The N.C. House failed to override the veto. But rest assured: We will do all we can to drive down health care costs and make it more accessible for all North Carolinians, and we’ll do it without treading on personal freedoms.

Balancing the budget

Our Appropriations subcommittees are still hashing out ways to restructure state government to make it more efficient, and ways to balance the budget without raising taxes. How will we do it? Right now, everything is on the table. What we know for sure is that we will not revert back to the destructive tax-and-spend policies that put us in a financial mess, left so many North Carolinians unemployed, and saw our school dropout rates increase. We’re going to climb out of the hole we’ve inherited and change the way state government operates. Right-sizing it will create new jobs, improve the quality of our classrooms, and give North Carolinians more freedom.

Important links

Senate Bill 13 – The Balanced Budget Act of 2011

House Bill 2 – Protect Health Care Freedom

Senator Phil Berger

President Pro Tempore

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Berger, Tillis: Governor’s illegal plan endangers taxpayers’ refunds

Senate, House will attempt to override SB 13 to protect taxpayers

Raleigh – Gov. Beverly Perdue’s plan to raid nearly $500 million from various state accounts to pay state tax refunds exceeds the power granted to her by the North Carolina Constitution and breaks state law, according to non-partisan professional legislative staff. It also will jeopardize the state’s ability to pay tax refunds in a timely manner.

Part of the governor’s proposal would borrow about $100 million from an Employment Security Commission reserve fund, which non-partisan professional legislative staff says violates Article V Section 5 of the Constitution. Staff also stated that Goldston v. State confirmed that the governor lacks the legal authority to redistribute these funds without authorization from the legislature. The governor vetoed SB 13, which would have solved the problem.

Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) and Speaker of the House Thom Tillis (R-Mecklenburg) today announced the Senate and House will attempt to override the governor’s veto of SB 13, the Balanced Budget Act of 2011, which would give her the authority she requested to cut $400 million in the current fiscal year and target another $400 million in immediate savings. The Senate plans to vote on an override later this afternoon.

“We must get North Carolinians their refund checks promptly, but the governor’s plan to pay them is irresponsible and illegal,” said Berger. “She has an alternative — Senate Bill 13 gives her the authority to legally meet her obligation to our taxpayers.”

“If the governor is truly serious about seeing that taxpayers get their refunds, she will allow at least four of her Democratic colleagues in the House to support an override of SB 13,” said Tillis. “After last year’s debacle — her decision to allow taxpayer refunds to be delayed — you would think the governor would have gotten ahead of this. Instead, she devises a financially unsound and an arguably illegal scheme at the eleventh hour that risks legal action against the state.”

Background

State Controller David McCoy notified a member of Sen. Berger’s staff late Monday evening that the governor directed him to divert up to $491 million from various state funds to secure enough money for state tax refund checks. On Tuesday, Berger and Tillis said the governor has known for months they would need to pay refunds and that she should have taken steps to address the problem long ago. They also said it was highly inappropriate to borrow $100 million from a reserve fund within the Employment Security Commission, which needs to be used to help pay a $2.6 billion debt owed to the federal government.


Is North Carolina still a national leader in education

John Hood doesn’t think so. And he’s got the backing of the National Council on Teacher Quality:

When it comes to attracting, training, retaining, and rewarding excellent teachers, North Carolina is not a national leader. Don’t take my word for it. A new report from the National Council on Teacher Quality points to Massachusetts, Colorado, Florida, Delaware, Louisiana, and the District of Columbia as national leaders in teacher policy.

Other Southern states with higher rankings than North Carolina included Tennessee, Virginia, Arkansas, Georgia, South Carolina, and Texas. They are more likely than North Carolina to apply sound principles and the latest educational research to the task of increasing the effectiveness of public-school teachers.


State senate passes bill to freeze involuntary annexation

The new majority in Raleigh is moving on a lot of fronts. Some of them are needed, while some are not.

This vote was at the top of the list for rational curbs on local government growth:

Homeowners on the verge of being absorbed into cities or towns against their will won a victory Monday night with a state Senate vote to freeze involuntary annexations.

