North Carolina lawmakers avoided parents’ rights bill during short budget adjustment session, approve teacher pay and school safety

(The Center Square) – North Carolina lawmakers concluded a short budget adjustment session that boosted spending on teacher pay, school safety, infrastructure, and election integrity, but left more…

(The Center Square) – North Carolina lawmakers concluded a short budget adjustment session that boosted spending on teacher pay, school safety, infrastructure, and election integrity, but left more controversial issues like medical marijuana, sports gambling and parent rights unresolved.

Lawmakers in the General Assembly announced a $27.9 billion budget for fiscal year 2022-23 shortly before concluding the short session ahead of the July 4 holiday that increases spending by 7.2% over the prior year.

Among the highlights from the budget is a $15 million appropriation for the Atlantic Coast Conference to “locate and occupy within the state its headquarters facility for a continuous period of at least 15 years,” a measure that was strongly criticized by some lawmakers.

The money is part of a deal that would move the ACC headquarters from Greensboro to Charlotte and require the collegiate sports network to host several postseason championship tournaments in North Carolina by 2032-33, WFMY reports.

“The ACC has done a great job fleecing the taxpayers of North Carolina,” state Sen. Michael Garrett, D-Greensboro, told the news site. “I think it’s a bad look for the ACC personally.”

Lawmakers also increased starting teacher pay and devoted $70 million to fund a salary supplement, spending a total of $170 million on educator salaries. The budget includes a 3.5% raise for state employees and a 1% cost of living adjustment for state retirees, as well.

Total education funding increased in the 2022-23 budget by $1 billion over the prior year, totaling $16.5 billion. The money includes $3.9 million toward reduced-price lunches for students. Other education spending included $15 million for school resource officers and $32 million for school safety grants.

Other spending included $193.1 million to the Highway Fund for transportation projects, $14.8 million for mental health resources, $883 million for water and wastewater infrastructure, $876 million for economic development, $5 million for grants to expand broadband access, $1.8 million to update and maintain voter lists and improve election integrity, and $300 million to renovate government buildings in Raleigh.

Lawmakers also established a $1 billion State Inflationary Reserve in anticipation of a recession, according to the site.

“This is a responsible budget that responds to our current needs and plans for an uncertain economic future. This budget takes into account the strain of runaway spending from our federal government that is stretching North Carolinians’ budgets thin, and the burden of skyrocketing fuel prices and inflation,” Senate President Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, and House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, said in a joint statement. “It’s imperative that we stay on track and continue the good work we’ve done in North Carolina to strengthen our economy, meet the needs of our citizens, and secure a bright future for our state.”

Several more controversial measures taken up during the session did not gain final approval.

Efforts to legalize sports betting were ultimately derailed when lawmakers voted down one of two bills to make it happen. The General Assembly also failed to approve a measure to legalize medical marijuana.

Other big issues left unresolved include a push from the Senate to expand Medicaid that floundered in the House, though the lower chamber did propose to study the move further.

A controversial Parents’ Bill of Rights approved by the Senate in June was also shelved by House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, who told the Journal there wasn’t enough support to override a likely veto by Gov. Roy Cooper.

The bill was designed to enhance public school transparency, outline the rights and responsibilities of parents and install guardrails on curriculum dealing with gender identity and sexual orientation.

Proponents contend the bill is critical to ensure parents are informed about what their kids are learning in school, while opponents claimed the legislation discriminates against LGBTQ youth.