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Also: More on the Asheville water lawsuit

RALEIGH — Two things that didn’t happen last week are driving the discussion in Raleigh this week.

The first thing that didn’t happen was the North Carolina state budget. This week was supposed to be budget week in the state Senate, but with override votes taking precedence and a major tax overhaul still being worked out, no hearings on the spending plan were scheduled as of this (Monday) morning.

That could change at a moment’s notice, however. Senate leaders said they intend to release the plan sometime this week, but would likely delay voting until next week.

For now, all eyes are on the Senate Finance Committee, which could have the tax plan together by mid-week.

Elements of the the plan are likely to include some additional cuts to personal and corporate income tax rates and a revival of a re-balancing of sales tax distributions proposed earlier in the session.

The other thing that didn’t happen was the House override of Senate Bill 2, which would allow magistrates to opt out of performing marriages out of a deeply held religious belief.

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Gov. Pat McCrory vetoed the bill, proposed in response to the the legalization of same-sex marriage in the state, on May 29, along with the Private Property Protection Act, the so-called ag-gag bill.

Last week, the Senate and House made short work of overriding the ag-gag bill veto. But after an override vote of SB2 in the Senate, the House override vote on the magistrates bill was first pushed back and then fell off the map after a split in the House Republican Caucus on how to move forward.

House Speaker Tim Moore has the option to hold the override vote until the outcome is more clear. The original vote on SB2 was just one vote over the necessary three-fifths required for an override.

Governor’s bond plan fading

Although he continues to make a statewide push for a bond referendum this year, there were further signals from House and Senate leaders that the $3 billion dollar plan to accelerate highway projects and repair government buildings is not gaining traction.

In remarks before a meeting of small business owners last week, both Speaker Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger said they would pursue other means for boosting transportation funding, but left open the option for a smaller bond package for state building projects.

A little more on the Asheville water lawsuit

There’s an abundance of confidence on both sides, but no one really has an idea as to how the State Court of Appeals will rule on the Water Act lawsuit brought by Asheville against the State of North Carolina.

But during last Wednesday’s hearing in Raleigh there was an emphasis on the water system bonds, a subject that hadn’t been explored much during last year’s trial.

All three members of the court wanted to know a little more about how water system bond holders and underwriters would react to the transfer as well as details on the process.

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During the trial, there was a discussion of the process for input, but it was unclear how the companies would react.

During last week’s hearing, the state’s legal team said the transfer would not affect the bonds and that the bond underwriters would be obligated to support the transfer. The city’s side is that the process would not be so smooth and would require pre-approval of the transfer.

Last year, the trial court didn’t rule on the bond issue, since it had already ruled that the law was unconstitutional on a number of grounds.

But after the Court of Appeals hearing, observers on both sides said the questions could indicate that the court may want to weigh in on the issue. A ruling is expect to take at least 90 days.

Kirk Ross

Based in the Triangle, Kirk Ross is the capital bureau chief for Carolina Public Press. Contact him at kross@carolinapublicpress.org.

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