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Please join HQ NAACP, the Racial Equity Anchors Collaborative, and the Raleigh-Apex NAACP for a People’s Hearing & Reception on June 12 at 6:00pm in Raleigh to showcase the need for additional voting rights protections for America’s most disenfranchised. Details and registration here.

The budget countdown is at 28 days (that's until fiscal year 2019 ends), though few expect that we'll have a new budget by then. Funding services will continue at current levels until a new budget is approved, so at least the state won't close down on July 1. A House/Senate Conference Committee - appointed by Republican leadership and meeting in private - soon will start hashing out the differences between the two budgets, neither of which bear much resemblance to Gov. Cooper's. The conference process lacks transparency and accountability since there’s no way for the public to know what’s being debated behind closed doors. When the conference report is issued, the House and Senate will vote on the compromise, but amendments will not be allowed. Then the budget will be sent to Gov. Cooper, who may sign it, let it become law without his signature or veto it. Word is that he's likely to veto it, which may lead to a more protracted battle since Democrats can prevent a veto override IF they're united.

See Kate's ICYMI post: Republicans are trying to woo some Dems with yummy "pork" for local districts. They were successful last week when Sen. Gladys Robinson of Guilford County, Sen. Ben Clark of Cumberland and Hoke counties, and Sen. Milton Fitch Jr. of Halifax, Edgecombe, and Wilson counties – voted for the Senate budget plan. Unclear how they'll vote on a veto override. Let your Democratic legislators know what you expect from them if/when it comes to a veto override on the budget!

NC Policy Watch provides a closer look at some key facts about the budget, which boil down to:

  • The budget is too small.
  • It is unfair and unjust.
  • The state's current approach isn't working.
  • The state is failing to prepare for the next recession.
  • The budget process is lousy.

This week, we'll focus on just a few of the detrimental environmental impacts of the budgets proposed by the NCGA (which are more adequately addressed by Gov Cooper's budget, for what that's worth):

  • From Carolina Public Press: "In the years since the 2017 revelations about GenX in the Cape Fear River, legislators as a group are far more familiar with the challenges of understanding the health effects and, ultimately, regulating the growing class of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS...In Gov. Roy Cooper’s budget request this year, he asked for additional money for personnel and new equipment for emerging contaminant testing and monitoring programs." The Republicans in Raleigh appear to be far less concerned about funding research, monitoring, and enforcement to protect our drinking water.
    • PFAS have been found in produce grown within ten miles of the Chemours plant, so they're affecting our food as well as our water.
    • “There is no money for emerging compounds,” said Sen. Mike Woodard, a Durham Democrat. “The Senate’s proposed budget eliminates seven water quality positions. There is nothing for the critical Reedy Creek Lab” — DEQ’s water testing facility that hasn’t been upgraded in more than 20 years. Small towns and big towns are affected by contaminated water; clean-up can be expensive, and is not addressed by the budget. NC Policy Watch, State budget, new scientific tests shine a light on NC’s growing drinking water pollution problem.
  • The coal ash saga is far from over, though the Republicans in Raleigh appear to have largely lost interest. "After studying Sutton Lake, Duke University scientists say, 'Impact of coal ash in environment far larger than previously thought.'”
  • Do you have an electric vehicle? The Senate wants to increase your registration fee from $130 to $230, the highest in the country.Plug-in hybrids would get a new $115 registration fee. These are supposedly to make up for lost gas tax revenue, although that is not supported by a report from the NC Clean Technology Energy Center, which finds that drivers of electric vehicles are already paying more than their fair share based on current fees.
  • The Dept of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is targeted by the Senate budget:
    • DEQ would have to pay rent to the state and would be required to eliminate two organizational layers.
    • Funding for new DEQ staff who would address emerging contaminants such as GenX is absent.
    • DEQ’s updated general permit for waste management at swine and other animal operations would be delayed and undermined. From Sierra Club: The recently finalized permit’s most significant positive change is a requirement to monitor groundwater at farms that have waste lagoons or waste storage facilities in the 100-year floodplain, situations that may present the greatest risk of groundwater contamination. It’s the first time the state has required groundwater monitoring of an animal waste system.
  • In the Senate budget debate, most amendments proposed by Democrats were tabled - which means instead of voting on an amendment, it was set aside and not allowed a vote. This parliamentary maneuver is used to avoid votes and accountability on controversial issues.

In addition to the budget, the Farm Act (S315) and Regulatory Reform Act (S553) contain provisions that would dramatically weaken oversight and transparency of industrialized hog farm operations and repeal a ban on electronic waste in landfills, respectively.

Interested in following environmental challenges and legislation in NC? Here are some good resources:

The NC Justice Center makes it SO EASY to contact the members of the Conference Committee to let them know what YOU want to see in the budget - do it RIGHT NOW!

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image NC Justice Center

Tags: (NC Budget, NCGA, NC Pol, NCGOP, Environment)

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