General Assembly opens session today

Jan. 30, 2013 @ 08:00 AM

As North Carolina lawmakers get situated in Raleigh, they are preparing for a biennial session that could last into May.

Jordan Shaw, spokesman for House Speaker Thom Tillis, said that as the gavel comes down today at noon to open the session, the agenda is a recurring one.

“Our goal always goes back to the economy and jobs,” Shaw said. “We are showing some good signs but we have to continue to make progress.”

The unemployment in North Carolina has been steady at just under 10 percent however, in Rutherford County, that rate has been closer to 13 percent.

One bill that could make its way to the House floor is one that will trim the maximum unemployment benefits from $535 per week to $350 per week.

The intent of the bill is to help curb the debt owed by North Carolina businesses to the federal government for unemployment benefits.

“North Carolina businesses are in debt to the federal government to the tune of $3 billion,” Shaw said. “Because we are in that much debt, businesses will continue to see their unemployment taxes increase until the debt is paid off.”

He said that the debt owed can hurt new businesses looking to come to North Carolina because they will “inherit the debt.”

“The solution to higher unemployment is not a federally funded unemployment insurance system, but more jobs,” Shaw said. “We are going to make another tough decision and solve this problem.”

As the Senate is set to start work on the biennial budget first, the House will begin looking at other priority issues. Shaw said one of those issues is regulatory reform.

A new House committee was established to look at eliminating unnecessary regulations within North Carolina law. That committee is being chaired by Rep. Tim Moffitt, R-Buncombe.

“We are going to look at ways to make North Carolina more competitive, regionally,” Shaw said.

Another priority of leadership will be looking at the education system in North Carolina. Shaw said that the focus of educators should be on teaching and not conforming to some regulations.

Of course, the main issue for the session will be the budget. Shaw said that the Senate will begin work immediately on the budget but the House leadership does have some ideas on spending.

“Because of the tough decisions we have made over the years to fill a deficit without raising taxes, we are able to start in a much better budget situation,” Shaw said. “We are still going to prioritize spending and maximizing taxpayer dollars.

“Just because we are in a better position doesn’t mean we are going to just start spending.”