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LEGISLATIVE NEWSLETTER

March 8, 2013
LEGISLATURE 309 LEGISLATIVE OFFICE BLDG. 300 N. SALISBURY STREET RALEIGH, NC 27603 (919)733-5850 neal.hunt@ncleg.net 15TH SENATE DISTRICT 2600 FAIRVIEW ROAD RALEIGH, NC 27608 (919)781-3464 info@nealhunt.com

February proved to be a very busy and productive month at the General Assembly. The legislature made great strides in moving North Carolina in the right direction and I am excited over the future bills that we will debate in the Senate. Im pleased to have co-sponsored the first bill Governor McCrory signed into law, Senate Bill 14! It makes career and technical education more available in North Carolina high schools. Its important to realize that not every student in North Carolina wants or needs to go to college. I strongly believe that our public schools should be preparing our students with the skills and knowledge they need for the workforce if they do not choose to continue their formal education. The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 5 which assists individuals with mental illness, developmental disabilities, and Alzheimers Disease by providing state money to keep group homes operating through the end of June. We appropriated $39.7 million to assist adult care home residents in these difficult situations. Im pleased we reached a bipartisan solution that helps some of our states most vulnerable residents. Some other legislation has gotten substantial negative publicity in the press and I would like to explain why we have taken the steps we have: Senate Bill 4 One of the first pieces of legislation the Senate took on was Senate Bill 4, a bill that stops the establishment of a North Carolina health benefit exchange as provided by the Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare). I co-sponsored this bill because I realize that implementing a federally mandated, state-run exchange or a state/federal partnership would have serious unintended consequences for North Carolina. A state-run program would force our taxpayers to foot a massive bill for administrative, infrastructure, and operational expenses. Obamacare was a federal bill that I and many others believe was a serious mistake and states should not be forced to shoulder the financial burden of implementation. In addition, Senate Bill 4 stopped the states expansion of Medicaid as prescribed under Obamacare. Medicaid is such a huge administrative and financial nightmare both at the federal and state level. Several doctors have made a point of letting me know that they refuse to continue dealing with this bureaucratic mess and are dropping their participation. The program already amounts to 15% of the state budget and the expansion would add roughly 500,000

people to the NC Medicaid rolls, many moving from private insurance to government coverage. That would bump the Medicaid share up to about 20% of our budget, taking state money that should be used for education, transportation and other state government spending responsibilities. We know that the federal government is broke, so promises of federal payment are not believable. We suspect the state will end up shouldering the burden. Even if the feds do pay, the concept that this is free government money is wrong. There is no such thing. Last year, North Carolinas Medicaid expense exceeded HHS budget projections by more than $500 million, $601 million the year before, and $335 the year before that. We anticipate that the McCrory HHS team will do a better job projecting expenses. We built an approximately $200 million cushion into our current budget, but frankly, its possible that even that wont be enough. How can we be talking about adding 500,000 new people into our Medicaid program a 30% increase when we havent figured out a way to control our existing costs? Senate Bill 10 North Carolina voters elected Governor McCrory to set a new direction for North Carolina state government. North Carolinas regulatory, rule-making and oversight boards are filled with holdover appointees from the Easley and Perdue administrations. Gov. McCrory deserves the opportunity to replace these Easley and Perdue appointees with people who share his vision for reforming North Carolinas state government. Historically, replacements in certain boards and commissions is not unusual when there is a change in political parties. However experienced commissioners who share Gov. McCrorys philosophy will certainly be reappointed as required. Senate Bill 76 As in the last legislative session, hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) once again became a hot button issue in the Senate due to the introduction of Senate Bill 76, the Domestic Energy Jobs Act. SB 76 authorizes the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Mining and Energy Commission to begin issuing permits for shale gas exploration and development on March 1, 2015. This bill also authorizes Governor Pat McCrory to negotiate a tri-state pact with the governors of Virginia and South Carolina. The pact would urge the federal government to open the East Coast for energy exploration. In the last session, at my urging, a bonding requirement was added which would give the Mining and Energy Commission the authority to require drillers to post a bond to ensure funds are available for potential environmental cleanup. Not only will this provide funds for cleanup, but since the driller will be liable to the bonding company, they face significant financial issues if their negligence or mismanagement causes environmental damage. With this bonding requirement in place and the legislature having the opportunity to approve the Commission rules, I voted to approve SB 76. We need to develop our states energy sector in order to secure jobs for our citizens and to lower our dependency on foreign energy sources. I believe the bonding requirement gives the commission the power to carry out their responsibility of protecting our environment. House Bill 4 I supported the passage of House Bill 4, a bill that reformed unemployment insurance in our state. House Bill 4 will create a sustainable unemployment system to protect those who lose their jobs in the future. Our balanced approach to solving this fiscal crisis requires employers to contribute significantly more money to fund unemployment benefits (they already pay all unemployment compensation) and adjusts state benefits for workers who lose their jobs starting in July, bringing them more in line with other Southeastern states. These changes will result in a complete payoff of the $2.5 billion in federal debt by 2016.

There are exciting new pieces of legislation that we will entertain in the upcoming months. Heres a list of anticipated legislation: 1. Election Reform Providing photo identification to vote is a no brainer in efforts to combat voter fraud in our state. I am confident a voter ID bill will pass this year. In addition to voter ID, I expect to see legislation to eliminate same-day voter registration and perhaps other election law changes as well.

2. Tax Reform The issue of tax reform is still up in the air regarding what specific steps we will ultimately take. I expect that we will most likely see the elimination of personal and corporate income taxes and instead expand the sales tax on services. These changes will probably be spread over a couple of years, but tax reform should lead to economic growth and job creation! 3. County Ownership of Schools One piece of legislation I have worked on extensively is to turn over the ownership of school buildings (and school construction) from County Boards of Education to County Boards of Commissioners. School Board members, at least in high growth counties, are spending too much time on school construction and land acquisition as opposed to focusing on education issues. The North Carolina Association of County Commissioners has endorsed this plan statewide by a substantial majority. Our primary motivation in the legislature continues to be to get our people back to work and our economy thriving again. North Carolina is fortunate to have what businesses want in terms of geography, demographics, and climate. By promoting business-friendly policies, I anticipate our being successful (assuming the federal government gets its deficit spending under control). As always, I greatly appreciate the opportunity to serve you in the North Carolina Senate. Please dont hesitate to contact my office with your comments and concerns. Sincerely,

Neal Hunt Join in the conversation and connect with me

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