With major issues pending, N. Carolina legislature returns next week for expected long summer



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RALEIGH, North Carolina — The North Carolina General Assembly returns from a weeklong break on Monday to begin an expected long, hot summer at the Legislative Building.

That's because Republican leaders and GOP Gov. Pat McCrory have failed to work out most of the major issues they said they wanted to focus upon when they first arrived in Raleigh for their annual work session in January. Some of the most high-profile laws approved so far this year have been about abortion, gay marriage and the gas tax.

Here's a taste of what the General Assembly's 170 members face back in Raleigh:

BUDGET BOUT

Neither the House nor the Senate has yet announced their members to a committee designed to work out a compromise between their competing two-year spending plans. However, a stop-gap spending measure the Legislature passed before the new fiscal year July 1 sends school districts $100 million to prepare for more students this fall and raised minimum teacher salaries to $35,000.

Otherwise, the competing budget proposals are nearly $700 million apart in spending for this year. Negotiations will be particularly thorny because the Senate's budget includes massive policy changes to Medicaid and economic incentives that the House and McCrory want considered in separate legislation.

TAXES & INCENTIVES

Senate Republicans are pressing for broader changes to the state's tax code two years after the Legislature approved income tax cuts, reduced deductions and credits and expanded slightly the sales tax base.

The Senate's budget would reduce individual rates further, increase standard deductions and require veterinary services and auto repairs be subject to sales taxes. They also want to retool how local sales taxes are distributed to counties, a move that would benefit rural areas at the expense of many urban and vacation destinations.

The House has proposed none of these changes, and McCrory doesn't want them.

The Senate and House also differ on the Job Development Investment Grants — considered the governor's primary economic recruitment tool — on solar industry incentives and whether to reinstate tax credits to repair historic properties.

MCCRORY'S WISH LIST

The Republican governor has been pressing hard on legislators to authorize a referendum for voters this fall on whether the state should borrow close to $3 billion for road and government infrastructure projects.

Senators would prefer to pay for more roads with current funds and higher Division of Motor Vehicles fees. House Speaker Tim Moore wants to wait for a statewide vote at least until at least early next year.

McCrory also wants an incentives package he pleaded for months ago and a Medicaid overhaul law, favoring the House's proposal.

HALFWAY HOME

Each chamber will have to decide whether to go along with legislation approved by the other chamber.

Waiting in the Senate are bills approved by the House that ease concealed weapons restrictions; delay the scheduled North Carolina 2016 presidential primary by a couple of weeks; and authorize more types of medical professionals to monitor prisoner injections at executions.

Senate legislation awaiting action in the House include omnibus farm and "regulatory reform" bills and a measure that would allow school districts to use school bus cameras to catch motorists driving past open stop-arms and fine them $500.

FINAL ADJOURNMENT

The stop-gap spending measure expires Aug. 14, so negotiators have about 30 days to finalize a budget that McCrory will sign into law.

The "continuing resolution" can be extended, but pressure for an agreement will come from McCrory and from school districts and higher education campuses set to start classes in August. Non-budget legislation doesn't face the same deadline.

This year's final adjournment date likely depends on how long Senate Republicans are willing to stick to their positions despite opposition from the House and McCrory.

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