Under the bill, the freeze would end July 1, 2012. Sen. Andrew Brock, a Mocksville Republican, said during the freeze the N.C. League of Municipalities, the Association of County Commissioners and property rights groups could negotiate revisions to the state’s annexation law. The Senate bill, which passed 36-12, now goes to the House.


Lawmakers Launch Statewide Listening Tour to Receive Public Input on Regulatory Reform

Raleigh – The Joint Committee on Regulatory Reform, chaired by Senators Harry Brown (R-Jones) and David Rouzer (R-Johnston) and Representatives Marilyn Avila (R-Wake) and Pat McElraft (R- Carteret), today announced that it is launching a statewide listening tour to receive feedback from the public on burdensome state regulations.

The committee is tasked with scrutinizing all state regulations on the private sector and targeting outdated rules and regulations that should be eliminated. It is comprised ofnine Senators and nine Representatives, appointed by Senate President Pro-Tem Berger and Speaker Tillis, respectively.

The first meeting of the joint committee is scheduled for Friday, March 11 in Wilmington. It will take place from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. at the downtown campus of Cape Fear Community College in the McLeod Building, room S-002. This meeting will be open to the public and the media. Those interested in making a brief (1-2 minutes)statement to the committee are encouraged to arrive at 12:30 in order to sign up in advance. Additional meetings of the committee will be scheduled across the state, and details will be announced in the near future.

A website for the committee has been launched at regreform.

WHO: Joint Regulatory Reform Committee

WHAT: Listening Tour on Regulatory Reform

WHEN: Friday, March 11, 2011 at 1:00 p.m. (sign-up begins at 12:30 p.m.)

WHERE: Cape Fear Community College

Room S-002 McLeod Building

Wilmington, N.C.


Bert Jones seeks input on Reidsville early election date

Friends,

Our newsletters are often sent to report updates on legislative work, but from time to time I may also contact you to specifically ask for your input.

This local issue particularly involves residents of the Reidsville area. In 1989, special legislation was passed that moved Reidsville’s municipal elections from the traditional Election Day back to October. This practice began in 1993. Over the years, it has been my experience that many citizens question and even oppose the need for this.

To summarize three particular arguments to have Reidsville elections on Election Day (like every other municipality in the county):

1) It would save money for Reidsville taxpayers that currently have to pay about $6,000 extra per election. People may ask if the extra cost is justified when there are other potential uses or potential tax relief.

2) Participation in the October elections has historically been low. Elections workers report that changing from the traditional Election Day invites unnecessary confusion.

3) To date, no good reason has been given to me to continue a different election date from the standard one followed by the rest of the county and most places. It seems more advantageous and less expensive to vote with everyone else in the county on Election Day.

I contacted the Reidsville City Council last month, and they are scheduled to discuss this issue at their Wed.. March 9 meeting. I have asked for their feedback, and any reasons they would have to continue the October elections (or not). You are encouraged to attend the City Council meeting if you are interested in this issue.

Please reply to this email if you would like to offer your input.

Best regards,
Bert

P.S. It is an honor and privilege to serve as your representative. Please do not hesitate to contact me (information below) anytime you may need my assistance.


The real truth behind North Carolina’s charter cap

Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina (PEFNC) has placed real parents in front of legislators who will debate whether to eliminate the state’s charter school cap.

The statewide parental school choice organization produced a video highlighting parents whose children were denied admission during a recent lottery at Charter Day School in Leland, NC. More than 230 parents were vying for less than 90 seats at the school, considered one of the best in the state.

PEFNC sent the video, via e-mail, to all state legislators earlier today.

Senate Bill 8, which is currently in the House, will eliminate North Carolina’s cap of 100 charter schools, remove enrollment requirements that force charters to have lotteries and create a commission that will oversee charter administration and growth.

The video comes amid attacks by special interest groups that have painted the bill as the end of public education in North Carolina. However, this video illustrates very clearly why there is a need to eliminate the cap on North Carolina’s charter schools.

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