Video: Senate budget packed with policy changes

The North Carolina Senate tentatively passed their version of the state budget after a late-night debate on Jones Street. Their budget contains several policy positions aimed at Republican leaders ideological agenda more than state spending. Here are a few notable items.

Certificate of Need: The senate budget would eliminate the certificate of need system for healthcare facilities by 2025. Healthcare experts have claimed that repealing certificate of need programs “would be a disaster for rural healthcare.” Eliminating certificate of need would lead to healthcare price inflation and smaller, rural hospitals will suffer.

State Health Benefits: The senate budget would eliminate medical insurance for future state employees after retirement. All state employees hired after July 2018 would not be entitled to health benefits when they retire. 

Wind Farms: The senate budget would impose a three year moratorium on new wind farms in order to study the potential safety risks that wind farms pose to military operations – when asked on the floor Republican Senators could not name one military leader that had expressed this concern on the record. If passed, the moratorium could potentially derail the proposed Timermill Wind Farm in Chowan and Perquimans counties.

Executive Protection Detail for Lieutenant Governor: The senate budget would create an executive protection detail for the Lieutenant Governor. Three members of the NC Highway Patrol would be assigned to protect the Lieutenant Governor and their family.

Eliminate Emergency Recall Judges: The senate budget would eliminate emergency recall judges. Emergency recall judges have been used to prevent delays in the legal process caused by illness, death, vacancies, etc. The use of emergency recall judges has helped reduce backlog in the judicial system. If emergency recall judges are eliminated, current sitting judges would be forced to pick up the slack, which could result in more delays.

Board Changes: The senate budget would reduce the membership on several boards. The Board of Environmental Health Specialists Examiners would be reduced from 12 to 9 and the Marine Fisheries Commission would be reduced from 9 to 7. These reductions mean that Gov. Cooper would not get the opportunity to appoint replacement members on these boards – another partisan swipe limiting the Democratic Governor’s power.

Teaching Fellows Program for STEM or Special Education Teachers: The senate budget would begin to fix problems that Republican leaders themselves created by offering a Teaching Fellows Program exclusively for STEM or special education teachers. The program would provide forgivable student loans to students who intend to teach STEM or special education in public schools. This is great – except that it only begins to undue damage that Republican leaders inflicted on teacher training and recruitment for North Carolina as they are the ones that shuttered the nationally recognized program upon taking control of the legislature in 2011.