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Session update | Capitol Connection
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Given the recent weather events in both North and South Carolina, I wanted to remind folks about ReadyNC.org which is a great resource for everything related to adverse weather affecting our state.

Friends,
 

I hope this update finds you well.

The North Carolina House and Senate adjourned until April 25, 2015 after a long, but successful legislative session. Here is a quick recap of what happened:

- Teacher Pay Raises
- Tax Cuts and Further Tax Reform
- Increased Funding for Opportunity Scholarships
- A Responsible Budget Agreement
- Medicaid Modernization and Reform
- Bond Package
- Economic Development Initiatives
- Presidential Primary Date Change

Check out some of the specifics below.

North Carolina is on track for continued economic development and vibrancy. Reforms over the past five years are contributing to the current climate of economic growth and prosperity we see today. Along those lines, I continue to be committed to serving the citizens of Harnett County by advocating for their interests in the legislature. 

As always, if you have any questions or concerns, do not hesitate to contact my office. I appreciate your continued support and wish you well.

- David

Education is the cornerstone of every community across North Carolina. Our educators teach, develop, and inspire our children. We must show them that we value their contribution to our prosperity. 
  • All teachers and employees will receive a $750 bonus by the end of Fiscal Year 2015. Legislators do not receive bonus.
  • Teachers will still receive step increase raises based on experience.
  • Starting teachers (0-4 yrs) will see a salary increase from $33,000/yr to $35,000/yr.
Most folks get caught up in the details of tax reform. It's really quite simple. You should keep more of your hard earned money. You send your legislator to Raleigh to be a good steward of tax dollars. I try to do just that. We are continuing to look at ways to lower the tax burden on individuals. 

Personal Income Tax
Total Fiscal Impact:
FY 2015-16: ($117.3 m)
FY 2016-17: ($437.1 m)
  • Rate: Reduces tax rate to 5.499% in 2017 from the current rate of 5.75%
  • Standard Deduction: Increases standard deduction from $15,000 to $15,500 (married filing joint). This is often considered the zero percent bracket, meaning the amount on which you pay no taxes. 
  • Allow unlimited medical deductions on ‘Schedule A’ effective for 2015 tax year.
Additional tax reform information can be found here
Education is a fundamental necessity to developing individual potential. Education is about teaching children and helping them learn the skills that will propel them far in life. School choice is vital to the success of our children. Children learn in different settings and at different paces, and we should not hamstring our children by a one size fits all solution. The solution includes traditional public schools, public charter schools, homeschooling and even school choice through opportunity scholarships and parental choice. 
  • During the 2014-2015 school year, Opportunity Scholarships were awarded to 1,200 students attending 224 schools.
  • Over 1,100 of these students have reapplied, joining the 4,800 applicants for the 2015-2016 school year.
  • State budget reaffirms the General Assembly’s commitment to the Opportunity Scholarship Program.
  • Additional $6.8M in FY 15-16, for total of $17.6M.
  • Additional $14M in FY 16-17, for total of $24.8M.
  • 129% increase over biennium.
  • Will likely serve approximately 4,400 students.
HB 97 2015 Appropriations Act 

The compromise plan includes a responsible 3.1 percent spending increase, invests hundreds of millions of additional dollars in public education and other core priorities and shores up the state’s rainy day and repair and renovation funds by $600 million.

The budget increases early-career teacher pay from $33,000 to $35,000 per year, fulfilling a promise made by state leaders last year. And over two years it preserves funding for driver education and for all teacher assistant positions supported in last year’s budget, requiring school systems to use the funds for those jobs.
 
The budget also invests an additional $705 million over two years for transportation needs, in part by ending a $216 million transfer from the Highway Fund to the General Fund and ensuring that money is finally spent on building and maintaining safe roads and bridges.
 
Finally, it contains a comprehensive tax reform package that reduces the tax burden on North Carolina families and small businesses by close to $400 million over the next two years and fully restores the state tax deduction for medical expenses. The plan also extends Historic Preservation Tax Credits.

Find out more specifics here
HB 372 Medicaid Transformation and Reorganization

Medicaid is a complicated program that approximately 1.9 million North Carolina citizens depend on. Medicaid is a critical program and must be improved by making it less bureaucratic and more innovative so that millions of needy individuals and families across the state have access to quality healthcare.

