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Senate | February 3, 2015 | Committee Room | Budget Committee

Full MP3 Audio File

[chatter] I'd like to call this meeting to order. This will be the first of many I'm sure over this session but welcome all of you. Glad to have you here this morning. I want to recognize our Sargent of Arms. We have Terry Barnhardt. Terry, glad to have you with us this year. Steve Wilson. It's always good to see you again, Steve. Canton Lewis. I lost him. There you go. Canton, good to see you as always. Our pages this morning are Landry ??. Good morning. Senator Pate from Freemont. We have Katie Doherty, I hope I pronounced that correct. From Washington, Senator Cook. Glad to have you with us as well. Janice Bower. Janice is from Morrisville. Senator Curtis, good morning. And we have Carrie Keen from LaGrane, Senator Payton. Glad to have all of you with us this morning and hope you learn something new this week. We have one bill before us this morning and at this time I'll... Well, before we do that I want to thank our staff for being with us. They're always so good to be with us and prompt and help us out in every case they can that we'll allow them to help us I guess is the best part. But thank you all very much for being with us. At this time we do have one bill, Senate bill 14 and Senator Brown will be presenting. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I think this is what I'd call a clean up bill a little bit. Try to take care of some issues that are out there that we need to address. I will try to get... I'll go over the bill and make it as simple as I can and with some questions I'll try to get into details but I think I can cover pretty much what the bill does fairly simply. The first part transfers $100,000 from the State Board of Education to the Office of Administrative Hearings to provide for litigation costs of the recently filed lawsuit against the rules and review commission. Many of you may remember, that's the lawsuit that we're not sure why it's out there to be honest. But it is and we've got to deal with it. The state board has about $372 million in their budget that is used for legal service. We're going to take $100,000 of those dollars to help us with the litigation that's involved with that particular lawsuit. So that's what the first piece does. The second piece transfers $275,000 from the Department of Public Construction to the Department of Administration to cover costs of the Academic Standards Review Commission. This section also includes some transparency provisions, as well, and it also talks about putting handouts and agendas on the website and live streaming of the commission meetings. DPI has close to a $50 million budget. They have a little over, from what we've been able to tell, over $300,000 in vacant positions that are over 16 months old. This will take $275,000 out of that budget to cover those costs and get this up and running. Finally, the last piece is a timing issue with the way the Coal Ash Commission gets their money due to the timing of the Duke receipts coming in. The Coal Ash Commission will not have the money it needs to operate between now and the end of the year. So we're addressing the appropriations language to account for three quarters of income coming to the fund instead of four. This should fix the problem. I'll give you some numbers. It's $630,000 for the full year. The way the money is coming in now,

Department of Public Instruction and it had some proposal to fill those and are those critical positions or what? [SPEAKER CHANGES] It's my understanding, Senator Robinson, that those positions have been vacant for over sixteen months, so if they were that concerning, I would think they would have been filled. That equates to about 375,000, those positions. So what we're talking about is about 275,000. So we feel like the money's definitely there. And also, we're talking about a 50 million dollar total budget. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Okay. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Just one follow up, Mr. Chairman. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Yes Ma'am. [SPEAKER CHANGES] And on the other end, and this is where information for me, in terms of funds for litigation, is it customary to transfer from like DPR or wherever those funds are available, and it has no impact on their ability to litigate issues as well? [SPEAKER CHANGES] Senator Robinson, you know this again is one of those lawsuits that honestly I wish we weren't in. We feel like that we've been right on this issue for a long time. It's all the precedents says that we're right on this issue. But it's there. There is a fund that's used by the Board for litigation and we're just taking a piece of that to make sure we've got experts in this field, to continue with our side of that litigation. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Senator Ford. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Thank you Mr. Chairman. Senator Brown, I'm still learning, and it's a little confusing to me. If based on the summary of Section 1 and Section 2 which are transfers, it appears that we as a legislature are having to manage the bureaucracy by passing legislation. Can you make sure that I understand that correctly, and why are we having to do this, if my understanding is correct this is an administrative thing that the Department of Public Instruction should be able to manage and take care of the legal actions of that department. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Senator Ford I agree but sometimes you just have to make things clear and that's basically what this bill does. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Senator Davis, did I see your hand? [SPEAKER CHANGES] Yes Mr. Chairman, thank you. Senator brown can you tell me what efforts have been attempted to resolve this dispute on Section 1, prior to this legal action? [SPEAKER CHANGES] There's been many conversations. Again, I think there's precedents from many many years that should have prevented this lawsuit but it's there. It's got to be dealt with. And so you've got to have dollars to litigate and this addresses that issue. [SPEAKER CHANGES] ?? [SPEAKER CHANGES] Mr. Chairman I didn't but I did have a thought if I may. Senator Brown, I have concerns if they're going to go out and file these frivolous kinds of lawsuits, we may have to visit this again and allocate more moneys on the other side, to defend ourselves against these. Could that possibly happen? [SPEAKER CHANGES] Senator Apodaca, you never know. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Any further questions from the members? Senator Bryant. [SPEAKER CHANGES] I apologize for being a few minutes late but I just needed to know what side are we paying for? Which side of the lawsuit are we paying for and who's representing us on that side? [SPEAKER CHANGES] Again, the AG's office is involved but also you need experts in this field so this is to make sure we've got experts to handle our side of that lawsuit and when I say that and the legislature, basically. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Follow up Mr. Chair. So, we're paying for the, to represent the state of North Carolina and the rules review commission and paying for experts for the attorney general to support their representation. How is the state board paying for its representation? Does it have its own budget for that? [SPEAKER CHANGES] They do have their own budget for that. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Senator Apodaca. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Move for favorable report. [SPEAKER CHANGES] I have a motion for a favorable report. Any further discussion? None seen. All those in favor let it be known by saying Aye. All apposed ??. Motion is passed and will be sent over to the ??. Madame Chairman, do you have anything you'd like to say? Senator Brown, do you have anything else? If not, no further business for this committee, We stand adjourned. Thank you.