Medicaid has become too costly and complex for states to effectively manage. It is already the second biggest item in the North Carolina state budget and is projected to absorb as much as 80-100% of all state revenues if left unreformed. The effects of the escalating costs of Medicaid are currently being felt by North Carolina. Here are the basics of HB 372 Medicaid Transformation and Reorganization
  • The program will shift from fee-for-service to full-risk capitated health plans operated by both provider-led entities and commercial insurers within eighteen months of federal approval.
  • Beneficiaries will be able to select from up to four prepaid health plans in any given region.
  • Creates an Innovations Center to provide technical assistance to providers to help them succeed in the new model.
  • This plan exempts dually-eligible beneficiaries, but directs DHHS to create a stakeholder committee to develop a plan for managing the health services of this group in need.
  • North Carolina will continue the public management of behavioral health services through Local Management Entities-Managed Care Organizations (LME/MCOs).
More on Medicaid Reform here
HB 943 Connect NC Bond Act

This is an opportunity and a responsibility to fix our crumbling infrastructure and not pass these burdens onto our children by continuing to delay capital investments that will grow North Carolina. This package does the following: extends the life of the State’s useful assets; ensures that financing aligns with the asset’s lifespan; focuses on areas that will boost State’s economic activity; partners with industry and university to continue the bond’s initial investment. Careful consideration went into selecting projects that would have a return on the investment.
  • Compromise $2 billion bond package that is designed to kick start critical projects across the State.
  • The approval of the bond will ultimately be up to the North Carolina voters, and will be placed as a referendum vote on the March 2016 primary ballot.
  • Takes advantage of historically low interest rates to begin projects we expect will need funding in the near future.
Additional specifics can be found here
As North Carolina continues to come back from the recession, pro-growth policies are allowing businesses to expand and create new, good-paying jobs. Ensuring that North Carolina has a climate conducive to economic and job growth will always remain my top priority. Pro-growth policies have contributed to the private sector creating over 200,000 jobs since 2013.
  • HB 108 Building and Site Development provides infrastructure primarily to assist rural counties with development of "pad ready" sites to attract outside investment.
  • HB 152 New Historic Preservation Tax Credit offers tax credits to rehabilitate income-producing historic structures. This is a great tangible way we can encourage towns and cities to develop their existing resources.
  • HB 909 ABC Omnibus Legislation will allow distillery permit holders to sell spirituous liquor distilled on premises to visitors of the distillery for consumption off the premises. 
  • HB 405 Property Protection Act codifies and strengthens NC trespass case law to better protect property owner's rights.
  • HB 117 NC Competes Act gives North Carolina the economic development tools needed to entice outside businesses to come here, and encourage in-state businesses to expand and create jobs.
  •  HB 81 Expand 1%/$80 Rate for Mill Machinery expanded tax policy and would allow certain companies engaged in the fabrication of metal work to qualify for the 1% / $80 privilege tax that applies to purchases of certain machinery and equipment.
Today, companies have global choices of where to set up shop. We need the right tools to get businesses to invest here, employ here, and grow here.

Additional information can be found here
HB 373 Elections

North Carolinians want fair elections that ensure privacy, transparency, and legality. It is my goal to improve the real and perceived integrity of our elections and ensure that each person who wants to vote can vote once, and those votes will cumulatively determine our elections. North Carolina is a dynamic, changing state, and we believe our state should play a larger role in electing presidential candidates.
  • Moves all presidential, statewide, and local primaries to March, with the upcoming primary held on March 15, 2016. Prior to this legislation, North Carolina’s primaries were held in May of each election year. This decision will save counties around $10 million.
  • Delegates will now be awarded in a winner-takes-all format. This will maximize North Carolina’s importance in the selecting of the party presidential nominees.
  • Candidates will now receive a three-week window of time, December 1 – December 21, to file essential election paperwork.
  • Formally recognizes affiliated party committees.
    • Move mirrors national party structures, for example – the partnership between the National Republican Party (RNC) – which manages the national platform and presidential race, and the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) – which manages the House of Representatives caucus races.
    • Allows for added transparency in political fundraising and contributions.
    • These affiliated party committees will be subject to the same laws and limitations that political committees are currently subject to under law.
More on all election changes this session here
Lt. Governor Dan Forest dives into the facts about Teachers in North Carolina
Fall is upon us! I look forward to seeing you at some of these festivals around the district.

October 10:  Coats Farmer's Day, Coats Chamber of Commerce 
October 17:  Sandhills Farm Show,  Lillington Chamber of Commerce 
October 17:  Wings Over Harnett, Dunn Area Tourism 
November 7:  Touchstone Energy NC Cotton Festival, Dunn Area Tourism 
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Paid for By David Lewis for NC House

Copyright © 2015 Representative David R. Lewis, All rights reserved.